Where to start? For thousands of years, women (in cultures dominated by by men) were subservieant to men. There are a few exceptions were the lineage of a family was traced on the mother's side, surnames came from the mother, etc. However, the lineage in most cultures generally follows the male line of the family.
In some cultures, women work/worked side-by-side men. In the Anglo-Saxon period, women often fought alongside the men. In many very old and traditional cultures (both in terms of and religious) women are seen as second-class citizens. The old addage of women "barefoot and pregnant" still exists today in some areas of the world. Women are not allowed to make major decisions in the family and are expected to submit in all things to the husband; they cannot own anything, and they are not permitted to go to school. This is certainly the way things were in England hundreds of years ago, where women could not (historically) inherit money or property, or if they did, it was forfeited to the husband when the woman married. Widows might not marry again for just this reason.
Today, at least in America, women are on a more equal footing with men in most cases: often by necessity, where women can now compete in the workplace for jobs that were once traditionally held by men (as a doctor for example), and also in light of two-parent working households. In other countries, still women are treated without value. I recently men a man of a particular faith who would not shake my hand because I was a woman.
However, more than ever, opportunities in becoming educated, serving in medicine, politics, news reporting—in fact, most career opportunities—are open to women in this country. Things have changed a great deal over the last three hundred years in America—even since women won the right to vote near the beginning of the twentieth century, and equal opportunity legislation was passed just past the middle of the twentieth century.