Position of the women in American Society: Critical study of The Sun Also Rises.
The conditions under which white settlers came to America created various situations for women. Where the first settlements consisted almost entirely of men, women were imported as sex slaves, child bearers, companions. Many women came in those early years as indentured servants- often teenaged girls-and lived lives not much different from slaves, except that the term of service had an end.
They were poorly paid and often treated rudely and harshly, deprived of good food and privacy. Living in separate families without much contact with others in their position, indentured servants had one primary path of resistance open to them.
Sexual abuse of masters against servant girls became commonplace. The court records of Virginia and other colonies show masters brought into court for this, so we can assume that these were especially flagrant cases; there must have been many more instances never brought to public light.
Women’s Rights: In the past, there was not enough right of women in American society. So, wifehood and motherhood were regarded as women’s most significant professions. During the time most of history women generally have had fewer legal rights and career opportunities than men. In the 20th century, however, women in most nations won the right to vote and increased their educational and job opportunities. Perhaps most important, they fought for and to a large degree accomplished a revaluation of traditional views of their character in civilization.
Early Attitudes toward Women: In the early times women have been uniquely viewed as a creative source of human life. Historically, however, they have been considered not only intellectually inferior to men but also a major source of temptation and evil. In Greek mythology, for example, it was a woman, Pandora, who opened the forbidden box and brought plagues and unhappiness to mankind. Early Roman law described women as children, forever inferior to men.
The attitude toward women in the East was at first more favorable. In ancient India, for example, women were not disadvantaged of property rights or individual freedoms by marriage. But Hinduism, which evolved in India after about 500 BC, required obedience of women toward men. Women had to walk behind their husbands. Women could not own property, and widows could not remarry. In both East and West, male children were preferred over female children.
During the ‘Middle Ages,’ nuns played a key role in the religious life of Europe. Aristocratic women enjoyed power and prestige. Whole eras were influenced by women rulers for instance, Queen Elizabeth of England in the 16th century, Catherine the Great of Russia in the 18th century, and Queen Victoria of England in the 19th century.
The Weaker Sex: Women were long considered naturally weaker than men, particular, and unable to perform work requiring muscular or intellectual development. In most preindustrial societies, for example, domestic chores were relegated to women, leaving “heavier” labor such as hunting and plowing to men. This ignored the fact that caring for children and doing such tasks as milking cows and washing clothes also required heavy, sustained labor. But physiological tests now suggest that women have a greater tolerance for pain, and statistics reveal that women live longer and are more resistant to many diseases.
Traditionally a middle-class girl in Western culture tended to learn from her mother’s example that cooking, cleaning, and caring for children was the behavior expected of her when she grew up. The major reason given was that the girls’ own expectations declined because neither their families nor their teachers expected them to prepare for a future other than that of marriage and motherhood. But this trend has been changing in recent decades.
In colonial America girls learned to read and write at dame schools. They could attend the master’s schools for boys when there was room, usually during the summer when most of the boys were working. By the end of the 19th century, however, the number of women students had increased greatly. Higher education particularly was broadened by the rise of women’s colleges and the admission of women to regular colleges and universities.
The Legal Status of Women: The myth of the natural inferiority of women greatly influenced the status of women in law. Under the common law of England, an unmarried woman could own property, make a contract, or sue and be sued. But a married woman, defined as being one with her husband, gave up her name, and virtually all her property came under her husband’s control.
During the early history of the United States, a man virtually owned his wife and children as he did his material possessions. If a poor man chose to send his children to the poorhouse, the mother was legally exposed to object. Some communities, however, modified the common law to allow women to act as lawyers in the courts, to sue for property, and to own property in their own names if their husbands agreed.
In the 19th century, women began working outside their homes in large numbers, notably in textile mills and garment shops. Eventually, some of these labor laws were seen as restricting the rights of working women. During the 1960s several federal laws improving the economic status of women were passed.
Law: Laws concerned with welfare, crime, prostitution, and abortion also displayed a bias against women. Sex discrimination in the definition of crimes existed in some areas of the United States. A woman who shot and killed her husband would be accused of homicide, but the shooting of a wife by her husband could be termed a “passion shooting.” In most states abortion was legal only if the mother’s life was judged to be physically endangered.
Women at Work: In colonial America, women who earned their own living usually became seamstresses or kept boardinghouses. But some women worked in professions and jobs available mostly to men. There were women doctors, lawyers, preachers, teachers, writers, and singers. By the early 19th century, however, acceptable occupations for working women were limited to factory labor or domestic work. Women were excluded from the professions, except for writing and teaching.
