Changes in female life during the first half of the 20th century

 

From the second half of the nineteenth century the female ideal of the woman as queen of the home was strengthened, identified with the virgin Mary, queen of the heavens and mother of Christ. This “angelization” of the woman allowed her to occupy the throne of the home in exchange for practicing virtues such as chastity, self-denial and submission. Motherhood was claimed as the feminine function par excellence, but making it absolutely clear that the reproductive act had nothing to do with the enjoyment of sexuality.

This feminine ideal continued, essentially, during the first half of the twentieth century. However, the needs of a bourgeois society on the way to modernization required women to assume practical and effective tasks. The Church assigned the mission to discipline the husband and educate the children in Catholic values, but at the same time functional in the new capitalist model. Virtues such as work, honesty, responsibility, saving and cleanliness were to be passed on by women in their home. Medical and hygienic discourses, which were disseminated in numerous manuals of hygiene, domestic pedagogy, childcare and urbanity that circulated in the first decades of the twentieth century, assign the woman the role of home nurse responsible for health And productivity of all its members.

In these manuals he was trained in child care, household hygiene, food preparation, and the importance of imposing hygiene and civility habits on offspring. In summary, home economics, housework, education and discipline of the children, moral integrity of all family members, health care and hygiene were all female tasks elevated to the rank of office under the title Of “housewife”.

Women of the urban elites not only had to fulfill these tasks in their own homes, but they had to become a kind of social missionaries who were responsible for moralizing the women and the children of the poor sectors. Its action was directed, mainly, to the workers that appear like social group in the cities where the industrialization began. It is these ladies and gentlemen who, in the company of priests and religious communities, in particular the Jesuits and the Sisters of Charity or Presentation, are engaged in organizing different women’s patronage towns, Catholic women’s associations such as the Daughters of Mary And Catholic Mothers, or charitable works such as homeless youth homes, cribs, hospices, children’s clinics, workshops, and Sunday schools where poor children were prepared for first communion. These activities allowed the women of the wealthy sectors to transcend domestic space and play a prominent role in their respective localities.