09 Dec. 2013
In the early nineteenth century, the ideology of “The Cult of Domesticity” was formed. According to Maggie McGee’s expert report on “The Cult of Domesticity,” this ideology was a set of conventions, “that defined the roles of women and their place in the social hierarchy.” Women were expect to uphold four major virtues; piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. Under the cult of domesticity, women were expected to be the “moral guardians of the home and [within] society,” (McGee). The woman’s duty was to maintain piety and sexual purity, “submit to her husband,” and care for “household” and children (McGee).
Not only was the cult of domesticity a prominent ideology of the nineteenth century, but also the law of coverture. According to Clemens Wetcholowsky, in his expert report “Coverture,” coverture was a “law,” which “established” that once married women were “to form a single legal entity with [their] husband[s];” thus, causing them to lose all legal autonomy. Under coverture, the husband gained all control over the woman’s property and wealth. The social construct of the cult of domesticity and the legal constraints of coverture created a culture, in which the freedom and rights of women were limited. However, writing seemed to give woman a place to voice the injustices they experienced. E.D.E.N. Southworth”s novel, The Hidden Hand, and Louisa May Alcott’s stories, “A Whisper in the Dark” and “Behind the Mask,” are works by women writers that seem to comment on the issues faced by women that found themselves under the restraints of the social and legal confines placed on them in the nineteenth century.
E.D.E.N. Southworth’s novel, The Hidden Hand, first serialized in the New York Ledger in 1859, depicts female characters who demonstrate the effects of the cult of domesticity and coverture (Treadway). Of the various female characters in Southworth’s novel, Clara Day is an example of the effects of the cult of...