Womanhood In The 19th Century

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While historians and scholars use a variety of lenses to analyze American history, the examination of the role that gender has played in society provides a view of history broader than the typical patriarchal tunnel vision taught in most history classes today. Men’s roles in society have been molded and crafted by the changes occurring throughout these societies, but women’s roles both in the home and in the workforce have arguably undergone many more radical transformations since the inception of the United States. Specifically, the transformation of womanhood in the first half of the nineteenth century, beginning with the market revolution, permanently changed how women are viewed in society, by both men and other women, and how women relate …show more content…

The evangelical movement largely contributed to this idea that women were “suited to serve as dispensers of love, comfort, and and moral instruction to husbands and children” (U.S.: A Narrative History, 230). Previously, women were seen as very sinful, but this new womanhood ideal saw women as more religious and morally stronger than men (230). Because of this, the woman’s sphere shifted to be solely focused on domestic duties to ensure the household was as prosperous as possible. Middle class and elite women began devoting more time to these domestic duties as their homes were seen as “havens of moral virtue” while lower class women were still attempting to break into the workforce (231). Furthermore, the development of a new structure and attitude regarding home life gave way to the foundation of the modern family, with delaying marriage to ensure that a husband could financially support his wife and decreasing family size to focus on the success of each child more closely (231). The cult of domesticity, in conjunction with the rise of factories and decline of household manufacturing, changed the meaning of womanhood and further separated the workplace and the home, which created a rift between men and …show more content…

Many middle class and elite women followed the same thinking pattern of most men in the nineteenth century that women should focus on preserving their morality, improving society, and being domestic subservient wives (lecture). This ideal of true womanhood directly conflicted with working class women’s definition of womanhood and the changing work patterns in the United States. Because middle class and elite woman did not view working women as “true women,” these women often ostracized working class women, which caused tension and increased class divisions (lecture). Additionally, this class rift between women most likely contributed to the slow progress of the women’s rights movement that began in the later half of the nineteenth century. As men were reluctant to accept the shifting definitions of womanhood, many middle class and elite women were also hesitant to accept these changes and began to relate to lower class women in a more hostile

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how women's roles in the home and workforce have undergone radical transformations since the inception of the united states.
  • Explains how women moved away from their homes to work in textile factories in order to increase their status in society and possibly become more independent.
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