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Women at Home in Victorian America: A Social History [Hardcover]

by Ellen M. Plante
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)


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Book Description

September 1997 0816033927 978-0816033928 First Edition
Book by Plante, Ellen M.


Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A woman's world--from dollhouse to mourning dress--is cataloged in this practical overview of 19th-century American life. From the beginning, Victorian Homes columnist Plante stresses that every practice of a proper 19th-century middle- class American woman's life served a higher purpose: It answered society's call for her to be a `` `virtuous' being.'' Achieving this state required a combination of qualities such as religious devotion, industry, and good manners. When courting, it meant seeking a ``safe'' marriage that achieved balance between spouses of the same class. The home was to be a ``bastion of morality, comfort, and refinement,'' with clearly defined public and private spaces. Housework required planning, such as the system offered by the Beecher sisters in The American Woman's Home (Tuesday, washing; Wednesday, ironing; etc.). Virtuous dress meant wearing the colors appropriate to one's age (light for youth, somber for age); two years' mourning wear for widows; gloves at all times for outdoor voyages. While there's enjoyment in the sheer mass of facts gathered here, the most informative material comes from the many popular sources cited, such as Godey's Lady's Book, Hill's Manual, the Beechers' books, and the writings of Charles Eastlake and Lydia Maria Child. Not surprisingly, some advice is still relevant today, such as this rule for treating the aged, from The Voyage of Life: ``If you would make the aged happy, lead them to feel that there is still a place for them where they can be useful.'' Plante provides fun browsing, though those seeking an original thesis or keen scholarly approach should look elsewhere. And its journalistic style, though clear, lacks the verve of Daniel Pool's social portrait of 19th-century England. Nonetheless, a full compendium, ideal for inquisitive readers. (50 line drawings, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Facts on File; First Edition edition (September 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816033927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816033928
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,590,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! This book is what I have been looking for!!! August 26, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an amazing book. I have been searching for a book like this for many years and just happened to stumble across it. I would like a copy of my own, but am unable to buy one due to the price.

This book gives a lot of detail about the lives of Victorian women. Some of the information people will have read before in other books, but this one combines what you may have read in other books and adds new information as well. Within this book there are some primary source documents such as diary entries and also excerpts from journals during the time. Some of the topics that are written about are: a woman's life span, child, woman, motherhood and old age(and what is expected of them), knitting, daily tasks, furniture that would be appropriate for a parlor and how to behave, plus much more.

This book is a MUST HAVE for those interested in Victorian society. Writers and people doing research will find this book a valuable tool. Those who are interested in Victorian women and have no history background will find this book an easy read.

I strongly suggest you borrow this book from the library and then if you find it a great tool buy your own copy. This book is a gem.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book on Victorian Life! August 6, 2008
Format:Hardcover
This book is an essential in regards to learning about being a woman in American Victorian times. The author has done her homework and I'm rereading it for research. Ellen Plante explains the lifestyle regarding the Victorian wife and daughter in American society. Things were not so easy even with luxuries such as washing machines, dishwashers, and iceboxes. Before those inventions, the Victorian housewife's utmost duty was toward her husband, children, and church. I am surprised that this book is no longer in print and should be re-issued. It explained women's lives during this difficult time period in American life. Regardless, the woman did not have it as easy as we might expect. Their home was their lives. They were expected to be subservient to the husband. The author points out parallels between the plantation wives and the slaves as if they are to serve only one master. We know from history and research that plantation masters had slaves as mistresses and fathered children completely disregarding their wives at times.
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