How Far the Vote Has Come in America Since the Victorian Age

Voting. It is both a sacred right and profound responsibility. It is the symbol of a free and democratic society. It is the ultimate exercise of liberty.

And yet the history of voting in America is a long and complex one. There have been enormous changes in the American electoral process since the Victorian era, but one thing has remained the same: the ballot as the cornerstone of the American ideal.

For My Eyes Only?

One of the biggest changes in the American voting system since the Victorian age is the emergence of the idea of the private ballot. For most of early American history, voting was a much-publicized process. It evolved from vocal votes in the Revolutionary era to public, signature-based ballots.

By the late Victorian era, though, an aura of sacred privacy had come to surround the vote. A man’s ballot — and in this era, it was still only a man’s ballot — was his business alone. His right to his ballot was as inviolate as his right to the other core Constitutional freedoms: life, liberty, property.

Indeed, his vote was his way of guaranteeing these fundamental freedoms. It was his ticket to the pursuit of happiness. And it was shrouded in the same reverential secrecy of the personal home or the marital bed.

Super Suffragettes

This idea of the ballot as both the guarantee and the exercise of a man’s Constitutionally-protected rights, of course, didn’t exactly sit well with all those who were denied the same privilege. For modern women, the idea of a woman having the right to vote is a no-brainer. It’s so obvious it seems unnecessary to even have to state it outright.

But for the Victorians, things weren’t nearly so easy or so obvious. The Victorian girl’s ultimate goal in life, the one toward which she would be working from the moment she drew her first breath, was to marry well and start a home and family of her own.

Once that was done, well, she was pretty much set — at least as far as any kind of public or civic life was concerned. For the typical Victorian household, shaped by traditional ideals, the man’s political voice was the voice of his household, of which he was the head. And that meant that when a man voted, he voted for his wife and his children.

To enfranchise his wife, daughter, sister, mother, or aunt was to invite potential discord within the Victorian home. It was to sow division in what should be a cohesive, harmonious unit, the men operating in their given sphere (public life) and women operating in theirs (private life).

But while the separate spheres doctrine might sound all idyllic in theory, the reality was far darker. Women’s political disenfranchisement had often devastating consequences, essentially making them “non-persons” in the eyes of the law. That meant that they faced severe restrictions in everything from accessing education to owning property and even to retaining custody of their children in the event of a divorce.    

This was the political environment in which American women of the Victorian era began to fight for their right to vote. The struggle for women’s suffrage was a long and hard one, beginning in 1848 with the Seneca Fall Convention and ending in 1920, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Not So Fast

As revolutionary as the granting of women’s suffrage might have been in American political history, we still had a long way to go in 1920. Racial minorities and the poor were routinely denied their right to vote, and states came up with myriad dirty tricks to make that happen.

In the Jim Crow south, for example, tactics such as literacy tests, “poll taxes” and property tests, and grandfather clauses were used to restrict the vote largely to middle and upper-class whites. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act was ratified in 1965 that these exclusionary practices were formally outlawed.

But agitation for the extension of voting rights to all adult American citizens did not end there. Until 1971 and the enactment of the 26th Amendment, the national voting age had been 21. That was problematic, given that for decades, men as young as 18 were being sent to fight and die in America’s wars, with tens of thousands still being drafted to serve in Vietnam at that time.

The national enfranchisement of 18-year-olds allowed America’s young soldiers and veterans to have a voice in the government they were putting their lives on the line for. And this helped them shape the policies that would shape their lives both during and after service, such as policies related to GI housing, education, employment, and healthcare

The Takeaway

The vote is perhaps the most iconic symbol of a free society. But even in a nation founded on liberty, this fundamental human right has not been easily or quickly won. Women, minorities, the poor, and the young have had to fight for their place in our political system, for the right to have a voice and to exercise the liberty that, today, too many of us take for granted.

 

Historic Preservation: What Are the Most Necessary Renovations & Updates?

