Women in the 19th Century

Topics: Women's suffrage, Feminism, Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pages: 6 (2253 words) Published: September 26, 2014

History 12
12 / 01/ 13
In the nineteenth century, in America, the role women would play in our society began to change dramatically. This was the beginning of a whole new world for women, and America in general. Women began to realize that there were opportunities for them outside of the home, and that they could have a place in the world as well as men. It was a time when the feministic view was being born and traditional views of women were changing. First, women would play a part in working to help slaves gain their freedom in the anti-slavery movement. They felt they could identify with the way slaves were being treated, therefore wanted to help them. Middle class women then would begin to realize that they were just the same as men, and wanted to be treated that way, and partake in the same activities. This included getting an education, working and being able to support themselves without the help of men. This changed not only the traditional roles of women in society, but also their role in the family. With women wanting the right to vote, work and go to school, middle class life as they new it would be drastically changed. Women would no longer be in the home with the children cooking and cleaning; they wanted to get out into the world. There was still an extremely long way to go before women were to be accepted in society, and this was just the beginning.

In 1830‘s, there was a radical anti-slavery movement, which demanded the cessation of slavery on the grounds that every man was the owner of himself. That is, that every human being is the only person who has jurisdiction over his or her own body. Angelina Grimke, Sarah Grimke, and Abbey Kelley were a few of the major feminists during this time. These women became the first women in America to do lecture tours before audiences, that included men, about anti-slavery. They believed that women should be grateful to slaves because giving them freedom would lead to society’s granting of women’s freedom. This made people start to see the similarities between how slaves were treated and how women were treated, and began to strike up feminist views among many people. It was evident that white men were applying much of the same principle to women as they were to slaves. Also during this time, the ideas of individualism seemed to only matter for the white man. Angelina Grimke became the first woman to speak before an American legislative body on February 21, 1838. While addressing the Massachusetts Legislature, she spoke of both slavery and women’s rights together.

Angelina’s older sister, Sarah Grimke shared much of the same beliefs. In 1837 she wrote a pamphlet call Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Woman, which used the individualist feminist approach of comparing women to slaves. She compares the Louisiana law that said that all a slave possesses belongs to his master with a law that said, “A woman’s personal property by marriage becomes absolutely her husband’s which, at his death, he may leave entirely from her.”:

“If the wife be injured in her person or property, she can bring no action for redress without her husband’s concurrence, and in his name as well as her own. This law is similar to the law respecting slaves, ‘A slave cannot bring suit against his master or any other person, for an injury-his master must bring it.’”

In the early nineteenth century, married women could not do much of anything without their husband’s consent. Once women were married they seemed to disappear; they lost their names to men along with any identity of their own. Women lost all ownership of inherited property or earnings to their husbands as soon as they were married. Also by law, children were controlled only by their fathers. It wasn’t until 1850 that the married woman’s property law was passed. This law enabled women who were married to still be entitled to their inheritance. Due to the efforts of the Grimke sisters, women’s rights there...
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