Women in Nineteenth Century Europe Were Systematically Essay

  • Length: 4 pages
  • Sources: 1
  • Subject: Sports - Women
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #52963165
  • Related Topics: Csi, Europe, Cults, Sermon

Excerpt from Essay :

Women in nineteenth century Europe were systematically excluded from positions of power in the public spheres including but not limited to political and economic domains. Thus invisible and disenfranchised, women were relegated to being priestesses in the cult of domesticity: the private sphere that was at once necessary for the maintenance of life but also restricting in its roles and functions. The cult of domesticity was open primarily to members of the white middle class: females in the province of the dominant culture. Women of color and the very poor would have been summarily exempt, as their labor duties were too valuable to be restricted to the domestic sphere. In her decisive apology for patriarchy, Ellis starts by linguistically feminizing her native England: "One of the noblest features in her national character is the domestic character of England -- the home comforts, and fireside virtues for which she is so justly celebrated." The result is an ironic defense of the cult of domesticity via a sharp division of power and labor. On the one hand, Ellis claims that the private sphere provides the support beams for the public.

On the other, the Ellis finds herself amid a social revolution in which normative gender roles are being challenged. After all, Ellis finds the need to vehemently defend the cult of domesticity. She states, "It is a widely mistaken notion to suppose that the sphere of usefulness recommended here, is a humiliating and degraded one." Were it not for critics of the cult of domesticity, Ellis would have no cause to write as she does. Ellis stands as an example of how middle class women prevented the breakdown of outmoded gender norms by perpetuating stereotypes.

The private sphere is the domestic sphere of home and family. Within the domestic sphere, the woman is presumably entrusted with the responsibility to serve as a sort of moral leader, according to Ellis. Ellis openly criticizes women who would want to attend some "scientific lecture" or serve on a committee. For Ellis, women should remain confined to the private, domestic sphere and not meddle in public affairs because doing so would squander their moral purpose.

This tacit power in women's morality comes in part from the fact that middle class women have enough free time on their hand to be brainwashed at church, in which there is a "greater proportion of women than of men." Middle class women are given a liberal education, but have no legitimate means of channeling that education. For Ellis, this is good. Middle class women should not use their education for anything but the private sphere, channeling all moral and practical learning to the maintenance of a household.

Thus, middle class women will take it upon themselves to ensure the moral fiber of society. Middle class women belong to "that high place which they so justly claim in the society of their native land." It is the supreme goal of all middle class women to become wives and mothers so they can maintain social order and "domestic peace," which means the "foundation of all that is most valuable in the society of our native land." Middle class women are of a distinct breed, notes Ellis. They "enjoy the advantages of a liberal education," but are not subjected to the "pretension" of aristocratic family rankings. They are also "removed from the pressing necessities of absolute poverty." Thus perched in a privileged position between having too much wealth and too little, the middle class woman should not strive to break free of the confines of patriarchy but instead, come to relish it.

Ellis's ideal is reflected in sketches from the era, such as the Gibson (2) mother seated with her daughter in her lap. Here, the mother is cast in the role of responsible middle class teacher and purveyor of moral righteousness.…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Ellis, Sara Stickney. The cult of domesticity: A system of middle-class values and social duties. Retrieved online: http://college.cengage.com/history/west/resources/students/primary/domestic.htm#source

Image 1 "Two Spheres of Life": http://www.historyteacher.net/images/TwoSpheresOfLife.JPG

Image 2: Gibson: http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/dept/history/lavender/386/graphics/gibson.gif

Image 3: Brooke's Soap: http://taapworld.wikispaces.com/file/view/P3060043.jpg/301804162/P3060043.jpg

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