The Gilded Age, By Margaret Byington And Lewis Hine

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Different documents in the Gilded Age prominently illustrated gender inequality in their portrayal of men and women within society. Many photographs in the time period by Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine did not shed light on a woman’s hardships, but rather undermined their domestic work. Society failed to give women credit for their work at home due to the common misconception that a woman’s work was easier than that of a man’s. Margaret Byington’s article Homestead: The Households of a Mill Town contrastingly gave an accurate portrayal of the distress women faced in their everyday life. The representation of women in the Gilded Age varies significantly between that in the photographs, and their domestic, weak personification, and in Byington’s article, which gives women a more accurate depiction through their domestic duties. In many twentieth century photographs, women were portrayed in a domestic and simple way. In Riis’s photograph, Scene on the Roof of the Mott Street Barracks , a woman was photographed standing on the roof outside of her house holding one child in her arms while her other children surrounded her. The woman and her children are seen outside in a clear domestic setting, clothes drying in the background. Riis’s photo did not show the underlying difficulties and challenges that came with raising a family such as cooking, cleaning, and tending for the home during a time when modern housekeeping inventions did not exist. Hine’s photograph, Three Generations in a Chicago Tenement , similarly failed to give an accurate depiction of a woman’s life. In his photograph, similar to Riis’s, a woman is photographed sitting amidst her many seemingly well-behaved children and her aged mother in a domestic setting, in the comfort ... ... middle of paper ... ...uld not, but in the gilded age, this was not the case. Many of photographs of the women were posed, and therefore, did not honestly capture the women hard at work in domestic life. They were depicted as having a relaxed and easy life, which was completely inaccurate. In juxtaposition, Byington exposed the hardships and sacrifices the women readily made for their families that Hine’s and Riis’s photographs concealed. Women worked in a domestic setting, but that certainly did not mean that their work was less difficult or important than a man’s. While the men had certain shifts that they had to work, women worked exhaustingly endless days. The contrast between the two types of documents, the photographs and the article, further illustrated that women’s hard work went, for the most part, unnoticed, giving into greater themes of gender inequality within the Gilded age.

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