Background Women weren’t educated (widespread) until the 19th century, so literature up and until that point is male dominated. Women had strict societal roles Did not include voicing their opinion Or holding jobs (such as writing) These roles were enforced with severe consequences Bymale family members (fathers, husbands, brothers)
History (Britain) We take for granted that women can choose whether or not to marry, and whether or not to have children, and how many. Women of the mid-19th century had no such choices. Most lived in a state little better than slavery. They had to obey men, because in most cases men held all the resources and women had no independent means of subsistence. A wealthy widow or spinster was a lucky exception. A woman who remained single would attract social disapproval and pity. She could not have children or cohabit with a man: the social penalties were simply too high. Nor could she follow a profession, since they were all closed to women.
More History Girls received less education than boys, were barred from universities, and could obtain only low-paid jobs. Womens sole purpose was to marry and reproduce. At mid-century women outnumbered men by 360,000 (9.14m and 8.78m) and thirty percent of women over 20 were unmarried. In the colonies men were in the majority, and spinsters were encouraged to emigrate
Women’s Lives in America During the early history of the United States, a man virtually owned his wife and children as he did his material possessions. If a poor man chose to send his children to the poorhouse, the mother was legally defenseless to object. Some communities, however, modified the common law to allow women to act as lawyers in the courts, to sue for property, and to own property in their own names if their husbands agreed. Equity law, which developed in England, emphasized the principle of equal rights rather than tradition. Equity law had a liberalizing effect upon the legal rights of women in the United States. For instance, a woman could sue her husband. Mississippi in 1839, followed by New York in 1848 and Massachusetts in 1854, passed laws allowing married women to own property separate from their husbands. In divorce law, however, generally the divorced husband kept legal control of both children and property.
More… In the 19th century, women began working outside their homes in large numbers, notably in textile mills and garment shops. In poorly ventilated, crowded rooms women (and children) worked for as long as 12 hours a day. Great Britain passed a ten-hour-day law for women and children in 1847, but in the United States it was not until the 1910s that the states began to pass legislation limiting working hours and improving working conditions of women and children. Eventually, however, some of these labor laws were seen as restricting the rights of working women. For instance, laws prohibiting women from working more than an eight-hour day or from working at night effectively prevented women from holding many jobs, particularly supervisory positions, that might require overtime work. Laws in some states prohibited women from lifting weights above a certain amount varying from as little as 15 pounds (7 kilograms) again barring women from many jobs.
Women and Psychiatry Women were committed for many reasons: epileptics, alcoholics, drug addicts, and a variety of other deviants or social nonconformists “loose women” To read more about this topic, click here:
19th Century Women Writers Emily Dickinson Kate Chopin Nellie Bly Harriet Beecher Stowe Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Issues in Women’s Writing Lack of power, control Sexuality Abuse Family Children and Birth control Social roles Motherhood and Marriage In reaction against Victorian ideals
Works Cited British History Background slide Women in America Background slide
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