Wives, Mothers and Friends: The Lives of Women, 1760-1820
The “Domestic” Ideology was a popular ideology during the period from 1760-1820. This ideology encompassed Jane Austen’s life. This ideology gave an ideal picture of how the married couple and the family should appear and in a sense, live their lives. It also influenced the perception of women as wives and as mothers. Basically, the “Domestic” Ideology said that the home and the family were to be at the center of an individual’s life.
Marriage was among the important concerns of the daily lives of women during this time period. At the start of the Nineteenth Century, the average age of marriage was 23 for a woman. Conduct books such as A Mother’s Advice to Her Absent Daughters, sought to give advice to women on the proper way to conduct their lives.
During Jane Austen’s lifetime, it was common for a woman to give birth to a substantial number of children. A few examples:
According to the ideology of the time, the most important of the woman’s duties was to care for and raise her children. Conduct books provided advice on how women should raise their children and what they should teach them. A few examples:
Women who did not have children were also able to assume the role of a mother under different circumstances. The Knights adopted Jane Austen’s brother Edward. Couples who had property but were childless often adopted children who later took their last name. Unmarried women often helped with the children of their relations.
In the social sphere, women had various ways of communicating. Women of the upper classes often took up letter writing. Letter writing was a social activity for women. Letters contained news and messages to be sent from one person to another, as well as their own thoughts and views on certain subjects.
Austen, Jane. Jane Austen’s Letters. Ed. Deirdre Le Faye. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
---. Pride and Prejudice. 1813. The Penguin Complete Novels of Jane Austen. New York: Penguin Books, 1983. 318.
Kaplan, Deborah. Jane Austen Among Women. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1992.