How do Labor Systems Relate to Gender and Racial Inequalities

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The period between the 1820s and the 1920s was characterized by industrialization and expansion in the urbanization sector. By 1920, most Americans resided in cities. Technology innovation promoted the acceleration of industrialization during this period. Other factors such as changes in the social and political systems, and an increasing need among Americans to support economic growth in the country also promoted development. Industrialization relied on the division of labor, which entailed breaking tasks into smaller jobs and working with machines to increase production. This period was characterized by the use of labor systems such as slavery and the domestic ideology system. Miners, who were also referred to as “white slaves” because of their nationality, worked under unhealthy conditions, which contributed to injuries and loss of lives for some workers. The low wages associated with these labor systems also undermined human dignity. Between the 1820s and the 1920s, labor systems played a significant role in determining the types of jobs allocated to women and men. Labor systems in the United States focused on promoting productivity in plantations, manufacturing industries, and other sectors with the aim of achieving economic development. They also divided roles based on gender and race. Most men and women in America worked in different areas during this period. Technology innovation improved the productivity of mechanizations in the United States. The major political parties that were in power during the 1830s and the 1840s saw great opportunities in material production and its ability to expand the economy of the country.

At the same time, the Democratic Party favored the application of free trade practices while the Whig Party was more inclined to use of protective tariffs that would regulate trade and raise the price of foreign good, thereby giving domestic companies a competitive advantage over the foreign companies (Majewski, Jacobson, Razek, 2001, p. 3) Women and men worked in the factories despite challenges such as low pay and unhealthy working conditions. Legal distinctions between men and women between the 1820s and the 1920s were based on their position in the society, level of education, and work. Gender issues during this period were based on the need to promote equality in the roles that women and men played in society. Most public jobs considered male workers as opposed to equally qualified women based on the belief in male supremacy and the inability of women to perform well in social, political, and business sectors. The first half of the nineteenth century was based on the belief in the domestic ideology.

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According to this concept, women were viewed as efficient home workers while men were expected to take up formal employment. People assumed that women possessed talents and values that made them more suitable for household chores such as cleaning and cooking while men’s nature and the abilities they possessed made them more effective in business, politics, and other public professions. This assumption was purely based on people’s view of how men and women presented themselves in society and their interactions with other people. Women were portrayed as being kind-hearted, loving, sentimental, caring, and naturally virtuous, while men were viewed as being calculating, unsympathetic, competitive, and cold (Majewski, Lisa, & Razek, 2001, p. 9). This assumption contributed to the roles that females and males were given from a young age. The domestic ideology affected women greatly as it limited the opportunities that they were given in the public sector and further cemented their domestic roles. Despite the qualifications and capabilities that women had to take up political and social responsibilities, the existence of this ideology limited them from participating in public sectors. Godey’s Lady’s Book, written by Louis Godey was particularly keen on advocating for the division between the roles played by men and women in the society and the domestic ideology (Godey Lady, p. 9). The magazine was commonly red by middle-class women in North America who were more likely to abide by its concepts. Between 1820 and 1920, gender differences were also focused on access to education and the importance of educating male children. The society did not see any significance in educating women based on the domestic ideology and the limitations it placed on their gender. Gender roles became a major factor in the education systems. While men were being exposed to business, social, and politics through the formal education system, women were subjected to lessons related to language, household chores, embroidery, singing, playing instruments, acting, and sculpting. Other career paths that were set aside for women included the fashion and arts. Despite how skilled women were in these careers, their ability to play instruments professionally, and development of interest in the public sector, they were never viewed as being good enough to participate in formal employment (Godey Lady, p. 9).

