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Women in American Society

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Since early times women have been uniquely considered as a creative source of human life. Historically, however, they have been considered not only intellectually inferior to men but also a major source of temptation and evil. In Greek mythology, for example, it was a woman, Pandora, who opened the forbidden box and brought plagues and unhappiness to mankind. Also early Roman law defined women as children, always inferior to men.

During the early times of the United States, women had two main roles in society: these were motherhood and wifehood. In general, they had to watch the family and nurtured children; therefore, their proper and definitive place in social life was home. They were expected to do household responsibilities such as washing clothes, providing clothing and food for the entire family, and pleasing their husbands. The older daughters within family tended to learn from their mother's example that cooking, cleaning, and caring for children. However, these cultural directions about women's responsibilities were applied only to the white women of middle and upper classes. Traditional sex role models give men superior freedom to initiate sexual intercourse and to act as sexual experts, whereas women are expected to refuse sex, acting as sexual doorkeepers and limit-setters (Lips, 1981; Safilios-Rothschild, 1977).

In the nineteenth century, the industrial revolution and religious interest boosted women's public participation that affected tension in leading culture. During the nineteenth century, the economy was shifting from agricultural base to an industrial base. So, the need for educated worker increased significantly. Education became a mass rather than elite requirement for females as well as males, even though the education of girls was secondary to that for boys. Girls educated to read and write at schools and had no access to the colleges and universities. Women started to regular colleges and universities, by the end of the 19th century, however, increased the number of women students

During the industrial revolution, many factories were founded which declined the tasks of women in the house because many goods were manufacturing in the mills. Having fewer jobs within the house, the young women started working in the factories. The right occupations for working young women were limited to the factory labor and domestic work. Many women involved in unpaid associations such as missionary societies or women's club. It was during this period when independence of women began booming in the new economic direction. But again the individualism was out of question for married women; they were not individuals, but members of their families, as mothers and wives. Moreover, wealthier white women from middle and upper classes were not allowed to enter any job except teaching and writing. Also, working women were paid unfairly and made less money than men. It was simply because women were not seen as breadwinner. They were working to help family.

In addition to educational chances, many women began to request political privileges, especially the right to vote, or women's suffrage. Time was changed; women were playing a dynamic role in the work force as well as in the home. They assumed that they did not deserve to be treated like a second-class


citizen after all these helps to the state and nation. They wanted to speak out their own beliefs and opinions not those of the major culture. And they thought, they would be able to effect the society and gain a larger role of liability and equality.

The Women's suffrage movement started in 1848 with the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. In 1917, the legislature granted women the right to vote in primary elections. The Nineteenth Amendment that would give women the right to vote in federal elections.

The World War II had a deep effect on American society. Women around the country were transformed from the regular housewife into a person with a voice and most importantly a purpose. (Roark, 1998) They achieved every kind of work possible and showed to be as strong as men. They were making a living that was not similar to anything they had seen before. They were dependent on themselves. During the war years, the female labor force increased by 57 percent, and the proportion of working women went up from 25 percent to 36 percent. Many believed that after ending of the war, women workers will return to their home. However, this proved to be impossible. With the new trend of home life after the war those traditional believes of women's proper roles were believed to be out of date.

In the United States during the 1960s, there started a period of significant social change; in women's issues, the result was a phenomenon known as the women's movement. In the 1960s the federal law started passing laws to improve the economic status of women. One of these was The Equal Pay Act of 1963. This required equal wages for men and women doing equal work. The second one was The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which restricted discrimination against women by any company with 25 or more employees. Even in 1967, a Presidential Executive Order prohibited discrimination against women in hiring by federal government contractors (Appleby, Brinkley & McPherson 567-568).

Tests made in the 1960s showed that the academic achievement of girls was higher in the early grades than in high school (Ryan, 1979). The major reason given was that the girls' own expectations declined because neither their families nor their teachers expected them to prepare for a future other than that of marriage and motherhood. Influenced by the success of the civil rights movement for racial equality and other reformist currents sweeping the nation during the 1960s and 1970s, a wide array of organizations and lobbying groups urged complete equality for American women as well. Not everybody accepted the developing changes, as evidenced by the formation of a number of organizations intent on countering what they viewed as uncontrolled feminism. 
But whatever the viewpoint, there can be no hesitation the changes have been significant.



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