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From the eighteenth century to the nineteenth century, and the twentieth century, women have evolved as gender in different aspects of life. In the areas of education, the household/society and in the workforce, women have made gradual changes; eventually leaving the general idea of the housewife. This paper will examine how women gradually changed and evolved in the areas of education, household/society and in the workforce.
During the eighteenth century, it was uncommon to see women pursue an education path.
Many were brought up in the way of a domestic housemother, and that’s all they knew at the time. It was not only due to financial reasons (for those who could not afford it), but also on the mere social belief that women did not need to be educated in school. However, during this time there were many that advocated the opposite; that women needed to indeed be educated, and education can improve women not only for her family but as a mother as well.
Mary Wollstonecraft was one of those people. She stated in her book A Vindication of the Rights of Women, “Contending for the rights of women, my main argument is built on this simple principle, that if she be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge, for truth must be common to all, or it will be inefficacious with respect to its influence on general practice.” Meaning that women not only needed to be educated because it is right, but because it they do not it will stop the process of knowledge in society.
She believed that limiting women education will limit their understanding of life, therefore women cannot be virtuous in life.
However, in the nineteenth century, there were some minor improvement in women to be able to get an education. For those who were higher in social class and had advocated, usually got an education. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was a prime example that the education of women could be a very beneficial thing. Against all odds she became Britain’s first female doctor, she broke barriers and it did not prevent her from her later duties as a wife. It shows that it is important to support women in education because that support can open doors for women in education. She also showed that being educated did not stop, or prevent the role women have as mothers. Many at that time believed that a woman’s place was in the household, and education would take away from it. As for the twentieth century, women were truly affected by the first World War.
In the matter of education, many were not only educated but due to the overwhelming number of men that left due to war, it required women to come and replace them in the schools and ultimately the workforce. In an article, Oxford Interlude, author Frank Prochaska explained how colleges had to admit women as students and lecturers due to the overwhelming loss of men in the war. Oxford University was one of them, gave women a “degree of educational continuity.” This meant a lot to many of the women that went to Sommerville and Oxford. In a poem from the article the last stanza states ” O Oriel, centuries ago To flowing-vested monks devoted, To think that thou again canst show A horde of scholars petticoated! And when thy gallant sons return, Of whom the cruel wars bereave thee, Will not thy fair alumnae spurn..” Meaning that the old ways of education that have been embedded in society was changing drastically at this time due to the war.
As important are the educational changes were in women throughout the centuries, the evolution of women in the household/society was a change that not only impacted women but also their families. As time went on for those women who stayed in the household and kept the image of a domestic housewife, a change began in the way they ran their household, but how they were out in society. During the eighteenth century, women were meant to appeal to men and if married their husbands. Their attire and social presence were meant to capture the attention of men, and for the most part that what women at this time did.
In the advertisement “For the Ladies”, it was obvious that during that time advertisement was meant to appeal to women merely for physical appearance needs. It boosted the ideas of fashion, and fair skin for the pleasure of men but nothing on education or rights of equality because they were non-existent then. Another prime example would be Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. She was of higher class and British, on her journey to Turkey she wrote a letter to her sister the Countess of Mar on her perception of women in Turkey. In her letter to the Countess of Mar Lady Montagu came to a decision, and it was something that she would later express back in England. The concept of dressing for a man not only decreased the value of women but did not put them on even playing fields making difficult to receive education let alone be taken seriously. Women in Turkey dressed in clothing that covered them from head to toe, as opposed to women in Britain that dressed for men/society. This made her see that women in English culture were like prisoners in society. Made to do things and follow a certain stature, while women in Turkey (from Lady Montagu’s view) were free.
In the nineteenth century, women such as Mrs. Isabella Beeton showed women that it is a great thing to be a wife at home, that is an important role that women needed to know how to do well. In her book The Book of Household Management, she stated “AS WITH THE COMMANDER OF AN ARMY, or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a house. Her spirit will be seen through the whole establishment; and just in proportion as she performs her duties intelligently and thoroughly, so will her domestics follow in her path.” Mrs. Beeton emphasized in this quote that women although they may not see it, nor get the recognition, there are the very thing that keeps a household running, and without them, it would not stand a chance. She also believed that women that are trained in the correct way of being a housewife, are the ones who are truly successful and have happy homes. As opposed to those who are out in society fraternizing with all sorts of men. As stated in her book “She who makes her husband and her children happy, who reclaims the one from vice and trains up the other to virtue, is a much greater character than ladies described in romances, whose whole occupation is to murder mankind with shafts from their quiver, or their eyes”.
In the twentieth century, however, the war had an impact on the household, and how women ran it. Due to the fact that many husbands left for the first World War, many had to manage the role of father and mother. The main thing that was advocated women at home was food and rationing. This was the time, women had to consider men away at the war, and “do their part in the homefront”. “The Nation on its Honour” was an article about food rationing during the war. For those women who were still full time domestic in the household, much of this propaganda was directed to them. Explaining and emphasizing on their role in the war (from the homefront). Another example was a poem by Lena Guilbert Ford entitled Keep the Home Fire Burning. The poem expressed to those at home especially women, that they need to be strong for the ones away at war, basically do their part in keeping them alive.
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