Progression of Women Throughout Time Thesis

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Progression of Women Throughout Time


An Analysis of the Progression of Women's Historical Role

We have seen that women, as a social group, have generated huge interests not only from the scientific, academic community but also from other progressive sectors of the society. Women are very much a part of our everyday lives -- they are our mothers, sisters, or daughters but they are also a part of the grander scheme of society that stigmatizes women. Sociologists, for example, found it useful to label women as minority group because it is a basic social fact that women are discriminated against because of their physical characteristics (Henslin 93).

It is in this light that the author aims to fully understand the many facets of womanhood in history and society. Moreover, the author believes that this can be fully achieved by understanding the historical role of women -- the many directions that led women to where they are right now.

This objective can be achieved by discussing women in the context of social and labor roles as well as their achievements in the field of progressive and liberation movements to name a few. This work shall also provide profiling information on some notable names in gender history, such as Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, and Oprah Winfrey to better situate women and their achievements in their respective periods in history.

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The discussion shall begin with a brief description of roles of women in the 19th century. The article shall then proceed on the discussion of women in the 20th to 21st century, which can be considered dynamic and radical, as mass progressive movements which champion the rights of women have taken place. The final portion of this work will is appropriated for the analysis of the role of women in history.

Life in the 1800s

Thesis on Progression of Women Throughout Time Assignment

During the 19th century, much of America was still predominantly rural. Because of the kind of economic set-up dictated by a largely rural society, women's role centered on the fulfillment of marital and parental responsibilities. Although industrial changes gave rise to job openings in the factories, retail establishments, and offices that gave single women new options, married women, on the other hand, remained "at home." Also note that during this time, education became mandatory for both men and women which allowed for women's permeation in the higher education sector (Conner Prairie 09).

On the sphere of social movements, we can see the onset of women's propensity towards calls for equal rights with men. For example, following the Civil War and into the 1870s, the secret fraternal organization, known as Grange movement (a political activist group of the agricultural sector) started welcoming women into their organization. Women were given equal voices and voting ranks as men in this movement. Through this, women learned their importance not only in the rural economies but also in their communities. The voting rights extended to them by the movement led Grange women to support woman suffrage and temperance (ibid).

Temperance and Suffrage

The largest women's organization in the nineteenth century was the Women's Christian Temperance Movement (WCTU) which addressed the primary concern of women at this period in history -- i.e. The terrible effects of men's alcoholism to their families. The movement to ban alcohol consumption started in Ohio and this movement moved all the way to New York. Holding on to their duties as moral guardians of the society, it is believed that the impetus for this protest is women's concern for the moral well-being of their families. This cause was popular among women from all strata of the society. Although it started out as a middle class campaign, it extended to women who were wives of both skilled and unskilled workers (ibid).

Although the suffrage movement did not garner the overall support that the temperance movement received, we have seen that a woman's prescribed roles as mere guardian of family morality and caretaker of the family's basic needs were put into question. Women, at this period, began to fight for their direct participation in the political sphere (ibid).

Susan B. Anthony

Having talked about movements such as suffrage and temperance, I believe that it is fitting to share the life of Susan Anthony at this point, to be able to paint a more vivid picture of women during the 19th century.

Having been brought up in a Quaker family with long activist traditions, Anthony was an educational reformer who called for increased women's admission to the teaching profession as well as for better pay for women teachers. She also called for women's position and voices at state teacher's conventions. She called for equal education opportunities for women and former slaves. After fifteen years in teaching, Anthony became a temperance worker. Believing that drinking liquor is against moral laws, she joined the Daughters of Temperance, a group of women which highlighted the effects of drunkenness to families. Anthony also campaigned for stricter laws and stronger implementation of liquor laws (Susan B. Anthony House n.d.).

Anthony was also a suffragist who campaigned vigorously for this cause during her speaking tours. Apart from this, she worked on several labor movements as well. She advanced calls for equal pay for equal work and better working conditions and protection for female laborers through trade unions (ibid).

The life of Anthony provides us with the gist of the most salient causes of the 19th century -- these are the issues involving education, labor, suffrage, and temperance. Here we see the onset of feminist movements. In Anthony, we see the hallmarks of our present-day calls towards gender equality and protection of our rights. Moreover, we see that women have since been critical of their society, and more importantly, they are willing to go against the pervasiveness of this sense of injustice.

During the 20th Century

The social and labor spheres of women

The socio-economic changes brought about by the First World War have changed the roles of women in ways more than one. The rise of 'flappers' have become evident in 1926. Characteristic of a flapper is she who sports short sleek hair, wears short shapeless shift dress, applies make-up in public, smokes, and epitomizes the spirit of a reckless rebel. The significance of the 'flappers' era rests on the fact that it has become sort of a bridge between two polarized economic standings of women. High fashion was obviously exclusive to the upper-class women of the society but because the shapeless shift dress was less complicated, even those belonging to the middle and lower class were able to produce this kind of fashion. (Thomas 09).

According to Roberts, during the 1940s (widely known as the period of Great Depression), there is a notable overall rise in the employment rate of married women. Moreover, "married women were less sensitive to their husband's economic circumstances in deciding whether to work or not" (94, p.7). Along with this rise in women's employment rate is the stigma that wives who worked outside the home were selfish and greedy as they take away jobs from male breadwinners. This stigma pressured women to give up their jobs. The Gallup poll during this period reflected this stigmatized view as majority of the respondents (82%) believed that wives whose husbands are employed should not find work outside home (NOAA 06).

Women, during the World War II took on jobs that were quite unexpected had they lived in earlier years. Before World War II, women's outside work still had sense of feminine inscriptions, but when war broke out, women were called upon to fill jobs that include being mechanics, engineers, drivers, ship builders, air raid wardens, and ambulance drivers. Women were also required by the government to work. The jobs allotted for them usually were war effort-related jobs while some women joined the army forces even though they did not have to (Barrow n.d.).

Moving along 1970s and 1980s, an acceleration of the overall employment rate of women, particularly married women can be noted. Although the rate of women's entrance in the labor force can be noted since 1900s, the 70s and 80s featured an unprecedented growth rate for female employment. The main pull factor of women towards employment is to make up for losses of their husband's earnings and family income. This growth, however, is biased towards skilled and educated women. Again, this observation has been found to be caused by the change in the industrial and occupational structure of the U.S. economy (Ginther & Juhn 01).

Amelia Earhart

After graduating from high school in 1915, Amelia Earhart worked as a nurse's aid in military hospital in Canada during World War I. She later became a social worker. Earhart's interest in aviation led her to her first flying lesson in 1921. A year after, she managed to buy her first plane. Earhart with her husband and fellow aviation-enthusiast Will Rogers worked on secret plans for the former to make a solo flight across the Atlantic. Although mechanical problems plagued… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Progression of Women Throughout Time.  (2009, April 6).  Retrieved August 12, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Progression of Women Throughout Time."  6 April 2009.  Web.  12 August 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Progression of Women Throughout Time."  April 6, 2009.  Accessed August 12, 2020.