What is a Doll?

How long have we had this love affair with Dolls?

Pearls of Wisdom:

New World Dictionary describes a doll as - "a child's toy, puppet, marionette, etc. made to resemble a human being."

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Upstairs, Downstairs" Victorian Middle Classes

The new social class that emerged was the bourgeoisie middle class. An outward display of wealth through clothing and possessions showed to those who were still climbing the ladder that the former had reached the top.

Girls didn't have the same education as boys. They learned to become good wives and good mothers. This education was very unfair so in 1870, the Education Act was passed. It offered schools for all children between the age of 5 and 13.

" Upstairs" Middle class girls posing with their dolls late 19th century

< " The Lesson" Notice small Motschmann doll taking center place between the lesser dolls on the parlour chair.
Parents of rich children often were bankers, merchants, industrials or civil servants. They lived in beautiful suburbs, sometimes in private hotels. The upper class organized parties and could go to festivals.

Only children from rich families went to school, but these were not many. Boys went to famous schools like Eton where education was very strict.

"Skittles " Victorian Toys and Games

Punch and Judy Puppets...Victorian Middle Class Children

Grodner Tal Wooden Toys

A Victorian Upper Middle Class Parlour

Victorian Child holding a Motschman Taufling Doll. This lucky child 's family must have been very wealthy to afford such toys.

Victorian Nursery

China Head ca. 1800's with elaborate hairstyle

Very solemn Victorian children posing for portrait

Child holding a Wax over Composition 'Pumpkin Head Doll"

William Powell Frith, Many Happy Returns of the Day (1856) This painting portrays a wealthy family coming together in their living room to celebrate the birthday of their youngest daughter. A typical domestic scene of Victorian upper class.

Young ladies were constantly chaperoned. If a lady was to be found alone with a gentleman who was other than family, her reputation would be ruined. And her gentleman companion would find himself the object of gossip, and most usually derision.
The established career for society women was marriage - full stop. They were expected to represent their husbands with grace and provide absolutely no scandal.

Courtship was considered more a career move than a romantic interlude for young men, as all of a woman's property reverted to him upon marriage. Therefore courting was taken very seriously--by both sides. Men and women were careful not to lead the other on unnecessarily.

Members of Victorian society kept busy with parties, dances, visits, dressmakers, and tailors. Keeping track of what other people in your social class were doing was also a full-time occupation.

The Lower Middle Class

"The Parting, Second Class"

The lower middle class consisted of small shopkeepers and clerical workers. To work, they needed to be literate, but higher education was not necessary. Their children were kept in school until the age of twelve or fourteen, whereupon they worked in the family shop, or in some other suitable occupation.

"Young Girl playing with Grodner Tal Doll" Emily Farmer ca. 1882

"Tea" Dunlop Leslie ca. 1894

Victorian clothed peg dolls

Bobber and Kibs

"Victorian middle class children;" Almost all of the little girls in pinafores. Notice that all of the girls, even the younger ones are wearing hats. It would be an impropriety for them not too, children weren't exempt from social politeness in those days.

Typical Wooden Peg Doll from the Grodner Tal region in Germany. These tiny inexpensive dolls were commonplace toys for Victorian children.

Lower Middle Class Cottage

"Cherry Ripe"(c.1879 Private Collection), Millais

Verious serious Victorians showing off their new Christmas dollies.

As London started to become a world center of business and finance, the white collar world grew enormously, now including clerks, middle managers, bookkeepers, and lower-level government workers. They valued hard work, sexual morality, and individual responsibility. Their education became increasingly important and sons who were not sent off to elite boarding schools, had the chance to go to local grammar schools, or they went to private schools with set curriculums.

Tiny Wooden Ladies in Vintage Vases

"For the Squire" a painting by Millais

From "A Lark Rise to Candleford"
Other virtues included sobriety, thrift, ambition, punctuality, and constructive use of their leisured time.


Being a servant in one of the grand Victorian houses was a position which would guarantee shelter and food. However, there was etiquette to be learned.

Using the proper title was of the utmost importance. "Ma'am" or "Sir" was always appropriate. If "Ma'am" was seen, it was necessary that you 'disappear', turning to face the wall and avoiding eye contact.

"Early Morning with Kitty"
Paintings of young girls in "mob caps" prevailed during the 1880's as it was fashionable to wear bonnets or caps in C18 style.

"Maid Soaping Linen" Henry Robert Morland

Chimney Sweep courting the maid

Maid and Child all Bisque Dollhouse Dolls ca.1800's

"A Victorian Kitchen"... Maid preparing for a Christmas feast

People of Different Societies
The upper class was never to be addressed unless it was absolutely necessary. If that was the case, as few words as possible were to be uttered.

Servants Gossip

Victorian Maid

Life was easier, though, amidst your fellow servants. Although private fraternization was frowned upon, it wasn't against the rules for those 'below stairs' to enjoy singing, dancing, and other social activities together.

The middle classes were predominantly churchgoing and most professional classes attended the Church of England. The idealization of family life and togetherness were characteristic of the middle class because they had the opportunity to be together. The working class sent their children to work at a fairly young age, and upper class children were raised by servants and saw little of their parents.
A man's status depended mostly on his occupation and the family he was born into. A married woman's status came from her husband. Middle class men did not marry until the age of 27 or 30 because of the importance of being financially stable.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times ( Victorian era part eight)..

