In the Victorian era when David Livingstone began exploring, ideas about the roles of men and women in Britain were very different from those in Southern Africa. In Victorian Britain, women were treated unequally to men. The ideal place for a woman was believed to be the private sphere of the home, where she was responsible for housekeeping, cooking, cleaning and raising children.
Working-class women, however, had no choice but to work in factories or in the domestic service of richer families. Men, like David, worked and provided food for their families. On the whole, men held the positions of authority and power in society.
Unlike in Britain, the wives of missionaries stationed abroad played a much more active role in public. Throughout Africa, women were spiritual leaders, chiefs and warriors. These were very different from the roles of women in Britain at the time, as the women David encountered often did the same jobs and tasks as men.
However, during this time women were often excluded from historical narratives due to beliefs around gender roles and stereotypes of women and men’s roles within society.
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