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Industrialization and Femininity: A Case Study of Nineteenth Century New England

Barbara Easton
Social Problems
Vol. 23, No. 4, Feminist Perspectives: The Sociological Challenge (Apr., 1976), pp. 389-401
DOI: 10.2307/799850
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/799850
Page Count: 13
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Industrialization and Femininity: A Case Study of Nineteenth Century New England
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Abstract

Femininity as we now know it was developed in the United States in the nineteenth century. Books for women, mainly published in New England, proclaimed that woman's place was in the home, that her primary task was child-raising, and that she must accept subordination to her husband's authority. These ideas reflected real changes in women's lives as their families moved from farming villages to industrializing towns. As they lost their functions in the family economy, their dependence on men was heightened and the basis for what little power they held eroded. But women's domesticity was not a necessary result of industrial capitalism. Women could have worked outside the home while children were cared for communally or by their fathers. It was men who benefitted from women's domesticity, male power that enforced it, and the ideology of femininity that induced women to accept it.

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