Changes in the Role of Women Between the Sixteenth and the Twentieth Century

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Over long periods of time change is often inevitable. One such instance of change throughout history is that of family members and their role in not only the family, but also in society as a whole. Although changes can be seen in the roles of every family member, it can be argued that the role of women in the family, especially that of mothers, changed the most. Between the sixteenth century and the twentieth century, the role that mothers played in the family and in society changed greatly. Since the sixteenth century, one of the most important roles of mothers, or women in general, was to have children. Although most women accepted this role and believed it was their duty to have children, not every woman was pleased with this…show more content…
One common way in which the number of births was limited was by marrying late. Although this provided some reduction in the number of children a woman had, once she was married she would begin to have children at regular intervals. While in general women during this time period gave birth to many children, social class had an impact on just how many children a mother had. Prior to the nineteenth century, poor women had fewer children than wealthy women even though at the time their role was the same; to procreate. Some reasons as to why wealthy women had more children than poor women include health, loss of husbands, and breast feeding. Poorer women were less likely than wealthy women to have enough to eat. A lack of nutrients could result in amenorrhea and miscarriages as well as other reproductive problems. Also, with the staggering death rates, women were likely to lose their husbands before they reached menopause. While wealthy women would sometimes remarry for economic or social reasons, poor women would commonly remain widows. Finally, wealthy women were likely to put their babies out to wet nurses while poor women would usually nurse their own children. Breast feeding actually reduces fertility after child birth leading to longer intervals between pregnancies for poor women. By the nineteenth century, the role of mothers had not changed in regard to the responsibility of bearing children. However, what did change was their role in deciding

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