Many people give the Victorian Era mixed reviews, with its progress in mechanization and technology, including the telegraph and steam machinery, and Great Britain's first comprehensive compulsory education laws juxtaposed against the rigid social and moral rules of the period. According to Robert Crooks and Karla Baur, authors of the book "Our Sexuality," a Victorian "marriageable woman possessed morals that were as tightly laced as her corset." She was expected to know and abide by a multitude of social mores and traditions.

Great Expectations and Grace

"Grace, graciousness and elegance" sums up most of the expectations for a Victorian woman's manners. She was to move and sit with poise, and society expected that she would be modest and inconspicuous in her speech and behavior. She was admonished to avoid hurting the feelings of others, expressing her opinion freely, laughing too loudly or at the wrong time or even greeting friends too enthusiastically. Speaking or acting in anger was unthinkable, and the Victorian woman was encouraged to lay aside her personal feelings about an enemy if they met in the home of a mutual friend. Civility, diplomacy, warmth and benevolence were the themes of the day.

Since the goal of the proper Victorian miss was to become the proper Victorian missus and mother; society also insisted that she kiss prudently, to avoid any embarrassment or distress should her engagement not work out. The genteel young woman was chaste and often sexually unenlightened.