Room 25: Women, politics and domestic life in Victorian Britain

See the portraits currently on display in Room 25 here

The lives of most women in Victorian Britain were limited to the domestic sphere and opportunities for education were limited. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had nine children, and portraits of the queen often represented her as a doting wife and mother, an image that influenced public views of womanhood.

Women were denied the opportunity to vote in national elections, and relinquished rights to their children and property on marriage. Nevertheless, millions of women worked to support themselves and their families – in factories, in domestic service, as teachers or governesses – but were paid less than their male counterparts. They also worked from home, as washerwomen or seamstresses, in roles that were unrecognised by the state and unregulated.

By the middle of the century, middle and upper-class women were able to participate in local government, giving them the opportunity of a small but influential role in public life. Many pioneering women came to public prominence in a variety of fields: as writers, artists and also campaigners for women’s rights. This room includes a portrait of the leading campaigner for women’s votes, Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, who is shown alongside the successful artist Louise Jopling and the art-historian and champion of women’s trade-unions, Emilia Dilke.