A Victorian women’s life was defined by childbearing. Family planning was a complicated issue in the Victorian home.
The Question of who Should Populate Young America
The America Victorian women found that she had little hope of economic independence or self definition outside of role wife and mother. Family circumstances were increasing making it unwise for women to produce more than a few children. Victorian men no doubt had strong opinions on this issue A wife in a working class family could not bring in extra income from a factory job iif she was always pregnant or caring for a newborn.
Immigrants over ran the cities, Large slums defined large parts of residential areas in urban places . Community reformers and ministers worried the rise of an immigrant class . They saw it as a class defined by people of low morality based heredity alone. They used the growing rise of drinking , domestic abuse, and crime in the inner cities as proof of their argument. Later this class of reformers followed the ideas of eugenics and wanted society to limit the number of children that the lower classes could reproduce..
-Many families sought to control their fertility. The birth rate in the country as a whole had been dropping since 1800. the average family then had 7 live births . There was an average of about 3.5 live births per family around the time the Victorian age ended in 1901.
Birth rates did not drop over this period of time for black women. They averaged around five children over the course of their reproductive years. Recent European immigrant women and rural women, tended to still have large families. It was the solidly middle class women, that were considered the moral stabilizing force of the country. These women were many times only having one or two children over the course of their married life.Of course the fact that their children had access to better hygiene and diet , it was not required that these women have five children so that two could live til adulthood.
How Not to Conceive
Middle class women had access to less than reliable birth control, but it did seem to control their rate of reproduction. Abstinence was practiced by many married couples .s the males found that could get their needs meet in local brothels that thrived in Victorian cities of all sizes. Other couples practiced withdrawal and the rhythm method. These produced less than desired results. There were ‘devices’ available and up until the 1850’s were widely advertised in popular publications. These devices included douches, cervical caps, syringes, and condoms.