Friday, September 16, 2005


If you think of the way that single mothers are sometimes treated in today's so-called enlightened British society - attacked by the press, considered irresponsible by some and viewed as failing in their duty to wed a man by others - you will glimpse something of the life of women in the 19th century.
As that century opens, women are in every sense forced by the law to be dependent on men. Girls do not receive even the cursory education allotted to most of their male counterparts. Women cannot enter the professions and, unless they are lucky enough to be one of the few wealthy spinsters or widows, are forced into menial, low-paid jobs.
Remaining single is a hard option, attracting public disapproval and probable penury. Women who cohabit with men and/or have children outside marriage are even more severely shunned. Neither the Church nor the law fully recognise children born out of wedlock.


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