AP American History 12/13/2004 Women's Role in Society During the early 1800's women were stuck in the Cult of Domesticity. Women had been issued roles as the moral keepers for societies as well as the nonworking house-wives for families. Also, women were considered unequal to their male companions legally and socially. However, women's efforts during the 1800's were effective in challenging traditional intellectual, social, economical, and political attitudes about a women's place in society. The foundation of colleges for women as well as events at women's rights conventions intellectually challenged society's views on women's traditional roles. As education became more of a public governmental service, the educational opportunities for women began to increase.
Emma Willard, founder of the Women's seminary in New York, created the Oberlin College. This college was the first college that was open to women as well as men creating the first opportunity for women in America to gain an advanced education. Years later, Mary Lyon founded the all female college called Mt. Holyoke College.
This changed America by not only providing an advanced education for American women, but also led to more colleges opening their doors to women. Another significant event for women's rights was when Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the first women's rights convention in 1848 and created the Declaration of Sentiments. This event instructed women that they were equal to men and inspired many people to feel the same. The creation of women's colleges as well as the organized event for women's rights were very effective in changing the roles of women in the minds of Americans. Women's rights activists influenced the nation to believe that women were men's equals, changing traditional women social roles. During the 1800's a husband had legal authority over their wife.
In a sense, he owned her, and for that reason women had little respect in their culture. However, as women pursued their cause for equal rights, many men began to see women as their equals. This gained them greater respect within their culture. An example of one of the social changes that occurred because of women's rights movements was when Lucy Stone kept her maiden name even after she became married. Fifty years before the women's rights movements began a small event like this would have never been allowed within the community.
As women in the 1800's fought for women's rights, slowly female social roles began to change. With the help of the Industrial Revolution, women made significant strives in changing the traditional economic roles given to females. Before the industrial revolution the only opportunity for a woman to be financially secure was for that woman to marry a financially secure husband. This created women's dependence on men because if the man died they would have no source of income. The Industrial Revolution provided many women with jobs of their own helping women to become self-dependant. This self-dependence allowed for women to pursue interests not involving men, such as women's rights movements.
As the Industrial Revolution made many jobs available, women started to encourage other women to obtain jobs of their own. The Cult of Domesticity that argued for women to play the traditional role of housekeeper slowly was becoming less valid. Women's rights activists made several attempts to change the political roles given to women. Just as women believed that they were equal to men, they believed that they should have equal voting to men. Susan B. Anthony was one women's rights activist who was arrested for attempting to vote for the presidential elections.
Unfortunately, women like Susan B. Anthony never saw equal voting during their time. However, one could argue that it was civil disobedience's such as Susan Anthony's that inspired future generations to fight for equal political opportunities for women in America. An argument could be made that because none of the women's efforts in challenging traditional attitudes had a huge effect that the women were not effective in their goal. This argument is false because as minor as these results were in their time, they resulted in more civil rights than had occurred between 0 B.C. to the 1800's.
Just as every fire is started with a spark, equal opportunities for women were created by the efforts of women in the 1800's. The women's efforts for equal opportunities helped to transform the intellectual, social, economic and political aspects that controlled our culture.