Historic preservation is a rewarding experience that requires a love of history and an understanding of design. Before you begin the journey, it’s essential to assess what to renovate or update and what to leave alone. That largely depends on the state of the property, but there are universal rules to follow and factors to consider when you tackle a period house.

The Exterior Part of the Equation

The exterior of the house or building is one of the most important aspects of the property. Many of the exterior details likely caught your attention and drew you to the property in the first place. The last thing you want to do is update the house so much that you eliminate historic nostalgia or the details that drew your eye in the first place.

Before beginning to renovate or update the building, it’s wise to check out the rest of the neighborhood, as well. Typically, all of the buildings and homes in a historic neighborhood will have a similar aesthetic. Stucco siding or an unsightly deck could take away from the cohesiveness of the entire neighborhood. Inasmuch as you can, try to preserve the facade of the house as it applies to roofing, siding, and wood or wrought ironwork.

That being said, you can work with historic architects and designers to update features in a way that retains the structure’s authenticity. Updating a property doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you have to change the way it looks. You can simply upgrade certain items with modern equivalents made to look like the originals. You can also seek out authentic features from the original time period.

 

Let There Be LightThe lighting in older houses often leaves something to be desired. Owners of historic properties are then at a loss. Do you preserve the original appearance of the interior, or do you illuminate the space with modern lighting that may be too bright?

Fortunately, those aren’t the only choices any longer. Many new, modern lights resemble vintage lighting options. You can always preserve the look of the lighting by opting for antique fixtures. Failing that, you can also invest in new fixtures that are deliberately designed to have a vintage patina.

The same is true for light bulbs. You don’t necessarily want to outfit your home with old-fashioned filament bulbs, which blow out frequently and are costly to upkeep. However, it’s possible to maintain an old look while using eco-friendly light bulbs. If you enjoy the charming appearance of an authentic Edison bulb, for example, you can light up your home with LED equivalents that come in a variety of color temperatures and brightness. That goes for period-inspired outdoor lighting, as well.

Pairing Safety and Historic Accuracy

 Replacing door knobs and locks causes debate among preservationists and people who are interested in renovating historic properties. The hardware on exterior doors is often gorgeous, not to mention indicative of the period. Regrettably, it can be faulty, as well. You’re left to decide if you want to risk a malfunctioning door lock or install new, glaringly modern knobs—right?

That’s the thought, but you needn’t go to extremes. Even if it means adding an additional lock and saving the original knob, you can carefully select a style and finish that evokes the time period and matches both the existing hardware and the overall appearance of the door.

Check the Pipes

 Water damage is a disaster in historic spaces. No matter what, make sure you check the pipes. Peer up at the ceilings and tap on the walls to assess possible water damage, as well. There’s no need to stick to authentic antique pipes. Upgrade for the sake and safety of the house.

Bathroom and Kitchen Updates

Most historic homeowners and preservationists agree that the bathroom(s) and kitchen are the rooms often in need of updating, but this can be a matter of preference. Plenty of folks appreciate kitchens and bathrooms with original features and fixtures, such as farmer’s sinks or 1920s tile. In that case, you can still update your space. Search for preserved and refurbished appliances and decor to install in your home.

Otherwise, feel free to upgrade where you see fit. You may crave a glass-enclosed shower over an old clawfoot tub. The kitchen may be crying out for a dishwasher. As long as you strive to maintain the integrity of the architecture and introduce period-appropriate decor and knickknacks inside, you can embrace modern conveniences in the rooms that need them most.

What do you choose to retain and renovate when you take on a historic property? Let us know the features you try to keep and what you prefer to replace.

Author Bio: Katie Tejada is a writer, editor, and former HR professional. She enjoys writing about events, travel, decorating trends, and innovations for the home, but also covers developments in HR, business communication, recruiting, real estate, and finance.

Trying to Buy a Heritage Property? Here are 5 Things to Remember

Heritage properties are unique, they have a lot of charm and character. This is especially true for Victorian homes that can easily be modernized to fit the 21st century and still emphasize their vintage characteristics.

