Dominant and widely accepted ideas about family and gender in this period were set down in two entries in the Staats-Lexikon. In the first, "Family, Family Law," the author asserted that marriage was the moral and legal basis of the family. Marriages were a union of two people, based on their mutual love and affection, into one united personality, under the control of the husband. Marriage was also a property relationship, where, once again, the husband was in charge of family property, but in which the wife retained certain rights to her property. Finally, families were hierarchies in which the parents had authority over their minor children and the head of household had authority over servants, who were perceived as members of the family.
The second article, "Relations between the sexes," deals with purported differences between men and women and the political consequences of these differences. Taking up a common contemporary theme, the author asserted that men and women were different by nature. The former were active, vigorous, and rational, their lives oriented primarily outward; the latter were passive, accepting, and emotional, their lives oriented inward toward the family and the household. As a result, the author maintained, only men should have the right of active political participation. He rejected the ideas of conservatives, who believed that poor men should have no more rights than women, and well as the ideas of feminists, who felt that women should have equal political rights with men. At the same time, the author felt that women could participate in public life to a certain extent, using their female qualities of empathy and caring to form associations, to petition the government, and to be spectators at meetings of parliamentary bodies.
One might wonder about the extent to which these ideas about family and gender corresponded to actual circumstances. Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl had his doubts, noting that the ideal of separate spheres – men at work in public, women at home with the family – was seen primarily in the life of the upper classes, while among the common people men's and women's common activities intersected much more.