WOMEN IN THE VICTORIAN ERA

   During the Victorian Era, which took place between 1837 and 1901, Great Britain was a powerful and expanding empire. Those were years marked by peace and prosperity. The role of the woman was very different from what we know it today. Women had duties which varied according to their position in society (upper, middle or lower class). Generally speaking a woman was expected to stay at home and take care of the family. Her life had to be dedicated to her husband and her children.    Few women had a job and usually it was as a teacher, domestic help, nurse or a social worker. It did not mean that some of the women who did not work couldn’t earn some money. Some housewives used to sell the products they made in their farms: milk, butter, cheese and eggs.    The lower class women had no choice but to work. They worked long hours as maids or factory workers. They usually wore old clothes and ate the leftovers of the household for which they worked. A lot of women who were not married and had their brother and father passed away, found themselves in a similar situation. During this historical period only the male child could inherit money and property.    The middle class women had a slightly different kind of life. They could afford help in the house provided by the lower class women and at the same time they were treated better by the upper class women. That is the reason why women who belonged to that class felt superior to the domestic servants. They spent their time taking care of the household and serving the society. Together they helped improving the hygiene, which was a great problem during the Industrial Revolution, they helped women with children and no husbands and took care of the orphans and the ill.    The upper class reality was completely different. Women in such families had no difficulties and spent their time chatting, reading, playing a musical instrument, visiting important people and other wealthy relatives in the countryside. They possessed a lot of clothes, jewellery, books and paintings, most of which were their own portraits.    One can see how different women’s lifestyle was almost 200 years ago. They had to walk a long road before they earned some rights and liberties in the society. However, during the Victorian Era women started changing their position. They obtained the right to get divorced, to keep what they earned for themselves and to get access to higher education. Women were often upset by the fact they couldn’t vote but that didn’t discourage them and they didn’t remain passive! Victorian women went on strikes protesting against gender discrimination.

GALLERY

GLOSSARY

duties – obligatory tasks

maids – female domestic servants

leftovers – remaining food

to pass away – to die

 to afford – to have enough money to buy something

to provide – to supply, to distribute, to make available for use

wealthy – rich

upset – worried, unhappy, disappointed

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