What was the economic position of women during the period of Jane Eyre?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It all depended on what class you were born into. Clearly, if you were from a good family, like Mrs. Reed, then you had a strong economic position. However, if you were from the lower classes, your economic position was something that placed you in a very precarious position. This is of course expressed through Lowood school, which is a school for families who are not rich enough to send their daughters to anywhere more suitable and thus have to put up with the harsh conditions of life there because they have no economic alternative.

We can also see the restrictions placed on those without a strong economic position in society through the fate of Jane. As an educated woman without any money behind her, she had no option but to work as a teacher or a governess to support herself. This of course meant that she had to occupy the curiously ambivalent position of a paid servant who was not a servant but also definitely not a gentlewoman. Economically, Jane was very exposed, and without employment, as we can see when she flees Thornfield Hall, she is reduced to becoming a beggar.

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