Running head: Women’s History The History of Women’s History from Prehistory to Present Donyeil Gonzalez History 103 Leslie Ruff October 27, 2012 The History of Women from prehistory to present The lives of women’s roles and statuses have changed and varied throughout earlier world history eras, and cultural areas. Women since the beginning of time have always wanted better lives. Women wanted to have the same rights, political, economic, and social statuses as did the men.
To strive for those rights women formed political groups called feminist movements, which also helped with religious and charitable activities (Giele, 2012). Women’s movements from the beginning of history have worked very hard within societies to achieve a greater social, economic, and political involvement for women (Giele, 2012). Even though men were stronger than women, and more educated women from prehistory to 1500 CE to the present have been viewed as less than a man. One may believe women are and was a very important key factor in societies from the beginning of time.
To the present without women many cultures would not have evolved. Women were the background in each and every aspect of life’s developments. In Prehistory Paleolithic people survived by hunting wild animal and gathering wild fruits, nuts, and melons (Mahdavi, 2012) Paleolithic women used tools such as sticks and carrying bags to harvest and transport the foods they eat. Food such as edible roots and tubers, as well as bugs, termites, caterpillars, and lotus was collected as a source of calories needed for daily nutrition needed. Women contributed more calories to the general diet then did the men (Mahdavi, 2012).
Everyone who lived in the Paleolithic era had a set system as far as gathering food is concerned. Paleolithic people shared the basis strategy of foraging hunting and gathering food and other supplies (Mahdavi, 2012). Paleolithic people lived in small family sizes groups and were primarily mobile people. Hunter-Gatherers had to migrate from places where they would be able to find food, so they did not keep many processions and had homes that were easy to assemble. Gender role within the Paleolithic society consisted of men who were generally the hunters and women who were generally the gatherers.
There was no hierarchy system within the Paleolithic society because the women held high levels of importance. Women held statuses of high importance because women were the child bearers, and perhaps also healers (Mahdavi, 2012). It is thought that the social statuses of women within the community were equal to that of men in early historical populations (Mahdavi, 2012). After the ice ages and the migration of humans a new era of society was developed called the Neolithic era. Along with the Neolithic era came the advancement and development of social classes among society.
Neolithic era brought forth a new way of life and a means for survival. Agriculture change lives in many ways. The former mobile people of societies became more stationary and had better structure. Along with the newly developed structure came more responsibility. Women were no longer just gatherers they were expected to work just as hard as the men when it came to farming, tending animals, and the collection of goods. With the growth of agriculture came the ownership and control of property and land. Gender roles changed just as fast as agriculture developed.
Men was and still to this day considered to be physically stronger than a women, so things such as using a plow was left up to the man to do (Mahdavi, 2012). Taking care of domesticated animals was primarily a job for men but at times women also helped. Varying from society to society women shifted from gathering and cultivating crops, to childbearing and organizing domestic consumption (Mahdavi, 2012). Neolithic era began in around 7000 B. C. E. at the end of the earlier Paleolithic era in which women shared and enjoyed equality with the men through the contributions of food from the women helped them gain their equality (www. ooks. google. com). When the Neolithic era emerged it was a turning point in history which women lost their equality. The developments of pottery, and polished tools forced a change in the lives of women, however, women was still responsible for most of the calories consumed by the people in society. During the Neolithic period women would gather enough food to last them for a few days. Discoveries have been made that may suggest some gatherers stayed near where the seeds was located to make harvest easier, while other gathering women preferred to carry harvest to different places, maybe where other foods could be located www. googlebooks. com). Thee written works of Jared Diamond the author of: The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race suggested that the status of women declined with the adoption of agriculture. Diamond felt this way because in the farming societies population began to boom due to the ability to feed everyone, so more women were becoming pregnant, and was expected to do more work than the women of pervious hunter-gatherers societies. Since women did not have to transport babies in nomadic existence, farming women had more baby’s then Paleolithic women and for that reason had poorer health problems.
Women agricultural societies are sometimes made the beast of burden, women working while men did little (www. public. lastate. edu). Inequality was not foreign especially in Third world countries, but is thought to be linked to the lack of education and social class. Even in modern day in societies like those in Afghanistan and Kenya have less developed education systems than in countries like South Korea or the United states (Mahdavi, 2012). Women in third world nations such as Afghanistan and Kenya enjoy very little terms of legal rights and financial prospects (Mahdavi, 2012).
For example Kenyan women cannot own land they farm, and the entire power lie in the hands of the Kenya women husbands. The transition from hunting and gathering to settled agricultures caused women to be inferior to man. Men and women had different roles within society of hunters and gathering period but equality was not in existence until after men and women began to build cities and settled into routines (Mahdavi, 2012). Women and men who hunted and gathered as a way of life had little need for official political parties, mayors or emperors, because smaller groups were self-sufficient people.
