The angel of the house

"An Afternoon Stroll" by Georges Jules Victor Clairn
Many bloggers have written about the importance of being a help-mate to one's husbands (Genesis 2:18), dedicating one's life to raising children and creating a home that is safe, secure and a refuge from the world (Titus 2:5). These are biblical truths and ones we are all very familiar with and believe strongly in. 

However what I find interesting is that the elevation of "mother and wife" in society to a level of greatest importance only came about during the Victorian age when the "ideal" of what makes a perfect mother and wife were created. This perfect and pure Victorian woman became known as the "Angel in the House". 

The "Angel" was expected to be devoted and submissive to her husband, passive and powerless, feminine, meek, charming, graceful, sympathetic, self-sacrificing, pious, and above all -- pure. (Source) She was confirmed to the home to better protect her from the immoral influences of the world. She was kept safe inside the home, away from any impurities. 

Many women, in particular the middle classes, strived towards this ideal of domestic bliss and dedication, encouraged by Queen Victoria who devoted herself to her husband Prince Albert. The aim was to create the perfect family, the perfect home and to be the perfect pure wife.  Women such as Mrs Beeton helped build this imagine and art and literature of the time continued to encourage and increase the  idea of the "angel-like" woman. 

The phrase "Angel in the House" comes from the title of an popular poem by Coventry Patmore, in which he holds his angel-wife up as a model for all women.  Believing that his wife Emily was the perfect Victorian wife, he wrote "The Angel in the House" about her (originally published in 1854, revised through 1862). Though it did not receive much attention when it was first published in 1854, it became increasingly popular through the rest of the nineteenth century and continued to be influential into the twentieth century. 

Here is an excerpt of Patmore's poem:

Man must be pleased; but him to please
Is woman's pleasure; down the gulf
Of his condoled necessities
She casts her best, she flings herself.
How often flings for nought, and yokes
Her heart to an icicle or whim,
Whose each impatient word provokes
Another, not from her, but him;
While she, too gentle even to force
His penitence by kind replies,
Waits by, expecting his remorse,
With pardon in her pitying eyes;
And if he once, by shame oppress'd,
A comfortable word confers,
She leans and weeps against his breast,
And seems to think the sin was hers;
Or any eye to see her charms,
At any time, she's still his wife,
Dearly devoted to his arms;
She loves with love that cannot tire;
And when, ah woe, she loves alone,
Through passionate duty love springs higher,
As grass grows taller round a stone.


As the 20th century progressed, the ideal of the "Angel of the House" lost its appeal as feminism took its grip/ Women were told that they were both powerless and voiceless if they remained at home. Women no longer wanted to be submissive to their husbands, they no longer felt the need to dedicate their lives to their children and caring for others; and their home no longer needed the same attention. They walked away from God in droves and continue to.


Angel of the house was dead.

And here we are today, a million miles from the ideal of Angel of the House. I wonder what Coventry Patmore would say about modern women. 

Being a help-mate to your husband, dedicating your life to raising and nurturing your children/caring for others and creating a home that is safe, secure and a refuge from the world is still very important - even if the world disagrees. As Titus 2 women, we need to be loving wives, dedicated mothers and keeps of our homes. However some things have changed in the last 150 years. Whilst the Victorian woman was expected to be weak, passive, weepy, docile and never having a mind of her own, we, as modern women, can speak up and have an opinion, dream up ideas, we can be strong and capable, bright, intelligent, eager and able to learn (via many different methods). We can work outside the home, we can run businesses from home, we can travel, we can write books, we can even play sport!

However, some of the other attributes are still very important to maintain in this modern world and for us to be Biblical women. We need to be; feminine, meek, gracious, quiet-spirited, self-sacrificing and unselfish, sympathetic, be able to be trusted, caring, kind, modest, and pure. And, the one that many women struggle with -  submission to our husbands.

No, I don't think the "Angel of the Home" is dead as Virginia Woolf stated in 1931.

We can still be the "Angel of the Home", even if the world thinks it is a silly concept and may mock you, however I think we can modernised the angel little more than prescribed by Coventry Patmore and his fellow Victorians. We don't need weepy docile women, we need strong courageous women raising the next generation in a world rejecting Christ and Christians.


She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;

Her husband also, and he praises her:

Proverbs 31: 26-28

*****

Comments

  1. Very well spoken. Thanks for sharing this.
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

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    1. Thankyou Laura. I hope you are having a good week :)

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  2. The Bible should be what we model our lives on - the "virtues" spoken of there should be all we need to aim for. What others do should really be none of our concern, we should seek to firstly please the Lord and then our husbands... Easier said than done, of course, but still I feel the right way.
    love,
    Bets

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    1. Agree :) But we do seem to be always concerned what others think or do.

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  3. The funny thing about a woman doing what the Scriptures say is that she then becomes a very important and influential woman - she has a huge impact on her children (thus impacting future generations without needing to have a high-powered job), and provides the support her husband needs in order to make a mark in this world. We're not here to gain glory for ourselves by having such impact on our children or helping our husband make a mark - we're here to live lives that point to Christ, to bring glory to God and to spread the gospel through various means. When we can obey the Scriptures as women, we make a lasting difference in lives, rather than in businesses and politics and the economy and other such avenues. The problem is that people don't see it that way anymore and having a family is a side venture, rather than the main focus. Sad.

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    1. I think that most people miss that point – we aren’t here on earth for greatness or fame, whilst some Christians do become great men (or women) most don’t do it intentionally and it’s not their driving force. Our work (and I think that refers to men as well) is to be done quietly.

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  4. Hi Jo,
    Great read. I totally agree with everything you wrote. Have a wonderful and blessed New Year.

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    1. Thankyou Trish - its hard to believe it is already the 6th of Jan!

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  5. Great post, very excellent points in there. Thanks for sharing at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

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    1. Thankyou for doing Good Morning Mondays :)

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  6. Great post Jo. I was just reading the same thing in "Mrs. Sharp's Traditions" this very week about how the Victorian Era created a pedestal for mother as the guardian and angel of the home. This is probably why I love that time period as I do have a romantic heart! :) However I agree with you, we need to be strong and courageous in these last days, not merely a pretty showpiece but a useful and sturdy tool! Yes, soft and gentle but tough...

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    1. The victorian era was the time when mothers were truly respected and loved for what they did for family and home. These days mothers are no longer receive that level of respect and in some cases none at all. I am with you, I have a romantic heart and which that mothers were treated so much better. Courageous mothers, I just don't think there is enough of them about.

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  7. Congratulations! This post was the most read post on last week's link up party at So Much At Home! It is featured on this week's link up party! Thanks for sharing it. I hope you will share many more great posts this week.
    God bless.
    Chris

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    1. Thankyou for your lovely comment :)

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