Sample Research Paper on the History of Women In 1800


A form of slavery characterized the life of women in the early 1800s. They were supposed to carry out many responsibilities with few choices to make. Men were the masters of women and they gave women orders that they were supposed to be followed without question. In this era, men were superior to women and being a male whether young or old meant that one had authority over a woman. The role of woman in the society was clearly defined from the word go, which was getting married, giving birth and spending her life serving the husband. There was no option of remaining unmarried and by any chance, if a woman did not get married, the society criticized and disapproved her. Immediately the woman was married, she automatically became a property of the husband, she was legally owned by the husband. This meant that everything owned by the woman including her body was no longer hers but her husband’s. The marriage vows bound women to a lifetime commitment into that marriage; they had no option of asking for a divorce from their husbands.

There were three different types of classes that were used to categorize women; upper working class, lower working class and under class women. These three types of groups lived completely different lives in terms of lifestyle, working life and family life. The underclass women were the ones who were most disadvantaged and experienced the most severe living conditions. These women had no education hence they got no better jobs; they were characterized by torn and dirty clothes. They mostly relied on relief from relief organizations for a living and at times, they engaged in prostitution, as it was their only option.

The lower working class category had the highest number of women; this class had some similar characteristics as the underclass women. Most of these women began working in very tender ages as low as eight years old, since they looked forward to no inheritance. Since they could not maintain a prestigious lifestyle, the upper working class mocked the lower working class. The lower working class had three important roles they played; mother, housekeeper and worker. The upper working class was characterized by their dressing code, which included veils and gloves to ensure that their bodies were well covered. They at least received general education that included reading, writing and mathematics though they were not allowed to attend college. Upper working class women had the privilege of inheriting wealth from their fathers; hence, they were married to men of high class and with intensions of adding their wealth.[1]

The growing economies in the western countries meant that literacy was a basic demand that had to be achieved by everyone. Catherine Beecher, Emma Willard and Mary Lyon started single gender seminary or academy movement in the 1800s. The academy was formed with an aim of providing basic literacy and domestic education for young women.[2] Until the mid 1800, the role of women and girls did not include formal schooling, and formal education was not that relevant since America was an agricultural state by then. Women acted as trainers to teach children in their neighborhood rudimentary training. Rudimentary training was conducted in dame schools and it involved teaching of only basic knowledge. For a long time women were not admitted to college but the norm was not broken until 1834 when Ohio’s Oberlin College started admitting them. There was a belief that women had no use for education since they would not offer anything to ministries, law and medicines. They were best suited at tending their children and husbands; that was the trending perception.[3]

Politics was a male dominated field, women, blacks and Native Americans remained secluded from the political arena. The era between 1820 and 1830 politics was rising to fame, which heightened the curiosity of joining politics by these groups that had been barred from joining. This saw the formation of reform movements by the secluded groups and their sympathizers. Women in their position were prohibited to vote, as they were legally and socially inferior to men. There emerged women reformers who were fighting for the rights of women in the 1830s. This came at the time reformists were calling for moderation and end of slavery and slave trade. Female activists include Angelina, Sara, Elizabeth and Mott. In 1847, Mott and Stanton organized the Seneca Falls Convention that issued a Declaration of Sentiments. In the declaration, it stated that both men and women were all created equally, though it made little or no impact on the role of women in retaining of property.[4]

Men claimed that women were too emotional hence they could not be able to handle any other extra stress especially in the political arena. They came out strongly in the media and public places to fight against slavery, women suffering abortion and government issues. In those days brewing of alcohol was allowed. Women joined the American Society for the promotion of the Temperance in 1826. This was aimed at fighting against alcohol; women were concerned about the future of their children at that drinking rate. Alcohol had become a health hazard then hence they held several conventions, the fruits bore in 1851 when Maine prohibited alcohol. They did not stop at this; the women went ahead and formed a foundation for national legislation against alcohol.

Philadelphia Female Anti-slavery Society was formed in 1833; the society was formed basically because women were denied membership to American Anti-slavery Society. A large number of women joined Philadelphia Female Anti-slavery Society; they wanted to be in the front line in the fight against slavery. They came out strongly, made and talked slavery as a public issue; they had neither fear nor favor. Philadelphia Female Anti-slavery Society was the first political movement that women joined; later on, the society put its focus on the rights of women. In 1872, Victoria Woodhull made history, as she became the first woman to contend for presidency of the US. This great move portrayed the role and importance of women in the society. Her campaign strong hold was convincing Congress to sanction women voting under the guidelines of the fourteenth amendment provision in the Constitution. Due to her stand, Victoria’s ex-husband came to ruin her campaigns. He claimed that Victoria did not divorce him but she got married to another man while still legally married to him. This scenario led to Victoria coming out of campaigns for presidential race.

In the early 1800s, women were not given employment opportunities; this happened until 1820s when women and girls were thought they could offer little assistance and be part and parcel of the family’s financial problems. Men were the sole breadwinners of their families; they worked in industries and farms to provide for the needs of the family. Due to the strain in economy women were also required to participate in solving the family’s financial challenges. This compelled women to find employment in factories. This was a revelation to the women in the business world, which had been hidden from them for a very long time. In 1834, women protested against cut wages and increased working hours in a day at the Lower Mill. The strike proved the potential that women had in organizing and provision of labor just as men did.

The role of women in the church was just attendance and nothing more than that, they were not allowed to read or recite the Bible in the church. Antoinette was a member of Congregation Church in New York; the church sponsored her to study theology in Oberlin. When she was through with her course, Oberlin did not offer her a degree as it was supposed to be. The reason for her to be declined the degree was Oberlin disapproved women reading and reciting the bible in church. Fortunately, enough Congregation Church offered her a job as a church minister despite her disapproval by Oberlin. This showed that women had a crucial role to play even in the churches to serve in the work of the Lord.

