Life
Unearthed interview shows Victorian women describing what it was like to be teens in the 1800s
These women revealed what being a teen in the 1800s was really like.
Elijah Chan
09.02.22

The Victorian Era – a time of opulence and aristocratic beauty.

We’ve seen shows set when the British Empire was at its peak. And while these shows, like Bridgerton, Sherlock Holmes, and Jane Eyre, showed us a glimpse of how people lived back then, it’s still hard to imagine what life truly was like.

Pexels - Suzy Hazelwood
Source:
Pexels - Suzy Hazelwood

In an old interview by the BBC, two women shared how they lived their teenage years during Queen Victoria’s reign. Was it really filled with parties, forbidden love, and mystery?

During the 1970s, BBC interviewed two seniors.

At that point in time, they were one of the last people who were teenagers during the Victorian Era. And right before their eyes, they saw the world evolve at record speed.

YouTube Screenshot - BBC Archive
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - BBC Archive

The Victorian Era saw the quick transition from the last vestiges of the Early Modern Era to the advent of many novel technologies. We relied on wind to take us across the sea back then, but in the late 1800s, steam-propelled ships could go places without a current.

YouTube Screenshot - BBC Archive
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - BBC Archive

As horse-drawn carriages were still the transportation of choice, “horseless” vehicles began to emerge. And as these women were born at the time of oil lamps, some streets started to witness the miracle of electricity.

Frances ‘Effy’ Jones saw and participated in this grand evolution firsthand.

Jones was a typical Victorian teenager who spent her time lounging about. One day, her brother told her to go out and “get something to do”.

YouTube Screenshot - BBC Archive
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - BBC Archive

She didn’t know where to start looking for work but then his brother told her that he’d been to one of the shops along Victoria Street.

Through one of the glass windows of a big store, he saw women working on this “new machine”. Jones got work from the shop and was one of the first people who used the machine – a typewriter.

YouTube Screenshot - BBC Archive
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - BBC Archive

But not all “technology” or systems were as advanced as they are today. The idea was already there but the materials haven’t caught up with the innovation just yet.

Berta Ruck told BBC about how mischievous she was as a teenager.

She went to boarding school where teachers described her as indolent and lazy. She shared that instead of doing her school work, her workbook would be adorned with sketches and drawings.

YouTube Screenshot - BBC Archive
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - BBC Archive

After leaving her boarding school, she attended an art school in London. What surprised her was how muddy it was. To get off the road, she would often ride a bus. These aren’t the buses you’re accustomed to. These are double-decker horse-drawn carriages that served as the first innovations in public transportation.

But there are also some things that resemble the present.

Ruck shared that poverty is so widespread. She also shared that workers in the city were being underpaid despite the dangers of their occupation.

YouTube Screenshot - BBC Archive
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - BBC Archive

Women were also not afforded certain privileges, even the mundane ones like riding a bike.

Pexels - Suzy Hazelwood
Source:
Pexels - Suzy Hazelwood

Their teenage years might not be filled with pop stars, TV, and social media but we can say that it was as colorful and vibrant as their era can afford them. After all, some 60 years down the road, our teenage years will become relics for the future.

Check out the unearthed, archival interview in the video below.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

By Elijah Chan
hi@sbly.com
Elijah Chan is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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