Effect of Industrialization on the Status of Women Essay

Published: 2020-02-12 12:00:42
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Early 19th century in America was characterized by an increase in industrial activity which had an impact on the peoples economic and social lifestyle. This period was marked by the rise of various factories that were used in production and textile mills that were used to make and process clothes (Daniel, W. H. 115-121). This meant that almost all production work was done in one place or location like in Lowell, Massachusetts. The manpower that was required to do various tasks in the industries was mainly provided by women because they were believed to be experts in producing textile products, as well as keep them busy.

Men on the other hand involved themselves in more productive work. In New England, women benefited from these industries economically and improved their general lifestyle from around 1820 -1850. This is in view of how they were ill-treated in the pre industrial era. The women were viewed as worthless objects that were just there to be seen and not be heard. It is in response to this prejudice against women that the mills offered to give them jobs and pay them high wages.

In the 19th century, there were societal expectations that were supposed to be met by women like doing domestic chores, submitting to their husbands and being morally upright. Their new role as industrial laborers had to ensure that these principles were maintained. Their prospective employers therefore had to incorporate a moral package in the work place in order to entice the ladies to the textile mills. Francis Cabot Lowell proposed that the ladies live in hostels under the supervision of an elder woman with sound morals.

The girls had to abide by the rules that were instituted like sleeping time, meal time and even attending Sunday services. In their work stations, the ladies were also supervised by morally upright male supervisors while interaction with all other male employees was not permitted. Only moral ladies were hired and it was their duty to keep their traditional expectations and provide labor in the industries (Daniel, W. H. 220). As part of their societal expectations in New England, the ladies were required to assist their families economically.

In response to this role, the ladies had to spare apart of their earning in order to send home. The hostels provided accommodation for them hence reducing the housing burden that was experienced in most of the large families where they came from. The wages also catered for their personal needs and reduced the burden of relying on their parents for upkeep. Elderly parents and grand parents also benefited by being taken care of in a more comfortable environment. Some of the girls went as far as providing for their own dowry- their fathers role and supporting some of the single parents who were widowed.

The privilege of working in the mills was not however granted to married women or widows based on the cultural practices of the time. Very few disadvantaged women managed to secure mill jobs especially those who had quit from failed marriages. The Lowell mills were a great boost to the economy of the time because of the high wages that the workers received. Workers siblings were even able to go to good schools and colleges from the money their siblings generated. This was one of the objectives of Lowell, the mill owner.

The workers also helped their siblings to secure jobs in the mills to boost their family income and catered for all the expenses of relatives who came to Lowell to get jobs http://www. albany. edu/history/history316/MaryPaulLetters. html. This job opportunity improved the status of women tremendously in New England. Workers in Lowell textile Mills got financial freedom that had never been experienced in their traditional home life. Their overall impact on the economy was felt and got the attention of the nation.

Economic independence enabled the women to budget for their own income and as a result became more responsible, intelligent and acquired life skills that enhanced their status in the society (Daniel, W. H. 235-244). The fact that the ladies were free to do whatever they wished with their income was a good challenge for them to demonstrate their ability to make responsible choices and support their needy relatives and family members. The status of the ladies was increased by the learning and education that they obtained from the mills.

Younger operatives who were under the age of fourteen got the opportunity to attend school for a quarter of the year. The start of free public schools in Lowell provided education to many of the workers of the mills including evening classes and Lowell High School. Older workers had even more openings for learning at the mills. Some opted to spend their money in acquiring college education, while the others acquired knowledge from the mobile libraries, debating clubs and Sabbath schools that were organized by the mill owners (Daniel, W. H. 301-310).

Those who were interested in writing had the opportunity of getting their literary work published in their own magazine which was referred to as the Lowell Offering. They also got access to other magazines and newspapers at a regular basis. Literacy in the mills was promoted further by the discussions that they held on important matters of the day, reading novels, watching plays, and attending lectures for motivation and entertainment http://www. esc. edu/esconline/across_esc/writerscomplex. nsf/0/ . In general, working in the industries had such a positive impact in the growth of women due to the skills that they learnt in the mills.

The formation of the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association was a significant indicator that the women were courageous enough to rise up and fight for their rights which they were being denied. Their successful campaign against a legislator who opposed their demands was their first political activity which demonstrated the active role that industrialization had placed on women in airing their views on political issues (Daniel, W. H. 448). The young women got rich experience that prepared them to be better future wives and mothers who were hardworking, literate and aware of themselves and their potential in life.

Most of them later married men who settled in cities and towns and established successful families. This exposure that the New England women acquired was really unique in comparison to the farm life that they were used to during the pre industrial era which was full of prejudice and disrespect for their womanhood.

Works Cited

Daniel, Walker. Howe. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. London: Oxford University Press US, 2007. http://www. esc. edu/esconline/across_esc/writerscomplex. nsf/0/ http://www. albany. edu/history/history316/MaryPaulLetters. html

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