AQA English Lit - Theme: Women

Overview of context (A04) and links to wider reading (A03) for the theme of Women.

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Women in the Victorian Era
General Opinion of Women
The symbolism of a `caged bird' is often seen within Victorian Art or Literature and this
is used to describe women of the Victorian Era. Suggesting that they are the bird,
contained by rules and laws. It could also suggest that the bird is society and they, the
women, are locked outside of society.
In the Victorian Era, Britain had a very patriarchal society and therefore women were
often unseen and unheard. However male workers had very low earnings, meaning
women often had to work as well. Lower class women were expected to enter
domestic services, such as seamstress or maid work.
Fallen Women
Falleness, by the upper classes, was considered a `social nuisance' and a `moral
threat'. They were defined as women with sexual experience ­ sex before marriage ­
which was considered the first step towards prostitution. The fallen women, is the
opposite of the ideal women but the husbands of ideal women would still turn towards
fallen women for sexual experiences.
Charities for Fallen Women
It was the Industrial Revolution in the Victorian Era, which began to shine light on
some of the social problems. It made people more aware of drunkenness, addiction
and prostitution. In turn, this led to charities that were set up, in order to teach fallen
women the trade and educate them in religion and morality. Gladstone was a
prominent leader in these charities and dedicated forty years of his life to helping the
fallen women in London society.
Suffragette Movement
The movement really gained momentum in the later part of the Victorian Era, roughly
around 1897. There was a rise in the number of female writers and during the later
years, they were even allowed to train as doctors or enter areas of law. This really
took off, after the Married Women's Property Act and colleges for women had been
set up. These may have been the cause for the movement as women really began to
see hope for the first time.

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Links to Wider Reading
Prose
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell - "would have despised the modern idea of
women being equal to men. Equal indeed! she knew they were superior."
David Copperfield by Dickens - "This piece of pollution, picked up from the
water-side, to be made much of for an hour, and then tossed back to her
original place.…read more

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