A Comparison of Working Women: Colonial vs. Modern

Topic: BusinessEnergy
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Last updated: April 7, 2019

History has proven that the status of American working women has vastly improved over time with opportunities progressing from colonial servitude to present-day career paths.  With determination and hard work, sensible women have made an impact on American history and society.  Historically, society once considered women acceptable when they displayed compliance with relevant behavior.  However, as women continued to demonstrate their strong commitment and intelligence those deep-rooted, subservient roles eventually evolved into the professional, and sometimes, outspoken women society appreciates today.

Colonial working womenThe married woman’s role during the colonial period consisted of housework, farm work, and child rearing.  She displayed her exceptional talent for adaptability.  Household chores became daunting tasks.  Women collected water from wells and streams in heavy buckets.

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  Washing clothes consisted of carrying water and wood, in order to boil, soak, and scrub the laundry.  Women tended livestock and gardens for food. They milked cows to make butter and cheese.

  Wives bartered for goods and necessities, made items, such as candles and cloth, performed medical services, like a nursing or midwifery, or canned extra food to sell at the nearest market or out of her home (Woloch, 2010).  Important items such as textiles became acutely expensive, due to spinning and weaving usually done by hand by women for extra income.  To assist their husbands with financial situations, wives sometimes embraced their husbands’ trade, which enhanced the household income.  For example, if her husband were a carpenter she would assist in the shop, if he were a farmer she would help in the fields (Woloch, 2010).Women quickly realized that in order to survive on a small tobacco farm their assistance with field work was paramount.  Carr and Walsh explained that during the seventeenth-century in Maryland, wives often helped their husbands in the fields if they had no available servants (1977).  On smaller farms, or at times when the husband was still paying rent, wives succumbed to double work; housework and field work (Carr and Walsh, 1977).

  Some women escaped the duty of field work due to their upbringing, obligation to care for small children, or poor health (Carr and Walsh, 1977).  The more fortunate farmers found assistance with field servants, leaving the household chores to the women.During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, job opportunities for women were limited with no legal protection.  Business owners or employers usually applied traditional patriarchal customs, targeting vulnerability of women’s status.  These customs allowed business owner to hire women as cheap labor, such as seamstress/tailors, spinning yarn, brewing, baking, and dairying (Main, 1994).

  Consequently, with the influx of women working outside the home, the textile industry began to flourish.Women had a significant impact to businesses in early America.  Prior to the industrial revolution, women took advantage of their options and quickly joined the labor force.  Most women saw this as an opportunity to contribute financially to their household.

  Unquestionably, the demands of the family came first, but as the family increased so did the need for wives to enter the labor force.White, single women working for their dowry and immigrants were the first women to begin working outside the home.  However, single status was not common due to male/female proportions in colonial America.  Odds of marriage for single women that lived in the southern colonies increased dramatically due to the high percentage of men, who were generally farmers (Woloch 2010).  Once married, the colonial woman became the property of her husband.Often, women found themselves widowed and divorced, and occasionally some did remain single.  Women who chose to remain single usually came from affluent backgrounds; they found no need to marry.

  Those that did marry usually found themselves in a short-term marriage because of a high-morality rate.  Widows automatically received rights to property, the permission to sign contracts, along with the right to file a suit or be a recipient of a suit.  Widows also benefited financially due to recognition and acceptance into the business world after the death of their husbands (Waciega, 1987).

  Many continued to maintain their husband’s business, while others opted into other businesses because of inherited property and money.  A significant factor for the widow was her age; the older the widow the less likely she was to remarry, therefore, the ability to earn a living was paramount (Main, 1994).  Many colonies established financial assistance for some widows and soon discovered the importance of a working widow (Woloch, 2010).  Divorces usually transpired within the wealthy, granting the wife alimony.  On the other hand, if a husband deserted his wife, she had to petition the courts for rights in order to sell her property to support her family (Woloch, 2010).  Unlike widows, deserted women did not gain automatic rights.

;Modern working womenModern working women have many more options regarding working opportunities than compared to the working opportunities offered to colonial women.  Women today, utilize opportunities to obtain higher education, which strengthens a successful career. Unfortunately, many high-profile careers continue to operate in a male-dominated environment, leaving the high-profile career minded woman to face obvious hurdles.

  Another opportunity for some fortunate women is the ability to access innovative technology to work from home, otherwise known as telecommuting.The modern woman exercises her selection for a higher education.  Many universities provide leadership programs that encourage women in business, law, medicine, and education.  However, Rutgers University recently began a program with a slight twist; a program specifically designed for women’s leadership (Trigg, 2006).  This program is structured from the women’s studies program and will “encourage students to question existing social structures, particularly as they are made aware of the paucity of women as decision makers in public office, in institutions of higher education, business, and other social arenas” (Trigg, 2006).

  Courses similar to the one at Rutgers, teaches women the skills to challenge gender inequalities, while recognizing common prejudices and the glass ceiling, thus establishing a stronger, more effective leader.With increased technology and a saturated job market, many professional positions now require a college education.  Employers recognize the perseverance applicants present when they begin and complete a program with a degreed result.  According to a report from Buchmann and DiPrete, reversals in the gender gap regarding college completions now favor women as opposed to men (2006).

