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When most people consider the lives of women in the Victorian age in Great Britain, a period which covers the years of Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901, they have a pretty rigid idea of what women were like in that era. Most see Victorian women as stifled and restricted, happy in their domestic role, both before and after their marriage. This stereotype is not accurate in reality to the women of the Victorian era. In this essay, I plan to explore what the reality of daily life was for Victorian women. More specifically I plan to examine what rights and sense of independence middle and upper-class women have during and after marriage. I am examining middle- and upper-class women because they have fairly similar marital situations as they were of a similar economic level, which factored into questions of dowries and inheritance when entering into marriage. Both upper- and middle-class women usually did not work, whereas lower-class families had less money and oftentimes worked to support their families. This essay will examine this issue by looking at the rights women had over their body in this era, as well as the rights they had over their children and property. This essay will also explore how divorce, which was becoming increasingly accessible in the Victorian era, impacted a woman’s freedoms and rights. Marriage was at the center of everyday lives for the Victorians and its influence extended to all corners of life and was the basis on which Victorian society was established. Because marriage was so important, its effects rippled throughout Victorian society, influencing women’s rights and roles in every way. The effects Victorian ideas of marriage had on women was felt by them in both the public and private spheres and influenced women’s roles for decades.



Thesis Comittee

Dr. Sarah Wiggins, Thesis Advisor

Dr. Meghan Healy-Clancy, Committee Member

Dr. Brian Payne, Committee Member

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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

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