There was evidence of progress in the role of white middle class women, between 1815 and 1860, due to the commercial economy and the religious revival brought on by the antebellum market revolution and Second Great Awakening. For these white women, the positive affects can be seen in their dominance within their families, their influential movements for societal reform, and their independence gained form an industrial workplace while the roles of female black slaves were neither improved nor affected.
Although it did not improve the lives of slaves, the antebellum market revolution transformed the home into a separate sphere for women and increased the importance of a white woman’s role as a wife and mother within her family (Doc C). The market revolution provided payment in wages allowing people to purchase products outside of their home with money. As a result women did not have to make as many products at home. Home, previously a center of economic production was now transformed into a place of refuge after a long hard day at work. Much like the idea of republican motherhood, the cult of domesticity expressed the responsibilities of a wife and mother. It presented this concept of how the moral power and authoritative decisions made by these women shaped the lives of their families (Doc G). While white middle class women this increased domestic power, black slaves continued face hardships. Many black mothers were bought without their children and therefore forever separated. (Doc B).
Slaves were still not considered part of the population. Therefore role of black women did not change during the antebellum market revolution. The antebellum market revolution brought empowering effects to role of white women within their families.The Second Great Awakening resulted in the feminization of religion and a women’s movement for reform in society. Charles G. Finney, a talented preacher and leader of the Second Great Awakening, spoke of women’s involvement within the church. He observed how the religious revival, although initially feared, proved to be essential in the lives. (Doc A). The feminization of religion was an important feature of the Second Great Awakening.
Middle class white women made up the majority of new church members. Because women were blocked from politics and all other parts of society the church was were they could play an active role. (Doc A). Women worked to eliminate the barriers that separated the women from men in society. These desires for societal change led to the emergence of feminists who worked to further the rights of women and provide other necessary reform. Among them was Dorothea Dix, whose petition to the Massetuchets legislature in 1843 regarding the treatment of the mentally ill, led to improved cell conditions and a better understanding of mental illness. (Doc F).
Elizabeth Cady Santon and Susan B. Anthony were founders of the National Women’s Suffrage association and the most influential figures in the battle for women’s rights. At the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 feminists demanded equal rights in their Declaration of Sentiments. (Doc I). The Declaration of Sentiments, like the heart of the Declaration of Independence, declared, “all men and women are created equal”. (Doc I). This feminist held the belief that Rosales if they were given the same opportunites, education, and rights and as men they could have an impact on the progression of society. (Doc E). Despite growing opposition feminist also formed anti-slavery movements. Lucretia Mott was a feminist Quaker whose anti-slavery convention unfortunately was not recognized. (Doc C).
By organizing these movements they demonstrated their belief that women should have involvment in politics. Among these reform movements in society, clothing served to criticize the restrictions that fashion forced on women. Intellectuals argued that corsets were medically harmful. Some women dared to produce images of women wearing more casual clothing instead of the traditional corsets. Although praised by reformers, the depicted new style dress was condemned by society. (Doc H). They argued that this clothing interfered with gender divisions and was harmful to family life. Eventually a more plain and simpler clothing was adopted among women. The role of women was greatly affected by The Second Great Awakening as demonstrated in their involvement in the church and movements to better their place in society.
While black slaves were bound to tasks presented by their white superiors, the antebellum market economy provided an industrial workplace for young, unmarried women, which lead to their economic independence. New factory jobs allowed for women to have economic independence and provided them with money to purchase manufactured products produced by the new market economy. In contrast with the traditional social sewing circles the “Factory girls” worked long hard days in mass production lines.
The successful textile industry employed thousand of women in antebellum America and also provided the clothing that these women wore. At the textile Rosales mill in Lowell Massatuchets, New England farm girls were constantly supervised and regularly escorted but were drawn to these factory positions because of the wages that it provided (Doc D). Black women, if not working in the plantations, were employed as servants within white families. The antebellum market revolution brought mass production and furthered a young woman’s independence.
The antebellum market revolution and Second Great Awakening, together positively impacted the role of white women in society, work, and in family. These women reaped the benefits of a market economy in their workplace and home life, while The Second Great Awakening led to their involvment in church and allowed them to address their rights in reform movements. Unfortunately, these changes cannot be seen in the lives of black women who were still subjected to the brutality of slavery. The antebellum market revolution and the Second Great Awakening greatly affected the role and progress of white women.
Women’s role between 1815 and 1860, has made progress due to the commercial economy and the religious revival brought on by the antebellum market revolution and Second Great Awakening.