Friday, January 30, 2015

Men and Women: A Continuing Saga

        With the development of society, came the development of women's roles and placement in the social ladder. What were the reactions in both the 19th and 21st century? Many years ago, women had a very restricted way of living and had to be responsible for the idea of the home. This ideal was mainly supported by men. But then as the reforms took of, women began to change the many ideas people had about their gender. There were many different reactions to this type of change. Like today, the gender equality is a fierce participate in our minds when we think of the two genders. In the 19th century, men and women opinions differed immensely on social responsibilities and the roles of women in the household. Where as in the 21st century, the perspectives have streamlined and changed to incorporate both genders.
   Women, in the 19th century, began to feel the licks of injustice as the women on the long voyages from England to America would pay their fines and fees by becoming servants. The servant women were treated horribly by their masters. And if they came out of their servitude unscathed and un-pregnant, they were then expected to marry very quickly. The women would then feel the rules their husbands placed on them in such an acute way, it was extremely unfair. The rules and customs for women were included in a List known as The Right of Women. Here are some of those rules, "In almost every state, the father can legally make a will appointing a guardian for his children in the event of his death. Should the husband die, a mother could have her children taken away from her./ It is considered improper for women to speak in public./ In most states, it is legal for a man to beat his wife. New York courts ruled that, in order to keep his wife from nagging, a man could beat her with a horsewhip every few weeks./ Women may not vote in any state in the union./ Until 1837, No college in the United States accepted women as regular students.(1)" Those rules were set in place to keep many women in check in the eyes of society but at a very strict cost. women were denied the right to raise their children in the absence of their husbands. And were also denied the right to do anything else with their life, like pursue an education or own land and property. Also, these set of rules made women literally incapable of standing up for themselves, because men and husbands were legally allowed to abuse them. The way men restricted and thought of women back in the 19th was brutal and barbaric. 
    The different gender in the 19th century had the opposite views on the women's reform. The men in this time, saw the women as being frivolous and unreasonable as it meant most of the roles that women would fill normally would change. It would also meant that the women of the 19th century would be held don the same level as men. This is a change that, understandably, most men fought against. In the most famous protest, the Seneca Falls Convention, many women went and spoke to a large group. Many different authors wrote many different articles about the convention. Oneida wig, a reporter and author of one of the articles, says, "They set aside the statue 'wives submit yourselves to your husbands,' they despise the example of learned Portis, who conducted Mrs. Jameson characteristics as 'consistent with a reflecting mind and spirit at once tender, reasonable and magnanimus', when she, who was the lord of a fair mansion, commit ed herself to her husband 'to be directed,' and her house, her servants, and the same herself were given to the core and keeper of her lord. This bolt is the most shocking and unnatural incidents in the history of womanity. If woman will insist on voting and legislating, where, gentlemen, will be our dinners and our elbows? Where our domestic firesides and holes in our stockings?(2)" This was the general attitude toward the woman's reform and it tells of how much the men in this time believed that they had the right way of things. Their ideal of the proper women was one who stayed at home all day, took care of household chores like cooking and raising the children, and were completely submissive to their husbands. The ideal in this sense wasn't wrong entirely but the way it was employed, sort of like a trap, is what caused women to feel the need for reform. The reform, to these men, was a waste of time and a horrible change. Men were on the other side of the spectrum when it came to the women's reform. 
   Such time shave come and gone as the time of the 21st century has dawned. And with it, a new set of opinions and perspectives on this subject. On the subject of women and men in equal terms, the opinions have come down to about the same. Men and women are essentially equal and should be treated as such. But there is still the residue of the older ideal hanging about. In the video below, we see examples of the stereotypes and social rules that are placed on women:
As seen here, there are still many types of rules and restrictions holding women in one position. But, unlike in the 19th century, there is less of an emphasis put on it and more men and women are willing to work together to fight against it. The underhanded way that most of these problems have surfaced shows how much we have come to understand and accept the role and combining statue women have in our society. There is no longer a big stink if a women owns property or goes to college. We have come to accept those things as fact. Which is a huge leap from the 19th century.
    In some ways, the two centuries will never differ entirely. But there will always be that stark difference on the organization and closeness between the two opinions in those centuries. In the 21st, we will always have a standard level on which both men and women stand together. But in the 19th century, that never did and never would exist. So these two will stand alone on the respective topic we discuss as the women's reform. 


1- Judith Nies, Seven Women: Portraits from the Amercian Readicla Tradition (New York Penguin, 1977) p.68
2- Onieda Wig (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/trr040.html) August 1, 1848

Friday, January 9, 2015

Prison Reform in a Written Piece

"I respectfully ask to present this Memorial, believing that the cause, which actuates to and sanctions so unusual a movement, presents no equivocal claim to public consideration and sympathy. Surrendering to calm and deep convictions of duty my habitual views of what is womanly and becoming, I proceed briefly to explain what has conducted me before you unsolicited and unsustained, trusting, while I do so, that the memorialist will be speedily forgotten in the memorial. About two years since leisure afforded opportunity and duty prompted me to visit several prisons and almshouses in the vicinity of this metropolis. I found, near Boston, in the jails and asylums for the poor, a numerous class brought into unsuitable connection with criminals and the general mass of paupers. I refer to idiots and insane persons, dwelling in circumstances not only adverse to their own physical and moral improvement, but productive of extreme disadvantages to all other persons brought into association with them. I applied myself diligently to trace the causes of these evils, and sought to supply remedies. As one obstacle was surmounted, fresh difficulties appeared. Every new investigation has given depth to the conviction that it is only by decided, prompt, and vigorous legislation the evils to which I refer, and which I shall proceed more fully to illustrate, can be remedied."
                                - Dix, Dorothea. Memorial To The Legislature of Massachusetts. Boston, 1843.

Dorothea Dix was the author of this and many other memorials that observed and spoke of the harsh and unfair treatment of the mentally ill in prison. She is a very good source because she was actually on hand at many of the examples she uses. Dorothea Dix's purpose was to show the people and legislatures around the communities that the mentally ill were people who deserved to be treated as such. She hoped that this would help get better prison conditions. Dix was a Sunday school teacher. She would go to the prison to teach bible lessons and from there could see all the horrors going on inside. The prisoners were tortured with poor conditions and very little nourishment. The floors and cell were dirty and many prisoners were disabled because of the chains and shackles that held them captive. Dorothea Dix uses a number of arguments and holds to both sides of the argument. She claims that while it is dangerous to have the mentally ill walking around un-cared for, it is cruel to treat them like animals. She uses a strong and sensitive word choice in her writing to help convey a certain tone of clarity and sympathy. Dix tries to describe to her reader the things she has seem and thought.