Challenging the domestic expectation: An analysis of nineteenth-century Spanish women

Date

2024

Authors

Hale, Anna Grace

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Worldwide access

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Abstract

In nineteenth-century Spain, the ideal woman was known as the ángel del hogar or the angel of the hearth. These women were described as devoted wives and mothers, who stayed within the domestic sphere. Nevertheless, this idealized image, although popular, did not represent the experience of all Spanish women. This thesis draws on newspapers, short stories, and paintings to explore how cultural producers inside and outside Spain directly or indirectly challenged the normative perspective of femininity. The first chapter provides context on the nineteenth century, highlighting Spanish political movements and the effects of industrialization and modernization on Spain’s middle-class society and pays special attention to the prescribed role of women. The second chapter conducts original archival research to analyze two newspapers written for a feminine public. I demonstrate that, despite their conservative messaging, these newspapers promote protofeminist arguments through their focus on women’s education. The third chapter explores two short stories by realist author Emilia Pardo Bazán. I argue that both stories critique the institution of marriage in the bourgeois class, albeit in different ways. In the final chapter, I examine two paintings by American artist John Singer Sargent. I highlight how these works contradict the common exotification of Spain and empower Spanish women by portraying dancers through a culturally-informed, foreign perspective. Through its analysis of nineteenth-century, Spanish cultural production, this thesis points to the complexity of a woman’s experience in Spain amongst a seemingly central ángel del hogar narrative.

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Keywords

Spain., Spanish., Nineteenth Century., Art., Newspapers., Emilia Pardo Bazán., John Singer Sargent., Women., Gender Roles.

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