This theme runs through several arguably “essential” works of literature, especially from the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
In Sense and Sensibility (1811) by Jane Austen, the fortunes and fates of women is the chief subject; through the tale of Colonel Brandon’s ruined lost love and fallen ward, society’s harsh judgment of women is particularly highlighted. Austen revisited this idea in several of her novels: another clear example is Pride and Prejudice (1813), in which the older Bennet sisters risk personal ruin due to the indiscretion of the youngest, Lydia.
Through the character of Nancy in Oliver Twist (1837-1839), Charles Dickens (1812-1870) analyses society’s ill judgment of seemingly immoral women.
The theme was explored internationally in The Scarlet Letter (1850) by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), by French novelist Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) in Madame Bovary (1856), and by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) in Anna Karenina (1873-1877).
Perhaps the best case of this literary theme is Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented (1891) by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928).