Women in the United States Since 1850

Published 06 Jul 2017

Feminism is an attempt by women to live to their full potential in a world that has already been shaped by the stronger sex of the human species; that is the male sex. The history of feminism tends to be associated with the upper class heterosexual white women who have power to express themselves. On the other hand though, this is not true since women all over the world have always fought there way among a male dominated society.

The abolitionist movement paved way for the feminist movement in the 19th century. It was however not clear whether the movement was for promoting black civil rights or women rights in general. In 1986, the black women formed organizations and merged them to form the National Association for Colored women. Despite these efforts, the feminism movement still remained associated with white, upper class women.

In the 1920s, during World War two, most men went to war and some of them died during war. Women were then forced to take up odd jobs that were normally associated with men. In the mean time, the women suffrage movement took a recovery through merging with the anti war movement. As the war went on, women had to take care of the United States economy by working. They were recruited to work even at military factories, producing ammunitions and other military goods.

After the war, began the second phase of the feminist movement. It was clear now that women could work as hard as men. Initially there was culture gender roles, workforce regulations, government discrimination and everyday chauvinism that left women dominated at home, in churches, at various work places, in educational institutions and even before their government. The end of war was therefore an eye opener to both men and women who were still fighting their way to recognition and appreciation.

Many writers of the early centuries wrote in favor of the women movements. The plea of women was therefore expressed in literature. Women writers emerged with pulp literature, whereby the freedom and liberation of women were major themes. One such author was Valerie Taylor. She was born in 1913, in Aurora, Illinois. Initially, she worked as a teacher, later got married and gave birth to three sons before getting divorced. She had to work had in order to sustain her children and herself hence became a writer. She wrote poetry, romance as well as lesbian world. As a strong activist, she founded the Mattachine Midwest as well as the Lesbian Writes Conference in Chicago. She later died in 1997, but her work still lives and speaks for many women liberations. It was an icon not only in the 1950s, but even in modern literature.

According to the book, The Girls in 3-B` by Valerie Taylor, Annice, Pat and Barby all women who had lived in a small town in their early years. They were best friends. They relocated from the rural Iowa City to Chicago in the 1950s. The three women were eager to explore the world, obtain independence, free expression and freedom to exercise their sexuality. Pat, who is saving herself for marriage, however finds herself in love with her boss who on the other hand seems distant to have. Annice, who is also studying poetry in college and hoping to find real love someday, meets Allan, but their relationship does not work as she planned. Barby feels much better to be away from her rural home, at the same time however she feels like men will always take advantage of her. She therefore starts a relationship with her boss, Miss Gordon and gets to explore a whole new experience.
The three girls therefore experienced the dangers that short comings that normally face highly motivated young girls who get out to venture into the world on their own. Feminism takes a whole new turn in the 1950s. This book reveals what used to happen in the hidden world of mid century America. Women used to live alone in small apartments, expressed sexual freedom by engaging in premarital sex and due to increased levels of unwanted pregnancies, they used to engage in abortions.

The women in this century had dreams of becoming artists, just like men. They were also involved in drug abuse and if circumstances allowed them, lesbian relationships were also evident during this time. Taylor’s work emphasizes on the themes of class, gender and sexual identity. This were however not the theme of the American dream initially. The women therefore liberated themselves of the norms and expectations of the society.

With increased poverty during this century, the girls in 3B often find themselves in compromising situations, whereby their bodies were the only source of income. They could trade sex for money in order to survive. Their artistic and career ambitions on the other hand were limited due to scanty availability of resources as well as the obvious sexism of the era. Finding well paying jobs in male dominated industries was hard and often times impossible.

The characters in the book were astonishingly self conscious and daring, unlike most contemporary images of 1950s in the United States. They represent a strongly revolutionary alternative. The women were willing to do anything to force their way into liberation. They do not care about traditions and laws of the society. They were willing to endure the obstacles to gain recognition in society.

The girl in 3B is a classic pulp genre that portrays greedy men, drug hallucinations, and oppressive workplaces to the women which led to secret lesbian relationships. It brings out a whole new theme of sex in the 1950s in America. It was an unusual way of expression especially when it came to women suffrage and revolutions for liberation. The men always saw themselves as the dominant species that were to be served by women.

Women rights and women emancipation were widely used terms to refer to what modern literature calls feminism. The activists of the early years were both women and men who advocated for equality for women in public institutions like churches and the government as well as in the family. More radical activists of the time voiced for women’s right to exercise control of their bodies for example the right to remain single as well as to have a relationship that could lead to giving birth without formal marriages. The most important right to women of the time however was the right to higher education.

In North America, for example, feminist ideas were emphasized by strong social, intellectual, economic, political as well as cultural changes. Socially, freedom of expression and literacy made it easier to access knowledge in the middle class population as well as the working population. Intellectual changes that brought about enlightenment of the people usually made the people question some religious beliefs. This made it possible for the women movements to question the same.

The intellects valued experience and the ability to think rationally. Rather than endorsed traits, they valued traits that were acquired. Feminists therefore took advantage of the era of intellectuals to stress on the need for women’s equality and humanity with men. Politically, in the early centuries, there were very many revolutionary movements in the United States. These were mainly by the middle class population. They overthrew the dictatorial authorities that claimed to rule by divine right. Women activists therefore took advantage of the situation and merged with these revolutions to defend women’s rights to participate in public life. In 1848 and 1849, however, women lost any chances for meaningful participation in politics.

Economically, the industrial revolution, advanced technologies as well as transformed markets led to new production and distribution of goods, wealth and services in the United States. Rather than middle class labor and child rearing, factories came up as well as shops which were the main sources of production. The feminists again insisted on women’s rights to work and perform duties to sustain themselves through similar jobs that men were doing.

It did not matter whether the jobs were household centered or in the wider society range. As long as they could pay well enough to sustain the women just like they did to the men.

Other revolutions were the communication and transport changes that took place in the early centuries. There was an ability to disseminate information promptly. Ideas were therefore carried far and wide at a very fast rate. The first inventions included steam engines, railroads and telegraph. The feminists of this era therefore used these means of communication to deliver their message to a wider range of society. They were able to be heard by many unlike before when transporting information was limited.

Culturally, new way of behavior towards sex blended with the ideas generated through enlightenment. Christian movements that were self sponsored also endorsed gender equality and advocated for change. The feminists insisted that women rights were supernatural, God given, and therefore should not be taken away by anyone or any law. They were also against traditional beliefs and obstacles to women’s abilities to control their own lives and destinies.

It is therefore quite clear that the women were out to do anything to have their pleas heard. They forced their way through a male dominated world in order to be accepted in society and their efforts appreciated. In the early centuries there were many revolutions that have formed society today. Revolutions like the gay/lesbian revolutions faced challenges in society in order to find a place. The women revolution was therefore one such revolution that took its chances in society.

The women had to defy law and traditional beliefs and practices. It was an enormous sacrifice that saw them suffer under the mercies of the arrogant male. They had to go to extremes like exchanging their bodies for money as well satisfying their own sexual desires with fellow females. But this was the price they had to pay for their voice to be heard. In modern world, women still struggle to be equal with men, but they are more appreciated now than before. There are many women intellectuals as well as single women. But just like the rest of the revolutions, the history of feminist interaction is an integral part of Western ideas and culture.

Works Cited

  • The Girls in 3-B` by Valerie Taylor.
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