Womens Roles in Eighteenth-Century America (Womens Roles through History)

Women's Participation in Public Life in the Early 1800s
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see Upon marriage, she would have become a feme covert ; her identity and property then transferred to her husband. Generally this work was done for the benefit of the family, and not the outside world. These women would have served as seamstresses or nurses. The town councils granted them the right to own a business to keep them off public relief.

Enforcing Gender Roles. They also approved marriages before any ceremony took place. Breaking the Roles. There was simply no need for it. They enjoyed all the freedom they wanted. This was the highest position in any Protestant church that women could hope to achieve. With no place to call home, these women were often seen as vagrants bound to disturb the morality of the towns they visited. Consequently, female preachers faced jeers, catcalls and all manner of other abuse from the citizens of the towns they visited.

Consequently, Hutchinson often invited people to her home to discuss sermons and spiritual matters. About 27 percent of the population comprised men between 16 and 60 years old. The benefits of economic growth were widely distributed, with even farm laborers better off at the end of the colonial period. The growing population led to shortages of good farm land on which young families could establish themselves; one result was to delay marriage, and another was to move to new lands further west. In the towns and cities, there was strong entrepreneurship, and a steady increase in the specialization of labor.

Wages for men went up steadily before ; new occupations were opening for women, including weaving, teaching, and tailoring. The region bordered New France , which used Indian warriors to attack outlying villages. Women were sometimes captured. In the numerous French and Indian Wars the British government poured money in to purchase supplies, build roads and pay colonial soldiers.

The coastal ports began to specialize in fishing, international trade and shipbuilding—and after in whaling. Combined with a growing urban markets for farm products, these factors allowed the economy to flourish despite the lack of technological innovation.

Tax-supported schooling for girls began as early as in New England. It was optional and some towns proved reluctant. Northampton, Massachusetts, for example, was a late adopter because it had many rich families who dominated the political and social structures and they did not want to pay taxes to aid poor families. Northampton assessed taxes on all households, rather than only on those with children, and used the funds to support a grammar school to prepare boys for college. Not until after did Northampton educate girls with public money. In contrast, the town of Sutton, Massachusetts, was diverse in terms of social leadership and religion at an early point in its history.

Sutton paid for its schools by means of taxes on households with children only, thereby creating an active constituency in favor of universal education for both boys and girls. Historians point out that reading and writing were different skills in the colonial era. School taught both, but in places without schools reading was mainly taught to boys and also a few privileged girls.

Men handled worldly affairs and needed to read and write. Girls only needed to read especially religious materials. This educational disparity between reading and writing explains why the colonial women often could read, but could not write so they used an "X" to sign their names. Hispanic women played a central role in traditional family life in the Spanish colonies of New Mexico; their descendants comprise a large element in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Gutierrez finds a high level of illegitimacy, especially among the Indians who were used as slaves.

The American Indian woman has been seen as a symbolic paradox. Depending on the perspective, she has been viewed as either the civilized princess or the destructive squaw. A highly favorable image has surrounded Pocahontas , the daughter of the Native American chief Powhatan in Virginia. She was taken hostage by the colonists in , when she was seventeen. She converted to Christianity and married planter John Rolfe in It was the first recorded interracial marriage in American history. She and Rolfe sailed to England in , where she was presented at the court of King James I ; she died soon after.

Townsend argues that Pocahontas was not a powerful princess, but just one of many of the chief's daughters. She was assertive, youthful, and athletic; she returns Rolfe's love while also observing the Algonquin practice of constructing alliances through marriage, and she accepts Christianity as complementing her Algonquin religious worldview.

There were many tales about her in Virginia and England, reflecting myth, culture, romanticism, colonialism, and historical events as well as narratives of intermarriage, heroic women, and gender and sexuality as metaphors for national, religious, and racial differences. Cecily Jordan Farrar was an early women settler of colonial Jamestown.

She came to the colony as a child aboard the Swan in Arriving in the middle of the first Anglo-Powhatan war, she established herself as one of the few female ancient planters. She married Samuel Jordan sometime before In the same year, Cecily became the defendant in the first breach of promise lawsuit in English North America when she chose the marriage proposal of William Farrar over that of Grivell Pooley see Cecily Jordan v. Greville Pooley dispute [21] : [22] : — [23]. On November 21, , the Mayflower arrived in what is today Provincetown, Massachusetts , bringing the Puritan pilgrims.

In the s, Anne Hutchinson — began to hold religious meetings in her home, which attracted the attendance not only of women but of prominent men, including affluent young civil officials.

Terri L. Snyder

The authorities, led by Reverend John Winthrop who was also the colony's governor , first attacked her indirectly by banishing her brother-in-law, a minister who shared her views. Hutchinson herself was summoned to trial late in and also banished, but allowed to remain under house arrest until the end of winter.

In March , she was again brought before the court and formally excommunicated; she and her children soon joined her husband, who had prepared a home for them in the new colony of Rhode Island, which had been founded less than two years earlier by other dissidents exiled from Massachusetts. In , Elizabeth Key Grinstead , who was a slave in Virginia, won her freedom in a lawsuit based on her father's status as a free Englishman her mother was a slave and her father was her mother's owner , helped by the fact that her father had baptized her as Christian in the Church of England.

