Women’s Roles in the 18th Century
Professor Cheri Reiser
During the 18th century, women were treated like slaves. They had little authority regarding anything. Women didn’t have the right to vote or the right to own property. Only a spinster or widow woman could own and manage property until they married. Women were owned by the husband just as he owned material possessions. Many women were trapped in loveless marriages and those without families were seen as outcasts. The husband was legally entitled to beat his wife for disobedience. Divorces were rarely granted and women usually ran away from bad marriages. As you read, I will talk about the expectations of women, two important females of society, and the roles of women today.
Women were expected to do a lot of labor work in the home. Being a wife and mother was the woman’s main profession. Some of their duties were to feed the family, make the clothing, clean the house, care for the children, and serve as a nurse and midwife. Women were considered weaker than men and unable to perform work requiring muscular and intellectual development. There are several stereotypes about women. A common one is “a woman’s place is in the home”. Black women worked in the fields and in the house. Free white women could often find employment as maids, cooks, laundresses, or seamstresses. The diaries of women in the 18th century talk about long hours of ironing, cleaning, baking, sewing, and knitting.
In the 19th century, women began working outside the home. Women and children worked twelve hours a day in poorly ventilated rooms. By 1870, one fifth of resident college and university students were women. They usually studied to be nurses or teachers. Some women studied to own their own businesses, such as sewing shops, clothing stores, and café’s. At this point in time, women were still restricted from a lot of...
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