Evolution of Women's Roles in 20th Century America

1059 Words3 Pages

In the nineteenth century, in American society women were viewed as the safeguard of the home. Limited to the domestic sphere, women were considered to be dependent on men, emotional, with limited knowledge tending to deal with petty problems such as marriage and socialising. Their job was to look after the home and bear children. Men on the other hand, were citizen producers, family providers, rational, and were the owners of property. However throughout the 20th century this view was challenge by several significant forces, social, economic and most significantly political, which overtime has led to an immense change in women’s roles in society. A trend of women moving out of the domestic sphere has meant that women’s roles have been defined by things other than ‘domestic drudgery’. Between 1900 and the 1950’s women’s rights changes. This means that over all there was A primary historical force in influencing the changing roles of women was progressivism which had far reaching political and social effects on the lives of American women. The Progressive Era, 1900-1920, was a time of change; an explosive growth in urbanisation and industrialisation. By 1920 the American urban population was over 50% with millions working in factories where they faced long hours, low pay and dangerous working conditions. Meanwhile the urban middle class expanded rapidly, posing opportunity for education and work for women. In 1920, 8 million women were working for wages. For white women, jobs expanded; 25% of women were office workers or typewriters and just 15% worked in domestic services. .” It was these privileged middle class women that looked to correct the ‘evils’ of rapid industrial expansion seeing the harsh conditions of women and childr... ... middle of paper ... ...ments of the latter half of the century. This is evident in the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, an American politician, diplomat, and activist whom took as strong stance on civil rights. Hence, women’s roles and interests were changing from exclusively domestic affairs to challenging social injustices as the moral guardians of not just the home but of wider society. Although this de jure change did not affect an immediate general change in society’s expectations of the roles of women, the activism and changes of the progressive era did lead to some barriers being broken down, it became more acceptable for women to work, and the rise of the ‘ideal woman’ - more political, sporty and looking for equality. Thus further supporting the argument that this was the primary force in challenging the traditional roles of women in the first half of the twentieth century.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that in the nineteenth century, women were viewed as the safeguard of the home, whereas men were citizen producers, family providers, rational, and owners of property. women's roles were redefined by things other than domestic drudgery.
  • Explains that progressivism had far reaching political and social effects on the lives of american women during the progressive era, 1900-1920.
Show More
Open Document