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The Exploress Podcast

Jul 19, 2018

Mid-19th century America was a pretty buttoned-up place. Or was it?

For women, marriage and family was their destiny, their lives confined to a small and private sphere. They could toil, but they couldn’t vote; they could work their land, but often couldn’t own it. They were laced into corsets, surrounded by a piece of clothing called a cage.

The whole thing sounds pretty...constricting. But women in this era did plenty of fascinating things, both within the boundaries of polite society and well outside of them. That was especially true when the Civil War broke out in 1861. War has as way of rewriting the rules of engagement. In a divided country, many women found themselves driven, and inspired, to become more than they were told they were supposed to be.

Let's step into a day in the life of an upper- to middle-class, city-dwelling lady and discover what it might be like to walk in her shoes. We will explore a wide range of topics, from what underwear you might be wearing, how you might go about washing your hair, and what exactly a crinoline cage is to courtship rituals, women's suffrage, the potential absurdity of your wedding night, and having children in 19th-century America. We'll also talk about how the Civil War changed things for women: how it complicated their lives, but also opened doors to a whole new world.