The Cult of Domesticity - Chris Noda

Questions to Answer

1. What were the actions of this cult? (What did they do)?
2. Was this cult supported by all women?
3. What were the ideals of this cult?
4. How did this affect the 19th century?
5. Through what source of material did women learn about this cult?
6. Are their any magazines that show this cult in action?
7. Do women idealize their morals at home today or do they throw out all the morals from the cult?
8. Were the lower class women able to practice this as well?
9. What is the Godey's Ladies book?
10. Why is the ideal home shaped like it is in the 19th century?

Cult Vs. Domestic Cult

What is a cult?

The original meaning of the word cult is a certain ideal or a form of worship (early 18th-19th century). The current definition is where a group of religious belief's are considered to be sinister. The cult of domesticity is both, it is a way of life that maybe some find abnormal in life today, but others accept it and practice it wildly. The cult of ipod is a big example of a play off of a cult. Since the ipod has an increasing number of users and these people obey the leader of ipod, they make the large consumer population seem to be the members.

What is the Cult of Domesticity?

The Cult of Domesticity is very different than a cult! In fact, it is hard to consider this group a cult at all. The women that were a part of this group was not very organized and on top of that they did no strange practices. Women involuntarily joined the "cult" just because every women was so into it. Women in the 19th century were said to be completely in control of the house for the entire day. They raised the kids, cleaned, cooked, and were ready for the father when he came back from work. This common job of the mother got its name today as the cult of domesticity.

What Were the Actions of this "Cult"

Actions is defined by what these women did in the house and how this group of Domesticity came to order. When women were left at home while the husbands went to work, they were expected to keep the house clean and proper. It was what was "In" as defined by magazines. This powered middle class women to do the right thing with their children at home. "home sweet home" got its motif from the 19th century as the cult saw the home as a temple. They wanted to keep a clean house where the entire family felt comfortable.


Look at the nice woven colored "Home sweet home". These colors and a warming message are usually associated with being comfortable; therefore, women try to make their house look comfortable.

Men in the Cult

The middle class families usually had a few kids along both of the parents. The man (father) of the family had been virtually removed from the house. With railroads and farther jobs, the man might work very late and not get home very late and they certainly could not raise a child. The mother on the other hand was no longer expected to go to work and was stuck at home all day. Most of the women of the 19th century saw it as the way to live, but for single women, and for the working class they simply did not have the money or the need to raise a family. Since the men in this age only went to work, it started the stereotype that the father should support the family while the mother raises the family.

Ideal's of the Cult of Domesticity


Religion was thought to put a mind in the empty shell that is women. Of course this is not true as women can fight for rights and carry jobs just as well as men; consequently, in 19th century women were thought as the supporter though. Methodism was very important during this time as it gave women a hope and belief in a larger power. Something to watch over their temple, the home.


"The man bears rule over his wife's person and conduct. She bears rule over his inclinations: he governs by law; she by persuasion...The empire of women is the empire of softness, her commands are caresses, her menaces are tears." - Godey's Lady Book. Women are said to be sexually pure as the men need to be kept in tact. The man may put down the final law, but she can at least ad decency to her home.


When going in public, women were expected to represent their house. If they were messy, so was their house; if the women was clean, the house reflected on this. The women was expected to wear clothes a certain way with a certain type. "Required" to wear a tight corset and undergarments. The women was also expected to know her place. Ladies wanted to make sure that their family got a good name in the social scene as well as their house.


Domesticity is known as a dedication to the home or a love for it; hence, the cult of domesticity. The home during this time period showed very much like the current Queen Victoria. Victorian homes were to be kept very clean as well as pleasant. People were to walk in and feel like they were in their own home. The women were in charge of making sure this happened.


This is an example of possible clothes from the time period. It also seems like the house maid would be introduced to those that do not want to work all day.


Here is another possibility for the clothes that women wear. Notice how the parent is dressed identically to the child and how the child is not working. Such a dramatic change in the lives of working and Bourgeois women.


Be proper

Being proper showed how important and polite the children and the house would be. Women being polite would rub off on whoever she talked too as well as etiquette.

Be Consistent

Keeping in charge of the house was a full time job. Although men did not consider what women did a job, they only did it because that was their job and what they were expected to do.

Impact and Departure

The impact of the cult of Domesticity was incredibly immense. The house was completely changed and so were the standards for women. Their job type completely switched and etiquette ran among the bourgeois. Unfortunately, the lower class remained mostly the same throughout the 19th century while the houses of the middle class started to shine.

