Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.498285
Title: Victorian medical men and their understanding of the female condition, 1859-1900
Author: Trompeter, Barbara Ann
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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Abstract:
Gender relations, particularly in the second half of the nineteenth century, were negotiated against the backdrop of a separate spheres ideology. The doctrine assumed a sexual identity for women based on their natural and distinctive biology. These so-called laws of nature asserted a specific female destiny making them peculiarly suited to a reproductive and domestic existence. This thesis sets out to explore why there were good reasons for medical men to welcome the idea of sexual difference, and by what means a number of them sought to frustrate the ambitions of many middle-class women who were questioning their allotted role and actively challenging the legal obstacles blocking their path in achieving equal status with men. Although many women subscribed to the idea of exclusion from the public arena, being quite content to run the domestic sphere, there were significant numbers who were openly demanding changes to their subordinate position. The passage of the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857, the Married Women's Property Acts of 1870, 1882 and 1884 and the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts in 1886 confirmed that many feminists and their supporters were making steady inroads onto male territory. As the lot of middle-class women improved, albeit very slowly, accounting for their distinctive physiology became increasingly difficult to sustain on a rational level. To forestall further any ideas women entertained about moving from their dedicated sphere, some normal female functions were medicalized and many women found themselves directly implicated in the production of pathology. The thesis focuses on the scientific theories and discursive practices that lent support to the notion that women were naturally governed by their reproductive faculty. Their reproductive aptitude became the manifestation of developmental failure, explaining why they had been unable to keep pace with men on their evolutionary journey and achieve equal standing.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.498285  DOI: Not available
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