As a result, religion was less useful as a way to differentiate and skin color became more important. Many elite men had children with slaves. The number of births out of wedlock in Latin America was much higher than in Europe. On the other hand, unmarried white women who had mixed-race children were treated worse than those who had white children. Despite the expectation of men to father mixed-raced children with nonwhite women, rape of a woman by a black man could lead to castration and European women who married indigenous men lost their "European" status.

As more white women moved to the new colonies, interracial sex became less common since Europeans became concerned with "racial survival". In the small Puritan community of Salem Village , Massachusetts, the Salem witch trials began in They began when a group of girls gathered in the evenings in the home of Reverend Parris to listen to stories told by one of his slaves, Tituba.

They played fortune-telling games, which were strictly forbidden by the Puritans. The girls began acting strangely, leading the Puritan community to suspect that the girls were victims of witchcraft. The girls named three townswomen as witches — Tituba , Sarah Good , and Sarah Osbourne ; Tituba confessed to having seen the devil and also stated that there was a coven of witches in the Salem Village area. The other two women insisted they were innocent, but had a formal legal trial where they were found guilty of practicing witchcraft.

The affected girls accused other townspeople of torturing them with witchcraft, and some on trial also named others as witches. By the end of the trials in , 24 people had died, some in jail but 19 by hanging, and one by being pressed to death. Some of the accused confessed to being witches, but none of those were hanged, only those who maintained their innocence; those who were hanged include 13 women and 6 men. Salem was the beginning, but it was quickly followed by witchcraft scares in 24 other Puritan communities, with more accused witches.

Outside Salem, the episodes were short and not dramatic, and usually involved only one or two people. Most were older women, often widowed or single, with a history of bickering and disputes with neighbors. In October , the governor of Massachusetts halted court proceedings, restricted new arrests, and then dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer, thereby ending the witch hunts. Under legal rules of " coverture ," a wife had no separate legal identity; everything she did was under her authority of her husband. He controlled all the money, including any dowry or inheritance she might have brought to the marriage.

She had certain legal rights to a share of the family property when the husband died. She was in charge of feeding, cleaning and medical care for everyone in the household, as well as supervising the servants. At harvest time she helped the menfolk gather the crops. She typically kept a vegetable garden, and cared for the poultry and milked the cows. The husband handled the other livestock and the dogs. Good housewives raised good children who would become upstanding citizens in the community. A few housewives were able to file for divorces. Bradstreet linked sexual and cultural reproduction and posited the nuclear family as the place where individual and community identities are formed; she located education within a familial rather than an institutional setting.

The poem describes a violent incident that occurred between settlers and Native Americans in Deerfield, Massachusetts in In , Lydia Chapin Taft of Uxbridge, Massachusetts became the only colonial woman known to vote, casting a vote in the local town hall meeting in place of her deceased husband. In the s evangelists ignited a religious revival—called the First Great Awakening —which energized Protestants up and down the 13 colonies. It was characterized by ecstatic emotionalism and egalitarianism, which split several denominations into old and new factions.

Although the women were rarely allowed to preach, they had a voice and a vote in church affairs, and were especially interested in close monitoring of the moral behavior of church members. The autobiography of Hannah Heaton —94 , a farm wife of North Haven, Connecticut, tells of her experiences in the Great Awakening, her encounters with Satan, her intellectual and spiritual development, and life on the farm.

The evangelicals worked hard to convert the slaves to Christianity and were especially successful among black women, who played the role of religious specialists in Africa and again in America. Slave women exercised wide-ranging spiritual leadership among Africans in America in healing and medicine, church discipline, and revivalistic enthusiasm. Using the colonies of Virginia and Maryland as a case study, Mellen argues that women in the midth century had a significant role in the world of print and the public sphere.

The voice of women was spread through books, newspapers, and popular almanacs. Some women writers sought equal treatment under the law and became involved in public debates even before the Stamp Act controversy of A powerful coercive tool the Americans used to protest British policies after was the boycott of imported British consumer goods.

Women played an active role in encouraging patriotic boycotts and monitoring compliance. They refused to purchase imports, while emphasizing the virtues of avoiding luxury by using homespun clothing and other locally made products. The Revolution had a deep effect on the philosophical underpinnings of American society.

One aspect that was drastically changed by the democratic ideals of the Revolution was the roles of women. The idea of republican motherhood was born in this period and reflects the importance of Republicanism as the dominant American ideology. Republicanism assumed that a successful republic rested upon the virtue of its citizens. Thus, women had the essential role of instilling their children with values conducive to a healthy republic. During this period, the wife's relationship with her husband also became more liberal, as love and affection instead of obedience and subservience began to characterize the ideal marital relationship.

In addition, many women contributed to the war effort through fundraising and running family businesses in the absence of husbands. Whatever gains they had made, however, women still found themselves subordinated, legally and socially, to their husbands, disenfranchised and with only the role of mother open to them. Deborah Sampson was the only woman historians know of who fought disguised as a man in the Revolutionary War.

