Women weren’t allowed to have any formal political participation. Their opinions didn’t matter and they didn’t have a say in almost anything. Women had no legal standing and no right to vote. William Blackstone was an English jurist, judge, and politician of the 18th century. He wrote Commentaries on the Laws of England in 1765. His work is divided into four volumes: on the right of persons, the rights of things, of private wrongs, and of public wrongs. In this work, he stated that husband and wife are as one and that one is the husband. This is a part from the rights of persons. He demonstrates the way that women were treated and how they were looked upon and the way they were viewed. Men had absolute control and power over their wives during these times. Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her husband John Adams on May 7, 1776. In her letter she told him that she felt like he wasn’t very generous to the ladies. He was proclaiming peace and goodwill to men but insisted on men retaining an absolute power over their wives. She warned him not to put so much power into the hands of the husbands because they would all be tyrants if they could. Abigail told her husband that women would organize a rebellion if there’s no attention or care paid to them. They wouldn’t be bound by any laws where they don’t have any voice or representation. She wrote about her life and time in letters. She was also politically influential towards her husband. Women had to obey and follow the laws, yet they had no say in anything and their voices were unheard and silenced. It was difficult for women to even speak up on issues because nobody would care to listen.
Social participation is another thing that women were lacking. They were limited on what they could do. A woman’s job was to stay home and raise a family and take care of her husband. Women were assigned traditional roles such as taking care of the children and raising them, preparing food, taking care of the house, gardening, and educating the children. In season, they had to take care of the animals and livestock as well. The social roles for women were “true womanhood”. Women were expected to stay home and raise a family; this was the domesticity role. Young women were dependent on fathers and then their husbands after they were married. They couldn’t work because work was supposedly about muscle power and men were stronger than women. The husband was supposed to provide for the family, and women shouldn’t compete with men. There was to be no competition amongst the man and woman. Women were expected to be the perfect wife. This meant getting married and having children and being a mother. The mother was bound to the home and that was considered her nest. Women were supposed to be sexually innocent. Duty was valued over passion and independence. They were expected to wear a corset and non-revealing clothing. They were to be innocent and not sexually promiscuous. Women were seen as weak. They were physically inferior to men, as the social ideal goes. The muscle masses between men and women were different. In the world of work present at the time, the men were better for work because it was mainly muscle work. Women were excluded. However, women were culturally and socially superior to men. They created civilization and without women, there would be no civilization. They were there to educate and tame the wild men. Women taught them and showed them the finer things in life. Women were greatly respected, which is difficult to understand based on all of their limitations and the way they were treated. They worked just as hard as men, but weren’t allowed to receive payment for their work. They could only work if it was for free, like for charities, religion, or other organizations. As time went on, women began to participate in other jobs. They eventually got into farming and working in the fields, and other labor as there was an increasing demand for labor. Some women began to work in household manufacturer in the cottage industry. Clementina Rind, believed to be a native of Maryland, was Virginia’s first female printer. She was a printer for Thomas Jefferson and also the editor of the Virginia Gazette. She printed Thomas Jefferson’s A Summary View of the Rights of British America. Clementina took over her husband William Rind’s editorship and business management of the press after his death in 1773. She expressed her own voice in the gazette by writing articles about her patriotic ideals, which supported rights of American colonies and criticized British society. She was interested in scientific developments and educational opportunities. Many women were valued readers of her paper because the she had poetic tributes to ladies and was feminine in her paper. She was independent, had good sense, and was literary skilled. She had great standards and literary judgments. In New Jersey in 1776, women petitioned for the right to suffrage as persons not men. They were later denied in 1807. At this time free blacks were now able to vote in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut, yet women were still denied any right. Mary Wollstonecraft, an 18th century British writer and philosopher, was an advocate of women’s rights. She is well known for A Vindication of the Rights of Women. It was one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. Wollstonecraft argues that women aren’t naturally inferior to men. They only appear that way because of the lack of education. She believes that men and women should be treated equally as rational beings and wants social order based on reason. Women were treated unfairly for no apparent reason and were restricted to education so that they appeared inferior to men. She argues that women should have an education equal with their position in society. She redefines the position, claiming that women are essential to the world because they educate the children. She thinks that women should be companions to their husbands, rather than just wives. That is something new because women were never considered companions or equal to men. They were looked at as lesser beings than men and inferior. They were simply wives and nothing more. By the 1820s, there were two broad currents. Women were campaigning for legal and political participation. Women also wanted a new definition of cultural and social responsibilities. This was a response to the changing economy and society. Jobs were becoming more available and at a higher demand, and women wanted to participate instead of being bound to the home. Everything around them was progressing, yet they were at a standstill. The Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society was created in 1833. It was an abolitionist movement and organization in Boston, Massachusetts. It resulted in three national women’s conventions and organized a multistate petition campaign. The organization sued southerners who brought slaves into Boston, and it sponsored fundraisers. Some of the leaders of the group were Lucy M. Ball, Martha Violet Ball, Mary G. Chapman, and Caroline Weston. The group lasted until 1840. Even though it dissolved within seven years, it was a step in the right direction. Women were becoming important figures in organizations and groups. The World Anti-Slavery Convention took place in London in June of 1840. Women were excluded from the convention and had to sit outside. