In the Victorian Age women were seen as the angel in the house as they were expected to take care of their households and their children as well as providing their husbands with emotional support. Queen Victoria herself, although being the queen, took care of her husband and consequently she was a good example of what Victorian women were expected to be by society. However, not all women conformed to the norm as many women started to fight for the right to vote and established themselves as good artists, travelers and nurses. Some writers, such as the Bronte sisters, Henry James and Virginia Woolf, helped establishing in the public a new independent and unconventional woman.
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a perfect example of the new figure of the woman as she struggles with her education but thanks to her hard work she is able to achieve a good education which helps her becoming financially independent.
Henry James’ Portrait of a lady’s protagonist, a young American woman named Isabel Archer, prefers travelling around Europe and learn new things and new cultures rather than settling down and starting a family as a woman of her social status is expected to. Moreover, she is characterised by an amazing wit and great intelligence and this another boost for her desire of independence. In addition to this, it’s because of her great intelligence and wit that she falls in love with an elegant and well mannered man.
Later on, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, who is a feminist, wrote about women struck by the will of becoming independent and the impossibility to break the chains that bind them to their condition: James Joyce’s Eveline desires to break free and strating a new life with her boyfriend in another country although she is stopped by the promise she made to her late mother. Whereas, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is divided by the desire of achieving independence and the consciousness of her social class.