History 281: Gender Influences in the Industrialization Period


Gender Influences Essay Prompt: Using the materials for units 2 and 3, please compare how gender shaped the formation of the European bourgeoisie and the working class during industrialization. You may want to include a discussion of how notions of gender shaped paid labour roles in each class; the distribution of power and work within […]

Gender Influences in the Industrialization Period

In the late 18th and early 19th century, women were drawn into being active economic agents spurred by the formation of the working class and European bourgeoisie in the industrial period. The modification led to the breaking down and reforming of the social and moral identity common in the era. On the other hand, it also led to an anomaly in gender roles; it aided in creating ideological foundations that would change gender identities henceforth (Davidoff and Hall 272). However, women faced setbacks and exclusions in craft training and experience because there were contradictions between their actual and perceived relation to the economic value they exerted (Frader and Rose 80). The line between the roles became blurred as more women applied to positions where they were seen to perform better (Davidoff and Hall 273). New gender formations paved the way for unconventional labour roles, habits, and lifestyles during the industrial revolution. The tendencies affected the power and work distribution in the society and family spheres and women’s roles in different caste and societal classes.

Women’s inclination towards labour roles varied according to work offered in the existing markets. On the one hand, the workforce in the industries experienced a sudden feminization due to the explosion of jobs prompted by the females’ declining usefulness in farming. The change happened after a shift in technological advances and the industrial burgeoning economic growth (Davidoff and Hall 274; Frader and Rose 79). The trend experienced in localized skills as society struggled to designate artisan tasks for men. Consequently, segregation was distributed between class and gender relations and unskilled and skilled workers’ unions. Arguably, deskilling, mechanization, and feminization spurred a growing threat of functional role redundancy (Frader and Rose 79). However, as production growth increased, the industry started deskilling both sexes’ roles, causing an amalgamation and eventually abandoning the occupational segregation of women (Frader and Rose 8). The sectors grew slowly regarding active women’s representation in the pursuit of farming, textile production, and commonly. Factors contributing to this trend include the decline of independent workshops due to competition and preference for regional and national businesses; the latter had more resources, making it harder for small enterprises to thrive. In addition, the contradictory perception of women’s role in society meant they had to project a non-working lifestyle while displaying rank (Davidoff and Hall 286). As time went by, the public started to compromise. It even made progress on women’s part in the labour market, as the preconceptions of gender responsibilities started falling apart with more women participating in men-related fields. This era experienced a considerable reap toward decentralizing male roles in the workplace.

The industrialization era helped shape social lifestyles and gender influences affiliated with power and work distribution in the public and home spheres. Firstly, the cultural ideals on sexuality changed. In the past, there was strong advocacy for youthful celibacy that used sex only as a means of procreation (Davidoff and Hall 403). It would have been preferable for a young woman to commit suicide rather than soil her dignity through premarital sex (DiCaprio and Merry 277). However, by the early 19th century, society had adopted a more aggressive sexual perception while moving from a Victorian innocence trend towards a more veracious attitude. In her poem “Remonstrate,” Ann Taylor Gilbert says that “composed, retiring, modest, she; impetuous, he, and brave,” regarding the gender perception of the norms in mannerism and gentility that marked the early 18th century (Conder 8). This era experienced change, drifting from rather formal and gender-sensitive conduct to a more relaxed linguistic style and mannerism that superseded even the industrialization period. Control over property and income depended on whether the women in the household had male relatives to care for them. Consequently, women with abled male relatives had less control over income and family property rights, while female-led households contained more women and fewer men supporting them (Davidoff and Hall 315). Widows and aged, unmarried women were also more likely to have greater control over finances and family property; therefore, this group had the most significant command of entrepreneurship and businesses, as the decision to enter the market and engage in profitable ventures depended on the control of the family property (Davidoff and Hall 314). The industrialization era saw marked changes in sexual mindset and mannerisms. Society adopted a more relaxed and modernized stance, while factors like male dependency and marriage status influenced women’s economic reach and control.

In her poem “Remonstrate,” Ann Taylor Gilbert writes, “plants cultured in different grounds, with each different bearing fruits.” She talks about how the public considers both sexes designated and gender influences different societal roles (Groth 25). In the subsequent stanzas, “which could not feel whole, till the woman shared a portion,” Gilbert calls for equality: the society would never be whole without incorporating women’s contribution into the communal and professional spheres (Conder 8). Women’s roles were limited to less desirable positions to fill the labour gap that resulted from the industrialization explosion (Davidoff and Hall 275). As skills and roles blurred and task fragmentation occurred, the female share in society changed from a passive onlooker to an active agent in the industrialization era.

Works Cite

Conder, J. The Associate Minstrels. A Collection of Poems by Various Authors. James Ballantyne & Co., 1813.

Davidoff, Leonore, and Catherine Hall. Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780–1850. Routledge, 2013.

DiCaprio, Lisa, and Merry E. Wiesner. Lives and Voices: Sources in European Women’s History. Houghton Mifflin College Division, 2001.

Frader, Laura Levine, and Sonya O. Rose, eds. Gender and Class in Modern Europe. Cornell University Press, 1996.

Groth, Helen. Moving Images: Nineteenth-Century Reading and Screen Practices. Edinburgh University Press, 2013.

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