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How Were Widows Cared For In The Victorian Era?

548 words - 2 pages

The author's thesis is that by examining the plight of widowed middle-class women a better understanding of Victorian era beliefs can be had. Victorians believed that there were separate spheres for the sexes, men had the public arena and women had the home. Victorians also believed that thrift was essential and poverty was always the fault of the poor individual, the poor could choose to better their situation. Not only is Curran looking to further the understanding of middle-class Victorian values but she is also trying to argue against the historical view that middle class women were cared for if widowed through either family generosity, their late husbands life insurance, or remarriage.
Curran begins by comparing salaries and sustenance levels of the growing middle-class. Her findings point to the inability of many middle-class families to afford life insurance, particularly a policy that would provide adequately for a widow, especially one with dependent children. Curran also uses primary documents such as widows' journals and letters showing family generosity was wearing thin for some widows, and showing the destitute nature of widowhood. To further debase claims that middle-class widows were provided for Curran turns to the options of working or remarrying to maintain standards of living, both of which were issues in and of them-selves. The likelihood that a widow would remarry in Victorian England was rather slim, declining from approximately 30% in the mid-sixteenth century to about 11% in 1851. This rate of remarriage was attributed by Curran to the substantial population of young unmarried...

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