I somewhat randomly came across the curious Victorian trend of maps of human conditions and experiences, including marriage and being a woman. The Open Country of a Woman’s Heart is of particular interest to me. I thought it would be a wonderful post in the lead up to Valentine’s Day and research soon followed.
The Open Country of a Woman’s Heart, or more commonly referred to as A Map of a Woman’s Heart is a telling look into the attitudes of men and mainstream society at the time. This is especially true when placed beside some similar illustrations that I will cover here.
Let’s take a look…
An extension of phrenology?
Let’s first talk about what A Map of a Woman’s Heart is not. Being familiar with many Victorian modalities for exploring health and wellness, when I saw the illustrations and title I immediately thought of phrenology, the practice of diagnosing a person via the shape of their head. Phrenology was popular (among those who subscribed to it) for explaining the sexist thought about the differences between the sexes. It was also used to explain why some people are more prone to infidelity or crime. It was not a far cry to think this was a sub-category of the trend.
As I came to find out, however, this so-called map has nothing to do with science but is rather a commentary on female sensibilities and motivations. The Open Country of a Woman’s Heart was created by lithographer D.W. Kellogg in the 1830s, when the “cult of true womanhood” and an extremely “traditional” view of femininity was being pushed by the media. As we saw in my last post on Lady’s Godey’s Book, depictions of white women performing activities typical of the female were widely popular. Kellogg’s company, D. W. Kellogg & Co., made a lot of its income on promoting such values, as seen in the image to the right. With the popularity of allegorical maps of the human condition rising, a woman’s heart for a natural territory to chart next.
A Map of a Woman’s Heart
So, what did Kellogg think a woman’s heart consists of? The primary territories include:
Love of Admirations
Love of Display
Love of Dress
How flattering, right??
Some of the smaller regions include:
If you are wondering how such an insulting depiction of a woman’s heart relates to the cult of womanhood and placing women on a pedestal, it is simply that many men preferred to view women as simple creatures with superficial motivations and thus best kept to the household or private duties. Although we now see this as offensive, many in the 1830s wouldn’t have thought twice about the content, especially considering how lovely the illustration is.
And a map of man’s heart?
Now let’s take a look at the way that Kellogg depicted the heart of a man…
The print Fortified Country of Man’s Heart was published around or at the same time and presents the idea that men are more focused, less selfish creatures. As you will see, the land of a man’s heart certainly looks a lot easier to navigate. It’s main territories are:
Land of Economy
Land of Love of Power
Love of Money
Love of Romance
Land of Love of Ease
What do you think of these territories compared to that found on a woman’s heart?
The minor territories are:
Love of Eating
Inner Breast-work of Fears of Petticoat Government
Mountains of Pride
And my favorite…Wall of Dread of a Woman’s Tounge
I think that Kellogg may have been projecting with this creation!
And what happens when the two combine? Matrimonial maps.
The male and female heart maps likely came in a clever response to the popularity of “matrimonial maps” that began to be created and sold in the late 18th century. These vary in content, approach, and attitude, but essential strive to outline the experience of a married couple. For instance, the 1815 Island of Matrimony shows the Turbulent Ocean to the South and the Ocean of Delights to the North. Along the way are the Gulf of Esteem, Lake Content, Admiration, Appreciation, and many temples dedicated to Greek Gods.
My favorite of the matrimonial maps I have explored thus far is the 1909 The State of Matrimony map. In the center is the land of Matrimony, landlocked by State of Innocence, State of Single Blessedness, State of License, State of Irresponsibility, and the State of Remorse.
Thank you Atlas Obscura for the wonderful collection.
Victorians had some curious ideas, didn’t they? They also loved Valentine’s Day, and I will follow up with more information about the charming and head-scratching ways that they celebrated.
Do you enjoy learning about Regency and Victorian objects? You may also enjoy these posts:
Before selfies and text messages were friendship books
Victorian hair jewelry: yay or nay?
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