"Fallen Women"

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Eleanor Rose

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George_Frederick_Watts_Found_Drowned.jpg

"Found Drowned" by George Frederic Watts (1850) - Public Domain

We have discussed the notion in other threads that perhaps our Victorian friends weren’t quite as straight laced or uptight as they have been portrayed. If you look at enough period photos, you will see a smile, and if you read enough books, you will find flirtation and all the rest. However, there does appear to be at least one area where Victorians didn’t waiver. With respect to sexuality, female purity was valued above all else. The emphasis on female purity was simple - women needed to present themselves as marriageable or suffer the consequences of being alienated by a society that valued women primarily for their marriageability. Victorian women were expected to remain virgins until marriage and they were expected to only have sex with their husband. Female sexual desire was seen as non-existent and women who strayed from moral expectations became known as “fallen women”.

The shame of being cast as a “fallen woman” in the 19th century was so extreme that many women committed suicide to escape the ostracism and dishonor. The fate of the "fallen woman" was featured in many Victorian pieces of art and literature. It is likely depicted in the painting above. “Found Drowned” depicts the dead body of a woman found washed up beneath the arch of a bridge with half of her body still immersed in the river. The title given to the painting refers to the legal term that was used in the 19th Century for a coroner’s inquest.

What struck me most about the painting (and led me to create this thread) is that the woman is holding a heart-shaped locket which suggests that the reason for her death and suicide is attributed to a lover. Click on the painting and zoom in to see what I mean. The woman in the painting represents a “fallen woman”. Sadly there weren’t many escapes for women in the Victorian era who society felt had “disgraced” themselves and thus been labeled as “fallen women”. The term “fallen women” was distinct from prostitutes. This label signified a “fall from grace” – adultery or betrayal – and suggested that the woman was of middle or upper class. Prostitution was seen as a phenomenon among lower classes (although that certainly wasn’t always the case). Women and the standard of women's behavior was seen as the foundation of a stable and moral society, so even if they weren't selling themselves for sex women were still judged for any sort of behavior that was deemed amoral by Victorian society.

What do you suppose men who were adulterers were labeled in the 19th​ century – rogue or scamp? Perhaps nothing at all. Why do you suppose they weren’t ostracized by Victorian society? It seems society has always placed more importance on the virtue of a woman. Why do you think that is?
 
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jackt62

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New York City
The roles of women vs. men were definitely very different in the 19th Century. On the one hand, women were supposed to be paragons of "female virtue" whose honor men were duty bound to uphold (particularly in the southern chivalric tradition.) On the other hand, that standard of behavior meant that women were consigned to a very limited role in society, and were certainly not allowed to engage in commerce, politics, or anything in the male domain. The "virtuous" woman vs. the "fallen" woman was shown in stark contrast by General Butler's Order No. 28, which held that women dis-respecting federal troops in New Orleans were to be treated as "women of the town" (i.e., prostitutes). The outrage which the southern population greeted that order makes sense given the context of how women were viewed by society.

To be more specific about adulterous men, I am thinking of the case of Daniel Sickles, who while known as a philanderer himself, was not scorned the way his wife (who was carrying on her own adulterous affair with Philip Key) was. Sickles was found not guilty of murdering Key and the public was more aghast at Sickles' decision to "forgive" his wife Teresa for her infidelity rather than Sickles' own roguish behavior and killing.
 

archieclement

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mo
View attachment 347139
"Found Drowned" by George Frederic Watts (1850) - Public Domain

We have discussed the notion in other threads that perhaps our Victorian friends weren’t quite as straight laced or uptight as they have been portrayed. If you look at enough period photos, you will see a smile, and if you read enough books, you will find flirtation and all the rest. However, there does appear to be at least one area where Victorians didn’t waiver. With respect to sexuality, female purity was valued above all else. The emphasis on female purity was simple - women needed to present themselves as marriageable or suffer the consequences of being alienated by a society that valued women primarily for their marriageability. Victorian women were expected to remain virgins until marriage and they were expected to only have sex with their husband. Female sexual desire was seen as non-existent and women who strayed from moral expectations became known as “fallen women”.