If game animals and edible flora were close to an encampment, both sexes often hunted and gathered as a way to acquire food, but if the women was pregnant or had small children than they could not track or attack making men more necessary in those scenarios (Mahdavi, 2012). As a community who settled down to grow crops, women were responsible for feeding society, and much of the labor (Mahdavi, 2012). These new role gave women new positions in the social roles being as they contributed to the well-being of society. Women also had the job of carrying harvest, nursing, and the next generations.
Men were responsible for war and herding (Mahdavi, 2012). It is not enough evidence to conclusively understand how men were so dominant over women during the prehistory era. However, nineteenth century writers believed that some women did hold some power. This was thought to be true by scientist because of the existence of figurines, fertility statues and the importance of childbearing (www. googlebooks. com). Conquest, private property, slavery, and subordination of women to men are embedded together in history of empires in Eurasia, china, Africa, Europe, and in the Americas (www. ooglebook. com). Women in prehistory lived in times where they had few civil rights, and was often sold by their fathers to their husbands and families. Often at times women were abused not only physically but also mentally. Women were thought to have the mental capability of a child (www. googlebooks. com). Women used the lever of family relationships to gain advantages within their social restraints. They negotiated daily balance of gender power often ignoring disadvantages laws and ritual regulations (www. ooglebooks. com). Economically women were important to societies because they produced the necessities in life such as food, clothing, shelter, and child care. Women’s role in society included growing, processing, and the cooking of daily food (www. googlebooks. com). Women also produced and made clothing. Women took the raw fibers or skinned a small animal to make all the materials used to make clothes. (www. googlebooks. com). the production of textiles also helped develop societies economically.
Monarchs levied taxes in home woven fabrics and supported fabrics where women wove linen or silks to drape opulent display of courts power or exchanged for armed allies (www. googlebooks. com). Although some men weaved thread in the production of clothing, women dominated the early stages of producing thread from cotton, flax, hemp, wool, feathers, and silk (www. googlebooks. com). In the Americas women roles were the same as present day but without the levels of equality. Vacuuming, laundry, cooking, and childcare was considered to be the women’s job.
Women had no right to say anything in matters such as transferring property their roles in society was to be the nurturers and take care of domestics, as well as manual labor some cultures even left the job of repairing and building homes to women. In ancient societies the lives of women was focused on their husbands and households. In the Greek city- state of Athens from about 500 to 300 B. C. , Women raised children and managed the spinning, weaving, and cooking around the house, where as the men held the responsibility of soldiering, law making, buying goods, and public speaking (Giele, 2012).
Wealthy women supervised slaves, but also worked themselves. Athenian women almost never left their homes out of respect for their husbands. In ancient Rome women also mainly stayed at home to bear children and handle matters of the house hold. In ancient Rome women was not allowed to hold public offices. The development of the hierarchy system in ancient Rome allowed married women also known as Matrons of wealthy married families have greater control over their property and have greater control over marriage decisions, however they could not vote or hold public office as the men was still dominant over the women (Giele, 2012).
The middle ages began around A. D. 400’s. Women of the middle ages lived life the same as before. Women stayed out of public affairs and maintained the household, and took care of the children. There were two changes within the roles of women during the middle ages which were the nun, and women began to be active in trade. Women involved in trading were either a merchant or they were an artisan (Giele, 2012). The convent for nuns grew during the middle ages. The convent for women/nuns offered women a choice.
Women especially upper class women had an alternative to marriage, and convents also provided education, and spiritual development, and also control over lands through the convents (Giele, 2012). In the 1200’s, women found increasing opportunities for independence as artisans and merchants in the medieval cities of England, France, Germany, and other western European lands (Giele, 2012). During the Renaissance period individual rights began to arise. Changes in religious and political area also began to develop.
The Renaissance was a period of great culture and intellectual activity that spread throughout Europe from the 1300’s to about the 1600’s (Giele, 2012). Humanism was a very important to the Renaissance era. Humanism emphasized the importance of human beings and the nature and place in the universe (Giele, 2012). This was very important to women because they began to be noticed as individual, and not just wives, or mothers. Renaissance When humanism took place during the renaissance education for women became better and more important to society. Women also began to have more responsibility within the family.
Reformation was a religious movement during the 1500’s that encouraged women individuality. Marriage during those times no longer gave man all the power and responsibility. Now marriage was considered to be an equal union between two parties. Divorce was now a matter of choice instead as a fulfillment of obligations to parents of the church (Giele, 2012). During the Renaissance another period of time called the Enlightenment which spanned over Europe in the 1600’s and 1700’s, which allowed educated women the right to participate in intellectual and political debates (Giele, 2012).
