A Christmas Carol Context - Victorian Britain

  • Created by: Nadine
  • Created on: 23-06-21 16:13

Poverty and Workhouses

In Victorian Britain, in 1984, many people were poor with no food, water, money, or shelter. These people varied between babies, children, adults (especially single mothers), and elderlies.                                                                          

Although it was feared, especially by the poor and old, desperate people went to live in workhouses. Nobody could pay their keep but instead, they all did jobs every day. All families were split up and were severely punished if they tried to communicate with each other., even a mother and child!  Everyone had to wear matching uniforms to make them all look the same to symbolise “poverty” and to give them no importance. The food was tasteless and was the same day after day. Children could also find themselves sold to work in factories or mines. The food was tasteless and was the same day after day.

You had 2 options if you were living in poverty in Victorian Britain. You could either live on the streets, begging for food and fighting for your lives or you could either live in the Workhouse, living in fear and isolation and having to be restricted and labeled in a uniform.

Being poor in Victorian Britain would have been a horrifying and scary experience to go through.

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Women and Family

As the 19th century progressed men increasingly commuted to their place of work: the factory, shop, or office. Wives, daughters, and sisters were left at home all day to oversee the domestic duties that were        increasingly carried out by servants (if they could afford servants because if not, the women would carry out all of the household chores.) From the 1830s, women started to wear huge bell-shaped skirts that made it virtually impossible to clean or sweep without tumbling over.                                                                                            

Women did, though, require a new kind of education to prepare them for this role of ‘Angel in the House’. Rather than attracting a husband through their domestic abilities, middle-class girls were coached in what was known as ‘accomplishments’. These would be learned either at boarding school or from a resident governess if they could afford it.                                           

If you were a rich Victorian family, your family could afford a large household filled with servants. Men were in charge of the house and did the work arrangements and women were given nice dresses and made to look as nice as possible and sometimes played music. If you were a poor Victorian family, your family could be living on the streets, or in the Workhouse, or in a poor, dirty house. The mother would be staying at home trying to cook with whatever food they had, the men would be at work and your children would actually be working! Usually as chimney sweepers. Sometimes the children would get stuck in the chimneys and no one would help them out!

Women and families differed if you were rich or poor in Victorian Britain.

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Charity and Class

In Victorian Britain,  there was the middle/upper class who were healthy, wealthy, and advantaged, and then there was the lower class who were unhealthy, poor, and disadvantaged.

Often the lower class would appeal to charity organizations which were usually run by kind middle-class women whereas a small amount was run by selfish, middle/upper-class women whose intentions were to make themselves look good and not actually provide anyone with help.

There were 640 charities in London in 1981. The charities were there to prevent a revolution against the upper class from the low class. So the charities provided money, assistance, medical help, or even orphanages.

It depended on where you lived what charity was available. The bigger cities had the most charities but they also had the most demand. Charities often selected the people they were willing to help according to whether they felt they were the deserving or undeserving poor. This moral judgment meant many went without help.

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