"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
| 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.
MORE ON HOMES