Daily Life in Victorian England

By Sally Mitchell | Go to book overview

7
Family and Social Rituals

FAMILY AND PRIVATE LIFE

Family Roles and Relationships

The family--made up of a father, mother, and children living together--was increasingly idealized during the Victorian period. People developed firm ideas about how family life ought to be, although not everyone could meet these standards. At the same time, real changes in work and income allowed family relationships to develop more fully. In the working class, growing prosperity allowed more space for shared activities and enabled childhood to last longer. Among aristocrats, extended families had formerly promoted economic and political interests rather than encouraging close, affectionate ties. But with Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their nine children as models, the upper classes now paid more attention to family celebrations and to establishing a public image of closeness and intimacy.

The middle-class family in its private home was central to the new ideology. Middle-class houses were large enough for family activities yet too small for the separate smoking rooms, morning rooms, and children's wings of aristocratic households. Middle-class women could focus their attention on family and children; they did not need to earn money (as did wives in the working class), nor did they have the social and political obligations of aristocratic women. The model of mother at home, father at work, and family as the center of children's lives--the model taken as "natural" for much of the twentieth century--had its origin in middle- class patterns of life. During the nineteenth century, English middle-class

-141-

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Daily Life in Victorian England
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Chronology: Chief Events of the Victorian Age in England ix
  • Introduction: The Victorians and Their World xiii
  • 1 - A Brief History of Victorian England 1
  • 2 - The Foundations of Daily Life 17
  • 3 - Working Life 41
  • 4 - Technology, Science, and the Urban World 71
  • 5 - Official Life 87
  • 7 - Family and Social Rituals 141
  • 8 - Education 165
  • 9 - Health and Medicine 189
  • 10 - Leisure and Pleasure 209
  • 11 - Faith and Works 239
  • 12 - Victorian Morality 259
  • 13 - England and Empire 273
  • Glossary 293
  • For Further Reading 299
  • Index 303
  • About the Author 313
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