Hall Men are born free, how is it that all Women are born slaves? As they must be if the being subjected to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary Will of Men, be the Perfect Condition of Slavery? [Mary Astell, Reflections upon Marriage (London, 1700), p. 66]
The wife ought to be subject to the husband in all things. [Hannah Woolley, The Gentlewoman's Companion or a GUIDE to the Female sex (London, 1675), p. 104]
Did men and women have different cultural and material values in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries? We know very little in detail about the activities of people within their homes and especially about their attitudes to the material goods that they used and that surrounded them. Virginia Woolf's complaint that she had no model to “turn about this way and that” in exploring the role of women in fiction applies equally to women's behavior as consumers, for we still do not know, as she put it, “what, in short, they did from eight in the morning till eight at night.” Did their particular roles within the household result in different material values, just as their biological and economic roles were different? We do know that power was unequally distributed within the household, although we can also demonstrate cooperation and affection between family members. We take it that the household was, in some sense, the woman's domain, but very often we cannot explore what this meant in practice. In short, was being “subjected to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary Will of Men” reflected in women's cultural values and tastes?
These are broad questions that are not easily answered, either in theory or by observation, especially as it is not easy to identify the behavior of women as distinct from that of the family and household, but they are questions worth asking to see if there are signs of behavior different enough to warrant the view that there was a subculture in which women had the chance to express themselves and their views of the world separately, especially as the daily routines of their lives were different.