What’s Wrong with the Cult of Domesticity?

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Culture, not a Cult of Domesticity: Where Barbara Welter got it wrong and why we need these virtues even more

The book ‘Cult of True Womanhood’ by historian Barbara Welter destroys the true intention of Biblical womanhood. It’s been used to invalidate gender roles in the Bible and make it appear that patriarchy is oppressive.

Popularized during America’s second “great awakening,” labeling the “Culture of Domesticity” as a “cult” denigrates Christian values.

What is the Culture of Domesticity?

Scripture says a wise woman builds her house. It implies doing chores and nurturing. However, the Bible also commands husbands to support their wives as the “light of the home.”

In a nutshell, domesticity is helping build a happy home. In contrast, Welter’s book taught women to assume religious piety is inherently destructive—wrong on many levels.

Proverbs 14:1
The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands, the foolish one tears hers down.

1 Peter 3:7
You husbands, in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life so that your prayers will not be hindered.

The cardinal virtues of a true woman of domesticity

The virtues of a proper woman were piety, purity, and submission to a “loving husband.” Religious piety, the core of a woman’s virtue, is the source of her strength. Young men looking for a wife were cautioned to look for piety. “If that were there, all else would follow.”

The Culture mistitled “Cult of Domesticity” wasn’t limited to ordinary people. It was widespread even among the elite, except that they had servants. (PAINTING: Chalon Family in London (ca. 1800) painting in high resolution by Jacques–Laurent Agasse.)

1. Culture of Domesticity does not hostage women

Welter refers to religious virtues as “peculiar susceptibility.” Because of religious devotion, “It did not take a woman away from her proper sphere,” her home (Pages 152-3). Thus referring to domesticated women as “Hostage at home.”

For thousands of years, mothers have taken care of the home and their offspring while the husband is in the field working. While the roles can be reversed, it makes sense for strong men to do hard labor.

True to Welter’s claim, women were stereotyped in magazines and Christian literature. It alienated women who wanted to excel and do more. However, it doesn’t invalidate the virtues of domesticity.

In 2019, a Gallup poll indicated that 56% of American women prefer to work rather than be homemakers. Technology has enabled them to do more, but it has also compromised proper nurturing.

women were stereotyped.

female ad
Wives are often portrayed as “homemakers” in vintage ads. Although more women are proud of their role, feminists resent the stereotype. The Bible designed wives to help the husbands, the husband to love and honor his wife.

2. Feminists disavowing domesticity are pushing decadence

Labeling domesticity a cult and associating it with whites and protestants is the perfect springboard to push back Biblical feminism. Neo-feminists don’t hide their view of religion as sadistic and immoral. Moreso Domesticity.

For example, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97) is considered the earliest feminist who was also an atheist. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who published a women’s Bible (1895, 1898), viewed religious orthodoxy and masculine theology as obstructing self-sovereignty.

Christianity views women, especially mothers, as the “light of the home.” But for radical feminists, domesticated women who cook, clean the house, and take care of kids, are an insult to women instead of virtue. Doing so redefines morality.

For example, what used to be a virtue, such as virginity (pearl of great price), is shamed and scorned. The opposite is celebrated, and sexual immorality is justified.

What Welter called the “Cult of Domesticity” protected the nuclear families. Today, atheist groups like Black Lives Matter and militant LGBTQ want to disrupt it.

The cult of neo-feminism

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RGB) is the “great equalizer.” A hero to women with a cult following of her own, says writer David Kinder. After all, RG is a neo-feminist icon who fought for women’s place in modern society.

However, the Bible labels her as Satan’s pawn in promoting a “decadent society” that promotes immorality. Liberals like her call it progressive ideology.

RGB was a crucial vote in allowing same-sex marriages, reported USA Today. Apparently, she would rather have abortion legalized than allow all unborn persons to live.

Neo-feminists are opposed to the cardinal virtues of Domesticity.

Domesticity is not about gender inequality

Renowned psychologist Jordan Peterson referred to the biological differences between men and women as critical to the skills or careers they choose. He also debunked the women’s pay gap that neofeminists blame on gender inequality.

God created males and females for particular roles that were never intended to abuse one another, as the cult of domesticity presupposes.

There are things women can do better than men, which do not take away their ability to be wives or mothers. Admittedly, patriarchy was abused, not to say all Christian men stifled women.

In the Bible, submission to the husband also meant loving the wife—more precious than a jewel—not shackled. (Proverbs 31:10)

3. Women of domesticity are not an oppression

In 1890, women high school graduates began to outnumber men. They began to fill new jobs in offices, stores, and classrooms. Likewise, women without formal education began to have jobs, and roughly 70% of the employed servants were women in 1870.

The point is that women of domesticity were never prevented from doing what they liked outside their homes or family.

Women empowerment is vital

Today, we have nations led by women. When Queen Elizabeth II died in 2022, millions worldwide remembered her with utmost respect and fondness. She is known for her filial piety and openly declared her faith in Jesus.

The Bible, too, is filled with women like Queen Esther, Hanna, and Mary Magdalene, who helped forge societies and made a difference in their sphere of influence.

Domesticated women who were achievers at the same time

  • Catherine Booth co-founded the Salvation Army with her husband William in 1865. The couple raised eight children while evangelizing and working among Britain’s poor. 
  • Margaret Thatcher was a devoted mother and wife. The “Iron Lady” was a homemaker yet was able to manage a country with her husband by her side. 
  • Ruth Graham gave up her missionary dream for her husband, Billy. She shouldered, often by herself, running the home and rearing five children. Still, she managed to be a crucial part of the success of her husband’s evangelical mission.
  • Kara Kennedy, daughter of Senator Ted Kennedy, chose to be a full-time homemaker. Still, she managed to get involved with civic organizations.
  • Ali Hewson, an activist, businesswoman, and busy homemaker, is the “Sweetest Thing.” She had a degree in politics and sociology, but her full-time career is with her four kids and U2’s Bono, her husband.

The bottom line, the Culture of domesticity is not a cult that hostage women

Domesticity is not for everyone. However, to blame coercion because of religious (Christian) piety is ridiculous. Many other cultures practice it out of love and devotion.

Studies show that children raised in intact families, i.e., two con­tinuously married parents, tend to fare better on several cognitive, emotional, and behavioral outcomes than children living in other family forms. [Heritage]

Their accomplishments cannot be measured in wealth or career but by how their children have turned out and their marriage intact.

A Scottish Blessing
If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

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