Girls Growing Up in Late Victorian and Edwardian England (Routledge Library Editions: Womens History)

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Girouard, Mark. London: Frances Lincoln, Goodheart, Eugene. Dale Salwak. Graham, Gordon. Grant, Tony. Grundy, Isobel. Hagan, Kelly.

Hall, Lynda A. Halsey, Katie. Beth Palmer and Adelene Buckland. Harbus, Antonina. Hardy, John. Hare, Chris. An extract from Worthing: A History. Harris, Diana. Harris, Jocelyn. Hewson, Lance. Amsterdam: Benjamins, Higson, Andrew. Film England: Culturally English Filmmaking since the s. London: Tauris, Much on Austen, but see especially ch. Hinkel, Jolayne Johnson.

1st Edition

Hisamori, Kazuko. Holdforth, Lucinda. Jamoussi, Zouheir. Jane Austen Society. David Selwyn. Report for Essays are individually cited. Jane Austen Society Kent Branch. Austentations 11 Averil Clayton. Select essays are individually cited. Jane Austen Society Midlands Branch. Transactions 22 Dawn Thomas. Jane Austen Society Northern Branch. Impressions Marilyn Joice. Jane Austen Society of Australia. Sensibilities 42, 43 Joanna Penglase. Jane Austen Society of North America. Sheryl Craig.

Susan Allen Ford. Essays cited individually. Table of Contents on the Web. Tim Bullamore. Bath: Lansdown, Issues Austen-related articles are individually cited. Johnson, Claudia L. Johnson, Ellen Kennedy. Jones, Hazel. Washing clothing and linens meant scrubbing by hand in a large zinc or copper tub. Some water would be heated and added to the wash tub, and perhaps a handful of soda to soften the water.

Curtains were taken down and washed every fortnight; they were often so blackened by coal smoke that they had to be soaked in salted water before being washed. Scrubbing the front wooden doorstep of the home every morning was done to maintain respectability. Opportunities for leisure activities increased dramatically as real wages continued to grow and hours of work continued to decline. In urban areas, the nine-hour workday became increasingly the norm; the Factory Act limited the workweek to Helped by the Bank Holiday Act of , which created a number of fixed holidays, a system of routine annual vacations came into play, starting with white-collar workers and moving into the working-class.

Middle-class Victorians used the train services to visit the seaside, Large numbers travelling to quiet fishing villages such as Worthing , Brighton , Morecambe and Scarborough began turning them into major tourist centres, and people like Thomas Cook saw tourism and even overseas travel as viable businesses. By the late Victorian era, the leisure industry had emerged in all cities with many women in attendance.

It provided scheduled entertainment of suitable length at convenient locales at inexpensive prices. These included sporting events, music halls, and popular theater. Women were now allowed in some sports, such as archery, tennis, badminton and gymnastics. The advent of Reformism during the 19th century opened new opportunities for reformers to address issues facing women and launched the feminist movement. They also campaigned for improved female rights in the law, employment, education, and marriage. Property owning women and widows had been allowed to vote in some local elections, but that ended in The Chartist Movement was a large-scale demand for suffrage—but it meant manhood suffrage.

Upper-class women could exert a little backstage political influence in high society. However, in divorce cases, rich women lost control of their children. Before , after divorce rich women lost control of their children as those children would continue in the family unit with the father, as head of the household, and who continued to be responsible for them.

Caroline Norton was one such woman, her personal tragedy where she was denied access to her three sons after a divorce, led her to a life of intense campaigning which successfully led to the passing of the Custody of Infants Act and then introduced the Tender years doctrine for child custody arrangement. Under the doctrine the Act also established a presumption of maternal custody for children under the age of seven years maintaining the responsibility for financial support to the father.

Traditionally, poor people used desertion, and for poor men even the practice of selling wives in the market, as a substitute for divorce. It was very difficult to secure divorce on the grounds of adultery, desertion, or cruelty. The first key legislative victory came with the Matrimonial Causes Act of It passed over the strenuous opposition of the highly traditional Church of England. The new law made divorce a civil affair of the courts, rather than a Church matter, with a new civil court in London handling all cases.

A woman who obtained a judicial separation took the status of a feme sole, with full control of her own civil rights. Additional amendments came in , which allowed for separations handled by local justices of the peace. The Church of England blocked further reforms until the final breakthrough came with the Matrimonial Causes Act A series of four laws called the Married Women's Property Act passed Parliament from to that effectively removed the restrictions that kept wealthy married women from controlling their own property.

They now had practically equal status with their husbands, and a status superior to women anywhere else in Europe. Bullough argues that prostitution in 18th-century Britain was a convenience to men of all social statuses, and economic necessity for many poor women, and was tolerated by society. The evangelical movement of the nineteenth century denounced the prostitutes and their clients as sinners, and denounced society for tolerating it. The "regulationist policy" was to isolate, segregate, and control prostitution. The main goal was to protect working men, soldiers and sailors near ports and army bases from catching venereal disease.

Young women officially became prostitutes and were trapped for life in the system. After a nationwide crusade led by Josephine Butler and the Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts , Parliament repealed the acts and ended legalised prostitution. Butler became a sort of saviour to the girls she helped free. The age of consent for young women was raised from 12 to 16, undercutting the supply of young prostitutes who were in highest demand. The new moral code meant that respectable men dared not be caught. The rapid growth of factories opened jobbed opportunities for unskilled and semiskilled women and light industries, such as textiles, clothing, and food production.

