Women Working: An Issue of Independence

January 19, 2010 | Elizabeth

Throughout history, women traditionally have held the 24-hour job of being mother and wife. Women were in charge of the education, health, and overall development of their children. A popular idea surfaced at this time called Republican Motherhood, where it was th
e responsibility of women to raise American children who operated in the democratic mindset. This sphere of control however, was extremely limiting to women. War time proved to give women some independence in decision making, business, and financial affairs, but independence itself wasn’t really achieved until much later.

After the Industrial Revolution came into full swing in America, independence was once again used to tempt women away from their families in the form of the Lowell Mill System. Textile mills and factories sprung up quickly, especially in Massachusetts, and women were persuaded to leave home and go to work. There they were kept in boarding houses and given a wage. An individual wage is something many of them had never had before, and it was the defining moment of gaining independence. This was one of the first real jobs available to women in addition to outsourcing, where women would take home a part of a project to finish and later return to the company. During the Civil War and the period of Emancipation, women were able to organize leagues for charity and abolition.  Women were now gaining power outside the private sphere of their homes and marched proudly into the streets, the public sphere of society.

Women have since been given numerous opportunities to advance in the public sphere; there are very few limits as to the careers we can pursue and become successful in. In addition, many feminists have fought hard for equality in the workplace. But can there ever be equality in the workplace, or at least the equality of outcome modern feminists seek? Should there be? Further, is the independence of women still threatened?

Since the recession, there has been a drop of about 3% of the amount of women in the workforce as more are returning home to be with their families. It is not just because of the lack of employment opportunities, but there has also been a shifting desire in many women to return to the old days, but with a new twist of course. Women are utilizing technology to do business, by creating their own online corporations, inventing new solutions to everyday needs and problems, writing self-help books, and taking a more active role in raising their children. Independence is an issue every woman who wants a family or has one will have to struggle with–can we ever really have it all, independently?

Picture from Teaching American History in Maryland.

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