– Thank you all for taking your lunch hour to spend some time with me here today. I’m going to touch briefly on about 100 years worth of history here, so I would encourage
you all to ask questions whenever they come to you, because I don’t want you to forget once we move on to something different what you wanted to talk about. So I’m very happy to be casual about this. Even though we’re a
large, in a large room, it’s a relatively intimate group, so any questions you
have, I’m happy to take at any moment in time. So just briefly, I’m gonna
begin with a short discussion of what economic rights are, so I think it’s a term
we throw around a lot, but giving actually a definition of what that fundamentally means I think will be valuable for understanding the history of how women’s economic and political experiences
have changed over time and kind of why that’s significant. So then I’ll talk about those changes and then at the end we’ll have some time to discuss a little bit what we can learn from that for women’s experiences
around the world today. Okay, so what are economic rights? Economic rights are the
rights decisions for yourself about how you’re going to use your time and your resources, and your resources including your mental and physical energies. So not just physical goods, although things like land, money, and other types of physical resources do count for that and
they do matter, of course, but it’s also about how
you’re going to spend the hours of your day and where you’re gonna direct your energy. The fundamental question
that underlies all of this is who is planning your life? So if you’re not the one
who’s making decisions about how you’re going to use your time and your talents and the resources that are at your disposal, then that means that somebody else is. Somebody is making the determination. Is that you or is it someone else? If you’re not the one planning your life, that not only puts us
in a really weird place from the perspective of liberalism, but it also puts us in a bad place from the perspective of just
the advancement of a society. Because if people are not at will to experiment and to choose
how they want to participate in the economy and in the world, then we all miss out
on their contributions and what they could be
bringing to the table for us. So this issue of do women have these basic economic rights that allow you to determine
where you’re going to live, what kind of worked you’re going to do and how you’re gonna spend your days, I view this as both a crucial issue for both economic development
and for human rights. So economic rights are
a human rights issue. All right, so do women have economic rights? I should clarify a little bit. I’m mostly gonna be
talking here about history, and if we look at the
long scope of history, most societies across the globe have some sort of tradition of at least within a family
and within a marriage, delegating some subset of that
woman’s economic decisions to her husband or to the
patriarch of the family. So that’s what we call patriarchy, if you have some sort of set
of political institutions in which men are allowed
to make these decisions about the dispensation of property and the usage of time on behalf
of the women in their lives, that is a patriarchal society, and elements of that have existed kind of around the world, really at least since the
birth of the modern nation. It gets complicated if we’re talking about even earlier societies. You see a lot more variety in terms of some societies
leaning more matriarchal, some societies being more egalitarian. But once we get large-scale militaries, and really large-scale nations, it’s pretty common for almost all of them to have some element of this, if not outright ownership of women by men, then ownership of some subset of their decisions and resources. This continues up into British history, so moving into kind of the modern world. So if you look at Britain at the time of the American founding, which is where the
United States is getting most of our legal and political
institutional ideas from, then at that time, this
is considered to be the relation between men
and women within a marriage. So this gentleman here
with the lovely locks is Sir William Blackstone, a preeminent legal scholar. This would have been, the commentaries upon the laws of England would have been the most common law book that a lawyer or a judge practicing in the early days of the United States would have had access to. What he’s describing here is
the system known as coverture. So it’s this idea that there must be a single head of household, and it is the husband under whose wing, protection, and cover, everything within that
household is being performed. So it’s sometimes said that married women have functionally the
same status as children, and as people who are considered not to be in control of
their mental faculties. So at the time they used the word idiots. So it’s idiots, children,
and married women all get the same kind
of legal status here. You’re literally, from the
perspective of the law, not your own person anymore. What does this mean in practical terms? So if you are not an independent entity and the law is not
recognizing you as such, what this means is that
you can’t independently own land, homes, businesses. That would include anything that requires
a substantial investment or would require a contract
to be able to negotiate, because women can’t sign contracts without their husband’s permission, and if they do, he can
revoke it after the fact if he decides he didn’t like the terms. So that’s not really a recipe for being able to credibly commit to some sort of business
arrangement with someone. They can’t keep any wages that they earn during the time of their marriage. I already mentioned they can’t stand for themselves in court. They have to find, if
