Womens Status In The Victorian Era Sociology Essay Essay

essay B

Get Full Essay

Get access to this section to get all the help you need with your essay and educational goals.

Get Access

The Victorian epoch was perchance one of the periods which saw the most legion and dramatic alterations in society. Coinciding with the Industrial Revolution, the 19th century in England was besides marked by several alterations in societal constructions and in the manner gender, category and race were perceived. One of the noteworthy Victorian procedures with dramatic effects on adult females ‘s lives was the masculinization and professionalisation of medical specialty. In this essay, I will discourse some representative ways in which adult females in general and specific groups in peculiar were affected by this alteration. The displacements in the outlook of the Victorians were non needfully straight produced by the medical profession, but by the societal concepts their theories helped develop at that clip through statute law. Whilst the ordinance of harlotry stigmatised propertyless adult females, yet besides provided the conditions necessary for middle-class adult females to liberate and take action in the populace sphere under the streamer of the anti-regulation motion, the new attack to insanity affected working- and middle-class adult females in different negative ways. In any instance, both procedures affected adult females, non work forces. Hence, the first portion of the essay will be dedicated to some of the deductions the rise of the medical profession had in relation to the ordinance of harlotry, and in the 2nd subdivision – with regard to adult females ‘s lunacy.

The Acts were based on the premises that adult females but non work forces were responsible for the spread of genital disease, and that while work forces would be degraded if subjected to physical scrutiny, the adult females who satisfied male sexual impulses were already so debauched that farther indignities barely mattered. Protection for males was supposed to be assured by review of females ( McHugh, 1980: 17 ) .

Therefore, the C.D. Acts ‘reinforced bing forms of category and gender domination ‘ ( Walkowitz, 1980: 4 ) . In the staying portion of this subdivision I will briefly look at how cocottes were seen in society and how propertyless adult females were by and large affected by the ordinance of harlotry.

Prostitution was a obscure class in which guiltless working-class adult females were besides included because the working-class was considered to be inherently flawed. The C.D. Acts did non specify ‘prostitution ‘ and, hence, particular police officers, in peculiar, and Victorian people, in general, were left to make up one’s mind for themselves what made a adult female a cocotte. The big figure of cocottes, even if informations vary harmonizing to the beginnings ( Mason, 1994 ) , could be partially explained by ‘repeated ‘conquests ‘ [ of middle-class work forces, which ] were a signifier of show intended to affect other males ‘ ( Tosh, 2004: 67 ) and to continue the pureness of their future married womans ( Mahood, 1990 ) , partially by it being the merely profitable alternate for propertyless adult females in hunt for a beginning of money. However, the most of import factor was represented by the unstable boundary lines of the class of ‘prostitution ‘ . Mason discusses the ways in which propertyless adult females were included in it: ‘any adult female who had an illicit kid, in this case, being counted as a cocotte ‘ ( 1994: 74 ) and Mahood ( 1990 ) notes that any adult female on the street who could non turn out where her money came from could hold been considered a cocotte. Furthermore, moral reformists ‘correlated certain signifiers of working-class behavior which offended businessperson norms – unsmooth voices, brassy frock, imbibing and cursing – with another: sexual promiscuousness, although there was no grounds that this life style led to harlotry ‘ ( Mahood, 1990:72 ) . Hence, the ordinance of harlotry overcame the bounds of the business itself. It chiefly referred to the urban propertyless adult females ( Mason, 1994 ) who did non follow with ‘middle-class criterions of muliebrity ‘ ( Mahood, 1990: 3 ) and therefore ‘violated their gender function and relinquished their rights to the attention and protection normally extended to the ‘weaker sex ” ( Bartley, 2000: 157 ) . Further, ‘prostitutes ‘ were considered the root of physical unwellness and moral, societal immorality. The ‘prostitutes ‘ used to pass their clip in the unhealthy environment of the streets, Victorian towns being considered the beginning of physical unwellness, and hence ‘described as a ‘pestilence ‘ , a ‘sore ‘ , a cancerous growing, contamining and destructing society ‘ ( Nead, 1988: 122 ) , being the carriers of venereal diseases. Not merely were ‘prostitutes ‘ the beginnings of unwellnesss, harmonizing to the Victorian political orientation, but they were besides ‘literally infecting the respectable universe ; unchained, it seemed to many middle-class Victorians that harlotry would destruct the household, the place, the province and the imperium ‘ ( Nead, 1988: 138 ) when holding dealingss with respectable middle-class work forces, even if they were non needfully their most legion clients, harmonizing to Mason ( 1994 ) . Seen as public hazards by the Victorian society and excluded even by the fellow working-class people because, due to them, the whole societal category came to be stigmatised, cocottes had to admit their aberrant societal function and capable themselves to degrading medical scrutinies by male professionals ( Walkowitz, 1980 ) .

