Women’s Role in Society

America is one of the most developed countries of the world now a day, where women citizens are contributing to society as same as men. Not only this they are self-dependent and can earn as much as a man can. But the women’s present situation was not like this about 50 years ago. If we study women’s role in society from 1950, the changes of the women’s movement will come into sight.

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Major changes in Women’s life in America

Before 1950 women, especially married women were so much negligible. “It was assumed that women are born to be good wives. Whose main task in the society is housekeeping, raising a family, take care of her husband, bringing up the children and many other tasks inside the home”.i This situation was climbing up with marriage and birth rate booming. “Women were considered not only intellectually inferior comparison to men unable to perform work requiring muscular or intellectual development but also a major source of temptation and evil” ii In colonial America girls were not got chance to read and write in a good school rather than a dame school.

They only got a chance to attend master’s school in the summer, because at that time boys were working. Almost every family and teacher did not want to prepare a girl for the future other than that of marriage and motherhood. These were the problems against which women had nothing to say, nothing to do, which was known as ‘the problem that has no name’. This situation existed exactly before World War II. And this was being changed after World War II. We can also say that the changes of the women’s movement in America were being started since World War II.

When World War II started women were encouraged to work in the industrial factories to help the war effort because at that time almost every man was involved in the war.iii At that time millions of women entered the labor force, which makes them self-reliant. After the war, the number of working women dropped, because at that time again they are encouraged to go back to their home activities and give back their job to their men.

But their self-reliance didn’t die, which helped them to think that they can earn for the life outside. For which the rate of working women at outside were climbing again by 1950 at the rate of a million a year. “By 1956, 35 percent of all adult women were members of the labor force, and nearly a quarter of all married women were working.iv As A. W. Zelomek, president of the International Statistical Bureau, reported in A Changing America (1959), two out of five women with husbands and school-age children worked outside the home”v But the society didn’t support them. Ruth Rosen in her book shows the discriminatory practices that were common in pre-1960s America.

Such as “Newspaper ads separated jobs by sex; bars often refused to serve women; some states even excluded women from jury duty; no women ran big corporations or universities, worked as firefighters or police officers”.vi

From the time of 1950 to 1970 many feminist movements were seen. For example, a book was published in 1963, which changed the world’s thinking regarding women. “Betty Friedan, a Communist, wrote ‘The Feminist Mystique. It said that women had been brainwashed by men into being their servants”.vii, She called upon women to educate themselves and become partners with their men rather than second-class citizens.

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Ruth Rosen said feminism had never a single voice, strategy, or unifying tactic, but it inspired people, and inspiring them still, with the grand, radical notion that a baby should not have its future determined by its gender any more than by the weather. viii That time women started to think that they have something more to life than babies, dishes, and happy husbands. From nearly the year 1950 the position of women was being begun changing.

During World War II, almost 300,000 women entered to Army and Navy performing such kinds of war-related jobs like secretaries, typists, and nurses, also in the factory job and that was the starting of American women’s movement changes. It has been established that from 1960 to early 1970 the number of married workers is almost half of the total increased labor force.ix From 1960 an increasing number of married women came into the workforce with their children.x This change is especially dramatic for married women with children under age 6: 12 percent worked in 1950, 45 percent in 1980, and 57 percent in 1987.xi For the increasing

“a number of married women worker notably in textile mills and garment shops it was seen that in the late 1970s and employed wife spent only about 1.4 hours in a week with their husband and for household tasks than those whose wife was a full-time homemaker. xii

According to Rosen dramatic changes in culture and attitude were brought in the 1960s and 1970s by the women’s movement.

How the changes came about

So, it is clear that World War II was the turning point of changes in the women’s movement in America. From which women began to think for doing themselves for life. Because if at the time of World War II women aren’t sent to work outside they never thought that they also can do a job like a man. And from this sense by the 1950 middle class married women were considering taking the job after their children started school and continue working for the rest of their lives. Many forces drove fast the women’s movement in America. Many active women authors began awaking people about women’s rights by her writing, which wasn’t before 1950. From that time women demanded equitable laws, equal educational and job opportunities, and the right to vote.

