Women & The Industrial Revolution Term Paper

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al., 2002). But since employees perceived that women had financial help from either fathers or husbands, wages remained low. This created difficult situations for women who were the only support for themselves and any children they had.

In addition, while these events opened employment opportunities for women, those jobs represented a revolving door as they typically quit their jobs either when they got married or when their first child was born (Craig et. al., 2002). This encouraged employers to keep women in low-paying jobs with little responsibility. But in addition to perceptions that women were temporary and expendable workers, women were frequently denied the one thing that, more than anything else, could have elevated their employment options: education. For well into the 19th century, few women received a secondary, or high school, education. This meant that even if a university was willing to accept female students, few if any would be able to meet their entrance requirements (Craig et. al., 2002).

By the beginning of the 20th century, women were beginning to get college educations, but most got what was called "normal" education - two years beyond high school that qualified women to teach elementary school but that was not viewed as a real university education (Craig et. al., 2002).

Women's legal status during the 19th century reflected their overall status in society. Until near the end of that century, European women could not own property. In addition, when they married, anything the owned, earned or inherited became their...
...They had no legal standing, and if something was stolen from them, the legal interpretation was that it was the husband who had been robbed (Craig et. al., 2002). It wasn't until 1900 that women in Germany were allowed to take a job without their husbands' permission (Craig et. al., 2002).

It was probably inevitable that as women moved into the work world, they would become more politically sensitive. Late into the 19th century women could not vote and rarely participated in political events. The social reforms that moved them into employment gave their husband more power as the economic head of the household and helped keep women as second-class citizens (Tilly, 1994). This began to change in Europe gradually, first in France, where women first began campaigning for the right to vote in the 1880's. Soon there were several organizations dedicated to suffrage for women. In Germany, however, there was no real organization for women to get the vote until 1894 (Craig et. al., 2002). All in all, however, the changes brought by the industrial revolution resulted in a more flexible society that provided more opportunities for women as well as men, although it also caused family roles for husband and wife to become more rigid (Tilly, 1994). This was reflected in the workplace, where women continued to have restricted choices for jobs and markedly lower wages than men.

This system of inequality continued through the end of the 19th century. Early in the 20th century, however, some British working women joined with middle class women to organize and fight for fuller citizenship. They drew on their experiences not only working in mills, offices and as union members, but also on their experiences volunteering in the community and working within their churches, to achieve broader rights (Tilly, 1994). Ironically, although they eventually achieved the vote, they were well into the 20th century before they could begin to reverse the economic impact of changes to society brought about by the industrial revolution, and begin to achieve parity in either job statue or pay (Tilly, 1994).


Craig, Graham, Kagan, Ozment and Turner.…

Sources Used in Documents:


Craig, Graham, Kagan, Ozment and Turner. The Heritage of World Civilizations. New Jersey: Pearson Hall, 2002.

Tilly, Louise a. 1994. "Women, women's history, and the Industrial Revolution." Social Research, March.

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