The shame of being cast as a “fallen woman” in the 19th century was so extreme that many women committed suicide to escape the ostracism and dishonor. The fate of the "fallen woman" was featured in many Victorian pieces of art and literature. It is likely depicted in the painting above. “Found Drowned” depicts the dead body of a woman found washed up beneath the arch of a bridge with half of her body still immersed in the river. The title given to the painting refers to the legal term that was used in the 19th Century for a coroner’s inquest.

What struck me most about the painting (and led me to create this thread) is that the woman is holding a heart-shaped locket which suggests that the reason for her death and suicide is attributed to a lover. Click on the painting and zoom in to see what I mean. The woman in the painting represents a “fallen woman”. Sadly there weren’t many escapes for women in the Victorian era who society felt had “disgraced” themselves and thus been labeled as “fallen women”. The term “fallen women” was distinct from prostitutes. This label signified a “fall from grace” – adultery or betrayal – and suggested that the woman was of middle or upper class. Prostitution was seen as a phenomenon among lower classes (although that certainly wasn’t always the case). Women and the standard of women's behavior was seen as the foundation of a stable and moral society, so even if they weren't selling themselves for sex women were still judged for any sort of behavior that was deemed amoral by Victorian society.

What do you suppose men who were adulterers were labeled in the 19th​ century – rogue or scamp? Perhaps nothing at all. Why do you suppose they weren’t ostracized by Victorian society? It seems society has always placed more importance on the virtue of a woman. Why do you think that is?
I've always found that interesting, to people who wish to moralize, as far as the Christian values we are based on its as much a sin as murder or theft, yet always has seemed selectively applied. And is seldom held against figures being publicly held up as heroes or idolized.

Sadly even extends to a degree to rape, been binge watching In the Heat of the Night, and just yesterday watched the episode were Althea Tibbs was raped and she angrily responded to the treatment of the rapist as "after all boys will be boys" which seems the same as it is for adultery.....

Have always found it odd in relation one of the popular side topics here, if we should remove monuments based on what we consider immoral behavior today, as would think most would agree adultery is immoral........yet no one seems to suggest removing monuments based on it.
 
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Belle Montgomery

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DBF

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I am thinking of the case of Daniel Sickles
Not a pleasant thought! What a cad Dan Sickles was. His wife was destroyed by what he did to her during the trial. He made her write a confession of her affair with Key and then made sure the press would get a copy of it. By the end of the trial he was the brave husband standing by his “fallen woman”. Sadly, Teresa Bagioli Sickles (born in 1836) could have had a better life, after all her father was wealthy and an well-known Italian singing teacher who took in a teen-aged Sickles and helped him get a scholarship to university, letting him stay at his home into his home. How does he repay the favor - he married his daughter (she was 16/he was 32). When Teresa was pregnant, Sickles took that famous “Madame” Fanny White to England to meet the Queen. Oh well - boys will be boys.

After the trial - Theresa went home to New York - while Sickles worked on his reputation. She died at 31 in 1867.

What I find interesting about the painting is how the artist interpreted the woman's hair/face/dress so she looks perfect. The only thing missing is her Scarlet "A"?
 
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John S. Carter

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View attachment 347139
"Found Drowned" by George Frederic Watts (1850) - Public Domain

We have discussed the notion in other threads that perhaps our Victorian friends weren’t quite as straight laced or uptight as they have been portrayed. If you look at enough period photos, you will see a smile, and if you read enough books, you will find flirtation and all the rest. However, there does appear to be at least one area where Victorians didn’t waiver. With respect to sexuality, female purity was valued above all else. The emphasis on female purity was simple - women needed to present themselves as marriageable or suffer the consequences of being alienated by a society that valued women primarily for their marriageability. Victorian women were expected to remain virgins until marriage and they were expected to only have sex with their husband. Female sexual desire was seen as non-existent and women who strayed from moral expectations became known as “fallen women”.

The shame of being cast as a “fallen woman” in the 19th century was so extreme that many women committed suicide to escape the ostracism and dishonor. The fate of the "fallen woman" was featured in many Victorian pieces of art and literature. It is likely depicted in the painting above. “Found Drowned” depicts the dead body of a woman found washed up beneath the arch of a bridge with half of her body still immersed in the river. The title given to the painting refers to the legal term that was used in the 19th Century for a coroner’s inquest.