However, as charming as they might be, heritage homes can come with some common issues. This is why it’s important to understand what it means to own a heritage property and what you should be paying attention to when buying one.

Here are five tips that will help you during the buying process.

Work with a Realtor

When buying a heritage property, a great idea would be to work with a realtor to help you find the perfect heritage home. Make sure you find a realtor that is experienced in selling heritage properties. The ideal realtor should have adequate knowledge and be able to offer you guidance during the process.

The realtor should also be able to answer any questions you might have about heritage homes. For example, you should ask about restrictions with renovations, costs of owning a heritage property, etc.

Inspect the Property

You need to be aware that heritage properties are old houses. This means that the wiring, plumbing or HVAC systems may need an upgrade.

So, before you decide on a certain heritage property you should, first, inspect it. The inspection will allow you to see if the home is in good condition.

Of course, you will need to hire a professional building inspector but when shopping around, you can do the basic inspection yourself to narrow down your choice.

Keep in mind that to make any renovations on a heritage property you might first need to get approval by a local heritage committee. The inspector you hire should know more about the restrictions for specific properties.

Know the Difference Between Listed and Designated Properties

Some people mistakenly think of listed and designated heritage as two different terms for the same type of property. In reality, there is a certain difference between the two. When looking for heritage homes, it’s important to know what kind of property you’re actually buying.

Properties that are designated as heritage have a legal status. This means that the City Council has legal authority to deny drastic renovation of the property.

On the other hand, properties that are listed as heritage don’t have the same legal status. However, the City Council can still decide to protect the property from demolition or drastic changes of its appearance, if it deems necessary.

Couple with real-estate agent signing home investment contract

Be Aware of All the Costs

Naturally, the first cost you will need to know is the price of the property itself. You can check property prices on websites with property listings to get an idea of what you can expect. Well-maintained heritage properties can be harder to find and for this reason, they might sell well over the listed prices.

Apart from the price of the property, there are other costs you will need to be aware of before buying a heritage home.

As mentioned before, heritage homes are old properties and some of them might need substantial renovation. You also might need to invest more in maintenance of your new home. The cost of insurance might also be a lot higher than for a regular house.

It’s important to know all of these costs upfront so you cut budget accordingly.

Think of the Resale Value

If you intend on selling your heritage home later on, you will need to think of its resale value. Houses that are well-maintained and keep their charm have a potential to grow in value. Also, the surrounding areas of these kind of properties are often protected and that can also add to the resale value.

Final Thoughts

When buying a heritage property there are certain things you should be aware of. Most importantly, you should thoroughly inspect the property and learn about the costs of potential renovation. During your search for the perfect heritage property, the above five tips will help you find your new home.

About the author:

Sienna Walker is an avid finance and career blogger, interested in helping people make smart financial decisions and multiplying their wealth. She is also a part of the team behind Brighter Finance, experts in the field of money management. Feel free to visit Sienna on @SiennaWalkerS.

 

Blending Timeless Victorian Fashion with Modern Trends

It’s hard to escape the considerable influence of the Victorian era in fashion. Its enduring popularity is visible at Steampunk Festivals around the country where people of all ages enjoy dressing up in full Victorian attire. Fashion has always been inviting to trends from the past and the Victorian age with its depth and range of styles is welcomed more than other eras, not just for elaborate dressing up costumes but as a classic everyday look. Victorian fashion is still popular today and with the basics woven into new modern designs, you can create a timeless look which can be adapted, updated and re-invented to suit any situation.

Updating Victorian Style

Re-invention is what fashion is all about and hints of Victorian style crop up in modern design time and again. If you are looking for dressy wear that makes you look classy and elegant, the combination of modern trends with classic styles is never out of fashion. Victorian fashion lends itself particularly well to the style of older women. Fitted blouses with long sleeves and high necks will flatter your figure while at the same time covering your neck and upper arms. The joy of blending fashion styles from different eras is that in this case you can drop the matching bustle. Instead, you can indulge in Victorian style but with a contemporary twist and wear an embroidered or lace trimmed shirt with a pair of classic straight leg trousers for an elegant and yet modern look..

