This original study discusses the role of women in developing and dispersing caring power and, vice-versa, the role of caring power in constituting 'women' as modern social subjects, processes which began around 1800. Based on the historian-/philosopher Foucault's concept of pastoral power, "caring power" also takes into account the vital role played by gender. Both humanitarian and religious motives fostered the ideal of serving the well-being of individual 'others' and thereby the interest of society as a whole.
With the rise of caring power, this book argues, women began to feel responsible for 'those of their own sex' and to organize themselves in all-female organizations. In the process they carved out new gender identities for themselves and the women in their care.
The authors illustrate this profound historical change with the work of the reformers Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) and Josephine Butler (1828-1906) and trace their impact in Britain and the Netherlands.