During the 1880s, many women faced difficulties because of gender issues. Because of this, females were sometimes described as weak, emotional, and overreacting. As well, it was believed that they did not match the same qualifications as with men in certain work fields.
Women who were hired as hired girls back in the 1880s had little control over their earnings. They also believed that their employer would take care of them and would not hurt them. But due to the disadvantages that they had and what they believed in, the employers often took these weaknesses for granted and benefited from them. These women often faced the danger of sexual harassment by their male employer and/or by other brutal men because of their weaknesses such as: they could not disrespect their bosses and they did not have the strength to fight back.Women, at that time, did not have much opportunity to pursue a higher education, which caused a lack of qualified female workers during the 1880s. Most of the women were hired as servants, farmers, or factory workers.
In contrast, married women took care of their families and served their husbands. Indeed, women had faced many difficulties since that time because of their gender disadvantages.My Antonia showed many situations that girls were often used as tools by the people in their work fields. Moreover, women workers back in the 1880s did not have the same amount of wages as men did even when they performed the same duties. The women who had jobs did not have the chance to enjoy their earnings because they had to send it to their families in order to help with the family expenses. They had to keep very little for their own living. The same was true with the married women who became housewives just to serve their husbands while raising and taking care of their children because their earnings also went to their husbands and children. In My Antonia, Antonia was taken advantage of by Ambrosch because he took her wages and Antonia could not do anything about it because he was her boss.
Lena also did not have the authority over her wages because she had to provide the financial support to her family. Neither of the girls had control over their earnings, and had no power to spend the earnings for their own needs.Among all of the risks that women had faced during the 1880s, the most challenging was sexual harassment. This easily occurred because women were physically weak to resist the advances of their bosses, coworkers, or even husbands.
Women back in the 1880s can be simply raped and sexually harassed at all places including the farm, factory, or even at home. The sexual harassments often resulted in favoring the suspects, and blaming the victims for their “misconducts” that had caused the unlucky event. For example, in My Antonia, Antonia almost became a rape victim when she was approached by her boss, Mr. Cutter, who was going to sexually abuse her. And in another case, Antonia was fired due to her “misconducts” while dancing and parting, which attracted the men in the parties.
These showed that there were really aspects that were against womens’ behavior and social order. Willa Cather compared the condition of being raped as being “ruined.”Comparing the working conditions and social issues that were addressed in the 1880s to the present, there are changes but it had not been completely solved. Nowadays, we have more legal documentary that protects women against hostility from unnecessary forces. Nevertheless, it is still common that women are viewed to be weak and sexual harassment issues still appears to be common.
Also, gender discrimination still exists today.