Paying attention to the relationship between genders in America in the 19th century, one must take into account that a diverse research apparatus is required to characterize it. Sociological relations between genders of that time require both knowledges of history and the ability to critically interpret historical documents of that time. Women throughout the 19th century could not have a fixed gender role due to the individual social characteristics of their lives.
The political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville offers in his essay a valuable perspective of a foreigner observing the structure of American society at the time. He draws attention to the fact that women are disadvantaged in their political rights, but more importantly, their desire to go outside the home sphere is not encouraged in any way (de Tocqueville, 1840). The author describes American women as having similar energy and aspirations of reason to men but limited to the “narrow circle of domestic life” (de Tocqueville, 1840). The thinker criticizes the position of women in the States but, at the same time, speaks of its incomparable convenience. The mention that women also lead intellectual lives and have minds similar to men implies the validity of the thesis about the ambiguity of the female role in society.
However, modern researchers indicate that in many ways, the position of a woman and the level of her freedom manifested depended primarily on their class status. Only middle-class women could receive formal education and often became female teachers themselves (Changes in gender roles and family life, 2021). When it came to family survival, women and children were forced to work, although their efforts were rated lower. At the very bottom of the social ladder were enslaved women, forced to physical labor. The position of women also depended on geographic location, as there was an ideological confrontation between the agricultural south and the commercially oriented North (Women’s rights in Antebellum America, 2021). The point of view of the French traveler is overly generalized, asserting a status quo that is actually fictitious.
It is impossible to describe the position of women in American society in the 19th century, focusing exclusively on the context of industrialization. The male half of the population sought to discover their superiority due to the status of the only worker in the family. However, due to economic obstacles, such a situation is far from always possible, despite the desire of the new gender ideology to restrict women in the 19th century in their labor rights.
Changes in gender roles and family life (2017). In J. Locke & B. Wright (Eds.), The American Yawp. Web.
de Tocqueville, A. (1840). How do Americans understand the equality of the sexes? Web.
Women’s rights in Antebellum America (2017). In J. Locke & B. Wright (Eds.), The American Yawp. Web.