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The Roles of Women in the 19th Century By Andie Blankenship


Education Women did not get the same education as men. They got a lot less education than boys. When girls tried to join a school, boys would not admit them. After these incidents, female academies were made and they flourished. By 1860, it was almost as likely to for white female as a white male to go to school. In 1880, the census found that there were more women who were literate than men. “Physicians believed that if a woman became too scholarly, her uterus would become dysfunctional, possibly leading to madness.” This quote is stating that if a woman got too smart, her body would stop working and she would go crazy. Women were allowed to read when they were growing up but were not supposed to get too into a certain study.

Rights Women had little to no rights. They lived in an environment that was a bit better than slavery. A woman was basically her husband’s legal slave. Men could only divorce their wives. If a woman wanted to get a divorce, she was not allowed. If she ran away the police would capture her and return her to her husband. He could then imprison her. Women could not rebel; signs of this were crushed by all men (fathers, brothers, husbands, etc.). Women were considered to be her husband’s property and he could punish her. William Blackstone ruled that husbands can administer “moderate correction” to disobedient wives.

Women started to think that they deserved rights too. They wanted to escape the treatment they were given.


Fashion

Women in the nineteenth century wore elaborate dress. They usually were long sleeved with tight fitting tops and full skirts. http://wilbercivilwar.pbworks.com/f/1242841401/1242841401/dress.jpg

Women had very constricting clothing. They wore tight corsets and crinolines to give the allusion of a skirt. When a woman wore a corset, 22 pounds of pressure put on her internal organs. This caused fractured ribs, collapsed lungs, and displacement in organs like the liver. Some physicians thought that it would affect the genitals and make it harder for the woman to bear the children and give birth. Another thought was that it would cause the blood to flow to her head and her personality would change. They were frowned upon because of the possible harm caused to organs and the limited range of movement it gave. Corsets gave the allusion of a smaller waist and a bigger bust, but they were tied so tightly enough that it caused fainting and affected the anatomy of the female.

Women would wear crinolines under their skirts to give it the signature full look. http://classconnection.s3.amazonaws.com/180/flashcards/2072180/gif/crinoline_-_18561354778442890.gif

It was reported in a magazine that a well-dressed woman wore 37 pounds of clothing, 19 from her waist and the rest distributed everywhere else. Women also wore crinolines which are stiffened petticoats that are used to expand a skirt (make it look larger). These made it tough for women to get dressed and undressed independently and was very time consuming. The skirts made moving harder. Many women died from their wide skirts getting engulfed by flames from an open candle or open grate. Elizabeth Miller designed an outfit for women that consisted of a jacket and a knee length skirt worn over Turkish style trousers. Amelia Bloomer published this outfit called a “Bloomer”. It was considered immodest and unfeminine; it was treated with disgust and hate.

This woman is wearing the outfit that was treated with disgust called a “Bloomer”. It consists of a knee length skirt worn over trousers and a jacket. http://www.ushistory.org/us/images/00034332.jpg


Rights Women had little to no rights. They lived in an environment that was a bit better than slavery. A woman was basically her husband’s legal slave. Men could only divorce their wives. If a woman wanted to get a divorce, she was not allowed. If she ran away the police would capture her and return her to her husband. He could then imprison her. Women could not rebel; signs of this were crushed by all men (fathers, brothers, husbands, etc.). Women were considered to be her husband’s property and he could punish her. William Blackstone ruled that husbands can administer “moderate correction” to disobedient wives.

Health and Stereotypes Men’s minds were not in the right place. Professional medical “theories” thought that the women’s regular condition should be sick. Males were considered to be healthy, aggressive, and robust which complemented the sickly nature of females. Men were considered powerful, brave, logical, rational, and independent. Women on the other hand were weak, timid, illogical, emotional, dependent, and should be kept in private. Women did not have very good health when it came to child bearing. In her lifetime, a woman would give birth to 7 children but 1/3 to ½ would die by age 5. By the 1900s the birth rate dropped to about 3.5 births and many families still lost their children before they are fully grown.

House-Keeping and Treatment Women usually did a lot of housekeeping in addition to child care. Men usually did not have to do much around the house. They would cook three meals a day for their families. They would also haul water and keeping the fire for cooking going. Some additional chores they did were laundry; ironing and mending clothes. Women baked and did a lot of cleaning. Women were in charge of the farms gardens, taking care of all of the animals, and helping in any way she can. A woman could only educate herself if it didn’t interfere with her housework. Women were considered to be her husband’s property and he could punish her. Susannah Palmer escaped from her husband who was cruel to her, and made a new life. Her husband found her, stripped her of all her possessions and made her miserable again. She was enraged and stabbed her husband. She was immediately prosecuted. Judge William Blackstone ruled that husbands can administer “moderate correction” to disobedient wives. Edith Lanchester’s father kidnapped her and put her into a lunatic asylum for cohabiting with a man. A woman could only be independent if she came from a wealthy family, had no brothers, and did not marry.


Social Classes and Jobs During the beginning of to the middle of the 19th century the social ladder was being changed. Women were supposed to be at the bottom of the social ladder since birth but many rebelled and wrote and criticized books on women’s situation. Females could only obtain low paying jobs. They started work around 8-12 and would continue till marriage. They had few jobs offered to them; seam stresses, unskilled factory hands, agricultural laborers, and domestic services. Women selling themselves to men were considered casual because they need subsistence. Lower class women could be servants, domestic help, factory workers, and they could sell themselves for money. Middle and upper class women can help in family businesses, but society wanted women to take care of the home, could be educated and study but couldn’t interfere with housework. Slavery was being questioned, and it was gotten rid of and middle class men wanted the right to vote. It was these changes that made women like Barbara Leigh Smith think that women deserved to be freed from their slave like status.

Women did not have many job opportunities but they could work as seamstresses and unskilled factory hands. http://courses.wccnet.edu/~jrush/women%20typists.jpg


Wojtczak, Helena. "WOMEN'S STATUS IN MID 19TH-CENTURY ENGLANDA BRIEF OVERVIEW by Helena Wojtczak." English Women's History. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2014. Radek, Kimberly M. "Women in the Nineteenth Century." Women in the Nineteenth Century. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2014. Hartman, Dorothy W. "Conner Prairie Interactive History Park." Lives-Of-Women. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2014.


The roles of women in the 19th century