not a father or a husband to stand for them, then someone called a male next friend, some sort of male trustee who can be recognized by the court. I see somebody’s got a
next friend over there that they’re recognizing
who can advocate for them. No it’s okay, I’m not, just wanted to make a joke,
not calling you out (laughs). They can’t write a will. So this is really critically important, because if one of the primary
motivators in your life is to be able to provide for your children and to be able to build a family and you can’t participate in that process of deciding how those resources are going to be passed along, then you’re kind of
depriving women of something that could be a really substantial motivating force for a life. You’re taking that choice set of how you want to invest
your energy and your time and kind of pulling it away. This gets further complicated, I’ll just say worse, this gets worse, because you can’t get divorced. So if you wind up in the situation where you’re married to someone who is making decisions for you, and if you’re allowed to make
the decisions for yourself, he can come around and
revoke it after the fact, and that guy is not acting
with your interests in mind. So it’s possible you can have this kind of perfect partnership where your husband really
is doing everything he can to take account of your interests. Just because a person is not choosing to exercise their right to oppress you does not mean that you’re not still in a situation where you’re being subjugated to the will of another, because there’s always that threat. If you’re in this situation, that threat is made even stronger by the fact that you can’t leave. So there is, sometimes
you hear that in history it was okay for men to beat their wives. That’s not really true. There probably was a
little bit more lenience for physical violence than there is today, but it wasn’t really okay to physically harm or,
your wife in a serious way. But you could confine
her to make her stay, and certainly the law
is extremely unwilling to grant you a formal divorce. So if you’re in a legal situation where you don’t formally
have any property rights, the court is not going
to give you a divorce. Literally, you have to go to court and prove that you have been abandoned for at least seven years to
get a divorce in most states in 1800 in the United States. Seven years, seven years
without formal property rights, without access to the court system. You know, people in individual situations find the next best solution and clever ways to work around this, but it’s still a significant limitation. So this right to be able
to exit not being there is very problematic, ’cause in all situations, your ability to exit is one
of your greatest protections. It’s what, you know, your boss can’t be too much of a jerk to you because you can leave the job. In situations where you have
a very oppressive government, like in North Korea, one of the ways they
can get away with that is how difficult it is for the
people to leave that country. So this kind of right to exit is actually a critical,
both economic rights issue because it’s giving you
that bargaining power, and also again, just human rights issue that’s preserving your safety. Of course this changes. So one of the things that
I think is remarkable about how common
patriarchal institutions are in global history is that we have a 100 year
period in the United States where within the formal
law, they all but disappear. So I’m not saying they
disappear out of the culture, I’m not trying to enter
that debate right now, but just from the
perspective of formal law, we are no longer permitted to make any distinctions by gender. You are not allowed to have these, I mean, of course anybody
can allow themselves to be bullied or maybe not
treated well by a partner, but at least under the law, that kind of behavior is
never gonna be protected. You do have the right to exit, you do have the right to keep property separately within a marriage. If your husband goes and wracks
up gambling debts in Vegas and you have separate bank accounts, the court can’t come after
those separate bank accounts and make you pay your
husband’s debts anymore like used to be the case. So we have this remarkable change where we go from kind of a world dominate by these patriarchal institutions to the relatively gender
egalitarian society that we find in the 20th and
21st century United States, where women are working, where women are becoming educated and making these economic
decisions for themselves. So most family law is state law, so this changes over the course of the 19th century. So some states reform much
earlier than other states. I don’t know how well the shading is coming across on the monitor, but the darker the state is colored in, the earlier in the 19th century this state protected married women’s right to own separate property and to keep their earnings separately. So New York and a couple other states here in the center of the Northeast, they began to reform
these laws in the 1840s. Florida arguably not until after 1820. Poor Florida, they’re
just, get so little credit, so behind. Then we have, also in north here, many of these of these states are reforming kind of
through the 1850s, 1860s, and then we’re starting
to see this legal change kind of spread across
the center of the country with immigration and movement to that part of the United
States and settlement. I’ll talk a little bit about some of the, how the politics and the laws impacted women’s ability to be independent economic decision-makers on the frontier a little bit later. But that’s the basic overview. So we have this change that is literally globally unprecedented, and it happens in a blink of an eye from a historical perspective
in the United States, but some places get it right
