An ideal woman : literary, parliamentary, and sexual representations of model femininity in mid-Victorian England.
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Harrold, Courtenay A.
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The manner in which middle-class women of the Victorian era were excluded from various aspects of the outside world, in favor of the "woman's sphere," was due to the masculine desire to protect the virtues of domesticity. This ideal of femininity is revealed in selections of Victorian literature, decisions of Parliament, and sexual attitudes of the nineteenth-century. In opposition to feminist historical theories, this thesis attempts to reevaluate concepts of ideology regarding Victorian femininity which indicate female suppression and male dominance. Rather, this thesis asserts that protection was the driving force behind attitudes of separate "spheres" for men and women, feminine economic dependence, and even the concept of chaste sexuality. Finally, the purpose of this reevaluation of femininity is to assert a new interpretation of gender roles during the nineteenth-century. This study asserts that women were an integral cog within the Empire; the protection levied over them was designed to promote domestic stability that influenced home, family, and Empire.
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