women’s rights after the american revolution

women's rights after the american revolution

Womens Rights After the American Revolution

November 10, 2012

The American revolution set the wheels into motion for the Women’s Rights movement, it helped shaped the lives of even today’s women. Between 1790 and 1860 the roles of women dramatically changed politically and socially, it brought on a new era for women creating a more empowered sense of womanhood opening up job opportunities and giving women a chance at equality.

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. the war. For military actions, see American Revolutionary War. For other uses, see American Revolution (disambiguation). In this article, inhabitants of the Thirteen Colonies who supported the American Revolution are primarily referred to as "Americans9quot; or "Patriots,9quot; and sometimes as "Whigs,9quot; "Rebels9quot; or "Revolutionaries.9quot; Colonists who supported the British side are called "Loyalists9quot; or "Tories9quot;. In accordance with the policy of this encyclopedia, this article uses American English terminology; in British English these events are known as the "American War of Independence". Founding Fathers listen to the draft of the Declaration of Independence John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence, showing the Committee of Five presenting its work to Congress. The American Revolution was a political upheaval that took place between 1765 and 1783 during which the Thirteen American Colonies broke from the British Empire and formed an independent nation, the United States of America. The American Revolution was the result of a series of social, political, and intellectual transformations in American society, government and ways of thinking. Starting in 1765 the Americans rejected the authority of Parliament to tax them without elected representation; protests continued to.

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Nadine Elsigai APUSH Ms. Shalimar November 10, 2012 FRQ The American revolution set the wheels into motion for the Women’s Rights movement, it helped shaped the lives of even today’s women. Between 1790 and 1860 the roles of women dramatically changed politically and socially, it brought on a new era for women creating a more empowered sense of womanhood opening up job opportunities and giving women a chance at equality. With the American revolution came an entirely new perspective of female ability.

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A entire political world was opened up to the female population education became more common for the group of white middle class women. Changing dramatically form being souly educated for religious purposes, the demand for education for women increased it was a battle very quickly won and women slowly became more well-rounded and knowledgeable. Although women’s legal rights were still little it was becoming more evident that they were capable of more than what was previously believed.

Many new arguments arose questioning how a women trusted with the duty of shaping the future generation was ‘small minded’. Women themselves were realizing their own abilities. During the revolution they helped as much as they could using their needlework to pay off war debts, this boosted the women’s confidence many were expecting better occupations as well as voting rights. These events all led to the women’s awakening and prompted them to fight for their rights.

The revolution also prompted many social changes for women. The acts women accomplished during the revolution opened the eyes of many dramatically changing the role of women within society as a whole. Following the American revolution women went from begin the slaves of their household to becoming a more valued role within society. Women were slowly shedding the weak frail image of themselves and welcomed new responsibilities with opened arms.

Women's rights after the american revolution

The American Revolution was a time of great change in the United States. A growing sense of patriotism and national unity was bringing the colonies and the settlers together. Men became “Son’s of Liberty,” and women, “Daughter’s of Liberty.” Both sexes challenging the crown and fighting for their rights to be citizens of a new country, a republic, in hopes this modern state would bring change and a renewed freedom and equality to those who fought for it. In part, this was true. Change, would come to all involved, but freedom and equality would only come to some. During the Revolution women proved themselves worthy and capable of taking the place of their husbands within the home, in business and financial affairs, and even in the political sphere, writing petitions and rioting, when deemed appropriate. Men praised the women and their ability to adapt to the circumstances and recognized necessity of their support and efforts in winning the country’s freedom. So why then did these same men not “remember the ladies,” as Abigail Adams phrased it, when building the country’s constitution and laws?

Before the American Revolution men and women’s spheres of duty within society were generally separate and only occasionally could these areas be stretched and wives become deputy husband’s. However, during the American Revolution the old traditional values of separate spheres and duties became blurred. For the first time in the history of the colonies women were granted freedom in most affairs, even though only by default.

Towards the beginning of the Revolution letters between husbands and their wives provided evidence of the old traditional separation of spheres. The husbands felt the need to tell their wives what to do and how to handle the house and finances. As the war carried on and the men had been away from their homes and duties for months and even years a shift began to take place. “Women learned more about the family finances while at the same time their husbands’ knowledge became increasingly outdated and remote” (Norton, 126). Men could no longer help but at the same time their wives did not need the help anymore. Women grew accustomed to their new duties and in many cases felt empowered and liberated knowing that they could take on such tasks as running the household and business affairs. “Women’s letters showed their increasing familiarity with business and their willingness to act independently of their husbands’ direction” (Norton, 126).

