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Many modern ideals surrounding love and marriage today have their roots in the Victorian era. By the beginning of the 19th century, marriages for economic and social purposes were falling out of popularity. Instead, the evolution of the family unit led to a heightened societal value for marriages based on mutual affection, emotional satisfaction, and love. The ideal of marriages based on love gave young people, especially women, a new level of agency in their choice of partners.
The widespread ideal of the companionate marriage had consequences beyond heterosexual marriages, as well. Sharon Marcus asserts that the newly held belief that it was better to not marry at all than to marry without love made space for people to choose to remain unwed. Further, the evolution of marriage laws allowed a certain amount of flexibility that allowed female couples living together to use the language of marriage to describe their relationships as well.
Because of the rise in popularity of the companionate marriage, young people had more independence in their choice of partners than generations. However, with the parents no longer being the primary facilitators of romantic relationships, the ways that couples found each other also changed. While some couples still met through their parents or other family members, people also met through mutual friends or because they were neighbours. In addition, many people met through work or social events like picnics and church-related activities. Another less common way of finding a partner was through matrimonial advertisements.
Published in periodicals, matrimonial advertising began mostly in working-class communities, but spread to the upper classes by the s. While these advertisements could provide people with a way to find a compatible partner without relying on making connections through their existing social circles, they came with a certain amount of social stigma. These challenged traditional gender roles of masculinity and femininity, as women were upfront about their wants and needs in their searches for husbands.
Women who posted advertisements were often considered immodest. It could be said that matrimonial advertisements were the dating apps of the Victorian era. No matter how they initially met, courtships were usually short, and couples were often engaged within nine months, oftentimes less. In the public sphere, they would go on long walks and attend community social events together.
Most courtship happened in the private realm, however, as men would call on women at home and have tea or supper with her and her family. Despite this, parents often allowed couples a certain amount of privacy together in the home after these meals. Though courtships were short, engagements were commonly much longer, and usually lasted several years.
This was especially the case for working-class couples, as they had to work to save money for the marriage. During the engagement, couples exchanged gifts. Though the gifts varied widely depending on class and status, three types gifts were fairly universal. People commonly exchanged engagement rings. They also often traded pictures of each other or had their photograph taken together.
Lastly, couples often exchanged locks of hair. As they were sometimes separated for long periods of time during their engagements because of work and familial obligations, letters were the main source of communication. Many relationships developed in a large part through the written word. These items from the Dalnavert Museum collection represent some common gifts that lovers would exchange. Locks of hair could be kept in jewellery like this brooch. Frost, Ginger S. Marcus, Sharon. Princeton: Princeton University Press, Matthews, Christopher.
Phegley, Jennifer. Courtship and Marriage in Victorian England. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger, Our Mission. Hugh John. Agnes "Gertie". Isabella "Daisy". John "Jack". Safety Protocols. Museum Tours. School Groups On-Site. School Groups Virtual Programs. Virtual Tour. What's On. Scriptum Summatus - Tickets. Dalnavert Home. Stories from Home Gallery. Private Functions. Dalnavert Become a Member. Work With Us! Annual Reports.
. Dalnavert Adoptables. Bibliography Frost, Ginger S. Newer Post Dalnavert, in Blue.Dating in the victorian era
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