Status of Women in the Pre and Term Paper

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status of women in the pre and post revolutionary days. The paper also touches upon the current status of women to show how the changes that took place in the 19th century finally affected the life of American women in the 20th century.

THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN AMERICA IN THE 17TH AND 19TH CENTURIES

Women in the United States have worked hard to achieve some sort of equality to their male counterparts in every field of activity. Social economic and political conditions have undergone a massive change since the country attained freedom in 1776. Women were a significantly oppressed section of the society in the 17th and 18th centuries, there were no voting rights for them and they were kept out of armed forces and other businesses. This resulted in lack of economic resources for women, which further lowered their position in the country, as they had to depend on their husbands, fathers or brothers for financial support. This has changed significantly today as most women are seen working side-by-side men in almost every field. They are also playing an important role in armed forces and large corporations but we must not forget that women struggled for more than a century to reach their current status in the United States. Women around the world face problems because of the assumption that they are weaker and thus cannot perform many of the tasks that men can and because of biological differences, which give men more physical strength, women have to face discrimination in many fields. While it is a fact that men are physically stronger, this doesn't mean they are intellectually superior to women in any way, thus discrimination against women at workplace or other areas is totally unfair. Even in the fields where physical strength is required, it would be unjust not to give women a chance to prove their worth. But this has been happening for a long time in every society, discrimination against women is what resulted in women rights movement in different parts of the world. A movement for rights is always meant for the disadvantaged or underprivileged. Black rights movement took place because this community was denied their basic rights because of the color of their skin. In the same manner women had to fight for their rights because they were refused the same because of their supposedly weaker gender.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, most women were confined to the four walls of their houses and they were kept out of important fields including politics and economics. The only women to have any influence in politics were wives of men in politics and that shows just how minimal was their role in country's affairs. Even in literary fields, women were supposed to write using male pseudonyms, as publishers would completely refuse to work with a female writer. This changed significantly during the nineteenth century as more and more women began making their mark on the literary scene. But politics and mainstream business were still fields, which were highly male dominated, and thus it took another century or so for women to finally enter these coveted areas of work. Life changed for women not exactly after the Revolution but after the Civil war. Very little information is available about women rights or movements in the 17th century because there were no significant changes taking place in the life of an average woman during pre-revolutionary days. Even after the Revolution, it took women a very long time to finally make their presence felt in the United States. In the 17th century, women mostly played the role of a wife or daughter and lacked much influence in any other area. African-American women worked as slaves on Southern plantations and were harshly suppressed by white masters. Civil rights were simply unheard of among African-American women of pre-revolutionary days. Literacy and education were not exactly female properties but white American women still fared better in these areas than their African-American counterparts because of the enslavement of the latter. Things improved somewhat after the Revolution but only for white women and blacks remained slaves and in fact slavery intensified after the independence. The status of black women deteriorated white it improved only marginally for white women after the American Revolution. In the 19th century, the only significant change occurred in the field of literature but on the whole society's attitude remained the same where females were concerned. They were viewed as the weaker sex, which was more suited for the household duties than for large corporations or politics. But women did gain more awareness about their rights in the 19th century and significant movements took place during this century. Women appealed for suffrage rights in many states during late 18 rth and early 19th centuries but lost on all occasions. VIRGINIA ROHAN (1999) writes, "In 1872, Anthony managed to vote illegally in Rochester, N.Y., but was later arrested and tried. The judge instructed the all-male jury to find her guilty. There were many setbacks, including a painful break with longtime ally Frederick Douglass, the former slave and abolitionist, over the 15th Amendment (ratified in 1870), because it guaranteed the right to vote for black men only. Stanton and Anthony, who'd been staunch abolitionists, continued to call for universal suffrage." In the early 19th century, women started speaking against slavery and their joined the Abolitionist movement in droves. The First women rights convention took place in 1848 and this marked the beginning of a very long movement that took women to where the position they have reached today. Women began working for their civil rights mostly in the latter half of the 19th century and even attempted to vote in Massachusetts in 1870. Their ballots were however disqualified and some women were even arrested for violating the law. In 1878, Women Suffrage Bill was introduced in the Congress for the very first time. These were some of the changes that occurred in the status of American women in the 19th century. However, we must forget that most of the significant changes took place in the second half of the 20th century after which women managed to attain equality in most fields though they still complain about wage disparities in several areas of activity.

Life for American women is significantly better today compared to what they had in 17th century as rights to education and literacy rate among women is almost equal to that of men in the country. Secondly the healthcare and other related facilities are also widely available due to which maternal mortality rate is very low only 7 per 100,000 births. With legal rights in the area of birth control and abortion and with the use of modern contraceptives, women in America are in a better position to decide the number of children they want. But this is not something American women were given without any struggle, they fought for their rights in this area and it was only after years of battle that they were finally able to bring some changes in the society. (Meredith, 1997)

While women had gained suffrage right in the early 20th century, their status on the whole did not show any marked improvement. Most of the changes really took place in the past 50 years and it is important to take a look at some of the changes for the sake of coherency. Women in the past 50 years have made a huge progress, mostly because there are now restrictions on them for joining the workforce. But complaints of discrimination and inequality still surface from time to time. Sometimes it is about promotion that they deserved but did not get, at others it can be about the pay scale, which often tilts in favor of their male counterparts. In short,…[continue]

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