The period between 1815 to 1860 was characterized by significant social, cultural, and political changes that aided the economic expansion of America. Gender roles significantly changed as women began participating in the cash economy. The growing economy led women to work in simple jobs like waiters to supplement their family income (Watson). During this period, American women were granted various rights to which they previously had no access. Educated women began taking up formal employment posts like teaching. During this period, workers began forming trade unions that safeguarded the members’ economic power by advocating for the employment of only members from the trade unions.
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After various women strike like the one by textile operatives who mostly were women, the government began enforcing laws regarding employment and working conditions. New Hampshire and Pennsylvania passed laws that allowed workers to consent to work for more than ten hours ((Watson). Various states began passing laws limiting the employment of children and ensuring they participated in the formal education system. Such laws were pioneered by Massachusetts through a petition from parents in 1842. The labor movements supported the eradication of slavery in the 1840s and achieved enormous success in the Northern region.
Children from poor backgrounds were also forced to work simple jobs to supplement their family incomes and hence, failed to participate in the formal education system and became economic assets to their poor families. As a result, the majority of children enrolled in schools comprised those of middle and high socioeconomic status. Racial bias intensified in the slave states where black women continued to work in the fields while the white women were shielded from oppression. Legal status however did not change as the coverture notion still portrayed women as ‘legally dead’ (Watson). The difference between the north and south regions regarding social reforms, slavery, and the market revolution led to splits between the two regions which became very different socially, culturally, and economically.
The market revolution transformed American lives by replacing the traditional artisans with factories that mass-produced goods. The agricultural sector began mass-producing goods and crops and selling to distant markets while utilizing shipping through cheap transport from the canals like the Erie canal (Watson). The government enacted policies that promoted capitalistic growth. Cotton, which was grown by black Slaves, was quickly becoming America’s largest valuable export.
Watson, Harry L. “Market Revolution in the North, 1815–1860.” Building the American Republic, Volume 1. University of Chicago Press, 2018. 275-310.