chapter  21
12 Pages

Caring and Healing

Women, Bodies and Materiality in Nineteenth-Century French Cities
WithAnne Carol

This chapter focuses on the role of women who provided services for the body's organic materiality, whether curing its defects or satisfying its needs. It considers a case study of French cities to illustrate how women took over certain materialistic and bodily dimensions of urban life as economic activities in their own right. The chapter discusses how such phenomena were simultaneously shaped by concepts of social class and processes of rationalisation, as well as how the gendered and organic nature of these activities could, sometimes, hinder their social recognition. In rural Europe, women were often accountable for caring for the body in all life's circumstances: birth, illness, nutrition, death. Furthermore, their presumed limited intellectual capacity rendered them more able to apply their aspirations to material tasks than theoretical works. Whether they carried out these tasks directly or, for higher social groups, just supervised them, women were in charge of healing and caring for other people's bodies.