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The Role of Women in Victorian England The evolving role of women in Victorian England is the main subject of George Gissings The Odd Women Gissings novel deals with the struggle that many English women faced in the later part of the nineteenth century as they struggled for independence and finding means to support themselves Prior to the womens equal rights movement which began in the middle part of the 1800s women were either expected to marry or follow careers as nurses governesses servants or teachers as their main means of survival However as English society advanced and the life expectancy of women began to exceed that of mens English women began to have more and more difficulty in obtaining a suitable income Gissing 338 When Gissings novel was published in 1893 the number of women exceeded the number of men by over 500000 This made it impossible for every woman to find a husband and also led to too many women entering the traditional female fields mentioned above Women were forced to find new jobs to support themselves such as the clerical and business realms For the women not lucky enough to find a suitable husband or who lacked the education necessary for a professional life the alternatives were prostitution and slaving in shops This dark contrast is illustrated well by Gissing through Mrs Eade as a prostitute and Millie Vesper who is able to find a job and works hard This problem mainly affected the lower and middle class women as the upper class women were considered attractive because of their familys social standings and economic situations The lower and middle class women had nothing special to bring to a marriage and generally only the beautiful women of those classes succeeded in finding a husband The middle and working class women had a slight advantage over the lower class women because they generally had a slightly better education which afforded them the opportunity
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