"Feminism" - How the role of women has changed over the last 100 years. (Includes Works Cited)

Essay by JustinS1827College, UndergraduateA, April 2004

download word file, 5 pages 5.0 1 reviews

Downloaded 23445 times

In the early 1900's, women were not known to have high rank jobs or work full time at all. They were the one's who did all the cleaning, cooking, and the ones who took care of the children. Women didn't really start having jobs that paid till the 1920's - 1930's. But until then, the men did the majority of the work out in society. In a play called, Trifles, by Susan Glaspell, which was written and took place in 1916, two women by the names of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters lived in a small town where a murder had just occurred. While the county attorney and the sheriff try and look for clues around the house and try to figure out who to suspect, the two women figure out the case on their own. With their suspicions towards the wife of the man who was murdered, the two women find clues around the kitchen of the woman suspected.

These women, who are shocked by their findings, keep to themselves about what they have found from the men. I believe deep down they know if they try and take credit for solving the murder case, they will be laughed at for trying to do a man's job. By these women being so strong-minded, the question that comes to my mind is, "Will Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters tell the men what they have come across?". Will they take a stand? This might seem like the right thing to do morally, but it is not the right thing for these women to do in the society they live in.

In the mid 1800's was when women really started to focus on their rights as people, not just as women. They held conventions and rallies, and even had women's rights newspapers (Upstate). But even back then, nothing was really ever done. It didn't happen until the passing of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920, when women were even given the right to vote in parts of the United States (Upstate). This new amendment changed the world for women and made it so both men and women had a say in politics and government. Both genders could decide and vote with or against what they as individuals wanted. This was a huge issue for women, and by this amendment being passed, it showed men also that they were not the only one's anymore that could make society the way they wanted it to be. This was the beginning of the women's right movement and the rise of the power to women (Sommers). But some states were slow with their endorsement even after the amendment became a part of the supreme law of the land. Maryland, for example, did not ratify the amendment until 1941, and did not transmit the ratification document to the State Department until 1958 (Upstate).

I suppose the main reason why Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters didn't say anything to the men about their findings, during the play, was because their society was holding them back from doing the right thing. Women rarely spoke up back then, and even if they did, the subject matter wouldn't have been nearly as big of an issue as a murder. These women are literally being forced to keep their mouths shut because of the way women were perceived in this period of time. No one wanted or expected to hear that two women solved the case of a murder in a small town (or any size town) before or even faster than a man. Wouldn't everyone be shocked and utterly surprised if they knew what Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters had found out? This would change everything for women, or would it? Would the men in their society even believe them; or would they just ignore the fact that a woman could do a job better than a man could? Or would they ignore them all together, just like how they were some what treated back then? Society was very different in the early 1900's from what it is now. And it's not that women were not given any attention at all; but all their real attention was directed at there cooking, how clean they kept their houses, who was married to who, and taking care of their children. In this period of time, since women did not have paying jobs, no recognition could be given to them for doing anything big for their society; especially for doing the sheriffs job, like solving a murder case.

The love and hate that is in this short story, which is really a play, is portrayed through Mr. and Mrs. Wright. Even though Mr. Wright was killed even before the play was started, we know that there must have been both love and hate in their relationship. There must have been love because they were married; but there must have also been hate because Mrs. Wright killed her husband, Mr. Wright. We will never know the real reason she did it, the story does not tell, and we will never find out whether or not Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters ever told anyone what they found that day sitting in Mrs. Wright's kitchen while the men were trying so hard to find clues themselves. It is up to the reader to figure out the ending of the story; to figure out if the women will tell or not. No one knows and I think the author left the story just like that for a reason. I believe it was left like that to make people think of what they would do in a situation like that. And also considering this play was written in 1916, it shows that women were already showing their want for change and equalness. But not to worry, it would come soon enough.

With feminism and women's rights issues coming to mind, these women who know they can't speak up because of the way women were treated back then and how they were looked upon will probably never speak up. Women really didn't start making stands for themselves and each other until the late 1800's to the mid 1900's (Sommers). If Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters did say something to the men, or even their other women friends, they could have possibly moved the women's movement further back in time and changed everything for women and all of society all around the world earlier than it really happened. But who knows, these were quiet, conformed women, from what we can read into, from 1916 who kept to themselves to begin with, so all in all, I believe they will continue to keep quiet. They will let the men take forever to solve the case of Mr. Wright's murder, and do this to let them take all the credit. This is all connected by how there was so much respect given to men in the early 1900's. No matter what anyone said, did, or thought, respect was always given to men. And these two women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, are just trying to show these men respect, like they were supposed to back then. It was the way society said things had to be and that was just what was done. They would obviously give up everything just so that the men could continue to stand tall and show the women how things were done. But what no one knew back then was that sooner or later, women were going to take a stand and change everything by standing up for themselves, for what they believe in, what they want out of life and for themselves personally. This includes, jobs, voting, and having a say in everything. These women and all women would some day be changed into fearless women who fought the battle for equalness and won.

Works Cited

Sommers, Christina Hoff. Who Stole Feminism?. Simon & Schuster Publishing. 1994.

"Upstate New York and the Women's Rights Movement". 1995. 2 Nov. 2002.

http://www.lib.rochester.edu/rbk/women/women.htm.