Monday, September 8, 2008

Victorian Values

Sometimes it's instructive to look back in history to help gauge the course our lives are set on. Today I'd like to take us back to the days of Queen Victoria.

I think you can probably agree with this statement, "My how things have changed!" Some for the better and some for the worse....you decide.


(Upper & Middle Class Families)
Families were very important to Victorians. They were usually large, in 1870 the average family had five or six children. Most upper and middle class families lived in big, comfortable houses. Each member of the family had its own place and children were taught to "know their place."

The Father
The father was the head of the household. He was often strict and was obeyed by all without question. The children were taught to respect their father and always spoke politely to him calling him "Sir." Very few children would dare to be cheeky to their father or answer him back. When he wanted a little peace and quiet he would retire to his study and the rest of the family were not allowed to enter without his special permission.

The Mother
The mother would often spend her time planning dinner parties, visiting her dressmaker or calling on friends, she did not do jobs like washing clothes or cooking and cleaning. Both "papa and mama saw the upbringing of their children as an important responsibility. They believed a child must be taught the difference between right and wrong if he was to grow into a good and thoughtful adult. If a child did something wrong he would be punished for his own good. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" was a saying Victorians firmly believed in.

The Children
Most days middle class children saw very little of their parents. The children in a middle class family would spend most of their time in the nursery and would be brought up by their nanny. Victorian children were expected to rise early, because lying in bed was thought to be lazy and sinful. The nanny would-be paid about £25 a year to wash, dress and watch over them, amuse them, take them out and teach them how to behave. Some would only see their parents once a day. In the evening, clean and tidy the children were allowed downstairs for an hour before they went to bed. Some mothers taught their children to read and write and sometimes fathers taught their sons Latin.
As the children grew older,tutors and governesses were often employed and boys were sometimes sent away to school. When the children grew up, only the boys were expected to work, the daughters stayed at home with their mother. They were expected only to marry as soon as possible.

The Servants
All households except the very poorest had servants to do their day to day work. The cook and the butler were the most important. The butler answered the front door and waited on the family. The cook was responsible for shopping for food and running the kitchen, she would often be helped by kitchen and scullery maids. Housemaids cleaned the rooms and footmen did the heavy work.
People would come from the country to work as servants in the town houses. These jobs were popular because they gave them somewhere to live and clothes. On average they earned about £50 a year. Often they spent their working lives with the same household.

Poor / Working Class Families
For poorer families their greatest fear was ending up in the workhouse,where thousands of homeless and penniless families were forced to live. If your family was taken into the workhouse you would be split up dressed in uniform and have your hair cut short. This could happen to a family if father were taken ill and unable to work.
Lots of children in poor families died of diseases like scarlet fever, measles, polio and TB which are curable today.


courtesy of the Nettlesworth family

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