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Nineteenth-Century Moms Faced Familiar Issues

Nineteenth-Century moms faced some tough issues. They were expected to be tireless as they worked around the clock to hold the home together. They also had to be self-sacrificing and cheerful, no matter what was thrown her way. The unrealistic ideal was always slightly out of reach for nineteenth-century moms, no matter how great they were.

This ideal image was not conceived in the 19th century. Consider Proverbs 31:10-31 which describes a perfect wife, and by extension, a perfect mother.

“She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her familyand portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”

Sound familiar?

While social expectations and women’s freedoms have evolved, the description of nineteenth-century moms also remains familiar. Many Victorians believed that motherhood was a (married) woman’s highest possible achievement and only path to true fulfillment. Motherhood was a social responsibility and a full time job that excluded women from paid work.

According to author-historian Jodi Vandenberg Daves, in Twentieth-Century American Motherhood the profile of nineteenth-century moms flowed into modern times.

“…motherhood emerged in the midst of the tremendous social and economic upheavals of the industrialization, mass immigration, urbanization, class and race stratification, and the promises and perils of science, professionalism, and Progressive reform.”

Despite social upheavals and arduous challenges, the instincts of mothers to protect and nurture their young have remained a constant throughout history.

Following are a few amusing takes on Victorian Era motherhood to share on your day of celebration.

Victorian Motherhood Guides Reflected Changes

Victorian motherhood guides disagreed on important issues. Should you swab a newborn with brandy? How often can you kiss your baby? Are morphine cough syrups effective or is opium better for children? All of these questions and many more were addressed in mountains of Victorian motherhood guides.

Child rearing theories went through phases and fashions for nineteenth-century moms, just as they do today. Some remain relevant while others leave us wondering how the human race survived.

We can laugh at past generations, but is it possible that those of the future will look back at our ideas with a smirk? Eventually, scientific discoveries were reflected in these Victorian Motherhood Guides.

Nineteenth-Century Mother Photos Included a Wide Range of Styles

Nineteenth-Century Mother Photos became the rage when photography was still an emerging science. By the mid 1850s it was becoming available to the masses. Motherhood has never been an easy job; at least taking photos of children was becoming a Kodak snap.

The Hidden Mothers a.k.a. Photo Bomb Moms a caring mother cleverly disguised as a couch or an armchair. Covered in tablecloths and curtains, it seems mother is doing her best to get a lovely solo shot of the kids.

Photographing nineteenth-century moms while breast feeding was another fad.

Read about these four fabulous mother-photo genres.


Queen Victoria Herself Had Multiple Mother Issues

Queen Victoria had multiple mother issues.  First, she had issues with her own mother.  Later she had mother issues with each of her nine children. By all accounts, she was a loving and attentive parent. Official photographs and paintings of the Royal Family created an image of a devoted young husband and wife surrounded by their blissfully happy, obedient, beautiful children. Their Christmas celebrations set a standard we still attempt to meet. Read about her mother issues here.

Mother’s Day Began In Victorian Era

Ann Jarvis was a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. Because only four of her thirteen children survived to adulthood, she was concerned with the infant mortality rate.  As a result, she started Mother’s Day Work Clubs to help mothers unite to combat problems associated with infant mortality.

One of her surviving daughters Anna Marie Jarvis. Because of her tireless efforts, we’ve been celebrating Mother’s Day since 1908. Even if she did go a little bonkers in the end, we are most grateful for her lesson in perseverance and undying love for her mother, Ann Jarvis.

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