American Women's Changing Roles in Society

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During the first half of the 19th century, women's roles in society evolved in the areas of occupational, moral, and social reform. Through efforts such as factory movements, social reform, and women's rights, their aims were realized and foundations for further reform were established.

The occupational standings of women evolved in the first half of the nineteenth century. A new system of recruitment, the Lowell-Waltham system, emerged in Massachusetts. This new factory system brought in young, unmarried women to work together in a new form of mass production (C). It was characterized by long hours, dangerous working environment, and strict moral regulations. The factory owners enacted a system of paternal supervision in which all girls attended the local church. Women were forced to work anywhere from 11 to 14 hours a day in the textile mills (D). During these long hours, they were engaged in the use of heavy machinery, which made labor extremely hot, noisy and hazardous (G). Because of these adverse working conditions, organizations and their efforts progressed into strikes, newspapers, such as the Lowell Offering, and unions, such as the Factory Girls Association in 1834. Many strikes failed due to the deteriorating conditions, the longer hours and lower wages. Although these strikes may have eventually been failures, they paved the way for equal employment opportunities in future situations.

As the natural form of society progressed, women strived toward a higher degree of independence and gender equality. Through their efforts, women began to take a more dominant position in the areas of temperance, civil order, and education. Women fought back against the oppression caused by drunkenness and the disruption it imposed on their families (A). In the crusade against drunkenness women claimed that alcoholism placed hardships upon family life, such as wasted money and abuse. While the movement was gaining strength, it began to divide in purpose. Some...
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