What was life like for women during the Victorian age? You will explore several websites that describe life in the Victorian era, a term used to describe the culture and society during the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901. Keep in mind that like all broad claims about a society, the following are examples of life during this time, and only begin to reveal the complexity of Victorian-era livelihood.
You will explore a 1850 issue of the American publication Godey's Lady Book and consider the questions below. Keep in mind that while this is an American publication, rather than British, it does present attitudes towards women's roles that would be familiar to a British audience.
"The Sphere of Woman" by Goethe
Think about how you would characterize the ideal Victorian woman. Read the following section "The ideal Victorian women" from Dr. Lynn Abrams article "Ideals of womanhood in Victorian Britain," via EDSITEment-reviewed Internet Public Library. Then, alone or with a partner, write a speech from the point of view of a candidate competing for the title "Ideal Victorian Woman" (a Victorian version of the Miss. America pageant if you will), using the questions below to guide you.
Play the "Victorian Women's Rights" game for the year 1840, the same time period when Charlotte Bronte was embarking on her career as a writer. Then examine what the laws said about women's rights.
Read the letters between Bronte and Southey by scrolling down to the paragraph in Chapter VIII that begins with Southey's letter ("It is not my advice that you have asked as to the direction of your talents"). Read Southey’s letter, Bronte's response to Southey's letter, Southey's second letter, and the two short paragraphs that follow Southey's second letter.)
Read an excerpt of Elizabeth Rigby's review of Jane Eyre in the 1848 issue of The Quarterly Review. Scroll down the document about two-thirds and read the two paragraphs beginning with the line "We have said that this was the picture of a natural heart" (or use Edit —> Find to search the page for this paragraph). Consider the questions below, and then read the first several chapters of Jane Eyre and look for evidence to support and refute Rigby's claims about Jane.