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Women Empowerment: The Construction of Female Gender in Anne of Green Gables & Little Women

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Introduction

The antebellum period brought about many changes in American society. One of those changes was the manner in which American households were organized. Robert Max Jackson argues in his account on gender inequality that up to the 1820s a patriarchal ideology predominated the American household giving fathers absolute authority; they would rule their homes as “communal enterprises” in which husband and wife worked together in order to earn a living. However, from the 1820s onwards the economy rapidly expanded as a consequence of the industrial revolution and many men started to work away from home in industrial and commercial firms, leaving their wives at home to carry out the domestic duties. As a result of this “separation of spheres”, these wives, who no longer were under the constant observation and influence of their husbands, gained the new identity of a “true woman” in which they were supposed to “spent their time raising their children and managing their household” (Jackson 199). As Barbara Welter points out, a “Cult of True Womanhood” arose among the middle classes in which “true women” were to hold “the four cardinal virtues of piety, purity, submission and domesticity” (152). This ideology of domesticity, as opposed to the patriarchal ideology, prescribed women’s conduct throughout the nineteenth century.

The influence of the ideology of domesticity did not only limit itself to people’s private lives but also became apparent in literature as the ideology of domesticity was already propagated in the popular sentimental novels of that time. The nineteenth century brought forth many female coming-of-age novels that moulded girls into “true women”. In 1908 Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables, a st...

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