"By the 1880s, the woman had become a demigoddess of art and morality, and the parlor is her temple... changes in the parlor reflected the change in women's roles."
  Elan and Susan Zingman-Leith, Secret Life of Victorian Houses: Authentic and Inspiring Interiors and What They Reveal

"Home is the woman's kingdom and there she reigns supreme"
  John H. Young, 1882, Our Deportment: Conduct and Dress of the Most Refined Society

  parlor   parlor    
     Americans believed that the home was a reflection
     of their interiority. Therefore women were expected
     to maintain a clean and orderly home to reflect
     moral purity. As maintainers of the home, women
     were romaticized. Madonna-like images appeared
     in many homes. Alongside those images,
     manageable forms of nature such as dried flowers,
     and artificial fruit could also be found, futher
     demonstrating an obsessive need for control, even
     if it was based on artifice.
     During the aesthetic movement it was believed
     that good design and beautiful objects would
     elevate the human condition. Classical designs
     were rediscovered to create ornate and colorful
     spaces filled with luxurious textures. These
     rooms were a contrast to the grayness
     of factories and cities.

     One of the most significant roles of women and
     the home was the preservation of culture.
     The feminized domestic sphere was supposed to be
     beautiful and reflect the tastes of an educated
     middle class family. Music, arts and crafts were very
     important to middle class families and women
     were expected to teach their daughters at least
     one skill. Piano playing, in particular, was an
     important part of courting because it was a rare
     opportunities for a couple to touch each other.
     Instruments in the home were symbolic of middle
     class status. Arts and crafts served the same
     purpose. Homemade decorations in the home
     symbolized a family in which the wife was not
     required to work for income. It was also
     considered a demonstration of the wife's interest
     in morality and nurturing her children.

     The American home became such a national
     preoccupation that numerous magazines and articles
     were published regarding the architecture and
     design of the home. The image on the left is from
     Catherine Beecher's book on the American home.
     The image on the right is from Godey's Lady Book.
      Late nineteenth century plans for homes
      included additional spaces, such as hallways,
      between rooms. These spaces provided a
      physical division between gendered spaces and
      also clearly separated public spaces (e.g. parlor)
      from private spaces (e.g. chamber or bedroom).


   Towards the end of the century, the Gothic movement
   influenced many homes. While still displaying
   an affinity for an abundance of objects, the spaces
   were less cluttered and reflected a desire
   for simplicity and formality.

      The high cielings and large windows created a
      striking contrast between light and darkness
      in most rooms. This use of light and the
      prominence of heavy wooden furniture created
      rooms that were austere, reflecting the desire
      to appear ascetic.