Identify and describe the internal changes in America from 1830 until 1860. Make sure that you discuss infrastructure developments, immigration, the factory system, and the life of women during...

Identify and describe the internal changes in America from 1830 until 1860. Make sure that you discuss infrastructure developments, immigration, the factory system, and the life of women during this time frame.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The time from 1830 to 1860 was a time of great change in the United States.  This was not simply because of the lead-up to the Civil War.  Many other things were happening as well.  Among these were the things that you mention in this question.

Overall, the United States (and particularly the North) was becoming much more commercialized and industrialized.  People were doing less subsistence farming and more work for money.  There were more factories, some of them staffed by immigrants.  Both of these things were made possible in large part by changes in infrastructure.  The new ways led to changes in how women were perceived and how they lived.

During this time period, America’s transportation infrastructure was being improved in important ways.  The Erie Canal had opened in 1825, but canal building continued after 1830.  The canals connected more places with one another, allowing them to trade.  The same thing happened when the railroads started to be built.  As the railroad network expanded, it became possible for Americans to trade with one another even if they were not connected by water.  With these changes, more Americans farmers started to raise crops to sell instead of engaging in subsistence farming.

During this time, there was also an increase in the number of factories in the US.  Before this, much of the work in the US was being done by artisans in their own shops.  Other types of work were being done in the “putting-out” system.  In this system, “factory” owners would distribute raw materials to people who would assemble or otherwise work with those materials in their own homes.  For example, they might give cut pieces of cloth out to be sewed together.  In the time period you mention, more of these activities were brought into what we would now recognize as factories.

Many of the factories were staffed by immigrants.  The 1840s were the time when the first massive wave of immigration came to America.  These immigrants came mainly from Ireland and Germany.  They came from Ireland to escape the potato famine and from Germany to escape political turmoil.  They changed the face of America in important ways.

Finally, we can look at the ways in which these changes affected women.  For the most part, these changes reduced their status in society.  In the past, they had been more important economic members of families.  They would have helped with the subsistence farming.  They would have been part of the operation at an artisan’s home shop.  As subsistence farming and artisanship became less common women stopped playing as much of a role in “bringing home the bacon” for the family.  This led more Americans to hold to the idea that women belonged in the home and should not be part of the economy.

In these ways, many changes were occurring in the US during this time outside of the changes that brought on the Civil War.

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