a lot sooner than others. I know that’s a normative thing to say, but I’m comfortable going ahead and saying women having equal rights is a good thing, so I don’t think I have to, hopefully, turn in my economics card for that one. But, so this creates the opportunity then to take a look at, what
were the conditions, what were the economic conditions, the political conditions in these states that reformed earlier, and what about them
might give us some clues as to when a society is likely to turn in this more egalitarian
and inclusive direction. So the big question, which is I so cleverly put in a big font to illustrate its bigness, is how did so much change,
how did this change? I’m gonna go through three arguments, hypotheses, however you wanna think about them, that I think stand out from the study of women in 19th century history, and really bring some
illumination to this idea of how a political and social structure might wind up going from a situation in which they’re currently
creating a minority underclass to no longer doing that. The problem of how a
minority can gain rights is kind of a deeply problematic
one, even in democracy, because if you’re living in a status quo where you’re not currently
being represented, where you don’t have the right to vote or you can’t hold a political office, where you’re deprived
of economic resources, where you’re often deprived of access to the best educational and
professional opportunities, how are you going to get
the power to demand change? So it’s kind of this really deep problem of how a group who
currently is under-resourced can shock the status quo in a way that’s going to motivate that more powerful
group within the society to want to be more cognizant of them. The first big change, I argue, that happened in 19th century history is that there were new opportunities to work outside the home that resulted in a change in the way people were thinking about women and women’s capacity to work. So I mean that from both a very direct economic production standpoint. We’re now thinking of
women as economic producers who are capable of generating
more than we thought if we include them in the economy, and I also mean that from
kind of an ideological and cultural standpoint. If you have this idea that women are not really well-suited to be able to take advantage of these kinds of business opportunities or political leadership,
social leadership, and then all of a sudden,
you see them doing it, that that’s a little bit
of a shock to the worldview that’s going to be hard to ignore. When you actually see this group that you thought wasn’t
capable of something doing it, it’s hard to hold on to your false view. Not impossible, but it makes it harder to hold on to a false view. So the first major industry
in United, in global history, was the textile industry. So the first major factories are established in Britain, but it’s not too long
after they’re established that they begin to be built
in the United States also. I love this part of United States history. We have this vision, this
imagination of ourselves as inventors, entrepreneurs
just on an unprecedented scale, nobody can catch up, but we actually stole all
this technology from Britain. So they created it first, we stole it. I’m not saying we haven’t done
some great things since then, credit where credit is due, but literally, aspiring
businessmen in the United States are engaging in industrial espionage, either themselves or they’re hiring people to go and to kind of like sneakily tour the factory and draw up a little
blueprint and come over, and Britain is trying to lock that down. They’re trying not to let
any of that machinery, any of those workers who have those skills leave the country. So if you’re a skilled
tradesman in the Britain in the late 18th century and you want to try to immigrate
to America for higher pay, you have to often not
bring your tools with you, because if they catch you
with the tools of your craft, you can be imprisoned
or very heavily fined, and you certainly will not be
allowed to exit the country. So they’re really trying very hard to maintain economic domination with kind of, with a protectionist view. But anyway, so this is what
the textile industry looks like before the Industrial Revolution. It’s taking place in cottage industries, which means a small group of women, one to half a dozen, working
out of one of their homes, and they’re taking the
raw material like wool, and they’re using early wooden tools like this little Rumpelstiltskin’s
type spinning wheel here to take that wool and transform it through all the processes that are required to
turn that into fabric. It’s incredibly labor-intensive. This is what the textile
industry looks like after the Industrial Revolution, and this is technology
that continues to improve from the time of its development, I mean really, until today, but it’s improving at a rapid rate throughout the 19th century. But even the very first version of these new, large-scale, water or steam-powered looms, even the very first rudimentary versions allow women to produce four times as much cloth in an hour as they could when they were
working in cottage industry. So you have an instant quadrupling of the marginal product of women’s labor. Imagine waking up tomorrow and finding out your
paycheck had quadrupled. What would you even do with yourself? Don’t say, now, yeah, maybe don’t say exactly what you would do, especially if your supervisor
is currently in the room, but this is a moment, a change in time that gives women so much more power to bargain than they ever had before, because now you have an industry that is, you know, this is like being
on the front end of dot com in the late ’80s or early ’90s. This is the hot industry, this is where the future
millionaires, billionaires, economic leaders are gonna be coming from. It’s who can kind of get
ahead in this textile world. The people in the society who, well, they are cheaper, because at this time, this
is women’s first opportunity to shift out of household production and into kind of production
