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The Changing Roles Of Women In Society, Beginning In The Late Eighteenth Century

1253 words - 5 pages

The late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century were times in American history that screamed for reform. The nation was undergoing several changes that would mark the beginning of the country's future. It was the time leading up to the Industrial Revolution where society was changing at an incredibly fast pace. As a result of the boom in new technology, the roles of Americans dramatically changed, especially those of women. Society dictated a woman's place, which was not in the dirty factories that drove the wheels for the country. Instead, men were supposed to serve as the workers, while women were supposed to stay at home. Emerging from this time period were many documents dealing with women's rights and the changing role of women in society.One of these documents, entitled Declaration of the Rights of Woman, written by Olympe DeGouges, discussed the public roles and duties of women in civil society during the French Revolution. Essentially, the most important part of this pamphlet is the first listed "right" of women. She writes, "Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights...these rights are liberty, property, security, and especially resistance to oppression" (DeGouges, p.398). Here, DeGouges clearly states her primary purpose in composing this document - to endorse equality and justice for all women. She continues in right 6, "All citizenesses and citizens, being equal in its eyes, should be equally admissible to all public dignities, offices, and employments, according to their ability, and with no other distinction, than that of their virtues and talents" (DeGouges, p.398). This concept appalled those living during this time period so much so that ultimately, DeGouges was arrested as a counterrevolutionary and executed. In the past, wifehood and motherhood had been regarded as the most significant professions for women, but now, DeGouges introduces the idea of women in the workplace and speaks out against the traditional views of women's roles in society.The French Revolution is a particularly rich area of women's socio and political study. It reached from the highest forms of government and political thought to the family and transformed the social roles of women. By the end of the revolutionary age, ideas on a woman's role had not only received discussion, but women had also become influences to the government and an important part of the new nineteenth-century view. Women brought liberal ideas into public debate, while still maintaining their roles as upholders of republican integrity.Following the French Revolution, Mary Wollstonecraft composed an essay entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. In it, she criticized the revolution, claiming that the National Assembly did not extend the same rights to women as it did to men. Wollstonecraft describes her thoughts, "In the government of the physical world it is observable that the female in point of strength is, in general, inferior to the male...but not to...

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