Today I want to talk about how men’s and women’s abilities and intelligence were viewed in Regency times.
It was assumed that men were better in all ways than women, that men were more intelligent, and of stronger mental constitution, than a woman ever could be. This resulted in many things that we would consider very strange today. Such things as
- Women were considered incapable of doing complex maths or science, or even basic science – a woman could not be a member of the Royal Society (one of the first associations of scientists)
- Women were considered incapable of serious art, although they were encouraged to dabble in watercolours to entertain themselves.
- Women were not expected to do well at languages, or at any activity requiring serious thought – they were told ‘not to worry their pretty heads about it’ and men would take over.
- Secretarial and clerical work was all done by men, and the thought of a woman doing such work was scandalous.
- Women were not thought to be capable of being good poets or authors either – and those who were, could not get published except by going under a male pseudonym and making sure that no one knew of their true identity.
- Women were not thought to have the intelligence to manage their own finances at any level, and were legally unable to do so, in many cases, without a man to be officially responsible.
You begin to see the challenges that an intelligent woman would have faced ! How long would you cope for, caged up by those attitudes, and the limitations that came with them ?
How frustrating it would have been to be a woman back then! It’s too easy to take it for granted how good we have it today.
I totally agree with you, Ruth. I can’t even imagine that I would have accepted such limitations just because I am a woman.