Essay on Working Women and Dangerous Liaisons

Essay on Working Women and Dangerous Liaisons

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At the end of nineteenth century men and women migrated from rural areas to urban areas for industrial work (Smith, p.142). This change ushered in the system of wage labor which became the way most members of lower class gained income. However, wages for workers were incredibly low (Smith, p.145). The blooming trend among the middle-class of the head of household as the only working individual of the family was completely unattainable for working class families. It was a necessity for lower-class women to work to support the family as well as maintain their role as mother and keeper of the home (Smith, p.273). Wage labor introduced a new way of life for women that included bouts of extreme poverty, intense labor, and a change in their relations with men. Working women in the industrial age faced unsatisfactory to even dangerous relations with men from marital relations, sexual coercion, and sexual harassment. Such negative relations were due to working women’s vulnerability in law, economic standing, and the popular negative view of the working woman.
For most working class women marriage was not a matter of emotion but a matter of necessity for survival. Wages were so low for the working class that women would never have any form of meat in their diets and were forced to rely on low quality foods to survive, such hardship is described by a textile worker who lamented on contents of her pantry: “butter we never have. A roast of meat none of us ever sees (Smith, p.147). In “The Struggle for The Breeches: Plebian Marriage” Anne K. Clark explains that marriage was seen as an opportunity for working class men and women to pool their wages together (Clarke, p.121). Frau Hoffman expresses this notion when she discloses the groom’s fir...


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...age between her mother and father in which she remarks that her “father had particularly admired [her] mother for her sweetness” (Beeton, p. 67). Also the barmaid from the primary sources does receive help from a male figure who accompanied her home and made sure she was not “molested” (Beeton, p. 260). An elderly working woman, Frau Hoffman, describes a rather positive and long marriage between her and her husband and stresses that a woman must “be faithful and good to her husband and honor and love him” (Beeton, p.364). But due to the extreme poverty found in the working class, the conditions in factories, and the evidence in popular songs for the abuse of women it can be assumed that many working class women did not experience pleasant marriages and their economic and legal vulnerability allowed for negative male relationships to occur for a majority of women.

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