Women’s Labour and Rights (US) Facts & Worksheets

Women’s Labour and Rights (US) facts and information plus worksheet packs and fact file. Includes 5 activities aimed at students 11-14 years old (KS3) & 5 activities aimed at students 14-16 years old (GCSE). Great for home study or to use within the classroom environment.

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Fact File

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    • The objectives of the Women’s Labour Movement in the US.
    • The influential women behind the movement.
    • The historical significance of the Seneca Falls Convention.

    Key Facts And Information

    Let’s know more about Women’s Labour and Rights (US)!

    Stanley McCormick and Charles Parker of the National Woman Suffrage Association whose first leaders were Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, April 1913.

    • During the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, women, especially in the north, left their houses to go and work in factories and schools. Many worked for wages, but others stayed at home as professional homemakers during the ‘cult of domesticity’.
    • The women’s rights movement in the mid-1800s was prominent for the part it played in the Abolitionist Movement. Through this, the Declaration of Sentiments was produced, which demonstrated the inconsistencies between national values and women’s rights.

    Women’s Labour in the Early Days

    • In the 17th and 18th centuries, goods were produced by hand through the work of patient and skilled artisans or craft workers. 
    • US President Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act on British manufactured goods from 1807 to 1809 caused merchants in New England to start to develop industries that were similar to those in Britain. By 1812, 78 new textile mills had been built in New England.
    • Like British workers, workers in American factories were also organised into family units under the supervision of the father. The father of the household supervised the labour of his wife and children. Most of the work was done outside the factory.
    • Francis Cabot Lowell became a revolutionary by hiring women and creating a centralised workplace. He founded the Boston Manufacturing Company in 1813, building mills, one of which was in Lowell, Massachusetts that was named after him. 
    • The Boston Associates’ enterprise aimed to engage individual workers as opposed to families. The Boston Manufacturing Company worked with young women who had more experience working with textiles. Women were also easier to manage, and their movement was restricted when living and working on factory grounds.
    • While the approach was revolutionary, its success was also due to the gender imbalance of the time. The company assured white parents that their daughters would be safe on factory grounds. To ensure their safety, the company made sure that the women, living in boarding houses, were woken up by a bell and were required to work for twelve hours a day, six days a week without talking. The women were also not allowed to swear or drink alcohol, and church attendance was mandatory.
    • The women enjoyed being away from home and the wages that came with working in the factories. Furthermore, women also developed a strong sense of solidarity with their fellow workers.
    • Despite the breakthrough, in the company, women were still not allowed breaks outside designated times, and those who arrived even just a few minutes late lost hours’ worth of pay. The monotony of their schedule caused a lot of boredom and discontent. 
    • Fires were a common problem in the textile factories because the machines used oil for lubrication and had blades for cutting the cotton. Workers’ hands and fingers were maimed and, in some cases, entire bodies caught up in the machines were crushed. Injured workers lost their jobs with no compensation. Corporal punishment was regularly used in the factories and women who failed to meet quotas were fired.

    Women’s Labour Movement

    • The punitive working conditions and pay resulted in protests. 
    • In 1821, young women employed by the Boston Manufacturing Company in Waltham went on a two-day strike when their wages were cut. In 1830, the Lowell Factory Women formed the Lowell Factory Girls Association to organise protests when unfair treatment occurred.
    • The association later became the Lowell Female Labour Reform Association to protest the 12-hour workday. The association was beneficial to their advocacy, putting out a newspaper that brought the unfavourable working experiences to light

    The Rise of the Women’s Rights Movement

    An African-American woman carrying a bale of cotton on her head photographed by O Pierre Havens, circa 1850-1930.

    • Slave women and native American women suffered double discrimination because of their social status. African-American women were stripped of their identity as mothers to work in the fields. 
    • Slave women who had children bore slaves who were assets of their owners. Slave owners also raped women and sired children. The American Indian Wars and the 1830 Indian Removal Act disenfranchised native women who no longer had access to land and buffalo hide for the benefit of their families.
    • On the other hand, some women preferred to stay at home, and the profession of a housewife was highly revered, leading to what was known as the cult of domesticity. According to the edicts of the cult of domesticity, stay-at-home women wielded greater power by controlling the household. Women were seen as the moral compass of the family and therefore were expected to be pious, enduring their husbands and guiding their children.
    • The teaching profession was therefore dominated by women and the idea spread that being knowledgeable in maintaining a household was necessary to be successful either working in the mills or schools. The women’s rights movement gained impetus because of the strategic use of women in the home, mills and schools.
    • The views of the cult of domesticity meant, for instance, that the call for women’s temperance was a natural consequence of their role as the moral compass of the family. The feminists of the early 19th century also rode on the messages of the second great awakening. However, women’s engagement in the Abolitionist Movement gave them the highest visibility as advocates for social justice. Women in the north further drew powerful parallels between their plight and those of the slaves.
    • Sarah and Angelina Grimké went around giving public lectures on the abolition of slavery, which was endorsed by Lloyd Garrison. Garrison was frowned upon by other abolitionists for allowing women to take an active role in the movements he established.
    • The women’s rights movements were led by notable women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, Lucretia Mott and Lucy Stone.

    The Seneca Falls Convention

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton, aged 65 years old, circa 1880.

    • Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organised the Seneca Falls Convention on women’s rights in New York in 1848. 
    • The idea of the convention came about in 1840 when Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were attending the World’s Antislavery Convention but were denied entrance and participation because of their gender. The conference allowed for a separate meeting for women during which the women decided to organise a mass woman’s meeting to discuss women’s rights. Lloyd Garrison spent his time at the convention in the women’s section.
    • In 1848, during an annual Quaker convention, Lucretia Mott and her sister Martha Coffin Wright met together with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane C Hunt and Mary Ann M’Clintock. The purpose of the meeting was to plan for the women’s rights convention. The women also prepared the agenda and the document that would be considered and passed during the conference. 
    • Cady Stanton took the lead in the writing of the Declaration of Sentiments, modelled after the Declaration of Independence. Stanton advocated for the inclusion of the right to vote among the proposed issues for the convention. The resolution on women’s suffrage was left in the document, but men boycotted the event, and many women were cynical.
    • The Declaration of Sentiments declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.”
    • Many thought that the demands of the convention were too outrageous and the issue of women’s suffrage was almost comical. However, in 1920 women’s suffrage became the 19th Amendment.