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?

Domostroi, Ch. 24-38

Chapters 24-37 of the Domostroi deal with how the people of the household should live their lives. Men of their household must live a christian lifestyle and treat all of their responsibilities with care. If a man is not able to help those in need or commits crimes against the state, he will bring, “… his soul to destruction and his house to disgrace.” ((Carolyn Johnston Pouncy, trans and ed., The Domostroi: Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible, (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1994,) 121.)) Rulers must be fair to their people and not be selfish in all of their decisions they makes. Not being able to manage expenses is considered a great dishonor. The Domostroi reminded people not to keep, “… more slaves than you can afford,” and to free those slaves one did not need. ((Pouncy, Domostroi, 124.)) The relationship between a landowner and his servants appears to be very close, as a landowner is taught to, “… care for them and reward them as though they were your own children.”((Pouncy, Domostroi, 126.))

Wives of the household rulers are to be submissive to their husbands and follow their commands. It’s even mentioned that a wife should consult her husband on any matter of importance.((Pouncy, Domostroi, 132.)) The wife has a tight reign on what is happening in the household and must set an example for the servants to follow. She must be intelligent in the way of knowing how to cook meals for every occasion, keep records of the household, and work tirelessly as ”she should even fall asleep over her embroidery.”((Pouncy, Domostroi, 127.)) The expectation of women continue on and on; drunkenness is impermissible, gossiping is intolerable, idleness is unheard of, and women must act as the example for all other household workers. ((Pouncy, Domostroi, 138.))

While these regulations all explicitly address the individual, they create a larger social contract. The Domostroi creates standards are enforced communally – regulating actions not through a punishment by the state but through a loss of grace and respect of the community. This system only works when a population embraces the same standards. When one strays from the norm they feel the exclusion and chastisement of the whole community. The Domostroi heavily religious messages illustrate the extent to which the church and religion permeated everyone’s lives.
Furthermore, when examining the Domostroi in the context of what Muscovy was experiencing during the rule of Ivan, it takes steps to take even more control into the lives of the people, notably the boyars. Ivan released his own Sudebnik in 1550, and this centralized power in things a law code would normally address, such as theft, property disputes and so on. The Domostroi seeks to control what happens in the home, which fits in with Ivan’s desire to centralize power. The new autocratic ideals Ivan clearly sought to implement within his own government can also be seen in his ambition to control how the boyars and normal people lived their own private lives.

Women as anti-Rationality in Zamyatin’s “We”

In Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We,” the protagonist D-503 introduces himself as a strong supporter of the State’s ideals of rationality and un-freedom. He proudly reiterates State mantras such as “nobody is ‘one’ but ‘one of'” (7) and believes wholeheartedly that the problem of happiness has been solved through absolute, precise reason. He willingly carries out predetermined practices such as filling out a pink slip for every time he wants to have sex with O-90 and “shares” her with his best friend, yet shows no signs of emotions such as jealousy or rage at this arrangement, mainly because he identifies with the norms of his community. This is evident in D-503 claims in his second entry that he “cannot imagine a city that is not clad in a Green Wall; I cannot imagine a life that is not regulated by the figures of our Table” (10). However, once D-503 meets I-330, a woman whose views and behavior stand in opposition to the State’s mandates and ideology, his life is never the same. The role of women in “We” symbolize a force of opposition, driving D-503 further away from ideals of rationality that are enforced by the State.

1-330 is an obvious character that influences D-503’s ‘corruption’ and distancing from State ideology. Her behavior is illegal – she openly flirts with D-503 (and goes as far as to seduce him in the Ancient House), smokes cigarettes and drinks. She challenges D-503 to report her to the Guardians (secret police) for her behavior, and when D-503 does not report her, he immediately becomes a criminal. I-330 eventually introduces him to the group of humans who live beyond the wall and familiarizes him with her fellow revolutionaries. O-9, although not as adamantly opposed to the regime as 1-330 is, also directs D-503 away from rationality. When she brings him a spray of lilies of the valley, D-503 is visibly upset and berates her for not following logic. O-9 is oppressed by the State – because she does not fulfill the State mandated Maternal Requirements and is thus not allowed to have children. Her function in society is to be a sexual commodity and this status brings her pain. When she convinces D-503 to impregnate her, she brings him further away from rationality. Just as 1-330 influences D-503 to be a criminal by not reporting her, O-9 influences D-503 to be a criminal once more by refusing to give up her child.

What is Zamyatin trying to communicate by placing these women characters at odds with State rational ideology? If “We” can be read as a critique of Soviet society in the 1920s, then the women’s roles as anti-rational and emotional forces show that suppressing these elements of human kind would be detrimental to society. This potential threat to a utopian society can be interpreted as a critique of the new Soviet identity that was developing in the 1920s.

Marry Wollstonecraft, before her time

When the ideas of equality in Western Europe, specifically in France and England, are discussed, one thinks of the disparity of wealth between the aristocrats, the bourgeoisie, and the peasant classes. However the subject of equality comes specifically out of a male dominated society.

