Women and Work in the 19th Century

Topics: Women's suffrage, 19th century, Women's rights Pages: 3 (909 words) Published: May 15, 2015
Women and Work in the 19th Century
The 19th century was an era of change. The United State was moving away from agriculture and turning to manufacturing and commercial industries. This pivotal move would cause countless women to move from domestic life to the industrial world. Women were moving from the small safe world of family workshops or home-based businesses to larger scale sweatshops and factories. Before the changes women had limited career options. In fact the work of a wife was at the side of her husband running a household, farm or plantation. "Indeed, a wife herself was considered her husband's chattel or personal property" (Cullen-Dupont 212). The woman’s role was to cook for the household, make clothing, spin yarn, and weave cloth. Such duties were time consuming and usually took the whole day. After the Revolution and into the early 19th century, educating the children became the mother's responsibility. The revolution brought more responsibility and widows and the wives of men off to war often managed large farms and plantations. Other women worked as servants or slaves. Unmarried women, the divorced, and women without property, might work in another household, helping out with household chores or substituting for the wife if there was not one in the family. 

The Industrial Revolution was fueled by the economic need of many women, single and married, to find waged work outside their home. Most women’s jobs were limited to textile factories, domestic service and workshops with a few women in coal mines. This era provided women the opportunity to receive independent wages, mobility and a better standard of living. "For some middle-class women, the new jobs offered freedom from the domestic patterns expected of them" (Spielvogel 657). The women who were relegated to work in factories often received a life of hardship. Such women received lower wages than men evidently this was the sole reason that they were hired. To some extent this was an...


References: Cullen-Dupont, Kathryn. "Women 's Rights Movement." The New Book of Knowledge. 2nd ed. 1994. 
Hartman, Dorothy. "Women 's Roles in the Late 19th Century." Life in the 1880 's. Conner Prairie. 25 Mar. 2006 .
Ryan, Mary P. Womanhood in America from the Colonial Times to the Present. New York: F. Watts, 1983. 
Spielvogel, Jackson. Western Civilization. 6th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth Co., 2006.
Woloch, Nancy. Women and the American Experience. The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., 1996.
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