Women-Preneurs - (Gilded Age)
by A. Montalbano on 04/13/20
During the late 1800s, the economy had taken a downturn until the discovery of gold in the Yukon. Because of the Panic of '93, a one-income family was no longer the norm. More women sought employment in numbers although the expectation of marriage and start families still drove the social norm. Considered as second-class citizens, women had no rights, could not own property, could not vote and had little to no choices. (Learn more about The Gilded Age - a time of turmoil). Fathers and husbands dictated the future of their wives and daughters which lead to oppression. Wealthy women received better opportunities in education allowing for careers in teaching, nursing and secretarial. Three quarters of women in the workforce were single allowing for much independence like never before. Women fashion changed considerably. No more was the dress for pleasure a likely fit for being in the workforce. Women colleges offered sports and helped usher in the change of sensible fashion apart from the Victorian era. Ready-to-wear comfort was preferable for the long grueling work hours imposed in factories, hospitals and schools.
The bicycle craze
rolled out bikes in record numbers. It was a great form of mobility and brought greater independence for women. The freedom it conjured created a boom of social groups with shared interests leading to social reforms. One of the most important social reforms brought on change to the lives of many women was the Women Rights Movement
(One powerful movie barely tapping into the long struggle is depicted in the film, "Iron Jawed Angels, starring Hilary Swank as Alice Paul
, activist and suffragette.)
Many social reforms during the late 1800s were found by women. Jane Addams
was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Amelia Bloomer, publisher for "the Lily" a temperance paper, was also known for popularizing "bloomers". You may have heard the story of Madam C.J. Walker, founder of hair-care products for African American women. (Watch Netflix's, "Self-Made" starring Octavia Spencer portrayal of Madam C.J. Walker.)
We are infatuated with Coco Chanel
from the Little Black Dress to fragrance to handbags and eye-wear. But her story is larger than life and she remains at the helm of women-movers and shakers throughout the decades.
Harriet "Ma" Pullen made her way to the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska. With little money to her name, she found employment selling apple pies leading to bigger enterprises. Her ventures allowed her to maintain herself and her children. With the purchase of a mansion from her employer she created an ever-lasting name for herself in Alaska. Converting the mansion into a famous luxury hotel, the name Pullen House, would continue in operation until the 1950s.
These women were just a handful of pioneers creating a path for a better society while using the power of perseverance to crush barriers, knocking stereotypes and leaving their mark in history.
While it is important to know of the historical events that defined the progress of women, it is more important to understand who the key figures were and how they sacrificed themselves to shape a society to include women.