Growing Up Female During the Regency and Victorian Eras

Regency and Victorian Eras: Growing Up Female in the Country

Young girls had little control over their lives during the Regency and Victorian eras. Their lives were strictly regulated by nurses and governesses. The girls were expected to practice correct moral and social standards. Responsibilities to family and name were numerous. Young girls learnt the necessity of benevolence. Charitable acts were taught by mothers and other female relatives.

1815

1815

Other than this “insistence” on their daughters showing condescension, parental involvement in their daughters’ educations was very limited. Remaining remote and indifferent was more the mode of the day. Mothers were traditionally active with their own social lives. Children remained at home with nurses/governesses while their mothers lived an active social life. Girls remained under the control of their nannies or governesses until they were old enough to make their debut into Society. Children often knew more affection from the house’s servants than did their parents.

Even when in residence, parents often preferred formal “daily visits” with their children rather than interacting with them informally. During the “children’s hour,” the young ones “performed” for their parents in carefully prepared exhibitions of what they had learned during their studies. The children, essentially, lived in a different world upstairs, and they were at the mercy of their caregivers. Sometimes, children resided in another of the family’s properties, or they were left in the country while their parents saw to their father’s developing political career in London. And Heaven Forbid, a marriage knew its troubles. Female children might be foisted off on other relatives or sent to live abroad under the care of a distant relative or governess. Male children were sent away to school and experienced a different type of isolation.

The segregation from the family extended to all parts of the child’s life: meals, sleeping quarters, and entertainment. Larger houses might have both day and night nurseries, as well as separate rooms for the older children. Food was often monotonous. Separate meals were prepared for the nursery. Furniture inside the nursery was often shabby. Girls often received a doll’s house, a rocking horse, and a painted screen as toys.

1840

1840

During the Victorian era, girls were dressed in numerous petticoats. During the winter, the petticoats were made of flannel. In the summer, they were starched stiff. Black-buttoned shoes, elaborate hats, and pelisses were worn out of doors. The same clothes were not worn for both morning and afternoon activities, and another change of clothes was required for the formal visits with their parents.

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
This entry was posted in British history, customs and tradiitons, Great Britain, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, Regency era, Victorian era and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Growing Up Female During the Regency and Victorian Eras

  1. carolcork says:

    Regina, I’m so glad I wasn’t born during those eras.

  2. Regina, thank you for this very interesting post. Today we would call these families dysfunctional.

    • When I taught school, the guidance counselor would often tell me a child acted a certain way because his family was “dysfunctional.” My response was always “What family isn’t dysfunctional in its own way?” As I write in the Regency period, I am often asked if I would want to live in those times. I will admit I prefer the “niceties” of society, etc., to the modern slang and ways of thinking; however, that being said, I would be a “bluestocking,” a woman who read extensively and pushed the lines of propriety. Heck, I am that even now. The “good old boy” system in the South is often reminiscent of some of the ways women were treated then.

  3. Julia Tagan says:

    Fascinating post. My parents, who are both English, were shipped off to boarding school before the age of ten. And both were thrilled to get away from their strict parents. Such a different time from today!

    • Julia, I have English friends who speak fondly of their years in boarding school and others who have the most abhorrent remarks about the experience.
      Thanks for joining me today. I appreciate your insights.

  4. lois losh says:

    My mother, born in 1920, & certainly no Victorian, told an interesting story about petticoat. The heavy winter flannel didn’t come off or switch to the lighter cotton variety until June 1st. She said those warm Spring days could be awful in those hot undergarments. I wonder if this was true in Recency & Victorian times….a specific date to Change seasonal garments vs the temperature?

    • I will see if I can find any info. on the dates, Lois. I do not believe I have ever seen anything in print to indicate when they might change out of the heavier undergarments. I would imagine some of the decision would depend upon whether one lived in Town or in the country. The beau monde retreated to their country houses during the summer because London was so stifling. The Season for young girls to make their Come Outs was the spring. I would not imagine their wearing flannel then.

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