Mothers of the Victorian Period

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Mothers of the Victorian Period

There is no doubt in the fact that motherhood has changed throughout history in the way that it is practiced and perceived. Although hard to classify motherhood as an "easy" task in any time period, mothers of the Victorian period were among those who have had it the hardest. For example, Natalie McKnight, author of Suffering Mothers in Mid-Victorian Novels, states: "When I first began studying the lives of Victorian women, I sympathized with the many women who suffered through the agonies of labor only to die shortly after the baby was born. As I continued my research, I began to feel more sympathy with those who survived" (McKnight 1).

Victorian mothers were put under tremendous pressures and expectations when it came to mothering their children. Prior to this time, mothers raised their children based on what felt natural and instinctive. Moving into the mid-nineteenth century, however, mothers were expected to follow conduct and medical books for wives, mothers, and newborns, as well as use new products on the market for mother and baby. The duties that were placed upon the woman were "to maintain and develop the child’s complete physical, mental, and spiritual health, pretty much without the help of the father" (McKnight 2). Mothers took care of domestic matters and their children, while men were free to concentrate on work and public affairs (Shiman 35). Motherhood, thereby, had come to be a skill that had to be learned rather than acquired by observing other women who had been mothers.

In a broader sense, men, women, and children each had their own "sphere." Within the privacy of their home, members of the household were divided into groups between children and other members of ...

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... of failure deemed them as an unfit parent. In addition, the mothers of the nineteenth century were basically trying out a new form of parenting on their own without the aid of any previous mothers to guide them. Although motherhood will never be "easy," Mid-Victorian mothers suffered in their attempts to be what society at the time considered the maternal ideal.

Works Cited

Gorham, Deborah. The Victorian Girl and the Feminine Ideal. London: Croom Helm, 1982.

Kane, Penny. Victorian Families in Fact and Fiction. London: Macmillan, 1995.

McKnight, Natalie. Suffering Mothers in Mid-Victorian Novels. New York: St. Martin’s, 1997.

Shiman, Lillian Lewis. Women and Leadership in Nineteenth-Century England. London: Macmillan, 1992.

Thaden, Barbara. The Maternal Voice in Victorian Fiction: Rewriting the Patriarchal Family. New York: Garland, 1997.
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