Cut From the Same Cloth

Victorian clothes were limiting with tight corsets, bustles and cage crinolines. The voluminous skirts, although popular and striking, were uncomfortable, impractical and very restrictive. Thankfully, with the invention of lycra and less rigid ideas of the ideal figure, corsets are no longer necessary (unless you love the Steampunk look, of course!). However, there is no doubt that Victorian fashion still inspires our style today and some of if its most enduring elements, the luxurious materials and intricate decoration, are easily added to a modern wardrobe. A tailored velvet jacket in rich tones will give an ordinary outfit a dramatic Victorian look and even the simple addition of a black lace choker can add an element of Gothic 19th century style.

Inspired by Victorian Classics

At the recent Fashion Weeks in London and Paris, fitted blazers combined masculine and feminine aspects of Victorian fashion and John Galliano’s designs were inspired by the 1900s set novel Picnic at Hanging Rock. The white pinafore dresses decorated with pearl, similar in style to the recently revived prairie dress, are perfect for a hot summer but with the winter approaching, now might be a better time to invest in a long dress coat, soft leather gloves and lace up ankle boots, an enduring, classic Victorian style and perfect for a long country walk in the snow.

Combining Victorian influences with today’s fashion creates classic, timeless style for all ages. The echoes of the past are threaded throughout every era of fashion so by combining them with up to date style and practicality, you can pay tribute to the style of the Victorian era without compromise.

Incorporating Smart Tech Into That Classic Victorian Design


The overall theme for a Victorian home is ornate and lavish with a desire for decorations, some dating back to the 1800s. Since then, builders have worked tirelessly to design fancier ways to add ornamentation and decor that is relevant to changing times. The introduction of information technology towards the end of the 20th century opened possibilities for exchanging information between people, appliances and systems, possibilities that are still under exploration.

The smart home is the latest trend in innovative home technology, and it puts the safety and control of your entire home at your fingertips. With the internet of things (IoT) concept becoming a more visible and accessible option, you can transform your house and still keep that Victorian design and theme intact. Upon installation, you would be able to remotely control common aspects such as security, lighting, doors and temperature. Making your home smart could also raise the value of your Victorian house considerably.

Wireless or wired?

“When transforming your Victorian home, it is advisable to use wireless technology,” Andy Stanford-Clark, head of IoT department at IBM told the Guardian. By so doing, you will be causing minimal disturbance and damage to your decorations. In case you encounter problems with signals, you can opt for mesh controllers such as ZigBee because they offer better coverage. In addition, smart lighting systems for the home can be mounted on the wall plates, which can then be customised to look like a traditional switch that matches the exact theme of your interior. If you have to install a wired system, it is advised that you do it when other renovations are done, such as an energy retrofit. You can also snake a wire through the floor joists, though it could be more expensive.

Old heating and smart locks

The difficulty with older homes is that rooms tend to vary in temperature, but you can overshadow that by having smart heating sensors monitoring each room’s temperature and comparing it to external weather from a weather website or an outside sensor. If your home uses storage heaters, purchase a disguise adaptor that sits between the wall socket and the plug of your appliance. When it comes to smart locks, you do not have to destroy your doors and windows. “We had a gorgeous antique door that we did not want to cut into to install the new smart locks. We got a keyless entry system that sits on the top and replaced the deadbolt on the interior, and it works perfectly.,” said Christian Roehl, owner of Incommand Systems.

That 100-year-old house with stunning decor, high ceilings and ornate chandeliers is beautiful, but if it does not feature technology that makes your life easier, then it needs some adjustments. The goal is to install smart technology while maintaining the overall Victorian look. “The good news is that everyday technology is becoming more wireless and devices are getting smaller,” claimed Dan Diclerico, a smart home strategist for HomeAdvisor. He says that internet signals, with the help of WIFI boosters, are overcoming barriers, making installation of smart devices less invasive.