  This report states that “women currently far outnumber men among new college graduates” (Buchmann and DiPrete, 2006).  There are a few inquiries as to why the change in the gender gap.  Buchmann and DiPrete, proposed a few reasons as to the cause of the conversion of male to female graduates; declining gender discrimination, an increasing number of educated parents, and increased academic performance from high school girls (2006).  Whatever the case may be, women continue to contribute their energy, insight, and dedication to improving the well-being of their society.

Unfortunately, women frequently face the hurdles of prejudice in a male-dominated world.  Inherited from years of oppressive attitudes, men often displayed bitterness and resentment towards women with their determination to break the glass ceiling.  These attitudes contribute to difficulties with experience and an apparent lack of respect that prevents men from exhibiting appropriate business camaraderie for their female colleagues.

 The existence of gender discrimination against women contributes to limited business opportunities and creates missed advancements.  Discrimination hinders the knowledge and practice entrepreneurs need to establish positive prospects for future project endeavors.  Even while encountering occasional criticism, women continue to join the male-dominated professional world, in an effort to increase financial stability and prosperity.The distinction that separates work from home will eventually disappear due to an increasing dependency on the internet to manage and conduct business. Already a growing part of the populace earns a living by working from home.  Telemarketers, administrative assistants, nonprofit employees, publicists, and stock traders already benefit from working at home (Solnik, 2010).  Currently, forty-six percent of nonprofit part-timers work from home, where as, publicity firms allow thirty percent of their full time employees work from home (Slonik, 2010).

  Leaving the house every morning and fighting traffic to get to work becomes monotonous.  Telecommuting provides businesses the opportunity to lower wages and benefits to people working from home, claiming the advantage of working from home offsets other benefits that they might have received in a traditional office environment.  Furthermore, the company sees additional profits with the decreased office equipment needed for those working at home.Another factor in this growing trend to work at home is the widespread belief one must always be available via cellular phone, blackberry or other instant communication device.

  Many professional people already use their vehicle as their office.  With added technology, a home office appeals to people who believe that they could get more work done at home as opposed to wasting time driving into the office.  A home office also provides parents with the opportunity to work and not worry about daycare or alternate arrangements for children.

  In actuality, it gives parents more time with their children.  Currently, telecommuting is not possible for all professions.  However, with continued technological advancements the potential for other professions to benefit from a home office is in the foreseeable future.Difference between colonial working women and modern working womenThere are many differences between colonial working women and modern working women.  Colonial working women often experienced gender segregation regarding most jobs.

  The term woman’s work mainly consisted of housework, child rearing, and caring for her family.  Eventually, it ventured out of the home into low wage textile work, inn and tavern keeper, midwife, essentially jobs that men thought were beneath them, or they believed their expertise surpassed the job. The colonial society considered women as subordinates and believed they were incapable of intelligent, skilled work.The modern working woman benefits from the advancements and accomplishments, our female counterparts, fought for so valiantly.

  A woman today may choose which classes best interest her, which degree plan best suits her personality, and which job offers the best incentives and salary she believes she is worth.  Albeit, modern women still face gender discrimination, fortunately that discrimination is minimal in comparison to colonial women.  The modern working woman is one that is included in the working class, she is no longer restricted to the home and she is employed and able to provide as much as her male counterparts.

  She can be the supervisor or an executive of a reputable corporation and command respect from her male personnel under her authority.Challenges and opportunities for modern working womenModern working women face both challenges and opportunities within their work environment.  Working women, who choose the motherhood path, must live with the guilt of allowing others to care for her children while also trying to balance home life and business life.

  The working woman also finds herself in the never ending fight for equal pay against a patriarchal society.  Even though, there are challenges to working outside the home, working women develop a sense of responsibility and independence within society as their sense of confidence of earning their own salary increases.It is regrettable that managing work and family life constitutes a difficult experience for any woman.  A woman’s motivation to work is to provide for her family and achieve personal satisfaction with her abilities and experience.  The ability to provide a stable home environment and create an atmosphere of love and support is a woman’s primary, inherent responsibility.

  However, the thin line that separates the two lives sometimes becomes blurred, and there lies the conflict that pulls a woman in opposite directions.  The sense of guilt she experiences as a result of leaving her children in the care of another, as well as the regret of being absent from school activities and events, is often overwhelming at times.  The feeling of sorrow and helplessness occasionally creeps into her thoughts.

  Many working women contend with the dilemma of a career versus children.Despite the provision by law that there should be equitable pay standards for men and women, many firms and workplaces continue to deny women of this right.  This law originally restricted inconsistencies related to equal pay for men and women.  Nevertheless, the question is how prevalent is the bias or abuse on employee salaries?  Essentially, employers still make hasty decisions regarding female employees and continue to demonstrate the disparity between men and women’s wages. According to Lips and Lawson, “U.S.

women who work full-time and year-round earned 77.3 cents to every dollar earned by men” (2009).ConclusionPast societies once determined women, in general, as inefficient, weak, and unable to produce rational decisions.  Women accepted that arrangement as a way of life.  The patriarchal society of the past continues to dominate society today.  Women often feel subjugated by the current male-dominated employment practice that continues to maintain society today.  That intimidating effect motivates women initiate change.  As women learn to recognize the deeply-rooted discriminatory behavior, they develop the courage to create a more balanced and fulfilling life.

 Hopefully, there will always be strong, motivated women that make the decision to correct any transgression, to make equality universal, and to make the world a more benevolent and just place.;


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