There was an enormous popular and literary interest, as well as scientific interest, in the new status of women workers. From Scottish universities could admit and graduate women and the numbers of women at Scottish universities steadily increased until the early 20th century. Ambitious middle-class women faced enormous challenges and the goals of entering suitable careers, such as nursing, teaching, law and medicine. The loftier their ambition, the greater the challenge. Physicians kept tightly shut the door to medicine; there were a few places for woman as lawyers, but none as clerics. In the s a new employment role opened for women in libraries; it was said that the tasks were "Eminently Suited to Girls and Women.

Teaching was not quite as easy to break into, but the low salaries were less of the barrier to the single woman then to the married man. By the late s a number of schools were preparing women for careers as governesses or teachers. The census reported in that 70, women in England and Wales were teachers, compared to the , who comprised three-fourths of all teachers in It demanded equal pay with male teachers, and eventually broke away. However the new redbrick universities and the other major cities were open to women.

Florence Nightingale demonstrated the necessity of professional nursing in modern warfare, and set up an educational system that tracked women into that field in the second half of the nineteenth century. Nursing by was a highly attractive field for middle-class women. Medicine was very well organized by men, and posed an almost insurmountable challenge for women, with the most systematic resistance by the physicians, and the fewest women breaking through.

One route to entry was to go to the United States where there were suitable schools for women as early as Edinburgh University admitted a few women in , then reversed itself in , leaving a strong negative reaction among British medical educators. The first separate school for women physicians opened in London in to a handful of students. In , the King and Queen's College of Physicians in Ireland became the first institution to take advantage of the Enabling Act of and admit women to take its medical licences. In all cases, coeducation had to wait until the World War. The Poor Law defined who could receive monetary relief.

The act reflected and perpetuated prevailing gender conditions. In Edwardian society, men were the source of wealth. The law restricted relief for unemployed, able-bodied male workers, due to the prevailing view that they would find work in the absence of financial assistance. However, women were treated differently. After the Poor Law was passed, women and children received most of the aid. The law did not recognise single independent women, and lumped women and children into the same category. At the time, single mothers were the poorest sector in society, disadvantaged for at least four reasons.

First, women had longer lifespans, often leaving them widowed with children. Second, women's work opportunities were few, and when they did find work, their wages were lower than male workers' wages. Third, women were often less likely to marry or remarry after being widowed, leaving them as the main providers for the remaining family members. Many women were malnourished and had limited access to health care.

The Edwardian era , from the s to the First World War saw middle-class women breaking out of the Victorian limitations. Women had more employment opportunities and were more active. Many served worldwide in the British Empire or in Protestant missionary societies. For housewives, sewing machines enabled the production of ready made clothing and made it easier for women to sew their own clothes; more generally, argues Barbara Burman, "home dressmaking was sustained as an important aid for women negotiating wider social shifts and tensions in their lives.

Numerous new magazines appealed to her tastes and help define femininity. The inventions of the typewriter, telephone, and new filing systems offered middle class women increased employment opportunities. Education and status led to demands for female roles in the rapidly expanding world of sports. As middle class women rose in status they increasingly supported demands for a political voice.

In Wales the suffragists women were attacked as outsiders and were usually treated with rudeness and often violence when they demonstrated or spoke publicly. The idea of Welshness was by then highly masculine because of its identification with labouring in heavy industry and mining and with militant union action.

The radical protests steadily became more violent, and included heckling, banging on doors, smashing shop windows, burning mailboxes, and arson of unoccupied buildings. These tactics produced mixed results of sympathy and alienation. As many protesters were imprisoned and went on hunger-strike , the Liberal government was left with an embarrassing situation. From these political actions, the suffragists successfully created publicity around their institutional discrimination and sexism. Historians generally argue that the first stage of the militant suffragette movement under the Pankhursts in had a dramatic mobilizing effect on the suffrage movement.

However a system of publicity, historian Robert Ensor argues, had to continue to escalate to maintain its high visibility in the media. The hunger strikes and force-feeding did that. They turned to systematic disruption of Liberal Party meetings as well as physical violence in terms of damaging public buildings and arson. This went too far, as the overwhelming majority of moderate suffragists pulled back and refused to follow because they could no longer defend the tactics.

They increasingly repudiated the extremists as an obstacle to achieving suffrage, saying the militant suffragettes were now aiding the antis, and many historians agree. Historian G. Searle says the methods of the suffragettes did succeed in damaging the Liberal party but failed to advance the cause of woman suffrage. When the Pankhursts decided to stop the militancy at the start of the war, and enthusiastically support the war effort, the movement split and their leadership role ended. Suffrage did come four years later, but the feminist movement in Britain permanently abandoned the militant tactics that had made the suffragettes famous.

In Wales, women's participation in politics grew steadily from the start of the suffrage movement in By , half the members elected to the National Assembly were women. Although abortion was illegal, it was nevertheless the most widespread form of birth control in use. Those who transported contraceptives could be legally punished. Newspaper advertisements were used to promote and sell abortifacients indirectly. Edwardian Britain had large numbers of male and female domestic servants , in both urban and rural areas.

