Laura Perrins: The Big State is the inevitable result of chaining women to the work station

Portrait of Harriet Beecher Stowe Deutsch: Die...

Portrait of Harriet Beecher Stowe Deutsch: Die Schriftstellerin Harriet Beecher Stowe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of us here are interested in how we got here. Not least because here is not a very good place to be, and perhaps we should consider how we could return to another, perhaps better place. Laura Perrins of A Conservative Woman has some thoughts about that, and I think we should listen.

Stop complaining about ‘The Big State’. It is here to stay without a serious regeneration of the private sphere.

Late one evening I stumbled across the Victoria & Albert Museum website which has some very interesting discussions on gender in the Victorian era. Perhaps much of it is disputed elsewhere by another historian, but it makes for gripping reading even though it comes from a feminist perspective.

The sections set out, in Victorian times, that women were viewed as subservient to men. However, the huge amount of work carried out by women, unpaid and in the private sphere, is what caught my eye. Women of all classes ran their homes, cared for the young and old, were active in their communities and carried out serious works of charity, effectively in place of social work and I would add, the welfare state.

“Throughout the Victorian period, when family needs allowed, women undertook unpaid work in a variety of fields, known collectively as philanthropy. Typically operating at local level, often through Church structures, these activities might today be classified as ‘social work’. They included distributing clothes, food and medicines; teaching literacy, home care and religion; and ‘parish visiting’ of the poor and infirm.”

This even included communicators, “while men customarily undertook business communication, social networking thus fell to women.”

Many women did indeed work, such as running the family business, but once dangerous jobs were regulated and work and home became separate post the industrial revolution, many men worked very hard so their wives could care for children and run the household.

The author, Professor Jan Marsh tells us, “Generally, male workers strove to secure wages that enabled wives to be full-time mothers”, but Marsh confirms her prejudice by adding “an aspiration in tune with bourgeois notions of orderly domestic bliss.” (What is wrong with middle-class, domestic happiness, I ask myself? I strive for it everyday.)

Gender equality was slow coming, says Professor Marsh, and was resisted by some – even women!

“Those defending the status quo – who included a substantial number of women – argued that male duties to support families and to fight for their country were responsibilities, not privileges; and that British women possessed incomparable moral influence and power.”

That is us, I thought! That is us a hundred years ago!

Continue reading: Laura Perrins: The Big State is the inevitable result of chaining women to the work station

Think about that penultimate sentence for a bit. British women (and by extension American, as well, the cultures then, as now, cross-pollinated quite a lot) possessed incomparable moral power. She’s right, they did. Many of us remember Abraham Lincoln on meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe in the White House commenting that this, “is the little woman that caused this big old war.” As much as any one person did, she and her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin did.

But there is something else there. There weren’t all that many people starving in the streets in Victorian times either, likely there were some, and likely a good many of those were mentally unbalanced, as is true now. But the gigantic, intrusive, degrading, and expensive, ‘nanny state’ did not exist. How can that be? A two-word answer, The Church. Actually, pretty much all of them. They simply, out of their own resources, took care of it, locally, quietly, and to the best of their ability. Was it perfect? Probably not. And yes, one usually paid for help by listening to a sermon or three, and that may well have helped to make it a short term problem.

And who ran those churches, pray tell? The women. Yes, the priests, ministers, preachers, vicars, and all were all men, but I’ll tell you something, they did pretty much what the ‘church ladies’ told them to. You know it, I know it, so why deny it.

And you know something, it worked, in fact, it worked far better than the ‘nanny state’. And because we didn’t have all those government functions, taxes were low, and a man could make a living for his family, so his wife could be free to be the moral leader of the world. A Golden Age? No, there were always problems, and heartbreak, and angst. But I think it was arguably (at least) a far better solution than what we have now.

It was also far better suited to a free people.

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About NEO
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25 Responses to Laura Perrins: The Big State is the inevitable result of chaining women to the work station

  1. the unit says:

    So I decided to stop complaining about “Big State” at least through the holiday season. And how will I while my time away? Well I’m old enough that I don’t hurry any day to be passed too quickly, good ones anyway. So I’m patient.
    So I instituted a new game this morning…Stopping a Snowflake on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Nose. Took bit of practice. When one looks headed in the right direction and gets about 1/8th inch away…hit “favorites” icon, to stop snow fall.
    It’s not a fast paced game and after awhile her look kind of grows on you. Kinda sad I think. Don’t know why. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      I know, not a bad looking woman by the standards of the time, I suspect she might have been a bit tough to live with though! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        I can’t post a picture of one from my time that wasn’t a bit…better stop there. Could start a “extremist” % like argument. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Indeed! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • the unit says:

          Think I’ll NOT ask the Donald about her looks or temperament. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Sadly, the Victorian era is another one of my illusions that has been disappointed.

