The institution of marriage has undergone many changes over the past two centuries. Women have fought for and gained certain rights that eventually changed the relationships they have with men. Marriage has changed from a subservient situation for the woman to a partnership between man and woman. Victorian marriage expectations are dramatically different from modern day marital situations.
Why Women Marry
Women married in the Victorian era because they were not educated or trained with any skills other than being a wife and mother. Young girls were taught to take care of the household and keep themselves beautiful to capture a husband. Modern women are educated and often involved in careers; therefore, the reasons for marriage depend more on the personal choices of the woman than the need for support. Modern women often hold careers while married, creating a marital partnership rather than a subservient situation. Home and financial responsibilities are shared between man and woman, making marriage a partnership rather than an institution with assigned roles.
The issue of divorce was taboo during the Victorian era. Couples did not divorce; if a married couple were to separate, it was expected that they would stay married but live separately for the rest of their lives. Marital problems were not openly discussed. Today's marriages include more freedom for couples who wish to divorce and remarry, while marital issues are expected and discussed rather than hidden.
Children were expected within a traditional marriage. Social protocol in the Victorian era dictated a married couple begin trying to conceive soon after the marriage ceremony. If a couple could not or did not conceive, they were presumed unfortunate or strange. Modern couples may remain childless with little social repercussion outside family or friends. A modern married couple is allowed to make choices regarding the existence and number of children.
Rights of the Woman
Victorian married women owned no property. Any property or assets brought into the marriage by the woman immediately became the property of her husband. If a man or woman were to leave a marriage, every asset, including the children, would belong to the husband and the woman would be allowed to take nothing. Modern marriages find assets belonging to the person whose name is on the paperwork, regardless of marital status. Women own property and secure assets as well as men, and only share what they choose to share with their husbands.
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