Sam & Bella & Lauren

An Overview:

Women in the 1880’s were typically expected to hold the title of mother, child-care provider, housekeeper etc. Women were expected to get married to a man and have multiple children. Women were often required to rely on men for financial support, for them and their children, because men were expected to be the breadwinners. However, there were some women who were going against their expected gender roles. Many women were going out, getting some form of higher education, and getting jobs.

Women were employed in a number of different occupations. According to The National Women’s History Museum (2007) women were working in agriculture, domestic service, manufacturing, clerical and office work, and professional work, to name a few. Teaching was also a job that became popular for women during this time. This job was considered a more prestigious job for women and only about 6% of women worked as teachers. It was required that the woman was born and raised in America. The women who worked generally were part of the working to middle class. Being able to work gave women the feeling of being somewhat self reliant, even though they often were not making enough money to fully support themselves, so they still needed to somewhat rely on men to be fully supported. For example, The National Women’s History Museum (2007) stated that in the 1830’s in Philadelphia, women working in Mills made an average of $2.25 per week while working men made an average of $6.50-$7.00 per week. Women were not making enough money to fully support them, let alone if they had children they also had to support.

The fight between Harrison and Ada over the $10 comes to mind when we think of the difference in earnings of men and women. Harrison had given the money to Ada and then asked for it back to go out and have a drink with a friend. She refused to give him all of the money back and the verbal fight escalated to violence, leading to Ada’s death. The money gap can also be an example of why Ada was with Harrison after her husband passed away, because she was not able to support herself and her daughter. Understanding the wage gap between the different genders and the expectation of men to make money while women take care of the home, we can conclude that Ada, living at the time of these expectations, was impacted by this. Although we cannot know for sure why Ada was in a relationship with Harrison, or why she may have or may have not been leaving Harrison for Gregory, we can infer that her relationship with both men, was in part influenced by society’s expectations of the men and women.

According to The Corner Prairie, some women were seeking higher education and were mostly attending all women institutions, with a few attending co-ed institutions. If a woman had a college education, she was seen to be benefiting to not only herself but also her family. The Corner Prairie states that women who had a college education did not marry as often as other women. Some thought that women who pursued higher education would be better wives and mothers. However, it seems to have had a very different effect. It was found that if college educated women did marry, they did so later on in their life and because of this had significantly fewer children. Women getting higher education created controversy because this was having a subversive effect on the view of the traditional woman and her family. At the same time, as more and more women pursued higher education they became more and more conscious and aware of society’s expectations of each gender. This consciousness led to an increasing number of women striving to alter the way that men and women were viewed. Through this, more women pursued education and employment, striving for that feeling of self-sufficiency and independence.


The New Woman:

Before, during, and even after the 1880’s, what it meant to be a woman was in the midst of changing, evolving. The noticeable change in how women not only lived and acted, but how they were perceived is extremely relevant to our discussion about Ada Brown and her murder.

Shelia Rowbotham, author of Dreamers of a New Day, writes about a young working class woman named Lizzie Holmes. Holmes, reflecting on her working in a cloak factory, encapsulates the changing landscape of women in the following quote, “I know of all the struggles, the efforts of genteel poverty, the pitiful pride with which working girls hide their destitution and drudgery from the world,” (Rowbotham 17). Lower class working women were often only able to find low paying jobs such as factory work. These jobs failed to fully support them. Rowbotham also contextualizes Holmes’ words through her description of how the lives of all women were changing in part because of economic changes of the time (Rowbotham 17).

Sarah Grand coined the term the “new woman” in 1894 in an article she wrote for the North American Review titled, “The New Aspect of the Woman Question.” This idea spawned in response to the Bawling Brotherhood who asked, “If women don’t want to be men, what do they want?”(Grand 270). Grand articulates that women did not want to be men and were not interested in trying to be like men. However, she did point out that there was a new type of woman that was emerging and in many respects this woman was threatening to men because she stepped outside of gender roles and expectations .This new woman, unlike the traditional woman and unrecognizable to men, often intimidated them because it challenged the patriarchal social structure that existed. Grand discusses the increasing consciousness of women by writing that women were “awaking from their long apathy,” (Grand 271). Traditional gender roles, according to Grand, deprived women of proper education and then looked down upon them for their lack of knowledge, reason and logic (Grand 271). She also points out that women of the time acknowledged their role in how they were treated and perceived by society, because in the past, they let men have the power and control. However, with an increased awareness to how they were treated, perceived, and what their role was in society, they set out to make changes. These changes happened in their everyday lives, not just in the meeting of women across the country who brainstormed and set out to fight for women’s rights. Everyday changes in the lives of individual women included, getting higher education or a job so that they could support themselves and feel a sense of independence and self-sufficiency. Grand discusses the consciousness of women, as a whole, rising and shining light on their place in society, and changing things they disagreed with (Grand 276). She writes that more and more women are waking up and working, standing up for themselves and being self-supporting and self-sufficient. These women were fighting for their right to support themselves and their families, in many cases.

