Then as today, big cities included groups of residents whose private lives differed strongly from the dominant ideals. In his 1846 book Berlin, author Ernst Dronke (1822-91) described two examples of urban phenomena. One example was the commercialization of marriage in the form of marriage brokers, who brought together individuals primarily on the basis of their property, thus making a mockery of the idea of marriage as a union of two people based on mutual love and affection. The other example was the lives of Bohemian intellectuals, who supported the emancipation of women, lived together without being married, and generally rejected the assertion that marriage was the moral and religious basis of family life.
Early German feminists criticized dominant ideals of marriage to some extent. In the Women's Newspaper (of which she was editor), the author and political activist Louise Otto (1819-95) denounced the way that marriage in rural areas was based entirely on property, with no attention given to mutual love and affection (which the authors of the Staats-Lexikon, one might remember, also saw as necessary to marriage).
Women's political activism was most often seen in Central Europe during the revolution of 1848. The three following examples show that their activism was more in conformity with the gender ideals expressed in the Staats-Lexikon than in opposition to them.
In the appeal of the married women and maidens of Württemberg to Germany's soldiers , women used their place in the home and family, and their status as primarily loving and emotional creatures, to encourage men to take political action.
Louise Otto's statement of principles, published in the first issue of her Women's Newspaper (April 21, 1849), shows the careful distance she kept from "emancipated" feminists who denied any differences between men and women.