The role of women in society was a frequently discussed topic in the 20th century. For a long period, it was believed that women had to perform housework and do everything possible to strengthen family relationships. However, no one can neglect the fact that the concept of home has been dramatically changed (Cousins182). Therefore, it was expected that women’s rights must be changed and improved.
Unfortunately, American society was not ready to accept a new status of women in the same way, and a number of positions were developed. Many supporters believed that women should have a chance to live the way they find the most beneficial to them. At the same time, opponents introduced their arguments to slow down the process of gaining female freedoms. This essay focuses on the political, economic, and social changes women experienced in the 20th century to discover the truth in gender relationships.
The introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Congress was one of the most significant events at the beginning of the 20th century. Its essence was to prohibit all legal distinctions that existed between the sexes. Hill believed that this political change was the period to “remove all forms of the subjection of women” and “release of women from the class of a dependent, subservient being” (Hill and Kelley 160).
The amendment to the Federal Constitution was supported by many people of both genders. It was evident that “sex is a biological factor” and that “the political rights of citizens are not properly dependent upon sex, but social and domestic relations” (Hill and Kelley 161). Still, some people were surprised by the emergence of an extreme need to protect women’s rights without paying attention to men’s responsibilities. Schlafly defined the negative effect of the law because it “requires a husband to support his wide as best as his financial situation permits, but a wife is not required to support her husband” (325). In other words, new laws were required to differentiate the opportunities of men and women.
Women’s political activities were promoted in the 20th century to not only protect their rights but give explanations for a variety of economic changes. There was a dilemma that “millions of unemployed men replacing millions of employed women” (Cousins 179). The National Organization for Women (NOW) was a new movement to support women. Its goal was to prove that women are human beings who, “like other people in our society, must have the chance to develop their fullest human potential” (Foner, Voices of Freedom 297). As soon as women got access to a new employment market, men started feeling themselves infringing.
They believed that women’s extended rights contributed to their employment difficulties. However, one should remember that, not long time ago, in the 1870s, millions of male workers lost their jobs or experienced a salary reduction because of national economic insecurity (Foner, Give Me Liberty 600). They were ready to leave their homes and search for some new opportunities. In the 20th century, men did not follow the same methods but demonstrate their concerns against a new system, sitting at home.
Along with political and economic changes, the idea of women’s equal rights and freedoms shaped American society. It is necessary to admit that, despite its constitutional power, the ERA was characterized by multiple obscurities. For example, they earned “on an average 41% less than men”, as well as did not have similar benefits under Social Security (Foner, Voices of Freedom 306). In society, it sounded ridiculous to replace about 920,000 salesgirls or about 3 million women hired as domestics by men who strived for social justice and employment opportunities (Cousins 181). All at once, opponents found it necessary to underline the roles of women at home, including housekeeping, child bringing, or education.
Recent technological progress opened a variety of alternatives for women to facilitate their home responsibilities. Children and husbands spent more than five hours outside the home. Women were no longer tied to the home but able to make significant contributions to their families and society.
In the 20th century, American society was considerably reshaped by the emergence of the ERA and the identification of women’s rights in the country. On the one hand, it was hard to neglect available opportunities to improve the quality of life, enhance equal relationships, and remove all gender-based concerns and biases. On the other hand, as well as any political or social change, it created new questions and misunderstandings.
It was hard to prepare the population of the United States to accept the equality of genders as a critical component of human activities. Still, the benefits and expected perspectives of the ERA prevailed over existing prejudices and doubts. Women got a chance to demonstrate their skills, and men were free to either support or oppose the possibility. At that moment, it was not wrong to hesitate in order to observe evident improvements and fair relationships in the future.
Cousins, Norman. “Will Women Lose Their Jobs?” Voices of Freedom: A Documented History, 5th ed., vol. 2, edited by Eric Foner, W. W. Norton & Company, 2016, pp. 178-183.
Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! An American History. 5th ed. Vol. 2, W. W. Norton & Company, 2017.
Foner, Eric, editor. Voices of Freedom: A Documented History. 5th ed. Vol. 2, W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.
Hill, Elsie, and Florence Kelley. “Debate the Equal Rights Amendment.” Voices of Freedom: A Documented History, 5th ed., vol. 2, edited by Eric Foner, W. W. Norton & Company, 2016, pp. 160-161.
Schlafly, Phyllis. “The Fraud of the Equal Rights Amendment.” Voices of Freedom: A Documented History, 5th ed., vol. 2, edited by Eric Foner, W. W. Norton & Company, 2016, pp. 324-326.