A new economy system based on manufacturing was on the verge of expanding in America in the early 19th century. By mid-19th century industrialism had taken dominance over agriculture in America and become a strong leader in economy. It made a modernized economy possible but it was not without its growing pains. Women developed from mere property to valuable yet abused workers in the factory systems. Labor unions were created as a result of the mistreatment and abuse of workers. Differences in geography translated into differences in economic ways resulting in extreme sectional differences.
Women and Industrialism
The position of women before the industrial revolution was very much like chattel. They were treated like property and expected to cook, clean, and become mothers. As women began in their history as working citizens their story is full of abuse and torture. However, the industrial revolution improved their position in society.
Wages were set extremely low due to the amount of unemployed existing in the 19th century. Families had to send their women to work just to make ends meet. This impacted family structure because the primary caretaker was now working a twelve hour day and could not play the role of mother also. Women were employed in the lowest paid, least stable, and most unrewarding occupations.
Especially after 1870, the number of women in the industrial work force grew significantly. A large portion of working women were young, single, and sent to work by their families to make wages to earn their dowry. Industrialization impacted women in that their role from domestic servant to working employee became popular.
The increasing use of machinery required the use of women for their small hands and figures that made them capable of using and fixing the machines. The societal view of women, however, remained the same. Women were looked down upon during the industrial revolution by men who thought they were breaking the law of domesticity and family structure. Even other women looked down upon married women who were in the work force. Industrialization affected the structure of gender divisions in the workplace, putting and keeping women in an inferior position in the workplace.
The industrial revolution led to a never-ending battle for justice within the working class. Organized work labor unions fought for rights and appropriate working conditions in the factories. Industrialization led to many workers losing jobs or having wages lowered because of the increasing technological developments. Industrialization brought stress and conflict between business and labor force and in an attempt to balance the flow of power the labor force created labor unions to help fight for better working conditions and rights.
The American Federation of Labor Union was the most successful in fighting for skilled craft worker’s wages and working conditions. Labor unions fought for a shorter work day and eventually with government involvement the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938, which stated that a work day could last a maximum or 8-hours and a workweek was a maximum of 40-hours.
North Versus South
This sectional economy formed the United States into two regions with distinctly differing economic stabilizers. The north, a commercial society, which supported industry and commerce while the south, an agrarian civilization, flourished in the production of raw materials with the use of slaves. Both of these sectional economies were strong and could have supported a nation. However, the regional differences meant to build America in diversity and economic strength would eventually tear America apart. The northern economy was built on commercial strength of mercantile and, industrial society.
During the 1800s, the north experienced an industrial revolution. Many factories sprang up in prominent cities such as New York, leading to an increase in unskilled labor. Population sizes grew due to the swell in job opportunities, urbanization, and immigration. There were also intricate railway systems and numerous waterways that allowed for simple trade and shipping among major cities.
While the north experienced dramatic economic change, the south remained relatively unchanged from the 1800s to the 1850s. The southern economy was a slave-based, agrarian society. The south’s main resource of production was cotton. The sectional differences in the north and the south were significantly defined by industrialization.
Industrialism has become an important facet of American economy from the 1800s till present. It has affected the way women are treated and involved in the workforce for the better by getting them involved and for the worse by creating a gender division in the workplace. It has impacted America by creating conditions that called for labor union’s involvement. It has created a clear division between the North and the South as two regions of different economic foundations that tore the nation apart. The industrial revolution has impacted American economy greatly and still continues to do so.