This sort of change was so immense from the 18th century and earlier when the house was a crowded heap of mess among both social classes. When the Bourgeois started to see that they are better than the workers, they tried to make their house reflect that.

Inside the House

Seen as how women loved to keep the house such a livable place, it was to be clean and content. Women sent the children to school and at home taught them how to keep the house proper. For daughters, in addition to school they would learn to sew, cook, clean, all of the cult's ideals.


Notice how Jeremey's Mom in this comic was seen doing all the work of the son and nothing from the dad. This is complete inside the house Domestic cult. The 19th century really set the tone for this.

Outside the House

Outside of the house women were still expected to look proper. They did not go out very often although as taking care of the house took a lot of time.

Lower Class women

The working women did not have the time or the money to buy clothes or magazines. They were usually working at the factories and unfortunately living in the poor slums and tenements.

Primary Source

Magazines, Songs, Poetry

Many of the materials that women learned about this cult were through popular culture. These songs would preach how women were for the home. Poetry was also a big part of spreading the knowledge. But to get to the poetry, a magazine must be purchased. Like cosmopolitan today, the Godey's lady Book provided the perfect demonstration of how to conduct a woman's life.

Godey's lady Book

The leading cause of the spread of the cult was the Godey's Lady Book (the ipod of today for women). It was huge and most of the Bourgeois women in England owned copies. Printed in the 19th century and discontinued during the 1890's, it was hugely popular with poetry, stories, and fashion advice.Interesting enough, men wrote most of the Gosey's lady book. Now if men wrote the magazine that said how the house was supposed to look, was it a big plot just to control women?

Women's Power - Frank J. Walters

The best way to see how the cult came about is a sample poetry.

OH! tell me not that woman's weak,
Inconstant, or unkind;
Though flippant writers often speak
As though dame Nature's master freak
Was molding woman's mind.
Around the sufferer's lowly bed,
When palls the heart of men;
When science falls and hope is fled,
And helpless lies the dying head,
Oh! who is constant then!
Who watches, with a tireless eye,
The faintly heaving breath?
Who hovers round, for ever nigh,
To catch the last expiring sigh,
And soothe the pangs of death?
When disappointment sink the soul,
And round us troubles throng;
When grief exerts its wild control,
And sorrow's stormy billows roll,
Then, then, oh! who is strong?
Man sinks beneath misfortune's blow
And hope forsakes his breast;
His boasted powers are all laid low,
His strength is swallowed up in woe,
When not by woman blest.
But she can cheer his drooping heart,
And rouse his soul again;
Can bid his cankering cares depart, And, by her smiling, artless art,
Can soothe his keenest pain.
Is woman weak? Go as the sword,
The weapon of the brave,—
Whose look, whose tone, whose lightest word,
Though e'en but in a whisper heard,
Commands it as her slave.
Go ask man's wild and restless heart
Who can its passions quell;
Who can withdraw hate's venomed dart,
Bid malice and revenge depart,
And virtue in it dwell.
If woman's weak, then what is strong?
For all things bow to her:
To her man's powers all belong;
For her the bard attunes his song,
Her truest worshiper.
Woman, a fearful power is thine:
The mission to the given
Requires a strength almost divine,
A bosom that is virtue's shrine,
A soul allied to heaven.

I see the poem as a brilliant way to guilt trip women into behaving for their husband's will. It talks of how it is the woman's responsibility to care for the tired husband, to keep him in line, to make sure he can work for the family. What seems like sexism today was completely normal back then.

The Break of Women's Powers

Women are now very strong and able to rule with an iron fist. They can overthrow most men in business and recently we very closely had a women president. The Onion does a great take on the power of women on a very funny report on the first female dictator.

The End of the Cult of Domesticity

The Godey's Lady book ended in the 19th century as did many of the other material. Victorian homes have evolved into much grander Americanized structures. Women are now free to work and make the living of the man. But has the Cult left America? Some women still do all the chores of the house, some even confide to their own husband. Since this viewpoint has been created of how the house is dealt with it cannot be taken away, in fact, it is still very among the U.S today. The cult is in everyone's home, and no matter how hard it is to deal with can never be removed.



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All pictures from google images


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(I tried to indent the second lines and third of all of them but the wiki did not cooperate!)