In medicine, micro-bacterial understanding led to better control of infectious disease, avoidance of cross-contamination in surgery and prevention of specific diseases through vaccination.Traditional treatments and nursing practices evolved to improve recovery rates, but there were few effective drug remedies and overall morbidity and mortality remained high.'The Queen is most anxious to enlist every one who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of "Woman's Rights", with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feeling and propriety...
In some ways resistance to change in gender relations thus represented a symbolically concentrated reaction against general democratisation.
Early Victorian gender prescriptions featured men as industrious breadwinners and women as their loyal helpmeets.
With the hindsight of a whole century, the latter view is perhaps more persuasive, for the situation in 2001 can be seen to have its beginnings in the Victorian era.
But actual changes in gender dispositions during the queen's long reign should not over-estimated.
If some notions of inequality were giving way to the idea that the sexes were 'equal but different', with some shared rights and responsibilities, law and custom still enforced female dependency.
As women gained autonomy and opportunities, male power was inevitably curtailed; significantly, however, men did not lose the legal obligation to provide financially, nor their right to domestic services within the family.But as monarch, Victoria - who in 1837 was only 18 years old - was socially and symbolically superior to every other citizen in Britain, all men being constitutionally considered her subjects.Changing patterns of patriarchal authority fell within a wider scenario of expanding rights and diminishing subservience for many people, including employees and young people.Feminist criticism is concerned with "..ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women" (Tyson 83).This school of theory looks at how aspects of our culture are inherently patriarchal (male dominated) and aims to expose misogyny in writing about women, which can take explicit and implicit forms.Moreover, the key symbol of democratic equality, the parliamentary franchise, was expressly and repeatedly withheld from women.In relation to health, the Victorian age saw major changes in knowledge and practice relating to public sanitation, largely in response to population growth and rapid urbanisation, with the gradual provision of piped water, sewerage and improved housing.Hospital-based medicine catered largely for the poor, many of whom ended their days in the local workhouse infirmary; middle- and upper-class patients were attended in their own homes.In mental health, patients were steadily concentrated in large, highly regulated lunatic asylums outside the urban areas.While the end of the era saw some demand for 'free' partnerships without the sanction of marriage, and an increase in same-sex relationships, both were generally deemed deviant.The mid-century was notable for its moral panic over prostitution, which developed - despite a 'permissive' interval in the 1860s - into demands for male continence outside marriage.