Just before the First World War, German agricultural economists and social-welfare experts constructed a new social category – rural female youth, whose mobility provoked growing alarm. Framing rural flight in terms of gender and generation allowed experts to focus on its demographic, economic, and moral threats, and rural female youth became a target for reform. These debates presaged a wave of popular anxiety over rural female youth that expanded dramatically during the Weimar Republic. However, prewar court testimonies of runaway maids in rural Saxony suggest that some rural girls understood their mobility in terms of ‘getting ahead’, and resisted efforts to restrict their occupational, social, and spatial horizons.
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