Uploaded by Admin on Jun 12, 2000
In early societies, women bore children, cared for the home, and helped maintain the family's economic production. Men hunted, made war, and, in settled societies, assumed primary responsibility for field crop production.
Male dominance, however, was important from the time of the earliest written historical records, probably as a result of men's discovery of their role in development of hunting and warfare as status activities. The belief that women were naturally weaker and inferior to men was also certified by god- centered religions. In the bible, god placed Eve under Adam's authority, and St. Paul urged women to be obedient of their husbands. In Hinduism the reward of a proper woman is rebirth as a man. Therefore, in most traditional societies, women generally were at a disadvantage. Their education was limited to learning domestic skills, and they had no access to positions of power.
Some exceptions to women's dependence on men did exist. In ancient Babylonia and Egypt women had property rights, and in medieval Europe the could join craft guilds.
Men of the lower classes also lacked rights, but they could console themselves by feeling superior to women.
The Enlightenment, with it's egalitarian political importance, and the Industrial Revolution, which caused economic and social changes, provided a favorable climate for the rise of feminism, along with other reform movements in the late 18th and the 19th centuries.
Of deeper significance for women was the Industrial Revolution. The transformation of handicrafts, which women had always carried on at home, without pay, into machine-powered mass production meant that lower-class women could become wage earners in factories. This was the beginning of their independence, although factory conditions were hazardous and their pay, lower than men's, was legally controlled by their husbands. At the same time middle and upper-class women were expected to stay at home as idle, decorative symbols of their husbands' economic success. Such conditions encouraged the feminist movement.
Rapidly industrializing Great Britain and the U.S., feminism was more successful. The leaders were primarily educated, leisured, reform-minded women of the middle class. In 1848 more than 100 persons held the first women's rights convention, at Seneca Falls, New York. Led by the abolitionist Lucretia Mott and the feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, they demanded equal rights, including the vote and an end to the double standard.
In the U.S. progress was slower. The number of working women increased virtually after the two world wars, but they generally...