Cult of Domesticity

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Megan McGlauchlen
Women’s Voice Essay
Women faced many restrictions during the 1800’s based solely on their gender. The Cult of Domesticity served as a basic guide that explained the appropriate ways women of this time period were expected to act. It essentially laid out four proper characteristics women had to portray: piety, purity, domesticity, and submissiveness. Many authors captured the difficulties in a woman’s life with having to deal with such strict expectations in their writing. These included Emily Dickinson with her poems “I felt a funeral in my brain”, “This is my letter to the World”, and “These are the days when the Birds come back”, Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”. These pieces of literature proved women’s struggle to live with the pressures of the Cult of Domesticity, and society itself.

Emily Dickinson herself was a very odd, secluded woman and that expressed her thoughts through her poems. In “I felt a funeral in my brain”, Dickinson writes “And I and silence some strange race/ wrecked, solitary, here” (15-16). This is a prime example of the solidarity that held her captive and caused her descent into madness. Her poem is a cry out for help, but being the submissive woman she was supposed to be, she hid away her feelings while still acting weak and inferior. Another example of submissiveness can be taken from her poem “This is my letter to the World”. It starts off “This is my letter to the world/ That never wrote to Me” (Dickinson 1-2). She is again crying out against the unfairness that the “world” never wrote to her, or acknowledged her because of her sex. As a woman she was constantly in the shadow of a man and therefore did not matter. From “These are the days when the Birds come back”, Dickinson wrote “Thy consecrated bread to take/ and thine immortal wine!” (17-18). Her allusion to the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist enforces piety. Women needed to always act as the...
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