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Salons: promoting intellectual discourse among women since the 18th century

Posted by: | September 17, 2012 | No Comment |

Early French salons served as a major channel of communication among the European elite. Intellectuals attended these meetings and had discussions on a broad range of topics including politics, art, and religion. These meetings were a way for aristocratic members of society to acquire their news. Salons were a newspaper, journal, literary society, and university all in one. It comes as no surprise that women were behind the creation of these lively, cultural hubs. 

Madame Rambouillet and Madame De Stael are credited as assembling the first French literacy salons.

Rambouillet did not approve of the structure of the public sphere so she assembled meetings in her home that redefined the traditional social gathering. She promoted intelligent and lively discourse among intellectuals in the informality of her own home.

De Stael was a feminist who began hosting meetings of a similar nature in hopes of promoting intelligent discourse that would lead to reformative action against the aristocracy.

Women created salons so naturally women were the center of the salon culture. They selected and invited guests and decided upon the subject of discourse for each meeting. These salons acted as “informal” universities because they provided a safe environment for women to exhibit their intelligence and assert their opinions.

Courtesy of The Alphaville Herald

French salons served as some of the earliest newsrooms and were influential in establishing the legitimacy of women as intellectuals.
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