Browse Exhibits (5 total)

Sex, Sin, and Science: Gender Norms in the 19th Century


This exhibition explores the conflict between science and religion in the United States and how it caused a reforming of gender roles in the mid-19th century. To develop a better understanding of how these changes developed over time, the exhibition is divided into four time periods: The Age of Reform (1820s-1850s), The Health Movement (1830s-1850s), the late Antebellum Period (1850-1861), and The Gilded Age (1870s-1890s). Through these categories, the exhibit shows how religious definitions of etiquette were gradually altered to allow more sexual freedom for both genders. All objects in this exhibit are from the Josephine Long Wishart Mother, Home, and Heaven collection which consists of an array of etiquette manuals and pamphlets.  Although the texts from this collection were targeted for white, middle-class citizens, larger societal issues about race and gender can be gleaned from them. In this exhibit, issues of race, politics, sexuality, religion, and science all provide context for how and why gender roles were redefined in mid-19th century America. The exhibit overall answers the question of how the increasing influence of scientific/medical popular texts combined with existing Christian religious ideas embedded in etiquette books in the 1820s–1880s contributed to the reformulation of gender roles and sexual freedom.


Beneath the Painted Face: The Rise and Evolution of America’s Cosmetics Industry


This exhibit will examine the changing role of makeup in America between the 1850s and the 1930s. It will describe the transition from the discrete application of makeup to overt sales and marketing, which reflect changing societal beauty standards. It will also incorporate an investigation into the dangers of early makeup and the exacting standards of beauty prevalent during this time period.

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Lives of Their Own: Norm-Defying Women During the Progressive Era (1890-1920)


This exhibit explores the stories of women who did not conform to the pressures placed on middle and upper-middle class white women to pursue traditional romantic relationships with men during the Progressive Era (roughly 1890–1920). Through the use of etiquette books published around the turn of the century, selected articles in Ladies’ Home Journal (1898), and autobiographies of individual women from The College of Wooster’s Mother, Home, and Heaven Collection, it will examine the lives of women whose non-marital status defied the rigid norms set by Progressive Era standards.

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The Progressive Era: Shifting Gender Roles in White, Middle-class America


To enjoy this virtual exhibit on gender roles during the Progressive Era, please click on the heading titled "The Progressive Era: Shifting Gender Roles in White, Middle-class America" on the left sidebar. 

Begin by visiting the introduction page, followed by the sub-topics below it. 


Sex Education and Women's Health from the 1880s-1920s


This exhibit provides a broader understanding of perceptions of women’s health and beauty over time amidst three historical eras: Victorian Era, Progressive Era, and Post-World War I Era. Specifically, this exhibit examines the trends that affected medical professionals and how white middle class women - those who were targeted - perceived women’s sexuality, health, and beauty.