The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw the publication of many ‘improving’ books for children and young people written by evangelical Christian women such as Ann Taylor (1782–1866), later Ann Gilbert.
This example, Practical hints to young females, deals with the duties of a wife and mother. The subject matter ranges from household budgeting and health to education and ‘The Step-Mother’.
The book is clearly targeted at a middle-class readership. The author seems to assume her readers have had a boarding-school education and the benefit of servants, but Taylor warns them that they should not think themselves above everyday domestic tasks.
Gender roles are clearly defined, showing the prevailing attitudes of the period. ‘Every man should be master of his own house,’ Taylor declares. The woman should bring gentleness, unselfishness, fortitude, cool temper, and unlimited support into the home. Those unlucky enough to have difficult marriages are simply expected to tolerate their husbands. Escape is not an option.
- Article by:
- Sally Shuttleworth
- The novel 1832 - 1880, Gender and sexuality
Professor Sally Shuttleworth explores how Charlotte Brontë challenges 19th-century conceptions of appropriate female behaviour through the creation of a heroine who works, demands respect and combines self-control with passion and rebellion.