Most women learned their skills to perfect their talents and beautify their homes. Godey in his book argues that although a young woman may be educated and excel in speaking different languages such as Italian and French, be able to repeat a few passages books, sing like a siren, and have excellent skills in playing an instrument, and the society would still view her as being poorly educated. His observation might be based on the inability of the female to handle issues related to businesses due to lack of education and experience in such areas (Godey Lady, p. 9). The domestic ideology promoted gender inequality and the perception that society had about women. Before 1920, Native Americans, Africans, and European who had migrated to the country characterized the United States population. Although slavery was abolished by 1840 in the Northern States, it was still a common practice among the Southerners. The ethnic differences Americans and the immigrants who were either brought in the country as slaves or moved there to work contributed to racial discrimination. Factors such as poverty, politics, and the economic state of the country fueled slavery and the need for cheap labor. The lack of democracy might have also contributed to the mistreatment of laborers. The authors note that such individuals are more likely to obtain a certain level of equality among democratic people (Alexis de Tocquevillie Marvels pp. 3-4).

Aside from African American slavery, the 1840s were also characterized by “white slavery.” During this period, Americans began referring to women who worked as prostitutes and male laborers who were paid low wages as “white slaves.” Most of the men referred to as “white slaves” had migrated from Central Europe and Ireland and settled in the United States. These individuals were paid low wages while exposed to demeaning jobs such as prostitution among the White women and coal mining among the male laborers. Despite the amelioration in the social and political systems that were used during this period, the “White slaves” continued to work in deplorable conditions, laboring from early morning until night to attain enough wages to sustain themselves and their families. While working in these factories and mining industries, they were never informed of the prospects of their work and lived with the fear of possible termination of their employment (“White Slavery” p. 5). They did not have powerful unions to protect themselves from the harassment, cruelty and the demeaning nature of the jobs they did. Slavery was seen in the way rich Whites treated immigrants who sought employment and had settled in America. There is a high likelihood that the miners who had moved from Ireland and Central American only accepted the meager pay they got due to lack of alternatives.

They also tolerated the demeaning nature of their jobs due to poverty. The authors acknowledge the effects that poverty had on these individuals, referring to it as the plague that people had started viewing as a natural grade in society (“White Slavery” p. 5). These workers were ignorant of what was going on around them and did not participate in any government affairs such as the election of leaders or taking part in leadership positions. Although they had a serene nature and seemed jovial, they faced many challenges in their lives and endured years of hard labor on the farms. On the other hand, the rich White Americans living in America enjoyed the results of cheap and free labor provided by the miners. Alexis de Tocqueville in his analysis on the Northern society marveled at the differences between the rich and the poor. While the poor were immune to recognizing the extent of the suffering they had endured, the rich never stopped to think of the good things they had in life such as freedom from oppression and free will (Alexis de Tocqueville Marvels p. 3). Tocqueville goes on to explain the discrimination that is seen even in cases where democracy is practiced, which can be equated to the inequality that people of different racial or ethnic groups faced between the 1820s and the 1920s. According to Tocqueville, men easily obtain a certain level of equality in democratic systems. However, they would never be able to acquire the kind of fairness they want (Alexis de Tocqueville Marvels p. 3) Tocqueville ideologies show the continued effect that slavery systems had on people and its effects on their lives. The division of work based on the domestic ideology enabled women and men to work in areas that suited their skills, emotional and physical strengths, and their interests. Women were caring, soft-spoken, sympathetic, and sentimental while most men were cold, competitive, calculating, and business-minded.

As such, allocating men careers in the public sector suited their personality. Restricting women to household chores was sensible as these jobs aligned with their calm and caring nature. While men were schooled on business, political and public related issues, women were educated on embroidery, fashion, music, and painting. The domestic ideology ensured that women and men were only exposed to the form of education that they would apply in their lives rather than subjecting them to a single education system. Although measures may be put in place to abolish racial discrimination, these issues will continue to affect labor systems in America. No matter how people strive to attain equality, there can never be perfection and parity among people from different racial groups. Most of the individuals who worked as miners and received low-wages were immigrants from other nations. The differences seen between people from varying ethnic groups will continue to affect society. Similarly, these domestic ideologies created a system that divided people based on gender roles. Most of the public jobs related to business and politics were considered as a male territory while household chores were viewed as a woman’s job. The inscription of these beliefs on people minds limited women to domestic roles and careers such as acting and painting while promoting male development in professional occupations.

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How do Labor Systems Relate to Gender and Racial Inequalities. (2020, Jul 06). Retrieved from