Females on the Front: The Evolution of Women’s Rights and Societal Roles

Mrs. John Sandford’s work Woman in her Social and Domestic Character was published in 1833 from Industrial England.  The work is difficult to comprehend as its intent reach out to every wife in the country.  The intent of this work was to inform women of the ways in which they are influenced and who they influence as well as their responsibilities as the familial matriarch.  Sandford’s message comes directly from the text when she wrote “Domestic life is a woman’s sphere, and it is there that she is most usefully as well as most appropriately employed” ((Sandford, Woman in her Social and Domestic Character, 1833)).  The author explicates the thesis of this section by saying women are in charge of the home and are best suited for tasks in and around the household.

I found all of the readings for Monday to be very peculiar; they all are dealing with women and their roles in society, but I can’t tell if they’re advocating for improvement of those rights or accepting what is observed as their natural position because women are perceived as more delicate or well-mannered.  Sandford supports this by writing “Delicacy is, indeed, the point of honour in woman.  And her purity of manner will ensure to her deference…” ((Sandford, Woman in her Social and Domestic Character, 1833)).  This statement draws conclusions to women’s roles in society based on the socially acceptable mannerisms, making them seem weak and vulnerable.

Obviously these traits do not define women today.  With the recent surge in feminist movements and the push for better treatment of women, we have seen some incredible changes in large sectors of our society, specifically in the military.  These preconceived notions of delicate women and roles solely in the the household were shattered not only when Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver became the first two females in military history graduated Army Ranger School in August 2015 ((Macias, These 2 badass female Army Rangers just made history — here’s the grueling training they endured, 2015)), but also when all combat roles in all military branches opened to women in December 2015 ((Rosenberg, All Combat Roles Now Open to Women, Defense Secretary Says, 2015)).  These two occasions are incredibly momentous in for women’s rights; the dainty female Sandford portrayed is long behind us.

Female Army Rangers

CPT Griest and 1LT Haver



As a commissioning officer into a combat arms branch within the next three months, this will affect me greatly as I will be working with females in a predominantly male environment.  I see this as an opportunity to widen perspectives and opportunities for all soldiers in the Army, regardless of gender.

The questions I pose to our class are:

Are there any other large changes we see on the horizon for women’s rights?

In what other ways do we see women’s potentials limited because of restrictions based on gender in our country?

Role of Women: Changes and Purpose

The role of women in the United States has always been an issue, even today. Today there are still great feminist issues and women still have lower average wages for the same jobs as men. Women thought they had their problems solved when the government created the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they were unfortunately mistaken. Many cases, after the act was put in place, involving the mistreatment of women were not taken seriously and still found in favor of men. On October 29, 1966, at the organizing conference in Washington, D.C., the National Organization for Women (NOW) created the Statement of Purpose believing that the time for a new movement was in store. The purpose of this organization is “to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.” NOW no longer wants women to be referred to as “child bearers” and wants them to enter the workforce. In the workforce, in 1966, women comprised less than 1% of federal judges, less than 4% of all lawyers and 7% of all doctors, yet they represented 51% of the population. They believe by acting NOW and speaking out in behalf of their own equality, freedom and human dignity that they can create a new image of women. NOW was the most prominent feminist group during the 20th century and stood up for what they believed was right, even though the government and society thought different. NOW, through its rebellions, created a lot of positive change for women and changed the role of women in the long run. Although NOW enacted a lot of change for women, the issue still isn’t over and women need to be put on the same pedestal as men, since in the end we are all human beings, put on Earth with the same purpose.

National Organization for Women- Statement of Purpose

Three Points:

–       Says that the social restraint of keeping women in the home has been surpassed by the increased life span. Since women can live longer, the majority of their life is not spent raising children and thus they have the capacity to strive for more personal accomplishments other than domestically. In addition, technology has reduced the work in the home as there are less” chores” for women to do. This allows for women to expand from previous societal restraints because there is more time and opportunity for them to excel outside of domesticity.

–       NOW wants more federal backing for the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 so that women are not discriminated against in the work place. They state that this has occurred numerous times, and despite legislation, has yet to be addressed to the full extent that it needs to be.

