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Women In Nineteenth-Century America

As household production by women declined and the traditional economic role of women diminished, the “home” appeared as a topic to be discussed and an ideal to be lauded. Less a place of production than a spiritually sanctified retreat from the hurly-burly of economic life, the home was where women nurtured men and children into becoming morally elevated beings. It could be said that what we think of as the traditional “home” was actually an invention of nineteenth-century Americans.Continue Reading »

Women and Nineteenth-Century Reform

The work of Dorothea Dix to improve the treatment of persons with mental illness illustrates the gendered nature of nineteenth-century reform activity. Like many women of her generation, Dix began her career as a teacher, a profession that many women and men believed ideally suited to women as it both mirrored and prepared them for their roles within the home. Dix’ tireless activism within the Unitarian church and sense of moral religious duty was also common for women of her day. Eventually Dix felt that school teaching was insufficiently rewarding and in 1831 left the United States for a tour of England and Scotland. There, she became acquainted with a number of leading reformers who worked to improve the conditions for the poor and the mentally ill. On her return to the United States, Dix accepted a position to teach Sunday School to women prisoners at the East Cambridge jail. Thus, her life’s purpose grew out of a very common role for women at this time, that of educator and moral guide.Continue Reading »

Friedan, Betty — (1921-2006)

In 1966, Betty Friedan helped establish NOW, the National Organization for Women. She served as its first president. She led campaigns to end unfair treatment of women seeking jobs. Friedan also worked on other issues. She wanted women to have the choice to end their pregnancies. She wanted to create child-care centers for working parents. She wanted women to take part in social and political change. Betty Friedan once spoke about her great hopes for women in the 1970s:

“Liberating ourselves, we will then become a major political force, perhaps the biggest political force for basic social and political change in America in the seventies.”Continue Reading »

Woman’s Place After the War (1944)

“Will women want to keep their jobs after the war is over?” When I asked Miss Mary Anderson of the Bureau of Women in Industry, she told me it all boils down to economic necessity. Married women usually keep their jobs only when they have real need for money at home. This, of course, does not mean that women who take up some kind of work as a career will not stay in that work if they like it, whether they are married or single.Continue Reading »

Women In Politics – Eleanor Roosevelt (1940)

We are about to have a collective coming of age! The women in the United States have been participants in government for nearly twenty years. I think it behooves us to look back on this period in which we have been serving our apprenticeship and decide what our accomplishments have been, how much good our education has done us, and whether we really are able to consider ourselves full-fledged citizens.Continue Reading »

Catt, Carrie Chapman

A dynamic speaker and tenacious organizer, Carrie Chapman Catt was a powerful force in the woman suffrage movement. Her relentless campaigning won President Woodrow Wilson’s respect and support, and ultimately led to passage of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote.Continue Reading »

Women and the Vote

Women are thinking and that is the first step toward an increased and more intelligent use of the ballot. Then they will demand of their political parties clear statements of principles and they will scrutinize their party’s candidates, watch their records, listen to their promises and expect them to live up to them and to have their party’s backing, and occasionally when the need arises, women will reject their party and its candidates. This will not be disloyalty but will show that as members of a party they are loyal first to the fine things for which the party stands and when it rejects those things or forgets the legitimate objects for which political parties exist, then as a party it cannot command the honest loyalty of its members.Continue Reading »

Stewart, Maria Miller

Maria W. Stewart (1803-1880) was one of the first American women to leave copies of her speeches. The address below is her second public lecture. It was given on September 21, 1832 in Franklin Hall in Boston, the meeting site of the new England Anti-Slavery Society. Although as an abolitionist, she usually attacked slavery, in this address she condemns the attitude that denied black women education and prohibited their occupational advancement. In fact she argues that Northern African American women, in term of treatment, were only slightly better off than slaves.Continue Reading »

Frederick Douglass on Woman Suffrage: 1888

Frederick Douglass was one of the few men present at the pioneer woman’s rights convention held at Seneca Falls, New York, in July 1848. His support of women’s rights never wavered although in 1869 he publicly disagreed with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony who called for women’s suffrage simultaneously with voting rights for black men, arguing that prejudice and violence against black men made their need for the franchise more pressing. Nonetheless, Douglass remained a constant champion of the right of women to vote.Continue Reading »

Douglass, Frederick

Douglass’s life spanned important decades of American history in which the contradictions of race, class and gender were debated. Douglass played a crucial role in those debates. He spoke out against Northern race prejudice as well as Southern slavery. He challenged segregated Sabbaths–either white or black and criticized the race prejudice of immigrant labor organizations which excluded black freemen. Douglass once remarked that his son could more easily become an apprentice in a Boston law firm than in any workingman’s organization. Continue Reading »

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