Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Architecture in the Family Way

Architecture in the Family Way: Doctors, Houses, and Women, 1870-1900

  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Architecture in the Family Way
    Book Description:

    Adams argues that the many significant changes seen in this period were due not to architects' efforts but to the work of feminists and health reformers. Contrary to the widely held belief that the home symbolized a refuge and safe haven to Victorians, Adams reveals that middle-class houses were actually considered poisonous and dangerous and explores the involvement of physicians in exposing "unhealthy" architecture and designing improved domestic environments. She examines the contradictory roles of middle-class women as both regulators of healthy houses and sources of disease and danger within their own homes, particularly during childbirth.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6586-9
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Figures
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    “Narrow indeed is the path in which a mother must walk ... Through her a blessing or a curse has been cast upon the world,” noted Eliza Warren, the author of many popular advice books to women in the late nineteenth century.¹ Mrs Warren spoke perceptively of both the power and the complexity of Victorian motherhood. As a mother of eight children, she was an authority on the subject. Certainly the position was one of great influence in 1865. “All her past is summed up in it, the strength of her body, the attributes of her mind, her moral and...

  6. 1 The International Health Exhibition of 1884
    (pp. 9-35)

    The main entrance to the Old London Street was through Bishopsgate, an imposing Norman arch sliced through the Roman city wall.¹ The wide opening, above which towered a statue of William the Conqueror, was framed by two monumental towers. Narrow slits of windows hinted at the dark, confined prison cells within their massive and weather-worn masonry walls. Through the gateway, the picturesque sweep of the archaic street was breathtaking (fig. 1.1). Buildings of four or five storeys cast their darkening shadows across the narrow passageway to Elbow Lane. Crowds jostled their way in and out of such popular commercial establishments...

  7. 2 Doctors as Architects
    (pp. 36-72)

    The audience gasped as the lecturer described in detail the horror he had felt as a young boy when his father lifted the dilapidated floorboards of their family home; below, in the pungent earth, was a foul drain. This was the reason, the father had explained to his son, that their beloved home was overrun with rats. On further investigation, the father and son had discovered that the scullery sink, at some distance from the house, ran directly into a drain, emitting an extremely foul smell. “Disconnection between the house and the drainage system,” Dr T. Pridgin Teale explained, “is...

  8. 3 Female Regulation of the Healthy Home
    (pp. 73-102)

    “Woman’s sphere,” observed Harriette M. Plunkett, “has had a great many definitions.” To illustrate her idea of women’s place in sanitary reform, the author ofWomen, Plumbers, and Doctors; or Household Sanitationincluded in her book a sectional drawing of a standard middleclass house, labelled “A properly plumbed house - Woman’s Sphere.”¹ Drawn in the manner of Teale and the other house-doctors, it showed the exterior connections of a building to the municipal sewer system, as well as its ventilation and water supply (fig. 3.1). Woman’s sphere “begins where the service-pipe for water and the house-drain enter the street-mains,” explained the...

  9. 4 Childbirth at Home
    (pp. 103-128)

    The belief that the house and the body were inextricably linked, that ensuring the well-being of domestic spaces would ensure the health of the inhabitants of that space, and that this relationship between the house and the body should be regulated by women was never more evident than in the “architectural prescriptions” written by doctors for young married women in the late nineteenth century. In their observations on motherhood’s spatial implications, social critics and medical experts articulated a clear conception of both the productive and the destructive powers of Victorian women.

    The Victorian middle-class birthing experience was the time when...

  10. 5 Domestic Architecture and Victorian Feminism
    (pp. 129-162)

    In the last chapter we saw how the rituals associated with Victorian childbirth affected the ways in which rooms in the middle-class house were perceived, and how this in turn enforced new relationships between rooms (and people) because of what was believed to be happening inside the woman’s body. Improvements in the social status of Victorian women also changed the ways in which both domestic and urban spaces were perceived and controlled. Indeed, the spatial relationships among women and between mothers and children were significant issues in Victorian feminism, largely as a result of a fiery critique of the Victorian...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 163-168)

    The close association of houses, bodies, and women in England was short-lived - approximately thirty years - but it was profound. The end of the story occurred around the turn of the century, when Mrs Plunkett’s call for women and plumbers to do their whole duty was realized, at least in England. Contrary to her prediction, however, the need for doctors continued. By 1900, many of the ideas about domestic architecture that had emerged as aspects of health reform and feminism in Britain were incorporated into architect-designed houses and neighbourhoods. Doctors returned to treating people’s bodies separately from their houses;...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 169-198)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-222)
  14. Index
    (pp. 223-227)