The Degradation of Wives in the Victorian Period Essay

The Degradation of Wives in the Victorian Period Essay

Length: 2496 words (7.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Degradation of Wives in the Victorian Period

The degradation of the married woman in the Victorian era existed not only in that she was stripped of all her legal rights but also that no obligations were placed in her realm. Upon marriage, Victorian brides relinquished all rights to property and personal wealth to their husbands. Women were, under the law, “legally incompetent and irresponsible.” A married woman was entitled to no legal recourse in any matter, unless it was sponsored and endorsed by her husband. Helpless in the eyes of civil authority, the married woman was in the same category with “criminals, lunatics, and minors” (Vicinus 7). Eighteenth-century, English jurist, William Blackstone curtly described her legal status, “in law a husband and wife are one person, and the husband is that person” (Jones 402).

The Victorian woman was her husband’s chattel. She was completely dependent upon him and subject to him. She had no right to sue for divorce or to the custody of her children should the couple separate. She could not make a will or keep her earnings. Her area of expertise, her sphere, was in the home as mother, homemaker and devoted domestic. Clear and distinct gender boundaries were drawn: Men were “ . . . competitive, assertive, . . . and materialistic.” Women were “pious, pure, gentle . . . and sacrificing” (Woloch 125).

No greater degradation took place in the Victorian woman’s life than in the bedroom. The Victorian woman had no right to her own body, as she was not permitted to refuse conjugal duties. She was believed to be asexual: “The majority of women, happily for them, are not much troubled with sexual feeling of any kind” (Woloch 128). The inference is, if the husband did not demand the f...

... middle of paper ...

... Fiction, and Contract Theory: Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right.” Criticism XXXVI (Summer 1994): 401-14 Hellerstein, Erna Olafson, Hume, Leslie Parker, and Offen, Karen M., eds. Victorian Women; A Documentary Account of Women’s Lives in Nineteenth- Century England, France, and the United States. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1981

Marshall, Gordon, ed. Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

National Center for Victims of Crime. Public Policy Issues: “Spousal Rape Laws: 20 Years Later.” 27 March 2002 <>.

Perkin, Joan. Victorian Women. New York: New York University Press, 1993

Vicinus, Martha, ed. A Widening Sphere: Changing Roles of Victorian Women. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977 Woloch, Nancy. Women and the American Experience. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2000

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Romantic Period And Victorian Period Essay

- Writing is a prime way to get one’s point or opinion across to the masses. Whether it is through poetry or stories, both ways have stood the test of time. Two very well known eras of writing are the Romantic Period and the Victorian Period. The writers and poets of both of these periods were alike and yet different in so many ways. Each one no matter how similar they were, each writer was still as different and unique as snowflake. The Romantics often wrote of the beauty of nature, they emphasized individuality as opposed to convention, and imagination is chosen over reason....   [tags: Romanticism, John Keats, Victorian era]

Powerful Essays
774 words (2.2 pages)

Fading Faith: An Analysis of the Victorian Period Essay

- The Victorian period began with the accession of Queen Victoria; when she gained power in the throne. The era can be separated into three sections: the early Victorians, the Pre-Raphaelites, and the late Victorians. Some early Victorian writers include Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lord Tennyson Alfred, and Robert Browning. Also, the idealism of this time was utilitarian. Nature was viewed as cruel and harsh, which is the complete opposite from the Romantic period. Some key themes included evolution can lead to a crisis of faith and intellectual and spiritual doubt....   [tags: Queen Victoria, Victorians, History]

Powerful Essays
1809 words (5.2 pages)

Essay about Laws, Lawyers, and Punishment in the Victorian Period

- Laws, Lawyers, and Punishment in the Victorian Period The Law •At the beginning of the 19th century there were 3 types of law in England: -Common Law: the “law of the land”(Pool 127), which was built up over many centuries *referred to in order to determine such cases as the validity of a contract or whether or not someone was guilty of murder •3 courts that heard cases: -King’s Bench- criminal cases -Eschequer- disputes about money -Common Pleas- disputes between citizens -Equity: seen over by the Chancery Court; designed to give relief from strict decisions made by the common law -Church Law: 4 courts -Court of Arches-Court of the archbishop -Cou...   [tags: Victorian Era]

