Women and Industry | Teen Ink

Women and Industry

March 2, 2021
By serenapei123 PLATINUM, San Jose, California
serenapei123 PLATINUM, San Jose, California
24 articles 5 photos 0 comments

During the First Industrial Revolution in the United States, inventors, manufacturers, and other intelligent people contributed greatly to the advancement of the country’s industry. From 1800 to 1850, the population of the United States in urban areas increased drastically, and the distribution of people across the country also expanded from the original East coast to sea to shining sea. The market revolution changed women’s lives significantly in the United States, as it encouraged economic independence, social participation, and changes in domestic affairs.

Women, especially farm girls in New England, began to take jobs in mills or other factories during the revolution. These mills came from the ideas of people who came from Britain, such as Samuel Slater and Francis Lowell. Slater developed the Arkwright water frame in Rhode Island using his former knowledge as an apprentice at an English textile firm, established the Rhode Island System which became part of the rural landscape. Women flocked into these factories to work and bid farewell to their farmland at home in order to earn a share of money for themselves to obtain some level of financial independence. Lowell was an industrial espionage who took the ideas of mills from Great Britain and constructed them in the United States. He established the Boston Manufacturing Company in Massachusetts, which was another significant contribution to the shift of women from home to factories. Even more women were attracted to work here because the women were able to attend church, live in boarding houses, receive protection, and, most importantly, earn monthly cash wages. A few reasons why women wanted economic independence was to save money for their future weddings and buy their own luxuries. These first factories were only the start of women securing economic independence. As more factories were built across the country and more opportunities to make money were available, women became more inclined to move to urban areas. 

There was also a great increase in social participation during the Revolution due to the increase in employment of women. For example, there were many labor protests in Lowell, New England in the 1830s to 1840s. The Ten Hour Movement advocated for a reduction in hours of labor. In October of 1836, the Lowell Factory Girls Association founded “daughters of freemen,” and more than 2500 women left their mills in order to protest for the increase in wages and decrease in factory charges. More labor strikes revealed the new sensibility that was imprinted into the cultural landscape at the time. On top of factory reform movements, there was even a rise in anti-slavery movements in Lowell, war opposition with Mexico, moral reform, peace, labor reform, prison reform, and women’s rights campaigns. A women’s rights convention was held at Seneca Falls, New York in July 1848, where women gathered to discuss their rights for the very first time. All of these social movements made by women alone were initiated by the start of industry and women’s shift in roles in society, from domestic wives to real factory workers.

Changes in domestic affairs were apparent when women began to work in factories. Many were considered unfit for marriage because they were citified, so some of them married urban workers and migrated completely from their old homes. Another major change was that women’s roles inside homes became more important, as they could make decisions to alter the character of the family. For example, “women’s sphere” was a term used to define a woman’s rights of love over arrangement by family in the issue of marriage. Moreover, women could decide how many children to have, so families generally decreased in size during the time. Consequently, child-centered families became popular, where parents could lavish more care on their children while not spoiling them. In other words, a child’s will was not broken but rather shaped by his or her family. Overall, the industrialization during 1800 to 1850 dramatically changed the orientation of family across a wide variety of matters.

The same kind of industrialization took place in World War I, where women took on more jobs outside the home as men left them to fight in Europe. Women also gained more rights during this time, such as suffrage and basic rights for African American women. Increase in rights and job opportunities for women improved their life conditions, whether during the First Industrial Revolution or World War I, which demonstrated a continuity across time periods. Both of these time periods created important changes in the overall affairs and left an enormous amount of change on the social landscape of America for centuries to come.

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