The Victorian age was an age of transition. England was transformed from a feudal and agricultural society into an industrial democracy. Nevertheless the process of the industrial revolution did not only create progress but also problems. One drawback was the hierarchy which was created in the British society, the powerful and the powerless, this led to a division of people into distinctive social classes…
England had 2 major classes: The aristocrats (those who inherited land and titles), and the commoners (everyone else). Still, most Victorians knew that their society was three-tiered.
In the upcoming posts I will show a sampling of the social classes that were present in Europe during the Victorian era.

The Aristocrats and the Gentry

Young Woman in a Boat, 1870 by James Tissot.

" They sat together in a window [of Thrushcross Grange] whose lattice lay back against the wall, and displayed, beyond the garden trees, and the wild green park, the valley of Gimmerton, with a long line of mist winding nearly to its top (for very soon after you pass the chapel, as you may have noticed, the sough that runs from the marshes joins a beck which follows the bend of the glen). Wuthering Heights rose above this silvery vapour; but our old house was invisible; it rather dips down on the other side. "

“Top Withens This farmhouse as been associated with the novel “Wuthering Heights” the Earnshaw’s home in the Emily Bronte novel. The buildings even when complete bore no resemblance to the house she described, but the situation may have been in her mind when she wrote about the moorlands setting of the heights.
A plaque has been placed at the sight by the Bronte society in response to many inquiries.

"Wuthering Heights:" Sir Lawrence Olivier and Merle Oberon ca. 1939

Social classes with a great deal of power are usually viewed as "the elites" within their own societies; as in Wuthering Heights, property and titles were very important assets. The hereditary land-owning class was made up of aristocrats and the gentry. In the case of the aristocrats, the title and land usually went to the oldest son. With nineteenth century moral reforms coming to the forefront, the upper-class life of leisure and enjoyment lost favor. During this period, when the oldest son received the land, he was expected to actually do something besides just mulling about, as it seems the characters Wuthering Heights did. He was expected to sit in Parliament, have a hand in local affairs, and use his influence in a charitable cause, even though he did not do any paid work.

Victorian Etiquette

"Etiquette" is the one word that aptly describes life during the reign of Queen Victoria.
“We Victorians take the rules of propriety very seriously. It is who we are. If one does not conform they are considered outcasts in proper society.”
For those in the upper echelons of society, rules such as the proper forms of address, and even what to wear, were all considered very important.

Studying the Rules of Do's and Dont's
Victorian Children in Costumes

A properly poised Victorian child

Christmas morning in a gentry household.

"A Toy Store Window in London," Anton Pieck

19th Century Children Fashions, Courtesy of Theriaults

Walter Dendy Sadlet "The Young and the Old"

Victorian Gentry Mother and Child

"Riding" Lady Julia Middleton and Sir Tatton Sykes ca. 1870

Most important however, were the landed gentry. A landed estate included a hall or manor house, a home farm that was managed by a bailiff, several farms that were occupied by tenants, and a village or two in which farm laborers lived. The landed gentleman usually did not have a house in town. He spent most of the year on his estate, taking an active position on local issues. Generally, he was called "Squire"
During this time period, there were about two thousand squires with estates of between one thousand and three thousand acres. The squire was expected to be a justice of the peace and to take interest in the countryside, and also to promote local charities.

Children of the Elite

"Tally Ho "

Aristocrat Children Games
Victorian Girl with Doll ca. 1898

French Jumeau

French Gautier Doll

"First Communion"

Young Victorian Gentry

Gentry Sport

The aristocracy formed a separate class under law. The children of aristocrats were also aristocrats with special rights.

"Lady Sybil Primrose" Frederic Leighton

Lady Sybil Myra Caroline Grant (1879–1955) was a Bristish writer, designer and artist. She was the eldest child of Archibald "Archie" Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery and his wife Hannah ( nee de Rotheschild) Lady Sybil married, on 28 March 1903, General Sir Charles John Cecil Grant (1877–1950).
On the death of her father in 1929, she inherited his estate, "The Durdans" at Epsom, which became her home. Grant later became an eccentric, spending most of her time in a caravan or up a tree, communicating to her butler through a megaphone. She died a widow in 1955, survived by her son, Charles Robert Archibald Grant, who had married Honourable Pamela Wellesley (born 14 May 1912), granddaughter of the 4th Duke of Wellington.

Afternoon Tea

Tea Party

Mad Hatter: Do you care for tea?
Alice: Why, yes. I'm very fond of tea.

March Hare: If you don't care for tea, you could at least make polite conversation!

Little Girls at a Garden Tea

Victorian Fashions for Low Tea

From the time tea was first imported into England, sharing tea with a convivial group was an excuse for good food and conversation among both men and women. Afternoon Tea as a social event was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. Anticipating dinner after 8 PM each day, the Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter, and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. As this became a habit, she began inviting friends to join her. This formal pause quickly developed into a fashionable social event and spread to all parts of England . Service was highly stylized, with very specific rituals for serving the tea, usually in the drawing room between four and five o'clock. The occasion called for pleasant conversation among the prettiest table settings, providing the hostess an opportunity to show off her best china and linens and to serve her most delicate cookies and cakes.

At the Ritz in London

Tissot "Garden Bench"

The class divisions were echoed throughout the land. In church the higher classes sat at the front in reserved pews and the lower classes at the back. In dress, the wives of wealthy industrialists were clothed in conspicuous finery as they were the social representatives of their soberly dressed husbands.
Victorian prosperity for the elites, was built on the development of new machinery, new work methods and an underpaid workforce consisting of adults and children living in wretched poverty.