status of blacks and women during the market reveloution of the 19th century

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paper on women and blaqcks status in the 19th century america

Submitted: February 09, 2008

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Submitted: February 09, 2008





 Compare how status of women and free blacks evolved during the early 19th century. What did these changes have to do with the market revolution?

In the years after the American independence women and free blacks did not have the same rights as a free white male. The revolution did not grantee equal rights to all Americans. This began to gradually change in the early 19th century with the market revolution.

What was the market revolution?

According to Give Me Liberty an American History Vol1 “the market revolution was an economic transformation which was a series of innovations in transportation and communication (Foner 309).” At the time of this market revolution according to give Me Liberty an American History Vol1 “older ideas of freedom were reinforced and newer ideas were created (Foner330).” “The market revolution promoted commercial connections between far flung people, the idea of the sovereign individual which is called individualism in which Americans should depend on no one but themselves”.( Foner 332) This is according to Give Me Liberty an American History Vol1.

One would think that since freedom and individualism was so widely popular at this time in American history women and free blacks would have been granted the same freedom and individual rights of a white male but this was not the case. For according to Give Me Liberty an American History Vol1 “although the market revolution affected all Americans not all was positioned to take advantage of its benefits. The majority of blacks were slaves but free blacks were excluded from the new opportunities. The 220,000 blacks living in the Free states on the eve of the civil war suffered discrimination in every phase of their lives.  Even though virtually every northern county east of the Mississippi River reported some black residents the majority of the blacks lived in the poorest, unhealthiest sections of cities like New York, Philadelphia and Cincinnati and these neighborhoods were also subjected to occasional violent assault by white mobs.[1] The blacks were barred from school and other public facilities; free blacks constructed their own institutional life” (Foner336).


 Give Me Liberty American History Vol1 states that “many white Americans could have look forward to a life of economic accumulation and individual advancement but large numbers of free blacks experience downward mobility. It is worth to note that free blacks from the north were the last group to experience indentured servitude since the terms of emancipation required children of slave mothers to work for their masters before being freed.” (Foner 337)

Give Me Liberty an American History Vol1 states “that at the time of abolition because of widespread slave ownership among eighteenth century artisans a considerable number of blacks of northern blacks possessed craft skills but once blacks became free found it difficult to utilize these skills. Hostility from white craftsmen was just only one of the obstacles that kept blacks confined to the lowest ranks of the labor market. The white employers only hired them for nothing else but menial positions and white customers did not wish to be served by them. This resulted in a rapid decline in economic status for the blacks until by mid century. The vast majority of northern blacks labored for wages in unskilled jobs and as domestic servants. Free blacks could not take advantage of the opening of the west to improve their economic status a central component of American freedom. Federal law barred them from access to public land and by 1869 four states Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Oregon prohited them from entering their territory altogether” (Foner 337). 

The market revolution which was hoped to improve African Americans economic status in the 19th century was just a confirmation that at this time in American history blacks were denied economic and social opportunities. This also proves that it was just not the southerners who were deining them but the people of the north the same northerners who were calling for the emancipation of slaves. It was these people also who treated blacks as second class citizens.


Economic improvements for blacks would not be introduced at this time in history but a latter date. But the market revolution did help to improve situations for they were black doctors and lawyers.






According to Give Me Liberty an American History Vol1 “many opportunities opened by the market revolution were also closed to women. Since the household declined as a center of economic production many women saw their traditional roles undermined by the availability of mass produced goods previously made at home. Some women followed work as it moved from the household to the factory while others embraced a new definition of femininity which glorified a woman’s ability to create a private environment shielded from the competitive tensions of the market economy.  Although it is said that a woman’s place was in the home this was increasingly emptied of economically productive functions as worked moved from the households to workshop and factories. A woman’s role now was to sustain  no market values  like love, friendship and mutual obligation providing men with a shelter from the competitive marketplace”(foner 337).

It seems that the status of white American women did start to gradually change in the early nineteenth century although it was a small change.

According to Give Me Liberty an American History Vol1 “the earlier  ideology of “republican motherhood which allowed women  a kind of public roles as mothers of future citizens evolved subtly into the mid nineteenth century as the cult of domesticity. As more men were leaving the home for work women did exercise considerable power over personal affairs within the family. The rapid decline in the American birthrate during the nineteenth century cannot be explained except by the conscious decision of millions of women to limit the number of children they bore. The idea of domestic city minimized even women‘s indirect participation in the outside world. To both genders freedom meant fulfilling their respective inborn qualities. Men were considered rational, aggressive and domineering, while women were nurturing, selfless, ruled by their emotions and thus they were less fitting for public life. Men moved freely between public and private life spheres while women were suppose to remain cloistered in the private realm of the family.”(Foner 338)


  The rule of domestisticity did not generally apply to all women especially poor women though the rule  of  a women should stay home was greatly believed by men , economic distress and poverty  prevail in the those poor families were it was essential for both wife and husband to go out to work.

  According to According to Give Me Liberty an American History Vol1 “labor of all family me members were essential for economic survival for city dwellers and farm families. Many poor women found jobs as domestic servants, factory workers and seamstresses. The early industrialization enhanced the availability of paid work for northern women. The spread of the putting out system in industries such as shoemaking, hat making and clothing manufacturing allowed women laboring at home to contribute to family income even as they retained responsibility for domestic chores.”(Foner 339)

The upper and middle class women experience something different than the poor women. These rich and wealthy women enjoyed a different kind of freedom. They experience this kind of freedom because they were wives, daughters and sisters of rich and upper and middle class men. According to According to Give Me Liberty an American History Vol1 “in the middle class it showed respectively when wives remain at home outside the disorderly market economy while their husbands conducted their business in their offices, shops and factories. In the large cities were it previously families of different social classes lived near each other, fashionable middle class neighborhoods populated by merchants, factory owners and professionals like lawyers and doctors began to develop. The house chores and other work in the middleclass homes were done by domestic servants the largest employment for women in the nineteenth century America.

Therefore the freedom of the middleclass woman was freedom from labor, the labor in which was rested on the employment of other women in her home.”(foner339)

In conclusion the market revolution though it brought opportunities also caused division in an already divided society. While some women enjoyed a certain level of freedom this freedom did not cause men especially in the middle class to allow their wives to work outside the home. Poor women were allowed to work outside the home only for economic reasons although they did enjoy this freedom they were not paid well for it and were constantly the servants of the middle class women. It may seem to people that women at this time were gaining freedom but as it was shown it was a false perception.

  White women did gain a little more freedom than blacks especially the upper class women.  Blacks were confined to the lowest and hardest jobs while white women seem to have gotten better jobs than the blacks.

  It is interesting to see that a country which was formed on the value of freedom and independence seems to have made that freedom a club. A club that only certain members of that society can enter.

  Women and blacks would have to wait for the 20th century before they gained their rights, freedom and independence.

Works citied

Foner  Eric  “ Give  Me  Liberty !  An American History Vol1”

WW .Norton& Company New York. London 2005



[1] in  1829  armed bands attacked blacks and destroyed their homes in Cincinnati

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