British women 1700-2000

Essay by Lotsis January 2006

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"Sense and Sensibility" was written during the age of Enlightenment, in the 18th century, an era of deep philosophical thought and separation from the Church. The Enlightenment emphasised education and moral, so women were educated as well. However, as men studied philosophy and science, women were taught to sing, paint and draw. Before, a person had been considered only a creation of God, only to serve Him and be humble. Now people started realizing the human worth; although women's rights were ignored, more attention was paid to children, poor people, prisoners and slaves.


The philosophes played an important role in the establishment of a new self-image of women; their thoughts of freedom were read amongst the upper- and upper middle class women and resulted in feminist writings such as "The Vindication of the Rights of Women" by Mary Wallstonecraft in 1792, and women were starting to demand a more important role.

Towards the end of the Enlightenment, though, love amongst family members became more valued and many parents stopped forcing their children to marry without emotions. Many started looking for love-based marriages, but financial issues couldn't often be ignored.

In 1839 women were able to divorce their husbands without the Act of Parliament and take the children with them. However, most women relied on their husbands for a living and loveless marriages of convenience still went on, because it was a better option than being a divorcee.

During the industrial revolution, many women had to work. The lucky ones took care of children or became maids; those less fortunate went to mines and did other hard work. Due to the industrial revolution, society demanded more children. Birth rates rose rapidly, and women had to leave their newborn babies to be taken care of by relatives. They worked long...