It has been stressed that, in the 19th Century, if any women, Irish, Chinese, Jew or Japanese, wanted to go to America, it would be best if they were married. Irish women in America were not as bent on marriage as much as other nationalities; in fact, Irish women preferred to stay single. A single Irish domestic servant then living in America was called a “Miss Bridget”. Irish women preferred being a domestic servant to being married because, as a servant, they would have shelter, food, and financial security and need nothing else. Marriage, therefore, was not the option for Irish women in the 19th Century.
Nineteenth-century women, in general, were viewed as dependent on men for refuge, food, and economic support. Throughout their lives, women were being dependent, initially to their fathers and then to their husbands- raising this question: “Is there anyone who will depend on the women”? This is one reason why women want to get married, for them to experience how it feels like when someone, like their children, depend on them. Generally, for any culture or race, women primarily marry to start a new family. Other possible reasons include money, protection, and shelter.
The Chinese were the first immigrants restricted by race and class to go to America. As a result, it was then very difficult for Chinese women to go there; however, almost all Chinese families still wanted to migrate to America for promises of better opportunities than China could offer. The Chinese families, therefore, influenced their women to get married in order to increase their chances of migration.
Consequently, since Chinese women wanted to keep their families happy, like Wong Ah So, they would want to get married in order to obey their parents’ wishes. Southern Ladies (white women), however, did marry because who would not want to marry rich white men? The husband would have nannies/maids in the house who would take care of the kids, cook for the family, and clean the house. The only concern a wife then would have to deal with was making sure the servants were doing their work.
After marriage, women were to find out that their marital situations were not in congruence with their expectations or not like the way they thought it would be, particularly because of their culture. When Rachel Calof lived with her Aunt, she met a young boy, a butcher who liked her very much, but her grandfather did not give that boy a chance to go out with her. “He stated that my marriage to a butcher would defame the family name forever” (Calof 8). Her family’s culture made it impossible for her to marry the butcher.
For Irish women, their culture and status shaped their expectations of marriage. For instance, being from the lower echelons of society would mean having no expectations of marriage. The best option in this case would then be to become a nun since the Church provided shelter, protection, money, and food. They would even have the chance to help the Irish community.
From the beginning, society viewed women as daughters of Eve, so as time progressed, it seemed like society and/or men molded women into beings it/they wanted them to be. For decades, women have been viewed negatively and no one expected or wanted women to take charge. All that women hoped for was for the time to come when they would earn society’s respect and acquire an equal treatment with men. Since women’s social value was rooted on motherhood, if they wanted society to view them as perfect Americans, wives had to support the American Revolution, raise funds for the American soldiers, demonstrate loyalty, and teach their children loyalty to their country, especially the boys.
To be “True Women” in the 19th Century, they had to be sexually pure, religious, domestic, and submissive. It was a wife’s responsibility to her husband to be a “true woman” and to respect and not question the husband’s actions and decisions. In a typical home, the father was the head of the house and the provider of food, clothing, shelter, and protection. The child was supposed to obey and respect his/her father at all times. Abigail Adams, John Adams’s wife, was involved behind the scenes in his political career and reminded him after the Declaration of Independence to acknowledge women’s role in the American Revolution.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, another woman, also tried to resolve these conflicts and wrote the Declaration of Sentiments. She spoke at the Seneca Falls Convention Center saying, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Stanton 214). After Stanton delivered this speech, everyone was surprised for she modified a word from the Declaration of Independence. Had it not been for women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Lucretia Mott, today’s women would still be viewed as daughters of Eve.
In conclusion, marriage in the 19th Century had its advantages and disadvantages. Women were better off being married because of their over-reliance on men and for better chances of survival. The advantages of being married then included having shelter, food, protection, financial support, and a family. The Japanese culture would be a good illustration here- when Japanese men wanted to get married, they had to prove to the Japanese Government that they were prepared to get married and financially ready to raise a family. A Japanese woman was never required to prove to the Government her financial capability; all a woman had to do was show up and get married. Even though women would not have a voice in the house after being married, having a place to stay when they grow old would be an ample consolation.