When it comes to Ada Brown, she is a widow because her husband passed away. With an understanding of traditional gender roles and expectation I thought of the following question, without her husband, how is she supposed to support herself and her child? Ada lives in a society  in which men are the breadwinners and a woman’s place is the home. Within this logic, Ada would have to remarry, right? That understanding alone, paints a vivid picture of gender at the time of her murder. One has to consider, why was Ada mixed up with these men? Was she genuinely in love with them? Did she need them to support herself and her child, because the little money she made on her own, was not enough? Was she leaving one for the other, and could that be related to what they could provide her with? It seems likely that Ada’s murder could easily be linked to the dynamics of gender within the context of the 1880’s and the changing views of women and their role in society. She seems to have been stuck between the traditional role of a woman and the new woman. However, because society has yet to catch up, by 1884, to the new woman, women like Ada are not really able to support themselves or their children on their own. Women don’t make as much money as men and have a harder time getting more professional jobs because of the remaining view that a woman’s place is the home.


Children and the Family:

Marriage and family proved to have a profound impact on life for the average person within the time period ,as discussed last week. The child within each family seemed to be nothing more than an extra pair of hands to the average working class family, and that is what we are going to dive into now. The early nineteenth century proved to be a trivial time for children within large industrial cities, especially Hartford. On March 8, 1847, high school and elementary branches of education were to be deemed free (public). A committee had banded together from each country within Connecticut to establish rules and settle issues within education. The committee that had established the change was made up of each county within the state, all of which had male figureheads except for Windham. As discussed in last week, gender roles were at its peak within the nineteenth century. Women were just emerging into roles within the workplace, let alone leadership positions. Having a Miss Moulton shows the progressive changes that are coming to a head within the time period.

With Hartford being a growing industrial city, many people were lower class workers for the companies within the capital; therefore, education for their children was not a priority. To further support the idea that school was not a priority,  there were no bus routes established within the county assumingly due to the high volume of working class. School came at a cost for families and because of this, the rich could only afford it. While education was still considered a privileged past elementary school, an act passed in 1842 revolutionized the average child’s life within a lower class family.  

As we know or think we know, Lena Brown was 7 years old in 1844, meaning that during the time the act was passed she was 5 years old. The records in place hinder our efforts in establishing a clear age. Ancestry proved little help in this area of research, as did many other sites. Her young age could have had a large part in this as well, being that young in the time period, meant she may have bid little significance. Even the newspaper articles said she was four, further proving the poor record keeping.

Unfortunately, the act was passed within Massachusetts, but according to an educational website dedicated to child labor laws, many other states passed the act following in their footsteps. The other thing they also made clear was that there wasn’t always enforcement.

The act said “that no child under fifteen should be employed in any manufacturing establishment, or in any other business, until he has attended some public or private day school where instruction is given by a teacher qualified to instruct in orthography, reading, writing, English grammar, geography, and arithmetic, at least three months of the twelve months next preceding any and every year in which such child shall be employed” ( Perrin, 37). Perrin was a professor at the University of Chicago at the time and the book itself was gifted to the University of California Library. I am slightly skeptical as to why he wrote what he wrote when he was not even from New England, given the title being The History of Compulsory Education in New England. He was born in 1849, easily submerging himself into the time period but not of the culture within New England. The educational website was a second source that proved validity to Perrin’s statement.

The act itself makes a clear connection between the lower working class and the wealthy. As stated above, schooling came at price and at such a high one that only the wealthy could spare it; therefore, the act did not focus on them. It focused on the lower class that would need their child to work an immense amount of hours to support the family. The fee of $25 for the working class is not a small one, and we can assume this because a murder came of only $10. The fee either instills fear in the poor, not wanting to take the risk and be fined, thus sending their children to school or people took their chances. The opportunity to lie was not on the table because signed paperwork by a teacher was needed in order to prove the child attended the allotted three months of school.

In contrast to this, job opportunities were scarce which is what brought many people there. Our classmates had touched upon this as well. The industry owners would employ whoever due to the lack of standards in place, so there is no way to filter through child from adult.

I am going off topic a bit to bring up a key point brought up in one of Dr. Cote’s resources on blackboard known as “The Children Are Off the Streets”. The book explains that, “Hartford’s inner neighborgoods could find few outdoor places in which their right to play was uncontested. The city’s growth was severely limiting children’s access to off-street play space” (153). Children were not able to be children, they were confined to the places they called home. I do not know much about the mental health aspect of this, but I think it would be a really great idea for us to touch upon as a group. Today we have things in place like the NFL Play 60, meaning children should get at least 60 minutes of play a day. What happens if this is taken away or was never important at all? What effect does it have on kids?


One thought on “Gender

  1. References

    Grand, Sarah. “The New Aspect of the Women Question.” The North American Review 158 (1894): 270-76. Web. 15 Oct. 2016. .

    Hacsi, Timothy A. Second Home: Orphan Asylums and Poor Families in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1997. Print.

    Hartman, Dorothy W. “Lives of Women – Conner Prairie Interactive History Park.” Lives of Women. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

    Michael Herring. “Child Labor in U.S. History.” – The Child Labor Education Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

    “NWHM Exhibit: A History of Women in Industry.” A History of Women in Industry. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

    Perrin, John William. The History of Compulsory Education in New England. Meadville, Penna̓: n.p., 1896. Print.

    Rowbotham, Sheila. Dreamers of a New Day: Women Who Invented the Twentieth Century. London: Verso, 2010. Print.

    Steiner, Bernard C. The History of Education in Connecticut. Washington: G.P.O., 1893. Print.


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