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Discrimination involves denial of opportunities for a certain group of people. Gender discrimination involves beliefs, attitudes, and actions held by a society. These beliefs favor one gender. They often do not carry any legal consequences. Discrimination of women in the 19th century was evident compared to the many rights that women are enjoying in the 21st century. The attitudes of women were based on their possession of well-defined virtues such as piety, submissiveness, purity, and domesticity. Traditionally, it was widely believed that women were fundamentally different in character from men. Women were seen as homemakers whose role was to create a homely environment to all members of the family. Society assumed men to possess inner strength needed to deal with the complex corrupt world. The women were their husband’s confidants, mental and physical companions (Backhouse 260).
These socially defined positions of women were not fitting into the shoes of all women. They wanted to participate as equal and complementary partners with their male counterparts. Liberal women pioneered the debate of gender discrimination. For instance, women were denied voting rights, equal employment opportunities, property ownership, basic citizenship, and other rights (Robertson 289).
In entirely fabricated laws, women were reduced to abject conditions of legal slavery. Conforming to these conditions was dependent for the decent treatment of an individual. Economic and social challenges inspired women to liberate themselves for their discriminative defined social goals.
Socially sexual differences were used to justify the different roles of men and women giving rise to alleged primary and secondary roles. In an educational setting, women were denied absolute formal education. Educating a woman was viewed as a waste of resources in many societies. The women who made it would get unequal terms often enrolling in simpler courses and getting lower cut off points compared to men. In the 19th century, America was a platform further compared to other nations and societies. The local government believed in massive education for all children, boys and girls alike. The black women in America also commanded attention in the early 20th century demanding for equality of educational opportunity. Racial segregation was prevalent in all of America and there were separate schools for blacks and whites. Education discrimination existed though on a lesser degree compared to other regions in the world. Girls and boys were legally afforded educational opportunities. However, girls were taught subtly that a woman’s place was at home rather than in institutions of higher learning such as secondary school and universities. It was common in different regions of the world for a student to face exclusion from an educational institution, opportunity, program, loan, scholarship, or student group because of their gender. Girls received less education opportunities and were barred from higher learning institutions. Women were seen to be of lesser cranial capacity who would not understand the complexities associated with higher education. In colonial America, girls were enrolled in dame schools to just learn how to read and write. They could attend regular schools during summer when most of the boys were working (Crawford 76).
Women would be denied bank credit or be offered unequal terms when securing loans because their credibility was questionable. Women lived in a near state of poverty. In most cases, men were the signatories to all the family resources and women held no significant subsistence means. In the early 19th century, the government had adjusted most of the laws to accommodate and protect women who owned property. Most young women were working in informal jobs earning at times as much as a man could earn. This prompted the society to improve their perception on women.
In the early and mid 18th century, Women who did not wish to marry often-attracted social condemnation and pity. Women would not cohabit with a man or have children outside wedlock; the social penalties were too high. A woman’s expectation was to marry and bear children. Upon getting married, they would automatically lose all the property they owned, earned, or inherited to their husbands. A man could take one woman’s children to be raised by another against her will. Men had a right to force their wives into having childbirth. Men could spend their wife’s property on mistresses and get away with it. Wife battering was a normal thing that was solved in the family channels and the authorities would not intervene (McDonald 276). In the beginning of the 19th century, important economic and political forces had begun to weaken the society ties on the American woman. the government had a weak state which could not enable women to realize their full potential. Careers done by women were not well funded by the government and in most cases were privately provided. The 19th century is however, a period, which witnessed increased divorce rates and increases in the number of unmarried women working for wages.
In the late 19th century, employment opportunities increased with the growth of industries. Women sought for employment but they were paid less and occupied less powerful positions compared to men. Majority of women were employed as domestic workers with very little pay (Burnette 132). Male workers resented female workers because of the competition raised. Technological reduced the direct conflict as women were given the non skilled jobs and employed temporality. Men would eventually earn more than women as they did heavier jobs and highly skilled. Women were also restricted in the jobs they did and had few options to chose from.
A woman’s marital status determined her legal standing in America in the early 19th century. A woman did not enjoy all her citizenship rights Women did not own identity cards in many regions of the world. In the rise of an offence against a woman, only the husband would prosecute on her behalf. Moreover, the husband reserved the right to access his wife body at will regardless of the woman’s wish. Law assured this and the woman consented to it verbally. In the marriage vows was a confession for the woman to obey her husband at all times. In the late 20th century that vow was abolished from the wedding vows.
Among the wealthy, family wealth was disbursed down the male line. If a daughter got a share, it would be a small percentage. Rich heir who had no brothers was encouraged to marry. Wealthy women would make premarital agreement to have their wealth held in a trust fund. However, in many cases marriage stripped a woman all her property and transferred them to the husband (Dabel 45). Women began to agitate for the right to vote and participate in law making. The ideals of women’s suffrage developed and considered as right today. The right to vote was steadily extended in many countries.
Education has come a long way in filling the existing gender gaps. In the early 19th century women were highly discriminated against. Women were considered as a major source of evil and temptation .They would not sit in one row with men in social gatherings. Young girls were expected to treat their male relatives as they would their future husbands. Furthermore, a boy child was appreciated more compared to the girl child. Boys brought esteem to their fathers more than girls did. Women were second-class citizens world over. To appear morally straight, women were condemned to long unrevealing clothes. They covered their legs because revealing even the ankle was regarded a huge mistake. A woman was seen as unclean especially in her menses. Decent women were expected to have one sex partner for a lifetime but men would do get involved with as many women as they wished.
Women in Britain and the United States challenged the laws that denied them the right to own property once they were married. Under the common law, husbands gained control of their wives property and wages. In the period of 1840s, the state, due to pressure from women groups, began passing edicts that protected women from their husbands and their creditors. These regulations are known as the married women property acts (Mathews 222). A judge to enquire if the husband was compelling the woman into signing the document carried out a privy examination. Australia was among the first countries to give women the right to vote. Until 1966, women who held public positions had to resign before they got married.
Feminist based social movements and ideas begun to emerge in Europe, Britain and in the United States. They advocated for women’s rights and their integration in the society as equal partners with men. The early feminists were men and women who advocated for greater equality of women in the government, public institutions, church, and the family. The 1980s equity laws passed in England, Mississippi, New York, and Massachusetts emphasized on the principle of equal rights for men and women. The equity law also had a liberalizing effect on the legal rights of women in United States. Women were allowed to sue their husbands (Bayem 70).
Major improvements have since taken effect in all areas. More women are in the public limelight doing jobs which were historically designated for men. There are more female doctors, masonry, engineers, and political leaders compared to the 19th century. Gender discrimination gaps have also narrowed and even criminalized in some contexts.
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