In the late 1800s, women were starting to work outside the home in numbers much greater than had been seen before in the US. At the same time, there was a rising demand among some women for looser restrictions on their actions. This can be seen, for example, in the fad for riding bicycles, which was a way of getting relatively vigorous exercise, something that women had not been allowed to do. This was the era of Victoria Woodhull and her public profession of her belief in free love (she also did things like becoming a stockbroker and running for president).
Because of these changes, there came to be something of a national debate about the proper role of women and the morality of having women doing things like working outside the home. This foreshadowed greater debates on the issue that would occur in the decades to come.