The upper classes embraced leisure sports, which resulted in rapid developments in fashion, as more mobile and flexible clothing styles were needed. The Edwardian era was the last time women wore corsets in everyday life. According to Arthur Marwick , the most striking change of all the developments that occurred during the Great War was the modification in women's dress, "for, however far politicians were to put the clocks back in other steeples in the years after the war, no one ever put the lost inches back on the hems of women's skirts".

The Edwardians developed new styles in clothing design. A new concept of tight fitting skirts and dresses made of lightweight fabrics were introduced for a more active lifestyle. The First World War advanced the feminist cause, as women's sacrifices and paid employment were much appreciated. Prime Minister David Lloyd George was clear about how important the women were:. It would have been utterly impossible for us to have waged a successful war had it not been for the skill and ardour, enthusiasm and industry which the women of this country have thrown into the war.

The militant suffragette movement was suspended during the war and never resumed. British society credited the new patriotic roles women played as earning them the vote in Pugh argues that enfranchising soldiers primarily and women secondarily was decided by senior politicians in In the absence of major women's groups demanding for equal suffrage, the government's conference recommended limited, age-restricted women's suffrage.

The suffragettes had been weakened, Pugh argues, by repeated failures before and by the disorganising effects of war mobilization; therefore they quietly accepted these restrictions, which were approved in by a majority of the War Ministry and each political party in Parliament. Women in Britain finally achieved suffrage on the same terms as men in There was a relaxing of clothing restrictions; by there was negative talk about young women called " flappers " flaunting their sexuality. The vote did not immediately change social circumstances. With the economic recession, women were the most vulnerable sector of the workforce.

Carol Dyhouse

Some women who held jobs prior to the war were obliged to forfeit them to returning soldiers, and others were excessed. Legislative reform was sought for discriminatory laws e. She expressed the critical need for consideration of difference in gender relationships as "what women need to fulfill the potentialities of their own natures". Other important social legislation of this period included the Sex Disqualification Removal Act which opened professions to women , and the Matrimonial Causes Act The council continued until the end of the Second World War. Annie Besant had been prosecuted in for publishing Charles Knowlton 's Fruits of Philosophy , a work on family planning, under the Obscene Publications Act She and her colleague Charles Bradlaugh were convicted but acquitted on appeal, the subsequent publicity resulting in a decline in the birth rate.

Britain's total mobilization during this period proved to be successful in winning the war, by maintaining strong support from public opinion. The war was a "people's war" that enlarged democratic aspirations and produced promises of a postwar welfare state. Historians credit Britain with a highly successful record of mobilizing the home front for the war effort, in terms of mobilizing the greatest proportion of potential workers, maximizing output, assigning the right skills to the right task, and maintaining the morale and spirit of the people.

In some ways, the government over planned, evacuating too many children in the first days of the war, closing cinemas as frivolous then reopening them when the need for cheap entertainment was clear, sacrificing cats and dogs to save a little space on shipping pet food, only to discover an urgent need to keep the rats and mice under control. The success of the government in providing new services, such as hospitals, and school lunches, as well as the equalitarian spirit of the People's war, contributed to widespread support for an enlarged welfare state.

Munitions production rose dramatically, and the quality remained high. Food production was emphasized, in large part to open up shipping for munitions. Farmers increased the number of acres under cultivation from 12,, to 18,,, and the farm labor force was expanded by a fifth, thanks especially to the Women's Land Army.

Parents had much less time for supervision of their children, and the fear of juvenile delinquency was upon the land, especially as older teenagers took jobs and emulated their older siblings in the service. The government responded by requiring all youth over 16 to register, and expanded the number of clubs and organizations available to them. Food, clothing, petrol, leather and other such items were rationed. However, items such as sweets and fruits were not rationed, as they would spoil. Access to luxuries was severely restricted, although there was also a significant black market.

Families also grew victory gardens , and small home vegetable gardens, to supply themselves with food. Many things were conserved to turn into weapons later, such as fat for nitroglycerin production. People in the countryside were less affected by rationing as they had greater access to locally sourced unrationed products than people in metropolitan areas and were more able to grow their own. The rationing system, which had been originally based on a specific basket of goods for each consumer, was much improved by switching to a points system which allowed the housewives to make choices based on their own priorities.

Food rationing also permitted the upgrading of the quality of the food available, and housewives approved—except for the absence of white bread and the government's imposition of an unpalatable wheat meal " national loaf. Such contrasting perceptions of parenting influenced understandings of the points in the life-course when it was especially beneficial to try to avoid bearing more offspring. Higgins, , December 21; Darwin, C. Covington, , February Gentlemen expressed concerns in all of the studied private letters and diaries about the future challenges of providing suitably for sons.

Men's unease related to three long-lasting duties: the expense of providing their sons with an increasingly lengthy education; the social and organisational responsibility of selecting judicious career paths for their sons as competition multiplied; and unease about the provision of a fairly-divided inheritance. Early nineteenth-century paternal worries had related overwhelmingly to the demands of rearing young men, such that sons were perceived to be three-times as troublesome as daughters Darwin, C. Fox, , March 7. From the mid-nineteenth century, fathers expressed growing concerns about the challenges of educating and supporting daughters until a difficult to engineer, late or non-existent marriage.

