19th Century Women

Topics: Gender role, McGuffey Readers, Gender Pages: 4 (1686 words) Published: July 25, 2005
Purpose Statement: This paper will outline the role of women in society during the Victorian Era and present some real life examples from the Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey of 19th century women following their roles and at times having the those roles challenged by the difficulty of the trail.

19th-Century Women
Women in the nineteenth century, for the most part, had to follow the common role presented to them by society. This role can be summed up by what historians call the "cult of domesticity". The McGuffey Readers does a successful job at illustrating the women's role in society. Women that took part in the overland trail as described in "Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey" had to try to follow these roles while facing many challenges that made it very difficult to do so. One of the most common expectations for women then is that they are responsible for doing the chore of cleaning whether it is cleaning the house, doing the laundry. The McGuffey Readers mentions the women's duty to clean in a multiple places. In this handbook it gives clear directions to the woman on what she is to do when cleaning, "This ceremony completed, and the house thoroughly evacuated, the next operation is to smear the wall and ceilings with brushes dipped into a solution of lime… (Gorn 111)." The book explains how it is the women's job to thoroughly clean the house once a year in a manner that sounds very laborious! It further states, "The misfortune is, that the sole object is to make things clean (Gorn 112)." In this part of the book it is very clear that it is saying that the woman's duty is to clean. In Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey it illustrates this in a couple of passages. For example, one woman wrote in her diary, "Oh! Horrors how shall I express it; it is the dreaded washing day . . . but washing must be done and procrastination won't do it for me (Schlissel 83)." Although this woman obviously did not like doing the washing she saw it as her...
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