In , she disguised herself as a man and joined the 4th Massachusetts Regiment. When her gender was finally discovered she was given an honorable discharge. In , Margaret Corbin fired her husband's cannon after he was killed; she was herself severely wounded in the battle. She received a pension from Congress in recognition of her service, making her the first American woman ever to receive a government pension. At the battle of Monmouth in , Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley fired her husband's cannon after he was wounded in battle.

Her story morphed into the "Molly Pitcher" legend. In March , Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John Adams , a leader in the Continental Congress, recommending "In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Depend upon it, we know better than to repeal our masculine systems. Zagarri argues the Revolution created an ongoing debate on the rights of woman and created an environment favorable to women's participation in politics.

First Lady Martha Washington sponsored social events in the national capital. The socializing became known as "the Republican Court" and provided elite women with an opportunity to play backstage political role. However the opening of possibilities also engendered a backlash that actually set back the cause of women's rights and led to a greater rigidity that marginalized women from political life. Quakers were strong in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and had developed equalitarian views of the role of women. They believed that all human beings, regardless of sex, had the same Inner light.

The best known Indian woman after Pocahontas was Sacagawea — , who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition — overland expedition to the Pacific coast and back. The two captains hired her husband, a fur trapper, as an interpreter, with the understanding that she would come along to interpret the Shoshone language, which she did.

Sacagawea was only about 16 and delivered a son on the trip. Her role has been greatly exaggerated, in large part because writers wanted to use her as an Indian endorsement of Manifest Destiny. Clear-cut gender norms prevailed among the farm families who settled in the Midwestern region between and Men were the breadwinners who considered the profitability of farming in a particular location — or "market-minded agrarianism" — and worked hard to provide for their families.

They had an almost exclusive voice regarding public matters, such as voting and handling the money. During the migration westward, women's diaries show little interest in and financial problems, but great concern with the threat of separation from family and friends. Furthermore, women experienced a physical toll because they were expected to have babies, supervise the domestic chores, care for the sick, and take control of the garden crops and poultry.

Outside the German American community, women rarely did fieldwork on the farm. The women set up neighborhood social organizations, often revolving around church membership, or quilting parties. They exchanged information and tips on child-rearing, and helped each other in childbirth. The "Cult of Domesticity" was a new ideal of womanhood that emerged at this time.

Many women in the 19th century were involved in reform movements, particularly abolitionism. In , Maria W. Stewart who was African-American began to write essays and make speeches against slavery, promoting educational and economic self-sufficiency for African Americans. The first woman of any color to speak on political issues in public, Stewart gave her last public speech in before retiring from public speaking to work in women's organizations.

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Although her career was short, it set the stage for the African-American women speakers who followed; Frances Ellen Watkins Harper , Sojourner Truth , and Harriet Tubman , among others. To take one example of the danger, Pennsylvania Hall was the site in of the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women , and as 3, white and black women gathered to hear prominent abolitionists such as Maria Weston Chapman , the speakers' voices were drowned out by the mob which had gathered outside.

Even so, many women's anti-slavery societies were active before the Civil War, the first one having been created in by free black women from Salem, Massachusetts [74] Fiery abolitionist, Abby Kelley Foster , was an ultra-abolitionist, who also led Lucy Stone , and Susan B. Anthony into the anti-slavery movement.

19th and early 20th century

In , Emma Willard founded the Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York, which was the first American educational institution to offer young women a pre-college education equal to that given to young men. Subjects included algebra, anatomy, natural philosophy and geography. It was the first college opened for women and is now Mount Holyoke College , one of the Seven Sisters. Lyon was a deeply religious Congregationalist who, although not a minister, preached revivals at her school. She greatly admired colonial theologian Jonathan Edwards for his theology and his ideals of self-restraint, self-denial, and disinterested benevolence.

In , it became the first coeducational college by admitting four women. Soon women were fully integrated into the college, and comprised from a third to a half of the student body. The religious founders, especially evangelical theologian Charles Grandison Finney , saw women as inherently morally superior to men. Indeed, many alumnae, inspired by this sense of superiority and their personal duty to fulfill God's mission engaged in missionary work.

Historians have typically presented coeducation at Oberlin as an enlightened societal development presaging the future evolution of the ideal of equality for women in higher education [80]. The enrollment of women in higher education grew steadily after the Civil War. Women were heavily involved with the rights of people confined in institutions.

Dorothea Dix — was especially well known. She investigated the conditions of many jails, mental hospitals, and almshouses, and presented her findings to state legislatures, leading to reforms and the building of 30 new asylums. This Convention was inspired by the fact that in , when Elizabeth Cady Stanton met Lucretia Mott at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, the conference refused to seat Mott and other women delegates from America because of their gender.

An estimated three hundred women and men attended the Convention, including notables Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglass. The style and format of the "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions" was that of the "Declaration of Independence;" for example the "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions" stated, "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men and women are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. The declaration went on to specify female grievances in regard to the laws denying married women ownership of wages, money, and property all of which they were required to turn over to their husbands; laws requiring this, in effect throughout America, were called coverture laws , women's lack of access to education and professional careers, and the lowly status accorded women in most churches.

