William Henry Chafe’s has written “sending a daughter to college [was] like letting the genie out of the bottle.
” Chafe, a historian, is writing about a time period in the not-so-distant past, an era where women were not encouraged, and in fact were specifically discouraged, from attending college. Chafe’s comment indicates that the exposure to the world of learning was analogous to opening up a wide range of possibilities for women. Much like a genie that has been trapped in an enclosed environment and then released into the world, women were released from their enclosure in the domestic sphere and exposed to the possibilities than are concomitant with the college experience.
Genies, however, must eventually return to their bottles, and the expectation for college-educated women was similar: women were expected to return to the domestic environment and continue their roles as wives and mothers. The immersion in another world, a world full of possibilities, led women to be increasingly dissatisfied with their traditional social functions. Options for work were slim for those women who did seek employment. Over time, the education of a large number of women has had a profound effect on the workforce and family structure. Increasing numbers of women work, but even today they are not always perceived as equals. The fact that pay equity and non-discrimination clauses must be legislated points to the fact that women’s roles as equals cannot be assumed. In terms of family structure, many children are raised in families where both parents work. There is no longer a mother at home for the child’s entire childhood.
However, for most families, having two incomes is a necessity to survive in the current economic climate. There really is no choice but to have two incomes. With young girls growing up seeing their mothers working, it provides an impetus for them to strive to achieve at least as much, if not more, as their mothers. There is no assumption that any field is too difficult for a woman to work in.