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  1. 1. Victorian Women’s Roles : SPINSTERS & OLD MAIDS “ A woman without a husband is worthless.”
  2. 2. Spinsters <ul><li>Spinster – an unmarried woman </li></ul><ul><li>Derived from the term spinsters for women working in threading factories </li></ul><ul><li>usually a member of the Middle Class </li></ul><ul><li>lacked high moral standards </li></ul><ul><li>Not expected to marry or uphold a woman’s expectation of dignity </li></ul><ul><li>usually those NOT married by the age of 25 years </li></ul><ul><li>uneducated </li></ul>
  3. 3. Prejudice Opinions of Society <ul><li>Lacked respect for spinsters </li></ul><ul><li>spinsters = outcasts </li></ul><ul><li>A “common grotesque” or unattractive, unintelligent woman who is incapable of a human connection </li></ul><ul><li>The word ‘spinster’ possessed a negative connotation </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Spinsters = withdrawn, melancholy existence </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>worthless and hopeless </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>“ Society felt marriage was the most important accomplishment a woman could achieve and, if she did not, then society felt her prime purpose had been defeated.” </li></ul><ul><li>Family = woman’s cornerstone; “Sole function was marriage and procreation.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>spinsters = disrupted this idea => threat to society </li></ul></ul><ul><li>figures of pity </li></ul><ul><li>No hope of being married = No identity </li></ul>
  5. 5. Independent Opinions of Spinsters <ul><li>Also known as “Old Maids” </li></ul><ul><li>Preferred to establish herself in society; not take pity on herself </li></ul><ul><li>Purpose: 1) dispel society’s fear of a woman = a hero 2) dispel society’s fear of a spinster = spectacle of defeat in the family </li></ul><ul><li>Made lives fulfilling, regardless of marital status </li></ul><ul><li>“ flung” themselves at life, unattached and uninhibited </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>Some pursued careers as writers (ie. Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot) </li></ul><ul><li>Reminded society => unmarried is Not “aligned with death” </li></ul><ul><li>Employment = alternative to marriage, Not supplement </li></ul><ul><li>Had “heroic” status to uphold </li></ul><ul><li>Believed that journeys outside the family = “central to Victoria spinster’s sense of her life” </li></ul><ul><li>Proved more to life than fitting society’s mold </li></ul>
  7. 8. Roles in the Workforce <ul><li>Expected to work in low-paying, dead-end jobs (ie. factories, governess, and other domestic forms of employment) </li></ul><ul><li>Had to find employment in order to support themselves </li></ul><ul><li>Usually worked in places that were held in contempt or pitied by women of the higher Middle Class (ie. American textile factories) </li></ul>
  8. 9. <ul><li>economic factors worked against young ladies in the 19 th century => trouble securing steady job </li></ul><ul><li>Could begin employment at 8 yrs. of age </li></ul><ul><li>Had to make own livings => due to No family to support them (even though some lived with parents) </li></ul><ul><li>Eventually pursued employment in Nursing and Teaching </li></ul><ul><li>“ Pressures of society’s ideal woman ‘stood in the way of [spinsters] practising a profession and acquiring the necessary education.” </li></ul>
  9. 10. Roles in Society <ul><li>Not expected to follow a woman’s specific guidelines (ie. virtue, chastity, love, sobriety, propriety, modesty, conformity, and health) </li></ul><ul><li>Also Not expected to fulfill a woman’s purpose to ensure comfort, support, and continuation of the male population </li></ul><ul><li>Did Not require a chaperone in public </li></ul><ul><li>More free to express emotions </li></ul>
  10. 11. <ul><li>Enabled to reciprocate the love of a young man </li></ul><ul><li>Allowed to be kissed </li></ul>
  11. 12. Vulnerability <ul><li>Reputation as “good girls” = often questioned </li></ul><ul><li>Easily taken advantage of by upper Middle Class young men </li></ul><ul><li>Often used and then forgotten (ie. young girls would give their affection to a young man who would later deny any relation whatsoever to her) </li></ul><ul><li>Girls would be left by higher class men for a “good,” wealthier lady </li></ul>
  12. 13. <ul><li>Families = outraged, hurt, and protested such behavior of young men </li></ul><ul><li>insensitive and indiscreet behavior of young men = disregarded by young man’s family </li></ul>
  13. 14. Bibliography <ul><li>http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/geweb/ Spinster.htm </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.victoriaspast.com/Spinsterhood/Spinsterhood.html </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/sfischo/spinster.html </li></ul>