The Woman's Sphere

The term “woman’ sphere” became widely used to describe the white middle-class idea of a woman’s place in the early 1800’s with the start of the Industrial age. Prior to this the family was a self sufficient unit where all members of the household were expected to work under the direction of the husband and father. His authority according to the precepts of the Puritans was from God. (Only in the Quaker communities did you see some semblance of equality.) Women were active in farming they helped with their husband’s business pursuits, kept the business ledgers, produced goods for sale as well as the rearing of children and running of the household. Although the wife had the running of the home and training of the children, she was still under the close supervision of her husband.   Home was both the place of business and domicile. Beyond home and church she had little contact in the public. (Woloch p.116)
With the Revolution War came change. Allowed to give a public voice women took to the streets. They became involved politically under the auspice of patriotism.   Having been punished before for any public display they as individuals and in groups rallied to the cause by gathering money and clothes for the cause.   10 of 30 food riots were caused by women.   Meeting in groups sometimes as large as 60, they spun, weaved and sewed. There was a shift in the perception of a woman’s capabilities. Without the supervision of their husbands they took on the management of the family and business. Household work became patriotic. Home based production of cloth opened up a new vocation with the English boycotts. ((Woloch p.81-82)
The end of the Revolutionary War saw the beginning of the Industrial Age and with it the conveniences of products once produced within the home, now were available pre-made. The home business moved separate from the home which shifted the husband away from his patriarchal control of all aspects of the running of the home.   A middle class emerged. With...