Separate Spheres Ideology Analysis

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Explain How the Separate Spheres Ideology Shaped Women’s Lives During the Nineteenth Century.

The British Victorian Era saw men have power over everything to do with politics, society and economy. Women in late 19th and early 20th century were thought to be inferior and property to their male counterparts. This stemmed from the genuine believe that each gender, in biological terms, were different. It is thought that men were logical and rational thinkers, whereas women were tied more to their emotions and feelings. This shaped the separate spheres ideology, where men were public workers and breadwinners, and women were private housekeepers and comforters. This ideal created the belief that a woman was the property of her husband, and her main
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It was thought that “the Victorian period was an age of love.” Women were traditionally expected to obey their husbands and submit to his will, but also comfort him and love him unconditionally. The idea of a woman being ‘private’ meant that her marriage was the biggest part of her life. She was expected to stay at home and look neat, yet not dress to impress other men, while her husband provided a stable income in the public sphere. What was also very notable was that prior to 1857, no civil procedure for divorce existed, and even afterwards it was very rare for a marriage to end in any way other than death. This was due to the suggestion that, as Shanley states, “A wife should forgive a guilty husband, no matter how extreme or repeated his behaviour, but a husband could not forgive a guilty wife, no matter how short-lived her error.” This belief is an outcome of how women were the property of the man. The women’s main purpose was to create offspring, with the average family size in the late 19th century being 2 adults and 6 children. It was known in the Victorian Era that women were obedient, but this does not mean that every marriage was unhappy. Sharron Marcus suggests that “the ideology of separate spheres is believed to have actually brought women closer to their husband in marriage.” Although, with this being said, domestic violence was rife among marriages …show more content…
The idea of separate spheres meant that women were expected to stay at home, especially if they were married, with males being the breadwinners in the public sphere. It is important to understand that although this was the ideal belief, many poor and working class women were made to go out and work, usually in an industry such as textiles, as a means to survive. Many were employed in factories and other unpleasant environments, being paid less than men simply because they were women, and due to the risk of maternal leave. It is important to acknowledge that some women in the Victorian era were so economically desperate, that they had to work in prostitution. This brought shame upon the female gender, and men argued that prostitutes were a perfect example of how women were vulnerable and easily corrupted, further proving why the separate spheres ideology was the correct one to live by. Many of these women worked for themselves, and did whatever they needed to live. But, as Walkowitz explains, “They were still operating within the narrow constraints imposed on them by a class-stratified and patriarchal society.” The idea of a women being a stay at home carer imposed many social challenges on the females who had no choice but to go against this ideal. This was unsurprisingly looked down upon by middle-class woman, who were undeniably sheltered and protected from the

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