Free Essays
753 words (2.2 pages)

Contribution of Deforestation and Degradation to Climate Change Essay

-  What is deforestation, degradation and climate change Deforestation: It implies the long term permanent loss of forest cover and implies transformation into another land use. Such a loss can only be caused and maintained by a continued human-induced or natural perturbation (FAO, 2001). Forest degradation: The long term reduction of the overall potential supply of benefits from the forest, which includes carbon, wood, biodiversity and other goods and services (FAO, 2003). Climate change: It refers to a statistically significant variation in either the mean state of the climate or in its variability, persisting for an extended period (typically decades or longer)....   [tags: trees, emission, deforestation, degradation]

Powerful Essays
652 words (1.9 pages)

Essay about The Victorian Period and Literature

- Culture is the explanation and sophistication attained through education and the revelation to the arts. Culture is not only ethnicity, but also and customs and philosophy. In Culture Learning: The Fifth Dimension on the Language Classroom Damen claims, “Culture is mankind’s primary adaptive mechanism”, to illustrate his personal definition of culture (Maximizing web). Culture can easily be effected by many things such as an idea. For example, Jeremy Bentham was the founder of Utilitarian which is the belief that actions are right if they achieve the happiness of many; numerous people opposed Bentham’s philosophy because minority interests were not included (Cruttenden 86)....   [tags: Culture ]

Powerful Essays
1327 words (3.8 pages)

How to Attain a Servant Position in Victorian Times Essay

- Help Wanted: How to Attain a Servant Position By the nineteenth century, staff for a household became a necessity for the middle class families. Most had acquired enough wealth to attain servants for household duties. The number of servants kept on staff, and their conduct and appearance, quickly became a mark of status, especially near the top of the class ladder (Hughes 37 ). The popular belief was at least three servants were essential for the household. The duties and conditions of work varied, from the virtual slavery of a young maid-of-all-work to the specialized skills of the servant in an aristocratic household (“Servants”)....   [tags: Victorian Time Period]

Free Essays
543 words (1.6 pages)

Mothers of the Victorian Period Essay

- 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....   [tags: literature literary criticism]

Powerful Essays
910 words (2.6 pages)

The Victorian Butler Essay

- The Victorian Butler Colonel Mustard: “Are you the host?” Wadsworth: “Me, sir. No, I'm just the humble butler.” Colonel Mustard: “And what exactly is it you do here?” Wadsworth: “I buttle, sir.” In Victorian times having a house full of servants at the owner's command was quite common for upper and middle class families. Some job titles included footman, cooks, maids, butlers, coachman, and cooks. Among these servants, the highest ranked and paid was the butler. While we all may have a stereotype of a tall, skinny man that opens the door and says, “You rang?” the actual list of duties and responsibilities of a butler express he is a man of high demand....   [tags: Victorian Time Period]

Free Essays
578 words (1.7 pages)

Difficulties of Obtaining a Divorce in Victorian England Essays

- Bound in Union: The Difficulties of Obtaining a Divorce in Victorian England Divorce Legislation of the Victorian * 1839: Child Custody Act- Women, if proven innocent of adultery, could obtain custody of their children under seven. (Previously custody had been, without exception, awarded to the father.) * 1857: Matrimonial Causes Act- established regulations for secular divorce, making civil divorce, rather than divorce by act of Parliament, possible. Also outlined grounds for divorce, which differed for men and women, and secured property rights for divorced women....   [tags: Victorian Era]

Powerful Essays
1034 words (3 pages)

Victorian Newspapers

- Victorian Newspapers: The Source for Inquiring Minds In William Makepeace Thackeray's novel Vanity Fair, George Sedley Osborne exhibits a desire to have his name appear in the newspapers. Furthermore, he is not the only one in Vanity Fair who is concerned with the newspapers, considering the fact that the words "newspaper" and "newspapers" appear twenty-two times in Thackeray's novel. Still, there is much more to know about Victorian newspapers than Thackeray imparts to his readers. Although George is unsuccessful in getting his name in print, the following information will be successful in illustrating to its readers the when, where, and why of newspapers in the Victorian era....   [tags: Victorian Time Period]

Powerful Essays
820 words (2.3 pages)