This article is an attempt at probing Cracow private life in the first half of the 19th century. The concept of private life covers a wide spectrum of issues of considerable complexity, ranging from material culture to traditions, customs, upbringing, education, leisure, love, marriage, social and family life. Our investigations are hindered by the fact that a great deal of private life was kept from view and jealously guarded. Its traces, recorded in memoirs and private journals, are on the whole few and scanty. Still, we do find there a family chronicle, accounts of some aspects of the life of the authors' parents or grandparents, reports from various social occasions, comments on the way boys and girls were brought up, and, of course, descriptions of balls and dances in the carnival season, opinions on dresses and current fashions, a record of theatre visits and walks. As literature kept impressing on the public mind the picture of an ideal wife, a paragon of virtue and obedience, who spends all of her time on work, the upbringing of children and prayer, the feminist stirrings in Galicia were relatively modest and restrained. Still, the causes of many a young woman's predicament were no less evident to them than to women in more enlightened times: excessive dependence on parents (that refers to young people of both sexes), low educational level, lack of sexual education (especially in the case of girls). In the homes of the aristocracy and well-heeled landed gentry wives were expected to focus their attention exclusively on the family, social life and charity. Married women from gentry families of slender means were busy bringing up children and supervising the servants. In the urban middle-class homes the role of the wife could include, in line with the family's more precarious material status, chores like cooking and cleaning. Although women usually had to give up their personal ambitions and interests upon entering marriage, in the long 19th century, a time when Poland was under foreign rule, they enhanced their status and authority by incorporating into their private lives the cultivation of the distinctive marks of Polish identity, ie. national customs, language, and religion.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.