By the s in southeast England there was the option of sending girls to private schools that were as expensive as those of their brothers. Additionally, young women increasingly expected a lengthy period of carefreeness to continue after their formal education ended. From the s, men increasingly understood their paternal duties to have doubled because they expanded with the birth of each daughter as well as each son. In the mid-nineteenth century the primary means by which men prudentially avoided these responsibilities was by postponing marriage. Fathers urged this strategy on young men.

One instance — recorded in unusual detail — occurred in Lancashire in the late s when Philip Hamerton, a year-old gentleman, was warned against early marriage by his prospective father-in-law, a banker and father of four. The postponement of marriage was not solely a response to perceptions of parenthood, but these formed part of a set of beliefs that publicly emphasised the disabling ties of early marriage.

In this case, the banker's daughter rejected the proposal and never married; Hamerton married a Parisian woman the same year, but had only three children. Importantly, while men drew on this rhetoric of grudgingly accepted liabilities, fathers also privately expressed intense feelings of loneliness, grief and sometimes hostility when their sons or daughters left home Quennell, , p. Active fatherhood was integral to male identities throughout this period, but it was principally through a language of burdensome duty that the significance of these relationships could be discussed with male peers and communicated intergenerationally.

Given these prudential warnings, it is not surprising that age at marriage rose most for elite men. Smaller increases in age at marriage for professional and gentry women reduced the number of years over which they were at risk of pregnancy and excluded their most fertile years Rothery, , pp. Two caveats should be placed on this explanation for middle-class fertility decline Banks, First, these wealthy men who discussed new paternal duties were spatially concentrated in London and the surrounding commuter counties, as well as, to a lesser degree, the suburbs of the large provincial cities Rubinstein, Yet in suburban London men with lower-middle-class jobs seldom expressed these concerns about long-lasting paternal duties.

The sons of clerks or shopkeepers attended small private schools, but entered paid work early in their teenaged years, often acquiring residential, social and financial independence Baxter, ca. We were much interested in the account of your children also we had a laugh at what you said about the reverse of things in Australia to what they are here — I mean as to large families of course. In my case a large family is a boon but in most cases it is the other way on I think especially nowadays… Allen, G.

Hobbes, , November In fact, for men of his generation who married before the late s, this divergence — between an awareness of elite male concerns that many older children became burdensome and an acceptance that once married they personally expected to raise a large family — was common. Second, in none of the studied sources did fathers identify the task of providing immediate care and education for children aged under 12 years as an increasing liability. Further, no mothers expressed the view that their duties to their younger or older children were newly demanding.

Throughout this period many expressed fears about child-birth and weariness at the constraints of breast-feeding. In year-old Sibella Bonham Carter wrote to her mother-in-law about nine months after the birth of her eleventh child, voicing these concerns:. This afternoon I shall again drive out late, for I must call upon some friends whom I have hardly seen this year.

It is shocking how little one can do when there is a tiny Baby to be attended to. What changed amongst elite women from the late s was that — partly due to the norm of a longer, idealised phase of relative freedom in girlhood — these women aspired to a wider variety of roles after child-bearing. Most prominent in diaries and letters were the attractions of practical and emotional closeness to husbands, of philanthropic and public roles, and of entertainment and travel.

Elite women who married after the late s — whether conservative, feminist or neither — rarely bore children beyond their mids. This created an extra decade of less maternity-intense married life. For those women who had married in their early- or mids, this meant that they bore families of around five children, while the majority who had remained single for longer, bore three or fewer.

None of the women revealed how they avoided child-bearing in their later fertile years. Nevertheless, for these elite women, it was understandings of novel non-maternal roles from the final quarter of the nineteenth century, rather than perceptions of newly weighty maternal responsibilities, that were foremost in their minds. The much-cited anxiety about the rising burden of providing for children was not a universal and immediate concern of all middle- and upper-class parents. Instead it formed a distinctively sustained part of a culture of elite prudential masculinity.

The above explanation applied to no more than one-tenth of the English population McKibbin, , pp. The majority of parents, including those from the lower middle class, did not consider their relationships with teenaged and adult children to be changing. Instead, it was the provision of suitable care for the youngest children that parents thought to be newly within their power. Although caring roles were taken on more frequently by mothers nationwide, this interpretation was often also expressed by fathers, especially in districts dominated by the textile industry. Concerns were intensified by school attendance.

Teachers expected high standards of cleanliness, but parents also considered schools to be unhealthy spaces. This prompted fathers and especially mothers to take on new roles in overseeing schooling by intervening to protect their children in these threatening non-domestic environments Pooley, , pp. The census has suggested that husbands who worked as shopkeepers and clerks were amongst the earliest to rear extremely small families from the s Anderson, , pp.

These fathers and mothers seldom expressed the belief that a norm of investing in children was diffusing from the state or the elite, but instead focused on their expanding and progressive parental capacity to improve their children's lives voluntarily through providing a better quality of care and education than they had experienced. This is not to suggest that the financial cost of rearing children remained unchanged, but non-elite fathers and mothers seldom claimed that the rearing of children was newly economically draining.

Living standards rose from the s, especially through increasing real wages for industrial workers Boyer, , pp. The highest rates of employment early in childhood occurred before , so that a sudden loss of children's income did not coincide with the period in which working-class parents reduced their family size Humphries, , pp. The introduction of compulsory elementary schooling in , which was most financially burdensome until it was made free from , did coincide with increased non-elite fertility control.

