Wife and mother
'... the childless single woman was a figure to be pitied.'
Women of the middle classes spent more time with their children than their predecessors. They were more likely to breast-feed, to play with and educate their children, and to incorporate them in the day-to-day life of the home. Middle-class women who, by mid century, were giving birth 'confined' within the home, now achieved true womanhood if they responded emotionally to their infants and bonded with them through breast-feeding and constant attendance. Motherhood was seen as an affirmation of their identity.
Marriage signified a woman's maturity and respectability, but motherhood was confirmation that she had entered the world of womanly virtue and female fulfilment. For a woman not to become a mother meant she was liable to be labelled inadequate, a failure or in some way abnormal. Motherhood was expected of a married woman and the childless single woman was a figure to be pitied. She was often encouraged to find work caring for children - as a governess or a nursery maid - presumably to compensate her for her loss.