Beginning in the 19th century, the required educational preparation, particularly for the practice of medicine, increased. This tended to prevent many young women, who married early and bore many children, from entering professional careers. Although home nursing was considered a proper female occupation, nursing in hospitals was done almost exclusively by men. Specific discrimination against women also began to appear. For example, the American Medical Association, founded in 1846, barred women from membership. Barred also from attending “men’s” medical colleges, women enrolled in their own for instance, the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, which was established in 1850.
Women also had not greatly improved their status in other professions. In 1930 about 2 percent of all American lawyers and judges were women in 1989, about 22 percent. In 1930 there were almost no women engineers in the United States. In 1989 the proportion of women engineers was only 7.5 percent. A small proportion of Women College and university teachers were in the physical sciences, engineering, agriculture, and law.
The great majority of women who work are still employed in clerical positions, factory work, retail sales, and service jobs. Secretaries, bookkeepers, and typists account for a large portion of women clerical workers. Women in factories often work as machine operators, assemblers, and inspectors. Many women in service jobs work as waitresses, cooks, hospital attendants, cleaning women, and hairdressers.
Working women often faced discrimination on the mistaken belief that, because they were married or would most likely get married, they would not be permanent workers. But married women generally continued on their jobs for many years and were not a transient, temporary, or undependable work force. From 1960 to the early 1970s the influx of married women workers accounted for almost half of the increase in the total labor force, and working wives were staying on their jobs longer before starting families. The number of elderly working also increased markedly.
Since 1960 more and more women with children have been in the work force. This change is especially dramatic for married women with children under age 6: 12 percent worked in 1950, 45 percent in 1980, and 57 percent in 1987. Just over half the mothers with children under age 3 were in the labor force in 1987. Black women with children are more likely to work than are white or Hispanic women who have children. Over half of all black families with children are maintained by the mother only, compared with 18 percent of white families with children.
Despite their increased presence in the work force, most women still have primary responsibility for housework and family care. In the late 1970s men with an employed wife spent only about 1.4 hours a week more on household tasks than those whose wife was a full-time homemaker.
Women in Politics: American women have had the right to vote since 1920, but their political roles have been minimal. Not until 1984 did a major party choose a woman Geraldine Ferraro of New York to run for vice-president.
Radical Philosophies: At the end of the 18th century, individual liberty was being hotly debated. In 1789, during the French Revolution, Olympiad Gouges published a ‘Declaration of the Rights of Woman’ to protest the revolutionists’ failure to mention women in their ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man’. In ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ (1792) Mary Wollstonecraft called for enlightenment of the female mind.
During the early 20th century the term new woman came to be used in the popular press. More young women than ever were going to school, working both in blue- and white-collar jobs, and living by themselves in city apartments. Some social critics feared that feminism, which they interpreted to mean the end of the home and family, was triumphing. Actually, the customary habits of American women were changing little. Although young people dated more than their parents did and used the automobile to escape parental supervision, most young women still married and became the traditional housewives and mothers.
Women in Reform Movements: Women in the United States during the 19th century organized and participated in a great variety of reform movements to improve education, to initiate prison reform, to ban alcoholic drinks, and, during the pre-Civil War period, to free the slaves.
At a time when it was not considered respectable for women to speak before mixed audiences of men and women. Some women saw parallels between the position of women and that of the slaves. In their view, both were expected to be passive, cooperative, and obedient to their master-husbands. Women such as Stanton, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth were feminists and abolitionists, believing in both the rights of women and the rights of blacks.
Many women supported the temperance movement in the belief that drunken husbands pulled their families into poverty. In 1872 the Prohibition Party became the first national political party to recognize the right of suffrage for women in its platform. Frances Willard helped found the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
Women were also active in movements for agrarian and labor reforms and for birth control. Mary Elizabeth Lease, a leading Populist spokeswoman in the 1880s and 1890s in Kansas, immortalized the cry, “What the farmers need to do is raise less corn and more hell.” Margaret Robins led the National Women’s Trade Union League in the early 1900s. In the 1910s Margaret Sanger crusaded to have birth-control information available for all women.
American independence brought women greater freedom from husbands who were abusive, neglectful, or adulterous. In colonial society, divorce was virtually impossible under English precedent, but all of the new states recognized the need to end unhappy marriages.
After researching The Sun Also Rises, we observe that the life of women is full of combination with these characteristics which have been mentioned in the discussion of this topic.