Women at Home in Victorian American: A Social History

Overview

In Women at Home in Victorian America, author Ellen Plante expands our view of an important, if often-overlooked, figure in the story of America's transformation from an agrarian to an urban, industrialized society: the middle-class Victorian woman. Plante makes generous use of primary sources to explore the ideals, virtues, and exotica of the Victorian domestic sphere and provides readers with an authentic record of the great utopian vision embraced by women of the era. In Women at Home in Victorian America you ...
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Overview

In Women at Home in Victorian America, author Ellen Plante expands our view of an important, if often-overlooked, figure in the story of America's transformation from an agrarian to an urban, industrialized society: the middle-class Victorian woman. Plante makes generous use of primary sources to explore the ideals, virtues, and exotica of the Victorian domestic sphere and provides readers with an authentic record of the great utopian vision embraced by women of the era. In Women at Home in Victorian America you will find 19th-century illustrations, descriptions, and contemporaneous accounts of every aspect of Victorian home life, including courtship and marriage, the ideal home, motherhood and childrearing, etiquette and deportment, recipes for home remedies and beauty, and more.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A history of the fashions and social etiquettes of middle class Victorian American women. With sources culled mainly from the pages of home and etiquette manuals, as well as various lady's journals, the author discusses the behavior and deportment that was expected of women regarding courtship, marriage, childrearing, social calls, and maintaining and decorating the home. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
A woman's world—from dollhouse to mourning dress—is cataloged in this practical overview of 19th-century American life.

From the beginning, Victorian Homes columnist Plante stresses that every practice of a proper 19th-century middle- class American woman's life served a higher purpose: It answered society's call for her to be a " `virtuous' being." Achieving this state required a combination of qualities such as religious devotion, industry, and good manners. When courting, it meant seeking a "safe" marriage that achieved balance between spouses of the same class. The home was to be a "bastion of morality, comfort, and refinement," with clearly defined public and private spaces. Housework required planning, such as the system offered by the Beecher sisters in The American Woman's Home (Tuesday, washing; Wednesday, ironing; etc.). Virtuous dress meant wearing the colors appropriate to one's age (light for youth, somber for age); two years' mourning wear for widows; gloves at all times for outdoor voyages. While there's enjoyment in the sheer mass of facts gathered here, the most informative material comes from the many popular sources cited, such as Godey's Lady's Book, Hill's Manual, the Beechers' books, and the writings of Charles Eastlake and Lydia Maria Child. Not surprisingly, some advice is still relevant today, such as this rule for treating the aged, from The Voyage of Life: "If you would make the aged happy, lead them to feel that there is still a place for them where they can be useful." Plante provides fun browsing, though those seeking an original thesis or keen scholarly approach should look elsewhere. And its journalistic style, though clear, lacks the verve of Daniel Pool's social portrait of 19th-century England.

Nonetheless, a full compendium, ideal for inquisitive readers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816033928
  • Publisher: Infobase Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/28/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 6.24 (w) x 9.29 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction
1 Virtuous Women 1
2 The Victorian Home 35
3 Motherhood and Family Life 69
4 Manners, Polite Society and Personal Appearance 103
5 Home Work, Handwork and Leisure 141
6 Life's Passages 177
App. A Select Rules of Etiquette for Victorian Women 203
App. B Nineteenth-Century Advice and Recipes for the Toilette 209
App. C A Select Listing of Popular Names for Women During the Victorian Era 215
Endnotes 217
Bibliography 231
Index 239
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