Gender Roles In The Westward Expansion

1994 Words 8 Pages
The Westward Expansion has often been regarded as the theme of American history, and gender was shaped by the everyday interactions in the nineteenth-century West that made history. Westerners found what motivated them to construct gender roles, and came up with a single definition for femininity and masculinity.
Even with the influence of gendered ideas on social life, Americans thought the West would offer women uncommon opportunities to reinvent themselves like so many men did. Women were considered physically weaker but morally superior to men, and they were tired of being looked down upon. They decided when they moved across the country, that was going to be a new start and they would get to show the men what they had to offer. When being
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In Duniway’s autobiography, she overcomes the stereotypical idea that men are supposed to have the jobs, and women stay at home. She says, “My millinery business flourished reasonably well in a financial way, but the lessons it taught, that brought me before the world as an evangel of Equal Rights for Women, were of far greater value than dollars and cents” (Duniway 21). Once women started to do things that others have not had the ability to do or thought that they could do, they start to believe they can. Women stepped up and believed in themselves and believed in change. Duniway spoke to an expectant woman in her store, “I am sorry, but I am giving out all the work I can spare from the store to women who are helping their husbands to pay house rent, or lift widows’ mortgage to stop interest on their little homes” (Duniway 22). Women were making numerous efforts to show how much they can do for their families. The author gave women the opportunity to prove to men that they were capable of doing things on their own. It was always said that men are supposed to be the ones taking care of the family financially, but women wanted to feel helpful and not looked down upon when they do not have a job. Families moved West during the 1800s because it was said to be a new start and for them to prove they are more than just a moral guardian of homes. Duniway, in her store one day, talks with a woman trying …show more content…
They believe that women cannot have any major responsibilities because they are not smart enough or are not capable enough. In the autobiography by Caroline Kirkland, she explains that not every job is for the men and that women have more skills than they are perceived to have. Her neighbor, Mr. Jenkins, pleads, “I tell you what, I’m boss at home; and if my old women was to stick up that fashion, I’d keep the house so blue she couldn’t see to snuff the candle” (Kirkland 26). Men would not allow the women to do anything for themselves, whether it is to dress nice so they feel good about themselves, or if they want it to be their everyday fashion. Women were to stick to a certain set of rules given by their partner, and when they tried to break away and be independent and work for themselves, there were repercussions. Men looked down upon women and their abilities during this time period. There was a snake at her back door one day, and Arthur was too afraid to kill it himself, so he made Fanny do it. The author claims, “Fanny was a heroine. It is my opinion that next to having a cougar spring at one, the absolute killing of a rattle-snake is peculiarly appropriate to constitute a Michigan heroine…” (Kirkland 27). Arthur was shocked when he saw Fanny was not scared at all about the snake, when he was the scared one. He underestimated the women’s

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