The first woman to practice law in a Supreme Court was Belva Lockwood, which was in 1879. She played a major role in preparing and enacting law that allowed women to practice before the Supreme Court. Her legislation demolished barriers that acted between women and the federals courts, in these courts cases on women were handled without facts. Opinions were made before hand without knowledge of the facts that has been presented beforehand. This was a wakeup call for the women to come out strongly in the legal rights that they have in the society.

Despite the barrier to getting education, there came a rise of women scholars who specialized in science and mathematics. This came as a shock to men since these subjects mathematics and science seemed to be a mystery to men. These women came against the perception and treatment of women as household objects and men property. They created a way for the rise and coming up of new age of women. Maria discovered a new comet, which was named after her; this led to her election of American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was then employed at Vassar College where she had an opportunity of working with intellectual women in America. She was elected to the America Philosophical Society and in her position, she formed Association for Advancement of Women.

Elizabeth Blackwell applied to be enrolled into Geneva Medical College, they accepted her application on the basis that they thought it was a mere joke. She proved her potential and ability to both the College faculty and the students that a woman can do as much as a man can do. At the ending of the course, she emerged as the best student.

Women had no free speech in the 1800s. Fanny Wright in 1828 – 1829 went touring and gave lectures regarding women’ liberties in education, ownership of property and birth control mechanisms. She was an expressive and practical speaker, which made it easy for her message to penetrate home and get to the right audience. Her uniqueness and brevity was met with a lot of criticism, Fanny used the criticisms as a stepping stone for airing the woes of women. This created a doorway to the women’s free speech. Women’s speech continued to be aired where the fight for women rights spread like wild fire, in 1851 Sojourner Truth delivered a strong speech of ‘Ain’t I a Woman’.[5]

Women were restricted from participating in the Olympics. The first modern Olympics were held in 1896 and no single woman was allowed to participate in the games that were being played.[6] Cycling became a political representation for women in the late 1800. Elizabeth Candy wrote that ‘many a woman is riding to the suffrage on a bicycle’, by the end of the century many women owned and rode on bicycles. The evolution of women sport came to rise in the mid 1800 when gymnasiums were constructed.[7]   Suffrage was for the fighting of the voting rights of women. Women leaders believed that when they gained the voting rights, they could be able to penetrate more to acquire more rights. They were met by opposition from The Society Women of Beacon Hill. Women were their own enemies, and The Society Women of Beacon Hill claimed that politics was corruption hence if women engaged in politics they could become corrupt too.[8]

Women in this era were subjected to Insane Asylum; this was as a result of going against the norm which was being very obedient to their husbands. In case a woman stood for her rights or spoke against the father or the husband, the family would cheat the society that the woman died. Yet she was in the asylum. Other reasons that would make a woman be taken to Asylum were unwanted pregnancies, disobedience and illness like Down syndrome. The women who were sane but subjected to the Insane Asylum had a tough time dealing with the situation since they were in the midst of people with strange diseases and unsound mind.[9] This was cruelty and lack of human dignity of the highest level, for those who were sick they should been given the necessary attention. For those who have gone against the law should have been charged and taken to correction facilities. Men took advantage of this to send get rid of their daughters and wives if they did not like them.

At the time of Civil war in America, women disguised themselves with men’s clothes in order to serve in the military. Others acted as spies to up dated those in the battlefield about the secrets of those they are fighting against. Some became the managers of the farms that were left behind by their fathers and husbands.[10] Women played a very great role in this war since they acted as backup and support staff to the soldiers on the ground; they also helped in increasing the numbers of the soldiers on the ground.

Women back then struggled to have their voice heard and even get rights just like men. Their position in the society was not felt and incase they participated in the development of something they were not recognized, assumption was the order of the day. Women struggled heard to have their cries heard; they cared for the future generation. They dedicated themselves selflessly for the better of tomorrow of their children and proper representation of women gender. The success that women and the nation have today can be credited to the dedication of the women who were in the 1800 era.


Angelfire. Westward Expansion: 1800 – 1880.

Linda, Eisenmann. The Impact of Historical Expectations on Women’s Higher Education. (U.S.A.), 2007. 3-4

Madigan C. Jennifer. The Education of Girls and Women in the United States: A Historical Perspective. (USA 2009). 12

Michael, Brunet. Unique considerations of the female athlete. Florence, KY: Delmar Cengage Learning, 2010.

Smith, Kelly. Historical Brief-Lives of Women in the early 1800s. SparkNotes. Social Reform.

Wyse, Jon, Hill Michael and Honeybourne, John. PE for you. Cheltenham, UK: Stanley Thornes, 1998.

Weebly. Women’s Rights and Citizenship throughout US History.

[1]  Kelly Smith. Historical Brief-Lives of Women in the early 1800s.

[2]  Jennifer C. Madigan. The Education of Girls and Women in the United States: A Historical Perspective. (USA 2009). 12

[3]  Linda Eisenmann. The Impact of Historical Expectations on Women’s Higher Education. (U.S.A.), 2007 3-4

[4]  SparkNotes. Social Reform.

[6]  Honeybourne, John, Michael Hill, and Jon Wyse. 1998. PE for you. Cheltenham, UK: Stanley Thornes.

[7]  Brunet, Michael. 2010. Unique considerations of the female athlete. [Florence, KY]: Delmar Cengage Learning.

[8]  Weebly. Women’s Rights and Citizenship throughout US History. [9]  Tina Sansone. Tennessee Genealogical Society: Women and the Insane Asylum