Women and Economics: Part III

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Dubois and Dumenil establish in their book ‘Through Women’s Eyes’ how, in the past, women were looked down upon socially, politically and economically. With the passage of time numerous changes occurred in the society. The most important movement that gave impetus to the empowerment of women was the Suffrage Movement.

The Suffragists campaigned for the women’s right to vote with women like Pankhurst and Osler at the lead. In 1918, the Representation of the People Act was passed in UK granting vote to women over the age of 30 who owned a house. In the United States the leaders Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony campaigned for the abolition of slavery prior to their campaign for the right to vote.

The universalization of education is yet another milestone in Feminist history. Education gave women an unthought-of spur in the material world. The success of women in almost all the fields and their financial independence compelled them to think about the subject of economics. Feminist Economics is a term that is frequently used in the present. It is a developing branch of feminism that analyses the traditional systems of economics which often fail to take into consideration the value of unpaid labor done in a domestic setting. Feminist Economists argue that economic success cannot be measured entirely in terms of goods; it must also take into account mental and physical well-being.

Feminist Economics doesn’t does not categorize women as a single entity. It considers the differences based on race, nation, religion etc. Black Feminism is yet another stream. The case of black women in white society is a perilous one. A black woman is doubly displaced in a society dominated by whites. She is discriminated against by the white society for being a black. Next, she faces prejudice within her own race for being a woman. The novel ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou tells the story of such doubly displaced set of women.

The book of Dubois and Dumenil deals exhaustively and sensibly with the developments pertaining to women that took place over the last few centuries. It is US history as much as it is women’s history. The book does not overlook the role even of the Native American women and the Pueblo peoples. It gives due credit to the African women and their diversity. The ambiguous legacy of white women is covered without prejudice. Most books that claim to present women’s history somehow converge to the stereo type that tries to establish ‘that women also were there in it’. In this with evidence and testimony, we get to observe what women happened to do. It treads an unconventional path with respect to the framework it employs with respect to the presentation of major historical themes. Instead of emphasizing the rise and fall of the system of separate gender spheres, it highlights three major themes that shaped the diversity of women’s lives in American history: work, politics, and family and personal life.

The analysis reveals that the woman characters in the novel are a little fortunate. They are only doubly displaced. They escape a third displacement as their economic status is secure. Most of them are financially stable and this stability gives them the edge to take tougher decisions. A few characters like Dolores and Glory can’t afford to be rebels. Marguerite can walk out of Mrs. Viola’s kitchen as she doesn’t have to think about making both the ends meet. The male characters in the novel, with the exception of Mr. Freeman and Mr. Bailey Johnson, fail to make an impression in the readers’ minds. Mr. Freeman and Mr. Bailey Johnson linger in the minds of the reader not for their good deeds but for their unpardonable sins like child abuse. Mr. Bailey Johnson is an indulgent, irresponsible kind of man who yearns for every possible pleasure in life. All other characters like Mr. Steward, Mr. McElroy etc. just pass through the author’s canvas without meriting any attention.

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Source by Padma V L S Sattiraju