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Block I Illinois Library Illinois Open Publishing Network


Vol. 3 (2015)

Catherine II as Female Ruler: The Power of Enlightened Womanhood



This article examines some of the complexities of female rule during the reign of Catherine II (1762-1796). It argues that in addition to the Baroque scenarios of power inherited from her predecessors, the German-born Russian empress employed the cultural roles of an “enlightened” woman of merit – a matriarch, a craftswoman, a house manager, and an educator – roles that projected positive values of womanhood, in order to position her femininity as beneficial to the state and to thereby legitimize her authority as a female sovereign.