Historical Development of Women in the 19th Century

Topics: 19th century, Woman, Women's suffrage Pages: 12 (2446 words) Published: March 18, 2013
Historical Developments for Women in the 19th Century
Bert Jackson
HIS 204
March 05, 2012
Tim Johnston

Historical Developments for Women in the 19th Century

American women today are afforded many rights. They are thought of as equal to

their male counterparts. This hasn’t always been the case. Women had to fight for the rights

that are often taken for granted. In the 19th century, America experienced changes that

expanded the role of women. Women were needed to help carve out a life in the wilderness

of the West and as workers in factories. During WWI and WWII, women kept America

strong. With these new responsibilities, women began to demand the right to more privileges.

The right to the vote and access to contraception are only two of the requests they made for

equality. With the onset of major historical changes all across America, women were

presented with opportunities to change their way of life, ending the isolation that had kept

them in the domestic sphere in times past.

During the 19th century, major cities expanded exponentially. Not everyone

wanted to live in the city. Improved transportation made travelling long distances more bearable.

As a result, more Americans took advantage of this and headed into the West. In search of

economic conquest, cattle ranchers and precious metal miners came prepared to build a life. To

be successful, these men would need wives, the first women of the West. “For the West to come

into existence as an American place at all, the presence of women—white women—was

required, not simply as isolated transients like Susan Magoffin, but white women by the

thousands, come to stay” (Scharff, 2002 p.68).

In the west, women could not simply stay in the house. There was more work to

be done than the men could achieve without help. The whole family would need to work to keep

every aspect of frontier life running smoothly. [Women] engaged in work that produced

income for the family. For example, they made clothes, transformed wild game into meals,

baked, and cleaned. In 1888, Susan Laflesche reflected on her experience on the western frontier

and said that a woman had to know how to do "everything that a man does besides her own

work, for she has to be ready for any emergency that may occur when men are not around"

(Riley, 1992). There was never a time during the year that didn’t require hard work. For instance,

a farmer’s wife would be needed to help prepare fields, plant crops, tend the crops, harvest, store

harvested crops, tend smaller livestock, likely while raising small children. All of this work

would be in addition to her daily cooking, cleaning, sewing, laundry, and food curing for the

The pioneer women in the later part of the 19th century experienced a life in

which they divided their time between farming and household work (Woloch, 2006).Women

played a very important role in the conquest of the West. Without women to help with the many

chores necessary to daily life in the West, men would have been overwhelmed. It is likely that

they would have given up and gone home. If they could somehow complete all the work by

themselves, without women to reproduce with there would not have been a future to build on.

The women of the west were still isolated to a farm or ranch, but the circle of duties they were

expected to do had widened incredibly.

In every big city, you will find big businesses. The factories keep many of the cities people employed. As business became bigger, high costs pushed owners to invest in machinery. Skilled artisans were no longer required, waged laborers took their place. “In the late 19th century, the United States appeared to be progressing at an incredibly fast pace with the rise of big businesses and the development of new and exciting industrial technologies” (Bowles, 2011).

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