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Changing Roles in a Changing Society

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									   Changing Roles
in a Changing Society
      For many years, the analysis of the behavior
of men and women was heavily based on the
importance of “man the hunter” and the biological
function of woman as mother. A woman’s activities
were centered around the home and her role as wife
and mother. Any job she took outside the home
needed to be compatible with her household
responsibilities. On the other hand, a man’s role as
provider pushed him to greater efforts outside the
The popular perception was that male and female roles
among nonhuman species provided support for the
view that biology is destiny.
More recently, however, anthropologists have found in
their studies of animals that the male is not always
aggressive and dominant and the female is not always
passive and nurturing.
Instead, behavior results from the influences of both
inborn traits (“nature”) and the environment
     Gender Roles
& Economic Development
       Hunting and Gathering Societies
   In technologically primitive societies of hunters
and gatherers, men hunted large animals and defended
the tribe, while women gathered fruits and vegetables,
hunted small animals, prepared the food, and cared
for the children.
     This division of labor worked well when women
were pregnant or nursing most of their adult lives and
therefore could not participate in activities far from
the home.
          Horticultural Societies
   In the somewhat more advanced horticultural
societies, plants were cultivated in small plots near
the home.
   Men continued to conduct warfare and also
prepared the ground by slashing and burning.
     Women prepared the food and cared for the
              Other activities were shared and the
              status of men and women was fairly
              equal during this stage.
Pastoral Societies

In pastoral societies,
men herded large animals,
an activity that often took them far from
home. Herding provided much of what was
needed for subsistence. Women tended to the
home and had very low status.
                      Agricultural Societies

                With the introduction of the plow,
societies became more advanced agriculturally.
    However, only men owned the land and did most
of the work in the fields.
    Women tended small animals and gardens and
worked in the now permanent homes taking care of
large families.
    A great disparity between the status of men and
women developed.
Along with developing agriculture, urban
centers began to form with a growing class
of merchants and artisans.
            Early Industrialization

         During the early stages of industrialization,
much of the production that was previously
concentrated in the household moved to the factory
and the office.
      Women’s activities continued to center
around the home. As their productive role declined,
so did their status.
      In time, though, continued industrialization
drew increasing numbers of women into the paid
labor force.
The U.S. Experience
    The Pre-Industrial Period
      In colonial America, as in other pre-industrial
economies, the family was the dominant economic unit and
production was the main function of the family. Both adults
and children participated in production.
      Most of the necessities of survival were produced in the
household. Some household goods were produced for sale
and the proceeds were used to purchase some market goods.
       Men were primarily responsible for agriculture while
women did most of the rest of the work.
       The productive role of children and the high infant
mortality rates provided an incentive to have many children.
(In the 1700s, women probably had an average of 8 to 10
        With industrialization in the late 1700s and
early 1800s, production moved outside the home.
        Women, however, were mostly confined to household
work. Some women worked in the textile mills and other
industries. But it was mostly young women who did so and,
when they married, they usually left their jobs to tend to their
households, which would soon include children. A more rigid
division of labor within the home developed.
        The earliest labor force participation (LFP) data show
that in 1890, 84% of men but only 18% of women were in the
paid labor force. Of married women, only 5% worked outside
the home. The American ideal of the family was the male
breadwinner and the female homemaker who tended to
domestic needs.
Industrialization & Changes in the Household
Despite new inventions, the time spent doing housework
increased because standards for housekeeping rose.
The fertility rate declined during industrialization, partly
because the economic value of children from household
production was greatly diminished.
In addition, children spent more years in school and
remained dependent on their parents for longer.
Women born in the early 1800s averaged fewer than
five births, and those born near the end of the century
averaged about three births. However, the amount
of maternal care per child increased dramatically.
The man was the head of the
household and the authority in all
important matters, such as where
the family would live.
The woman made most of the
everyday purchases but with her
husband’s wishes and the
pleasure of her family in mind.
In the 1800s the ideal for
femininity involved domesticity
and submissiveness.
Initially, the availability of women for work in industry was
welcomed because they provided cheap labor, while
agricultural production could be maintained by men.
However, with the growing influx of immigrants, attitudes
changed. Working men were eager to get women out of all
but the lowest paying jobs.
At this time, market work was
common among single women and
a small number of women chose
careers over marriage as a lifelong
However, exclusive dedication to
the role of wife and mother was
widely accepted as the only proper
and fulfilling life for a woman.
Eventually progressive
modernization brought about
dramatic changes in conditions
of production and in the
economic roles of men and
Changes in ideas and
aspirations followed and rigid
differentiation of roles became
less appropriate.
As recently as 1940, the labor force participation
(LFP) of married women was only 14%, while it was
46% for single women. Part of this difference is
attributable to the “marriage bar,” which prohibited
employment of married women and was in use from
the late 1800s to the mid-1900s.
Another obstacle to married women’s employment
was the lack of part-time jobs when women’s
household responsibilities were quite demanding.
       1890/1900                              Women
Distribution of Workers   Men
      (Percentages)               All         White    Nonwhite
Professional               10.2         9.6     12.5         0.9
Clerical                    2.8         4.0      5.2         0.4
Sales                       4.6        4.3       5.7          0.1
Service                     3.1       35.5      31.3         48.2
Manufacturing              37.6       27.7      34.7          6.4
Agricultural               41.7       19.0      10.8         44.0
Total Employed            100.0     100.0      100.0        100.0
When women did work, they tended to be concentrated in a few
occupations, which were different from those in which men
usually worked.
At the turn of the last century, about 42% of men worked in
agriculture and 38% in manufacturing. Only 3% were in service
       1890/1900                              Women
Distribution of Workers   Men
      (Percentages)               All         White    Nonwhite
Professional               10.2         9.6     12.5         0.9
Clerical                    2.8         4.0      5.2         0.4
Sales                     4.6         4.3   5.7           0.1
Service                   3.1        35.5  31.3          48.2
Manufacturing            37.6        27.7  34.7           6.4
Agricultural             41.7        19.0  10.8          44.0
Total Employed          100.0       100.0 100.0        100.0
For women, however, about 36% were in service jobs, most of
them domestic service.
About 10% of employed women were in professional positions;
almost all were teachers or nurses.
Among black women, 90% worked as domestic servants or farm
                 Clerical Work
Clerical work was originally dominated by men.
Before the 1900s, about 85% of clerical workers
were men.
Clerical jobs were attractive to women because the
relevant skills did not depreciate much during
periods out of the labor force and reentry was
relatively easy.
Employers were willing to hire women for clerical
jobs because there was a large, inexpensive pool of
women with high school educations who needed
little or no training to perform the work.
            Women’s Rising LFP
Women’s labor force participation has been rising
ever since the 1890s, when the first official data
were available.

                             Women’s Labor Force
           1890                     18%
           1940                     28%
           1999                     60%
    Participating in productive activities beyond
housekeeping has tended to bring women a greater
measure of equality.
    Gender roles tend to linger in spite of economic
    Women still have the main responsibility for the
home and children, even though a large proportion is
now in the labor force full-time.
    Jobs originally given to men because of the need for
strength are still considered mainly male jobs despite

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