Women's Rights USA, 1865-1914

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This House believes that the activism of women themselves was the most important
factor in advancing their civil rights.
18651914
The Civil War (Key Event) 18615
The civil war briefly offered married women the opportunity to work outside the home. Women
could also work as nurses, although this was perceived as an extension of the familial role
rather than a profession.
The growth of industry increased postwar work opportunities for women.
Westward expansion isolated many women, although they also proved themselves by taking on
many roles within the household ­ they were medicine makers, cooks, cleaners, seamstresses
and would make household items themselves.
Quality of life on the Plains was poor ­ many women became depressed or died in childbirth
due to poor medical provision and geographical factors.
The Civil War did nothing to advance women's rights ­ nursing was simply an
extension of a woman's role in the family home. Postwar work opportunities may
have started to grow, but these were for unmarried women, and at the time all
workers were unprotected by any legislation. Westward expansion meant that women
were demonstrating themselves to be very capable in the home, but nothing came of
it, and besides, many became depressed and lonely.
The Fifteenth Amendment 1870
The Fifteenth Amendment angered women's suffrage campaigners (and arguably, spurred them
on), as the amendment defended race but not gender.
The Fifteenth Amendment can be seen as a catalyst for the ensuing women's rights
groups, as it would have severely angered them. Considering that the campaign for
the franchise was led by middle class women, who may also have been likely to hold
racist views, this particular decision would have been extremely annoying. However, it
is unfair to stereotype all women's groups as such, as of course many groups
campaigned for social reform as much as the vote.
The Economy/Working
The manufacturing industry continued to grow.
Urbanisation was sweeping across America ­ an Urban Middle Class was growing.
By the 1890s unmarried women with a high school education could work in the offices of
factories rather than on the production line.
By 1900 women made up 17% of the total workforce.
By 1900, 949,000 women were working as teachers, secretaries, librarians and telephone
operators ­ these were significantly better jobs than factory production.
Immigrant women, on the other hand, faced extremely unfair treatment in the workplace. Wages
were extremely low and conditions were terrible, as there was no legislation in place to protect
workers (of either gender) at the time.
The social expectation was that women would abandon their job once they were married.
Although employment opportunities were growing, women would abandon any
progress made once they were married. Also, 949,000 women may have had `white
collar' jobs in 1900, but many more were still working in terrible conditions on the

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Clearly women were advancing themselves in the area of work though.
Their educational opportunities allowed them to do this.
Family Life
The urban middle class was expanding.
Better transport in the cities meant that family life could move to the suburbs where there was a
better quality of living. Homes had plumbing and central heating, decreasing the amount of work
put upon women.
Native white American families were getting smaller in size ­ the average birth rate fell from 5.…read more

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Through the temperance movement,
women were campaigning for their rights within the home. The special suffrage
movements as well also had great effect, winning women the vote in 1920.…read more

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