What struck me most about the painting (and led me to create this thread) is that the woman is holding a heart-shaped locket which suggests that the reason for her death and suicide is attributed to a lover. Click on the painting and zoom in to see what I mean. The woman in the painting represents a “fallen woman”. Sadly there weren’t many escapes for women in the Victorian era who society felt had “disgraced” themselves and thus been labeled as “fallen women”. The term “fallen women” was distinct from prostitutes. This label signified a “fall from grace” – adultery or betrayal – and suggested that the woman was of middle or upper class. Prostitution was seen as a phenomenon among lower classes (although that certainly wasn’t always the case). Women and the standard of women's behavior was seen as the foundation of a stable and moral society, so even if they weren't selling themselves for sex women were still judged for any sort of behavior that was deemed amoral by Victorian society.

What do you suppose men who were adulterers were labeled in the 19th​ century – rogue or scamp? Perhaps nothing at all. Why do you suppose they weren’t ostracized by Victorian society? It seems society has always placed more importance on the virtue of a woman. Why do you think that is?
Why do you use this age as to women?In history from the very beginning of the human relation there has always been two sets of morals between men and women.Read your Bible .The man is the one who governs the morals of the family,the woman is the submissive one,but then there were those who knew and skilled in the game of diplomacy ,Adam and Ev ,Sarah with Abraham ,and Delilah with Samson.There would have been no Solomon if Bathsheba had not known the game.of the SEXES.The reason that kings married early to virgins is the keeping the laneige pure.The fear on a political side if she had engaged in sex the fear of pregnancy would surely had but that line in jefferdey if not then latter.The same could be said concerning the lengey of families from any class but esp. from the aristocratic who were to set the moral standards of the people.As to prostitutes or even mistresses they had their positions and rewards in this society.Wifes in order to maintain their social positions would learn that they to could and would have their own gigaloes .
 

Tom Hughes

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View attachment 347139
"Found Drowned" by George Frederic Watts (1850) - Public Domain

We have discussed the notion in other threads that perhaps our Victorian friends weren’t quite as straight laced or uptight as they have been portrayed. If you look at enough period photos, you will see a smile, and if you read enough books, you will find flirtation and all the rest. However, there does appear to be at least one area where Victorians didn’t waiver. With respect to sexuality, female purity was valued above all else. The emphasis on female purity was simple - women needed to present themselves as marriageable or suffer the consequences of being alienated by a society that valued women primarily for their marriageability. Victorian women were expected to remain virgins until marriage and they were expected to only have sex with their husband. Female sexual desire was seen as non-existent and women who strayed from moral expectations became known as “fallen women”.

The shame of being cast as a “fallen woman” in the 19th century was so extreme that many women committed suicide to escape the ostracism and dishonor. The fate of the "fallen woman" was featured in many Victorian pieces of art and literature. It is likely depicted in the painting above. “Found Drowned” depicts the dead body of a woman found washed up beneath the arch of a bridge with half of her body still immersed in the river. The title given to the painting refers to the legal term that was used in the 19th Century for a coroner’s inquest.

What struck me most about the painting (and led me to create this thread) is that the woman is holding a heart-shaped locket which suggests that the reason for her death and suicide is attributed to a lover. Click on the painting and zoom in to see what I mean. The woman in the painting represents a “fallen woman”. Sadly there weren’t many escapes for women in the Victorian era who society felt had “disgraced” themselves and thus been labeled as “fallen women”. The term “fallen women” was distinct from prostitutes. This label signified a “fall from grace” – adultery or betrayal – and suggested that the woman was of middle or upper class. Prostitution was seen as a phenomenon among lower classes (although that certainly wasn’t always the case). Women and the standard of women's behavior was seen as the foundation of a stable and moral society, so even if they weren't selling themselves for sex women were still judged for any sort of behavior that was deemed amoral by Victorian society.

What do you suppose men who were adulterers were labeled in the 19th​ century – rogue or scamp? Perhaps nothing at all. Why do you suppose they weren’t ostracized by Victorian society? It seems society has always placed more importance on the virtue of a woman. Why do you think that is?
Very interesting topic. I enjoyed your insight.😀
 
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John Winn

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It is a very interesting question: why were the standards different for men than for women ? And why were men's affairs (even those of married men) mostly just ignored (check out Grover Cleveland's affair; he got elected president and his lover got put in a mental hospital). I don't have an answer but there are many things the ancestors did that I can't really understand. And why did it take until the twentieth century for women to get the vote ?

