The antebellum market revolution transformed a subsistence economy of scattered farms and tiny workshops into a national network of industry and commerce. In other words, it took the work that most people did in their homes, and made them more efficient through factories. On the other hand, the Second Great Awakening was a religious revival characterized by emotional mass “camp meetings” and widespread conversion. It influenced many things including the women’s movement. Although women were still considered inferior to men, the role of women in family, workplace, and society evolutionized as a result of the antebellum market revolution and Second Great Awakening in the years 1815-1860.
Since few women actually got jobs in factories many stayed at home and took care of their families. Many women saw it unfair that they were unable to do the jobs of men. For example, it is said that “the mother, whom God constituted the first teacher of every human being, has been degraded by men from her high office; or, what is the same thing, been denied those privileges of education which only can enable her to discharge her duty to her children with discretion and effect…” Since women were uneducated they had the jobs of watching after their children (Doc E). Furthermore, in the photo known as “The Happy Mother” by Sarony and Major in 1846 a white woman is depicted with her two daughters. The woman in the picture has not been separated from her family and continues to enjoy her time with her children (Doc G). In addition, many women stayed at home and were enshrined in a “cult of domesticity.”
This meant that they commanded immense power, and often made big decisions that altered the character of their families. Women began commanding new respect within their households. With the antebellum market revolution many mothers had more time for their kids since they didn’t have to make goods. As a result of the antebellum market revolution, traditional women’s work was rendered as superfluous and devalued. Store bought items began to replace homemade products. But, these new factories offered employment to some women. The most famous factory for women was the Lowell textile mill in Massachusetts. Factory girls typically worked six days a week for twelve to thirteen hours a day. Despite the grueling hours, many women came to textile mills like Lowell to earn money. As Harriet Farley says, “[We] are collected [in the factories], namely, to get money, as much of it and as fast as we can…It is these wages which…have drawn so many worthy, virtuous, intelligent, and well-educated girls to Lowell” (Doc D). Also, many Negro women became slaves. As depicted in the image “Selling a Mother from Her Child,” a mother is being taken away from her child in order to become a slave.
The photo describes, “…they sell me the mother while they keep her children. I have often known them take away the infant from its mother’s breast, and keep it while they sold her.” Due to slavery during this time period, many women were separated from their families in order to work (Doc B). Women began to earn positions in factories as a result of the antebellum market revolution. The Second Great Awakening inspired many women to fight for their rights. Many women began to speak out about their beliefs on slavery and other issues. For example, in a dialogue between Harriet and Mrs. A on the topic of slavery, Harriet says, “women, with the strength and the enlightening power of truth on their side, may not do something to overthrow it.” Harriet verbally speaks out her opinions on a political matter, something that was very rare in 1839 (Doc C). With the addition of women beginning to stand up for themselves, they also began to have voices in government issues.
For example, Dorothea Dix to the Massachusetts legislature said “I proceed, gentlemen, briefly to call your attention to the present state of insane persons confined within this Commonwealth in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens!” Dix speaks to the Massachusetts legislature of all men and is letting her opinion be heard (Doc F). In 1848 several feminists met at the Woman’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York. At this convention Elizabeth Stanton read a “Declaration of Sentiments” which stated “all men and women are created equal.” This meeting launched the modern women’s rights movement, and made women’s voices be heard. In addition, in a petition to the Massachusetts legislature in 1853 women continued to stand up for their rights.
The petition states, “We deem the extension to woman of all civil rights a measure of vital importance to the welfare and progress of the state. On every principle of natural justice, as well as by the nature of our institutions, she is as fully entitled as man to vote and to be eligible to office” (Doc I). Woman gained pretty much equal rights to man due to their sudden motivation to stand up for themselves as a result of the Second Great Awakening. Clearly, the antebellum market revolution and the Second Great Awakening largely affected the evolution of women’s role in the family, workplace, and society in the years 1815-1860. Due to these events the role women have in modern day is completely different from what it was in 1815.