WSTU Exam Questions (essay)

WSTU Exam Questions (essay) - 1 Thursday WOMEN AND WESTERN...

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Thursday, December 13, 2007 WOMEN AND WESTERN CIV FINAL EXAM, 2007 Essay 1 : Describe some of the historical changes that brought women out of the home and into the public sphere in Western Civilization after 1800. A symbol of changing gender norms and stereotypes, the "new woman" first emerged in the late nineteenth century. Less constrained by the previous generations’ Victorian norms and domesticity, the new woman had greater freedom to pursue public roles, flaunt her sex appeal,” and challenge conventional gender roles. The “new woman” ideal brought Ibsen’s character Nora Helmer out of her doll's house in 1879 (Yalom, 264) and later on, women out of their own houses and into the workplace. These new freedoms, however, met with hostility from both men and women who objected to women's public presence and foresaw an imminent decline in morality. Expressing autonomy and individuality, the new woman represented the tendency of young women at the turn of the century to reject their mothers' ways in favor of new, modern choices. In America, the late nineteenth century witnessed hundreds, maybe thousands, of these women who sought freedom and autonomy even if it meant denying the claims of wifehood and motherhood and moving out of the home and into the public sphere. The most prominent change about the “new woman” was her increased presence in the public sphere and away from the home. Whereas the lives of most nineteenth-century women - especially middle-class women but also domestic servants and slaves - tended to revolve around home life, modern women ventured into jobs, politics, and culture outside the domestic realm. They did not do so, however, on equal terms with men; women remained economically and politically subordinate to men in the early twentieth century. New Women did not gain their “freedom” without a fight. Conservative forces in society, including churches and such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, vehemently opposed women's new roles and “directed their attacks against 1
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the restlessness of the new Woman and her abandonment of domesticity” (Yalom, 228). Others who supported change, such as progressive era thinkers, reformers, and suffragists, defended her right to rebel against fixed gender roles and also emphasized the need for a woman to support herself. Certain historical events contributed substantially to the shift from women in the home to women in the public sphere. More premarital and extramarital sex, more economic independence, more divorce, and more serial marriage are trends that did not start yesterday. Rather, “they are rooted in historical changes that began more than a hundred years ago, most notably in the sexual attitudes and experiences of American couples, and in work opportunities for women outside the home” (Yalom, 354). Among the most sweeping changes to occur in the United States was the economy's
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WSTU Exam Questions (essay) - 1 Thursday WOMEN AND WESTERN...

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