Women of the 18th and 19th Century
Throughout history women’s rights seemed almost non-existent, and most did not have very good lives because of this. This was especially true of the 18th and 19th centuries. With many changes all over the world, such as the industrial revolution lives of women got even harder. Most women found themselves in the working class and had to try to help support their families with terrible wages and working conditions. Women were not treated as equals and had to take some of the hardest jobs along with the men. At the turn of the 19th century however, women seemed more optimistic, because of the Cult of Domesticity. This was a new thinking around women, putting them out of the workforce and back into the home. With this new thinking, women were looked to almost as equals and created programs that taught personal hygiene, basic literacy, and simple craft work. Life was also different depending on the class you were in.
Throughout the 18th and 19th century women’s lives differed drastically whether you were lower, middle or upper class. First off lives of the lower class women were very difficult. They began to have to work in the factories alongside men as a result of the industrial revolution. However many of these women received less than half the wages of men and found it hard to help support their families. Some were even killed by demanding bosses, and many of these women were sexually abused while working in these factories. Many lower class women lived in the slums of the city in detrimental living situations. Because many women could not manage to find daycare like places for their kids, many lower class women were forced out the workplace no matter how bad their family needed the extra money. This lead to a surplus of lower class women finding themselves in Prostitution. Overall life was very bad for the lower class women. Secondly, life of the middle class women differed in the 18th and 19th century. Middle class women had it better than lower class women. The cult of domesticity affected these women more so than lower class women because the men of this class had more money than the lower. The women were taken out of the work force and the big focus was on doing their duties as a mother and were supposed to be devoted solely on their family. Many of these women worked in the house doing chores and other family needs like sewing, and shoe making. The home became the primary focus and was supposed to be
perfect, a place of comfort for their hard working husbands.
Many middle class women focused on books and magazines about fashion, family dynamics, and poetry. Other popular books were guides to the perfect home such as Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household management. These women of the middle class had good lives and were focused on their families and home rather than work like the lower class women. Lastly life in the upper class women was very good. Most of these women had servants that managed daily chores needed in the home. Many upper class women contributed to their families through a dowry provided from their parents into marriage. Some upper class women were provided with tutors for education. Most of these women learned how to play instruments such as the piano for entertaining their guests. All upper class relied on their husbands. These women had high fashion and owned many different styles of dresses. These women also were afforded good health care. Same as the working class the Cult of Domesticity provided that these women make the home the forefront of their duties. They were to look perfect for guests.
Most upper class women had great lives and it was shown through their homes. In conclusion women’s lives in the 18th and 19th century were much different depending on what class you were in. The 18th century was ruff for women, forcing them into harsh labor and low wages. With the Cult of Domesticity, the 19th century was much better for women. These changes lead to women seen more as equals and afforded them many more opportunities. The home became the primary focus for women instead of harsh labor Women lives were much better as a result of this movement and changed the way women acted, and duties they performed on a day to day basis. Overall lives of women in the 18th and 19th century were pretty good depending on your status through the Cult of Domesticity.
1. Backman, Clifford. The Cultures of the West A History. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.