Despite women’s ability to take on these tasks and carry them out efficiently there was still the underlying belief that women were helpless and weaker than their counterparts, which in turn still held them back. A letter written by a male appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1776 and refers to women still as victims and associates them with other clusters of people who were thought to be weak and defenseless such as children and the elderly (Daughters of Liberty, Document 7). Even though these women were stretching their boundaries, they were not yet overstepping them enough to be considered as capable as men.

Politics, like the home and finances, was yet another societal outlet dominated by men before the Revolution. Women never participated in the formal political domain; it was unheard of. At most a woman could have informal power in which she influenced her husband to make certain decisions. During the Revolution this traditionally male dominated arena became one in which women could partake. Whether invited or not women began to participate. They created groups, such as the Edenton Ladies, that differed in causes but most created petitions, collected money, spun clothing, and even rioted. Regardless of the method, women were becoming more independent and outspoken and believed they too should and could have a say in politics.

Men, although some mocked women’s contribution to politics, mostly thanked them for their efforts. In a set of letters between Ester DeBerdt Reed and George Washington, Washington thanks Reed for her and other women’s efforts. She and her group raised monetary contributions for the American army (Daughters of Liberty, Document 10). Washington’s acceptance and acknowledgment of the women’s actions as praise worthy was a sign that men were beginning to realize women were a large contributing factor to society and capable of taking on such roles. In the next breath however he showed his dominance still over the women when insisting they make clothing rather than just give the money to the army. Reed at first is reluctant but in the end obeys Washington’s wishes showing that although women did have some power to speak their peace the men still had the ultimate and final word. After the Revolution there was no longer room for such actions of women in politics, the old traditional common law was transcribed and women’s political behavior and abstract thought again became a “threat to sensual attractiveness” (Kerber, 151).

Women of the American Revolution did push boundaries and showed their capabilities of being more than a housewife, however, their freedom in caring for the house and business affairs and prominence in politics was short lived. Post-Revolution the men of the colonies gave no new rights to women and left them largely in the same position as they were before the war. The only thing that changed was women’s perceptions of themselves. Forcing men to reevaluate women’s roles as well and creating the idea of the Republican Mother; an educated and capable woman whose duty were to create respectable republican men and families (Kerber, 151). The role of the Republican Mother was another way of keeping women within their traditional spheres of the household while still acknowledging their new worth and abilities.

In all, the American Revolution did bring about a movement of great change for all, but freedom and equality were still limited to the same group that obtained it before the Revolution, wealthy white landowners. Women, despite their competence in taking over men’s roles during the war, did not receive any new freedom, equality, or protection under the constitution or law. This was due to men’s inability and unwillingness to change their views of women’s place within society and the ability to displace women’s new ideas of self-worth into the idea of the Republican Mother; allowing men to give some credit and power to women but still placing their main contributions within the family and home.

Women’s Rights Research Paper: The Influence of American Revolution

The issue of women’s rights is the key problem of social networking even today. Some radical feminists are not satisfied with gender inequality, especially in Muslim countries. Modern sociologists suggest that the revolution in the USA has become a landmark in the history of equality between men and women in the USA. This women’s rights research paper shows the value of changes that have happened after the American War of Independence. The significance of feminism has greatly increased in nineteenth century because of the consequences of the revolution.

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How Did the American Revolution Influence Women’s Rights?

American women of the 18th century had far fewer rights than they have now. Colonial America respected women’s rights little more than African American slaves. Before the start of the American Revolution, women were perceived only as an appendage to their husbands and fathers, without taking any part in the political life of the country. From the moment of birth, women belonged to their fathers, who soon decided what kind of man to give them in marriage. After wedding, women would become completely dependent on their husbands. Their daily routines consisted of tedious homework, which often implied heavy physical labor due to the low level of technology development in that time (DePauw and McCurdy 4). The welfare of a woman was entirely determined by her husband, while unmarried women did not have the right to earn their living and were rejected by society. The Revolutionary Era marked a significant shift in the social importance of women; however, their formal political role has not undergone any significant changes. While most men went to war, most of their responsibilities passed to women and in fact it was the first period in American history that gave women the opportunity to show their active social stance and support for their country. Considering the American Revolution, most historians estimate the war against Britain paying little attention to the processes that took place within American society outside the battlefield. Despite the fact that after the American Revolution women’s political rights had remained at the same level, since then, they had gained confidence in their social significance and began to demonstrate an active role in the life of society.

