Great expectations are not satisfying for Martha. 

A member of the middle class in Victorian England, Martha is an accomplished young lady.

She has been taught to sing, to embroider delicate flowers that she has painted in her sketchbook. She knows she must not reveal thoughts of any depth at all.  

Of course, Martha is quite capable of running a household.

It is expected that she will marry and live much the same life under her husband’s rule as she did under her father’s guidance.

Her father’s great expectations for his oldest daughter who is now 26, include marriage to a fine man of his choice. He has already set his eyes on a match for Martha.

And tonight is the first time she will be meeting Samuel.

A match for Martha

The 35 year-old match he has chosen as her future husband has been earning high wages as a lawyer in the family firm. As such, he has proven that he is a stable prospect who will provide Martha with the niceties she has known all her life.

Martha is apprehensive that Mr. Garthwaite has found her a match much like himself: refined to the point of being obnoxious and conceited.

Tonight, she is wearing a strapless corset as is the fashion of this time.

Yes, this too might explain the serious look on Martha’s face. The poor woman has been known to faint from wearing the wretched undergarment.

Martha ready to meet her future husband
(Martha, ready to meet her husband. This is another entry in the Vintage series this year. Painted on 4.5" by 6" watercolour paper, this is a mixed media painting: watercolour and coloured pencils).

Hair in Victorian Times

During the Victorian Era (1837-1901), women had curling irons so their hair could be as fanciful as the dresses they wore to special functions.

Hairstyles in the 1800s varied from tight ringlets on the side of the face to hair piled high on the head with long loose curls in the back.

Hair tightly rolled under on the sides of the face such as on Martha was in fashion mid-century.

Women who didn’t have long, luxurious hair could wear wigs or hairpieces.

Martha wanted to add ribbons or beads as ornaments in her hair, but her father prefered that she keep her style demure.

Martha might have dyed her hair that deep bluish-black colour. Dye was available for men and women. 

The glossy shine from the natural oils in Martha’s hair is an indication that, like her friends and family, she may have washed her hair only once a month.

Martha's great expectations: fulfilled or not?

What do you imagine might happen to Martha in her future life as a married woman?  Will she learn to accept her lot in life?  Will she be involved in the burgeoning suffrage movement in the 1880's in England?

Let me know what you see in her life and I might include your ideas in a follow-up story about Martha later in the year.

2 Responses

  • Sorry to say that if she is being matched with someone like her father she is doomed to a life of misery, certainly great expectations, a dictator and only thinking of his own needs. It would be nice to think that her thoughts are wrong and he turns out to be thoughtful, loving and generous to a fault.

    • LOL! Poor Martha. Just imagine all the intelligent women like her who never got to have a say in anything whether it was at home or elsewhere.

      A follower on Facebook (and new subscriber to my newsletter) wrote that with Martha’s “strong-willed eyes and set jaw behind her soft exterior” the reader foresees “a rebellious future”. She believes I caught Martha with her guard down, a “rare glimpse of her “resting bitch face”! (Love it, Tracy!)

      Thanks Sally for adding to the backstory of what might happen to Martha as she moves on in life.

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