The Victorian Age: The 'New' Woman
The eighteenth century saw the rise of a new professional and entrepreneurial middle class. Included amongst which were many women who began, in various ways, to make their voices heard in fields ranging from politics (the anti-slavery movement) and religion (with the rise of the evangelical movement within Christianity) via intellectual thought such as the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's 'Vindication of The Rights of Woman'.
Once women's voices had begun to be heard across society they continued to be heard during The Victorian Era. In politics many women took up the cause of Female Suffrage. From evangelical Christianity arose increased concern for those less well off, leading to women on Workhouse and School Boards.
The nineteenth century produced an outpouring of female literary genius from the Bronte sisters to Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot. Education for middle class women improved greatly as did the opportunity for employment, with women entering the medical profession in various roles, including by the end of the period that of doctors. The law increasingly recognised Women's Rights in legislation such as The Married Women's Property Act of 1870.
All of these advances did not mean that women reached anything like equality with men, and the Victorian husband and father remained, in the language of the day, pater familias. However, change was happening and could now not be reversed, and is perhaps typified in women cyclists riding wearing - shock, horror - bloomers.