Condition Of Middle Class Women In 19th Century Europe

Middle Class Essay

women’s roles in the 19th century

After a period of roughly a century from 1750 to 1850 of anxiety and uncertainty in families, due to the abrupt change of industry, a fresh stable pattern emanated. In spite of the fact that the Middle Class is still a minority, was beginning to have a deep impact on values, even beyond the members of its own class. The new industrial age had disassociated the home from the workplace. This galvanized a more exact definition of the roles of women and men. While men were assumed to be the breadwinners, the women were supposed to care for the home and the children. It became a matter of self-respect for a man to be efficient to support the family sans his wife having to work. Women were not presumed to work outside the home or to contrarily be intricate in public.

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Men were more probably to be distant, forbidding father figures to the children. Women were more likely to be restrained and confined by a home-confining value system. Children sometimes were dismayed by the high anticipation their parents put upon them. There was also a double standard in that men could have affairs with other women and frequent houses of prostitution so long as they were adequately careful, while women were counted upon to maintain the purity of the family.

In Europe, out of need, women were an essential part to the establishing and progress of this country. It refined their status. In spite of the fact that they still had finite legal rights, they were allowed to own property and operate their own business. Class and social status was not a consideration, only one’s abilities, initiative and resourcefulness mattered.

Victorian disposition toward sexuality loosened progressively from the 1900s onward. Sexual respectability was still eminently significant for middle-class women, but some men became more open in their use of courtesans and indulgence of the sexual practices. Silently, numerous middle-class-married couples extended their use of artificial birth control devices and recognized sexuality as pleasure, not only the basis for producing offspring.

During the 19th century in Europe almost all women artists have to resist the barriers of exclusionary education and patronage systems, as well as restraining definitions as to what is befitting subject matter for them. However, various women artists emerged as important mainstream artists quilting became increasingly a dominant media for women to express themselves politically as well as from one’s own viewpoint.

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George Gissing’s ‘The Odd Women’ can perhaps best be indicated by the note that accompanies the undated cover photo of women operators working Glasgow’s first multiple telephone switchboard. While the novel makes no mention of the telephone system as an employer of female labor, the reader is told, this is `the kind of white-collar, public sector work that Rhoda Nunn and Mary Barfoot see as the salvation of middle-class women in the 1890’s.’ Gissing viewed the `Woman Question’ with intelligent sympathy: the odd women of the title are `odd’ in a demographic way, not in any pejorative sense.

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Gissing was always fascinated by contemporary social trends and structured many of his novels around sociological observation. In The Odd Women this tendency is particularly apparent, the issues under examination including not only marriage, female employment, and gender ideology, but also free love, genteel alcoholism, and class relations.

During 19th century, European domestics were carefully thought about as a dependent class, without the status accorded other citizens. In both France and England servants and women were the last civil groups to be sanctioned. The number of people in paid domestic service reached its zenith in 19th century Europe. This group of the servant class was, in part, an outcome of the increase in the number of urban and middle class households that could sustain to keep servants. The size of women laboring as servants also grew in size.

Feminism poses key challenge to critical modernism. Feminism may well be the most fundamental challenge ever to arise. For while earlier challenges pronounced judgment upon beliefs or practices by recourse to the primary tradition, numerous feminists assert judgment upon the custom itself.


  • Kappler, Mary Ellen, “The Odd Women”, Arlene Young (Ed.)
  • George Gissing. University of Toronto Quarterly, Broadview Press, P. 416

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