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a women’s rights activist, abolitionist, and leader of an early women’s rights movement. She presented her Declaration of Sentiments at the first women’s rights convention, based on the Declaration of Independence. It was held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. It was held at the Wesleyan Chapel on July 19-20. The Declaration of Sentiments was asking for an equality of esteem. Stanton was committed to women’s suffrage and declined to support the 14th and 15th amendments. She opposed added legal protection and voting rights for African American men because women were denied all of those rights whether they were black or white. This was a great step in the right direction for women in obtaining civil, social, political, and religious rights. The pursuit of happiness was another issue for women. They were bound to their husbands and weren’t able to live their lives the way they desired.. There was a debate over the New York Divorce Law. In 1860, New York amended its laws to allow women to keep their own property and earnings. John Milton, a Puritan poet, believed that women should be redeemed from unsupportable disturbances to honest peace and contentment. Women were finally beginning to see minor changes in their abilities and rights. They could now keep what they earned and their property couldn’t be taken away from them. They were slowly becoming their own individual selves The Revolution was a weekly newspaper that was published between 1868 and 1872. It was a women’s rights newspaper and the official publication of the National Women Suffrage Association, which was created by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her friend Susan B. Anthony, a campaigner for gender equality and abolitionist. The newspaper’s motto was: men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less. This newspaper was the official voice of the NWSA. It discussed controversial issues such as divorce, prostitution, and reproductive rights. Working class women were attracted to the newspaper because of the columns in the newspaper that spoke of unionization and discrimination against female workers. Stanton and Anthony inspired a nationwide suffrage movement. Women were becoming more aware of the issues surrounding them and the gender issues and inequalities. They were finally gathering together and trying to make changes. In the second half of the 1800s, women began to finally get professions and careers. In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell graduated from Geneva Medical College in New York. She was the head of her class and became the first female doctor in America. Along with her sister Emily and their colleague Marie Zakrzewska, they founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. It was the first American hospital run by women. Also, it’s the first that was especially dedicated to serving women and children. Lucy Hobbs Taylor was the first American woman to graduate from dental school and receive a dentistry degree. She graduated from the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in 1866. After her husband’s death, she stopped being an active dentist. However, she became more involved in politics and campaigned for greater women’s rights. Women finally began making their mark in the world of jobs and careers. They were slowly getting in where they wanted and belonged. Book publishing became a separate, professionalized business for women. It was a big business at the time. Women invented popular fiction novels, not men. By the 1840s and 1850s women were dominating popular fiction as authors and consumers as well. Women loved to write and read books. In 1853, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s royalties were $144 and Susan Warner’s were $35,000. Women were clearly dominating the industry without any question. They were outselling the male authors. This caused an expanding middle class and literacy was on the rise. There were subscription libraries and door-to-door sales. In 1860 there were 575 magazines, 372 daily newspapers, and 291 weekly newspapers. By 1860, there were about 10 million dollars worth of books sold. Many women finally found a secure place for themselves now that they were able to read and write books. They gained knowledge and excitement through reading novels. It was something new they’ve never seen before. There were three of the most popular genres: romantic comedy, domestic novels, and gothic. The most popular genre was romantic comedy which was invented by the English novelist Jane Austen, who lived through the Napoleonic wars. Some of her novels include Lady Susan, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. The next most popular genre was domestic novels, or sentimental romances. These were women writing to other women and telling them how to deal with their husbands. Catherine Sedgwick began this genre with New-England Tale in 1822. Gothic, the third most popular, was a genre dedicated to warewolves, Frankenstein, and vampires. Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein, the first science fiction novel written in 1818. She wrote this novel as an imagination to bring her dead mother back. Willkie Collins, one of the popular men authors at the time, wrote Woman in White in 1860 and Moonstone in 1868. His novels were considered as sensation novels, otherwise known as suspense and detective fiction. Women’s culture and behaviors began to change with the new changes occurring. They began to pay more attention to physical appearance and health and beauty. The first women’s magazine ever published was Godey’s Lady’s Handbook written by Sarah J. Hale. She was the most popular person in publishing at the time. These women’s magazines are exactly like now a day, except less revealing and with different fashions and trends. Harper’s Bazaar was published in 1867. It was a women’s fashion magazine that gave an inside look into the world of beauty, fashion, and popular culture on a monthly basis. Women were updating their looks and beginning to follow trends. Many more changes would soon come as well. Women always played a role in the prosperity and growth of a community. These roles vary based on time periods and locations. Even though women came from different races or backgrounds, they played major roles in their families and communities. Colonial women were an essential and important part of history. They all faced struggles during their lives and had to overcome the challenges that faced them politically, socially, and emotionally and they succeeded in the end. Bibliography/Source Page
"History Corner." : Clementina Rind, Printer. Virginia Historical Society, n.d. Web. 15 May 2013.
"Important and Famous Women in America." Important and Famous Women in America.United States History, n.d. Web. 15 May 2013.
Sarudy, Barbara Wells. "18th-century American Women." : Biography. N.p., 10 Mar. 2013.Web. 15 May 2013