The Victorian era was a period of wide extremes – characterized by industrial reforms, cultural transformations, scientific progress, gracious living and grinding poverty and wars. The Victorian era lasted from 1837 to 1901, when Queen Victoria reigned, although many historians believe that the Reform act of 1832 signifies the inception of the Victorian era.
The life of women in Victorian era was generally centered on family commitments. Women were seen as temples of love and purity- and so, could not be used for physical exertion or pleasurable sex. The only role of women in the Victorian era was to get married and look after the homely chores. The young ladies were groomed thoroughly to get married and had to be innocent, virtuous, biddable, and dutiful. The young women were mainly educated in accomplishments like French, drawing, painting, singing, dancing – everything which helped them to get a perfect suitor!
Few women stayed back in the bed, past the daybreak. They ran the house, made meals for their husbands and children, made clothes for everyone, and grew everything that the family ate. The women were also supposed to take care of someone who was sick. Moreover, mental illness and alcoholism also added to women’s burdens. The women were also responsible for sewing, knitting and painting the clothes. The gentlewomen made sure that the home was a place of solace and comfort for the husband and children, free from all the hassles or burdens of outside work. They were supposed to be the sunbeam in the house by making others happy.
The woman of the “high or elite class” enjoyed all the amenities and favors that one could think of. Dancing was a preferred pastime among most of the upper-class women and men. The unmarried women generally spend a great deal of time chatting with their friends. The high class women did very little or almost no home chores. The ladies did not do things themselves but told others what to do. They were just supposed to marry and raise children!
The women of lower class worked in the factories, garment industries, laundries or various other jobs to support themselves. Another employment for “Lower” working class women was the domestic service. It was a tough job as the domestic servants were supposed to work seven days a week and twelve hours a day! A large percentage of women also worked as nurses in hospitals and were employed in offices during the later part of the century. Some women also entered into professions such as medicine, law, and journalism. However, this revolution took place mostly in the later part of the twentieth century.
Well, above is the description of the life of a Victorian woman. Unlike the women of today, they were not given freedom to choose their life- they had no choice but to accept whatever was placed before them!