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The Cult of True Womanhood

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Presentation on theme: "The Cult of True Womanhood"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Cult of True Womanhood

2 What was the Cult of True Womanhood?
It was a new ideal of womanhood arising from women’s magazines, advice books, popular culture, etc.

3 Arose from New Middle Class Post-Industrial Family
19th-Century middle class family did not need to be self-sufficient Men worked producing goods and services while wives and children stayed home The public world too rough for women, who were weak and delicate and should stay home; The family became insulated, with kin & community lessening in importance

4 Ideal of Womanhood Piety Purity Submissiveness Domesticity

5 Piety Belief that women had a inclination for religion;
Woman is the new Eve, working with God to save the world through her pure, passionless love.

6 Purity Her greatest treasure
Once married, she has no legal or emotional existence

7 Submissiveness Women to be passive, submissive to fate, duty, God and men; Clothing emphasized passivity Corsets closed off lungs and pinched inner organs Large numbers of undergarments and weight of dresses limited mobility “A really sensible woman feels her dependence. She does what she can, but she is conscious of her inferiority and therefore grateful for support.”


9 Domesticity Housework is an uplifting task
Needlework and crafts approved duties; Women make the home a refuge for men so that they can escape from the immoral world of business and industry



12 Scientific Sexism Women are “physically inferior”:
Physically smaller than men Less stamina—they faint more They menstruate and are physically incapacitated every month Brought on “temporary insanity” More delicate - female nervous system more prone to fatigue because of the reproductive system

13 Scientific Sexism "It was as if the Almighty, in creating the female sex, had taken the uterus and built up a woman around it." Reflex irritation: any imbalance, infection, or fatigue would cause a reaction elsewhere in the body. If a woman was sick anywhere, it was assumed that the problem originated in the reproductive system.

14 Scientific Sexism Women are “intellectually inferior”
Smaller brains than men Size of brain to body weight Abandoned when it was discovered that female brain to body rate yielded a higher ratio Brain weight to body height Female brain inferior and more primitive than male brain Phrenology—the art of reading the skull


16 Scientific Sexism Women: Puberty to Menopause
Women must channel their energies into reproduction Discouraged from intellectual activity b/c blood was needed for reproductive organ development Education took about 20% of women’s vital energy Pregnant women must not strain brains or the unborn child would be harmed Avoid strong emotions


18 Works Cited Most illustrations from Godey’s Ladies’ Book

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