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A Separation Of Spheres In The Later Half Of The 19th Century

1778 words - 7 pages

A Separation of Spheres in the Later Half of the 19th Century

In the later half of the 19th century men and women were seen to live
in ‘separate spheres.’ Public activity for men and domestic/private
for women. However some upper class women did have the chance to do
voluntary work such as charity work. Upper class women at this time
where seen to obey their husbands, they had a role, they were ladies
so they had to act like ladies. Women were excluded from the public
sphere men where seen as top of society and women shouldn’t get
involved with politics as they wouldn’t understand. Men were seen as
more intelligent and had reason thought they had control over their
wives, before 1850 the common law was that married women had no
identity apart from that of her husband, husbands had the right to
decide where to live and how to live. At this point in time it was
also legal to beat up their wives and lock them up if they disobeyed
their husband. Women also couldn’t divorce their husbands and if they
did separate the husband gets custody of the children.

By 1850 many women had accepted the fact they were different and not
equal to their husbands, especially upper and middle class women, but
things changed and beliefs changed when the idea of a ‘new woman’ was
introduced. By 1850 there was a rapid growth of the number of single
women between the age of 15 and 45 rose by 72% this was between 1851
and 1871. There were three main reasons for this;

· There were more male babies dieing at birth or in their childhood

· More men went to different countries, many emigrated for better
opportunities for themselves

· Many men where marrying later then they were in the past

There was however a problem especially for middle class women, being a
single woman meant that they had not fulfilled their proper role as a
wife and mother, so men didn’t want to marry these women because they
were single and not married. Also finding a respectable job was very
difficult as there wasn’t many for middle class women. Teaching was
one possibility were they could work as teachers or governess but this
was poorly paid for women. For working class women they had to
contribute their female wage to the family, these women worked and
where homemakers, Dorothy Thompson said that middle class women did
have a small choice to decide between public and private life, but
working class women didn’t have the choice, they had to work for their
family. However women were still seen as the second wage earners to
the men, they were paid less for doing hard work and in certain jobs
were considered unfit, and were labelled as temporary workers as their
true destinies were as wives and mothers.

Different experiences of working and middle class women resulted in
different responses to their elimination from...

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