The Changing Roles of Women in Society, Beginning in the Late Eighteenth Century

Essay by Churchee9324College, UndergraduateA, January 2005

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The late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century were times in American history that screamed for reform. The nation was undergoing several changes that would mark the beginning of the country's future. It was the time leading up to the Industrial Revolution where society was changing at an incredibly fast pace. As a result of the boom in new technology, the roles of Americans dramatically changed, especially those of women. Society dictated a woman's place, which was not in the dirty factories that drove the wheels for the country. Instead, men were supposed to serve as the workers, while women were supposed to stay at home. Emerging from this time period were many documents dealing with women's rights and the changing role of women in society.

One of these documents, entitled Declaration of the Rights of Woman, written by Olympe DeGouges, discussed the public roles and duties of women in civil society during the French Revolution.

Essentially, the most important part of this pamphlet is the first listed "right" of women. She writes, "Woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights...these rights are liberty, property, security, and especially resistance to oppression" (DeGouges, p.398). Here, DeGouges clearly states her primary purpose in composing this document - to endorse equality and justice for all women. She continues in right 6, "All citizenesses and citizens, being equal in its eyes, should be equally admissible to all public dignities, offices, and employments, according to their ability, and with no other distinction, than that of their virtues and talents" (DeGouges, p.398). This concept appalled those living during this time period so much so that ultimately, DeGouges was arrested as a counterrevolutionary and executed. In the past, wifehood and motherhood had been regarded as the most significant professions for women, but now, DeGouges...