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Lecture 8

SOC101Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Separate Spheres, Christopher Lasch

Course Code
Sheldon Ungar

of 3
The middle class in the 19 th
century, and the development of new ideas about
gender separate spheres
Ideas about gender developed by the middle class (successful
businessmen/doctors/lawyers & their family)
Notion that men & women are different have different nature,
opposite sexes
Two kinds of analysis of the causes of these new ideas
1. Social-organizational change: new ideas reflect a changed reality (how
social work is organized around the separation) work is separate from family, and the
idea about gender mapped on to this
Women belong in the family, men belong that work
The world changed, and ideas reflect that change
Home as a retreat/domestic heaven, home coming out of religious
imagery (religion was influential during changes)
Men seen as breadwiner, masculinity based on mens economic
2. Mens (& womens) agency: mens response to womens political campaigns
for change developing ideologies aimed to minimize change
Agency: action that people take
Men & women actively taken these ideas (when they have
campaigns for change), including womens right campaign men reacted to this
The cult of domesticity the home as a heaven in a heartless world (Christopher Lasch)
Compensatory ideal
Uncertainty: people frequently move (in less than 10 years), and
huge amount of downward mobility
Religious revival (Evangelical cults) charismatic leader self-
proclaimed to be in contact with God, set up tent where people live, active
o Breaking social norms: women who participate broke many
social rules, and there were also women preacher (public role, and made
lots of money)
o But also very conservative ideas are talked about
o Popular, and people based their identity of it
o Often middleclass who were involved
Home/heaven vs. the world
o Lasch: heaven in a heartless world, home sweet home,
theres no place like home
o Home as a private retreat, place of rest/peace, where people
are virtuous/kind/loving
o Opposite to public spheres capital economy, changes,
selfish/exploitation, sinful // working class who live on the street
o Many writers that feature this kind of theme were women
o Critique of capitalism as immoral, also a critique of men (men
work outside) use these ideas to establish that women are different and
more moral than men, thus should be able to contribute to the world and
make it better
Separate spheres women & men seen as different, by nature; suited to 2
different spheres
1. An explanation of the new social order seen as reflecting the natural
Women are suited to domesticity because theyre caring/loving by
nature (in their biology); men seen as able to contend with being out there in
the harsh economy aggressive, ambitious, calculating, rational
Marriage is perfect to form a whole
Reflect changes in society a way of comforting people that it is
according to nature, so the change is not so scary
2. A way of addressing peoples anxiety about the loss of mens involvement in
the community, as they pursued their own self interests (S. Coontz)
The world force men to be self-centered in pursuit of money
Saying its ok because women are still virtuous women assigned
the responsibility for being moral - & taking care of others & lessen mens self-
centered attitude when married
Modern ideas about motherhood
Children as womens responsibility & motherhood as womens
vocation in life
A solution to the problem parents had: preparing their children for
success as adults
o Need to teach children to be intelligent & moral not just
keeping them alive mothers job to guild & direct their children
o Parents in this economy had problems to set their children up
(used to be passing on land to son/put them in to apparenticeship)
o What children need in the changed world is higher education
knowing how to think/read/write
o Keep kids home and teach them the value of hard work,
frugality, & put them in school (dont put them in work right away) jobs
for mother who were at home
Womens attempt to impress upon their community the importance
of this new role
o Many writers who wrote about what women should do are
women themselves trying to formulate ideas what their role in life is 
idea that the important thing in life is to be mothers (creating future
doctors, etc)
Another type of analysis: mens creation of these ideas and ideologies to
maintain constraints on women
Most ideas come from men wanting to pertain class/gender privileges
Women were politically active: Political activity in 19th century
organized by women in every class
o Involved in reform movement get better condition/wages for
working class girls
Middle-class women only defend white women, when
workers were replaced with immigrants, the sympathy
o YWCA: arranged to give them a place to live, and get classes
at night
o Prohibit alcohol (to reform men) alcohol cause violence on
women, and can spend money on something else other than alcohol
o Womens rights movement equal rights: to own property,
higher wages, access to university, respectable occupation, vote
1. Separate spheres: women belong at home
But women who campaigned for equal rights never contradict this
idea they paint themselves as mother of the race mother cleaning up the
community (took a racist term, however)
2. True Womanhood: piety (religious), purity (sexually), submissiveness and
How you should be if you were to be virtuous
3. Motherhood as crucial, at a time when white middle-class women were
having fewer babies
Latter half of 19th century, birth rate decrease (especially white
middleclass women) thought of the country as a white nation responsibility
for white women to have babies
o Campaign directed at women that the root to happiness for
women is motherhood