Hey, but if you were a woman who lived in Austria - or had the money to get there - you could get your itch treated with some good cocaine. Silver lining of sorts. :whistling: :running:
 

Virginia Dave

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I've always found that interesting, to people who wish to moralize, as far as the Christian values we are based on its as much a sin as murder or theft, yet always has seemed selectively applied. And is seldom held against figures being publicly held up as heroes or idolized.

Sadly even extends to a degree to rape, been binge watching In the Heat of the Night, and just yesterday watched the episode were Althea Tibbs was raped and she angrily responded to the treatment of the rapist as "after all boys will be boys" which seems the same as it is for adultery.....

Have always found it odd in relation one of the popular side topics here, if we should remove monuments based on what we consider immoral behavior today, as would think most would agree adultery is immoral........yet no one seems to suggest removing monuments based on it.
Which monuments are you referring to? Just curious.
 

Ethan S.

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Ha! If only they could look into the future, and see the morality of it all these days... I would bet they would have had a stroke if they saw this years super bowl halftime...

Heck, I even had some girl "flirt" with me once, acting all weird like, and I flat out laughed, and said "Oh heck no, I have SOME decency about me", and stormed off.

The thoughts and customs of the time back then were biblical, or at least had the same foundations as biblical morals. The bible made it clear of what it thought of Adulterous women in the old testament, though if we remember in the book of John, in the New Testament, Jesus forgave the adulterous woman who was set to be stoned.

I say we forgive those who have done this sort of thing. Are we much better in other areas? Sadly this was not the case back then, as this painting illustrates...
 
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James N.

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Kate_Chase_-_Brady-Handy.jpg


Supposedly my favorite wartime Belle (Not a Southern one but rather of Society) Kate Chase greatly disappointed her new husband Rhode Island Governor Sprague on their wedding night when she revealed she wasn't a virgin! Sadly but perhaps unsurprisingly, their union didn't last and they were divorced.
 

Waterloo50

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View attachment 347139
"Found Drowned" by George Frederic Watts (1850) - Public Domain

We have discussed the notion in other threads that perhaps our Victorian friends weren’t quite as straight laced or uptight as they have been portrayed. If you look at enough period photos, you will see a smile, and if you read enough books, you will find flirtation and all the rest. However, there does appear to be at least one area where Victorians didn’t waiver. With respect to sexuality, female purity was valued above all else. The emphasis on female purity was simple - women needed to present themselves as marriageable or suffer the consequences of being alienated by a society that valued women primarily for their marriageability. Victorian women were expected to remain virgins until marriage and they were expected to only have sex with their husband. Female sexual desire was seen as non-existent and women who strayed from moral expectations became known as “fallen women”.

The shame of being cast as a “fallen woman” in the 19th century was so extreme that many women committed suicide to escape the ostracism and dishonor. The fate of the "fallen woman" was featured in many Victorian pieces of art and literature. It is likely depicted in the painting above. “Found Drowned” depicts the dead body of a woman found washed up beneath the arch of a bridge with half of her body still immersed in the river. The title given to the painting refers to the legal term that was used in the 19th Century for a coroner’s inquest.

What struck me most about the painting (and led me to create this thread) is that the woman is holding a heart-shaped locket which suggests that the reason for her death and suicide is attributed to a lover. Click on the painting and zoom in to see what I mean. The woman in the painting represents a “fallen woman”. Sadly there weren’t many escapes for women in the Victorian era who society felt had “disgraced” themselves and thus been labeled as “fallen women”. The term “fallen women” was distinct from prostitutes. This label signified a “fall from grace” – adultery or betrayal – and suggested that the woman was of middle or upper class. Prostitution was seen as a phenomenon among lower classes (although that certainly wasn’t always the case). Women and the standard of women's behavior was seen as the foundation of a stable and moral society, so even if they weren't selling themselves for sex women were still judged for any sort of behavior that was deemed amoral by Victorian society.

