Market Revolution has significantly affected Americans changing their previous way of life forever. People became involved in the collective labor working on factories, which allowed them to improve industry and build a new form of society. Although the Market Revolution created the biggest amount of opportunities for men due to their position in society of that time as leaders of the family and moneymakers, women were also affected by the changes revolution brought. Due to analysis of various readings of that time which were presented in Chapter 9, I have come to conclusion that women tried to get involved in a new working sector as much as possible although they often faced obstacles and complications. Based on my reading of these sources, I argue that the women’s experiences during the Market Revolution were characterized by their constant struggle to be accepted as a workforce as well as strikes for working conditions improvements. However, despite the challenges women experienced, they were still able to enjoy their working experience bringing some income to support their families and gain valuable skills and knowledge.
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Firstly, I would like to expand a little bit more on difficult conditions women had while working. Market Revolution created many working places, but it did not create good conditions for workers. That was why they often worked in bad conditions which was bad for their health. Women were the ones who had the worst working conditions possible because, according to “Complaint of a Lowell Factory Worker” written in 1845, women were working in slave-like conditions. Workers were trying to protest against unfair conditions and treatment, but it was a challenging task during that time. For example, the complaint contains information about women having to work many hours which was too much for a normal working day. Also, a woman had only one hour she could spend on her natural needs such as going to bathroom or eating. It was very little comparing to her long working day. There was another difficulty of women getting a very small salary, which, in fact, was lower comparing to the one men were getting. It was a result of prejudices and gender inequality which existed in society of that time, and which is still here. It was the reason why many factory girls (who were mostly whites from the North) complained about working conditions, difficulties, and the feelings of being slaves.
Nevertheless, there was another side to this issue. It is true that women did difficult tasks and got small salaries for that, but they still enjoyed working a lot. According to Lucy Larcom’s work called “Among Lowell Mill-Girls: A Reminiscence,” many women were excited to enter the workforce as a way to support their families and make it less complicated for their parents. The author of the work has entered a working field in a very young age which showed that children were allowed to work during that time. Poor finances forced many families to involve their children in the labor. Although children were missing many important points of their childhood because of their work, they still enjoyed it. According to the author, she was very happy to work and help her family, and she found a working place to be more interesting than school. The only problem that affected her in a negative way was the fact that she was making very little money, and that was something she could not change or solve. Despite such small salaries, young women continued to work because they viewed jobs as possibilities to become independent and help their relatives. Still, work often stood on the way for young girls when they wanted to get an education. For example, they were unable to study because their families needed financial help, and they felt obliged to keep on working. Lucy Larcom wrote about such an experience. She wanted to go to high school but she could not do that because “the little money I could earn – one dollar a week, besides the price of my board – was needed in the family, and I must return to the mill”.
The problem of working women was that they were not treated in the proper way. According to Harriet Hanson Robinson and her essay about Lowell textile workers, women often started working from a very young age. Hence, the factories were filled with children who grew up working there. As they kept on working, their working conditions remained on the same poor level. The author stated that young women working in factories created a special social class which faced an extreme amount of difficulties and hardships. Young working women were often mistreated, and people had many stereotypes and prejudices against them. It was the reason why people were thinking and organizing working strikes in order to improve their conditions. Business owners cut women’s salaries, and that was another reason for women to strike. Nevertheless, the author stated that it was difficult for women to prove their point and defend their rights because society was not ready to accept a new class, which consisted of young working women who earned money for their living by themselves, were independent, and did not match traditional stereotypes many Americans had about women’s roles.
There is a similar topic being discussed in the work “Factory Girls” published in 1840. The essay talks about prejudices women experienced while working. According to the author, although stereotypes “are wearing away,” there are still some insecurity for working women. Nevertheless, the fact that many women kept on working made people change their ideas and approaches toward females who have jobs. Women also began viewing work not merely as a tool to make money for their families but as an opportunity for independence. According to the article, jobs allowed women to transform society around them as well as achieve things they wanted. For example, they were able to lead independent lives, decide for themselves as well as act differently from expected standards. Hence, the article argues that Market Revolution provided women with great opportunities for independence and self-development they used.