Queen Victoria, who ruled England from 1837 to 1901, was in the perfect position to be the forerunner of the women’s movement.
But the Queen would have disappointed all 19the Century feminists, writing that “today’s movement to put women in the same position as the job – like men” is “insane and utterly demoralizing”.
Queen Victoria at her Diamond Jubilee. (The LIFE picture collection via)
While the Queen’s words were not published publicly until after her death in 1901, it is fascinating (and disappointing) for women to see exactly how Victoria feels about women fighting for equal rights
According to Arianne Chernock, author of The right to rule and women’s rights: Queen Victoria and the women’s movement, the queen firmly believed that there was a woman’s place in the house.
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She did not support the suffrage movement at all; in fact, she was against everything the suffragettes stood for. And while she ruled the nation because it was her duty, she also wrote, “We women are not made to rule.”
1854: Queen Victoria (1819-1901) and Prince Albert (1819-1861), five years after their marriage. (Photo by Roger Fenton / Roger Fenton / Getty Images) (Getty)
In a letter Victoria wrote to her uncle Leopold, King of Belgium, in 1852, she wrote that her husband Albert “gains a daily fondness for politics and economics and is wonderfully suited to both … and I get more and more every day.” suffer more from not liking both of them “. . We women are not made to rule, and if we are good women we don’t have to like these male professions. “
In 1850, the Queen was confronted with a law on women’s rights that was passed in Parliament. By this point, Victoria had lost her beloved husband, Albert. She began a very long correspondence with Prime Minister William Gladstone, telling him her “greatest dislike of so-called and erroneous’ women’s rights” “.
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Victoria really made her feelings clear when she added that she “feels so strongly about this dangerous and unchristian and unnatural cry and movement of ‘women’s rights’ … that she is very anxious that Mr. Gladstone and others take steps to address it to put a stop to the alarming danger and to use her name as well as possible … Let the woman be what God intended, an assistant to a man – but with completely different duties and callings. “
Queen Victoria in her time as a princess. (Getty)
Victoria also wrote to author Theodore Martin: “The Queen is very anxious to find someone who can speak, write, etc., who will examine this crazy, wicked folly of ‘women’s rights’ with all the horrors that go with it poor weak sex seems obsessed. “
“It is a subject that makes the Queen so angry that she cannot refrain from the fact that God created man and woman differently – and lets each remain in their own position.”
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But Arianne Chernock believes Victoria’s words tell us very little about how the Queen was in the year 19. was shownthe Centennial talks on women’s rights in Great Britain. Victoria’s opinions on the emancipation of women were not public, although her views were very clear to all with whom she communicated; only to a small group of friends and acquaintances.
Arianne Chernock writes: “Victoria’s comments on Gladstone on the 1870 vote were not published until 1933, when the historian Phillip Guedalla published ‘The Queen and Mr Gladstone’ over 60 years after the conversationthe In the early 1900s, the British were mostly unaware of the Queen’s personal views on women’s rights.
Queen Victoria’s Jubilee with the dresses and regalia of the coronation in 1837. (De Agostini via Getty Images)
“Only in the 20ththe In the 20th century, she would have encountered direct opposition to women’s suffrage. This is an important point as we have to rethink many long and widely held assumptions about the queen’s limited worth to the 19 queenthe Century women’s movement. “
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Victoria is almost written out of the history of British women’s emancipation. Many historians claim that Victoria had some “subversive potential” simply because she was a female monarch. Historian Julia Baird, author of Victoria; the Queen writes that Victoria was the “ignorant, prickly muse” of the early women’s movement.
Other historians believe that Victoria was “successfully appropriated” in campaigns for the employment of women and that she was named “in demanding the acceptance of women into the political system” where she gave the suffragette campaign a “consistent, rarely articulated impulse” gave. “
There’s another mindset too: Victoria has helped advance women’s agendas in different ways through her literary and philanthropic activities. She also played a role through some of her personal choices.
Suffragettes who cycled to London from different parts of England to attend a meeting in 1913. (Corbis via Getty Images)
Her decision to use chloroform for the birth of her son Leopold in 1853, for example, was very much in line with “women’s rights”, since at that time the drug was still largely experimental as a pain relief for the birth of a child. And because the queen used it successfully, it paved the way for other women to use it during childbirth as well.
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Overall, however, most historians rate the Queen’s influence on the women’s movement as regrettably minimal. Dorothy Thompson wrote that most feminists “found little help in the image of the monarch” as Victoria “demonstrated her hostility to women entering important occupations, including medicine, and successfully disguised the extent of their own worries with day-to-day work” has -daily politics of the country, which made it possible to present an almost exclusively domestic image. “
It is also important to note that the Queen relied heavily on her male political advisers; but it is her description of women’s rights as “insane folly” that will unfortunately always determine her true feelings towards the suffragettes. And that it will always be marginalized in the history of the British women’s rights movement.
Suffragettes walk down a London street carrying sandwich boards demanding that women be given the right to vote. 1912. (Photo: © Hulton-Deutsch Collection / CORBIS / Corbis via Getty Images) (Corbis via Getty Images)
In 1903, when suffragette Emily Crawford pondered Victoria’s life, she wrote that the Queen “was more aside from the women’s movement than opposed to it”.
While Victoria has never spoken out publicly against women’s rights, she never publicly presented herself as a supporter either. During her long tenure, she was careful to keep her distance from any activity that might have been construed as a “gender shift”.
Yet the suffragettes still used Victoria’s image and continued to exploit the fact that the head of the British Empire was a woman. It’s incredible to look back and remember that Victoria ruled at a time when her female subjects – until the last third of the 19th century.the Century – men were denied most formal privileges and rights.