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Cult of Domesticity - Essay Example

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The 19th Century (specifically the period between 1820 and 1860), saw rapid industrialization taking place especially in Europe and America. Apart from having lasting impact on the economy it also resulted in emergence of a new type of middle class family where the head of families worked as lawyers, factory managers, merchants, teachers, doctors or other professions…
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Cult of Domesticity
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Download file to see previous pages There were jobs for men which yielded goods and services so the women and children could stay home. Secondly, with only men working to earn a living for their families, a general perception existed that only man could be the "bread earners". This view maintained that the practical world was a rough and violent place which was full of troubles and temptations and a man had to survive as best as he could. Because the women were gentle and delicate by nature, such an environment was no place for them. Instead her place was in the home where she took charge of all the affairs of the house. And third, such a family started considering itself as the backbone of society and the importance and relevance of relatives decreased. (1)
This re-structuring of society also resulted in revision of the views about a woman's role in family and society. As men became the primary source of earning a livelihood for the family, women found more and more leisure time at their hands. Social leaders, male and female, began to emphasize domestic and religious activities as a way to fill that leisure time. Since men had become the primary source of income for women, it was deemed natural to invoke the Pauline doctrine that women be submissive to men. Through their increased activities in church and Sunday school, women were able to nullify Paul's decree on woman's silence in church. To show that the emerging middle class women were becoming as lady-like as the upper, leisure class, an increasing emphasis on purity in women developed. This view has been defined by Barbara Welter as the Cult of True Womanhood. (2)
According to the Cult, a woman was essentially a hostage of her house-hold. In a rapidly evolving society the values changed with equal rapidity and fortunes rose and fell on a daily basis. In such uncertain times only one thing remained constant - a true woman. The attributes of True Womanhood, by which a woman judged herself and was judged by her husband, her neighbors, and her society could be divided into four cardinal virtues or ideals :-
Ideal One - Piety:
Religion or piety was the cardinal virtue of the True Woman. It was a common belief of the time that a woman had a natural inclination towards religion. Mrs. John
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2 Welter, Barbara. The Cult of True Womanhood, 1820-1860. In American Quarterly, XVIII (1966), 151-74
Sanford... agreed thoroughly: "Religion is just what a woman needs. Without it she is ever restless and unhappy..." The reason why religion was given such importance was perhaps because it did not necessarily take a woman out of her sphere of influence i.e. her home. Piety was the "core of a woman's virtue, the source of her strength." All other virtues would necessarily follow. Women were expected both to uphold religious virtue within their own homes and to spread religion to others. They were the "handmaid[s] to the Gospel" whose job it was to ensure the piousness of the rest of their society. Piety, therefore, gave women "something to do" and the church reinforced all other qualities of "true women." Without piety first and foremost, a woman was "unnatural and unfeminine, in fact, no woman at all." (2)
Ideal Two - Purity:
Female sexual purity was ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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