Social change

One of the greatest social changes to occur in nineteenth century England was the fact that, for the first time, the great majority of men no longer worked at home. They went out in the morning and came back again in the evening and the wives they left behind found in turn that their responsibilities were now almost exclusively domestic. From being a 'help mate', woman's role was now redefined as that of a 'home maker'.

These changes helped shape education for all females. The ideal for working-class girls was that of the good wife and mother, so their curriculum was limited to 'useful' domestic subjects. For middle class girls the ideal of the 'perfect lady' ensured that their education would centre around the accomplishments of music, singing, and dancing to make them attractive to future husbands. There were however many women who did not accept this state of affairs and campaigned for reform of girls' education. One of the most difficult areas in which to bring about change was higher education: some men supported this campaign, while, as we shall see, some women were against it.


  1. Describe briefly the role of the working-class homemaker in nineteenth century England.

  2. Describe briefly the role of the middle-class homemaker in nineteenth century England.


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