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My Grandmother never worked. Her main job was (and to some degree, still is) to keep the house and to stay "pretty" for her husband. My mother earned an MBA and was the main breadwinner of our family since my father became disabled due to a rare blood disease. I also am the main breadwinner--hold a Master's and am working on a Doctorate--since my husband has lost his job due to economic hardship and has lately been diagnosed with cancer.
Women have become everything men were and are, plus what women have always been...wife, mother, household manager, laundry guru, chaperone, carpool master, sportsfan, breadwinner and kitchen engineer.
While it is obvious that the role of women has changed and for the most part improved in the last two centuries, they still lag behind in wages earned from doing the same or similar job that their male counterpart makes.
The change in women's roles in society in recent years can be largely attributed to two things: The right of women to vote, and the reliable technology of family planning.
Women's suffrage rights in many countries gave them a measure of political power they had never enjoyed before, while the invention of the birth control pill in the 1960s finally liberated women from being stuck in the home with large numbers of kids. As a result, in the 1960s we see a women's liberation movement, the Equal Rights Amendment, and women in large numbers graduating from college and entering technical fields they were not previously able or allowed to.
Look, for example, at my wife... Her grandmother never held a job outside the home and never even learned to drive. She was, in every way, the stereotypical housewife of her generation (born 1917).
My wife (born 1969), by contrast, has a graduate degree and is the main "breadwinner" in our family while I work on a part-time basis having quit my full time job to care for the kids when we had them.
This difference can tell you something about the change in the possible roles of women in the last century, at least.
I think that this is a wide enough scope to only begin the discussion here on enotes. When examining "centuries" as part of anything, the scope becomes so large and expansive that it becomes a topic that begs for some level of refining. With this in mind, I will focus on the manner in which women's roles have changed in the last two centuries. Overall, the change in women's roles have come from the acknowledgement of voice in articulating the condition of women. I would point to the idea of power coming from the bottom up as a part of this change. With social and political movements such as the American and French Revolutions, marginalized groups began to fully understand how change from a collective point of view can represent lasting permanence. Women's roles began to change when there began a greater emphasis to alter the traditionally bound function of women. When women began to articulate a need to be in domains that were outside the realm of the domestic, there became a greater assertion in both the voices of women and the idea of what it means to be a woman. This was seen in the Suffragette movement in England and the Suffragist movement in America in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. In both of these movements, a call for the changing role of women was forced to be heard. This was a social call that demanded for women to be acknowledged politically. In this vein, women's roles became ones that had to be validated on social and political levels through equality and the civil commitment to support it through voting rights. This continued throughout the 20th Century with legislation that supported the claim that women have rights that must be acknowledged through laws and credit the experience of being a woman and force men to ensure that collaboration and cooperation govern the social and poltiical states of being between the genders.
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