Rights and obligations of women throughout history

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Rights and obligations of women throughout history

Author: Reilika Nestor 31.12.2014 at 00:00

The word “woman” is usually associated with “tenderness”, “caring”, “love”, and similar. Studies performed in Estonia have shown that women are also linked to “fearfulness”, “helplessness”, “tenderness”, “naiveness”, “compassion”, “emotionality”, “volubility”, “caring”, and “dependence”.

It’s traditional to see women as adults who take care of their homes, children and their husband. Female roles of being a wife and mother are regarded so self-evident that they often overshadow the fact that women are persons on their own too. Today, women are regarded equal with men and face similar expectations from society. There are strong women behind many powerful and successful men. We often hear men admit in interviews that they wouldn't be as successful without an understanding and supportive wife.

When asked about the secrets to a successful marriage, a well-known Estonian man, who has been happily married for several decades, answered: “Understanding, trust, consideration and compromise”. He also stated that he would never exchange her wife for “newer models on the market” since women aren’t cars. At the same time, he admits it’s a bit difficult for him to get used to modern women getting by on their own and exceeding men at times.

In times of hunter-gatherers, women were responsible for searching for green foodstuff, catching smaller game and taking care of offspring. In time, female roles changed. People developed and with them, their wishes. Women started demanding more independence, the opportunity to study and do whatever men do. This was partly motivated by the wish to know more in order to help men.

In wartime, men were away and everything in the household was left to women. Many men never returned, but families still needed looking after and bread on the table. Women whose household was exceptionally poor or whose husband had passed, had no option but to work to support their family.

Voting rights for women were actively instated from the 19th century:
1881 Isle of Man
1902 Australia
1906 Finland
1913 Norway
1915 Iceland and Denmark (under Icelandic rule)
1917 Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Canada, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Uruguay, Belarus, Russia
1918 United Kingdom and Ireland (under British rule)
1919 Netherlands, Luxembourg

The latest additions in this line are Bahrain in 2002, Kuwait in 2005 and the United Emirates in 2006.

United Kingdom and Greece used to be countries where women had to be 30 years of age to vote.

A bit before the 20th century, women started standing up for their rights and wished to play a more substantial role in public life on level ground with men. Many women got the change to work at offices, which was considered a tremendous achievement. All these wishes and new channels for their realization made women yearn for more education and training.

In the U.S., the female workforce grew from 6% to 23% within a quarter of a century. Less and less women chose to create a family, more often preferring a career. Still, a significant part of women continued the old path, suppressing their individual wants and dedicating themselves to their families.

These days, two principle strategies have grown popular: having a kid quite young and beginning a career after the child turn three or putting off having children to ones thirties.

Women have achieved a status in society, but this can still be a delicate matter in many countries. To this day, it isn't clear for many which is wrong and which is right. It’s too much to chew on for many women, but in the end - you'll find as many different opinions, wishes and visions as there are people.

What do you think?

Should women stay at home and look after their family or should they pursue a career?

Can a woman manage both being successful both home and at work?

Should women do anything at all? Or is it sufficient if they’re just beautiful beside their husbands?

When can women have hobbies, if at all?