February 15, 2013
Femininity throughout American History
Femininity is the trait of behaving in ways considered typical for women. Although the definition of femininity has not changed, expectations of a typical woman in today’s society has radically changed since the 1800’s. As the 19th amendment was passed and technological advances were discovered, cranes, forklifts and other heavy duty machinery requiring strength, women slowly became more able to do all tasks that once only men could accomplish, women and men even began to wear the same types of clothes, thus the line between masculinity and femininity is gradually fading and nearly gone. gone.gLife in the 1800’s for a typical woman was filled with much adversity. During the early 1800’s women were considered their husbands’ “property” and inferior to men. In the bible, Eve, and Greek mythology, Pandora, brought evil into this world. This gave the overall impression that women were like children and not able to care for themselves (“Women’s History In America”). Wives were expected to obey their husbands’ every command; otherwise most were beaten and not protected by law. Women were not seen as responsible enough or qualified for work or making major financial decisions. They were not allowed to own property and the fathers had full custody of the children if the couple were to separate. Divorce was very uncommon during this time because women were almost unable to provide for themselves. As a child, women would stay home with their mothers and help with everything; this would eventually help them when they too had to do this for their husbands. Also, premarital pregnancy was greatly frowned upon. It was nearly impossible to provide and care for the baby during that time because they had no source of income. In society, women played the role of the housewife. The wife was left with the duties at home, raising the children, cooking and housework; the natural job of females for most species. This title has been around since hunter-gather societies still existed. Men would hunt big game while women would stay home and nurture the children or gather fruits and vegetables. These roles were not made so that women were more dependent on the men to provide meat but a strategy because men were much better at tracking and killing big game than woman, making the men of the village in control; similar to households after civilization had taken place (Diamond 449). Housewives are still around today but it is not considered the only possible role for a woman in society, but men are still “bringing home the bacon”. Female employment began to grow because of an increasing number of new factories being built. As women became more highly educated, the involvement in politics and their representation in court be be came more important to them. to However, women continued to be treated unequally. Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the Seneca Falls Convention to discuss reforms and issues on women’s rights and suffrage. This sparked the beginning of the change of the word “femininity” and Women’s Rights Movement, from housewives to an income provider. During the period of 1880 to 1920 the number of employed women tripled. Clothes were also a big distinction between the sexes during their time. For those privileged and wealthy enough there was a difference in clothes that were worn by men and women, and the ones who had succumbed to poverty would wear anything they could so this disregarded them. During the 1800’s women generally wore gowns while men wore button-up shirts. This distinctly separated the physical looks of both genders.
The 1900’s was the century of change between women in the 1800’s to women in the 2000’s; there were many “firsts” during this period. The first time a woman competed in Olympic Sports, first woman to enlist in the military, first woman to be elected in to politics, even first woman...
Cited: Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. Women’s History in America. 2nd. Compton’s NewMedia, 1995. Women’s International Center. Web. 28 Feb. 2013
Diamond, Jared. What Are Men Good For?. New York: Longman, 2011. Print
Steinem, Gloria. Wonder Woman. New York: Longman, 2011. Print
Syfers, Judy. Why I Want a Wife. New York: Longman, 2011. Print
Trauth, Denise. The Changing Role of Women. Texas State U, 21 Oct. 2002. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women of the Century. Discovery Education, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013
Women in 1900. HistoryLearningSite.co.uk. n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013
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