Changing Role of Women in Society
How was the status of woman and their rights represented in western society in the 1600 to early 20th century?
For centuries, woman and their rights have been oppressed by the dominance of man. There has been continued struggle for the recognition of woman’s cultural roles and achievements, and for their social and political rights. It was very much a patriarchal society for woman, which hindered or prevented woman from realizing their productive and creative possibilities.
These ideas where seen in the play Merchant of Venice written by William Shakespeare in c. 1598 when Portia and Nerissa have to dress up as men so that they can enter the court room to help Antonio because woman are not allowed to enter courtrooms along with many other public places men had deemed unbefitting for woman. Portia says, “And wear my dagger with a braver grace and speak between the change of man and boy with a reed voice, and turn two mincing steps into a manly stride, and speak of frays.” Another example of this in the Merchant of Venice is when Portia is talking to Nerissa about the unfairness of her fathers will, she says “ I may neither choose who I would nor refuse who I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father.”
We see this kind of representation of woman again, half a century later, from my source ‘The Law’s Resolutions of Woman’s Rights, 1632. An example of this can be found in the section ‘Sect. viii. that the husband that is his own. It states, “The wife hath therein no seisin at all. If anything when he is married be given him, he taketh it by himself distinctly to himself,” and that “the very goods which a man giveth to his wife are still his own: her chain, her bracelets, her apparel, are all the good-man’s goods, … A wife how gallent soever she be, glistereth but in the riches of her husband, as the moon hath no light but it is the sun’s…” We see evidence of this treatment of woman again in this source under the Sect. ix. That which the wide hath is the husband’s. It states “For thus it is, if before marriage the woman were possessed of horses, neat, sheep, corn, wool, money, plate, and jewels, all manner of moveable substance is presently by conjunction the husband’s.”
Moving forward in time another century, we see in my source British Woman’s Emancipation since the Renaissance, in the early 1800s. It quotes from The Times, in response to the proposal of a select committee to be set up to consider how to adapt a portion of the Strangers’ Gallery for Ladies’ Gallery in the new House of Commons, The Times opined: “We should like to see a list of ladies who have sought this mode of killing their time… As to their presence civilizing debate, it is all fudge. The most violent scene we ever witnessed was in the House of Lords, in broad day, when the benches were filled ladies in all the imposing attractions of full dress… blood would have been shed if it has still been custom to wear swords… If ladies of England desire this novel mode of getting rid of their ennui, let them be indulged, but let us not be so absurd as to expect and influence on the character of the debate. The female listeners may be vulgarize; the male orators will not be refined.”
Finally, I reach the period of the Second World War in the early twentieth century. This led to a visual advertisement labeled, Rosie the Riveter. I used a commentary by Jessica Valenti called Rosie the Riveter leaves a strong legacy to find information from this poster. It explains the background of the advertisement stating, “The poster commissioned to help recruit women to work during the Second World War. US women had always worked, of course, but the wartime get-to-work propaganda was specifically geared towards white middle-class women, and during the war the female workforce grew by 6.5 million.” Though this was a huge change from what woman were used to, we still see stereotypical...
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