The debut of the C.D. Acts which stigmatized the propertyless adult females in general because cocottes came from their ranks, besides led the manner for Victorian women’s rightists to contend in the populace sphere for the rights and the ‘rise ‘ of the ‘fallen ‘ adult females into morality, wherein a adult female ‘s topographic point should be ( Walkowitz, 1984 ; Mahood, 1990 ) . Judith Walkowitz ( 1980, 1984 ) casts her attending on the history of the resistance to the ordinance of gender which was led, amongst other groups, by administrations handled by middle-class adult females, such as the Ladies ‘ National Association ( LNA ) with Josephine Butler as its most celebrated member. Their deduction in the repeal motion was looked upon as unnatural at that clip ( Walkowitz, 1980, 1984 ) , the governments non cognizing how to cover with such resistance. However, middle-class adult females succeeded in exceling some of the modern-day biass about the adult females ‘s function as ‘the angel in the house ‘ and actively engaged in the anti-regulation attempts. However, they continued to believe in the morality, pureness and domestic virtuousness which were thought to be intrinsic to Victorian adult females and which had to be recovered for the ‘fallen ‘ adult females, considered by them victims of the male desires. Furthermore, through their actions they opposed the male authorization which introduced the C.D. Acts and, at the same clip, as Walkowitz ( 1984 ) notes, it reinforced the thought that propertyless work forces had the responsibility to protect the lame ‘fallen ‘ adult females. Furthermore, one of the attacks of the women’s rightist repealers reinforced ‘an authorization relationship between older middle-class adult females and immature propertyless adult females that was hierarchal and tutelary every bit good as lovingness and protective ‘ ( Walkowitz, 1984: 45 ) . Hence, even if contradictory in some respects, partially withstanding and partially reenforcing Victorian political orientations, the repeal motion was an of import minute in the history of adult females ‘s emancipation, even if the focal point when analyzing it is cast largely on their actions about harlotry.

After holding analysed a few relevant ways in which the societal positions of different groups of adult females were affected by the rise of the medical profession and, therefore, by the C.D. Acts – the hapless propertyless adult females stigmatised, the cocottes considered the root of all physical and moral immorality and the middle-class adult females submiting a public function in this context – I shall now project my attending on the deductions of the new conceptual model of lunacy on Victorian adult females of different societal categories. Harmonizing to Bartley, the nexus between harlotry and lunacy is really strong, yet ill-defined in footings of causal dealingss: ‘ [ I ] n the instance of adult females, ‘feeble-mindedness ‘ was associated with the offenses of immorality and harlotry. In bend immorality and harlotry were associated with ‘feeble-mindedness ‘ , doing it hard to divide cause and consequence ‘ ( 2000: 125 ) . The new apprehensions of madness were determined by the rise of the psychiatric medical profession, wherein ‘doctors consolidated their exclusive authorization in the field of madness ‘ ( Bartlett, 1999: 48 ) . In the alteration of position they operated, the image of huffy people shifted from animals to worlds which could be treated. Furthermore, the focal point moved from work forces to adult females, particularly from the middle- and upper-classes, Victorian physicians sing ‘that all the biological stages of a adult female ‘s life resembled sick wellness ‘ ( Oppenheim, 1991: 190, original accent ) . Therefore, adult females ‘s gender, i.e. the very nature of adult females, was seen as the cause of lunacy and, hence, had to be controlled. This was the one ground which could be applicable to most adult females, an advantage for the head-shrinkers driven by economic involvements, as Bartlett notes: ‘medical work forces turned their authorization to concern advantage by opening profit-motivated private Bedlams for the attention of the insane ‘ ( 1999: 48 ) . Both the Act adopted in 1828 and the Lunatics Act of 1845 supported the theories of the head-shrinkers and, therefore, ‘ [ m ] adness was placed steadfastly within the scientific discourse, the professionals ( chiefly medical ) took control of the intervention ‘ ( Ussher, 1991: 67 ) .