This convention elected Abigail Bush as its president, making it the first public meeting composed of both men and women in the U. In , Elizabeth Blackwell — , graduated from Geneva Medical College in New York at the head of her class and thus became the first female doctor in America. In , she and her sister Emily, and their colleague Marie Elisabeth Zakrzewska — , founded the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children , the first American hospital run by women and the first dedicated to serving women and children.

The rapid growth of textile manufacturing in New England — caused a shortage of workers. Recruiters were hired by mill agents to enlist young women. Between and , thousands of unmarried farm women moved from rural areas, where there was no paid employment, to the nearby mill villages. Farmers' daughters worked to aid their families financially, save for marriage, and widen their horizons. As the textile industry grew, immigration also grew.

By the s the mill owners replaced all the Yankee girls with immigrants, especially Irish and French Canadians. Women continued to be active in reform movements in the second half of the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Harriet Tubman , a runaway slave herself, freed more than 70 slaves over the course of 13 secret rescue missions to the South. Acting as an advisory to Colonel James Montgomery and his soldiers, Tubman led them in a raid in South Carolina from Port Royal to the interior, some twenty-five miles up the Combahee River, where they freed approximately slaves.

During the American Civil War — Dorothea Dix served as the Union's Superintendent of Female Nurses throughout the war, and was in charge of all female nurses working in army hospitals, which was over 3, nurses. Mary Edwards Walker served as assistant surgeon with General Burnside's Union forces in and with an Ohio regiment in East Tennessee the following year. Imprisoned in Richmond as a spy, she was eventually released and returned to serve as a hospital surgeon at a women's prisoner-of-war hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.

At the start southern women gave zealous support for their menfolk going off to war. They saw the men as protectors and invested heavily in the romantic idea of men fighting to defend the honor of their country, family, and way of life. African American women, on the other hand, had experienced the breakup of families for generations and were once again dealing with this issue at the outbreak of war.

By summer , the Union naval blockade virtually shut down the export of cotton and the import of manufactured goods. Food that formerly came overland was cut off. Women had charge of making do. They cut back on purchases, brought out old spinning wheels and enlarged their gardens with peas and peanuts to provide clothing and food. They used ersatz substitutes when possible, but there was no real coffee and it was hard to develop a taste for the okra or chicory substitutes used.

The households were severely hurt by inflation in the cost of everyday items and the shortages of food, fodder for the animals, and medical supplies for the wounded. But food shortages only worsened, especially in the towns. The overall decline in food supplies, made worse by the collapsing transportation system, led to serious shortages and high prices in urban areas. When bacon reached a dollar a pound in , the poor women of Richmond, Atlanta and many other cities began to riot; they broke into shops and warehouses to seize food.

The women expressed their anger at ineffective state relief efforts, speculators, merchants and planters. As wives and widows of soldiers they were hurt by the inadequate welfare system. Widows who were overwhelmed often abandoned the farm and merged into the households of relatives, or even became refugees living in camps with high rates of disease and death. Now it became almost a norm. Divorce, while never fully accepted, became more common. The concept of the "New Woman" emerged—she was self-sufficient, independent, and stood in sharp contrast to the "Southern Belle" of antebellum lore.

The work patterns of elite white women changed radically after the Civil War, depending on their stage in the life cycle. Women over age 50 changed least, insisting that they needed servants and continuing their traditional managerial roles. The next generation, comprising the young wives and mothers during the Civil War, depended much less on black servants, and displayed greater flexibility toward household work. The youngest generation, which matured during the war and Reconstruction, did many of their own domestic chores.

Some sought paid jobs outside the household, especially in teaching, which allowed an escape from domestic chores and obligatory marriage. The arrival of the railroads in the s open up the Great Plains for settlement, for now it was possible to ship wheat and other crops at low cost to the urban markets in the East, and Europe. Immigrants poured in, especially from Germany and Scandinavia. On the plains, very few single men attempted to operate a farm or ranch by themselves; they clearly understood the need for a hard-working wife, and numerous children, to handle the many chores, including child-rearing, feeding and clothing the family, managing the housework, feeding the hired hands, and, especially after the s, handling the paperwork and financial details.

After a generation or so, women increasingly left the fields, thus redefining their roles within the family. New conveniences such as sewing and washing machines encouraged women to turn to domestic roles. The scientific housekeeping movement, promoted across the land by the farm magazines and after by government extension agents, as well as county fairs which featured achievements in home cookery and canning, advice columns for women in the farm papers, and home economics courses in the schools. Although the eastern image of farm life in the prairies emphasized the isolation of the lonely farmer and farm wife, supposedly with few neighbors within range.

In reality, they created a rich social life for themselves. They often sponsored activities that combined work, food, and entertainment such as barn raisings , corn huskings, quilting bees, [] Grange meetings, church activities, and school functions. The womenfolk organized shared meals and potluck events, as well as extended visits between families.

The women's suffrage movement began with the Seneca Falls Convention ; many of the activists became politically aware during the abolitionist movement. The movement reorganized after the Civil War, gaining experienced campaigners, many of whom had worked for prohibition in the Women's Christian Temperance Union. By the end of the 19th century a few western states had granted women full voting rights, [] though women had made significant legal victories, gaining rights in areas such as property and child custody.

