Thursday, April 2, 2015

Women: Latin American vs. Western Europe

From 1750-1914 while women in Latin America and Western Europe had similar roles, their goals and mindsets were very different, as were the differences in classes. While the actual jobs women pursued from 1750 to 1914 did not change drastically, what women did with their changing mindsets and goals would change one society drastically and maintain the other.

Latin American women worked within and without their families. In Latin America, women operated small businesses or helped with their husbands business. Textile, craft, and food businesses as well as spinning, weaving, and gardening were among the common ways to generate income for the family. But, women’s primary role in Latin America was the homemaker; this was strongly reinforced by the Catholic belief that a woman’s role in society was to be a wife and mother rather than be involved in politics or positions of authority. Thus, these lower class women in Latin America worked just as hard as their husbands, and often in poorer families, alongside them.

Much like the Latin American women, all western European women took care of household and family affairs, but lower class women also took on jobs to contribute to the family income. They worked in mines, textile mills, and various workhouses and factories but despite their ambition and skills women were paid one third of men’s wages. Lower class women, much like Latin American women, married farmers and merchants and worked just as hard as their husbands.

For middle and upper class elite women, the European experience was radically different. The upper class women did not have jobs like the lower class did, thus they were able to attain a much better education. In fact, during this time period, many women began taking on jobs as School Mistresses; by 1911 seventy three percent of all teachers in England were women. Women even influenced the enlightenment as writers. In addition, they organized salons, and were active in revolutions and early socialism. Upper, middle, and lover classes began fostering the ideas and mentalities necessary for the women’s suffrage movement.

Women in Latin America were originally more influential than European women, as Latin American societies tended to be less socially restrictive on what was expected of women. In Latin American colonies, women were completely under and submitted to their male counterparts, and oddly enough, this was mostly the case with elite women. Women of lower classes, instead had to work, but they did strictly keep to working within their homes, weaving baskets or tending fields. But unlike western women they were somewhat content with this lifestyle.

Women in Europe were fighting for suffrage and demanding rights, contrary to the content homely attitudes of the Latin American women. Women even demanded the right to bear arms in the first French revolution so they might participate in the rebellion too. Although women’s suffrage was not fully realized of revolutionized in Europe until after 1914, the ideas were implanted in the society and were quickly gaining momentum.

Latin American women did gain freedom to participate in political discussion, quite like the women in French salons. But, they continued to be denied the right to vote. A culture of male dominance influenced the way Latin American women acted, spoke, and thought. While they desired freedoms and rights, they did not begrudge the homemaking as much as European women seemingly did.

Still, women’s roles in Western Europe and Latin America were very similar; neither region expected women to work outside the home, unless necessity dictated it. In addition in 1914, many parts of Western Europe, like Latin America, had not yet given women the right to vote; French women would not gain the right to vote until the 1940’s. Latin American women participated in 1820’s independence movements, but gained no political rights from them.

The period from 1750 to 1914 marked radical paradigm shifts in the way women thought of their roles. In Europe their goals changed radically, but it took longer for others to catch on to their vision. For the better or for worse, this period would change the role of women and their place in the family forever. In Latin America women too, wanted rights and freedoms, but the lower classes did not disdain their duties, rather they simply wished for opportunities. From 1750 to 1914 the actual roles and duties of women did not change in Latin America, nor Europe, very radically, but the mindsets and goals were revolutionized and would lead to radical propositions.