Good Girls Make Good Wives: Guidance for Girls in Victorian Fiction

  • Publish Date: 1989-08-13
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: Judith Rowbotham
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In the 19th century it was widely believed by both sexes that men and women should operate in separate domains. Men's innate aggression and superior powers of reason were clearly put to best effect in public life - in politics, in the armed forces, in business and the professions. In contrast, women were expected to be professionals of the home, the environment to which their nature fitted them. This book examines the didactic fiction aimed at middle-class girls and adolescents which burgeoned between 1849 and 1905. Set against a familiar and realistic background, these novels served as guide books for their intended audience. They sought to impart Victorian values regarding acceptable female behaviour and aspirations, and to impress upon the rising generation of home-makers the value of their role. Yet women were increasingly questioning the restrictions placed upon them by the notion of separate male and female preserves. Judith Rowbottom shows how the changes that occured in the feminine stereotypes depicted by the genre reflected changed social mores, such that by the early 1900s good women were able to operate in a much wider, if still domestic and separate sphere.