The industrial Revolution occurred in Europe from 1750 to 1850. During this time there was also a huge increase in illegitimacy rate, which is the number of babies being born to unmarried women. The big question becomes, did the industrial revolution cause a sexual revolution or not? There are many historians and people with different views about topic. At the start of the industrial revolution there were close to zero babies being born the unmarried women and by the end in 1850 there was 1 in every 3 women having babies that weren’t married.
There are two main points of view on this debate; one from Edward Shorter and the other from Louise Tilly, Joan Scott, and Miriam Cohen. Historian Edward Shorter states that the industrial revolution created many opportunities for women to work which he says led to a rise in the illegitimacy rate. He connects this to the sexual emancipation, or sexual freedom, of unmarried, working-class women. Historians Louise A.
Tilly, Joan W. Scott, and Miriam Cohen counter that unmarried women started working during the industrial revolution to meet an economic need, not to gain personal freedom. They state that the rise in illegitimacy rates rose due to broken marriages and the absence of traditional support from family, community, and the church. With women starting to work this caused a change in people’s lifestyles. Shorter and Tilly, Scott, and Cohen both have a legitimate argument to if the industrial revolution was the cause of the sexual revolution. You raise the key issues here.
It doesn’t need to be this long, but that’s OK.
Edward Shorter agrees that women of the upper class in the nineteenth century underwent a female emancipation along with the slave emancipation, but he says that it doesn’t account for the women with families. Young, low status women underwent a radical movement in female emancipation in the late eighteenth century because of the involvement in the economy of the market place. This emancipation started with the young women of low status to older women of higher status. There were some general characteristics describing women during this time.
There were many famous women making stands for women’s independence and rights, that it was hard to see the position of all women or the norms of women. One thing Shorter states is, except for the few exceptions of famous women, most of them were still powerless and dependent. Female emancipation was all about becoming independent. Married women wanted household political power and a family where they have their own rights, sexual gratifications, and emotional freedom. Unmarried women started ignoring the strict views and opinions of parents and community to satisfy their personal needs. All women started disregarding outside controls for personal freedom and sexuality for individual self-fulfillment.
Up to here is satisfactory, but more info than necessary and not completely clear. These changes may be linked to the economic changes towards capitalism, an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations. Good.
One change was that capitalism made subcultures of wage-earning people. These people began to create their own rules and standards on how to run their community. Some of the rules where sexual behavior, target family size, and new techniques for contraception and abortion. The new young people were sexually active and it became a social norm to have sex before marriage. Shorter thinks that some aspect of industrialism must be held accountable for the expressly permissive sexual content of the subcultures.
Another change dealing with capitalism was the mentality of the market place. As women began working in the market place they began to bring the principles of the market place into other areas of their lives. Shorter believes that the labor markets were the most direct source of personal freedom. Capitalism’s metal habits of maximizing one’s self-interest and sacrificing community goals to get individual profit was what women learned in the market place and it’s what they wanted in all aspects of life including their family and their freedom.
Lastly, the industrial advance along with capitalism removed many external controls upon female sexual freedom. As women were bringing home paychecks meant they contributed to the family’s resources and would be entitled to a greater voice in how these resources were used. This lead to women being more equal and the premarital sex codes became more permissive as her status was completely dependent on the husbands.
Shorter came to state that capitalism entitled a source for females to be independent and have sexual freedom. The low wage, young people started the involvement in the market economy. The prosperous women soon followed in the nineteenth century. For unmarried women capitalism meant personal and sexual freedom. Young women were able to go against parental controls with her sexual and emotional independence because she knew the market would still hire her and give her self-sufficiency, and if needed, would move her to a town where she could work. This lead to the absence of birth control and therefore illegitimacy. You say more than necessary in the first paragraph of this section; your explanation of the argument could be stronger.