The Victorian-era class system in England determined the roles of all Victorian women. Their lifestyle, education, and job opportunities were predetermined based solely on the class they were born into. Rarely did women marry into higher classes; while some upper-middle class women were lucky to marry into nobility, this was rare. The Victorian era is often a romanticised part of history, but the lifestyle was not glamorous for those not born into nobility.
Being born into this class -- or marrying into it -- offered women a chance to live a luxurious, pampered lifestyle. These women dressed beautifully and often had plentiful leisure time to attend balls and tea parties, and to practice needlework and horseback riding. They often had numerous assistants who cared for them and their household. Their roles were to be highly educated, run the household by telling servants what to do, and teach younger girls of nobility about becoming a woman.
Middle class women were not as wealthy as the noble class, though some of them were rather wealthy and would socialise with nobility and hope to marry into it. The roles of middle class women were to help with their family business, try to marry into nobility, and obtain an education, although their education was not as extensive as that of the women of nobility. At the end of the Victorian era, some middle class women worked for themselves, with roles of writer or nurse.
Women of the working class had various jobs. Some were considered "upper" working class, while others were "lower" working class. Women in the upper working class often made a decent income and worked as a governess, schoolmistress or lodging house keeper. Lower-working-class women often had the role of a tradeswoman, selling their own goods and services to the townspeople, or worked in domestic services, providing care such as cleaning and housekeeping to upper class women.
Under class women were generally very poor and worked as prostitutes, factory workers and in other physical labour jobs. Many under class women lived in complete poverty, without the hope of attaning an education. These women were often single and had a difficult time marrying since there were 750,000 more women than men. Lower class women were expected to work alongside lower class men and make enough money to support themselves, which was often difficult.
- The Victorian Web: Victorian Women ---Women of the Aristocracy and Gentry in Victorian Hastings
- Hastings Press: English Women's History
- The Victorious: Victorian Era: Prostitution
- Victoria and Albert Museum: Victorian Dress at the V&A
- The Victorian Web: The Development of Leisure in Britain, 1700-1850