The view of women in work has changed so much in the past 150 years. They have gone from being strictly homemakers to working in the atrocities of the coal pits, all the way up to becoming the CEOs of major corporations. This is not to say that women no longer need to fight sexism in the workplace, for it is not a problem that has ended completely. However, conditions have become millions of times better. What I will present in this paper is the far the quality of work for women has come, as well as the broadening views of the world on women. Since the time when the (Polytheistic) religions of Mother Goddesses from image-based religions fell under the power (Single God) of the masculine, Male-worshipping word-based religions, women have been viewed as lesser's.
As such, women were called weak, unable to handle physical labor and the like. Because of this, women were given the roles of homemaker, cook, nanny, and sometimes nurse. Men and Women alike believed that women could not physically handle hard farm labor. They believed that women had not the brain power of a man, and so were not educated. Times began to change. By the time the industrial revolution hit, families were so desperate for money that every member of the family went to work, including the children.
Conditions, even for the young ones, was horrible. Even as the women began to work, their lives still revolved around those of the men, as seen in this excerpt from Harriet Robinson's Lowell Mill Girls: "The most prevailing incentive to labor was to secure the means of education for some male member of the family. To make a gentleman of a brother or a son, to give him a college education, was the dominant thought in the minds of a great many of the better class of millgirls. I have known more than one to give every cent of her wages, month after month, to her brother, that he might get the education necessary to enter some profession. I have known a mother to work years in this way for her boy. I have known women to educate young men by their earnings, who were not sons or relatives.
There are many men now living who were helped to an education by the wages of the early millgirls". (Robinson, P 8) Women were not allowed any maternity leave if they became pregnant. This occurred even in the coal mines where grueling labor forced them to crawl on their hands and knees with a belt about their waist and a chain between their legs. This chain was attached to a load of heavy coal, and these women had to drag the coal through sometimes 3 miles of tunnel. The coal mines were a grueling place of work for members of either sex. Hours were long, workers often had 12 hour shifts, going from six in the morning to six at night, They were given an hour for dinner and some bread and butter for supper.
There were no drinks for workers, despite hot conditions. The tempretures were so warm that many workers were at least topless (including women); some wore only flannel loincloths or were completely naked. With all this nudity, intercourse, sometimes rape, was a common occurance. The children grew up without an education and as a result could not read or write. Shafts often became flooded, and many workers drowned. For this grueling, harsh, and unsafe labor, the men were paid six shillings a week.
The women were paid half that amount at 3 shillings, the equivelant of 27 cents, a week! Of course, back then, costs were lower, but still the women were paid half as much as the men, despite the fact that they often had a family to support just as well as the men did. This, however, was only for the lower-class women. Women of the upper class could not lift a finger. Fashion at this time literally caged them in. This was the golden age of the corset.
An image of women as weak and fluttery was created because women would often faint from their corsets being tied too tight, causing them to have difficulty breathing. A popular collectible item at this time were collections under glass jars. These Women were like these collections. They were pretty to look at, but they i not do ny good, they only took up space. A person of today may look back on this and wonder why the working class women were not looked upon as strong and independant. The reason why is that these women were uneducated, had coarse language, and were often very filthy.
They were dirty, scraggly, and very ugly. Why would these women under glass jars who were taught to believe that beauty and submission were the best qualities in a woman? Years later, the years of the corset are dwindling. It is the 1940's. Women in America have won their suffrage.
Stil, however, a job is out of the question. The women stay at home. They cook. They clean. They submit to their husbands, they care for their kids.
Suddenly, WWII comes along. The main workforce is swept off to war. There are huge holes in the workforce, too many to be filled by the remaining men, and by now child labor laws are being passed. The government needed a way to keep their economy afloat, and so they devised a plan.
Her name was Rosie the Riveter. She encouraged women nationwide to get a job to help the boys on the front. Women began working as welders, riveters (natch), engineers, reporters, nurses... any job that needed filling. With a single rivet, Rosie began the movement for true womens' independance. Before the war, American women believed in the need to be married and care for a family.
Through work, they found a talent, a strength, an ability to be strong without a husband. In Rosie women began to see the first American Strong Woman: the independant woman. The strong, powerful woman. Rosie could deal with anything on her own, but because she loved her man, she worked for him while he fought on the front. And so, the US Government found a way to keep their economy afloat. What they didn't know was just what kind of can of worms they had opened.
Time progressed, and so did society. After the war, women went back to their home lives. Some happily, some... well... they liked work. So women began to get jobs, although at first women could only get small jobs. By and by though, working women grew in strength and number. The 1960's came around, and the young women in their 20's saw that they really could be independant, that thy really didn't need to be married.
So in the 70's and 80', women rushed to the workplace, and began to work their way up the ladder. Today, women are common in any workplace. In these times, many people believe that a woman can do just as much as a man can. Unfortunately, however, there are still those people who believe that the place for a woman is in the kitchen, not at a desk doing honorable work, making money for themselves, and many not having a family or a husband to support. Unfortunately, there is still a large amount of pressure put on working women. Women are often not paid as much as men, the average salaries for men and women are thousands of dollars apart.
Women still have to deal with Sexual harassment in the workplace, although it is not nearly as bad as the rape that many coal mining women of the industrial revolution had to go through. There is one issue, though, that still plagues or culture. The idea of marriage. It is pressed onto young girls as the perfect relationship, making them believe that you have to be married to be happy. This kills off many forms of independance.
Marriage is such a large commitment that a couple would be better off just dating than married, especially the woman. Many a woman has quit her job just because her husband did not want her to continue working. All in all, however, we have come long way. Women have grown even in politics, and I believe we will soon have a female president.
When this step takes place, I think that Women will have an even stronger presence in the workplace, as well as be more independant. The education of history gives women the roots they need to grow wings, just as the bible rooted Christianity..