Equality

In 1890, less then one half of one percent of women were employed gainfully
outside of the home. Over the next hundred years, women have not only gained
access to jobs outside of the home, but also fought for equality in the work
place. These struggles have not been easy by any means. Women have overcome
many obstacles in there journey into the work force, none grater then the views
of their male piers. Many males thought and continue to think that there is no
place for women in the work place. Women made there strides into the work force
by not only following examples of their courageous pioneers, but also by banding
together to show their strength.

During the mid 1800’s a small number of women begin their assault on, what
were at the time considered, male-only jobs. Fields such as teaching, preaching,
medicine, and law were all jobs domenated by men. Women had made some progress
in the work force before the 1850’s. In the mid nineteenth century women were
the majority for grade school teachers, up from the ten percent of elementary
teachers, that were teachers in the colonial period. This can be largely
attributed not to the fact that men were more accepting of the idea that women
belonged in the work place, but rather men were drown to the higher paying and
more socially appreciated managerial jobs brought on by the industrial
revolution. School boards did not mind these talented leaving because they
could higher a “less qualified women” for as low as one fifth of males salary
for the same job.

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Susan B. Anthony was the first women to publicly speak out against this
gross injustice towards women. After being fired to “replace a male teacher
fired for incompetence,she was paid one third of the salary he had
received,”(Reifert 74)she went to the state teachers convention of 1853 to
register a protest. After being hushed once and a half hour of debate she was
finally allowed to speak her peace. Although nothing became of her first
encounter with the women’s movement, she quit teaching and went on to become one
of the great leaders of the women’s movement.

Antoinette Brown was anther women that was not happy with the status
quo of women in society. She started, in 1846, by attending Oberlin college,
which only nine years before had become the first co-educational college.

Oberlin, although being very receptive of women in their women’s department,
they did not let women take any courses besides the ones offered in the women
department. This lead to a conflict when Brown made her intentions of obtaining
a theology degree known. Brown won the battle to attend the classes she needed
for her degree, but this was by far not the last battle for equality she would
have to fight. Oberlan “refused to grant her a students license to preach.,”
and after her course work was completed Oberlan would not ” allow her to take
part in the graduation ceremony, be licensed, ordained, or even have her name
registered on the class roll.”(Reifert 76) It took three years, of hard looking
for Brown to find a Protestant Church that would allow her to be ordained.

Finally after all of her struggles Antoinette Brown was ordained the first
protestant female minister in America.

“Women in the early 1800’s were discriminated against both as practitioner
and as patient.”(Reifert 77) Women were thought that it was wrong for them to
seek help from doctors for any problems that had anything remotely to do with
their reproductive system. It was also thought that Women were to fragile to
deal with the work that goes with being a doctor. Elizabeth Blackwell saw first
hand the effects of the first problem mentioned. She watched a family friend
die because she was embarrassed to bring her problem to the attention of her
male doctor. Blackwell was not detoured by the Idea that no medical school
would take her, because she could not compete with males. After all almost
everyone at the time believed that “the female brain was different then the male
brain.”(Reifert 78) Blackwell finally gained admittance to Geneva College after
a unanimous vote of the student body to let her in. This vote should not be
taken as a sign that men were becoming more accepting of women infiltrating what
was formally known as male only territory. It should be noted that most of the
students believed that either the vote was a joke or that Blackwell would not
stay around long. Blackwell proved all the skeptics wrong by graduating in the
top of her class, but still no hospital in the United States would allow her to
intern. For her internship Blackwell went to Paris. When She got back to the
United States Blackwell found that no hospital would allow her to use their
facilities. In 1857 she secured enough money to turn facility into a hospital.

Similar to doctors, nurses were largely male until the 1850’s. Nursing followed
a similar path as elementary teachers, as more higher paid jobs opened up, it
left room for women to take over less glamorous jobs. In the early nineteenth
century lawyers were thought by apprenticeship. This was a very big problem for
women that had an interest in this field, because no men lawyers would ever
dream of having a female apprentice. The emergence of law schools made the job
of a lawyer remotely accessible, but by no means easy. Such is the case of Myra
Bradwell, who graduated from Chicago School of law, but was refused a license to
practice law by the Illinois State Bar. She took her battle to the Supreme
Court, by was ruled against. After her ruling was overturned in 1890 at the age
of 59, she became a licensed lawyer and two years latter practiced law in front
of the same court that had refused her rights 23 years earlier.

Before these women had broken into these previously all male jobs women’s
jobs four general limitations. They are “(1) that women perform work similar to
that of the home; (2) that no great skill be involved…; (3) that no great
physical strength be required…; (4) that the work should not involve contacts
with the rougher male sex…”(Riegel 135) Contrary to the Desires of their
employers to maintain their workers femininity, the women, they provided their
employees with very adverse working conditions. “The conditions under which
most women were described by an on looker :
girls take off their street suits
and put on an old skirts and waists
matted with glue dirt, in which the
spend ten hours a day scorning,
cutting and sniping, wetting great
sheets of paper and paste… at a
few cents a day”
(Cantarow xxvii)
Women at time made around half of what their male counterparts made. While male
unions were proving very successful in the advancement in working conditions for
men, but most unions had little interest in helping women’s causes. For this
reason,in 1903 the WTUL (Women’s trade Union league) was launched. This helped
Women unite to achieve better working conditions. The WTUL was very influential
in the organization and support of the major women’s strikes.

Women fought many hard battles to gain access to areas that were at on time
strictly off limits to them and fought hard to improve their working conditions.

With out the struggles of these women other women might not have the rights they
have today.


Category: Social Issues