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19th century marital duties
Women have always worn skirts until pants became a sign of a new female ideology. Dresses stuffed with crinoline, undergarmentless, and fixed into corsets to achieve the perfect bust, and waist. Young girls trained to trim their waists at puberty so that corseting would not be too much of a fuss. Clothes were restricting, there was no doubt about it, but so was the traditional institution of marriage. Now you might be thinking this is all about feminism, but it is not.
In general, being an old maid was not something that was socially acceptable. Mostly because older women were a burden on society, and their own families otherwise. They had to be taken in, and fed, clothed. So many young girls were taught this was not a favorable outcome. Don't try to be an old maid-therefore try to get married. The more money that the suitor had the better, or in most cases the older and more settled in some way the better.
Marriage was the lot of a woman, and once there they were responsible for the angelic home with an air of perfect domesticity. To further ensure that women staid the way they were supposed to be, doctor's stated that too much study caused infertility or other ovary disorders. Families were afraid to further their children's education out of the home, afraid of the repercussions that their daughters might suffer. Surely ideas like infertility, societal black sheep labels, and even old maid curses.
Were the men chaste upon marriage? It was not common! They hired prostitutes, and some towns even put out guides to help men find a "Cyprian Beauty" or something of that ilk.
Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell only felt that men were a sixth her equal
After moving from Bristol, England Elizabeth Blackwell found that she needed money, her family needed money and starting a school with her sister would help feed the family of nine. Then medicine began to fascinate her, and she was admitted to medical school. The acceptance of a woman to the Geneva medical school in 1847 was surely a joke to the professors and fellow students. Blackwell attended but they barred her from discovery class. She graduated first in her class, drawing a crowd of over 20,000 to attend this amazing show.
Blackwell then moved to Paris to study in the maternity wards there. It was then, after caring for a baby she came down with purulent ophthalma. It made her blind, and now unable to become a surgeon. When she returned to America, hospital after hospital rejected her. Finding NY to be inhospitable she opened a dispensary in the poorest, slums of NYC.
She worked with German immigrants at this time. She described them as "destitute, suffering from hunger..." She, her sister and a faithful friend offered loans and free healthcare.
When asked about marring herself, she decided it was a disservice to be both a physician and a wife. She gives many reasons, including a dirty house, chaotic practice, and more.
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