Social Differences Between Women in the Victorian Era

Updated April 17, 2017

The Victorian Era lasted from 1837 until 1901, and coincided with the reign of Britain's Queen Victoria. The era is best remembered for its conservative views on morality, as well as the extravagant dress. Women had a separate experience during this era that was different from men. The social differences between women of this era was due to differences in social class.

Aristocratic Women

Aristocratic women, such as Queen Victoria herself, owed their wealth to the hereditary titles of their families, as well as to the large amounts of land they owned. They lived in extravagant houses, and attended social functions such as balls and tea parties. While they were expected to take care of the house and children, this was accomplished by directing servants, maids, and nannies to the tasks which needed completing.

Upper Class Women

The wives and daughters of wealthy merchants and industrialists made up the upper class, or gentry. They owed their wealth to commerce and trade. While not as high in status as aristocratic women, these ladies also lived extravagantly, having all the faculties an aristocratic woman might have. Upper class women would attend social events common during the Victorian Era, such as garden parties, with other members of the upper class, while nannies and servants looked after their children and house.

Middle Class Women

Middle class were the wives and daughters of merchants and clerks who, although they made a comfortable living, did not have the high amounts of wealth possessed by the aristocrats and the gentry. While they also did not work, they were expected to maintain the house and raise the children. And while middle class women during the Victorian Era would likely have help from a nanny or maid, they did household tasks such as cooking or cleaning. Leisure time could be had at places such as the theatre.

Lower Class Women

The wives and daughters of manual labourers made up the lower class in Victorian England. These women did not work, but were expected to run a household by themselves. This meant that all cooking and cleaning, as well as chores such as sewing, were completed by the woman. Lower class women also had to raise their own children without the help of a nanny. They had significantly less free time than their female counterparts, though could enjoy cheap entertainment when available, such as fairs.

Working Class Women

Women who were without husbands or families to provide for them were forced to become working class. Paid less than men, they often worked as maids or in factories. Many working class women were also expected to maintain household duties, such as cooking and raising children, while still working outside the home. Many women were also pushed into prostitution by necessity. Working class women represented the bottom of Victorian Era British society, and enjoyed little to no leisure time.

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About the Author

Taylor Thorn brings expertise in English literature and sociological theory, as well as DIY home renovation and decoration. She graduated from Drury University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and writing with minors in gender studies and global studies.