Segment descriptions
Minorities in America Series:
Women in America -
Early Industrial Era
Women's Suffrage
     Description: Womens Rights 1

Women in America-Early Industrial Era Through Womenís Suffrage   
sampler  3í12Ē    (56í lecture).

What is the contrast between the role of the Italian immigrant women and Jewish immigrant women in the early Industrial Era?

              play sampler






Expanded role of women.  End of the Civil War sets the stage for 19th century industrialization.  Need for factory labor force.  New immigrants from east and south Europe include low skilled Catholics and Jews.  In Italian families women kept at home but may do piece work at home.  Jewish women go out in the workforce in the needle trades but work under abominable conditions.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire is a tragic example.  Immigration dominated by men, have negative attitude toward women in the workforce.  Unions.  Women become active in unions, and rise from the ranks.  New occupations open to women including clerical work and sales in department stores, secretarial work.  Upper class women remain at home, may be better educated, form their own social organizations.  Black women work as domestics.




Birth control and the issue of womenís control of their bodies in the early 20t century.  Upper class women decrease number of their children to four.  Margaret Singerís role in promoting birth control.  There is also a dark side to this because of attitude of wanting to limit children of lower class women who are considered inferior. 
The Eugenics Movement.




Womenís voting rights.  The statesí rights approach.  Some states allow women to vote in state and local elections, state by state, west of the Mississippi. 
The Womenís Rights Amendment to the constitution passes after President Wilsonís wife prods him to support it.  Following this, the alliance between classes and racial groups supporting womenís rights breaks down.




African-American women are the heroic family wage earners doing domestic work for white families and double duty caring for their own family.  Black men remain largely unemployed in face of discrimination.




Farm women live a very difficult and lonely life.  They lack education and are unable to improve their lives.  Their heroic role enduring harsh farm conditions including draught.  Tenuous life on the prairie.  Their canning of food sustains family life during severe winter months.



Religion.  The official churches are run by men.  Long history of religious revival movements to return to core values.  The Great Awakening.  These movements have greater emotional content.  Some women take leadership roles, an access to a kind of power.  Men accept the inferiority of women who are believed to be emotional and irrational, unlike themselves.




Impact of slavery on women.  The plantation is a world unto itself.  While social attitudes hold that their women have no sexual urge, exist just for procreation.  Slave masters often force sex on slave women as an outlet for their own sex urges, with no social stigma.  White women find black men to satisfy their own sexual urges, placing both in danger, but the husband is usually oblivious, even not noticing his wifeís pregnancy, and the baby is passed off to a slave family.  Slave family dynamics.  Traditionally there is kinship with an extended family.  Slave marriages performed by jumping over a broom, and are respected as monogamous.  These marriages are sanctified by the masters as a benefit to workers now made more stable.  The danger of separation always exists, with each couple helpless to protect each other from mistreatment by the master.




19th Century. 
Some occupations open,
including elementary school teaching, later secondary school.  Status of education declines when women dominate.  Clerical and secretary work also decline in status.




Issues of the Womenís Rights Movement.  Divorce, it access, who will have the children in divorce.  Contracts, citizens rights, the right to vote.  Some issues are highly controversial and are not opened publicly.  This includes abortion, and infanticide by usually desperate women in poverty.  Number one issue is the right to vote.  Ideals of the Constitution are invoked, women not to be excluded.  Another argument is that it will result in better political action.  After the Civil War the 15th  Amendment is passed which gives black males the right to vote but excludes all women.  This is a devastating disappointment for the Womanís Rights Movement.  Often anger is directed to black males.  Women remain excluded from the right to vote for many decades. 




The Temperance Movement. Record of failure in American history, including Prohibition in the 1920s.  Negative image of women in temperance movement marching down the street smashing liquor bottles.  The meaning for women is the family dire circumstances from the manís drinking his wages, or drinking and abusing his wife.