Do you agree with the view that during the second half of the nineteenth century the concept of the “angel in the house” lost its relevance? I believe that by the end of the second half the nineteenth century the concept of the “angel in the house” had not lost its relevance. Many laws were in place to protect women legally but socially women were still seen as inferior to men and the ideology of the separate spheres was still the ideal way for men and women to act by society. Women were viewed as “Angels” which was seen the most accepted path for women to take and were still greatly wanted as well as being expected by the others, especially the middle class. On the law front courts still favoured men with an example being the Jacksons case in 1891 where Mr Jackson imprisoned his wife in their home for refusing to have sex at his choosing. This was effectively breaking the Matrimonial Causes Act 1884 designed to prevent this from occurring in the marriage. However due to the bias which was shown towards men at that current time the courts initially sides with Mr Jackson because, they and he argued, a Victorian home was a taboo and the act was carried out in his own home.
Eventually after much protesting form Mrs Jackson’s friends the case was turned around forcing Mr Jackson to release his wife. This shows the complete lack of support and empathy women received from anyone apart from their own and also how disregarded their opinions were when it came to the law, and that it was more down those in the court and what their feelings were towards women’s rights. On the other hand there is evidence to suggest the “Angel in the house” had lost its relevance due mainly incessant campaigning from women forcing government reforms. Up until 1870 women had no financial control over their earnings putting them at a major disadvantage when it came to men and controlling their own lives. However this all changed with the Married Women’s Property Act (MWPA) passed in 1870 that now entitled women to have control over their earnings and thus their lives. Furthermore in 1882 the MWPA allowed women to attain what they owned at the time of the marriage such as the right to own, sell and buy property as well as sue which inevitably lead to an increase in divorces.
A problem before these acts was passed was that women were very much under the control of their partner as he held the key to money and this prevented many women form leaving abusive and unwanted relationships, the act now changed that and it could be said reduced the “angel in the house’s” relevance because women now had more freedom and could support themselves rather than being financially tied to their partner and having to be the “Angel in the house”. The unfairness of the sexual double standard is highlighted here as women were only able divorce their husbands if the committed incest or long dissertation where as men could divorce their wife for both the reasons as well as adultery which women could not, allowing men to have other relationships within their marriage and be unfaithful with women unable to do anything about it.
In conclusion that although there was significant progress towards eliminating the concept of the “Angel of the house” such as the MWPA which were substantial achievements but there is more evidence to suggest that during the nineteenth century the concept of the “Angel of the house” had not lost its relevance as women still viewed as inferior to men. This was mainly because although many laws had been changed the views of society had not and this was the key factor as most still did not value women or their rights. A major example was the Jackson case with the husband breaking the law but the court siding with him because he was a man and she a woman, they were blatantly bias and only changed this when forced by the might of Mrs Jackson’s friends and supporters. Society controlled whether or not the “Angel the house” concept still applied and it still did in the second half of the nineteenth century.