The Market Revolution, Industrialization, and New Technologies

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What effect did the industrial revolution have on gender roles at home and in the workplace?

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The Industrial Revolution produced a clear delineation between 'home' and 'work.' There were many social changes that occurred: worker's rights, work health and safety, enforced schooling, and a need for childcare. Gender roles were also clearly modified.


  • experienced limited work health and safety (often more so than for men)
  • were paid less than men for the same work
  • had limited employment opportunities
  • often returned home to "housewife" duties
  • saw their education suffer severely
  • experienced society's anxiety about a woman left 'unsupervised' from the home


  • endured laborious work
  • worked long hours
  • were typically viewed as 'bread winners'
  • were often in supervisory roles (of women)
  • saw the importance of education diminish—work took priority 

It wasn't until the World Wars of the 20th century that the next major modification of stereotypical gender roles took place. This was because the population of working men were enlisted—forcing women to take on 'male roles.'

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In general, the coming of the Industrial Revolution led to a situation in which women became more subjugated to men and were allowed to have less contact with the public sphere.  The idea about gender roles that arose from the Industrial Revolution is sometimes called the idea of “separate spheres.”

Before the Industrial Revolution, most work occurred at home and everyone in the family worked together as a unit.  There was very little distinction, if any, between work and home or between economic activity and non-economic activity.  For this reason, women were seen as part of the economic unit and had a role that was not too dissimilar to that played by men.

As the Industrial Revolution progressed, this changed.  Work came to be something that was performed away from home.  The ideal was that women would not work outside the home.  They would stay home and perform work that was not paid.  This meant that there came to be the sense that women belonged at home and outside the economic sphere while men belonged outside the home in the economic world.

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