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Gender Domesticity And Sexual Politics Revision Notes

History Notes > British History VI: 1815-1924 Notes

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'Gender, Domesticity and Sexual Politics' Revision

Jane Howarth, Gender, domesticity and sexual politics, ed. H.G.C. Matthew The Nineteenth Century.Political, economic, religious factors led to a rise in debates about gender and sexuality. o The French Revolution and Industrialisation have their effects.
? French Revolution, with its view to eradicating decadent aristocracies 'made the upper classes tremble'1: 'Every man felt the necessity for putting his house in order'.2
? Link made between citizenship, respectability and sexual virtue e.g. artisans of Francis Place's circle.
? "Rights of Man", 1791, denied women equal citizenship.
? Women are obviously angry at this. But in opposition to feminism was Hannah More o In her Coelebs in Search of Wife (1808), Hannah More argued women were dependent upon men and complementary in their feminine duties and virtues.Origins of Victorian domestic ideology o Patriarchal family values are legally enshrined.
? A wife could own no property, unless she had the protection of a marriage settlement.
? Lord Hardwicke Act, 1754 ? an attempt at making stricter the procedure of getting marriage (parental consent - a necessity).
? The husband has absolute right to custody of children. o But there is a greater sensitivity to women's domestic influence emerging.
? The Clapham Sect advocate something like this from 1800s onwards. o Malthusianism
? Encouraged self-restraint in marital sex (even saying women don't enjoy it.)
? Reform of the Poor Laws, to discourage reproduction among the growing poor.
? Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 ? abolished right to outdoor relief and made wives of destitute men follow them into the workhouse [to emphasis it was the husband's responsibility, not the state's to look after the wife]. o Marriage Act (1836)
? Made easier for the poor to legalise their unions: Nonconformist ministers could now perform the marriage ceremony. o Such policies were successful in promoting a norm of married respectability in the lower orders.
? By 1890s, illegitimacy rates fell from 20% to 4% in England + Wales
[though did this lead to many cases of infanticide].
?????Separate spheres and domesticity o Widely diffused but impact not easily traced. 1 Page 164 2 Page 165.

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Appears a universal tenet in all the churches in the UK.
? Church of Ireland sermon:
?????'The great and weighty business of life devolves on men, but important business belongs to women...Society does best when each sex performs the duties for which it is especially ordained', Dublin 1856, Church of Ireland sermon.
? Roman Catholic nuns
? Nonconformists like Birmingham's John Angell James
? But, Quakers and Unitarians do retain more sexually egalitarian values. It's in magazines:
? Charles Dickens, Household Words
? Charlotte M. Yonge's The Monthly Packet 'Separate Spheres' is not just an aristocratic ideal.
? Middle class couples, who had built up businesses together would move to a house away from the workplace and the ability to support wife and family marked a gain in status. Fashion
? Men wore sober, functional uniform of dark trousers and jacket, while women wore clothes that accentuated their disabilities [tight-lacing, petticoats, skirts and blouses in the 1890s]
Though don't underestimate the woman's domestic role ? she played an enormous role the local community, keeping up appearances, charitable and philanthropic work.
? See the 'factory paternalism' in the south Wales ironmasters' wives Lady Charlotte Guest and Rose Mary Crawshay.

?????Male-breadwinner family and women's employment
?????The domestic ideal percolates into the working classes too. o Previously, in lower orders, there was no division of labour (they couldn't afford to). o But the shift from agriculture to factory industry ? led to a separation of labour
? Though don't overstate ? Wives' contribution to domestic budgets show sig increase from 1815 - 1835.
?????Men were portrayed as breadwinners and actively protected this role from women. o Factory Acts (1830s) restrict women's working hours.
?????But in many workforces in the industrial sphere, women were very active. o There was also a five-fold increase by the end of the century in secular professional work.
?????Were women trespassing across customary gender boundaries?
?????Gender and politics
?????From 1815 - 1820, yes indeed. o June 1819, a Blackburn meeting of the town's Female Reform Society saw the presentation of an 'ornate cap of liberty'. o Esp after:
? Peterloo Massacre
?????At least 100/400 wounded were women.
? Caroline Affair
?????17,600 'married women' of London signed support addresses.

