I’ve shared many quotes (with sources) from the Victorian Era shedding light on the attitudes and expectations of men (and women) regarding females most suited (or not) to the institution of marriage.
Nineteenth Century American women who desired an advanced education (and to work as a professional) fought an uphill battle. As late as the final decade (1890s) cultural beliefs demanded “good” women made home a bit of heaven on earth, toiled only as a help-meet to her husband, and found all the joy and satisfaction there she could possibly need. Historical sources underscore this dated belief system, and set the stage for the challenges faced by my character Dr. Isabella Pattison, DDS, in Isabella’s Calico Groom (within Calico Ball: Timeless Western Collection).
Victorian-era expectations regarding women’s province (the home), placed responsibility for happiness, economy (and perceived respectability), and her husband’s “comfort” at home, wholly within her reach–and the consequences (good and bad) entirely on her shoulders. This vintage newspaper article, “Truths for Wives”, is a classical example of pervasive attitudes in the nineteenth century. While starkly dissimilar to today’s societal expectations, this short article from 1860 sheds much light on Victorian expectations–including winning and keeping a husband’s love.
Vintage newspaper articles from 1827 and 1876 illustrate the Victorian-era attitude regarding a woman’s work within the home. Far more than meal preparation and child-rearing, these brief statements memorialize the era’s viewpoint of differences between men and women, and the wife’s cherished role as confidante, partner in sorrows and joys, whose feminine endowment brings “exquisite tact which rounds the sharp corners, and softens the asperities of different characters, enabling people differing most widely to live together in peace…”
An 1865 newspaper article persuades all young people to tell the truth in courtship, and attempts to convince all readers of the stark benefits, compared to disastrous tragedies, when his advice is ignored. A powerful view into Victorian history and attitudes about courtship and marriage.
A vintage newspaper article (123 years old), dated April 6, 1894, was published in a Hamburg, New York newspaper (The Sun and the Erie County Independent). Titled HOW TO ATTRACT MEN, the brief advice encapsulates the late Victorian-era’s social expectations for men and women–and sheds light on the etiquette of courtship…or how a woman might properly persuade a man to notice her (so a courtship might commence).
Though American Victorian women took to the safety bicycle in droves, newspaper and public notices of the day show that women on bicycles were not widely accepted. A public service announcement from The Woman’s Rescue League proclaimed that women on bicycles were immoral, vulgar, disease-ridden, and unwomanly. Such attitudes didn’t keep women from their bicycles, and with the advent of the new Safety Bicycle, women such as my character, Sophia Sorensen (Sophia’s Leap-Year Courtship), took to cycling and had no interest in forfeiting the exercise and transportation.
Auguste Carlier published MARRIAGE IN THE UNITED STATES in 1867. Section VI, titled “Marriages in the West”, This sheds light on the attitudes and perspective of Victorian Americans toward marriage, setting the west, mail-order brides, correspondence courtships, and courtship in general. The small section, provided within this article, is definitely worth a read!
In my recent post about The Proper (and safe) Way to Terminate a Victorian American Courtship because we all know the threat of a suit of Breach of Promise was too great, a quote by the Reverend George W. Hudson in his 1883 book sounded rather scandalous. The good reverend actually said “making love”–and he didn’t mean in a sexual way. It’s essential to note that the term had a very different meaning in the 19th Century and early 20th Century than it does now.
We’ve seen the financial, legal, and emotional costs of a courtship gone wrong and culminating in a suit for breach of promise. In Victorian America, where such a consequence was possible if not common enough (to scare a young swain or two), advice of how to break up an unhealthy courtship–or cancel a planned wedding–must have been given by mothers, fathers, society matrons, and “Dear Abby’s” of the day. Indeed they did! This article includes quotes from 3 era-specific books published during the time period.