Were the lives of white women from lower and middle social classes vastly different or only marginally different from the lives of white women from the upper echelons of society?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The lives of women in these various classes of white colonial Spanish America were, in my view, vastly different.  However, there is no clear line to demarcate where “marginal” differences end and “vast” differences begin.

It is certainly possible to argue that the differences between various classes of white Spanish women were marginal.  After all, the law treated most women equally and did not make distinctions between those who were rich and those who were less wealthy.  The main legal difference was between married and unmarried women, not between rich and poor.  Women of most classes were expected to adhere to rigid standards of moral purity.  This limited their lives in many ways.  Since there were many such similarities, it is possible to say that the differences between the elite women and all the others were only marginal.

However, I would argue that the differences were actually rather vast.  I say this because the elite women in Colonial Spain had much more in the way of life chances.  They did not have to worry about making a living.  They did not have to be nearly as dedicated to economic activity and simply helping their families to make ends meet.  As a result, elite women would have had much less stressful lives.  In addition, their economic independence would have opened up many more opportunities to enjoy relatively interesting lives.  These elite women had more opportunities to engage in things like cultural pursuits than their counterparts in the lower classes who had to work constantly in order to make a living. 

Therefore, I would argue that the differences were vast rather than marginal.  The everyday lives of the true elites would have been less stressful and more interesting than those of other classes of women.  This is a tremendous difference that would have been felt more strongly from day to day than the factors that made women’s lives similar across all classes.

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rachellopez's profile pic

rachellopez | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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People in a lower class, even when times become better, will always have different lives than those from the upper class. For example, in Europe during the 1900s, wages had doubled, however there was still a great amount of hardship.

"...the richest five percent of households received 33 percent of the national income. The richest 20 percent received from 50 to 60 percent of the income, and the bottom 80 percent received only 40 to 40 percent. The bottom 30 percent received 10 percent or less."

I feel like this would similar in all countries, even now. Especially with women, who are said to still be paid less than men for the same jobs, being in a lower class would be difficult. You get less money from your job than those you are more "financially better" than you, meaning you have to work a lot harder.

Usually, your social class would be defined by your income, education, and job. However, I feel like your wealth and income has a great factor in how much education and job experience you will have. So, if you have a good amount of money, it would be easier to get into a nice school and get a good job. I'm not saying that less wealthy people can't get those things, but it might be harder. Your income can affect your everyday life, like the "luxuries" you can have, for both women and men. There is a lot you can discuss with a topic like this, but I would say, overall, the difference between classes is pretty large.

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