Context of Women in the 19th Century

Topics: Victorian era, Gender role, Victoria of the United Kingdom Pages: 2 (724 words) Published: June 5, 2013
Context of woman

During the reign of Queen Victoria, a woman's place was in the home, as domesticity and motherhood were considered by society at large to be a sufficient emotional fulfilment for females. These constructs kept women far away from the public sphere in most ways, but during the 19th century charitable missions did begin to extend the female role of service, and Victorian feminism emerged as a potent political force.

The transformation of Britain into an industrial nation had profound consequences for the ways in which women were to be idealised in Victorian times. New kinds of work and new kinds of urban living prompted a change in the ways in which appropriate male and female roles were perceived. In particular, the notion of separate spheres - woman in the private sphere of the home and hearth, man in the public sphere of business, politics and sociability - came to influence the choices and experiences of all women, at home, at work, in the streets.

As John Burgon pointed out in 1884, “Women’s strength lies in her essential weakness” (Burstyn 1980: 33), according to him, women are said to be men’s conscience and their strength is pureness in spirit. Inevitably, men’s and women’s tasks are likewise clearly distinguished. A man is expected to earn money, make it available to his wife, mother, daughters and sisters. Women’s tasks on the other hand, are overseeing the education and care of their children, shopping, organizing the household and by providing tranquility in a peaceful and comfortable home. A woman’s work is performed inside the sheltering house: it is spiritual and educational as it consists of teaching good virtues and moral values through her tenderness - the woman is to be the “moral guardian of society” (Burstyn 1980: 99) A women in the Victorian age who does not have to work is a status symbol for husband and family. The more well-off a family and the greater its economic success are deciding factors in how much leisure...
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