Examining the Cult of Domesticity

3661 Words15 Pages
During the middle of the nineteenth century, a so-called "cult of domesticity" arose in the United States and Great Britain predicated upon a number of assumptions regarding the proper role of women in society, and it served to protect male hegemony during a period of historical upheaval. According to Godey's Lady's Book, one of the most successful magazines of the period, "the perfection of womanhood... is the wife and mother, the center of the family, that magnet that draws man to the domestic altar, that makes him a civilized being... the wife is truly the light of the home." A woman's appropriate role was that of a wife and mother, and they were expected to follow certain cardinal virtues that contributed to the perpetuation of this role, which formed the basis of the cult's ideological work. The cult of domesticity was an ideological construct which served to support the dominant authorities of the time, and only by examining the cult of domesticity (and the "angel of the house" which served as its focus) as points of intersection between religious, political, and economic power can one begin to understand how the role of women in the nineteenth century was regulated in response to historical developments that threatened male hegemony, namely, nationalist anxiety following the American Revolution and the ascendance of capitalism as the overarching political and economic structure. Before examining the ways in which the cult of domesticity represents ideological
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