Over ninety percent of English women and adults, in general entered marriage in this era at an average age of about 25—26 years for the bride and 27—28 years for the groom. They governed witchcraft and providing penalties for its practice, or—in —rather for pretending to practise it. In Wales, fear of witchcraft mounted around the year There was a growing alarm of women's magic as a weapon aimed against the state and church.
The Church made greater efforts to enforce the canon law of marriage, especially in Wales where tradition allowed a wider range of sexual partnerships. There was a political dimension as well, as accusations of witchcraft were levied against the enemies of Henry VII, who was exerting more and more control over Wales. The records of the Courts of Great Sessions for Wales, show that Welsh custom was more important than English law. Custom provided a framework of responding to witches and witchcraft in such a way that interpersonal and communal harmony was maintained, Showing to regard to the importance of honour, social place and cultural status.
Even when found guilty, execution did not occur. Becoming king in , James I brought to England and Scotland continental explanations of witchcraft. He set out the much stiffer Witchcraft Act of , which made it a felony under common law. One goal was to divert suspicion away from male homosociality among the elite, and focus fear on female communities and large gatherings of women. He thought they threatened his political power so he laid the foundation for witchcraft and occultism policies, especially in Scotland.
The point was that a widespread belief in the conspiracy of witches and a witches' Sabbath with the devil deprived women of political influence. Occult power was supposedly a womanly trait because women were weaker and more susceptible to the devil. Enlightenment attitudes after made a mockery of beliefs in witches. The Witchcraft Act of marked a complete reversal in attitudes. Penalties for the practice of witchcraft as traditionally constituted, which by that time was considered by many influential figures to be an impossible crime, were replaced by penalties for the pretence of witchcraft.
A person who claimed to have the power to call up spirits, or foretell the future, or cast spells, or discover the whereabouts of stolen goods, was to be punished as a vagrant and a con artist, subject to fines and imprisonment. Historians Keith Thomas and his student Alan Macfarlane revolutionized the study of witchcraft by combining historical research with concepts drawn from anthropology. Older women were the favorite targets because they were marginal, dependent members of the community and therefore more likely to arouse feelings of both hostility and guilt, and less likely to have defenders of importance inside the community.
Witchcraft accusations were the village's reaction to the breakdown of its internal community, coupled with the emergence of a newer set of values that was generating psychic stress. The Reformation closed the convents and monasteries, and called on former monks and nuns to marry.
Lay women shared in the religiosity of the Reformation. Historian Alasdair Raffe finds that, "Men and women were thought equally likely to be among the elect Godly men valued the prayers and conversation of their female co-religionists, and this reciprocity made for loving marriages and close friendships between men and women.
For the first time, laywomen gained numerous new religious roles, and took a prominent place in prayer societies.
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Women's historians have debated the impact of the Industrial Revolution and capitalism generally on the status of women. Clark argues that in 16th century England, women were engaged in many aspects of industry and agriculture. The home was a central unit of production and women played a vital role in running farms, and in operating some trades and landed estates.
For example, they brewed beer, handled the milk and butter, raised chickens and pigs, grew vegetables and fruit, spun flax and wool into thread, sewed and patched clothing, and nursed the sick. Their useful economic roles gave them a sort of equality with their husbands. However, Clark argues, as capitalism expanded in the 17th century, there was more and more division of labor with the husband taking paid labor jobs outside the home, and the wife reduced to unpaid household work. Middle-class women were confined to an idle domestic existence, supervising servants; lower-class women were forced to take poorly paid jobs.
Capitalism, therefore, had a negative effect on more powerful women. In the preindustrial era, production was mostly for home use and women produce much of the needs of the households. The second stage was the "family wage economy" of early industrialization, the entire family depended on the collective wages of its members, including husband, wife and older children. The third or modern stage is the "family consumer economy," in which the family is the site of consumption, and women are employed in large numbers in retail and clerical jobs to support rising standards of consumption.
In the Victorian era, fertility rates increased in every decade until , when the rates started evening out. One is biological: with improving living standards, the percentage of women who were able to have children increased.
Another possible explanation is social. In the 19th century, the marriage rate increased, and people were getting married at a very young age until the end of the century, when the average age of marriage started to increase again slowly.
The reasons why people got married younger and more frequently are uncertain. One theory is that greater prosperity allowed people to finance marriage and new households earlier than previously possible. With more births within marriage, it seems inevitable that marriage rates and birth rates would rise together. The evening out of fertility rates at the beginning of the 20th century was mainly the result of a few big changes: availability of forms of birth control, and changes in people's attitude towards sex.
