Women and Early American Economy

Essay by benewUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, August 2006

download word file, 3 pages 3.0

Women's lives changed significantly during and after the American Revolution. During this time in history women were only recognized for housekeeping and child rearing. But the war meant women had to take charge during the absence and after the deaths of husbands and fathers. The women of early America were greatly affected by the concept of a household economy, their importance in the business world, and the disadvantages of a capitalist system.

Although documentation of female wage-earners is almost none existent in the narratives of the eighteenth century, women's market activities were very important to the transition to capitalism. The transition from "market-places" to a "market economy" as Winifred Barr Rothenberg has framed it - is represented as a story of labor and economic decisions made only by men, but during and after the war women had no choice but to become self-sufficient. Whether they were widows, or working along side their husband, low wages meant wives and children of most factory workers also had to work to help the family survive.

According to an observation by Joan Jensen, "the ideology of self-sufficiency of the New England farms in 1800 was based to a great extent on the ability of women in the household to provide a surplus for the local market". Women's paid labor and production for the market became important components of household economies and it was women's increased dairy production that provided a source of capital for expanding family farming operations in the late eighteenth century mid-Atlantic region. During the late Eighteenth century, the need for a cash income led women and older children, sometimes even old people, to engage in a variety of household industries, such as spinning and weaving. The growing importance of a wide range of women's cash or credit-producing work on late...