According to the ideals of “the Cult of of True Womanhood” which was also called the “The Cult of Domesticity ” women were supposed to hold to perfect virtue in all senses. The women who followed these standards tended to be generally literate and lived in the northeast, particularly New York and Massachusetts. Women were put in the center of the domestic living and were expected to fulfill the roles of a calm and nurturing and supportive mother, a loving and faithful wife, and a passive, delicate, and virtuous creature.
They women were also expected to be pious and religious, and expected to unfailingly inspire and support their husbands. True Women were to hold the four virtues: 1. Piety – believed to be more religious and spiritual than men 2. Purity – pure in heart, mind, and body 3. Submission – held in “perpetual childhood” where men dictated all actions and decisions 4. Domesticity – a division of work and home. Home became the woman’s domain where a wife created a havenfor her husband and children.
The Cult of Domesticity identified the home as the “separate, proper sphere” for women, who were seen as better suited to parenting. Or maybe not parenting, but certainly child caretaking. Also, because of the expected behaviors woman were assumed to make better teachers and thus one of the first out of home jobs for women was teaching. People of the nineteenth century, both men and women, did not consider what women did as wives and mothers as work but as an expression of their feminine natures.
After the rise of feminism and the fight for women’s rights, the cult of domesticity arose again in the 1950s when tv began to present shows that depicted fictional families where the mother would stay at home and care for the house and children while the man went to work. It was as though the media was participating in the brainwashing to keep women “in their place”. They would certainly try to guilt them into it at every turn. Women’s bodies did not belong to them. Contraception, and abortion were both illegal.
An unmarried woman could own property, make a contract, or sue and be sued. But a married woman, gave up her name, and virtually all her property came under her husband’s control. Many days when I look at how it is now, to compare it to how it was then, sadly I dont see much change. We on paper have more rights, but how it’s implemented seems to still be colored by old rules. Women are still considered to be the primary caregivers of the children, even if they hold full time jobs, just as their husbands do.
Women are still called whores if they assert their sexuality, while men are ” ladies men”. Women may own property now, but still when divorcing it is common for women to have to fight for their fair share if they were housewives and mothers buring their marriage. The one notable difference is that it used to be that if a woman divorced the kids automatically went to the husband and the woman was likely to not be allowed to see them. Now it’s pretty much a given that unless she’s a horrible mother, the kids will be going to the mother, and the father will be getting visitation