Women, as we advance through time, have gained a sense of independence and self-worth that was once restricted. We have earned the right to choose our attire, gain experience in the workforce, and speak as we desire. Today many choose to celebrate such liberties and equivocation, however, in the 1800’s there were some who saw such freedoms as a decline in womanhood and an act against God’s will. In the nineteenth century, Elizabeth Lynn Linton was a product of the idea that women should live a life of pure monotony and domestication. She believed the British nation that had once prided themselves on their modest, pure, and righteous women were rapidly spiraling downward by becoming a bold, fashionable “demi-monde” that was starting to gain popularity during her time. Such attitudes were considered acts against the nature in which God intended. During Linton’s time, women were changing into what many believed to be a tainted version of woman. Such an attention-seeking “Demi-monde” was described as unsuitable and undesirable for matronly affairs. Society in that time period saw the desire to grasp public attention through fashion and the visible display of beauty such as letting their hair be seen beyond the confides of their bonnets or wearing dresses below the shoulder blades, as suggestive towards partaking in the sins of the flesh. Many women who actually partook in such “sinful” actions were often cast out of society and even by their own flesh and blood.

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The painting “The Outcast” represented above was created by Richard Redgrave in 1851 demonstrating a scene similar to bible stories such as the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael or of Christ and the woman taken in adultery. It was considered a sin to have a child out of wedlock in the nineteenth century and those who partook in such sins were cast out of their homes and sometimes from society altogether. This painting represents a time when women were abandoned with their children for disgracing their family name by going against the nature and rules of God. Women such as the one displayed above were cast out and seen as a disgrace to the society in which they lived.

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In the painting “The Infidelity Discovered” by Augustus Leopold Egg, there lays a significant amount of symbolism that demonstrates the amount of ruin that occurs from the discovery of one woman’s infidelity. The apple on the floor stands as a type of religious symbolism that holds similarity to the story of Adam and Eve. The apple symbolizing the forbidden fruit of physical desire has been metaphorically eaten thus betraying her husband and God himself. As a result she is cast out of her home and away from her family, which represents and religious allusion to the Garden of Eden. The house of cards built by her children represents the broken home the woman has created.

~MD

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