Changes In The Role Of Women Between The Sixteenth And The Twentieth Century

1411 words - 6 pages

Over long periods of time change is often inevitable. One such instance of change throughout history is that of family members and their role in not only the family, but also in society as a whole. Although changes can be seen in the roles of every family member, it can be argued that the role of women in the family, especially that of mothers, changed the most. Between the sixteenth century and the twentieth century, the role that mothers played in the family and in society changed greatly.
Since the sixteenth century, one of the most important roles of mothers, or women in general, was to have children. Although most women accepted this role and believed it was their duty to have children, not every woman was pleased with this seemingly confining role. Within the confines of this role there were also many misconceptions. At the time, most people believed that although male involvement was necessary for the conception of children, women controlled many aspects of the child, including the sex of the child. While it was a common belief that women controlled certain aspects of pregnancy, women really had no control over when and if they got pregnant. Prior to the eighteenth century there was really no indication of widespread use of birth control methods. Without reliable birth control, women would often become a mother within their first year of marriage and continue to have children every couple of years until menopause. Although women during this time period experienced high birth rates, they often did not end up raising nearly as many children as they gave birth to, since the infant mortality rate and death rate were very high. With such a high death rate, birth control was not as necessary as it would be in a more modern society. However, even without modern birth control methods some women still found ways to give birth to fewer children. One common way in which the number of births was limited was by marrying late. Although this provided some reduction in the number of children a woman had, once she was married she would begin to have children at regular intervals.
While in general women during this time period gave birth to many children, social class had an impact on just how many children a mother had. Prior to the nineteenth century, poor women had fewer children than wealthy women even though at the time their role was the same; to procreate. Some reasons as to why wealthy women had more children than poor women include health, loss of husbands, and breast feeding. Poorer women were less likely than wealthy women to have enough to eat. A lack of nutrients could result in amenorrhea and miscarriages as well as other reproductive problems. Also, with the staggering death rates, women were likely to lose their husbands before they reached menopause. While wealthy women would sometimes remarry for economic or social reasons, poor women would commonly remain widows. Finally, wealthy women were likely to put their babies out to wet...

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