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Cult of Domesticity

Although the new middle-class family had its roots in preindustrial society, it differed from the preindustrial family in three major ways:

I) A nineteenth-century middle-class family did not have to make what it needed in order to survive. Men could work in jobs that produced goods or services while their wives and children stayed at home.

2) When husbands went off to work, they helped create the view that men alone should support the family. This belief held that the world of work, the public sphere, was a rough world, where a man did what he had to in order to succeed, that it was full of temptations, violence, and trouble. A woman who ventured out into such a world could easily fall prey to it, for women were weak and delicate creatures. A woman's place was therefore in the private sphere, in the home, where she took charge of all that went on.

3) The middle-class family came to look at itself, and at the nuclear family in general, as the backbone of society. Kin and community remained important, but not nearly so much as they had once been.

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