chapter  5
22 Pages

Home, Kinship and Community

The home became the primary site of female identity in the nineteenthcentury. Women’s lives became structured by their relationship with the home, and their economic value was defined in relation to their domestic role. Relations with kin, with servants, and other women beyond their own social realm encountered through their charitable activity, were all informed by this family-centred model. This also set a precedent for expectations of the working-class woman whose status and value in the labour market was affected. Paid work outside the home was given a value in accordance with the belief that a woman’s place was within the home. Women were conceptualised as contained within and dependent on the family unit, in contrast with men who were regarded as self-sufficient and independent. Thus, the home assumed immense importance as a physical and symbolic space within which meaning and value was assigned to women’s actions.