Victorian Era Overview
Spanning 1837 to 1901, the Victorian Era was named after Queen Victoria. It was a period of industrial progress, strict social codes, and distinct class divisions, profoundly influencing women's lives and their societal roles.
Privileged yet constrained, upper-class women were expected to be moral guardians of their households. Their lives revolved around social events, managing servants, and being wives and mothers, with little involvement in business or politics.
Middle-class women embraced domesticity and piety, embodying the 'Angel in the House' ideal. Education focused on becoming skilled homemakers. Some worked as governesses or in charitable organizations, but rarely in professions.
Contrasting sharply with the leisurely lives of the upper tiers, working-class women often toiled in factories or as domestic workers. Their economic contributions were crucial for survival, yet societal acknowledgement of their labor was minimal.
Education and Reform
Late Victorian Era reforms slowly widened educational opportunities for women, leading to the emergence of the 'New Woman' - educated, independent, and career-inclined, challenging conventional gender roles.
Fashion as Status
Victorian fashion was a clear class indicator. Upper-class women wore elaborate, restrictive dresses, signifying wealth and a lifestyle removed from labor. In contrast, working-class women's attire was practical, allowing for movement and work.
Some Victorian women transcended class constraints, engaging in social reform and suffrage movements. Their activism laid groundwork for future gender equality, despite societal resistance and restrictions on women's participation in public life.