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The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860

The article titled “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860” written by Barbara Welter, describes how women were treated and the role they played in the male dominated society.

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In those times it was extremely important for a woman to be humble and do anything that the society demanded. First of all she had to be a mother figure. This was qualified by a woman being religious. This did not interfere with her duties at home and was seen as a sign of obedience. It is what a woman really needs to be proper in her life. She could be religious in her home and anywhere else with great ease. It was reinforced that a woman must stay religious even if she is well educated. And if that education took her further away from religion then it was frowned upon. Compared to men, women were judged very harshly, as men were allowed to not follow “the word of God” because they had no time, being busy working and moving the world forward. Religion was what made a woman pure. If there was a conflict between a man and a woman and she was able to come out a winner, it was greatly respected and showed power over man. Another quality that women were judged by and required of, was submission. It was considered the most feminine quality and was a necessary attribute of their life. She had to be obedient to the man and this was a God given rule. It was expected that a woman would suffer silently through any hardships and that she would work on her duties without raising a word. At the same time it was known that women were delicate and fragile and their place was at home in the protection of the man and the family. It was also her responsibility to keep a “warm and cheerful” house so that the men, children and other relatives would not be bored and try to find these things somewhere else. The nursing duties were also placed upon women, while their own health was not as important as providing care for someone else. Education through reading books was a horrible thing to imagine. It was thought of as dangerous for a woman to even read novels, as they might give her ideas that would divert her from the duties and norms set by the male society. The magazines were another “evil” force that would corrupt a woman through the tragic stories described in them. The most important duty of a woman was to be an “ornament” of her man. Marriage was very important and was greatly valued as a proper life for a woman. It was said that this is exactly what women were made for, to focus all her attention and strength on her husband, to make him and the family better and exclude them from feeling the lack of anything they might think of. Marriage was woman’s service to the man but also raised her character. An important part of marriage was the reason why she married. It had to be out of love and the want to gratify and in no case out of money. She had to be a good mother and raise a family with love and care. Woman was the one who guided the children through infancy and prepared them for the world and life, where as the father would take on the responsibility of further advancement in the world. The word women’s “rights” was defined differently. It was her right to love, raise children, bring joy, exercise religion and be true to her man. This view was so dominant in the society that it came to the point where women would blame themselves if they were not able to adhere to the principles and rules made by the men.

This article is a great illustration that shows how the majority of time men were in power, both physically and mentally. The society exerted such pressure on women that for them to even think that things could be any different, was “a sin”. For a very long time women were oppressed and made inferior to men. The fact that men were made physically stronger by nature was taken out of proportion and applied to every aspect of women’s life. No one ever thought that even though men were stronger physically, women are much stronger mentally. Numerous times it was proven that often the world demands the strength of will and heart more, than that of muscles. Women’s movement is the proof that after so many years of oppression they were finally given the full attention and credit that they deserved. But historically the view that men are superior has been supported for so long that it makes these stereotypes very hard to root out. The society of today still has a very incorrect view of women. Probably because no attention was paid to women for so long, the way they think and feel, no one really understood what makes a woman the way she is. It is still a mystery today but the direction set by women is bound to bring on positive results in the future.


Welter, Barbara. “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860,” American Quarterly, 18.2 (1966): 151-174. Print.

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"The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860." StudyCorgi, 31 Dec. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860." December 31, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860." December 31, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860." December 31, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860'. 31 December.

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