Kingdom of Matthias: Women in the 19th Century

In the nineteenth century, the legal rights of women and men were highly affected by gender and race, both positively and negatively. In the book, “Kingdom of Matthias,” by Paul Johnson and Simon Wilentz, they describe the life of two females, Isabella Van Wagenen and Isabella Matthews Laisdell which whom were affected by slavery and high influences of higher power from men. In the nineteenth century it was believed that males were to support the family by working and earning a wage as a husband was to provide for his wife and a father to provide for his children (Fahs 1/5).

Also, during the nineteenth century women were seen to be working in homes and supporting their husbands by cleaning the home, raising the children, and cooking meals (Fahs 1/5). Furthermore, the dominant notion of marriage can be described as a paternal decline for as time progressed many young men realized they could not inherit the farm which coincided with the fact that young women would only inherit a small dowry resulting in a change of how marriage was based on affection instead of parental influence (LEB 222).

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However, the notion of motherhood had changed overtime with less childbearing as they were planned which allowed more attention to the children allowing them to move to middle-class. The nineteenth century explores many areas of society that are affected by people’s gender and race whom are brought together by religious beliefs, families, and friendships. The story of “Kingdom of Matthias” describes two women, Isabella Van Wagenen whom is a slave and Isabella Matthews Laisdell whom married.

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Both women’s positions in society were typical because the universal role of women in all states were to attend to family needs and support their husband.

The role of Isabella Van Wagenen in “Kingdom of Matthias” was to perform heavy household work and did most of the cooking because for Matthias, he kept all the women in the house (Johnson and Wilentz 105). On the other hand, Isabella Matthews Laisdell was able to live a married life, but was still treated the same as a slave for she had a case against Matthias which whom was accused of beating Isabella Laisdell with evidence of bruises as Matthias was found guilty (Johnson and Wilentz 162).

Many slave owners whom were male would abuse their slaves because they felt that the law did not apply to them as their slaves were their property since they purchased them. Furthermore, many marriages in the nineteenth century were arranged for Matthias believed that romantic courtship led to despair for women which is shown in the “Kingdom of Matthias” as Matthias beat his daughter because she did not get permission to marry for the husband Charles Laisdell was not whom Matthias wanted (Johnson and Wilentz 212).

I believe that in the 20th century people will marry due to attraction and desire of another which I find can lead many people to live happy lives with families. The relationships here can easily be developed with common beliefs because people can agree on certain aspects of their life and choose accept all actions. This can be related to how Matthias described how marriage is done by matching compatible spirits as he did with Ann Folger which I believe is a good method, but sometimes compatible spirits can lead to unhappiness due to contradicting life views (Johnson and Wilentz 105).

Both Isabella’s were treated the same as every women in the 19th century as seen inferior to males as they were beaten for the dominating fathers and husbands rights were higher than their daughters and wives. In the 19th century marriage and motherhood were both affected by gender and race because females had unequal rights to males (LEB 180). Women during this time did not demand for equal political rights because they realized in a patriarchal society their opinions had no influence on decision’s, but they were granted voting rights which were revoked in 1807 (LEB 180).

Furthermore, marriages during this time were based on “mutual affection” which is complete opposite of “Kingdom of Matthias” for Matthias thought relationships based on desire and lust is unhealthy. The rights of father’s and husbands was that they had full control of their daughter or wife as they supported the family and the daughter or wife functioned in respect to their father or husband.

The book “Kingdom of Matthias” portrays women as subjugates of men whom live to serve household chores and function as a house-wife. The characters Isabella Van Wagenen and Isabella Matthews Laisdell were both portrayed as servants to their owners and property of their husbands. Gender plays a key role in the nineteenth century as women had no free choice of how they can live their lives as society had placed them in the role of house servant. I believe that women today have better opportunities in pursuing careers and obs as Professor Fahs describes a working women during this time was “unheard of” for it could threaten the masculinity of a husband which would ruin the relationship of a marriage (Fahs 1/5). Also, the motherhood of women was important during this time because many men were busy working and could not raise the children so women were obligated to discipline their children and prepare them for future life endeavors. Furthermore, motherhood I believe was a tougher job in the 19th century because with all other duties that females had and attending to children’s needs.

In the “Kingdom of Matthias,” Matthias believed that the beating of a child was necessary to correct his wrong doings which I feel is considered child abuse and can ruin the relationship of parent to child. In conclusion, one can infer that in the nineteenth century the rights between men and women were unequal. The book “Kingdom of Matthias” portrays two women named Isabella whom were servants that played the role of housewives that had duties to clean the house, cook, and raise the children while supporting their husband.

Also, the father’s rights were to have complete control of their daughters until given away at marriage which then the husbands would have control. Overtime, the view of marriage has changed as in the nineteenth century was based on arrangement and now is seen as attraction based on desire which Matthias deemed unhealthy for women that led them to unhappiness because the spirits were not matched.

Gender affected people’s legal rights as women were not given the right to vote and were discouraged to learn the line of work as men controlled the women to follow their beliefs as they followed what society considered their norm. Also, race affected women as African-American women slaves were not seen the same was white women because as they get married, it could change their status, but was always harder for African Americans to enter higher class-status.

Though marriage could help women enter higher status, they could still be beaten as Isabella suffered from Matthias, but by her being of white race was able to make a testimony for if she was African American she would have been ignored by the Chief Justices (Fahs 1/26). All in all, the notions of how women were portrayed in the nineteenth century were all described in the book “Kingdom of Matthias” by Paul Johnson and Simon Wilentz for women were inferior to men as their role was to be a housewife.

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Kingdom of Matthias: Women in the 19th Century. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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