Rosen, a historian, professor, activist, and journalist focused on the “hidden injuries of sex” and how what had been construed as “personal” problems in her book. Abortion, compulsory heterosexuality, rape, and sexual violence, prostitution, and pornography–became political issues around the year 1970s.xiii

Pregnancy was one of the main hindrances for American women regarding their job because there was a strong law regarding abortion. Abortion was only legally permitted if the mother’s life was judged in physical danger. But in 1973, the United States Supreme Court launches a rule that states could not restrict a woman’s right to an abortion in her first three months of pregnancy. Though women were working in several sectors, their role in the job is so inferior (far from decision-making job). Not only were these but also their much gender discrimination in the working environment.

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Against which several federal laws were passed. During the 1960s to improve the economic status of women. ….. Such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963 required equal wages for men and women doing equal work. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination against women by any company with 25 or more employees. A Presidential Executive Order in 1967 prohibited bias against women in hiring by federal government contractors. Ruth Rosen’s excellent book shows, American women in their life participated in many multi-faceted movements that brought major changes and helped all American women. xiv

Her book also says that the black women control and work in their churches and civic organizations, which was noticed by white women and latterly the white women in northern cities for grassroots organizing treated the remarkable black women as a role models. There are some other forces for the changes. They are The ILO Convention on Equal Remuneration (1951), The Convention on the Political Rights of Women (1952), The Convention on the Nationality of Married Women (1957), The Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration for Marriages (1962), The UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960).

If we try we will find several major ways in which the lives of American women were different by the 1990s from what they had been in the 1950s. By the period 1980, the rate of women doctors in America is 17 percent, which was around 5 percent before 1950. The rate of women judges and lawyers in America in 1989 is 22 percent, which was only around 2 percent before 1950. Before 1950 there was a lack of women engineers, but in 1989 the rate is 7.5 percent. At the time of 1950, it was very difficult for women to study in a school and college. But comparatively in the period of 1990 teaching profession is a large field for American women.

In the late 1980s more than twice as many women as men taught in elementary and high schools.xv American women were given the right to vote since 1820, but they had very limited political roles. Not until 1984 did a major party choose a woman Geraldine Ferraro of New York to run for vice-president. Also, many changes were sought but not achieved. Women wanted to put a vital role in society, though in 1989 women captured more than 45 percent of employed personnel in America, they have very little chance in decision jobs.

Many laws in favor of women’s work were formed in the early 1970, but some of those laws restricted working women. For instance, laws prohibiting women from working more than an eight-hour day or from working at night effectively prevented women from holding many jobs, particularly supervisory positions that might require overtime work. Laws in some states prohibited women from lifting weights above a certain amount varying from as little as 15 pounds (7 kilograms) again barring women from many jobs. xvi

Though the Equal Pay Act 0f 1963 was being existed, women were paid 45 percent less than men for the same jobs in 1970 and this rate was 32 percent in 1988. Important assignments were not given to the women and also they were not given promotions, which used to be given to their male colleagues. xvii So, these are the evaluation of the modern women’s movement in America.

Endnotes

  1. Land, Hilary. (1980). The Family Wage. Feminist Review, No. 6, pp. 55-77. Palgrave Macmillan Journals.
  2. 123HelpMe. (2007). Feminist Issues in Katherine Anne Porter – Feminist Issues in Katherine Anne Porter. Web.
  3. Levine and Papasotiriou, (n.d.). What is behind the dangerous women, the femme Fatales, of film noir? What causes these women to be dangerous?. Web.
  4. Enotes, (2008). Women’s Roles in the 1950s. Web.
  5. Enotes, (2008).
  6. Viking, Rosen Ruth., (2006). The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. Penguin Group (USA).
  7. Learn History, (n.d.). USA – A Divided Union 1941-80: Women and Families in the 1950s. Web.
  8. Viking, Rosen Ruth., (2006).
  9. Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. Women’s History in America. Compton’s NewMedia, Inc. and DaMetz, Claudia. (n.d.). Women’s History in America. Women’s International Center. Web.
  10. Bergmann, R. Barbara. (1981). The Share of Women and Men in the Economic Support of Children. Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 103-112. The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  11. Wow Essays. (1994-2004). Woman At Work. Web.
  12. Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. and DaMetz, Claudia. (n.d.).
  13. Viking, Rosen Ruth., (2006).
  14. Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. and DaMetz, Claudia. (n.d.).
  15. Wow Essays. (1994-2004).
  16. Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. and DaMetz, Claudia. (n.d.).
  17. Craig, M. Jane., and Jacobs, R. Rick, (1985). The Effect of Working With Women on Male Attitudes Toward Female Firefighters. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Volume 6, Issue 1, pages 61 – 74. Web.
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