–       They show many statistics in higher education and higher power jobs that show the disparity between men and women- women making up 51% of the population but rarely having jobs that pay well and that give them societal power (for example, at this time only 4% of all lawyers were women). This causes them to call for more educational opportunity for women and more jobs that would allow them to claim as equal members of society to men.

Two Questions:

– How did the feminist movement in America affect similar movements globally, and how did those other movements play into American feminist identities?

– Was the reaction of men towards feminist issues more accepting and supportive than in the past, or was there still resistance?

One Observation:

– I think it is important to see how the feminist movements work alongside the Civil Rights Movement for racial inequality. Both being subjugated to unfair social standings and inequality from the white male led governing body, on many fronts they were able to support each other and stand in solidarity for equal treatment. Specifically in the Statement of Purpose from the National Organization for Women, they discuss the double victimization of black women in society, and how they are being undervalued by two different aspects of inequality in America.

The Subjection of Women

Author: John Stuart Mill was an Englishman, living from 1806 to 1873. He worked as a philosopher, political economist, civil servant, and member of Parliament. Taught by his father, he experienced a rigorous, home-schooled education. His close relationship with his wife influenced his writings on women’s rights. Mill was an atheist.

Context: 1869. Britain was prosperous and was continuing to experience effects of industrial revolution. During period of British imperialism.

Language: Mill writes in a tone that is intelligent, thought-provoking, and subjective. He includes many hypothetical questions in this work in an attempt to make his readers understand his point of view. Furthermore, he admits in many instances throughout his paper that many people may disagree with him.

Audience: Mill writes for a well-educated audience, and having been well-educated himself, he incorporates some challenging concepts and vocabulary. He appeals mainly to men, for they are the only ones with enough power capable of changing the situation at hand.

Intent: The purpose of The Subjection of Women is to make society aware of the unjust inequalities between the sexes, and also the wide range of capabilities that women possess.

Message: Women are born into subordination, and this subordination extends into marriage, where they have no property rights or control over their children. Mill makes the argument that equality in the institution of marriage would be beneficial to the happiness of both men and women, and would further society’s progress. He mentions that religion imposes obedience on women. Circumstances and education are the factors that explain the psychological differences between men and women. Mill recognizes that women, given that they have adequate education, possess capabilities that would allow them to hold positions of responsibility in society.


Highly appropriately timed, since I am writing my essay on the double burden and it is our next discussion in class, is a NY Times article from the week about the Russian Orthodox patriarch condemning feminism.  He is quoted as saying it is dangerous for giving women an “illusion of freedom” when they should be focusing on their families and children.  As a 21st century woman, I find this notion extremely disturbing, but as a history scholar, I see this echoed throughout my research on the double burden.  In the early Stalinist period, women were discriminated against in the workforce because of this same patriarchal mindset, and even the women that wanted jobs were refused and told to go back to their husbands.  Of course I recognize that these ideas are commonly used by churches all over the world, but what I found even more off-putting was that the Patriarch works with the Russian president to ensure that the church is the guardian of Russia’s national values.  This official relationship between church and state is proving to be dangerous to women.

The Patriarch also claimed that the “pesudo-freedom” feminism encourages takes place outside the confines of marriage.  Here, I understand some of the historical significance of his claim.  Bolshevik officials after the revolution argued against marriage as a mutually exploitative economic endeavor and made divorce easier to obtain, which resulted in men leaving their wives easily and the women taking advantage of their alimony to live outside of marraige.  In the socialization of Russia, women were forced to work in the marginalized sectors of industry, which provided them with poor working conditions and little free time.  At the same time as working the night shift in a textile factory, for example, they had to get up early to take care of the children and feed their husband.  This resulted in what is called the “double burden,” which was responsible for high levels of work-related accidents among women and infertility, since the working conditions were chemically dangerous.  However, in an alternative twist on feminism, many women refused to leave these jobs because they provided the best wages and access to housing in order to support their families.  The government, especially after WWII, recognized this problem and sought measures to protect women within the work force, such as providing them maternity leave, but even though socialism required the equality of the sexes, women were pressured into assuming domestic and reproductive roles to help Russia rebuild.  The orthodox Patriarch is reminiscent of this stereotypically misogynistic and patriarchal past, putting all the pressure on women to preserve the homeland when the Soviet Union already proved that the assertion of traditional gender roles does nothing to contribute to modernization and results in the exploitation of the female population.