Why did women face barriers in their education and political participation in Victorian England

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Throughout history, the role of women has often carried a prejudice which has been embedded within society politically, socially and financially across the world. Although arguably one of the most liberal countries constitutionally, such chauvinism has indeed occurred within Britain, particularly during the Victorian Era. This restricted participation for women can be exemplified clearly in two main areas; education and politics. With universal compulsory education in Britain only being constitutionally enforced with the 1870 Education Act1, women had little opportunity to gain any form of coherent education in the early 19 th century; tuition was largely confined to the upper class, and even then, through instruction of private…show more content…
Acting as figurehead of the family, it was the man's opinion, and thus, his vote, that represented the opinions shared by the entirety of the family, including that of his wife. Even so, women still proved they could be active politically without having the ability to vote; highlighted by their involvement in the Chartist movement. Throughout the movement, thousands of women joined chartist societies, and by actively campaigning, gave themselves a political voice and helped

5 Bernard Lightman, 'Victorian Religions and Sciences: Discordant Harmonies', Osiris, 2/16 (2001), p. 344.
6 Susan Bayley, Victorian Values: An Introduction, (Montreal: Dawson College, 2008), p.108
7 Ibid. p. 112.
8 Rhodri Hayward, Science and Gender in Victorian Britain, Lecture at Queen Mary, University of London, 15th
October 2013.
9 'Local Government Act 1894', Government Legislation, http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/56-57/73

generate arguably one of the largest movements in British history10. However, in spite of this, the movement failed in achieving its aims, undermining the political involvement and affect of the women involved. Therefore, due to the traditional family values endorsed by the church, women were pressured to marry, losing their opportunity to vote, or qualify to, and thus, a chance to participate in Victorian society politically.

Scientific knowledge of the time constituted a great deal of influence in determining the

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