In the colonial era

In the colonial era, most American women of european descent lived lives much like those of their european counterparts. They were legally and socially subservient to men and attracted a patriarchal structure. Lower and working class women were actually more equal to men of their own classes but only because they were equally poor, all coming back to economics. Higher the social class, higher restrictions on women. American women did participate in the American Revolution but they were still expected to marry and have kids, rather than pursue a career. Under the legal principle of coverger, actually, husbands held authority over the person, property, and choices of their wives. Also since women were not permitted to own property, and property ownership was a precondition for voting they were totally shut out of the political process. CItizens of the New Republic were therefore definitionally male, but women did still approve their status by the ideology of Republican Motherhood. Women were important to the new republic, because they were raising children, especially male children who would eventually become the future voters, legislators and honorary doctors of America. So women themselves couldn’t participate in the political process but they needed to be educated some because they were going to “potty train” those who would late participate in the political system. SO even living without rights, the republican mother idea allowed women access to education so they could teach their children. The market revolution had profound effects on American Women too, because its production shifted from home to factories it shifted away from women doing the prodicing which lead to the cult of domesticity. The cult of Domesticity decreed that a woman’s place was in the home, so rather than making stuff, the job of women was to enable their husbands to make stuff by providing food and a clean living space, but also by proving non market values like love, friendship, and mutual obligation. One education reformer who was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sister, katherine,once said, ” Women is to win everything by peace and love; By making herself so much respected esteemed and loved that to yield to her opinions and to gratify her wishes will be the free will offering of the heart..But the moment women begin to feel the promptings of ambition, ot the thirst for power, her aegis of defense is gone.All the sacred protection of religion, all the generous promptings of chivalry, all the poetry of romantic gallantry, depend upon a woman’s retaining her place as dependent and defenseless, and making no claims and maintaining no right but what are the gifts of honor, rectitude and love”. It wasn’t just men who bought into the cult of domesticity. The idea of true equality between men and women was so radical that almost no one embraced it. Despite the economic growth associated with the market economy, womens opportunities for work were very limited. Only very low paying work was available to them and in most states they couldn’t control their own wages if they were married, but still poor women did find work in factories, or as domestic servant, or as seamstresses. Some middle class women found work in teaching, but the cult of domesticity held that a respectable middle class women should stay at home. The truth was most American women had no chance to work for profit outside their houses. So many women found work outside traditional spheres in reform movements. Reform movements were open to women partly because if women were supposed to be the moral center of the home they could also claim to be the moral conscience of the nation, thus it didn’t seem out of the ordinary for women to become active in the movement to build asylums for the mentally ill for instance like Dorothea Dix was, or to take the lead in sobering the men of America. Many of the most famous advocates for legally prohibiting the sale of alcohol in the U.S were women, like carry Nation who attacked bars with a hatchet The somewhat less radical France willard founded the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1874, which would be one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States by the end of the 19th century. Women gave many temperance lectures featuring horror stories of men who rather than seeking refuge from the harsh competition of their homes found solace at the bottom of a glass or the end of a beer hose. These temperance lectures would tell of men spending all their hard earned money on drinks and leaving wives and children starving and freezing. The prohibition is worth remembering because back then people drank way more than what we do now, and that also alcohol is probably a greater public health issue than some recreational drugs that remain illegal, but regardless the temperance movement made a huge difference in American life because eventually women would be a more powerful allie against alcohol if they could vote.
Many women were also important contributors to the anti slavery movement although they tended to have most subordinate roles. Like abolitionist Maria Stewart who was the first African AMerican women to lecture to mixed male and female audiences. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the very important Uncle Tom’s Cabin which introduced millions of Americans to the idea that African American people, were people. At least in the 19th century, Uncle Tom’s Cabin humanized slaves to such a degree that is was banned in many parts of the south. Sarah and Angelina Grimke daughters of the SOuth carolina slave holder converted quakerism and became outspoken critics to slavery. Sarah Grimke even published the letters of the equality of the sexes in 1838. So many women involved in the abolitionist movement, when studying slavery that was something familiar. Some male abolitionists notably frederick douglass and william lloyd Garrison became supporters of women’s rights, But ultimately the male leaders of the anti slavery movement denied women demands for equality, believing that any calls for women’s rights would undermine the cause of abolition. They may have had a point because slavery only existed in parts of the country, as women existed in all of it. One of the arguments used for pro slavery forces, was that equality under the law for male slave may lead to a slippery slope ending with equality for women. Out of this emerging consciousness out of their own subordinate position the movement for women’s rights was born. The most visible manifestation of it was the issue of women’s suffrage. Held in 1848, The seneca fall convention where Elizabeth cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and many others wrote and published the declaration of sentiments modeled very closely to the declaration of independence. Except in some ways this declaration was much more radical than the declaration of independence because it took on the entire patriarchal structure. During the 19th century women’s rights was a national moment. Many times women traveled

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