However, it should be remembered that most mid-nineteenth-century parents chose to give their sons and daughters sufficient schooling to make them literate before education became compulsory, usually paying fees that were higher than those charged by board schools Vincent, , pp. Further, as a result of the failure of many school boards to enforce the legislation, fees were not a cost that suddenly increased to unprecedented levels.

School attendance authorities in both the large coal-mining district of Auckland and rural Bromley systematically failed to enforce attendance until at least Parents with a large number of closely spaced children were thus recognised as deserving of special assistance. The exception to this was in the Lancashire town of Burnley, where the duties of parents were widely emphasised and rigorously enforced. This region experienced an early and rapid decline in working-class family size from the s. Men and women who worked as cotton weavers were paid identical wages though opportunities for promotion were reserved for men and fathers were routinely responsible for domestic chores and childcare Gittins, , pp.

While recorded maternal employment became rarer and more concentrated only in the poorest households in Bromley and Auckland, in Burnley the proportion of mothers recorded in work increased. Although this view was not expressed by parents in the studied sources, the opportunity cost of leaving work to care exclusively for many children was thus unusually high. An exceptionally active range of mutual, philanthropic and local government agencies sought to ensure that Burnley parents fulfilled their responsibilities.

School fees were on average twice those in the other studied localities and a higher proportion of children stayed in education for the increasingly sought-after higher grades. These fees rose in all of the schools over the following 20 years. None of the studied Burnley schools recorded a policy of capping the fees paid by families, so that the cost of schooling large families was unusually expensive.

One typical case will be used to indicate this parental pressure. In an inquest was reported in The Burnley Gazette , following the death of a five-year-old girl from burns she sustained while in the care of her eight-year-old sister. The coroner warned her mother and especially father, both of whom were weavers, as follows:.

Do you think it is a proper thing for you men to take upon yourselves the responsibilities of parents, to go and get married, and have children, and then leave them alone in the house?

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The words of the coroner formed a powerful conclusion to a case in which the parents had described their efforts to provide non-parental child-minders. Caring duties were thus made publicly integral to both fatherhood and motherhood. From out of this unusually gendered regional economy and the, linked, exceptional culture of rigorously promoted parental responsibilities emerged England's most popular affordable child-rearing manual. The wife's handbook was published by Henry Allbutt, a doctor in the nearby woollen manufacturing town of Leeds, in at the price of sixpence.

By its forty-fifth edition in , , copies had been sold. It has been presumed that this popularity resulted from its explicit instructions on methods of birth control Fryer, , pp. Yet Allbutt also provided unusually practicable instructions on childcare and offered a pioneering conceptualisation of the relationship between health, marriage and parenthood. Allbutt drew on a new rhetoric of idealised parental omnipotence by which the child's constitutional health could be assured from birth. In linking behaviour in the marital bed to the duties of parenthood, Allbutt emphasised the responsibilities of knowledgeable and considerate husbands.

The regulation of fertility was conceptualised as part of a culture of maternal and especially paternal selflessness engendered by their perceived capacity to ease children's suffering. We know too little about the readership of advice literature. Nevertheless, The wife's handbook was advertised nationwide, so it is likely that it spread this culture beyond the occupational context from which it originated, thus encouraging a more sustained nationwide shift in perceptions of parental duty.

Non-elite fertility declined most in those areas where these responsibilities were thought most significant and where fathers were most involved in childcare. It is plausible to suggest that these expectations for new, demanding forms of care for younger children — both created by working-class parents and advocated by outside institutions — encouraged parents to seek to increase the gap between each pregnancy.

Studies of sexuality have been unanimous in establishing the dominance of a culture of silence throughout these decades. Young women were shielded from reproductive knowledge and couples struggled to discuss birth control. Contexts in which this silence could be respectably broken were therefore important.

This section focuses on three cultural ideals of family that were used to explore family size in new ways: a disciplined familial model; an ideal of the domesticated small family; and an aspiration for unbounded fertility. The comparative potency of these ideals in the studied localities is traced. It will be suggested that even when commentators sought to condemn birth control, the act of speaking of reproduction through positive familial ideals created alternative routes through which men and women could think about and potentially negotiate the adoption of birth control.

The first context in which a link between familial ideals and family size was newly publicised was neo-Malthusian. The trial of birth control campaigners, Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant, in was exceptional in giving these views national publicity and is often interpreted as a trigger for fertility decline Caldwell, ; Mason, , pp. Yet, for at least a decade before the Bradlaugh-Besant case, the principles that underpinned this neo-Malthusian culture were widely and mundanely disseminated in the working-class dominated textiles towns of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

Not only — as established above — were duties towards young children understood to be heavy, but in this geographically-defined context, women and men were publicly urged to transform civic morality through reformed familial relationships. Importantly, these debates took place in public spaces that were the epitome of Christian morality. The nonconformist temperance lecturer and father of five, William Bell from the neighbouring textiles town of Bradford, declared that having five children was better than having a dozen since it enabled the family's bread to last longer Census, Although not a surprising conclusion, it is revealing that it was a comparison that was accepted as uncontroversial in such a pious setting.

A househusband; one who would keep the house together. One who wouldn't sit at home smoking while his wife was working in the mill. Efforts to limit family size were understood as a realistic mechanism for familial and then civic reform. These ideals were promoted as shared by all moral citizens, not as class-specific concerns.

One case of these cross-class relationships was described autobiographically by Mary Brown, the wife of a doctor.