Anthony formed the American Equal Rights Association , an organization for white and black women and men dedicated to the goal of suffrage for all. In , Wyoming became the first territory or state in America to grant women suffrage. She cast her ballot on September 6, , in Laramie, Wyoming. From to several women, including Virginia Louisa Minor , Victoria Woodhull , and Myra Bradwell , attempted to use the Fourteenth Amendment in the courts to secure the vote Minor and Woodhull or the right to practice law Bradwell , but they were all unsuccessful.

Anthony was arrested and brought to trial in Rochester, New York, for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. In addition, to resisting full equality between race and gender. It was an era of battling for what one believed and should be entitled to. Victoria Woodhull fought for her universal rights and took advantage of the amendments in her favor.

Tensions were high during , it was a pivotal year in Reconstruction politics and the death of radical republicanism in national politics.

As nominees of The Equal Rights Party, Woodhull and Fredrick Douglas, provided a provocative campaign as the deliberately challenged the fear of miscegenation and gender bias. They restored hope and universal rights for everyone regardless of gender and race as well as offered to reunite divided reformers. Although Woodhull did not win election, her election demanded new political views and equal rights for everyone. Many young women worked as servants or in shops and factories until marriage, then typically became full-time housewives. However black, Irish and Swedish adult women often worked as servants.

After , as the larger cities opened department stores , middle-class women did most of the shopping; increasingly they were served by young middle-class women clerks. In some ethnic groups, However, married women were encouraged to work, especially among African-Americans, and Irish Catholics. When the husband operated a small shop or restaurant, wives and other family members could find employment there.

Widows and deserted wives often operated boarding houses. Career women were few. The teaching profession had once been heavily male, but as schooling expanded many women took on teaching careers. Business opportunities were very rare, unless it was a matter of a widow taking over her late husband's small business. However the rapid acceptance of the sewing machine made housewives more productive and opened up new careers for women running their own small millinery and dressmaking shops.

American women achieved several firsts in the professions in the second half of the s. In , Lucy Hobbs Taylor became the first American woman to receive a dentistry degree. Page became the first woman in America to earn a degree in architecture when she graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

She covered sports, disasters, diseases, and was recognized as the first female war correspondent. By the s Most of the large Protestant denominations developed missionary roles for women beyond that of the wife of a male missionary. European Catholic women in their role as religious sisters worked in the immigrant enclaves of American cities. The orphanages, schools and hospitals built by her order provided major support to the Italian immigrants. She was canonized as a saint in In , Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr established the first settlement house in America a settlement house is a center in an underprivileged area that provides community services , in what was then a dilapidated mansion in one of the poorest immigrant slums of Chicago on the corner of Halstead and Polk streets.

During the Spanish—American War thousands of US soldiers sick with typhoid, malaria, and yellow fever overwhelmed the capabilities of the Army Medical Department, so Dr. McGee write legislation creating a permanent corps of Army nurses. Across the nation, middle-class women organized on behalf of social reforms during the Progressive Era. They were especially concerned with Prohibition, suffrage, school issues, and public health.

Focusing on the General Federation of Women's Clubs , a national network of middle class women who formed local clubs, historian Paige Meltzer puts the women's clubs in the context of the Progressive Movement , arguing that its policies:. One representative woman of the Progressive Era was Jane Addams — She was a pioneer social worker, leader of community activists at Hull House in Chicago, public philosopher , sociologist, author, and spokesperson for suffrage and world peace. Alongside presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, she was the most prominent reformer of the Progressive Era.

She said that if women were to be responsible for cleaning up their communities and making them better places to live, they needed the vote to be effective in doing so. Addams became a role model for middle-class women who volunteered to uplift their communities. In , she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. French Canadian women saw New England as a place of opportunity and possibility where they could create economic alternatives for themselves distinct from the expectations of their subsistence farms in Quebec.

By the early 20th century some saw temporary migration to the United States to work as a rite of passage and a time of self-discovery and self-reliance. Most moved permanently to the United States, using the inexpensive railroad system to visit Quebec from time to time. When these women did marry, they had fewer children with longer intervals between children than their Canadian counterparts.

Some women never married, and oral accounts suggest that self-reliance and economic independence were important reasons for choosing work over marriage and motherhood. These women conformed to traditional gender ideals in order to retain their 'Canadienne' cultural identity, but they also redefined these roles in ways that provided them increased independence in their roles as wives and mothers. Most young urban women took jobs before marriage, then quit.

Women in Early America

Before the growth of high schools after , most women left school after the eighth grade aged around fifteen. Ciani shows that type of work they did reflected their ethnicity and marital status. African-American mothers often chose day labor, usually as domestic servants, because of the flexibility it afforded. Most mothers receiving pensions were white and sought work only when necessary. Across the region, middle-class society women shaped numerous new and expanded charitable and professional associations, and promoted mother's pensions, and expanded forms of social welfare. Many of the Protestant homemakers were active in the temperance and suffrage movements as well.

In Detroit, the Federation of Women's Clubs DFWC promoted a very wide range of activities for civic-minded middle-class women who conformed to traditional gender roles. The Federation argued that safety and health issues were of greatest concern to mothers and could only be solved by improving municipal conditions outside the home. The Federation pressured Detroit officials to upgrade schools, water supplies and sanitation facilities, and to require safe food handling, and traffic safety. However, the membership was divided on going beyond these issues or collaborating with ethnic or groups or labor unions.