Women’s roles as workers also expanded during the period of Enlightenment. In Western Europe and American colonies women worked as innkeepers, landowners, midwives, printers, servants, teachers, and textile workers (Giele, 2012). Women in rural places continued working on large farms, their own lands (homes, cottages), and gardens, and urban women and some rural women both continued to knit, sew, and other home industries that made crucial contributions to the household income (Giele, 2012). Third world women suffered tremendous forms of oppression.
Violence against women was as normal as women not having any rights or says so in matters concerning their own homes. Women in these countries were virtually slave’s labor in households, unpaid for their work as mothers who created a new generation of workers (Leacock, 1977). Women were often abused mentally and physically. Third world women were often on the brutal end of domestic abuse and violence. Third world women were also subjected to economic, legal, and social disabilities (Leacock, 1977). Women of the Qing dynasty got mistreated and abused in very painful mental and physical ways.
Chinese Qing dynasty actually had laws set in place to excuse the rape of women by their soldiers (www. googlebooks. com). The female infanticide, harassment of widows, and or sati which was the burning of a widower on the bed of combustible materials that her husband died on, sometimes a widower wanted to die to be with her husband and other women was forced to do a sati by force. These traditions was founded in the areas of India, china, and Cameroon; the worldwide trade and enslavement of women as workers and concubines, and female genitals mutilation, or death is still practiced in some societies around the world today (www. ooglebooks. com). The expansion of European empires into the Americas, Asia, and Africa caused a clash of cultures on imperial frontiers because the rights of women were undetermined (www. googlebooks. com). In the nineteenth century North American and European women formed feminist movements demanding the education and civil rights, women from all over the world joined together and formed similar feminist groups to fight for the rights to equality. In 1500 monarchies were found everywhere (www. googlebooks. com).
Only women within the palace had influence, and power these influential women also was more likely to have power on behalf of their sons, or brothers than their gender (www. googlebooks. com). Women having such great family based power are still significant in the late twentieth century especially in the Southeast Asia, and Latin America where women are chosen to be national leaders and representatives (www. googlebook. com). Before the American and French Revolutions women lost power due to the replacement of republics and democracies.
Although Queens were still powerful in England, Russia, and Australia, they had had no clear authority to give women equal rights as men had. European and Americans were in forefront of the women suffrage period (www. google. com). Women’ equal rights to civil and personal liberties were articulated publicity in Europe during the French Revolution (www. googlebook. com). After Napoleons defeat in 1815, European governments were very open about their opposition to a women’s participation in politics (www. googlebooks. com).
Men wanted to have complete control over the government and its policies making women inferior in status within the communities. In the United States of America, abolitionist women, denied the public the right to protest slavery, they enunciated their own need for civil liberties (www. googlebooks. com). Revolutionary European women echoed these demands of equal rights during the nineteenth century as male suffrage became universal (www. googlebooks. com). In the twentieth century women’s movements (feminist groups) acknowledged the importance of women’s rights socially, which spread to and beyond Europe.
Middle class women absorbed the ideas of education, personal autonomy, and political rights in China, India, Egypt, Argentina, and Mexico (www. googlebooks. com). Women of New Zealand and Australia were the first in the world to vote in national elections (www. googlbooks. com). Political equality was finally won. After New Zealand most women in independent countries could vote and hold office after 1960 (www. googlbooks. com). Women have been considered as less than a man throughout history for a few reasons.
Women has be thought of as basically stupid, (unable to make decisions on their own), and typically needy. It is suggested that this was why women were ruled by a man and had no rights to make decisions concerning matters of her home, marriage or legal issues. Men were relied on for the hunting of food, law making, and family decisions. Women’s role always included caring, nurturing, and childcare, as well as maintaining the structure at home while the man goes out to handle personal business and work.
After all the years of being ousted as invalids within the communities, women gained the rights to equality. Women’s movements fought long and hard to bring forth the importance of a women’s right to education, political, social, and economical freedom. Women have also won the rights to choose birth control. Women are very powerful and through all of the abuse trials and tribulations women are still striving to be the best they can in societies. References Giele, J. (2012). Women’s Movement. In Academic World Book.
Retrieved from http://www. worldbookonline. com/academic/article? id=ar608570+women+movements Leacock, E. (1977). Women, Development, and Anthropological Facts and Fictions. Latin American perspectives, Vol. 4, No. ?, women class struggle pp. 8-17 Mahdavi, F. (2012). World history: The human experience to 1500. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education. www. googlebooks. com. Women in World History, Volume 1 Readings from Prehistory to 1500 www. googlebooks. com. Women in World History, Volume 2