In France during the 1790’s Women were treated as inferior to men in all respects, both physically and mentally. They were not represented equally politically, and had practically no voice in the changes that were coming to France at that time.

During the Same period the wife of an aristocrat in England Marry Wollstonecraft, was able to take advantage of the education that her status provided, and wrote about the plight of women during the period. Wollstonecraft commented on both the sexism and the belief of most men during the period that women were simply social objects. Wollstonecraft’s writings were ahead of her time. She could be considered to be one of the first Western European women’s rights activists. In her writing she specifically describes how men would never ask the opinion of women on any subjects having to do with social or political issues. She also describes how many men treated women like objects, or as a delicate thing that may break if it was handled poorly. Wollstonecraft’s argument is that women should be included in the workings of western society. She cited the fact that women are never consulted, and therefore are not able to influence their surroundings, and therefore are at the mercy of men.

Wollstonecraft’s writings were heavily influenced by the events of the French Revolution, and the fact that women, especially peasant women bore the brunt of many atrocities that the revolution produced. Wollstonecraft was ahead of her time in the way that she argued for increased representation of women in the political realms of her time.

Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management

Author – Isabella Mary Beeton, popularly known as Mrs. Beeton, was born on 12 March, 1836 in London, England. Her father died when she was still a child and her mother soon married with a widower who had had four children. After finishing her school in Germany, Beeton went back to England as an accomplished pianist. However, with a total of 21 people in her family in England, Isabella had to take care of household chores and babysitting, being the eldest of the five daughters.

Context – The book was a collection of all the articles Mrs. Beeton published on The Englishwomen’s Domestic Magazines between 1859-1861, a time known as the “Victorian Era,” during which the Great Britain was prosperous and peaceful under the reign of Queen Victoria.

Language – Day to day word choices and phrases yet cultivated in terms of logic and flow. A number of poems were included to illustrate certain points, which shows some sophistication of Mrs.Beeton.

Audience – Mainly published in magazines for housewives, Mrs.Beeton’s articles were read by women who ran the housemanagement.

Intention – By encompassing almost every aspect of being a exceptional housewife, Mrs.Beeton’s book was a work that tried to help those housewives who wanted to manage the house better so as to be qualified wives; furthermore, to make men satisfied.

Message – The book talks about, essentially, what good qualities a good housewife should have, such as keeping a habit of rising up early and being economic. It serves as a guidance to the field of household management, which starts with a typical day of a woman running chores ranged from finance to socialization. Following the behavioral suggestions comes all the recipes of foods and drinks. The book as a whole works as a “housewife’s bible” because it sets up a standard and provides methods to help women become better at running chores at home.

Domostroi Chapters 19-34

The Domostroi focused heavily on religion and obedience and how it is relevant in all aspects of life regardless of social class. Everything in a true Russian Christian’s life must be blessed or prayed on so that God will bless their work. This how-to also instructed men on how to look for a good wife and what made a good wife. A good wife must have all the qualities of a hard worker, a good mother, and is one who puts her family before herself. However the key is that a good woman must be devout and loyal. The next chapter discussed the hierarchal system of the household. The man of the house teaches all, and the power trickles down from the wife to children then to servants. There were heavy religious overtones that described obedience as being extremely important in a servant or a slave in the context that they must be religious and God-fearing, but masters should not abuse their power or position. The Domostroi also instructs good Christians on how to hire people, the requirements for a good servant being a God fearing individual as well as being handy in their respected craft, never have sinned, prone to good deeds. Overall one should be a good Christian; slave should use master’s goods. Another requirement is for servants to save their better clothes for holy days and when public, never when doing work, clean when done.

The Domostroi is quick to claim that God doesn’t discriminate based on class. In order to protect oneself from illnesses, one must stay away from sorcerers, Jews and pagan rituals. If one is ill, the only cure is to pray away the sick, essentially be a good Christian and God will heal all illnesses, God sends diseases to punish sinners. If one does not obey the commandments one will go to hell. It reverts back to the golden rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Another way to live as a good Christian is to not live outside one’s means and to buy and use what one can afford to. If one lives beyond their worth they will be scorned and ridiculed. If one lives outside their means, no one will help them because it is considered a major sin because it does not please god to live outside one’s means. This is especially shown if one has slaves but cannot afford them. The fear is that the slaves will not be obedient and as a result they will rob, steal, drink, if owned by foolish people.

Role of women was greatly discussed. The overall theme was that men must teach women, but be gentle and civil and not cruel, wives should always be obedient and devout. A good housewife is intelligent, frugal, gentle, generous and devout. A way to keep frugal is to save scraps from cloth used to make clothes to save to use for later. It is important to create a good workspace for each distinct craft, so as to prevent clutter to keep a good and clean household. Another way to keep a good household is to not gossip or entertain gossip. It is also the mistress’ duty to oversee servants’ work, to reward servants for good work, and if the servants do not do their work well, to punish them. Above all, a wife must be loyal and obedient, knowledgeable and social, ask their husband’s advice on everything, obey husband regardless of where she is, do not drink, and behave properly.