Its refusal to stretch traditional gender boundaries, gave it a conservative reputation in the working-class. Before the s, the women's affiliates of labor unions were too small and weak to fill the gap. Rebecca Latimer Felton — was the most prominent woman leader in Georgia. Born into a wealthy plantation family, she married an active politician, managed his career, and became a political expert.

An outspoken feminist, she became a leader of the prohibition and woman's suffrage movements, endorsed lynching white Southerners should "lynch a thousand [black men] a week if it becomes necessary" to prevent the rape of white women , fought for reform of prisons, and filled leadership roles in many reform organizations.

In , she was appointed to the U. She was sworn in on November 21, , and served one day; she was the first woman to serve in the Senate. Although middle class urban women were well-organized supporters of suffrage, the rural areas of the South were hostile. The state legislatures ignored efforts to let women vote in local elections.

Georgia not only refused to ratify the Federal 19th Amendment , but took pride in being the first to reject it. The Amendment passed nationally and Georgia women gained the right to vote in However, black women did not vote until federal Voting Rights Act of enforced their constitutional rights. The woman's reform movement flourished in cities; however the South was still heavily rural before In Dallas, Texas , women reformers did much to establish the fundamental elements of the social structure of the city, focusing their energies on families, schools, and churches during the city's pioneer days.

Many of the organizations which created a modern urban scene were founded and led by middle class women. Through voluntary organizations and club work, they connected their city to national cultural and social trends. By the s women in temperance and suffrage movements shifted the boundaries between private and public life in Dallas by pushing their way into politics in the name of social issues. During —19, advocates of woman suffrage in Dallas drew on the educational and advertising techniques of the national parties and the lobbying tactics of the women's club movement.

They also tapped into popular culture, successfully using popular symbolism and traditional ideals to adapt community festivals and social gatherings to the task of political persuasion. The Dallas Equal Suffrage Association developed a suffrage campaign based on social values and community standards. Community and social occasions served as recruiting opportunities for the suffrage cause, blunting its radical implications with the familiarity of customary events and dressing it in the values of traditional female behavior, especially propriety.

Black women reformers usually operated separately. She focused on working with black youths, organizing them as the vanguard in protests against segregation practices in Texas. The Progressive movement was especially strong in California, where it aimed to purify society of its corruption, and one way was to enfranchise supposedly "pure" women as voters in , nine years before the 19th Amendment enfranchised women nationally in Women's clubs flourished and turned a spotlight on issues such as public schools, dirt and pollution, and public health.

California women were leaders in the temperance movement, moral reform, conservation, public schools, recreation, and other issues. The women did not often run for office—that was seen as entangling their purity in the inevitable backroom deals routine in politics. Bristow shows there was a gendered response of health caregivers to the flu pandemic that killed over , Americans.

Male doctors were unable to cure the patients, and they felt like failures. Women nurses also saw their patients die, but they took pride in their success in fulfilling their professional role of caring for, ministering, comforting, and easing the last hours of their patients, and helping the families of the patients cope as well. In March , the United States Congress passed the Comstock Act , which made it illegal to distribute birth control information or contraceptives through the U. She originally worked as a visiting nurse in the New York City's tenements and wrote about sex education and women's health.

Sanger and her sister Ethel Byrne , also a nurse, opened the first birth control clinic in the United States in , modeled after those Sanger had seen in the Netherlands. The police quickly closed it down but the publicity surrounding Sanger's activities had made birth control a matter of public debate. One Package to the U. Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision in that case allowed physicians in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont to legally mail birth control devices and information to married people.

For unmarried people, the dissemination of birth control did not become legal until the Supreme Court decision Eisenstadt v. The campaign for women's suffrage picked up speed in the s as the established women's groups won in the western states and moved east, leaving the conservative South for last. Parades were favorite publicity devices. A lifelong pacifist, she was one of fifty members of Congress who voted against entry into World War I in , and the only member of Congress who voted against declaring war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor in After , Paul spent a half century as leader of the National Woman's Party , which fought for her Equal Rights Amendment to secure constitutional equality for women.

It never passed, but she won a large degree of success with the inclusion of women as a group protected against discrimination by the Civil Rights Act of She insisted that her National Woman's Party focus exclusively on the legal status of all women and resisted calls to address issues like birth control. Women's support for international missionary activity peaked in the to era. The Great Depression caused a dramatic cut back in funding for missions. Mainstream denominations generally transition to support for locally -controlled missions.

Black women Increase their role in international women's conferences and their independent travels abroad. Leaders including Ida B. Wells , Hallie Quinn Brown , and Mary Church Terrell addressed issues of American race and gender discrimination when they traveled abroad. The International Council of Women of the Darker Races brought together women of color to eliminate language, cultural, and regional barriers. Jane Addams was a noted peace activist who founded the Woman's Peace Party in ; it was the American branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom , of which Addams was the first president in Addams received the Nobel Peace Prize in World War I was a total war, and the nation moved to mobilize its women for material and psychological support of the war effort in and out of the home.

