Women in American History
28 November 2012
Women in American History: Consider the Latinas
“And now we have to beg for what we had the right to demand.”
Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burtonp describes the lives of mostly all women in American History in one simple sentence. It is a very broad concept to consider, however, it is easy enough to explain. Women, for hundreds of years in American history, have been portrayed as inferior to men, and have had to beg, fight, scream, and kick to get what they should have been able to have in the first place as an equal being. As hard as it has been for women in general to get where we are today, we must consider the hardships that race-discriminated women, such as African Americans, Asians, and Latinas, had to face in addition to those of simply being a women. This essay will first review the lives of most women in America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as some uncommon lives. Second, it will consider the role that Latinas played in the American woman’s quest for equality and freedom.
Patriarchy defined is a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line. This idea of patriarchy, established long before the Americas, was the idea that men had to suppress and control their wives and daughters. This is what led to the inferiority of women and superiority of men. In the nineteenth century is when the cult of domesticity, or “true womanhood” emerged. The cult of domesticity is basically an emphasis on the separation of spheres between man and woman. The outside world was a mess; the economy was unstable, and it was a tough world out there for men. The separation of spheres is the concept that women should stay in the home and take refuge, while the men stay outside and do the hard, dirty work. However, it wasn’t really considered that, maybe, the household work wasn’t as easy as it seemed. Women had to help on the farm, gather food to cook, actually cook, gather resources to make necessities like soap and candles, then actually make the soap and candles, make cloth out of cotton, then actually make the clothes, clean, give birth to children, manage children while doing all the housework, learn what to teach the children, and then actually teach the children, and more. On top of that women were expected to support and serve their husbands when they got home and do it with a smile on their face. Some of these tasks did get easier as time went on and inventions were introduced, but the idea of “true womanhood” was infused with these traits and responsibilities (lectures).
Another aspect of the cult of domesticity was the reputation that you were expected to keep with the society around you. Godey’s Lady’s Book, by Sarah Josepha Hale, was a sort of newspaper or magazine that help all things female. It had the latest fashionable trends that all women were expected to keep up with, as well as how-to’s for every aspect of the maintenance of a home. Also, women were expected to call on each other, which meant that you simply went to each other’s home and chatted in the parlor in order to keep a good reputation in society. These roles that women played, or rather lived, in their time is what kept them in subordination to men.
As common as the cult of domesticity was, there were plenty of women who didn’t let society rule her decisions and actions. Female workers started to emerge in the nineteenth century. Some of these jobs included domestic service, teachers, working in factories (such as the Lowell Mill Girls), working as authors of books and poetry or working for newspapers, and even prostitution. Working outside the home was an irregular idea during this period, but from here it grew more and more common.
Another uncommon idea, that started since the beginning of the United States but received more popularity during the nineteenth century, was...
Cited: Nancy Cott. No Small Courage: A History of Women in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Lisa Grunwald. Women’s Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present. New York: Dial Press, 2008.
Vicki L. Ruiz, ed. Latina Legacies: Identity, Biography, and Community. New York:
Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN: 0-19-515399-5.
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