How Roles of Wives Changed

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Women have always been viewed as property; they were expected to bear and take care of children. For example, during the Victorian Era, women wore constricting corsets to accentuate their hips and breasts. Displaying their assets showed that they could bear children and to feed them (Fleming). In Judy Brady’s essay, ‘I Want a Wife’, she talks about the stereotypical roles a wife had, and why she, a mother and a wife, also wanted a wife. Brady graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.

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F.A and met her husband where she became a full-time housewife, according to her obituary. She published her satirical work to MS magazine in 1972; Brady also became an iconic feminist for advocating abortion rights. Since then, the roles of a wife have changed because more women have received an education, and started working. Before, most women were not allowed to receive an education unless they were from an affluent family.

A woman’s goal in life was to look for a husband, so he can provide for her. Wives were expected to be faithful to their husbands, even if the husbands were committing adultery. Women’s only skills were to care for children, cook, clean, and to please the husband. For example, one of the expectations is to not vacuum the house after the husband comes home from work because it’ll irritate him. Education is important because it helps people become knowledgeable about their surroundings, improve critical thinking skills and develop problem-solving skills. According to the federal law, ‘Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972’, it states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Women started becoming more educated and started becoming more independent. They started focusing on their goals and aspirations and were beginning to wean off from marriage.

Most educated women were more focused on developing skills for their careers and waited until a later time to marry and have a few kids (UNICEF). Because women started seeking out higher education, they were able to work in higher paying jobs. Women first started working in more ‘masculine’ jobs during the World Wars, where all the men were off. They were working in factories producing: ammunition, weapons, and parts for equipment; working as engineers building: ships, airplanes, and submarines; and working in auxiliary: being either an officer, nurse, or conductor (Striking Women).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the data shows, “Women’s labor force participation, which was at a rate of 33.9 percent in 1950, increased significantly during the 1970s and 1980s, climbing to 57.5 percent in 1990. In 1999, the women’s participation rate reached a peak of 60 percent.” This evidence correlates to another publication of the Bureau of Labor Statistics where they publish the distribution percentage of women’s education and earnings. The graph shows that 42% of women held a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 1970 where it was 11%. Another thing to note is, women’s earning has grown over time. In 1979, their earnings compared to men’s was 62% and for 2016, women’s earning was 82%. While women aren’t forced to adhere to the stereotypical roles of a wife, there is still discrimination in education and the workforce. In public schools, there is sex discrimination based on their stereotypes. Educational programs are designed to based on the boys’ and girls’ brains function and the students are subjected to these generalized teaching methods (ACLU). This directly violates Title IX because it is discriminating students based on their sex. Despite the sexism occurring in schools, women are educated with how a marriage is supposed to function. In today’s society, the moniker of a wife has no significant meaning.

Marriage is seen as a two-person job where both man and woman are expected to have the same amount of responsibilities. For example, a divorced couple could have joint custody where they both are responsible for their child. In 1970, if a man was divorced, their first course of action was to find a wife to mother their child, but in today’s generation, men are taking on more responsibility to care for their children as a single parent. Refering to, ‘A Look at Women’s Education and Earnings Since the 1970s’ from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women are not being paid equally to men. Women make up about 47% of the workforce, 58% work either full or part-time while having children, and 55% of the working women have technical or professional jobs (DPE). Women are being paid less as men because of corporations in America. “By suppressing working women’s wages, they maximize their profits and pay less to the government in taxes, and pay less in employer contributions to pension plans for all women,” stated in, ‘Why Women Don’t Deserve Equal Pay’, by the Department for Professional Employees. Women are belittled in the workforce, but they are able to provide for their families, changing the role of a wife. Having both men and women work will provide financial stability for the family. By having women working, they are showing that they are capable of pursuing careers that were originally for men; it’s symbolizing that women want to be represented as equals.

In conclusion, the description of the role of a wife in 1971 isn’t still applicable to the role of a wife in 2019 because women are receiving higher education and entering the workforce.

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How Roles of Wives Changed. (2021, Mar 09). Retrieved from