Sociology Index


The Cult of Domesticity was a prevailing view on gender roles  during the Jacksonian Era, in the United States. 'Cult of domesticity' is a phrase used to describe the prevailing value system among the upper and middle classes during the nineteenth century. 'Cult of Domesticity' ideology was thought to elevate the moral status of women and be beneficial for them in ways such as living lives of higher material comfort. Cult of Domesticity ideology discouraged women from obtaining an education. In the concept of cult of domesticity there is a belief as in sociology of family that individual life is most fulfilling when experienced in a private household where women are chief homemakers and caregivers.

Cult of domesticity can be found in women's magazines, religious journals, fiction and everywhere in popular culture. Cult of domesticity is the idea that women have moral and temperamental qualities that are best expressed in the personal and domestic sphere of life.

In India, Cult of Domesticity generally applies to the roles played by and expected of women within the lower middle class. In Cult of Domesticity there is belief that a woman's role in marriage was to maintain the home as a refuge, take care of the children and set moral examples for children to follow.

Between 1820 and 1860 a set of established cultural values deemed the "Cult of Domesticity" sought to shape the private and public lives of individuals in a rapidly changing American society. Promoting the ideals of conformity in religious, domestic and personal development, the cult of domesticity was particularly concerned with maintaining a status quo of piety, purity, obedience and domesticity in 19th century female behavior.

According to the Cult of Domesticity or Cult of True Womanhood 'true women' were expected to possess the virtues of piety, purity, and domesticity. The Cult of Domesticity identified the home as the "separate, proper sphere" for women, who were seen as better suited to parenting.

The Cult of Domesticity developed as family lost its function as economic unit. Many of links between family and community closed off as work left home and market economy emerged downgrading a women's work. According to Barbara Welter "True Women" were to hold and practice the four cardinal virtues: Piety, Purity, Submission, and Domesticity.

The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860 (1966) - Barbara Welter.
Barbara Welter describes an important stage in the expression of sexual stereotype. The idea of The Cult of True Womanhood, or the cult of domesticity, sought to assert that womanly virtue resided in piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity. In a society where values changed frequently, where fortunes rose and fell with frightening rapidity, where social mobility and economic mobility provided instability as well as hope, one thing at least remained the same - a true woman was a true woman, wherever she was found. If anyone, male or female, dared to tamper with the complex of virtues, he was damned immediately as the enemy of God, of civilization, and of the Republic.

Woman's History in the New Millennium: A Retrospective Analysis of Barbara Welter's "The Cult of True Womanhood." Rupp, Leila J. (2002). We are interested in a complex conversation about the multivalent negotiations women have and continue to make with the cult of domesticity.

How does the cult of domesticity for women of Indigenous peoples resonate similarly with and differently from other communities of women?

Many historians have argued that the subject is far more complex and nuanced than terms such as "Cult of Domesticity" or "True Womanhood" suggest, and that the roles played by and expected of women within the middle-class, 19th-Century context were quite varied and often contradictory.

Beyond the cult of domesticity: Exploring the material and spatial expressions of multiple gender ideologies in Deerfield, Massachusetts - Deborah L Rotman.
Abstract: Though the cult of domesticity has been the most widely studied, additional gender ideologies such as equal rights feminism and domestic reform also structured human interactions during 19th-century America. Deviations from expected material patterns were re-examined within a dialectics framework. A separation of gender roles existed prior to the codification of the cult of domesticity and was, therefore, not the exclusive domain of that ideology. Cult of Domesticity appeared and was codified in this rural village at about the same time as its material manifestations were occurring in more urban locations.

Widows and Orphans: Women's Education beyond the Domestic Ideal - Siobhan Moroney 
Modern assessment of the cult of domesticity prevalent in the early republic assumes that ideology frowned upon women engaging in activities outside the home. Popular educational thinking adopted the domestic ideal, and most articles published in magazines and journals focused on the need to educate girls to discharge their household and familial duties.

The Cult of Domesticity And Cult of True Womanhood Defined:
Between 1820 and the Civil War, the growth of new industries, businesses, and professions helped to create in America a new middle class. The middle class consisted of families whose husbands worked as lawyers, merchants, teachers, physicians and others. Although the new middle-class family had its roots in preindustrial society.

The Cult of Domesticity developed as family lost its function as economic unit. Many of links between family and community closed off as work left home. Emergence of market economy and the devaluation of women's work. Home became a self-contained unit. Women remained in the home, as a kind of cultural hostage. Women were expected to uphold the values of stability, morality, and democracy by making the home a special place, a refuge from the world where her husband could escape from the highly competitive, unstable, immoral world of business and industry.