cult of domesticity

Lenz, Megan

During the nineteenth century, many middle and upper class women resided in a “Cult of Domesticity”, meaning that women were expected to be the head of the family sphere, remaining at home with no access to the workforce. Job opportunities for women were extremely limited during this period, as they had responsibilities to their families first and foremost. Women were expected to work domestically for free, creating items to be sold for profit. This idea was considered the “privatizing” of work, but it did not stop there. Education and having a strong voice in society were also privatized, meaning thtat they ultimately did not exist. However, when the World Wars began, all men were mobilized to serve overseas, factories and general social apparatuses had no choice but to be run by women. Women were needed to run all aspects of the social order, ranging from being police officers to taxi cab drivers to farmers. This mass mobilization of those not only fighting in a foreign country, but those providing materials and services on the home front allowed women to exit the expected domestic cult and change their expected roles. Women now ran factories providing ammunition or weapons for those fighting, or served as nurses to take care of those who had fallen.

This social phenomena allowed women to completely change their social obligations in concordance to society. Mass mobilization of every aspect of society provided the opportunity for women to make a difference in society, which they achieved through successfully running factories and becoming war time nurses. Because they were now allowed to take part in the workplace, they had more opportunities to receive an education corresponding to their specific area of interest that dealt with the war. They now had a stake in the workplace, and had proven that they were indeed capable of handling the idea of a job and in essence, running the country, while still being a mother to the children at home. This allowed for an emergence of jobs for women, some being catered to their domestic sphere while others were not. Because women were able to step out of the domestic sphere successfully, this pioneered the way for the upcoming women’s rights movement, where this group would eventually gain equal rights in comparison to their male counterparts.