Manufacturing, transportation, building technologies, increased efficiencies, and more combined to make urban life a more viable option for more people. And women played important roles in these developments.
How might women's work have subsequently lead to women's rights movements and what does this imply about the role of technology and reform movements?
Although not all reform movements are connected to technological change, it is certainly possible to argue that the women’s rights movement is. This is a movement that was helped tremendously by technologies that created more jobs that could be done by women.
Up until the late 1800s, there was relatively little technology being used in economic activity in the United States. This meant that the majority of work required quite a bit of physical strength. In part because of this, women did not participate in the workforce as much as they do now. Because women did not participate in the workforce very much, they were not economically important in the eyes of men. Since men did not think that women were very important, they did not feel that women deserved rights. This helped to prevent women from gaining rights at this time.
Beginning in the late 1800s, America’s economy became much more industrialized and many kinds of technology became important. At the same time, many more white collar jobs opened up in the big industrial companies. Furthermore, particularly in the early 1900s, many kinds of household technologies reduced the amount of work that women had to do around the house. All of these factors made it much more possible for larger numbers of women to enter the workforce. As more women started working, prejudices against women started to fade. More men came to believe that women ought to have political rights. This helped allow the women’s rights movement to succeed.
In this case, then, technology played a major role in bringing about a reform movement. However, most reform movements have not been driven by technology. For example, neither the abolition movement nor the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s was really brought about by technology. Thus, I would argue that there is no clear connection between technology and reform movements in general.