The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the country whose rich history covers many periods and eras. It saw its ups and downs, experienced both hardships and prosperity. It has been the leading power throughout centuries, with many countries looking up to it and kneeling before it. Still, the echo of its former majesty can be seen up to the present day. However, it is impossible to describe the periods all at once. It would be better to single out an era, we are most interested in, and retrospect it, emphasizing a certain aspect.
So, the Victorian period is the one standing in the limelight and capturing most attention. The era, preceded by the Georgian period and succeeded by the Edwardian period, was the longest in British history. It was known as the “Golden Age”, the time of prosperity and stability. And it is true indeed. The country did not take part in wars and massacres. The higher level of life resulted in the outburst of the population growth. Technology and industry development was on the rise. Numerous social reforms and acts aimed at improving the life of the working people were passed.
The level of education got higher, and schools became open to all layers of the society. I would like to focus my attention and dwell upon the role of women in the Victorian society. I hope to find out how the life of an average woman changed during those times and what essential steps were undergone. Recalling the periods preceding the Victorian era, women did not play the essential role in the society. Educational institutions were closed for almost all females. The main part of a woman’s existence consisted in giving birth, taking care of children and working about the house.
Women were the “mute shadows” of their husbands without rights and even a spark of freethinking. It was a man’s world. However, the Victorian period put an end to this abundant depriving and placed the woman forth, giving her equal rights with men. So, let us take a closer look on the particular changes in the society that affected the woman’s fate. Even though we cannot state that during the Victorian period women were fully accepted by the society, well, at least the important steps were made. As far as we remember, during the preceding eras a working woman was something unbelievable and unheard-of.
This tendency was still observed in the Victorian period but then it was not that rejectable. Women were known to have worked as teachers, nurses, writers. Nevertheless, in most cases women were still limited to housekeeping and child upbringing. Formerly, voting was a privilege purely for men. There was a popular way of thinking that women were too unstable and ill fit to make such important decisions as to who is to rule the country. In the end of the Victorian period the suffrage movements were fighting for more liberties for females and total equality between two genders. And the foremost goal was to gain the privilege to vote.
Sadly, these first steps towards emancipation were usually ridiculed and mocked. Men enjoyed being the dominant gender watching women subdue to them. So it comes as no surprise that these first emancipator measures were disregarded. For example, the prominent writer living in those times, Oscar Wilde, in his novel “The portrait of Dorian Grey” referred to women as the “decorative sex”, pure decoration and nothing more. That was the typical way of thinking among men in those times. As we have already mentioned, prior to the Victorian era women were fully dependent on their husbands.
They had no actual power in the social life, on the political arena, in the judicial system. There were numerous acts protecting the rights of men but almost none for women. Women were deprived, neglected and usually considered to be the husband’s “property”. Moreover, when women’s rights were violated there wee no institutions they could turn to for help. Men could get the divorce when a case of adultery occurred, while women could actually get divorced if husband’s adultery was accompanied by cruelty or abuse. Previously, after the divorce all possessions went to husbands leaving wives poor and deprived of everything.
During the Victorian period some acts were passed that changed the position of women in the society considerably. From than on, women were allowed to keep their property. Nevertheless, even though women in the Victorian period didn’t get all the rights and freedoms they claimed for, the necessary steps were made to ensure the stable position of females in the society. Observing the mentioned facts, we can say for sure that during the prominent.