Victorian Era Context
The Victorian era, 1837-1901, known for strict social norms and moralities, confined women to domestic roles. Female education was limited, and their legal rights were significantly restricted compared to men's.
Marriage and Property
Before the Married Women's Property Act 1882, women lost all property rights upon marriage. Their belongings legally belonged to their husbands, stripping them of financial independence and security.
Education and Employment
The 19th century saw slight improvements in women's education. The 1870 Education Act allowed girls to attend primary school. However, professions remained largely inaccessible, with rare exceptions like nursing.
Suffrage Movement Beginnings
Early suffrage efforts began in the Victorian era. Groups like the Langham Place Circle advocated for women's voting rights, laying groundwork for the future suffragette movement.
Victorian literature often challenged gender norms. Writers like Mary Ann Evans, under the pen name George Eliot, subverted expectations and advocated for women's intellectual recognition.
The Custody Battle
The Custody of Infants Act 1839 granted mothers, for the first time, rights to custody of their children under seven. This was a significant crack in the legal dominance of fathers.
Publications like 'The Englishwoman's Review' provided a platform for feminist ideology, addressing issues from property rights to suffrage, and elevating women's voices in the public sphere.