Do Women Ever Do Any Hard Work?

It is a very common saying by many persons who are opposed to the Woman’s Rights question, that the women never claim the right to do any of the hard and laborious work; all they want is the right to do any of the easy kind, and leave the hard work for the men to do.

But such is not the fact; and if such objectors would take a journey into Europe they would find that the women did their share of hard work as well as men, particularly in Germany and France. Also in England, go into the harvest fields, and you will find the women reaping down the wheat, all day long, and receiving the same wages as the men; go into the hay fields and the women are there; look into the fields of barley, beans, oats, peas and turnips, and the women are there; ’tis true they don’t do any of the mowing, but they perform various sorts of labor there, the like of which is seldom seen in this country; to be sure a great deal of it is of a very healthy character, and has a beneficial effect upon the constitution.

You will find the women in all the large Gardens, Shrubberies and Orchards at work; and in the Dairies, there they are, milking the cows, and making the butter and cheese.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Women’s Suffrage Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily (1849-1856), National Citizen and Ballot Box (1878-1881), The Revolution (1868-1872), The New Citizen (1909-1912), The Western Woman Voter (1911-1913), The Woman’s Tribune (1883-1909) and the antisuffrage newspaper, The Remonstrance (1890-1913).

Go into the Iron Districts, and you will see the women, both married and single, at the forges working Iron, and receiving the same wages as the men, for the same kind of work, particularly where they forge nails and rivets—likewise they work at the needle and fish-hook manufacturing.

Go into the towns, and there you will see them serving customers in all kinds of stores—attending to, working at, and carrying on all kinds of trades, sorting and packing up all sorts of goods in factories and warehouses; they do all kinds of weaving, dyeing, knitting, spinning, and sewing of all kinds of articles in use; they work at the shoe trade, and not a hat made but they have a hand at it; some you will find, keep Post offices, teach school, and preach the gospel; others employ their time in doctoring, nursing and attending on the sick; some you will find in Bake-houses, making bread and various other things made in such places; and in butcher’s shops I have seen them cut up carcasses equal to men, and for Barbers they can’t be beat. Others go out washing clothes, and brewing beer all day long, and which are very different operations to anything you see done here; besides a great many of them have to attend to their own house affairs as well; so that woman’s work is said to be never done; and now tell me, if women don’t work hard, who does?

It is not necessary to go to Europe to find hard working women, for it is not alone in England, Germany and France that women do hard work. They may be found nearer home. Though the women of those countries may engage in different employment from those of the women of this country, yet we think the laboring women of the United States perform as hard labor as is done by men. Many of the employments mentioned by our friend we should not regard as any harder than toiling over the wash tub all day, or house-cleaning, or even the labor of the kitchen, where one has to do all the work of a large family. Indeed, we think it would be a happy change—so far at least as health is concerned—were our women permitted to go into the hay fields, the fields of barley, beans, oats, peas and turnips—the gardens, shrubberies and orchards to labor, instead of being confined, as many of them now are, to the drudgery of the wash tub and cook stove, and shut out from the pure air and bright sunshine.

The advocates of Women’s Rights do not “claim the right of woman to do hard and laborious work,” for that right is freely accorded her now. But they do claim the right of woman to choose her own employments, and to decide for herself whether she shall do the laborious work of the kitchen, or engage in some of the lighter, pleasanter and more healthy branches of business now monopolized by men. They claim the right of each individual to do what they have capacity for doing well, without regard to Sex.

Source: The Lily, December 1, 1854
Top Image: Women working at spinning machines in a textile factory from an 1836 George White engraving.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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