All the states organized women's committees. Representative was the women's state committee in North Carolina. Motivated by the public service ideals of the Progressive Movement , it registered women for many volunteer services, promoted increased food production, and the elimination of wasteful cooking practices, helped maintain social services, worked to bolster moral well-being of white and black soldiers, improved public health and public schools, encouraged black participation in its programs, and helped with the devastating Spanish flu epidemic that struck worldwide in late , with very high fatalities.

The committee was generally successful in reaching middle-class white and black women, but it was handicapped by the condescension of male lawmakers, limited funding, and tepid responses from women on the farms and working-class districts. Women served in the military as nurses, and in support roles. Tens of thousands were employed in the United States, and thousands more in France.

The Army employed female telephone operators who served overseas, beginning in March and continuing until the war ended. Like most major nations, the United States gave women the right to vote at the end of the war. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving American white women the right to vote, passed in The amendment passed the Tennessee Senate easily. Black women who had moved to northern cities could vote starting in , and they played a new role in urban politics. In Chicago, the issue of black women voters was a competition between the middle-class women's clubs, and the black preachers.

Prominent women activists in Chicago included Ida B. Wells and Ada S. Deneen three to one in the black wards and won the nomination for U. Year after year the white Republican leadership held out the hope of anti-lynching legislation, even though lynching had largely disappeared in most of the South by , and in any case the votes were not there to pass it in Congress.

Loyalty to the Republicans as the "party of Lincoln" persisted until the New Deal Coalition offered more opportunities for patronage and welfare in the mids. There was a class division as well, as the middle class black women reformers spoken language of utopian promise that did not ring true to the poor uneducated maids and laundry workers, who listened every Sunday to the promises of salvation from their preachers.

Most of the African-Americans in business were men, however women played a major role especially in the area of beauty. Standards of beauty were different for whites and blacks, and the black community developed its own standards, with an emphasis on hair care. Beauticians could work out of their own homes, and did not need storefronts. As a result, black beauticians were numerous in the rural South, despite the absence of cities and towns. They pioneered the use of cosmetics, at a time when rural white women in the South avoided them.

As Blain Roberts has shown, beauticians offered their clients a space to feel pampered and beautiful in the context of their own community because, "Inside black beauty shops, rituals of beautification converged with rituals of socialization. By contrast in the black community, beauty contests were developed out of the homecoming ceremonies at their high schools and colleges. Walker — ; she built a national franchise business called Madame C. Walker Manufacturing Company based on her invention of the first successful hair straightening process.

The first wave of feminism petered out in the s. After gaining suffrage, the political activities of women generally subsided or were absorbed in the main political parties. In the s they paid special attention to such issues as world peace and child welfare. The achievement of suffrage led to feminists refocusing their efforts towards other goals.

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Placing Women’s History in History, NLR I/, May–June

Led by Alice Paul , the group proposing the Equal Rights Amendment in and working to remove laws that used sex to discriminate against women. Carrie Chapman Catt and others established The League of Women Voters to help women carry out their new responsibilities as voters. A generational gap began to form between the "new" women of the s and older women. Prior to the 19th Amendment, feminists commonly thought that women could not pursue both a career and a family successfully, believing that one would inherently inhibit the development of the other.

This mentality began to change in the s as more women began to desire not only successful careers of their own but also families. The s saw significant change in the lives of working women. World War I had temporarily allowed women to enter into industries such as chemical, automobile, and iron and steel manufacturing, which were once deemed inappropriate work for women. Yet, like other women during World War I, their success was only temporary; most black women were also pushed out of their factory jobs after the war. In , seventy-five percent of the black female labor force consisted of agricultural laborers, domestic servants, and laundry workers.

The booming economy of the s meant more opportunities even for the lower classes. Many young girls from working-class backgrounds did not need to help support their families as prior generations did and were often encouraged to seek work or receive vocational training which would result in social mobility.

Young women, especially, began staking claim to their own bodies and took part in a sexual liberation of their generation. Many of the ideas that fueled this change in sexual thought were already floating around New York intellectual circles prior to World War I, with the writings of Sigmund Freud , Havelock Ellis, and Ellen Key. There, thinkers outed that sex was not only central to the human experience but that women were sexual beings with human impulses and desires just like men and restraining these impulses was self-destructive.

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By the s, these ideas had permeated the mainstream. The s saw the emergence of the co-ed, as women began attending large state colleges and universities. Women entered into the mainstream middle-class experience, but took on a gendered role within society. In an increasingly conservative post-war era, it was common for a young woman to attend college with the intention of finding a suitable husband. Fueled by ideas of sexual liberation, dating underwent major changes on college campuses. With the advent of the automobile, courtship occurred in a much more private setting.

With this formulation, all women wanted to marry, all good women stayed at home with their children, cooking and cleaning, and the best women did the aforementioned and in addition, exercised their purchasing power freely and as frequently as possible in order to better their families and their homes. The "new woman" was in fashion throughout the twenties; this meant a woman who rejected the pieties and often the politics of the older generation, smoked and drank in public, had casual sex, and embraced consumer culture. Women achieved many groundbreaking firsts in the s and s.

