Women in the American society have made significant gains in their standings and overall treatment. They are better placed socially and politically as compared to the past period between 1865 and 1928. Some women gained increased prominence for their contributions in enhancing the space and position of women in society. The women also faced increased challenges and hardships during this period. Different authors have captured these earlier struggles and hardship experienced by women and by portraying them in various perspectives. This paper examines the challenges and difficulties of women during the period, what can be learned from the struggles and their similarity with the problems experienced by women today. It also looks at any progress made since the time, and any significant political and social changes made since the period.
Kate Chopin discusses the racist experiences of women in the 19th C. She used The Awakening (1899) to communicate issues affecting women such as their deep desire for independence, their sexuality in a racist society, and the concerns about the constraints that affect their motherhood. In her story, "Desiree's Baby," Chopin highlights a society where women face discrimination in marriage, as suitors from the elite community look for family lineage before accepting women to be married into their family lineage. Desiree can overcome this bottleneck by getting married to Armand. They bear a child whom they both love, but Armand feels that Desiree is born of mixed race, as their child appears to have characteristics associated with the African American race. She faces racial discrimination from her spouse to which she responds that her hand is whiter than yours, Armand. Desiree starts feeling unwanted, leading her to disappear from their matrimonial home with their child to live in desolation. '
It does happen despite the fact that the husband, Armand, was the one of mixed parentage with African American genes.
Kate Chopin applies "The Story of an Hour" to depict the abusive marriages that most women went through at the time. Mrs. Mallard was expected to fill the role of a wife in her romantic relationships. However, she was too assertive to bow to the pressure of conforming to the diminished wifely roles. She can stand up against her husband to protect her freedom at a time when the society held a lowly perception of women. Times have since changed since the period in 1856, and women have more enhanced freedoms and right supported by laws. They have managed to overcome the social constraints that were rife in the US society in the past.
In the story of Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, Maggie can embrace work, which makes her an exception from the other girls who live a life of begging and prostitution. She commits to doing a monotonous and routine job that she can find, but this is remarkably better than pursuing other denigrating options favored by women like prostitution. The women lost respect in the US in the early years for being commoditized through prostitution. Most of them like Maggie also lived in poverty and squalor. Maggie can embrace the mannerisms of Pete for his liberal attitude towards the world.
Nick Larsens Quicksand speaks about the challenges of young Larsen, who had a mixed parentage. Her father died, and her mother later remarried a white person. They live in a society where African Americans were expected to first prove their usefulness for the whites to accept them in their community. Women like Helga felt that they were at war with an oppressive white society including schools and its ways, and the general population in society. She faces restrictions owing to racial constraints. It thus makes her a target by Dr. Anderson, who feels she should not have worn the black dressing because she was black. Helga feels at home when she visits Chicago, where many other people of color stay because she does not stand out as the only black. When she visits Denmark, the Danish welcome her, even though her skin tone is conspicuous as being colored. This shows that the US society had a profoundly safe level of racism as compared to the Danish people.
In The Soft-Hearted Sioux, the US government was more focused in confining Native American women into reduced territories. They were limited to missionary work and boarding schools to separate them from the white' world. Sioux women like Gertrude Simmons forced this systemic discrimination by opting to study and liberate the Native Americans from mental slavery. Her education makes her develop a free attitude that separates him from the culture of the Native Indians.
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