The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Women’s Roles

Is there any way to verify what de Tocqueville wrote about American women?

One of the most intriguing kinds of verification comes from the pages of The Atlantic Monthly, which, in June 1862, lamented over the health, or lack thereof, in the current generation.

“Every [Northern] woman must have a best-parlor with hair-cloth furniture,” the essay began, and “she must have a piano, or some cheaper substitute; her little girls must have embroidered skirts and much mathematical knowledge: her husband must have two or even three hot meals every day of his life; and yet her home must be in perfect order early in the afternoon, and she prepared to go out and pay calls with a blacksilk dress and a card-case.… All this every ‘capable’ New-England woman will do, or die. She does it, and dies; and then we are astounded when her vital energy gives out sooner than that of an Irishwoman in a shanty, with no needs on earth but to supply her young Patricks with adequate potatoes.”


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