Chapter 4: Pedestal, Loom, and Auction Block, 1800–1860
Visual Sources Essay: Godey’s Lady’s Book (pages 232–239). Question for Analysis: Look at the profiles of the true women from Godey’s. Notice their tiny waists, the composure of their hands, the elegance of their bearing. How do these and other details reinforce the message that women are unfit for the public sphere?
The women pictured in Godey’s Lady’s Book show an ideal to which women aspired but in truth could not often obtain outside of the middle to upper classes. The images portrayed in this magazine represented the concept of “true womanhood”; women who were regarded as pious and domestic. They were to be the anchors of the home and the educator to children. The images displayed are of the ultimate wife and mother which were an iconic representation of the values of those who read Godey’s. The women depicted in the book looked fragile, innocent and demure. They were not fit for work in the public sphere physically as women were supposed to be frail, delicate creatures. Women were also not fit mentally or emotionally for the public sphere. They were too innocent and pure for the dangers of such pursuits as suffrage or politics.
Figure 4.1, The Constant, is the image of the perfect wife. A woman is shown watching over her sleeping child as her husband is entering the room. Her stance is protective of her young infant, while at the same time showing she is subordinate to her husband. Images such as these in Godey’s illustrated to women the balance between wife and mother to which they should strive. The “true” woman is an anchor for her husband. She keeps the home, tends to the children and steadfastly loves her husband to encourage him from wandering astray (p. 233). The Constant shows the husband doting on his wife, leaning over her in a loving manner suggesting her patience and love have kept him in line. This idea of women providing emotional and...