Since prehistoric times, women have been looked at unequally. For instance, historically, women were not only viewed as intellectually inferior, but also a major source of evil and temptation to men. For instance, in Greek mythology, it is believed that it was a woman who opened the prohibited box, thus bringing unhappiness and plagues to humanity. Women have also been described as children and inferior to men in early Roman law.
Women have, therefore, long being considered naturally weaker than men. This explains the reason why during the preindustrial times, domestic chores were left for women, while heavier labor such as plowing and hunting were given to men. This trend of social inequality is evident especially during the 18th and 19th centuries. Generally, the 18th and 19th century was an extremely difficult time for women in Britain (Waters 11). They were rated as second-class people, and were kept from such things as voting and education, among other things. This paper shall focus on the role of women during this historic period.
The 18th and 19th centuries have been defined as the Romantic and Victorian eras. The romantic era was that time between 1780 and 1850, which was characterized by enlightenment. The Victorian era, on the other hand, is that period between 1837 and 1901. The Victorian era was characterized by cultural reform, industrial reforms, gracious living, wars, scientific progress, and grinding poverty. It is arguable that the 18th and 19th centuries can be defined as the Romantic and Victorian eras. The life of women during both the Romantic and Victorian era was mostly centered on commitments within the family. They were viewed as clean and pure, and could, therefore, not be used for physical exertion, and their bodies would not be ornamented with jewelry (Mary 123). They would also not be used for such things as pleasurable sex. Their most important role was to tend the house and have children, unlike the men, in accordance with Victorian masculinity.
Roles of Women in the 18th Century
During the 18th century, the life of married women revolved largely, around managing the house. This was a role which mostly included partnership in home businesses and running farms. Women also performed such duties as milking, poultry, brewing beer, and making butter. They would also make and mend clothing for the family. Moreover, they were expected to act as family doctors, making home remedies for sicknesses. They grew trees for herbs and curved various ornaments. Single women, on the other hand, worked for a living in domestic services and various trades. The textile trade, catering trade, and shops employed a large number of women. The onset of war and defiance of English rule disrupted the patterns of life such as the manner in which women responded to activities around them. Although the most essential role of women remained the maintenance of households, this took political overtones. With the onset of war, everyone was affected; resources became scarce, which led to high inflation. Invading troops led to the destruction of farms, and the absence of fathers and husbands led to starvation and danger. While some women still managed their homes, shops, and farms, some were not able to survive, abandoned their homes, and followed their husbands in the army. Those women that abandoned their homes to follow their husbands were known as camp followers and did this for such reasons as fear of attack, inability to make food available at home, desire to see their husbands, and eviction by troops, among other reasons. Historians have documented that over 20000 women followed the armies and changed camps into small towns…