She was the mother of three children born before her thirtieth birthday, who — like the elite women discussed above — later took on roles that made her a leading figure in the public life of the town. She recounted how:. Some years later when my influence was making itself felt, two young men came to see me, and this was their reason.

Doctor Brown's disciples. They are different and it is all because of you. We want you to come and speak to us young men that we may be better company for them young girls. Of course, only the stories of people affected figured in her account. Yet her efforts were just one of many reformist missions that made family life a concern of civil society and latterly of local government, with the remaking of masculinity as a particular priority. Importantly, these initiatives were successful as a result of both the high proportion of elite residents involved and their mutual character, which meant that they were sustained through active working-class initiative.

It was because of this that birth control publications were welcomed in this region. Bradlaugh was an admired visiting radical speaker before the Fruits of Philosophy trial. The reporting of the campaigns of Bradlaugh and Besant made them two of the most prominently featured national figures in the local newspapers. He also recalled their power as orators, recording T can see him [Bradlaugh] now as he stood on the platform. In these accounts it is less what was said that was notable than the opportunity to hear these radical matters spoken of by such eloquent celebrities and under the auspices of organisations that gave these topics legitimacy.

The news of his death has produced a profound impression upon the minds of his many friends and admirers in this town, and it is the general feeling that his life has been a generous and noble sacrifice to high principles, sincere love of truth and unselfish devotion to the duties of citizenship and humanity.

However, it would be surprising if their widely-documented lives and the moral contexts in which they were accepted as speakers did not encourage men and women to think about family size as something that could be placed respectably under personal control.

The contrast with the relationship between family life and public concerns in Auckland in County Durham is clear. In this coal-mining district, which was similarly dominated by an industrial working-class and nonconformist population, the local newspaper reported on the secularism of Bradlaugh and Besant, but in the sampled newspapers there is no indication that they were invited to speak in the district, no mention was made of their attitudes to birth control, praise was not offered of their principles and there was no coverage of Bradlaugh's death.

The characteristics that gave them celebrity status in Burnley as defenders of the people and as reformers of the family were presumably considered of no public interest, morally unsuitable or both. Nevertheless, it must be noted that even in these districts where public discussion of family life was rare, some individuals were vociferous promoters of birth control. One neo-Malthusian in Auckland was a coal-miner, Robert Robinson, whose wife variously worked as a mantua-maker and grocer.

When their daughter was born in , they gave her a middle name of Bradlaugh Census, The audience was reported as follows:. Those three women were evidently in search of information under difficulties …. There's no accounting for taste. As a result of the small audience, the meeting was cut short.

The ridicule expressed towards those who showed an interest in the discussion of fertility, especially women, suggests the infrequency with which the topic was discussed. It is revealing that it was with accusations of class prejudice, rather than alternative familial principles, that Robinson defended his meeting. While the public in the coal-mining district responded with indifference or ridicule to this attempt to make intimate life of public import, these issues are absent from local newspapers in suburban Bromley in Kent.

It is not surprising that the middle-class journalists did not celebrate the radical democratic campaigners as their less elite Burnley colleagues did. However, it is significant to note the subject's exclusion from the medium that was most accessible to working-class readers and the perceived immorality of these discussions in this geographical context.

The cultural construction of disciplined and moral family life as a means of civic reform was thus powerfully normative in one locality, but was only patchily and controversially communicated elsewhere in England. A second familial ideal — of the leisured, domesticated small family — became prominent only from the late s and especially the s.

By this point, as discussed in the opening section, many elite fathers and mothers had significantly limited their fertility for decades. There were two new important pathways through which the ideal of rearing only a small number of children was communicated through national published literature to many lower-middle-class and some working-class adults. In the districts surrounding London this textual model was given particular social authority by the presence of neighbouring wealthy families whose comfortable lives contained only a couple of children.

New idealised visual images of families were disseminated nationally from the late s. Commercial advertisers had previously depicted whole family groups rarely, instead imagining children alone or occasionally in the care of a mother or sibling. Out of a sample of more than editions of local newspapers published between and and of popular child-rearing manuals published before , there were no advertisements that depicted a father, mother and children together. Yet while these images of individuals and dyads remained in use until , an alternative image of family emerged from the late s.

In the national press, advice manuals and some local newspapers mostly in Bromley in Kent , nuclear family groups — containing two parents and only two children — featured increasingly frequently. These images idealised modern family life that was domesticated, comfortable and leisured. The family group was shown spending exclusive time together, usually sat around a dining table. Cadbury's was one of the first companies to disseminate this ideal of the modern private family who enjoyed healthy mutual bliss through drinking cocoa Chavasse, , p.

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From the mids, this domesticity began to be imagined in less class- or place-specific ways. Whereas domestic servants had featured in earlier images of domesticity, they were seldom shown in familial scenes from c. Depictions of furnishings and dress became simple and cosy rather than luxurious. This standard of domesticity was becoming affordable for skilled working-class families in these decades, if only in their front rooms and on Sundays. It would be surprising if the sudden emergence of these images in a wide range of working-class and middle-class publications did not have an impact on men's and women's perceptions of whom a respectable English family contained and how it behaved.

