Separate Sphere Ideology And Opposition To Women's Suffrage In The Victorian Era

1991 words - 8 pages

The opposition to women's suffrage in the early 20th century stems from a deep rooted social phenomenon in england that took hold in the 19th century. The victorian era gave rise to the system of gender roles and relations that sought to separate the sexes on all fronts of society. This sex class system, also known as the separate sphere ideology, developed from the changing economic scheme, the opinions of great victorian philosophers, and a revival of religious integrity. The separate sphere ideology very popular amongst english society and developed a level of indisputable credibility when publically defended by an emergence of pseudo science discoveries on a woman's capacities. The ...view middle of the document...

late Industrialization also meant that no longer was there an impenetrable divide between the upper and lower classes, which allowed some men to change their social status and take foot in the new middle class society. The rise of the middle class would romanticize a new structure of family life, a nuclear family system. The middle class family consisted of a smaller number of children, with a single working member, the father, and a “housewife”, which was the defining status symbol of the middle class. Victorian family structure was influenced by the workings of the english philosophers and a rejuvenation of religious integrity, which all together created the unstoppable force of separate sphere ideology.

The separate sphere ideology of the victorian era, was characterized by the idea that men and women’s inherent biological difference made them suited for specific realms of society, the public and private spheres. The doctrine of the separate spheres dictates that men are inclined to a life in the public sphere. The public sphere involves the duties of politics, military forces, economy, law, commerce, trade, and all society issues beyond the home. The private sphere to which women belonged to involved the duties of home, husband, and children.The victorian era was age of gender isolation, with strict moral, social and political expectations.

The work of the prominent english philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, was used to shape the foundations of the separate sphere ideology . In his essay, “On Women” he clearly defines the roles of women in society.
“One need only look at a woman’s shape to discover that she is not intended for either too much mental or too much physical work. She pays the debt of life...by the pains of child-bearing, care for the child, and by subjection to man, to whom she should be a patient and cheerful companion.”
Alongside philosophical discussions, victorian society took instruction from religious means. The victorian age followed a time in English history known as the georgian period. The georgian era, was characterized by the early industrialization, poverty, widening class divisions, political uncertainty, poor standards of life, a surge in prostitution, gambling and other “evils”. With the reign of Queen victoria, came a revival of religious groups to combat the “bad behaviors” of the previous era. The victorian age was defined by strict moral codes influenced by evangelical, protestant, puritan and christian values. The Separate sphere ideology was strengthened with the emergence of these “victorian values”. The anti-suffragist would use this religious morality to defend their movement. A common ‘antis’ campaign slogan was the old puritan saying “Our ribs were not ordained to be our rulers.” The separate sphere ideology was made a mass public social phenomena with the support of these kinds of victorian philosophical and religious guidance.

Anti-suffragist were people from all walks of life, women,...

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