The Cult of Domesticity has its roots in the pre-industrial Victorian Era and the rising middle class. It was the woman's role to keep the home fires burning, care for and socialize the children and civilize the man by being the Christian light of the home. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_of_Domesticity)
The man (and the man alone) went out in the world to "work" and provide a living for his family. This implied that women were too fragile for the rigors and roughness of the world of work. They were better suited to housekeeping and child-rearing. The nuclear family became the backbone of post-Civil War society in the United States.
The good and proper young woman should cultivate piety, purity, domesticity and submissiveness. As an example, I will refer to Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Scarlett O'Hara was not a very good example of the good and proper young woman. However, Melanie Hamilton Wilkes has a backbone of steel and is a prime example of a good and proper woman of this time period. Melanie volunteers at the hospital and cares for the confederate wounded maintaining her composure at even the worst war wounds. This amazes her sister-in-law Scarlett who at times is revolted by the unsanitary conditions.