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 American Literature

Final Project Example: Women's Roles

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Women's Roles

I think one of the most revolutionary changes in American history was the change in how women played a role in our society. I chose this topic because it is important to realize what women went through to get to where they are today.

First one should picture a woman slaving over a pot belly stove, as they would have been doing in stories such as "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle". Not farther into the future one should see ladies powdered in lace and dainty like what the perfect little woman should be as seen in "The Birthmark". But when the Ruth Hall time period rolls along one should imagine a woman gradually chipping away at the sexual barriers. Women are revolting and standing up for themselves as seen in Freeman's works now. A woman of great strength is standing head strong on the fierce prairie despite what ridicule she must face in O!Pioneers. Finally men are beginning to work side by side with more women in The Street and Staggerford.

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Birthmark" are perfect examples of how the first settlers of America viewed women. The women folk accustomed to their husbands needs slaving over hot stoves and dirty dishes without any question. The women sat back meekly as their husbands treated them no better than pets. They were the perfect, submissive little wives who were there only for their husbands pleasures.

As time goes on; though, women began to gradually stand for what was best for them. In Ruth Hall,Ruth forced her way into freedom just by trying to support her and her family. She was able to do this by persistence, and by finally gaining the courage to strive for what she deserved. She was the beginning of a revolution.

Women began to actually realize they were just as strong or stronger than men in Freeman's works, and Willa Cather's book O! Pioneers. It was wonderful to see the mother in "The Revolt of Mother" to move her household belongings to the barn because she was fed up with her husband not caring to realize what her needs were. In "The New England Nun" I was impressed when she didn't marry her long time beau. She new that she was happier without a man. Alexandra in O!Pioneers was also a perfect example of how a woman could be intelligent and powerful enough to be more successful than any of the men around her.

As the end of our history becomes closer, The Street and Staggerford comes to mind. The women of these two books were being pushed into the work force whether they liked it or not. They had to help provide for their families whether it be because their husbands wouldn't do it as in The Street, or because their husbands couldn't do it on their own as in Staggerford. Men were much more accepting of the growing work force full of women. These two time periods were a matter of survival.

My bulletin board displays each step that women went through to gain liberal freedom. Of course women haven't completely reached the rights that they deserve in this series of books and they still haven't reached it, but they certianly have come a long way. Learning what these different women had to go through in this series of books was definately an inspiration in my life.