Evolution of the American Woman

Changes with Women in the United States

Throughout United States history, there have been many expectations for women that showed them how they were supposed to behave, what they should wear and look like, and what their rights were in public. A lot of these up into the present day have changed, as women have gained more rights, changed the rules and held different views on men and society.

"Victorian" Woman

Expectations from Society

  • Victorian women were supposed to support their husband no matter what, and couldn't have opinions.
  • They were also highly expected to marry with a man, and if they chose to divorce, was often seen as social taboo.
  • Women were also not allowed to get a college education because, at the time, that was seen as "the man's world".
  • Women were also perceived as inferior in every way to a man, except in being a woman (in other words, being "feminine").

Job and Education Oppurtunities

  • Most women during this time were taught housewife skills such as weaving, cooking, washing, cleaning, and raising a child (unless you were a wealthy women, which in that case was the maid's job).
  • Women were not allowed to get a college education because that was seen as the "man's world".
  • Some women were employed in the steel industry and coal mines, where they sometimes worked underground as "hurriers". As hurriers, they would cart tubs full of coal through mine shafts.

Appearance

  • Most women wore corsets that gave them a narrow and slim waist, since that was seen as desirable in a women at the time. However, they heavily limited a woman's movements, and could even be detrimental to their health, as corsets were so tight-fitting that they could damage the internal organs and even break ribs.
  • Women's dresses had skirts that reached down to the ankles, since it was considered taboo that girls show any part of their legs in public.
  • Women's hats were often ostentatiously decorated with feathers and flowers, and this became an especially popular fashion trend in the later decades of the Victorian Era.

Hobbies

  • Most of the time, women's hobbies during the Victorian Era included reading, music, handcrafts, and embroidery.
  • Girls actually did participate in sports at least some of the time, such as tennis, golf, swimming, fencing, hockey and archery (mostly for upper class women).
  • However, most men considered the majority of sports to be too dangerous and harmful for women, since it was expected that women keep their health safe to give birth to children.

1920s Woman

Expectations from Society

  • The typical women of the 1920s, called "flappers", were more assertive, independent, and exuberant with more liberal attitudes.
  • The number of divorces in America was made easier and began to increase in the 1920s; this was because a lot of 1920s women were not going to deal with a bad husband and thus had the choice to end their marriage.
  • Ever since the 19th Amendment was passed in 1919, women could now vote on a potential presidential candidate and could take part in politics.
  • Most women and men of this era now began to view a marriage as more of an equal partnership, though all of the household work like cooking, washing, and raising children was still seen as a women's job.
  • Some women chose not to marry at all and became part of the industrial workforce and get employed for more jobs that were seen as more of the man's world.

Job & Education Oppurtunities

  • The number of women that attended college in the 1920s rose by 10 percent of the American population by 1929.
  • Many significant achievements in law, science, and medicine during the 1920s were made by women. A lot of other women also were successful in sports and politics.
  • During World War One, the majority of women were forced to take up the jobs that were left behind by men that were sent to fight in Europe. Once the war was over, many women sought to keep their jobs that made them a living, which inspired other women to join the workforce.

Appearance

  • 1920s women sought to free themselves from the highly restrictive long dresses and corsets that were worn by women of the Victorian Era. As a result, women began wearing more brightly colored, revealing clothing that people of the older generation would condemn.
  • Flappers commonly cut their long hair to have short, bobbed hairstyles.
  • 1920s women also decided to adopt a "boyish' look by wearing clothing that was meant for males.
  • Fashion trends among flappers included cloche hats, shorter, lower-waisted dresses, and evening silk gowns.
  • A lot of flappers also wore long pearl strands, feathery boas, headbands, and cigarette holders.

Hobbies

  • When jazz music was introduced in the 1920s, flappers soon evolved new dances that many women of this time were eager to learn.
  • Women learned new dances such as the Charleston, the Shimmy, the Turkey trot, the Cake walk, and the Bunny hop.
  • Flappers also would openly drink and smoke out in public; they would also openly talk about explicit topics, some of which women from the Victorian era would have been prohibited from doing.
  • During the Harlem Renaissance, many African American women became famous for being writers, poets, artists, and singers.

Post WWII Woman

Expectations from Society

  • As the population after World War Two began to increase, women were once again back to doing household work.
  • Women were now expected to stay at home care for the children while her husband left to go to work to support his wife and his family.
  • The decade of the 1950s is often said to be the time where gender inequality reached its peak; women were often portrayed in movies and TV as being stupid, submissive, weak, and domesticated.

Job & Education Oppurunities

  • After World War Two ended, the men that cam back from the fighting took back their original positions in the workforce, which drove women out of the jobs they occupied.
  • When woman were driven out of their original jobs during World War Two, they once again took on a mostly domestic role.
  • Women could become nurses, midwives, cleaners, and clerical staff in the newly formed National Health Service, jobs that were seen as more of a "woman's job".

Appearance

  • Women were very eager to wear nylon stockings; after World War Two, sales for these rose dramatically and they soon became another fashion trend.
  • Women wore wedge heels, which they were already wearing before the war, though the only difference was that the new wedge heels had "shallower wedges".
  • Fashion designer Christian Dior launched the first collection of the "House of Dior" in 1947, which would become known as the "New Look". It consisted of a below-mid-calf length full skirt, a small waist, and rounded shoulders.
  • Pencil skirts were commonly worn by girls during the 1950s, and were slim-fitting; almost shaped like a pencil.

Hobbies

  • Bowling was a very popular sport among women during the 1960s, who would play in leagues and organizations.
  • Tennis was also another commonly played sport by women during this era.

Modern Day Woman

Expectations from Society

  • A lot of more women are becoming more prevalent nowadays in professions such as law, science, doctors, and even astronauts, though the number of females in these professions is still fewer than the number of males.
  • Most women nowadays have a choice about their families or to not have children or be married at all.
  • Many feminist organizations are still currently working to pass an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) many times through Congress, but every time this has so far failed since not enough states ratify it.

Job & Education Oppurtunities

  • Most women can now get employed in the same jobs and same professions that years ago would have been seen as the "man's world".
  • The number of women that attend colleges and universities today actually is slightly more than the number of men that attend (up to 57 percent of the university student population is female), but there are still quite fewer women that hold positions as college president.
  • Most feminists point out that there is a gender wage gap in most jobs; for every women that earns 77 cents in a job, a man from the same job will earn one dollar. Others state that not enough women are present in some of the more higher paying professions.

Appearance

  • Women nowadays choose to wear generally the same clothing that a lot males would prefer.
  • Women can also wear sportswear commonly when playing sports or exercising.
  • Still, in formal occasions, women still wear dresses like an evening gown, ball gown, or a bride's dress.

Hobbies

  • Most women are present and active in many kinds of sports; there are woman's leagues in soccer, tennis, swimming, softball, skiing, etc.
  • Women can also be active in art, computer programming, video gaming, among many other hobbies.

Citations

  • en.wikipedia.org
  • american-historama.org
  • ncpedia.org
  • striking-women.org