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Effects of the Industrial Revolution on Women (1) It is impossible to talk about the beginning of process of womens emancipation, without mentioning Industrial Revolution in Western countries, which began to take place in 18 th century and continued throughout 19 th century. Within a matter of hundred years, after ideas of egalitarianism began to circulate, women had acquired numerous civil rights, of which their grandmothers could only dream about. At the turn of 20 th century, the most outstanding representatives of weak gender, such as Mary Emerson, were openly promoting the ideas of gender equality something for which they would have been burned at the stake, even as recent as three hundred years ago, when religious prejudices still defined socio-political dynamics in America and European countries. However, it would be wrong to suggest that it is scientific and industrial progress alone that allowed women to gain equal status with men, as it is the case in civilized countries nowadays. We need to understand that Western culture always treated women with respect, even though that it was heavily influenced by Christianity, which clearly considers women as being inferior. Although, prior to Industrial Revolution in Europe and America, women could not vote and could not get a respectable job, they were never being referred to as simple commodity, which is still the case in Arab world.
Therefore, we can talk about Industrial Revolution as a social catalyst, which initiated the process of Western society returning to its original course of development, after two thousand years of being under spiritual yoke of Christianity. This automatically resulted in recognition of womens equality as something self-evident. Nowadays, many feminists suggest that the reason why todays women enjoy full equality with men is that previous generations of feminists were continuously undermining male dominance, throughout millennia. This could never be further from the truth. We need to understand that, prior to Industrial Revolution; it was not mens inbred sexism that prevented women from gaining social prominence, but the fact that society's morals were based on ancient religious dogma, which was extorted to Europe from Asia. Therefore, men and women were suffering equality from institutionalized sexism; which they thought was a law, laid down by the God himself.
This is why both - men and women were able to benefit from Industrial Revolution enormously. Women were able to become independent, because they could get a job at the factories. In their turn, men were able to expand their businesses, which could not be done earlier, because of labor shortage. It is understood that, even during the time of Industrial Revolution, female employees were still suffering from underprivileged status; however, they knew that the emancipation process had started and that now it was only the matter of time, before society would become completely egalitarian. (2) As we have mentioned before, the real reason for womens inferior status in Europe and New World, before the Industrial Revolution, is the powerful influence of Church on peoples minds. Bible insists that womens inferiority is perfectly moral: For from garments cometh a moth, and from women wickedness. Better is the churlishness of a man than a courteous woman, a woman, I say, which bringeth shame and reproach (Eccles. 42: 13 - 14).
Here is another pearl, in regards to women, which can be found in good book: Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything (Ephesians 5: 22 - 24). The traditional role of women, throughout the Middle Ages, consisted of raising children and taking care of the household. Back then, the rate of infant mortality was very high, therefore, women were required to give birth to as many children as possible, in order to increase the chances of some of them being able to survive. It was not very uncommon for the woman to become pregnant for as many as 10 - 15 times, throughout her life.
This, of course, was negatively affecting womens health and resulting in situation when their average life span was about 30 years. Basically, women were regarded as child bearing machines and Church encouraged men to treat their wives accordingly. In her article The Role of Women in the High Middle Ages, Angela Sandison provides us with idea of how did it feel being a woman, before Industrial Revolution: In the Middle Ages public opinion and the legal system were controlled by the Church and the aristocracy. These two authorities agreed that women should be placed as subservient to man, and thus the law did not see her as an individual in the same sense that it saw the man. Woman's inferior status was governed completely because of one fatal failure: her sex (Sandison). Nevertheless, even under the most impossible circumstances, some women were still able to prove to the world that they are equal to men and very often surpassed them.
The best example is Joan of Arc. She proved herself as an exceptional military leader, while being able to lead French army from victory to victory, at the time when even French king had given up on the cause, because situation seemed hopeless. However, despite the rare instances of women gaining social recognition, before the beginning of Industrial Era, most of them were simply forbidden from even trying to improve their lives. In pre-industrial America, religious fanatics were preoccupied with fighting witchcraft.
Very often, innocent women were being arrested and burned at the stake as witches, simply because they happened to be in wrong place in wrong time. Still, even extreme cruelty, on the part of lambs of God, which was meant to strengthen the position of Church, did not prevent them from loosing their spiritual influence. This coincided with beginning of Industrial Revolution and Womens Liberation Movement. (3) One of the most extraordinary events in Western history was the First Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in the later 18 th and early 19 th century and spread to the rest of the world. It was brought about by the development of mechanized methods of doing work, and especially by the early inventions in textile industry.
The adoption of these methods was what ended domestic production, since it could no longer compete. Due to the growth and expansion of industries and especially the textile industry, labor was required and women and children were the preferred labor force. This was due to the various reasons. The most important of them was womens willingness to work for less.
They were also more obedient than men. The role of women doing the household chores changed when they went out and took up employment in factories and also in mines. For the first time, women were being looked at as bringing income to the family. In U.
S. , the beginning of Industrial Revolution is strongly associated with the name of Francis Cabot Lowell, who in 1814 established Boston Manufacturing Company in Waltham, Massachusetts. This marked the beginning of American modern textile industry. Today, Lowell is considered as founder of what now is referred to as corporate culture. He used to hire young women from the rural areas to work for his Boston Manufacturing Company. It allowed him to cut the cost of production by one third, since these women were being paid a very low wages. Still, the salaries, offered by Lowell, were higher then what female workers could hope to earn anywhere else.