The new criterions for lunacy affected adult females from all societal categories, though non all in the same manner: ‘ [ it ] could merely every bit good strike hapless adult females, debilitated by privation and adversity, as upper-class ladies, cushioned by luxury and attended in childbearing by the ‘best ‘ medical work forces available ‘ ( Marland, 1999: 138 ) . If middle- and upper- category adult females had entree to physicians and could be detained at place, propertyless adult females did non hold this chance and so were interned in refuges. While middle-class adult females were considered prone to madness because of their infirmity, propertyless adult females, including cocottes, were seen as morbid. It appears that ‘madness was a disease of the extremely civilised and industrialized ‘ ( Showalter, 1987: 24 ) , where the hapless adult females were prone to madness because of their bad life conditions and middle-class adult females chiefly due to their gender. Furthermore, lunacy was seen as an result of the immoral actions of adult females but besides as their natural status ( Showalter, 1987 ) . Hence, baring similarities with the classification of cocottes, huffy adult females were identified as such by male physicians, who had absolute power in this country. Victorians judged as mad the adult females who gave birth to illegitimate kids ( Marland, 2004 ) , who did non dress decently or gave excessively much attending to their physical facet ( Showalter, 1987 ) , but chiefly the 1s who opposed the patriarchal authorization, harmonizing to Russell:

Womans who tried to prosecute in political activity ran the hazard of commitment to a psychiatric establishment, and adult females who pressed for greater educational chances found that physicians were taking the argument against them – claiming that the hazard of insanity was excessively great ( Russell, 1995: 12 ) .

Therefore, insanity, like harlotry, was conceptualised in a extremely patriarchal society ‘as aberrance from socially accepted behavior, a failure to get by with poorness, the enticements of drink, domestic crises, letdowns in love, inhuman treatment, mis-applied religionism, or, in the instance of puerperal insanity, the strains of childbearing ‘ ( Marland, 1999: 143 ) . If the ordinance of harlotry had benefic deductions for middle-class adult females, covering with adult females ‘s lunacy reinforced male domination over adult females. Bing under the control of their hubbies at place, huffy propertyless adult females encountered the same type of authorization in the refuges ( Marland, 1999 ) . If revolting against their subjugation to work forces, in the signifier of ‘talkativeness, misdemeanor of conventions of feminine address, and insisting on self-expression ‘ ( Showalter, 1987: 81 ) , middle-class adult females became portion of the class of the mad. Therefore, whilst propertyless adult females were considered huffy if undergoing immoral activities for that clip, upper- and middle- category madwomen were really females who tried to happen a manner of protesting against the misogynous patriarchal societal order and hence had to be controlled ( Ussher, 1990 ) . Hence, the rise of the medical profession in the psychiatric field contributed to subjecting working- and middle-class adult females to work forces, even if this happened in different ways and for merely non following with the Victorian popular patriarchal societal hierarchy.

Elaine Showalter asserts that there were besides socio-economic deductions of the new conceptualization of lunacy, which was due to the theories of the late established male head-shrinkers: ‘ [ I ] T was used as ground to maintain adult females out of the professions, to deny them political rights, and to maintain them under male control in the household and the province ‘ ( 1987: 73 ) . They were non excluded merely from the medical profession, but besides from ‘any business which might dispute the authorization of work forces ‘ ( Ussher. 1990: 69 ) . Yet, this deduction was harmonizing to the Victorian political orientation which ‘ensured that adult females were confined to the place and to their generative [ and unsafe ] function ‘ ( Ussher, 1990, 69 ) . If adult females did non follow with this political orientation and tried to excel it, they had to be controlled in some manner and the freshly risen psychiatric medical profession offered this chance.

Both the ordinance of gender and the conceptualization of lunacy in the Victorian epoch represent pressing jobs of the society of that clip and both encompass far more complex deductions than those I have discussed. In this essay I have looked at the different deductions the rise of the medical profession had for assorted societal groups of adult females, with respect to the ordinance of harlotry and lunacy in the Victorian epoch. As I have emphasised, new medical theories led to alterations in the outlook of the Victorians, yet were besides determined by old tenet. I have regarded these facets of the Victorian society in relation to the different deductions for working- and middle-class adult females and to what would today be called ‘Victorian societal policies ‘ .

Student No: 0831496

Faculty: Gender, Class and Empire

Word count: 2365

Mark: 65 ( Mid Upper 2nd )

Date of entry: 28.04.2009

Get instant access to
all materials

Become a Member