Working Conditions and Suffrage for Women Research Paper

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Women's Suffrage And Working Conditions

There were a variety of arguments used against women when it came to gaining the right to vote. Women's second-class citizenship had been justified by appealing to the sense of meaning and identity found in the traditional family and its status as the key unit in the polity

Many felt that the husbands were the ideal person to express the opinions of the entire family unit and, as such, the women need not have an independent voice. While that did not sit well with women, there was little they could do about the issue until a shift in society made the suffrage movement possible. During that time, many women wanted to secure their education and status outside of the family, so they could have something that was their own, and so they could protect themselves and their children if something unfortunate should happen to their husbands

Additionally, the traditional roles of women being responsible for the household duties and family affairs were being challenged by more women entering the workforce

. Some women wanted to work, and others had no choice, but they were moving into the workforce in record numbers. That was changing how workplaces handled things, because companies were realizing that they could not really avoid hiring women, and that they had to treat them differently from the men they were hiring. Some companies were much more on board with women becoming a part of their workforces than other companies, as there were businesses that actively avoided hiring women and did not believe they had a place in the working world. The analysis conducted here will look at the implications that the changing demographics of the workforce had on the women's suffrage movement.

Arguments Against Suffrage

In the 1890s, those who were opposed to women's suffrage in the borderlands of Maine and New Brunswick held a lot of the same arguments, but they expressed them in different ways, and with different outcomes

. In New Brunswick, for example, the most vocal adversaries were male and represented in the Legislative Assembly, while in Maine, a group of elite women, mostly from Portland, led the fight to keep women from having a vote

. The anti-suffragist movements at this time mingled with nationalistic rhetoric about citizenship, the rights of property ownership, and the very structure of an industrial and modern society

Figure 1 - Anti-Suffrage Sign (Louis Roesch Co., Lith. And Print., S.F. 1911)

Many of the arguments against suffrage dealt with the fear of change in the traditional gender roles that had been in place throughout previous generations. For example, in the primary source illustrated above, it is indicated that a "home loving" women does not want the vote. While that may have been what people were told, it was not necessarily accurate and not likely to have been what most women were really saying

. Despite the social changes that came with industrialization and rapid population growth, many people still clung to the more traditional roles of women. In some areas, the fears were more specific. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, it was feared that many women would use their political rights to vote for prohibition and politicians and business leaders that represented the German-American population in the area

. Thus there was a mix of generalized fears, as well as more specific ones that dealt with local expectations of changes that might occur should women gain the vote.

It was not so much that people did not want women to vote at all, but that they could not feel safe and secure in determining what women would vote for. That became the true issue of the day, because they would be giving up some measure of control and placing that control squarely into the hands of women -- who were deemed to be unpredictable and emotional, at best

. The emotional nature of women was often used to deny them basic human rights, with the idea that they would not think logically. That was not the case, however, as changes to the workforce and women's rights in general have proven. Women are highly capable of being a part of the workforce and of owning and operating businesses with others and on their own. While they are more emotional than men in many cases, that does not make them unreliable -- and those emotions can actually serve them well. It makes them intuitive in business, more so than their male counterparts.

Women in the Industrial Revolution

The relevant research within this literature includes studies that extend feminist analyses of how history is viewed and written to exclude women and people of color into examinations of history curricula and text. This information as presented to students can help to frame the concept of what it means to be a women in the minds of youth

. The feminist perspective can provide many insights to the roles played in society at the time of the women's suffrage movement. Many studies have focused on specific variables that are believed to be the trigger that introduced calls for suffrage into different cultures, such as the electoral system type, district magnitude, quotas, socio-economic factors such as gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, the percentage of women in the workforce, the year women gained the right to vote, and cultural indicators such as religion

. It is easy to see that there are a number of variables that can affect suffrage, depending on the country and the culture in which it takes place. Finding those variables for a particular country and culture can help indicate the value placed on suffrage, among other things

The factors that have put pressure on further democratization have been studied by scholars for a number of generations. The European countries also provide interesting examples of factors and variables, because of the variety in timing during which suffrage movements occurred in the independent nations. For example, France, Belgium and Switzerland were early in their almost universal male suffrage, but late in terms of the extension of suffrage to women, respectively, in 1945, 1948 and 1971, and by contrast, Austria and Sweden were late with the introduction of male suffrage, although they extended suffrage to women just after the First World War

. Yet, even with so many examples of different evolutions of suffrage movements, it is difficult to accurately decipher the factors that are most responsible for their introduction in each country. That can and should be addressed, because the factors are important and complex. The more they can be pinned down, the more history can be understood and analyzed, so mysteries can be solved.

The following figure shows the suffrage years for a number of countries, indicating that the majority of Europe was focused on providing suffrage early on, but there were a few holdouts that did not see the importance of suffrage until later, especially where women were concerned.

Figure 2 - European Suffrage

The segregation of public and private life, upon which gender inequality was mapped, was problematic not only because it justified the exclusion of women, but also because it devalued the very concept of the citizen

. Notable figures, such as Mary Austin, argued that society should be, to some extent, modeled from nature, which makes room for a variety of different roles and a social evolution

. The notion of social evolution sees the society as a dynamic body that is subject to adopting new practices and new cultural concepts at all times. It is natural that individuals show resistance to change, however, these can be overcome with a momentum that reaches a tipping point. While men, and some women, were resistant to the changes that could come along with suffrage and voting, there were many women who believed that giving them the opportunity to vote would provide them with a voice and an identity that they did not have before

. Getting into the workforce helped women find that voice, and allowed them to stand up for the things in which they believed, so they could move forward and make personal and professional advancements.

This type of momentum had certainly been built by the changes that occurred as a result of the industrial revolution

. It all started with the textile industry and the invention of power driven machinery, but then it extended itself to the rest of society. This also led to non-industrial wage labor increasing, urban centers popping up to handle labor and trade, and commercial agriculture, which fostered growth in numerous types of industries and meant that more people were needed for the workforce in general. As a result of these changes, there were several implications to the life and culture of American families. The demand of labor introduced countless women into the workforce and into the economic affairs of the family

. Since women now earned an income, it gave them more leverage to demand rights in the family. They did so, realizing they had…

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