Research Paper: Women's History

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Women's History Questions

In the early days of the United States, particularly the 1790's, women had a very limited role in public and political life. However, the massive political changes occurring in France influence the role of Women in America. The many religious awakenings and revivals spurred a more active role for women outside of the home, including charitable endeavors. This led many women to enter into the realm of public politics by becoming involved in the early Abolitionist movement.

The 18th century saw the rise of industrialization and the invention of a number of machines that could not only increase productivity and efficiency, but could be operated by either men or women. This led to an increase in opportunities for women including working in previously male dominated occupations in shoe factories or textile mills. At a time when most girls were destined to be married housewives, these opportunities allowed many girls to escape the tedium of a rural married life to job opportunities in the cities. There were many boarding houses which offered a safe living environment and the girls could make as much as $2.40 to $3.20 pre-week. As Emeline Larcom wrote to her mother, the reason she was late in responding to her mother was because she "wished to have something to send beside words." (Larcom 1841) These girls were not only financially independent, but the could also contribute to the family's economic well-being. These girls were financially independent from the men in their lives and could exercise real freedom.

Question #3

"Republican Motherhood" was a concept that developed during the American Revolution and proscribed that a woman had a place in the political life of the nation, but it was limited to the education and upbringing of the sons who would assume the mantle of power in the next generation. In the early 19th century, a new concept developed called "True Womanhood," which set back the rights of women significantly. "True Womanhood" professed that a woman's place was in the home, she should be submissive to her husband, take no role in politics or public life, and exercise a purity and piety that will not bring shame to her family. Unlike "Republican Motherhood," "True Womanhood" did not allow for women to participate at all in civil and political concerns where, as Catherine Beecher wrote "her interests are intrusted to the other sex." (Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, 1841)

Question #4

The picture entitled "Cooks" depicts the misery that the upper class felt at their homes being run by ignorant, lower class women who constantly lounge, steal, and have to be watched at all times. These servants, mostly foreign-born women, are described as ignorant, unscrupulous, thriftless, inexperienced, and as having no ability to train or control. The upper class women are constantly worried about their servants, and the men have no relief from complaints. The actual pictures demonstrates this by depicting a servant woman dropping a serving platter while her upper class masters stand in shock and horror.

Question #5

19th century Utopian communities, such as Brook Farm or the North American Phalanx, engaged in a number of practices that were very appealing to women. As Mary Paul described the working conditions, "All work there, and all are paid alike. Both men and women have the same pay for the same work." (Mary Paul, 1853-54) These communities also engaged in individual preferences for work assignments, no sexual division of labor, and no class distinctions. However, this ultimately led to disagreements between genders over work assignments and traditional gender roles.

Question #6

The Oneida Community was one of the more successful Utopian communities. It was a well-financed endeavor which emphasized education and self-improvement, and sexual equality in work and living conditions. In terms of the treatment of women, a pamphlet described it as giving women "the place which every true woman most desires, as the free and honored companion of man." (Information Pamphlet on Oneida Community) and women were given equal roles on committees and in voting practices. While these were the pronounced aims of the community, in reality, women worked in their traditional roles and were treated personally in an unequal way. While women were given a certain amount respect and good treatment, the traditional gender roles did encroach on life.

Question #7

The World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840 was meeting of all anti-slavery groups throughout the world with the intent to discus how best to promote abolitionist ideas. However, women from America who attended the convention were not allowed to participate and were forced to sit in a separate seating area and were forbidden from speaking. Infuriated by this treatment, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott returned to the United States with a new mission; equal rights for women. Along with others, these women slowly began to make demands for women's rights which resulted in a proposed 1836 bill which would have given equal legal rights to women in matters of earning and property, a proposed amendment to the New York Constitution in 1846, and the passage of the Married Women's Property Act of 1848. These successes led these women to call for the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention in July of 1848 where a declaration of sentiments was issued outlining the demands for equal treatment by women.

Question #8

The Declaration of Sentiments which was issued by the Seneca Falls Women' Rights Convention in 1848 was a document that outlined the specific legal demands that women wanted and was modeled after the Declaration of Independence. The attendees of the Women's Rights Convention used the Declaration of Independence as a model to create an analogy about the relationship between King George III of England and the American Colonists, and the relationship between men and women throughout history. Women wanted men to understand that they felt the same way about their roles in society as the founding fathers felt about their role in relation to the King and government of England.

Question #9

The Married Woman's Property Act of 1848 granted married women legal control of any property she possessed before she became married. Her husband had no control over this property and could not be used for his purposes, such as paying debts, without the wife's consent. Many clergymen opposed this as a renunciation of what was considered to be the natural order of society as prescribed in the Bible. According to the religious, a woman's place was in the home and subservient to her husband, and anything she possessed became the property of her husband to do with as he saw fit. But a wealthy man with daughters would like this legislation as it ensured his daughters future economic stability and discouraged unscrupulous "gold-diggers" from marrying his daughter solely for their money. However, this law was of little use to impoverished women because it did not protect any property they received after they became married, for instance, it would not protect a woman from her husband taking away her weekly wages and spending it on drink.

Question #10

Two women who championed the practice of women's health were Paulina Wright Davis and Mary Grove Nichols. Paulina Wright Davis spent years studying the anatomy and physiology of women, lecturing widely on what she discovered and how it could help improve women's health. She also used a mannequin in her lectures as a tool for demonstrating her concepts and to instruct health practitioners. Another leader in women's health issues was Mary Grove Nichols, who after suffering four miscarriages and poor health for years, secretly studied medical books and read the dietary theories of Sylvester Graham. This led Nichols to lecture widely in order to increase women's knowledge o their own health, as well as to open a water-cure clinic in 1840. She touted the advantages of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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