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Lecture 7

HIST 1220 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Living Wage

Course Code
HIST 1220

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Pick up from previous class: September 19, 2016
Far more than in any other area the American Revolution ushered in a revolution in the
education of women. Yet there was a purpose behind it. The United States being an
independent, became a republic. And the belief had always been for the republics to be
successful, it required an education, knowledgeable electorate. If individuals were going to be
respond lie for electing people, they would need to be educated. So when women would be
educated, the could in turn educate their offspring in things such as: acting for the public at
large (public virtue), thrift, etc. this gave women a political role even though they couldn't vote.
The longevity of the republic would be dependent of the education of the offspring. The main
proponent was “Republican Motherhood”. Republican Motherhood fed into what scholars have
labeled today as, “the cult of domesticity” most married women from that era became part of
domesticity, lives revolving around the home, raising of children, teaching them proper morals
etc. And domesticity for married women was reinforced through literature written and
published during the early 19th century. A prescriptive (an instructing) form of literature where
prominent female authors, most notably that of Catherine Beacher, instructed women on how
they should behave, how they should dress, how they should decorate their homes, organize
their kitchens, raise their children. So basically, professionalizing the roles of women within the
home. So most American women were part of domesticity throughout the entire 19th century
only 5% of married women worked outside the home for wages.
Men in the public realm and women in the private realm became more formalized through a
Supreme Court decision, (which was previously talked about), that being the 1873 Mira
Bradwell v. The State of Illinois case. Bradwell was prevented from practicing law because she
was a woman. To recap: She took her case to the U.S Supreme Court arguing that her rights as
an American citizen under the 14th amendment were being denied. Yet in the courts opinion,
almost as if John Jaques Rousseau had written the verdict, stated that women did not possess
the intellect to practice law, that it was something only men were capable of performing. In
addition, even if women could practice, it would lead to a breakdown of the institution of
marriage and families as women’s God-given appropriate roles were in the home, as wives, as
mothers, which was considered their calling.
The new industrial urban order, however, would begin to change those circumstances. First in
the world of Employment. From 1880-1900 the number of women in the paid labor force
tripled from 2.6 million in 1880, to 8.6 million by 1900. By 1900, 20% of women were a part of
the paid labor force. Recall that, a vast majority of working women were young, single and of
working class origins. Many of them the daughters of recently arriving immigrants. Again, only
5% of married women worked upside the home for wages. Female employment was basically
divided into three realms.
Women who were employed as paid domestics:
In 1870, one out of three employed women were employed as paid domestics. Performing
household chores, cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, raising children, working for middle and
upper class families. Yet, by 1920 (50 years later) only 1 out of 6 employed women were
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