Lowell used to attract new recruits by offering them cheep housing. He went even as far as building a church, in the immediate proximity to his mill in Massachusetts, where female employees could pray for the forgiveness of their sins, while being mercilessly exploited. Many historians agree that the beginning of Womens Liberation Movement in America can be traced back to Lowells mills. In his article Women and the Early Industrial Revolution in the United States, Thomas Dublin says: Textile mills of the Waltham-Lowell system sprang up across the northern New England countryside between 1814 and 1850 and grew steadily across the second half of the century. Between 1830 and 1860, women remained a key labor force for this growing industry. Mill superintendents paid recruiters to circulate through northern New England and to bring suitable young women to work in their mills.
The wages, typically set at $ 3. 00 to $ 3. 50 per week, were much higher than anything farm daughters could earn in their hometowns and proved a strong attraction (Dublin). Slowly but surely women began to acquire the taste of independence, even though that very often this would coincide with experiencing misery and poverty, on their part. At the mill, woman was being paid for her work and if she did not like it, she could always leave. Even though that American Civil Law, at the time, did provide any legal protection to female workers, they were still enjoying a considerable degree of liberty, especially in comparison to the prospective of having to stay home the whole time, just to please their husbands.
The same social trends were being observed in other Western countries as well. The increasing amount of goods that were coming from the colonies required the employment of more and more laborers. During 19 th century, British young men preferred to travel abroad, while hoping to make fortune in one of British numerous colonies. This resulted in the shortage of laborers in England's mining and heavy industries. In its turn, this caused a dramatic increase in number of women that were being hired to perform heavy physical labor. For example, 35 % of British coal miners in 1870 were women.
The article Economic Change and Sex Discrimination in the Early English Cotton Factories by Douglas Galbi, provides us with the full spectrum of jobs, where women were being engaged, during the time of Second Industrial Revolution in England: Working class women in early nineteenth century England did physically demanding work. Women were employed in agriculture as day laborers and worked at digging, hoeing, trenching, planting, and gathering. Women, sometimes with help from men, did laundry, a strength-intensive job in early nineteenth century England. Some women also worked in the coalmines pulling coal to the surface on sledges.
In early nineteenth century England, it would not have been unusual for a woman to have a job that was highly taxing physically (Galbi). Eventually, women began to ask themselves if we are able to perform physically demanding work, just as men do, why cannot we be treated equally as well? It will not be an exaggeration to say that this question originated Womens Liberation Movement, as we know it. There are different points of view as to when and where did it begin, but historians agree that if it was not up to Industrial Revolution, women would still be probably considered as second-class citizens. It is not by a pure chance that the majority of most famous promoters of Womens Liberation Movement in 19 th century were associated with female workers at textile mills in America. One of them is Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who delivered her famed speech The Solitude of Self before the Committee of the Judiciary of the United States Congress in 1892.
Stanton declared that it is impossible to establish a gender equality in America, unless women are being given the same opportunities with men, when it comes to obtaining higher education: The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear, is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life (Stanton). It is very remarkable that, while performing monotonous and physically exhausting jobs, many 19 th century women were still able to find time to reflect on political issues. It was very difficult for socially active women, back then, to take care of children, to work at the factory or mill and to promote gender equality, at the same time. Social prejudices were still very strong in American society. In 19 th century, Bible thumper's were not simply comical figures, as they are now. They still exercised a considerable political influence, which is why early feminists had to constantly face the threat of physical reprisals.
The Industrial Revolution in U. S. was gaining momentum more rapidly then anywhere else in the world. This explains why, despite the burden of Christian nonsense, instilled in majority of Americans, since the time of their birth, America was one of the pioneers to grant women the right to vote. This took place in 1920, when Congress ratified Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Today, American women enjoy a complete equality with men.
In fact, they are often given a preference, when it comes to hiring procedures, because of numerous bylaws that are being enforced upon society by the hawks of political correctness. There are no socio-political barriers in contemporary Western societies that would prevent women from pursuing their professional goals. This can be thought of as an undeniable proof that the ideals of gender equality have finally triumphed. This is why, it is wrong to think of Industrial Revolution as something that simply boosted up a scientific progress. As it was being mentioned earlier, Industrial Revolution signified the initial stage of Western civilization beginning to realize its true destiny. It is perfectly natural for White men and women to think about the representatives of opposite sex as being equal, in metaphysical sense of this word.
The reason why they were not able to do it earlier, is because the spiritual poison of Christianity. At the same time, it does not matter how technologically advanced Arab countries might become or what religion is dominant there at the time - Arab women are still going to be required to wear black burkas in public and treated as soulless commodity, which is the case in present day Saudi Arabia. Therefore, we can conclude that technological and scientific progress only coincides with the process of womens liberation in societies, where respect towards women is passed from generation to generation on genetic level. For example, Industrial Revolution in Japan took place even earlier than it did in Russia. Nevertheless, even today, Japanese women cannot even dream of egalitarianism becoming Japans official policy, as it happened in Western countries long time ago. However, gender egalitarianism might become a thing of the past in Western societies as well, if our governments will continue to enforce multiculturalism, despite the fact that destructive nature of this concept is obvious to everyone.
Bibliography: Dublin, Thomas Women and the Early Industrial Revolution in the United States. 2006. American History Online. 12 Aug. 2007. web Galbi, Douglas Economic Change and Sex Discrimination in the Early English Cotton Factories. 8 Mar. 1994. Galbi Think. Org. 12 Aug. 2007.
web Sandison, Angela The Role of Women in the High Middle Ages. 21 Jun. 2006. Knowledge Africa. Com. 12 Aug. 2007. web Stanton, Elizabeth The Solitude of Self. 1892. 3 Dec. 2001.
Wake Forest University. 12 Aug. 2007. web New King James Version: Scofield Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Abstract: This paper discusses connection between Industrial Revolution and Womens Liberation Movement in Western countries. Outline: Introduction Women before Industrial Revolution Women after Industrial Revolution
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Research essay sample on Effects Of The Industrial Revolution On Women