Women’s Changing Role in History Essay Sample

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Between 1776 and 1876, many events and occurrences added to the ever changing view of women, such as the Industrial Revolution, the Market Revolution, the Second Great Awakening, the Women’s Rights movement, and the Civil War. The advancement of manufactured goods, the inspiration of egalitarianism, and the outspoken leaders of this time opened the door to greater opportunities and rights for women. In this time period, the role and status of women drastically changed, due to the revolutionized view of women, socially, economically, and politically.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, women were needed in the home, as well as the whole family. The family worked together to meet its needs, as seen in Document D, with the man weaving and the women spinning (Doc D). However, with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, this was changed. What was once homemade became factory made. And instead of providing for the family with agriculture, the man of the family earned an income by working in factories. During this time period, it was the woman’s responsibility to instill civic virtue in her children, now known as Republican Motherhood (Doc F).

With the Market Revolution and the creation of a “national market”, women began to work outside the home, as factory workers, teachers, and nurses (Doc E). Thus, using their previous experience outside the home to help earn an income. This social change gave women new opportunities. Their education became more vital because they became the educators, rather than the males. The advancement of women’s education was greatly influenced by Emma Willard, who supported and promoted women’s education at this time. She founded the first school for women’s higher education, Troy Seminary. This expanded women’s role in society as educators because they now had the opportunity to learn subjects that had before been reserved for males only, such as mathematics, philosophy, geography, history, and science.

Also a main contributor to the expanded social role of women was the 2nd Great Awakening, along with its many reform movements. The 2nd Great Awakening was a religious movement during the early 19th century. Although women, at this time, were not seen as prominent leaders, the 2nd Great Awakening led to an expanded role of women in the church. Women’s membership and support were seen as vital to the church and gave women another role outside of their cult of domesticity. As a result of the 2nd Great Awakening, women became more involved in missionary and social reforms, such as the temperance movement and the abolitionist movement. Bold women, such as Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, the Grimke sisters, and Harriet Tubman fought for the rights of the minority during the abolitionist movement. Harriet Tubman, who was a black female abolitionist, remains famous for the Underground Railroad, which led slaves to freedom. Lucy Stone, another female abolitionist taught fugitive slaves how to read and write.

The Grimke sisters made their impact on the reform by speaking out against slavery, despite the fact that their father was a slaveholder. Also, Sojourner Truth spoke for women’s rights in “Ain’t I a Woman?” Women also took a stand against alcohol and its affects in the Temperance movement in the 19th century. Obvious products of their efforts are the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and New York State Women’s Temperance Society founded in 1852 by Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. These women fought for the rights of blacks and against alcohol, however greatly expanded their own role in society. By becoming involved in such movements, women took control of a society which had otherwise been male-dominated.

Women, especially during and after the Market Revolution of the 1820s, began to play a part in economics. Because they stepped outside of the domestic sphere, they began to earn an income for themselves. This was a major step in women’s role because it displayed their capability and independence. Woman’s purpose became to help the husband earn an income (Doc G). Their role was evident with the creation of the Lowell Girls. The Lowell Girls were women who worked in the textile factories, earning their own income and experiencing society outside the domestic “Women’s Sphere”. This newfound role of women was exacerbated by many women in this time period. One of the outspoken women’s rights leaders was Catharine Beecher. In 1841, she published A Treatise on Domestic Economy, which promoted the idea of women’s independence. Beecher emphasized that women did not need to get married to survive in society, but that they could earn an income on their own. With this new view of women, they became more prominent in the economy.

In 1848, the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. At this convention, the Declaration of Sentiments used the form of the Declaration of Independence to call for women’s rights and total egalitarianism. It pointed out that the words of the Declaration of Independence, “all men were created equal”, were not held true (Doc I). It listed the violations of women’s rights, such as their denial of suffrage, denial of the right to hold office, and being taxed without representation. Elizabeth Stanton, Susan Anthony, Lucrettia Mott, and Lucy Stone, defiant leaders, worked to obtain their rights. Lucy Stone, in a speech at the National Women’s Rights Convention in 1855, encouraged women to not accept the roles assigned to them by society (teacher, seamstress, and housekeeper), but to fight for their rights (Doc J). Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams, wrote in a letter to her husband, warning of a rebellion if women’s rights were not given attention. She points out that they were not given a voice in politics and were being taxed without representation (Doc B). Another way that women fought for their rights, especially suffrage, was in their involvement oin the Populist movement.

Women became involved in organizations such as the Farmer’s Alliance because, with their efforts to achieve the rights that men enjoyed-suffrage and the right to hold office in the organization. Though most women involved served minor roles such as treasurer or secretary, Mary Elizabeth Lease became famous for her involvement in the Populist movement. This involvement and fighting for their rights was a step towards women’s independence and equality. A final example of these leaders fighting for their political rights is one of Susan Anthony’s arguments. Susan Anthony audaciously compares the life of a married woman to the life of a slave. She argues that their conditions and legal status are basically on the same level of servitude (Doc L). This is because, at this time, women were seen as one with their husband. A woman’s rights and legal status were not seen as hers, but as her husbands’ (Doc A). The Women’s Rights Movement greatly affected this view. The work of Elizabeth Stanton, Susan Anthony, Lucy Stone, and others promoted women’s political rights, which led to their eventual success in the 1920, with the 19th amendment. Though at this time women’s suffrage was a far off goal, this was the origin of total egalitarianism for women.

These many events and people caused the changed view of women between 1776 and 1896. Before the Market Revolution, the Great Awakening, and the Women’s Rights movement, women’s purpose was to raise children with civic virtue. But with women taking on new social, economic, and political roles, the average life and status of women was revolutionized.

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