“That early?”, one might well ask.
Well, in Kenneth T. Jackson’s book “Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States“, he notes that, due to industrialization, and the resulting move away from the largely agrarian society that preceded it:
Between 1820 and 1850, work and men left the home. The growth of manufacturing meant that married couples became more isolated from each other during the working day, with the husband employed away from home, and the wife responsible for everything connected with the residence. The family became isolated and feminized, and this “woman’s sphere” came to be regarded as superior to the nondomestic institutions of the world. Young ladies especially were encouraged to nurse extravagant hopes for their personal environment and for the tendering of husband and children. For example, Horace Bushnell’s ‘Christian Nurture’, first published in 1847, describes how the home and family life could foster “virtuous habits” and thereby help assure the blessed eternal peace of “home comforts” in heaven. (empahsis added)
This shift meant that a man’s home was no longer his ‘castle’; it was now hers; women became de facto, though not de jure, leaders in the home, gaining in stature, influence and clout; while men who as farmers had previously been their own bosses, with their wives as helpmeets, now answered to other men elsewhere as their bosses. Men’s relative influence and authority within their spheres diminished, while women’s increased.
More from Crabgrass Frontier:
Although most celebrations of the private dwelling were written by men, if any one person presided over the new “cult of domesticity,” it was Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a Philadelphia-based periodical intended for middle-class readership. Her verse in praise of the home found its way into many publications and was typical of a broad effort to institutionalize the female as homemaker and queen of the house. Hale’s vision, and that of almost everyone else, assumes that man’s was the coarser sex; women were softer, more moral and pure.
(Interestingly, from Wikipedia, we learn that Hale became editor in 1837, which was the same year as that of Queen Victoria’s coronation; the Wikipedia entry notes that Hale upheld Queen Victoria as a role model for women, and so we can fairly say that Hale and her magazine helped spread Victorianism in America.)
Anyway, the result of industrialization and the move of men out of the home, is that women were removed from their husbands’ authority. The veneration of women as domestic goddesses was done out of necessity; women were now without their natural leaders, and needed some consolation for the loss of the presence of the men to whom they had served as helpmeets. As this arrangement grew to represent a larger and larger segment of society, men progressively lost dominance in the home, and women progressively lost guidance. If a man’s only role in the family was to serve as source of income, then he could be replaced by a government cheque. Meanwhile, wives, lonely, were afflicted with the problem that has no name, a longing for the guidance from the master that they no longer had.
(To be continued…)
(Note: Credit to ElectricAngel for the original idea, and for partially co-authoring this post.)