I found myself reflecting on this when Mrs Fancy Dewy came round today.
One of the better class of villagers, Fancy is married to Dick, who's a kind of local white-van man. Talented, well-brought up and educated, Fancy has been worn to a shadow by nearly two decades of producing children on a regular basis.
Don't get me wrong, she's a lovely woman. But I get the feeling that the piercing, intelligent eye of her youth has long since retreated behind those dark rims. Ground down, as I say, by childbirth and child-raising.
But Fancy is by no means the only example of the stereotype failing in Victorian England. It goes without saying, at least round here, that practically nobody is ever a virgin when they're married. Generally speaking there's already one on the way - that way you can be sure the wedding's going to be productive. In the old days, the father was legally responsible for an illegitimate child - these days, it's the woman who pays, every time. Add to that the three-quarter of a million women working in textile factories, the prostitution - and if a prostitute catches a sexually transmitted disease, the brutal treatment - it's really not an example of Girl Power.