The American scene in the s featured a widespread expansion of women's roles, starting with the vote in , and including new standards of education, employment and control of their own sexuality. The Italian-American media disapproved. It demanded the holding of the line regarding traditional gender roles in which men controlled their families. Many traditional patriarchal values prevailed among Southern European male immigrants, although some practices like dowry were left behind in Europe.

The community spokesman Were shocked that the image of a woman with a secret ballot. They ridiculed flappers and proclaimed that feminism was immoral. They idealizes an old male model of Italian womanhood. Mussolini was popular, and when he expanded the electorate to include some women voting at the local level, the Italian American editorialists went along, arguing that the true Italian woman was, above all, a mother and a wife and, therefore, would be reliable as a voter on local matters.

Feminist organizations in Italy were ignored, as the editors purposely associated emancipation with Americanism and transformed the debate over women's rights into a defense of the Italian-American community to set its own boundaries and rules. In , Hattie Caraway of Arkansas became the first woman elected to the Senate. However, women also faced many challenges during this time. Birth control activism was an important cause in the s. In , Margaret Sanger helped bring the case of " United States v.

One Package " to the U. Connecticut , and did not become legal for unmarried couples throughout the United States until the Supreme Court decision Eisenstadt v. In , black singer Marian Anderson sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, which was considered a milestone in the civil rights movement. Women received symbolic recognition under the New Deal —43 but there was no effort to deal with their special needs.

In relief programs, they were eligible for jobs only if they were the breadwinner in the family. Nevertheless, relief agencies did find jobs for women. The WPA employed about , The largest number, ,, worked on sewing projects, producing million items of clothing and mattresses for people on relief and for public institutions such as orphanages. Many other women worked in school lunch programs.

Roosevelt appointed more women to office than any previous president, headed by the first woman to the cabinet, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. His wife Eleanor played a highly visible role in support of relief programs.

In , Eleanor became co-head of the Office of Civil Defense , the major civil defense agency. She tried to involve women at the local level, but she feuded with her counterpart Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia , and had little impact on policy. When the United States entered World War II in , 12 million women were already working making up one quarter of the workforce , and by the end of the war, the number was up to 18 million one third of the workforce.

Standlee argues that during the war the traditional gender division of labor changed somewhat, as the "home" or domestic female sphere expanded to include the "home front". Meanwhile, the public sphere—the male domain—was redefined as the international stage of military action. Wartime mobilization drastically changed the sexual divisions of labor for women, as young-able bodied men were sent overseas and war time manufacturing production increased.

Throughout the war, according to Susan Hartmann , an estimated 6. Women, many of whom were married, took a variety of paid jobs in a multitude of vocational jobs, many of which were previously exclusive to men. The greatest wartime gain in female employment was in the manufacturing industry, where more than 2. The composition of the marital status of women who went to work changed considerably over the course of the war. One in every ten married women entered the labor force during the war, and they represented more than three million of the new female workers, while 2.

For the first time in the nation's history there were more married women than single women in the female labor force. In , thirty-seven percent of all adult women were reported in the labor force, but nearly fifty percent of all women were actually employed at some time during that year at the height of wartime production. According to Hartmann , the women who sought employment, based on various surveys and public opinion reports at the time suggests that financial reasoning was the justification for entering the labor force; however, patriotic motives made up another large portion of women's desires to enter.

Women whose husbands were at war were more than twice as likely to seek jobs. Fundamentally, women were thought to be taking work defined as "men's work;" however, the work women did was typically catered to specific skill sets management thought women could handle. Management would also advertise women's work as an extension of domesticity.

Following the war, many women left their jobs voluntarily. I did not go into war work with the idea of working all my life. It was just to help out during the war. By the end of the war, many men who entered into the service did not return. This left women to take up sole responsibility of the household and provide economically for the family. Before the war most black women had been farm laborers in the South or domestics in Southern towns or Northern cities.

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Their efforts redefined citizenship, equating their patriotism with war work, and seeking equal employment opportunities, government entitlements, and better working conditions as conditions appropriate for full citizens. However, wildcat strikes erupted in Detroit, Baltimore, and Evansville, Indiana where white migrants from the South refused to work alongside black women. Nursing became a highly prestigious occupation for young women. These women automatically became officers. To cope with the growing shortage on the homefront, thousands of retired nurses volunteered to help out in local hospitals.

Women staffed millions of jobs in community service roles, such as nursing, the USO , and the Red Cross. Women collected fats rendered during cooking, children formed balls of aluminum foil they peeled from chewing gum wrappers and also created rubber band balls, which they contributed to the war effort. Hundreds of thousands of men joined civil defense units to prepare for disasters, such as enemy bombing.

This was historically significant because flying a warplane had always been a male role.

History of women in the United States

No American women flew warplanes in combat. Marriage and motherhood came back as prosperity empowered couples who had postponed marriage. The birth rate started shooting up in , paused in —45 as 12 million men were in uniform, then continued to soar until reaching a peak in the late s. This was the " Baby Boom. In a New Deal-like move, the federal government set up the "EMIC" program that provided free prenatal and natal care for the wives of servicemen below the rank of sergeant.

Housing shortages, especially in the munitions centers, forced millions of couples to live with parents or in makeshift facilities.