How were women treated back in the 19th century?
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A woman's place was indeed in the home, although certain professions were open to women, such as nursing or teaching. Women were beginning to reclaim their rights as full-fledged citizens, and the right to vote was granted at different times (and for some countries much later than others). Access to education widened as well, as more and more schools opened their doors to coed education, and women ventured into fields previously dominated by men.
The event that really did change the status of the woman were the World Wars, primarily the second. In the absence of men, women came to the fore and showed themselves to be competent workers and civic leaders. After the crisis, women "defended their territory" and kept their new 'status quo' on the work force thereafter.
Another aspect to consider in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century is the impact which technology and new inventions had on people's everyday lifestyle. Grueling and repetitive domestic chores had been previously delegated mostly to women, older children or "domestic help." Imagine, ladies (and gentlemen), where we would be today without such appliances as the iron, the vacuum cleaner, or the refrigerator? Not to mention indoor plumbing, electricity, the telephone and the car! (There were "desperate housewives" even back then, but they just couldn't get together....)
The latest "revolution" for feminist causes was of course the sexual one in the 1960's, brought on by the introduction of the contraceptive pill. A woman suddenly had the choice to have children or not to have them, and to devote her energies somewhere else.
There were differences, from country to country, in how women were treated in 19th century. In India such differences existed within the country also. However are some common themes in the way role of women has changed in society. In particular, the role of women in 19th century was mostly limited to household duties. The same pattern existed in India also.
However, by and large woment in India were treated with respect. Women with exceptional capabilities could deal with men on equal footing without attracting any social opposition. One example of this is provided by Queen Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, wfo took over the reins of her kingdom after death of her husband and fought with British (East India Company) to protect her country being taken over by them.
You may be interested in reading Kate Chopin's "Awakening" which is set in the Victorian Age in which women were repressed. Also, a story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman entitled "The Yellow Wallpaper" brought to light the repression of women and lack of understanding of depression and "post-partum blues" by psychiatrists who merely prescribed bed rest.
Ms. Gilman, in fact, mentions the name of the doctor in her story. Dr. Mitchell's management of depression was later questioned and advancements were made toward understanding women's depression. So, a fictional story effected a historical change. Critic Elaine R. Hedges wrote that Gilman's story was one of the rare pieces of nineteenth-century literature which directly confronts the sexual politics of male-female, husband-wife relationship."
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