Changing Women's Roles

Changing Women's Roles
Women started to challenge their domestic roles over time by using the war, westward expansion and abolitionist movements and by ultimately taking advantage of the liberties they were given. Because they were proven to be sufficiently skillful in activites during the Revolution and Civil War they were able to expand their roles after the war both socially and also in education.
From the time the abolition and temperance movements started in the early 1830s, women, both white and black, started to become more outspoken about the rights they feel are being denied to women and African Americans. Their role in the temperance and abolition movements gave them the needed tools to change women?s roles. An African American woman by the name of Maria Stewart, the first African American woman to speak in public, iniated a lecture to her people to convince them to take pride in their race and their heritage by joining the fight of the abolition movement. This was also significant of how women?s roles have changed over time because this was the first time an American-born woman spoke in public. Her address in 1833 addressed the cause of abolition and comments that ?we have planted the vines, they have eaten the fruits of them? which is talking about the role of sexism and how women are constantly being degraded. Another African American woman by the name of Harriet Tubman was also a significant figure in the anti-slavery movements because she was the one responsible for the Underground Railroad, which was a means of escape for runaway slaves to Canada. She successfully led hundreds of slaves to freedom using safe houses that they could stay on during their journey to freedom in the North without being caught once. She also served as a spy for the federal forces in South Carolina and also as a nurse.
Another woman woman is believed to be one of the pioneers of the movement to end slavery and the women?s rights movement as well. Lucretia Mott was a Quaker minister who attended the Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England and was refused a seat by the white men that held this conference. As a response and retaliation in 1848, herself and another reformer by the name of Elizabeth Cady Stanton orgainzed the first women?s rights convention, The Seneca Falls Convention. Using the Declaration of Independence as a model they both came up with a declaration of their own called the Declaration of Sentiments that demanded that the rights of women as right-bearing individuals be acknowledged and respected by society. As a result of this meeting came a series of resolutions that demanded the increase of women?s rights, which includes better employment oppurtunities and educational as well as the right to vote. After slavery was abolished in 1865 she shifted her efforts towards the African American?s right to vote.
Susan B. Anthony was another woman that played an important role in the abolitonist movement and then temperance. During the Civil War she agreed completely with the Union cause. She also helped the Abraham Lincoln administration by creating the Women?s Loyal League. Her role in the abolition and movement was mostly that of the one who organizes, the one who traveled and spoke publicly. She spoke more about the public opinion. In the mid-1850s she was asked to organize, write and deliver speeches against the issue of slavery and also women?s rights. Her efforts paid off because eventually in 1865 there was the passage of the thirteenth amendment which abolished slavery. After her efforts paid off she shift her efforts towards the temperance movement. In fact, she joined the Women?s State Temperance Society in the State of New York, but when the men started to take over she resigned as leader which in turn ended her role in the temperance movement. Although the idea of women?s suffrage was rejected she still attempted to vote in an election in Rochester and was arrested immediately for violating voting rights that women didn?t have yet. Eventually she became the president, in 1892, of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. So she had a pretty big contribution to the abolition and temperance movement and also for women?s rights.
When the Civil broke out in 1861 many Americans didn?t believe that the war would have any kind of effect on changing women?s roles, but little did they know that when the war was over that so many social changes and education for women would change women?s lives forever. One of the women that helped shape women?s roles would have to be Dorothea Dix. Dorothea Dix was appointed the Superintendent of Nurses by the government during the Civil War. She convinced army officials that women could perform these tasks just as acceptable as men and then started recruiting women to join the army hospitals. Her only request for women wanting to be volunteer nurses is if they are ?plain-looking women over thirty with no jewelry, no hoop skirts, no curls or bows.? She was a pioneer in the insane asylums and prison reforms, and was determined to clean up the army as she had cleaned up the jails and asylums (rtap, 104).
There was another woman that volunteered but she volunteered in a different way. Unlike Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton was the daughter of an army man and when Sumter was fired on she decided she wanted to join the war. After getting her father?s blessing she went onto war. Once when Clara Barton was in the midst of heroic labors after a terrible battle, an officer remarked to her, ?Miss Barton, this is a rough and unseemly position for you, a woman, to occupy.? She quickly and unanswerably retorted, ?Is it not as rough and unseemly for these pain-racked men?? (rtap, 106) The men in ranks did not share the resistance to women volunteers with the army officials and doctors. From the men in ranks, the women volunteers got a lot of unofficial appreciation. Dorothea Dix wasn?t the only one that would go around the rules to get to the men when they needed them. Clara Barton also went alone sometimes and went to the actual front during battles with medical supplies and her nursing skill before better help could come. One of Clara Barton biggest accomplishments and contributions to society would be the well-known Red Cross.
In a different point of view, things were not only changing on the battlefield they were also changing at home as well. An ordinary woman by the name of Kate McLure began taking over the plantation in her husband?s abscence while he was in the war. She had a good relationships with the slaves; she knew all of their names as her husband did not. Her husband originally left one of the slaves in charge of the plantation and another relative to bring in food just in case there is not enough for one month. Eventually when her husband started leaving out things for the overseers to do he wrote it in a letter to his wife Kate. From there she would either tell the overseer or just carry out the task herself. Eventually the slave overseer began to become restless and lazy and forgetting things. Kate McLure got to a point where she would just do the tasks herself to avoid conflict with the slaves. Soon, the relationship with her and the overseer became strained. So her husband put someone else in charge and when that didnt work out she told her husband again. Eventually she just started doing things herself. So the wives of men that had went to war had to tend to the farm or the plantations or business while the husbands were engaged in war. They did so successfully by taking full responsibilty.
So as you see women started to take advantage of the absences of the husbands on the homefront and trying to prove they are just as competent as men and they also proved that they were competent on the battlefield as well. This in turn helped shape society?s views of women?s roles. As a matter of fact, after the war was over oppurtunities for women started opening more and more socially. Accredited colleges and schools also started to open up nursing schools for women and soon women doctors started to appear like Dr. Mary Walker and the first woman physician Elizabeth Blackwell for example.
The Daughters of Liberty were an early rebellious group that made people see that women?s involvement in politics could be beneficial for the country. As the public started to support the boycott of British goods increasingly the Daughters of Liberty joined the support to prevent British importation. They were recognized as patriotic heroines for their success in fullfilling the demand of homemade clothing, which made America less dependent on British Textiles. Although they were not usually recognized for this sort of thing, the groups of organizations formed by women were very beneficial and was a major influence during the war. Decisions made to the boycott of British goods would not have been possible if the women had not created a different alternative for the imported goods. The Daughters of Liberty were working all day and night to prove their commitment to ?the cause of liberty and industry?. The daughters of liberty were one of the many groups of women who fought for woman?s equality and supported the soldiers during the American Revolution.

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