Victorian-era American wisdom regarding romance, marriage, and courtship is fascinating! A collection of 19th century newspaper clippings provides a wide range of answers to the question: Who Makes the Best (Victorian) Wives? Throughout the late nineteenth century, much (conflicting) advice for the hymeneal-minded.
Note: Part of a blog series including Blondes are Favorites (Who Makes the Best (Victorian) Wives?).
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).
Despite knowing this book was probably only about the Victorian Era in England, and hence households in Great Britain, I was hopeful I’d learn plenty in this nonfiction volume about households of the era outside of GB. I’m satisfied that I did, without the author touching on it.
While America wasn’t mentioned, more specifically, my specialty of the Western United States, the fact remains that the Old West (and the U.S. at large) did have a Victorian Era. England’s Victorian attitudes, practices, expectations, and culture most certainly did impact and strongly influence the United States. It’s evident that many things would be the same in all western cultures, e.g. housekeepers dyed curtains and repainted furniture as needed– upkeep that is most out-dated presently.
I read this book specifically for my own ongoing research and understanding of history. It explains a great deal in four chapters: 1) Middle-class Victorian Homes, 2) Mistress of the Household, 3) Recruiting and Replacing the Servants, and 4) Life Below Stairs.
Victorian-era American schools, even in the Old West, were so much more than one-room schoolhouses. High schools were prevalent and seen as preparatory for University. Though western one-room school teachers are often portrayed as predominately male, female teachers were preferred–and the reasons might surprise you.
After reading one little segment (a “one-night stand”) within Richard Shenkman and Kurt Reiger’s One-Night Stands with American History: Odd, Amusing, and Little-Known Incidents. I have just one thing to say: I was born in the correct century. Maybe not as far as chivalry and honor among men go, but definitely as far as prevailing attitudes regarding education of females. I share one section of Shenkman and Reiger’s entertaining book, with two cited sources.
WOMEN ARE DUMBER
In the late 1800’s many physicians regarded increased female education as a primary factor in a general decline of female health. A woman’s brain was simply not capable of assimilating a great deal of academic instruction (and that’s just the beginning of the quote).