The Story of an Hour Historical and Social Context
by Kate Chopin

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Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

The Woman Question

"The Story of an Hour" was published in 1894, an era in which many social and cultural questions occupied Americans' minds. One of these, referred to as the "Woman Question," involved which roles were acceptable for women to assume in society. Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species (1892) had further incited this controversy. Darwin's theory of evolution was used by both sides of the issue; some argued the theory supported female self-assertion and independence, others felt the theory proved that motherhood should be the primary role of a woman in society.

Although women were not granted the right to vote until 1920, the struggle for their enfranchisement began in 1848 with the Seneca Falls Convention in New York state. The passage of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting enfranchisement to black men, was passed in 1869. Several prominent feminists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, refused to support the amendment because it denied women the vote. Other suffragists argued that the enfranchisement of women would soon follow black enfranchisement. In 1890, these two factions united in the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). That year, Wyoming became the first state to grant women the vote. While the suffrage movement sought reform, mainstream Victorian culture regarded the self-sacrificing wife, dependent on her husband and devoted to her children, as the ideal of femininity.

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1890s: The suffragist movement unites in the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Wyoming becomes the first state to grant women the vote.

Today : Although efforts to add an Equal Rights Amendment to the United States...

(The entire section is 395 words.)