Women's Rights in the United States in the 1700s

Topics: Seneca Falls Convention, Women's suffrage, Susan B. Anthony Pages: 5 (1770 words) Published: March 10, 2005
In the mid to late 1700's, the women of the United States of America had practically no rights. When they were married, the men represented the family, and the woman could not do anything without consulting the men. Women were expected to be housewives, to raise their children, and thinking of a job in a factory was a dream that was never thought impossible. But, as years passed, women such as Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Elizabeth Blackwell began to question why they were at home all day raising the children, and why they did not have jobs like the men. This happened between the years of 1776 and 1876, when the lives and status of Northern middle-class woman was changed forever. Women began to leave the house and begin work, and also began movements for equal rights for woman. They made large strides for equality, and really came far from where they were in 1776; however, they still were not close to having equal rights as the men in 1876. Many women campaigned to improve their lives, increase the wages of working women, and expand employment opportunities for women. This widespread effort became known as the temperance movement, and made a lasting impact on society, specifically the lives of Northern middle-class women.

First, in the mid 1700's, the traditional American family was still intact. Women were still expected to stay at home and raise the children. Men had all the power in the family, and the women could not do anything without consulting the men first. Document A shows exactly this. Sir William Blackstone is a commentator, who gave a commentary on the laws of England while America was not a country yet, but colonies of the English. He says that when the man and woman are married, they are considered one person. As Blackstone states, "...the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage..." The document proves that a woman cannot do anything without approaching the husband, nor anything can happen to her without the husband knowing. For example, the document states that if a woman is injured she can bring no action for redress without the husband concurrence, and also a woman cannot be sued without making the husband a defendant. So basically a woman had absolutely no rights at this time, and men controlled every aspect of their lives. As years pass, women begin to question why they are at home all day, and that shows just seven years later, in the year 1776, which is shown in document B. In this document Abigail Adams wrote to John Adams, asking him why there is such unlimited power in the hands of the men, and absolutely no power in the hands of the women. She says, "Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could." This is very significant because it shows that there is at least one woman that is beginning to question why men are always in control. This could have been the turning point for the women's rights movement because now there is a questioning spirit which always brings change, as did this. It looks as though the women might begin to gain some rights. It is set back when Abigail Adams receives a letter in response to hers by John Adams, mocking her statement, because he says that no government can be strong without men having the control they did. This letter is Document C, which could have crushed the women's rights movement, but the determination of the women to gain equality is shown in other documents, which is why they did not quit with this setback.

Second, in the late 1700's and early 1800's, there are considerable changes in the attitude of women, because their dedication towards their cause is growing and showing that a change must occur through action. Document F shows a picture of an American Family in 1790 showing the husband and wife both working together on something that women were traditionally supposed to do. Slowly, women and men are...
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