The role of women in society and politics changed greatly during the late 19th century. In America, these major changes occurred during the Industrial Revolution. For the first time, women were active participants in the economy. Single women in particular flocked to urban areas in search of work. Young women would leave the family home in search of financial independence. While many still expected women to be mothers, wives, and homemakers, it was not unusual for a woman to contribute to the family income or to pursue a career of her own.
As women established themselves in the workforce, they became more involved in the political happenings of 20th-century America. Many led or participated in labor unions and strove to improve working conditions, limit working hours, and establish child labor laws. Inspired by their influence in the economy, women also became involved in political movements, such as the abolition of slavery and the rising feminist movement. Some of the most influential women of the 19th century were activists and business owners.