Cover image for Victorian London's middle-class housewife : what she did all day
Victorian London's middle-class housewife : what she did all day
Draznin, Yaffa, 1922-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn : Greenwood Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xvi, 227 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm.
Reading Level:
1760 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ1600.L6 D73 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Through a detailed description of the life and activities of the middle-class married woman of London between 1875 and 1900, this study reveals how housewives unwittingly became engines for change as the new century neared. In marked contrast to the stereotypical depictions of Victorian women in literature and on television, Draznin reveals a woman seldom seen: the stay-at-home housewife whose activities were not much different than those of her counterparts today. By exploring her daily activities, how she cleaned her home, disciplined her children, managed her servants, stretched a limited budget, and began to indulge herself, one discovers the human dimension of women who lived more than a century ago. While most studies of this period consider values, aspirations, and attitudes, this book concentrates on actions, what these women did all day, to provide readers with a new perspective on Victorian life.

Late-Victorian London was a surprisingly modern city with a public face of well-lit streets, an excellent underground railway system, and extended municipal services. In the home, gas stoves were replacing coal ranges and household appliances were becoming more common. Having both money to spend and a strong incentive to buy the new laborsaving devices, ready-to-wear clothing, and other manufactured products, the middle-class matron's resistance to change gave way to a rising consumer culture. Despite her nearly exclusive preoccupation with home and family, these urban women became agents for the modernization of Britain.

Author Notes

Yaffa Claire Draznin was a Visiting Scholar of History at the University of Chicago, 1996-1999. She is an independent British Historian affiliated with the National Coalition of Independent Scholars, She also writes Victorian murder mysteries

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Novelist Draznin turns her hand to history with mixed results, attempting a portrait of an "ordinary middle-class married woman" in Victorian London, one who would have married sometime around 1875 and reached her late forties by 1900. Draznin's heroine is a composite figure whose outlines have been derived from a perusal of a larger population. Her lineaments emerge through chapters devoted to descriptions of housing, clothing, household technology, typical budgets, health care, schooling, voluntary activities, and consumption patterns. The descriptive material is largely based on statistics derived from secondary works and the prescriptive instructions provided in that Victorian bestseller--Mrs. Beeton's The Book of Household Management (1861). This is particularly surprising because although Draznin says that she looked at a number of "printed journals, diaries, autobiographies, and memoirs" of Victorian women (the personal accounts so beloved by historians of this period), no details of those lives appear in her book. In this representation, her only companion was likely to be a difficult and unhappy maid of all work. Worse, she had few other contacts and little companionship, conversation, succor, or support from mother, sisters, friends, neighbors, or even her spouse. Happily, most historians report such was not the case. N. B. Rosenthal SUNY College at Old Westbury

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Part I The MCMW's Background, 1850-1875
1 Growing Up Female in Mid-Century Englandp. 3
2 Greater London in 1875: A Resident's Viewp. 15
3 The MCMW's Spouse and the Couple's First Homep. 25
4 The Matron's Appearance: Her Looks and Her Clothingp. 35
Part II The Reality: Life in Greater London, 1875-1900
5 The Housewife as Lowly Domestic: Cleaning the House and Doing the Laundryp. 47
6 The Housewife as Specialized Domestic: Preparing the Meals and Clothing the Familyp. 59
7 The Housewife as Employer: Managing the Servantsp. 71
8 The Housewife as Financial Manager: Balancing the Budgetp. 81
9 The Housewife in Her Maternal Role: As Bride, Potential Mother, and Pregnant Wifep. 95
10 The Matron as Guardian of the Family's Healthp. 107
11 The Matron as Nurturer of the Children: Early Child Care and Educationp. 119
12 The Matron as Social Secretary and Activities Coordinatorp. 129
13 The Matron as Morals Arbiter: Managing the Family's Religious and Charitable Obligationsp. 141
14 The Matron as Her Own Person: Satisfying Personal Needs Within and Outside the Homep. 149
15 The Middle-Class Housewife as Shopper: The Emergence of Late-Nineteenth-Century "Consumerism"p. 159
Part III The End of the Century: Conclusion
16 London in 1900: A World City Reluctant to Changep. 171
17 The Middle-Class Housewife in 1900: Inadvertent Agent for Changep. 179
Appendix Victorian Moneyp. 191
Bibliographyp. 193
Indexp. 205