During the 19th and early 20th centuries, women have made great strides towards equality
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, women have made great strides towards equality. The 19th century saw the emergence of women entering the work force, gaining economic freedom, starting and participating in movements and most importantly, challenging the traditional and excepted role of women. Along the path for women's social and economic freedom, there were many detours and barriers, as well as exceptional opportunities for their advancement. The first major step for women was the growth into the work force and thus challenging the accepted female gender role in society. They left their families, homes and friends to venture into the working world, leaving behind a safe-haven. "Letters revealed that many mill workers considered their labor temporary and that expected to marry or return to their old farms or small towns" (Paul, 202). Women entering the work force had its advantages and disadvantages.
One problem that arose was the matter of the family. If a mother left her children to go work and to help support the family, she was looked down upon by society as a bad mother. The father was also, more than likely, looked down upon as well for not being able to sufficiently provide for his family. Social humiliation was one reason many mothers were hesitant to enter the workforce. To some women this was the only way to properly provide for their children. If the husband was a heavy drinker or gambler, there were little alternative opportunities for the mother to provide for her family. Many women found jobs in locally on farms or in mills, or they ventured to large cities for factory and millwork. The mill workers worked long, hard hours "from 11 to 13 hours a day, beginning around sunrise" (Edwards,199) and had little time for leisure outside of their home. By working, they were given the rare opportunity of economic freedom and independence from males.���
The working conditions in these mills or factory were far from the desired conditions. "They received very short breaks for meals, and their pay was not only low but unstable, as mills often cut wages in response to oversupply, slack demand, or a quest for greater profits"(Edwards, 199). Complaints of working conditions arouse in several mills and the female workers wanted a change. They organized groups during breaks or at their homes. Many of the workers lived together in company homes so it was easy for them to converse on the conditions in the workplace. Due to the tight living quarters, one was expected and socially forced to agree with the majority opinion. This could be both a...