One thing that has always struck me as bizarre when reading the likes of Austen or the Brontes, for example, is how pathetically fragile they make ruling class women. Get caught in the rain or go a day without food? You're on death's door!
Is there evidence outside of novels (medical advice, magazines, anything really) that indicate whether people really believed ruling class women were so fragile?
Is there a class dependence? I.e. did a significant portion normal women, who were perfectly capable of living in poor conditions and missing meals, believe that if a Lady were thrown into their situation she'd be dead in a day or two? Did the upper class women themselves raise an eyebrow at the portrayal of their reaction to a little bad weather or hardship? Were such events widely accepted as a useful plot device, perhaps because describing actually life-threatening events may have raised objections?