Le donne dell'età vittoriana

La condizione delle donne dell'età vittoriana: la visione delle donne in quell'epoca e il loro ruolo nella società (2 pagine formato doc)

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Women were expected to conform to an artificial notion of “feminine delicacy” which excluded exercise except for gentle walking, obliged them to wear tightly laced corsets which in any case made exercise impossible, and often limited their education to refined “accomplishment” like singing, drawing and embroidery.

Angelic Figures the idealisation of women was evident in the worship of the mother and the young girl, often compared in Victorian literature to angels.

"I have been in heaven! I have stood in the smile, and lain in the arms of one of God's angels.
I was the happy child of a gentle and loving mother", says the hero of William Smith's Thorndale. Young girls were also thought to be like angels, not only physically, but morally too. Dickens presented his pathetic girl heroines as saintly figures, and his readers worshipped them ecstatically: when Little Nell, the heroine of The Old Curosity Shop was dying, Dickens received thousand of letters begging him to save her.


Many Victorians believed that the difference between men and women were determined by nature. “If they were born animals as men are, instead of angels as women are” then we could forgive immorality in a woman as easily as in a man, argued one late Victorian journalist. The novelist Thackeray wrote that “women are pure, but not men”. Women were thought to be more innocent and generous than men: naturally more disposed to sacrifice. William Gladstone, Prime Minister four times in the late 19th century, believed that giving women the vote would endanger “their delicacy, their purity, their refinement, the elevation of their whole nature”. Often, young girls were not allowed even to read the newspapers, for fear of the evil effect of contact with the real word. In a previous age, women had simply seemed inferior to men; now they were said to be equal but different: less active and less intelligent, it is true, but also superior in morality, in taste, and in strength of feeling.

L'educazione nell'età vittoriana: tesina di maturità


The Victorians derived from these beliefs a double standard: one rule of conduct for men, and another, more severe one for women. This was most evident in married life. On her marriage, a woman’s property passed automatically into her husband’s hands. In the middle of the century, no married woman in Britain owned any property at all. If a woman tried to escape from a violent husband, he could kidnap and imprison her with the support of the law. If she succeeded in leaving home, her children remained in the custody of her husband. Before the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857, divorce was practically impossible. This act, however, was not impartial: a husband could divorce his wife if she committed adultery, but the woman who wanted a divorce had to prove her husband guilty not only of adultery, but also of incest, bigamy, bestiality, cruelty or desertion. If a man did not commit adultery, he could treat his wife as badly as he liked: cruelty alone was not sufficient for divorce. Not to marry might be worse, however. For the rich, there was the ridicule that was always reserved for spinsters, but for the poor there was only hard and humiliating employment, and in many cases destitution. For many women, the only chance of survival lay in prostitution.

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