Women took part in food riot regularly. Middle-class women took part in the British Anti-Slavery Society, formed in 1823.
? There were over 400,000 female signatures to petitions for the abolition of slavery in 1833.
? Quaker, Elizabeth Heyrick's Immediate, not Gradual Abolition (1824) was published anonymously but sold over 200,000 copies.
?????Was women's encroachment significant?
?????FUCK YOU.
?????Family Law
?????The law enforces notions of male chivalry coming to the relief of women's hardships and grievances.
?????There is legal reform, but it brings the law up to date with modern sensibilities without purging its patriarchal basis. o Married Women's Property Acts (1870) (1882) gave wives recognition for their 'separate property' in capital, possessions, and earnings. o 1873 - Court of Chancery allowed women custody of children up the age of 16, even if she had committed adultery. o Divorce ? until 1857, divorce was only for the rich, and there was a double standard ? men had to show women were adulterous once to grant a divorce, while women had to show men were adulterous along with another offence. o By the 1870s ? Frances Power Cobbe got the courts to enforce adequate maintenance orders on behalf of separated wives. o o

Leonore Davidoff & Cathernie Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and women of the English middle class 1780 - 1850 (Routledge, 1997).????Gender and class have always operated together. Consciousness of class takes a gendered form. Men who strove to become 'somebody' rested upon female and familial support networks which underpinned their rise to public prominence. The life of James Luckcock Born in 'humble life', set up his own business in 1811. By 1820, he invested in property and was left mortified when, in old age, his son didn't take up the family business. o 'I had all along built my hopes upon it [nurturing my son] for the future prosperity of the family'3
? Though men are often presented as captains of industry, protagonists of reform, there appears a familial element to this story too.
? Men and women occupied separate sphere because they were naturally different. Mrs Luckcock. 'We have lived together nearly thirty years - equal in the estimation and favour of Heaven'. But Mrs L has no: o Property rights o She is invisible form the public eye, we don't even know her first name. The English middle class

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?????The crisis of late 18th and early 19th C created the middle class. The French cry for liberty appealed to many sections of the middling ranks, attorneys, tradesmen, book sellers and merchants: o like William Cowper, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Wordsworth But critically, the patriotism of war sharpened ideas of social place. o Enlarged military led to enhanced masculine virtues:
? It was the man who was called on to assist in recruitment and organisation. o Women were given an idealised position: a central theme to nationalistic claims to English superiority advanced by Conservatives and Liberals alike. Property: o Middle-class households are incorporated politically by the Reform Act of 1832. o Though becoming 'monied men' became a middle class ambition, the instability of the market made another ideal of separating the family from the market. Commercial activity o This was the impetus to formalise and codify the middle-class world.
? City merchants, used to profit and loss accounts, carried this ethos into the estates, against 'witchcraft' of larger farming units (?). Religion: o Evangelism of the middle class informed the notion of the Heavenly Home. i.e. using the wealth generated in commerce to create a moral/religious family life. Shifting attitudes: o A degradation associated with menial tasks: Cobbett, despised the young people 'too clever too work' Don't see the middle class as one big bloc: o Political alignments range from Radical to Tory. o Religious divisions range from Anglican [Evangelical or traditionalist] and nonconformist sects. o Professional and merchants in London are nothing like the manufacturing families in the north and the Midlands. So what binds them: o A moral code and the reworking of their domestic world into a proper setting for its practice.
? The home became strongly associated with a form of femininity which became the hallmark of the middle class. o Provincial middle class united in the struggle against 'prior culture': witches, wizards, ghosts etc. On what grounds are women subordinated?
o Religious:
? Puritan metaphor of man as sun and woman as moon.
? Evangelical revival put individual salvation at its heart, only to be won by active struggle. [the idiom held by many middle class members]. As all were worthy of being saved, this made the plight of the weak, a worthy Crusade - women, children, prisoners, insane. This may constitute social concern, but was equally a mode of exercising control. o Guild membership:
? Women were not excluded, but they could only enter through the membership of a father or husband. o Stereotyping of ruralities?

The "Old Wives Tales" was a trope to suggest women were bound to 'oldstyle' mores. Ideological:
? Women represented 'innocence' of the natural world that active masculinity must protect and oversee.
? Scott's romanticism touched off a wave of pseudo-chivalry which promoted a masculine identity which masked the commercial origins of its most devoted adherents. Notions of beauty and taste.
? Edmund Burke's notion of beauty was being small in size, smoothness, sweetness, bright colours, delicacy and the general lineaments of the 'infantine
? A subordination of virtues of wisdom, judgement and strength. Classical notions:
? The trivialising of women's concerns in classical texts and the celebration of masculine virtueso