What do you suppose men who were adulterers were labeled in the 19th​ century – rogue or scamp? Perhaps nothing at all. Why do you suppose they weren’t ostracized by Victorian society? It seems society has always placed more importance on the virtue of a woman. Why do you think that is?
I could be wrong here but Ive always thought that there was an expectation that upper class victorian gentlemen would have a mistress as well as a wife, I believe it was one of those unwritten rules that women understood. Perhaps it could have something to do with women marrying wealthy men for money/social status and security rather than love. I think, Marriage was an agreement where the husband provided and the women didn’t ask awkward questions. That’s obviously just my opinion but it could explain why women were seen to have ‘fallen’ when they were found to be unfaithful whilst men were seen as doing nothing wrong. I think that there really is something about Victorian life that many of us modern day folk just cant get our heads around, a lot of Victorian history is hidden in what was not said rather than what was said.
 

Waterloo50

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The roles of women vs. men were definitely very different in the 19th Century. On the one hand, women were supposed to be paragons of "female virtue" whose honor men were duty bound to uphold (particularly in the southern chivalric tradition.) On the other hand, that standard of behavior meant that women were consigned to a very limited role in society, and were certainly not allowed to engage in commerce, politics, or anything in the male domain. The "virtuous" woman vs. the "fallen" woman was shown in stark contrast by General Butler's Order No. 28, which held that women dis-respecting federal troops in New Orleans were to be treated as "women of the town" (i.e., prostitutes). The outrage which the southern population greeted that order makes sense given the context of how women were viewed by society.

To be more specific about adulterous men, I am thinking of the case of Daniel Sickles, who while known as a philanderer himself, was not scorned the way his wife (who was carrying on her own adulterous affair with Philip Key) was. Sickles was found not guilty of murdering Key and the public was more aghast at Sickles' decision to "forgive" his wife Teresa for her infidelity rather than Sickles' own roguish behavior and killing.
Thats a good point, I wonder how it was decided that he was suffering from temporary Insanity, perhaps it was the fact that he arrived in court with a pencil up each nostril and a pair of underpants on his head. :wavespin:
 
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jackt62

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Thats a good point, I wonder how it was decided that he was suffering from temporary Insanity, perhaps it was the fact that he arrived in court with a pencil up each nostril and a pair of underpants on his head. :wavespin:
The trial of Daniel Sickles was the first time in American jurisprudence that "temporary insanity" was used as a defense. Sickles' attorney was none other than Edwin Stanton, who was to become Lincoln's Secretary of War. Stanton argued successfully that Sickles was momentarily out of his mind when he learned of his wife's infidelity and therefore shot and killed Philip Key. The jury clearly bought into that.
 

Mrs. V

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I’ve always assumed that the reason women were held to a higher standard is that the men needed to be sure their offspring, who would inherit were genetically theirs. And there is that whole dowry thing...and arranged marriages! When I told my students about that, oh, you should heard the outrage! Little do they know that still happens in this wonderful world of ours.
 
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dlofting

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The thoughts and customs of the time back then were biblical, or at least had the same foundations as biblical morals. The bible made it clear of what it thought of Adulterous women in the old testament, though if we remember in the book of John, in the New Testament, Jesus forgave the adulterous woman who was set to be stoned.

I say we forgive those who have done this sort of thing. Are we much better in other areas? Sadly this was not the case back then, as this painting illustrates...
I wonder why the Bible ignores adulterous men despite one of the commandments. Seems like all the examples are women....strange.
 

John S. Carter

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View attachment 347708

Supposedly my favorite wartime Belle (Not a Southern one but rather of Society) Kate Chase greatly disappointed her new husband Rhode Island Governor Sprague on their wedding night when she revealed she wasn't a virgin! Sadly but perhaps unsurprisingly, their union didn't last and they were divorced.
Sounds like the story of the Sam Houston.Rumored that he left his just married wife due to the fact that she had experience in that matter.Interesting how the topic would COME UP on that night .I do suppose that the fear of finding out later that she was not of purity may cause difficulty in the marriage esp. if sooner that the nine months baby would arrive Then there is the Social standing which also may be difficult to explain,What if her first was to reveal the truth latter to society or even just to the husband.Social standing was a mark on a man's position in the states not just local.There is a time in the weeding when objections to the marriage are asked From the back comes this ''She has a tattoo on the left side!'
 
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