The Cult of Domesticity Across Racial Lines in Literature

Submission Date


Document Type




Faculty Mentor

Talia Argondezzi


Presented during the 24th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 22, 2022 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

The Cult of Domesticity is the popular name for the rigid set of feminine ideals that proliferated in America during the mid-19th century. These ideals had a very specific audience: a married woman whose husband owned land, and who could afford to stay home instead of working. While not all women in America fell under these categories, they were still held to the same standard as those who were. My main focus within the Cult of Domesticity will be its expectations surrounding motherhood and child-rearing. My guide to the Cult of Domesticity will be Catherine Beecher’s American Woman’s Home, which is a household guide for women published in 1869. This guide covers topics Beecher felt every woman should know, from homemade décor to basic cell biology to raising a child. Using her book as a baseline for ideals and expectations, I will analyze literature written by women, and about women to gain a better understanding of how they reacted to the expectations set upon them. Given that the Cult of Domesticity reached its peak following the end of the Civil War, I will be looking into how Black women were treated differently than white women when it came to these ideals. From this project, I hope to uncover how such a strict social institution was realized and represented in literature, as well as who was truly allowed to be an “American” woman.

Open Access

Available to all.