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?????Book 1, Chapter 2: 'Ye are all one in Christ Jesus': men, women and religion.???Puritanism led to a belief in individual freedom of conscience and a commitment to spiritual equality, that men and women were 'all one in Christ Jesus'. o But women who do become preachers and teachers are gradually ousted as movements become more bureaucratic. o More radical religious voices are silenced. More women attended church then men. Intro to doctrines of manliness 'Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord'. St Paul's Epistles to the Colossians. o Laws of God say men were in charge of the household: household was the basic unit of society. o Puritan belief saw the spiritualisation of the household as a necessary prerequisite. o The earthly family was considered an extension of the heavenly family, while an editor of Leisure Hour (1852) bemoaned 'it seems to be taken for granted that when the business of the day is begun, in a large concern, all family scenes and all religious thoughts must wait until the day is over'.4 John Angell James: o Concerned with commercial pursuits interfering with morning prayers Doctrines on 'manliness' A coherent set of ideas about male character are found in Christian discourses. o Evangelical values:
? Stress on moral earnestness
? Belief in the power of love
? Sensitivity to the weak and helpless o But the gentry male has rather contradictory values:
? Military prowess
? Sport
? Codes of honour

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???? Hunting, Riding, drinking and 'wenching'. o A man's work was God's work: one soul converted was worth much more than oney.
? Rev. John Breay worked in the town centre church in Birmingham, on low pay, but didn't take an offer in 1839 to go to a different.
? The salvation of others was his mission, not material considerations. Doctrines on femininity A woman's femininity was based on her dependence. o Puritan divines had written about the importance of a loving marriage and the need for women to act as a 'godly wife and mother'. But why were women made religiously subordinate?
o The Fall
? Eve introduced transgression and the pain of childbirth was a lasting memorial to that.
? But Mary's maternity was divine ? thus, women could redeem themselves by being good mothers and running a godly family. John Angell James: 'To be a good wife is a high attainment in female excellence: it is woman's brightest glory since the fall.' o Women needed to be contained within families. The Puritan ethos made clear everyone could attain salvation: however, spiritual equality nonetheless could lead to social subordination. o James again writes: 'the same blessed page which proclaims your dishonour in the sin of your first mother, displays the glorious part you are to bear in the instrumentality of saving a lost world.'5 o Belief that women had been create for man and that the home was 'the proper scene of woman's action and influence.'6 o The notion of the woman retreating to a moral haven, the home, was actually a mark of progress.
? If women, with their special aptitude for faith, could be contained within that home, then a space would be created for a true family religion.
? In the home, women could wield their moral influence to save themselves, and men, from the Fall they had brought about. Religious not business assistance to men. o Reverend Binny:
? 'All matters of business in merchandise belong.to the husbands of English wives: not are [women] expected to be able, in any way to make, independently, a fortune for themselves.'7 o Women are expected to influence men, thus assisting him in fulfilling duties given to him by God.
? 'Women are more than me...they are to be the makers of men'8. o Binney's view is obviously overstated.

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Though he does say at another point that the woman's mission was by influence, tasteful economy, intelligent piety and faith, inspire, sooth and resuscitate their men, so that the 'mighty engine of masculine life may be aided in its action and its results' Most evangelical clergy discouraged women getting involved in business.
? But don't forget the necessity of having women working in jobs because they were needed.
? It was clear women were subordinate to the man, but they had influence; sometimes they had to engage in male pursuits to support the family. The Protestant ethic endowed women with a strong sense of self, a belief in their individual responsibility for their own souls which could inspire action among the weakest. John Angell James: a case-study in the new possibilities opening for men in the ministry that were built on the hidden contribution of women.o

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Chapter 3: 'The nursery of virtue': domestic ideology and the middle class???Public attitudes to private morality were not just shaped in church and chapel. They shifted markedly in the double standard of the case of Queen Caroline. The Queen Caroline Affair The event gripped Britain; concerned the unpopular George IV's attempt to divorce Caroline of Brunswick exposing her misdeeds at the House of Lords and the expanding literate public. o A trial took place on 17 August 1820, but the King had to withdraw the bill as it passed by a very small majority. The event represents the clash of two domestic identities. o The one of piety, dignity, honesty and love of a proper domestic life that became enshrined in the growing middle-class identity and King George's world of sexual promiscuity, entertainment and lax morality. o The winner was undoubtedly the former: if the royal family wanted to operate as leaders, they must be a family, fathers and mothers in their own homes first. The double standard: o To prove her innocence, Caroline had to present herself as a 'poor, forlorn woman'9, a hapless woman. o Her mistreatment by the King's treacherous ministers made it imperative she should be rescued: she became the symbol of dependent womanhood.
? An anonymous pamphlet wrote: 'The beauty - the goodness - the very helplessness of the sex are so many claims on our support'10 o It was an insult to the nation's manhood that Caroline was insulted.
? The Radical, Burdett ? 'as fathers, as husbands, as brothers, as men they were called upon by the voice of nature to stand firm in a woman's cause.'11 The 'people' wanted George, to fulfil his domestic obligations and make up with this wife: only then could he be a proper father to his country. Womanhood became associated here with virtue and honour.

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