Before the Revolution, the duties of women were significantly different from those of men; afterward, husbands began to increasingly trust their wives for more meaningful work such as financial accounting for the family or help with the business. Nevertheless, it should be taken into account that such changes have not affected all women, but only those few of the white, wealthy households. This was dictated by the fact that during the long period of the war, most men have become distant and incompetent in conducting certain affairs, especially as regards finances and running a family business (Mays 12). At the same time, during the absence of men, women performing the role of men significantly deepened their knowledge and improved their management skills of family household affairs. It was particularly evident from the letters that women wrote to their husbands at war. In some cases, women took responsibility for running their husbands’ businesses or farms during their absence. In the process, they understood that they could do this not worse, but equally, and maybe even better than men, which encouraged them to realize their importance. In some letters, it can be observed that women referred to it as “our business” instead of the usual “your business,” which marked the beginning of the significant changes in the social consciousness of American women (Skemp). Being more and more engaged in men’s affairs, they took an increasingly active civil position, which subsequently led to active assistance in the fight against Britain. For example, by organizing joint efforts, women managed to boycott many British goods imported into the US such as textile and tea, which subsequently had a negative impact on the British economy and played an essential role in the course of the war.

In addition, women provided significant support to the American soldiers in the war. Their skills as domestic attendants were a significant support for the American army: they sewed military uniforms and brought them to the front, worked in military hospitals assisting severely injured soldiers and thereby substantially reducing losses among the American troops, supplied the army with provisions and resources, and some women even took part in spying operations on the territory of the enemy. Women’s support at the home front also ensured the normal functioning of American society, because they went to factories and industries, worked as blacksmiths and teachers, and as a whole, were able to replace men in most occupations previously uncommon for women (Zagarri 2). All this laid the foundation for the active social and civic position of women, which after a century began to bring results in the form of the first wave of feminism. However, before that, it was still far in the future, and women were still subordinate to men. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that, given the contribution of women to the Revolution, men have significantly changed their attitude towards them, recognizing their importance and skills.

This kind of activity on the part of women forced American society to reconsider views on women’s rights, which resulted in the birth of women voters in New Jersey in 1776. Despite the fact that society still did not recognize the equality between men and women in political activity, New Jersey residents still got the right to take part in the elections regardless of their husbands (Mays 41). Before the Revolutionary War, women had no right to vote, just like men who did not possess any property. At the time, it was believed that only independent Americans should have the right to vote, while women were dependent on their husbands, as well as men without property were dependent on their landlords or others. The right to vote for women in New Jersey had become a significant step towards the attainment of civil rights since besides not only white women but also women of color could vote. However, it is worth noting that the rule on property ownership still operated for both men and women. Nevertheless, as early as 1807 this right was abolished under the pretext of combating falsification and women were again suspended from participation in the political life of the country. However, they received an opportunity to get education instead. Before the outbreak of the war, women received virtually no education, but the responsibilities they assumed during the absence of men forced them to gain some education to efficiently perform the necessary work. At first, they began to learn how to work with weaving looms, and then other crafts peculiar to men. Later, they performed the role of Republican Mothers, as they taught their children patriotism and republican ideals, which were appreciated and encouraged by society. Women served as the mainstay of morality and virtue of the American family, and for this, they needed education, which was the reason for the opening of women’s academies in the 1790s. The initiator of this movement was Abigail Adams, who was the first woman advocating education for women.

Abigail Adams actually became the first feminist because she actively protested against gender-related laws reigning in American society in the 18th century and her activities significantly influenced the rights of women after the war. She stated that women should not submit to laws that do not protect their interests, having in mind first of all the right to property, which at that time belonged only to white men. She also became the founder of the concept of Republican Motherhood, which allowed women to receive primary education and take a more significant role in the upbringing of children in the family. Thanks to Adams’ activities, women began to show more willingness to express their public opinion and social activity, something that did not happen before (Wayne 44). Despite the fact that all the bills and statements Adams passed to the government were rejected, she managed to become the First Lady in the White House, which could not pass without a trace of the position of women in society.

Thus, the American Revolution significantly influenced the change in the social role of women in society. While before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, women were considered nothing more than the property of their husbands doing routine housework and raising children, during and after their social responsibilities significantly expanded. Since men had been suspended from participation in public life for a long time, many of their duties had passed to their wives, which caused them to acquire responsibility for the functioning of American society in that period of history. American women not only ensured the stable operation of plants and factories but also provided substantial support to the American soldiers, providing them with uniforms, resources, and provisions. Similarly, the American women joined in the fight against Britain and boycotted goods taxed, which affected the course of the war. All this led to the fact that women began to take a more active part in the life of the country after the war, and in New Jersey, they even had the right to vote on an equal status with men for the following thirty years. Also, women acquired great importance in the education of children in the republican traditions, which led to the beginning of women’s education.

De Pauw, Linda Grant, and Michael McCurdy. Founding Mothers. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

Mays, Dorothy A. Women in Early America. Santa Barbara (Calif.), ABC-CLIO, 2004.

Skemp, Sheila L. “Women and Politics in the Era of the American Revolution.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia Of American History, 2016, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.013.216.

Wayne, Tiffany. Women’s Rights in the United States. Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2014.

Zagarri, Rosemarie. Revolutionary Backlash. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

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