One journalist summarised the causes of fertility decline in the mid-priced Illustrated London News as follows:. Wilson, Amongst newspaper commentators there was little consensus as to whether male or female choices were most responsible for this perceived transformation through fertility of familial lifestyle. Importantly, clergymen from all denominations were the leading voices in expounding these warnings that the national press publicised further.

The positive tone of their condemnation was perhaps due to the average family size of ministers being amongst the smallest by , presumably led by their junior colleagues Szreter, , pp. In making intimate life the subject of unprecedented public discussion, these arbiters of morality raised popular awareness — and arguably acceptance — of the principle of restricted parental fertility.

This was especially true in coal-mining Auckland where one tiny re-published article mentioned these debates in the sampled newspapers. However, in wealthy southern districts the belief that family size was inversely related to social status influenced the language and aspirations of at least some non-elite adults. I have lately applied to five different landlords for a cottage, and each have refused me on account of my children.

Will either of them tell me what to do with them, as the law will not let me kill them, and the Union [workhouse] is full…. Because I've three children people say the birth rate is dying. As far as I am concerned it might never have lived, since small fingers tear off the wall paper that is never put on, and so prevent us getting a cottage. The mother sought accommodation for a rent of eight shillings out of her meagre weekly wage of 18 shillings. The working class in this prosperous locality were vulnerable to the moral judgments and actions of their wealthy neighbours who wielded authority as landlords, employers and philanthropists, to an extent that was unthinkable in the working-class-dominated industrial districts.

The mother's family size of three children was below average for rural labourers, but it is unclear whether she agreed with those who categorised her fertility as the result of deliberate control. The model of the compacted domesticated family increasingly resonated with men and women from across the socio-economic hierarchy. However, fertility limitation within marriage to meet these norms was imposed through external moral and material pressure as well as selected through aspirational choice. In examining patterns of fertility change, it is also essential to explain why many men and women did not reduce their fertility.

Alongside the emergence of these new models of disciplined civic and of domesticated private family life, other parents proudly celebrated their capacity to father or bear many children up to These ideals of unrestrained fertility were notably potent amongst fathers living in districts whose labour market was dominated by highly-paid male labour and amongst ethnically Irish Catholic mothers.

In coal-mining districts maternal paid work and paternal domestic labour were negligible, gendered roles were sharply defined, and men and women formed themselves into distinct social worlds Church, , pp. Although women married slightly later in the late nineteenth century, marital fertility increased, reaching a new recorded high in 'Bishop Auckland Health', Virility was greatly valued by fathers, but women often expressed less pride in their large families.

Harold Heslop, born in County Durham in , later described women's attempts to increase the number of months between pregnancies by breast-feeding until their children reached three years. Isabella Heslop eventually bore eight children in 18 years of marriage to William Heslop, a Primitive Methodist pit foreman. She died in childbirth aged Although only their son's account exists, the unchallengeable patriarchal rights of men in these coal-mining districts gave women few effective means of resisting normative expectations that men should father large families.

Sustained gendered interests were expressed through unspoken and accepted campaigns in opposite directions, rather than through explicit conflict over the frequency of child-birth. These attitudes were understood to be particularly central to Irish Catholic identities. Such attitudes to family size can be glimpsed from insults used by ethnically Irish women in disputes in both industrial localities.

Both Ada Naughton and her husband, a labourer, were born in Lancashire, but she appears to have understood her large family as an essential part of an ethnically Irish identity, such that her tenacious children were a point of pride with which she could insult her older childless adversary. Interestingly, in the census of the following year, Ada initially recorded that she had only borne five children during 13 years of marriage, all of whom she claimed remained alive.

This was subsequently corrected, apparently by the enumerator, to a record of only four living and five dead children out of the nine children born Census, High female fertility — understood in terms of the number of children born, not the number raised to adulthood — was drawn upon by mothers as part of a proud ideal of culturally Irish Catholic family life.

Contingent parental experiences, such as bereavement, natural infertility, and gendered marital authority shaped the relish with which such ideas were used.


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It is likely that at the same time as new ideals of both disciplined and domestic small families became more prominent, those who bore large families felt the need to defend more vociferously the children with which they were surrounded. Far from acknowledging or adopting the labels of moral weakness or class deterioration, these adults constructed their family size as a marker of a proud sectarian identity. While published and official agencies communicated models of family life more rapidly and nationally, the oral communication of alternative norms carried a potency and immediacy that these could lack.

Models of family were relational and in explaining why some men and women reduced their family size, it is essential to also understand the ideals of unbounded fertility from which they sought to differentiate themselves. Men's and women's understandings of child-bearing, child-rearing and childlessness help us to explain why some adults reduced their fertility in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century England. This evidence for shifting meanings is inevitably patchy and riddled with silences. This study does not support the theory that adults adjusted their fertility in response to a universal transformation of children from economically-valued assets to emotionally-valued burdens.

First, emotional, social, organisational and financial bonds between parents and children were inseparable. The imposition of a language of rational calculation does not further understandings of reproductive behaviour. Second, the extent to which parents perceived their children to be increasingly burdensome has been overestimated. Other parents showed no signs of believing that children were increasingly impoverishing or exhausting. This continuity in perceptions over time and between generations helps to explain why two out of the three studied localities and most occupations did not alter their position in a ranking of average fertility rates Woods, , pp.

