The Concept of the ‘Angel In the House`
Edexcel P 29 B Type Essay 4(b) study the sources F, G and H and use your own knowledge. Do you agree with the view that, by 1882, the concept of the ‘angel in the house’ had been overturned? The angel in house concept was very popular in the 19th century and it was a custom that many wives conformed to. The ‘angel in the house’ was described by Coventry Patmore’s poem towards his wife and how he fulfilled his needs by being altruistic.
Men and women also had ‘separate spheres’ which was the ideology that men should conformed to public affairs and women should conform to private affairs within the home. However, by 1882, ideology changed and more women decided that they did not only want to conform to private affairs but they should be able to be public and voice their ideas, the concept had been changed slightly, however not completely overturned as many women still conformed to the ‘angel in the house’ concept.
Source F was written by Caroline Norton and published in 1854. It implies that the concept had not been overturned, as she is referring to the power that her husband still contained with the custody of their children. This shows that Caroline was rebelling against the norms that a wife should have towards her husband. In Caroline’s accounts of her years married to her husband she describes that he was physically violent towards her and on many occasions family members had to get involved.
Caroline speaking out towards her husband in court showed merely that she was courageous enough to rebel against the ‘angel in the house’ concept. Source G supports Caroline in a way that one of the images shows a husband being physically abusing his wife. This adds supports to Caroline as it portrays in the image the language in which Caroline uses to describe her feelings towards her husband which are negative and shocking as many women would not dare to talk about their husband in that way.
Source G challenges the concept because in 1864 there was the First Contagious Disease Act which was an act which was the need to reduce venereal diseases. This was strongly campaigned by Josephine Butler, one of the first emerging feminists. The cartoon claims ‘Is Marriage a Failure – As a rule –Yes! ’ which is ironic because it is claiming that marriage, the ballpoint of keeping society was failing, however, the concept of ‘the angel in the house’ was still being fought to stay within the household and the stronghold of keeping all women conformed to the ‘separate spheres’.
Source H is from Melanie Phillips, whose perspective on the ‘angel in the house’ is viewed nostalgically. In her analysis she is able to show the ‘paradox behind the double standard’ which was shown thoroughly through the Divorce Reform, it is challenging the idea that women cannot be in the house and speaking out, voicing their ideas publically. Nevertheless, it portrays that woman are still able to be in the house and also participate publically.
In conclusion, it can be argued that the ‘angel in the house’ was not overturned however women still wanted to voice their opinions and stand up for inequality even if it was in marriage which was seen as unacceptable but stay in the household supporting their family. Nevertheless the concept had been slightly changed with feminists such as Caroline Norton and Josephine Butler’s campaigns supporting women’s rights, which a century ago would seen as an abomination making a female speak out without the permission from her husband. The ‘angel in the house’ concept had been slightly changed in 1882 however not completely overturned.