April DierksEnglish Comp
March 23, 2014
Women’s Rights 1800s-1900s
In the late 1800s to early 1900s, women lived in a male dominated society. Society was not kind to women until a few decades later when they put together a movement and fought for their rights as women. Women were to be seen not heard. They were hardly ever seen in the workforce and if the women did work outside of the home, they had to give their earnings to their husband. They had very few rights and even less say in their day to day life. Women were not allowed to vote and very few women were allowed to attend college. Women were expected to be stay at home wives and mothers. Those duties included cleaning house, cooking and having babies. Some women were even discouraged from any kind of work, even work done inside the home. If women rebelled against their husbands’ wishes and demands about her role in society, there could be serious consequences. Women were also not allowed to get divorced even if they were abused. You can see some of the ways women were treated during this time in Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
John’s wife is believed by him and her brother to have a nervous depression that is brought on by something unknown. He sticks her in a hideous discolored yellow room, gives her medicine and allows her to do nothing. She feels that writing helps to express her feelings and keeps her from going completely crazy but John does not allow it. For example, Gilman writes in "The Yellow Wallpaper", "So I… am absolutely forbidden to "work" until I am well again" (Gilman 377). The "work" that is being discussed is later described as writing. “There comes John, and I must put this away- he hates to have me write a word" (Gilman 378). John’s wife later says, “Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good (Gilman 377). The simple task of writing that women used for expressing themselves was even denied.
Also in “The Yellow Wallpaper”, her being sick and stuck in this room made her feel like she was a burden to John. She couldn’t help with their baby or do any of the house work she was used to doing. Since wealth was brought into the home by men, women had to take care of their family and home. Generally, being a successful wife and mother was desirable. Some women were accepting to this position of homemaker, like John's sister in "The Yellow Wallpaper." Gilman writes, "She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession" (380). Women had more responsibilities at home as a wife and mother and were praised for their dedication to their family and home. John’s wife was an exceptional mother and wife but this sickness made it very hard to live everyday life and keep up the appearance she had always maintained.
“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin also shows some great examples of the unfair treatment of women during the late 1800s. During this time period society believed that women were meant to serve the men. This is another example of a “male dominated society.”
The main character in “The Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Mallard, is living during a time when women had little or no say in who they were married to. During this time wives were fully dependent on their husbands. Mrs. Mallard has a troubled heart who is not at all fond of her controlling, dominate husband so when Mrs. Mallard is misinformed that her husband has passed away she experiences an epiphany, “She said it over and over under her breath, “free, free, free!” “Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering.” (Chopin 116). Mrs. Mallard was very over-joyed to be free from her male dominated marriage. She soon finds out that her husband is actually still alive. She became so consumed in her newfound future that she suffered a heart attack and died the moment that it was taken away. (Chopin 116).
Another story that also ties into women’s rights of