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Third, these understandings of duty were neither simply diffused from elite to non-elite parents, nor legislatively imposed by the national state. Instead, men and women drew on a variety of often local and contingent experiences in concluding that they had an increased, shared capacity to improve the lives of their children. The motivations to alter reproductive behaviour were locally and patchily expressed, so it is not surprising that fertility declines occurred with different timings and rates in the three studied localities. Men's and women's motivations for controlling fertility as a result of their experiences of parenthood were fundamentally different.

The size of a family was most likely to be limited when husbands as well as wives considered not bearing a child every two years during their fertile lives to be advantageous. From the studied evidence, some sort of marital agreement emerged in three contexts, which suggest interesting parallels with demographic evidence from other national contexts.

First, men's and women's roles were experienced most similarly in areas with high rates of valued female employment and male unpaid domestic work, such as in the northern textiles districts. Notions of equal civic citizenship were also strong, further strengthening the ideal of mutually investing in children as a means of improving society.

Third, upper-middle-class and upper-class fathers expressed concerns about their long-lasting duties to support older sons and daughters from the s. Yet it was only from the s, once wives expressed aspirations to take on roles that were less maternity-focused, that couples significantly reduced their fertility after marriage. Relative equality in class and gendered terms made it more likely that men and women successfully restricted their family size.

Marital conflict was seldom mentioned in the surviving sources, but it must not be assumed that it did not form part of these relationships. These perceptions that the tasks of parenthood were newly significant did not automatically lead to changes in reproductive behaviour. As Woods and Caldwell hypothesised, the most rapid and profound transformations in fertility occurred when cultural understandings of family life emerged that enabled couples to think — for the first time — about the limitation of births in contexts that were understood to be moral Caldwell, ; Woods, These malleable models gained particular power in specific social and geographical contexts.

It is suggested that the use of the ideal of the disciplined, pure family in textile towns of northern England from the s and of the domestic leisured family in suburban districts surrounding London from the late s contributed to the rapid local falls in average fertility in the following decades.

Moral spaces and incontrovertibly respectable people — clergymen, philanthropic women, civic meetings, local government initiatives, and their reporting in the press — were essential in publicising ideals of small families. Yet while methods for limiting fertility were conceptually detached from women's child-rearing responsibilities, it was through the rhetoric of family that both men and women began to respectably express the appeal of fewer children. Children had always made demands on their parents. They believed the ways in which their sons and daughters were raised had far-reaching positive implications for their own lives, their children's life-chances or societal well-being.

Simultaneously, parents from other local, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, especially in the studied coal-mining district, did not perceive their duties to be newly challenging or actively celebrated a model of highly fertile parenthood. Chronological specificity is essential in explaining motivations. Utterly different expectations of parenthood were powerful in the s, when only elite men sought to limit their duties by postponing marriage, compared to the s when reproductive control within marriage was widely legitimised through moral familial ideals.

Parents who reduced their family size later did not simply follow the same process with the same motivations as their predecessors. The shifting interpretations that fathers and mothers placed on their relationships with their children thus help to make sense of the partial, locally-diverse and class-specific pathways by which some women and men were motivated to transform their reproductive behaviour prior to I am grateful to the two anonymous reviewers for their extremely helpful comments and to Jan Kok for his patience with this paper.

I would also like to thank the discussants and participants at the European Social Science History Conference in and Simon Szreter, all of whom offered feedback on earlier versions of the paper. For assistance in accessing the cited archival material, I would like to acknowledge Bromley local studies library, Hampshire Record Office and Paul Dawson. Based on the analysis of advertisements placed in sampled local newspapers Auckland, Burnley and Bromley, — National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.

The History of the Family. Hist Fam. Published online May Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Pembroke College, Cambridge, UK. Received May 1; Revised Apr This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Fertility declines across Europe and the Anglo-world have been explained as the result of reversals of intergenerational flows of wealth.

Keywords: fertility decline, parenthood, children, reproduction, family. Methods and contexts This article draws on research that was conducted as part of a broader study of English parenthood between and Table 1. Open in a separate window. Table 2.

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Table 3. Principal primary sources. Auckland, County Durham Burnley, Lancashire Bromley, Kent School, church associational records 79 sets of elementary school logbooks 3 sets of church, Sunday school or charity records 46 sets of elementary schoollogbooks 10 sets of church, Sunday school, private school or charity records 33 sets of elementary school logbooks 14 sets of church, Sunday school, private school or charity records Local state records Poor Law and public health minutes 5 sets of school board minutes Petty session court records from 4 sets of school board minutes Poor Law and public healthminutesPetty session court records from 5 sets of school board minutes Personal sources 21 sets of personal papers 20 sets of personal papers 43 sets of personal papers 15 oral history testimonies Local newspapers Every edition of principal local newspapers was read for the three study localities —61, —71, —81, —91, —, — In year-old Sibella Bonham Carter wrote to her mother-in-law about nine months after the birth of her eleventh child, voicing these concerns: This afternoon I shall again drive out late, for I must call upon some friends whom I have hardly seen this year.

Working-class and lower-middle-class perceptions of sons and daughters The above explanation applied to no more than one-tenth of the English population McKibbin, , pp. The coroner warned her mother and especially father, both of whom were weavers, as follows: Do you think it is a proper thing for you men to take upon yourselves the responsibilities of parents, to go and get married, and have children, and then leave them alone in the house?

Ideals of family Studies of sexuality have been unanimous in establishing the dominance of a culture of silence throughout these decades.