What roles were women expected to fill during the Gilded Age? Did this in anyway affect their choices?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Gilded Age, historically speaking, is made up of a social group that is  no different than the Georgian, Victorian, nor Edwardian England in terms of the expectations of women's roles.

During this time, as it is evidenced in Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth women obtain their benefits through marriage, and are expected to fulfill the roles of doting wives. This, however, differs from the previous eras in that the Glided Age does not have to deal with the financial inadequacies of the British rule. Instead, the Gilded Age is the poster child of capitalism: Those who have, are.

Hence, women in good marriages during the Gilded Age are your typical socialites who enjoy their own or their husband's riches, enjoy themselves in exquisitely sumptuous extravagances, and have no shame of enjoying their sex lives outside of the marriage. In an age of excess anything is permitted as long as it is kept secret. Therefore, the gilded age will expect women to fulfill the traditional roles in the outside, yet it allows women to carefully exploit their goods in the inside with the utmost delicacy.

mariadesouto | Student

The historical context conforms the period of the “America´s gilded age” (more or less between 1875 and 1900). It was based in a society in which the rich became much richer and the poor became much poorer. Also, the economy in USA functioned very well, in the sense that it was experienced a great industrial expansion and the stock market was in its splendor. Great cities as New York became worlds divided in two distinguished extremes: on one side, there were millionaires who lived in mansions, and on the other side, there were immigrant families who lived in the poorest conditions.


-          Relationship between sex and money in the life of the New York´s upper class at that time. Society > tragic effects on this vulnerable young woman. Central premise of naturalism that human life is largely conditioned.