    I really loved them for their art, their Pre-Raphaelites, authors such as Charles Dickens, their interest in Medieval culture, and their apparent sense of lovely yet conservative ways.

    Nonetheless, time has proven that all to be a mask in many ways. As I delved more into the Impressionists, I was surprised to learn how many of the social “ills” of the time were complained about through the use of art. (Art can teach us a lot, sometimes more than history.)

    England was a hotbed of prostitution and broken fidelity. I do not remember the numbers, but it was something like one in every 3 men was visiting a prostitute in London, or something like that. Prostitution was legal I believe. Venereal disease was rampant if I recall, and as for the poor women…

    If I remember right, it was not uncommon for prostitutes to throw themselves into the river Thames, and for their washed-up bodies to be later found. Some artists painted this sad tragedy, to try and draw attention to it, for it was yet another one of those “sweep-under-the-carpet” issues that I terribly dislike.

    In that sense, our modern world has quite a few things much better. We do not permit prostitution legally, and tend to from upon it much more than they did (at least than they did behind closed doors).

    Some women (emphasis on the word “some”) may have had great moral persuasion, but how far did it truly reach? Not very far, if we base it on that. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      There is a whole bunch of truth in that, although the Georgian and regency periods were likely worse. There was a whole lot of moralistic BS floating about, and ‘holier than thou’ as well. What would be great is if we could somehow combine the best of that era which that which is much better now, i.e. sympathy and concern for all. Don’t know if that can be done, but the care by the state is cold indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is what I dream of, and hope for. Yes, the Regency was pretty bad as far as I know. Care by the state is definitely cold, and there is certainly something very good to be said for the ways that you mentioned in your post. I think the older that I get, the harder I find it to idealize the past. I do to a point, but I have seen so much in the last ten years that I just feel like I have very few illusions any more. I may sound like I do, but that is just the poet in me. (I have to keep something of it, for life would not be beautiful otherwise.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          i couldn’t agree more! Sometime we idealize the past simply because the present is unbearably ugly, and we need to escape, if only for a while. I suspect this is part of what drives all of our traditionalists, although it was never that good. I’ve often said that even if I could I wouldn’t go back, even to the 60s when I grew up, if for no other reason, I would never have known you without modern technology. 🙂 Being cynical about it all is, I fear, a sign of maturity. And life is pretty darned beautiful.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Awww, thanks NEO! 😀

          Yes, it can be easy to idealize the past when things now do not look so great. It does make for a nice escape, and what with art and paintings, books and architecture, stories and so many other sources, a lot of idealizing can be done – and it can be fun too! I certainly do not mind a little dreaming.

          The past has also encouraged me in my journey to traditionalism, but reality has also tempered my view of that past. I think what keeps me is the fact that there are just too many prophecies warning against leaving it, and too many saints who spoke so highly of it. It is finding that balance that seems to always be an issue, in any age.

          Life is pretty beautiful. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          🙂 xx

          I think, from what I’ve seen of you online, that you have made much the same journey that I have. I admire much in the past, but try fairly hard not to over-idealize it. It was never all that great, and in fact, other than the loss of eternal truths, it is much better now. And some of us remember those as well, and try to spread the word (Word?). Well, we hope so, anyway.

          Liked by 1 person

        • It sounds like it. I still wouldn’t mind taking a time-travel tour, and who knows if I might find some place that I would like to stay, but I would be much more realistic than when I was younger. Heaven is only in Heaven. That doesn’t change that there are still some things I might get excited about, but I think I know better the other side too, and would never consider any era to be perfect. I cannot explain it well….I keep the good, but am realistic of the bad. Maybe sometimes almost cynically so?

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Likely so. it surely is for me. I would like to be your date on that tour, in many ways our special interests complement each other, and i suspect we’d have a really good time, and still be glad to come back to the times we were born for.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I know you could probably think of great places that might not enter into my mind, and vice versa. Yet our common interests would perhaps make it all one great experience.

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          I think it likely would, and besides, I’ve outgrown travelling alone. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • That is a toss up for me – I could drive some people crazy with the amount of time I like to linger in many spots. 🙂 I try to “absorb” the place, which basically means I practically almost move in for a space…

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          I’ve been places (and hope to find some more) where I do exactly that as well, for me it’s often battlefields, for you, I’d guess art. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • Oh! Far too many. Art is one, but nature, architecture, monuments, fountains, museums, churches, streets, living-history, re-enactments…battlefields are interesting too though. My dad used to take me to them when he was alive. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          I could easily get into all of those, although art, well, you’d have to teach me! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • Sure! Its not that hard. If you can relax and listen to music and feel something, you can learn to “listen” to art. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Then i could even pass! few things move me more than music, well most of it, anyway! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • LOL! 🙂 I am sure you could then!

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          LOL!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. the unit says:

    Hate to break the spell. But Pogo is easy to draw and poetry so true. Have enjoyed your comments though. 🙂 Seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      🙂

      Like

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