Women in Society throughout History
Throughout history, women have been seen in many different lights. From a woman’s perspective she is strong, smart, helpful and equal to men. In the eyes of men, she is seen as the weaker being, the housewife, and the caretaker. By looking at the following pieces of writing, one can see that through the centuries, women have struggled to break out of the mold that man had put her in and make themselves known in society as important. In Utopia written by Sir Thomas More, he talks about the idea of a perfect world, if it could ever be possible, and what it would be like. The reader is given a chance to think for himself about what his own ideas would be for his “perfect world”. For women who read this during More’s time, they could have been dreaming of a perfect world where women were allowed better jobs, and were given the right to vote. For those women who read it now, they may be dreaming of a world where a woman is president and both men and women gain equal wages in the workplace. After reading Utopia it is revealed that More’s world is only concerned with men, and what men can gain from it. In More’s own utopia he believes that, “Everything is shared equally, and all men live in plenty.” (More 81) This proves that men would be the only one to gain something from the world. More’s main concern was with the way a government was run. He didn’t believe that a nation could “be governed justly or happily”. (More 80) The same goes for the way women perceive today’s government. This has been an issue since the time of More. Most women disagree with the way in which the government is run, but it seems that it is not up to them to change it no matter how hard they try. Of Domesticall Duties by William Goudge explains that even if a woman’s husband is “a man of lewd and beastly conditions”, “a drunkard, a glutton, a profane swaggerer”, or a “blasphemer” (Goudge 195) she still must take care of him. In the time of Goudge, during the 1630’s, women were supposed to give birth to and raise children, cook and clean. She was also supposed to honor and take good care of her husband no matter what kind of man he was. Even though this man may “carry the image of the devil” (Goudge 195) he is still made in God’s image, therefore he is an important creature and must be properly taken care of by his wife. Since religion and the male influence in society were so prominent in this time, women knew nothing else but to do as they were told. They would never even think of talking or striking back against their “duties”. In 1792, a woman named Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women. In her writing, she makes it clear that women were perceived as the weaker sex. She states that “women are not allowed to have sufficient strength of mind”. (Wollstonecraft 333) This was the mold that women had been trying to break out of for centuries. She also explains that women are told from the time they are born that they should be gentle and kind and have a “softness of temper” in order to gain the protection of a man. (Wollstonecraft 333) She also says, that women are told that beauty is the only thing they need until their twenties. Mary Wollstonecraft says that this belief is a true insult to the female species. What Wollstonecraft wanted to get across to women was that it was “ok” for women to be strong and powerful. She did not want women to be afraid of what people said or thought about them. In Mary Wollstonecraft’s time, women were taught “never for a moment feel herself independent.” (Wollstonecraft 335) She exclaims later that this way of thinking is purely nonsensical. She later explains that if women are so inferior and weak then a woman’s consequences for her actions should be less than a man’s; not equal. She states that though she personally loves man, women should not be obligated to pay them honor and respect when it is not deserved. Finally, she makes a statement in which she says...
James M. Brophy, Joshua Cole, Steven Epstein et al., Perspectives from the Past: Primary Sources in Western Civilizations: From the Age of Absolutism through Contemporary Times (Third Edition), New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company, 2005
Goudge, William, “From Of Domesticall Duties,” in Brophy et al., ed., Perspectives from the Past, 195.
Wollstonecraft, Mary, “From A Vindication of the Rights of Women,” in Brophy et al., ed., Perspectives from the Past, 332-337.
Jefferson, Thomas, “From The Declaration of Independence,” in Brophy et al., ed., Perspectives from the Past, 354- 356.
Sanford, Elizabeth Poole, “From Women in Her Social and Domestic Character,” in Brophy et al., ed., Perspectives from the Past, 487-489.
More, Thomas, “From Utopia,” in Brophy et al., ed., Perspectives from the Past, 80-84.
De Gouge, Olympe, “From Declaration of the Rights of Women,” in Brophy et al., ed., Perspectives from the Past, 372-374
Kollontai, Alexandra, “From The Autobiography of a Sexually Emancipated Communist Woman,” in Brophy et al., ed., Perspectives from the Past, 668-671.
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