The Best Thing Beneath the Skies
To Be a Woman
Though the role of woman throughout history has been generally ignored, there is no mistaking her value, and  books and magazines published during the Victorian Era, were filled with advice on everything from beauty and fashion to butchering a pig, and curing smallpox

If a man aspired to become a 'jack of all trades', a woman was expected to master them, and no matter how overworked they may be, it was important that they always looked like they hadn't done a thing all day.

All that was needed was a little organization, a whole lot of faith and a copy of 'Light on Dark Corners' to assure them that '
To be a woman is to be the best thing beneath the skies".
Their Advice to Young Girls About to Embark on Womanhood:
"To be a woman is something more than to live for eighteen or twenty years; something more than to grow to the physical stature of women, something more than to wear flounces, exhibit dry goods, sport jewelry, catch the gaze of lewd-eyed men; something more than to be a belle, a wife or a mother.  Put all these qualifications together and they do but little toward making a true woman.  

Physical beauty
and style are not the surest passport to womanhood.  A woman's worth is to be estimated by the real goodness of her heart, the greatness of her soul, and the purity and sweetness of her character...." Of course the men standing on the street corner did not whistle at your heart or your soul, no matter how sweet you were; and women; not because they were women, but because they were human; still desired to present a package worth opening.

So they rubbed, scrubbed, dabbed, plastered, pinned, laced and bustled; to create
the illusion of what was deemed to be beautiful.  Men were warned to 'beware of the beautiful women' and all women strived to be the subject of that warning. 

But this did not mean that Canadian women during the period spent all of their time on frivolous matters.  Despite popular belief, the education of girls was considered important, and though necessity dictated that much of that education centered around
domestic chores; they were also encouraged to read, study music and art, and keep up on current events. 
"We want the girls to rival the boys in all that is good, and refined and ennobling.  We want them to rival the boys, as well they can;, in learning, in understanding, in virtues; in all noble qualities of mind and heart, but not in any of those things that have caused them justly or unjustly, to be described as savages. We want the girls to be gentle- not weak but gentle....If the boys are savages we want her to be the civilizer.  We want her to tame them, to subdue their ferocity, to soften their manners, and to teach them all needful lessons of order, sobriety and meekness, patience and goodness."  A tall order.
When the Jesuits came to this country in the early seventeenth century; to convert the Canadian people; they realized that the best way to reach the population was through the women.  In most communities, while the men made up the governing bodies, the women had the real power.  Family wealth and line of descent was passed through the mother, partly because paternity was often questionable; and it was the women's responsibitly to keep track of family geneology which would often determine who would be the next chief.

They also did most of the work, but this only made them more valuable, and since it was the women's responsiblity to make sure that their extended families had the basic necesssities of life, they were always treated with respect. Then, as many embraced Chritianity, their role, though appearing subserviant, actually was brought to a new level, as she took on the added responsibiity of spiritual enlightenment, formerly handled by the Shaman or Medicine Man.

So while it's common knowledge that the
domestic duties of women during the Victorian Era were gruelling, and that a young girl's primary goal was to find a young man, marry and raise a family; this portion of the site is devoted to the aptitudes, attitudes, hopes and dreams of women during that time, some perhaps not so well known. 
Music To the Ears - The Art of Conversation
Female Pills for Female Ills - Handling Woman's Complaints
Beware the Beautiful Woman - It's What's Under the Makeup That Counts
The Institution of MarriageAnd How to Avoid Becoming Institutionalized
A Sharp Pen-Knife and a Steady Hand - Caring For Victoria's Canadian Children
Underneath it AllThe Masters of Illusion
One of the Most Important Epochs in a Girl's Life - Menstruation
Sex and the Single Girl - Maintaining Morality
Lessening Pauperism & the Reckless Increase of Population - Family Planning and Contraception
The Clothes That Make the Lady - Are Made by the Lady
Personal Hygiene Every Lady Owes it to Herself
Igniting the Spark - Courting Canadian Style
Morning Sickness and Lancinating Pain - Pregnancy and Childbirth
Rules on Etiquette The Measure of a Lady
Behind Closed Doors - Vices and Secret Sins
Gathered Breasts and a Little Cream and Sugar Nursing and Feeding an Infant
Putting it in Writing - The Art of Correspondence
Choosing Mr. Right and Making Sure That he Chooses You
E-Mail Me
Canadian Women in History
The Role of Native Women in Canadian History
Emily's Dolls Fashions
Uniquely Canadian Home Page
Victorian Canada Home Page