The Victorian era is famous for the Victorian standards of personal morality. Historians generally agree that the middle classes held high personal moral standards and usually followed them , but have debated whether the working classes followed suit. Moralists in the late 19th century such as Henry Mayhew decried the slums for their supposed high levels of cohabitation without marriage and illegitimate births. By contrast in 21st century Britain, nearly half of all children are born outside marriage, and nine in ten newlyweds have been cohabitating.
Historians have begun to analyze the agency of women in overseas missions. At first, missionary societies officially enrolled only men, but women increasingly insisted on playing a variety of roles. Single women typically worked as educators. Wives assisted their missionary husbands in most of his roles. Advocates stopped short of calling for the end of specified gender roles, but they stressed the interconnectedness of the public and private spheres and spoke out against perceptions of women as weak and house-bound.
The middle class typically had one or more servants to handle cooking, cleaning and child care, Industrialisation brought with it a rapidly growing middle class whose increase in numbers had a significant effect on the social strata itself: cultural norms, lifestyle, values and morality. Identifiable characteristics came to define the middle class home and lifestyle. Previously, in town and city, residential space was adjacent to or incorporated into the work site, virtually occupying the same geographical space. The difference between private life and commerce was a fluid one distinguished by an informal demarcation of function.
In the Victorian era, English family life increasingly became compartmentalised, the home a self-contained structure housing a nuclear family extended according to need and circumstance to include blood relations. The concept of "privacy" became a hallmark of the middle class life.
The English home closed up and darkened over the decade s , the cult of domesticity matched by a cult of privacy. Bourgeois existence was a world of interior space, heavily curtained off and wary of intrusion, and opened only by invitation for viewing on occasions such as parties or teas. Domestic life for a working-class family meant the housewife had to handle the chores servants did in wealthier families.
A working-class wife was responsible for keeping her family as clean, warm, and dry as possible in housing stock that was often literally rotting around them. In London, overcrowding was endemic in the slums; a family living in one room was common. Domestic chores for women without servants meant a great deal of washing and cleaning. Coal-dust from home stoves and factories filled the city air, coating windows, clothing, furniture and rugs.
Washing clothing and linens meant scrubbing by hand in a large zinc or copper tub. Some water would be heated and added to the wash tub, and perhaps a handful of soda to soften the water. Curtains were taken down and washed every fortnight; they were often so blackened by coal smoke that they had to be soaked in salted water before being washed.
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Scrubbing the front wooden doorstep of the home every morning was done to maintain respectability. Opportunities for leisure activities increased dramatically as real wages continued to grow and hours of work continued to decline.
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In urban areas, the nine-hour workday became increasingly the norm; the Factory Act limited the workweek to Helped by the Bank Holiday Act of , which created a number of fixed holidays, a system of routine annual vacations came into play, starting with white-collar workers and moving into the working-class. Middle-class Victorians used the train services to visit the seaside, Large numbers travelling to quiet fishing villages such as Worthing , Brighton , Morecambe and Scarborough began turning them into major tourist centres, and people like Thomas Cook saw tourism and even overseas travel as viable businesses.
By the late Victorian era, the leisure industry had emerged in all cities with many women in attendance. It provided scheduled entertainment of suitable length at convenient locales at inexpensive prices. These included sporting events, music halls, and popular theater.
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Women were now allowed in some sports, such as archery, tennis, badminton and gymnastics. The advent of Reformism during the 19th century opened new opportunities for reformers to address issues facing women and launched the feminist movement. They also campaigned for improved female rights in the law, employment, education, and marriage.
Property owning women and widows had been allowed to vote in some local elections, but that ended in The Chartist Movement was a large-scale demand for suffrage—but it meant manhood suffrage. Upper-class women could exert a little backstage political influence in high society. However, in divorce cases, rich women lost control of their children.
Before , after divorce rich women lost control of their children as those children would continue in the family unit with the father, as head of the household, and who continued to be responsible for them. Caroline Norton was one such woman, her personal tragedy where she was denied access to her three sons after a divorce, led her to a life of intense campaigning which successfully led to the passing of the Custody of Infants Act and then introduced the Tender years doctrine for child custody arrangement.
Under the doctrine the Act also established a presumption of maternal custody for children under the age of seven years maintaining the responsibility for financial support to the father. Traditionally, poor people used desertion, and for poor men even the practice of selling wives in the market, as a substitute for divorce. It was very difficult to secure divorce on the grounds of adultery, desertion, or cruelty. The first key legislative victory came with the Matrimonial Causes Act of It passed over the strenuous opposition of the highly traditional Church of England.
The new law made divorce a civil affair of the courts, rather than a Church matter, with a new civil court in London handling all cases. A woman who obtained a judicial separation took the status of a feme sole, with full control of her own civil rights. Additional amendments came in , which allowed for separations handled by local justices of the peace.