Women and Self-Reliance, Is This Possible?

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According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, we live in a society of conformity that is, "in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members . . . the virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion" (Emerson, 21). Since Civil War Nursing, women in the work force have been faced with this dilemma of self-reliance and conformity. As women have been discriminated against, and referred to as inferior to men, it has not been an easy task to over come the social barriers, without giving in to conformity, especially when it comes to the work place. As their role in the Civil War, nurses "fulfilled more of a replacement mother position, rather than a healthcare provider"(Hamway, 2001).

During the Civil War, women began to feel like part of the work force, but along with it, was the downfall of being considered "service workers", which is very similar to being a servant. Nurses had to suffer through much conformity, as they had to wait hand and foot on male patients, while at the same time being scrutinized by their male "overseers". These issues that nurses faced in the nineteenth century, continue even to this day, with a little more ease, but we are still driven by a patriarchal society that just isn't ready to let go. Through the works of Louisa May Alcott and Charlotte Perkins Gillman, one can see the hardships that Nineteenth century women were faced with when it came to working. These stories bring to light the fact that, by overcoming oppression, through the strength and desire that leads to resistance, women have been able to achieve self-reliance, which makes their "service work" considered to have with it, an achieved independence. These stories show us the struggles that women faced in the nin...

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...heir own sense of independence. But they also present the reality of it all, that in the end they are back to where they started, and that women will never be able to let their guard down, because of the constant struggle of becoming equally self-reliant as men are, which still remains today.

Works Cited

Adams, Jill. "Nursing as a Profession and Florence Nightingale". 2001. .

Alcott, Louisa May. Short Stories. Dover Publications, 1996.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Self-Reliance and Other Essays. Dover Publications, 1993.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "The Yellow Wallpaper" and Other Stories. Dover Publications, 1997.

Hamway, Theresa. "Civil War Nursing". 2001.


Summers, Anne. Angels and Citizens. Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1988.
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