Women's Role In The Antebellum South

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The Role of Women in the Antebellum South

The distinction between men and women in the Antebellum-era Southern United States can be identified in the roles that each gender was expected to fulfill as parents, spouses and citizens. While young men and women alike were encouraged to marry and immediately start a family, females were primarily given the task of caring for their children and husband. Because they were viewed as the ‘morally superior gender’, women were supposed to raise the next generation of obedient citizens, while men were free to pursue a career and get involved in politics. As a result, a movement arose to expand the rights and freedoms of women, with the ultimate goal of creating a society where equal opportunities are
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By preserving this aspect of herself, a woman was considered to be a suitable candidate for marriage. The ‘ideal’ wife was pure, submissive to their husbands and eager to serve her family, all qualities that suggested Paternalistic attitudes in society at the time. In context to the Antebellum South, Paternalism refers to the authoritative status of white men over other “subordinates or dependents in their supposed interest”, more specifically women and African Americans. It was not until these suppressed groups began working together to make their voices heard that this male dominated societal structure was effectively dismantled, and opportunities for women expanded beyond the prospects of marriage and motherhood. “In the moral, intellectual and physical cultivation of both sexes should we seek, as we can only find, the source and security of happiness and human virtue. Prejudice and fear are weak barriers against passions, which inherent in our nature and demanding only judicious training to form the ornament, and supply the best joys of our existence, are maddened into violence, varied with as pernicious indulgence.” (Doc #2)
The efforts made by the feminist movement of the Antebellum-era set forth a precedent for the expansion of women’s rights in the decades following and up until present day. The patriarchal society that had controlled the nation since its birth was finally met with opposition from those who had been oppressed for so long. Through the dismissal of restrictive gender roles and expectations, the voices of women were finally allowed to influence decision making, and ultimately create changes that would promote equal opportunity for all

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