in the wage-labor force. So women do have fewer
competing opportunities, so it is possible to hire them still at lower wages
than men, about a third. So if you think the gender
wage gap is bad now, it would have been about 35 or 40 cents on the dollar at this time. But this, and instead of being cheaper, women possess already
the skillset of weaving. They’re already the ones
who have been producing all of the textiles for hundreds of years, maybe longer. They were doing that in
this kind of domestic production role. So one kind of sidebar that
I do want to make clear is that women have always been
active economic participants. So it’s not like this was
the first time women worked. Women were always working incredibly hard, but they were producing primarily
for domestic consumption or for small-scale
trade in a local market. So they were producing
things like textiles, soaps, candles, canned goods, all these kind of basic
household necessities. Women were the manufacturing industry. So it’s not until kind of later that we kind of forget that and to start to think of maybe a more male dominated industry. But, nevertheless, this is quadrupling their marginal productivity. In addition to quadrupling
their marginal productivity, it’s giving them an opportunity
to move away from the farm. So the United States is
95% farmers at this time. It’s like all farmers and
then a few wealthy farmers who are also lawyers,
like Thomas Jefferson. So it’s, everybody is doing
hard agricultural labor, and one of the things that that means is that you’re living in a rural area, so farming in the 1800s would not have had the
crop yields it has today. So even compared to modern farming, you’d have needed a lot more land to get kind of the same production. So you’re living in this area where you’re just not going to encounter that many other people in your life. Now all of a sudden,
you get the opportunity to not only quadruple your wages, but you get to move to this new thing known as the American city. There aren’t that many of them yet, if you’re talking about 1815, 1820. This is the very start of urbanization. So it’s a start of industrialization, it goes hand in hand with
the start of the move to the city that we’re maybe seeing kind of come to what I hope is an apex now at this particular moment in time. I don’t know how many
more people we can cram vertically in our cities right now. But this is the start of this process. One of the things, what’s the reason why you guys are in a city now? Why didn’t you stay home? Probably many of you, I imagine, came from much less populated areas. Who came from a less populated area? Why did you move? Work, work, but what else? Do you wanna move back home? Who wants to move back home? I go back home to where I grew up. I love it, I love my
family, I love my hometown, but it’s like one street. The hot place to go is Kohl’s. (audience laughs) You know, there’s like nothing. So you move to the city, not only are you earning so much more, you’re also meeting people, you’re getting access to
cultural, social opportunities that had not really been in the
realm of opportunity before. So this is, this cover here
is the cover of a magazine edited, written, and produced by and for the women who worked in the Lowell mills, so, which was one of the kind of big, maybe the biggest kind of
key players in this industry. So in addition to coming to do this work, they’re getting this
educational opportunity. So the owners of the mill
are providing classes, they’re providing opportunity to do this kind of creative work. Some of these women go
on to become writers, like Harriet Robinson from whom this quote comes from, and she describes this phenomenon of stories being told all over the country about the new factory town and the high wages that were offered to all classes of people, and gave new life to
lonely and dependent women. I wanna say that again, ’cause if you run it together, it sounds like they’re
already independent. But, “And gave new life to
lonely and dependent women “in distant towns and farmhouses.” So one of the kind of common offerings to this magazine is that these women will write fictionalizations of their own story or of stories of other
women that they worked with. So one woman who calls herself Sarah in this article she writes
for the Lowell Offering talks about how before this, she was from a low-income family, like almost every family would have been in the United States at this time. So the only option available
to her was domestic work, so she’s working in
somebody else’s household rather than her own, but she’s still doing that
kind of domestic labor, and she’s doing this labor
for a woman named Mrs. J, who at least in the fictionalization is just an absolute monster: beats her, yells at her when the coffee is not ready before the first other person in the household wakes up. She just describes this
life of drudgery and of fear that she feels like she
can’t get away from. So for her, the opportunity
to go work in a factory is like this shining light. It’s this opportunity to actually
get out of this situation that she feels so trapped in, and I think it’s easy in the modern day to look back on these
early industrial positions and focus primarily on
how terrible they seemed, and I don’t want to sugarcoat that, because it’s incredibly difficult labor. These are young people, 16 to
24 year old most of the time, working 12 hours a day. They are away from home. I mean, this is, let’s just say workplace
safety standards in 1800 were not the same as the they are in 2018, and that’s true of any industry, so that was true on the farm as well. I did a lot of reading old United States and British newspapers for this project and for other research that I’ve done, and you’ll just come across
these random stories like, oh, little Timmy, his
life tragically cut short at eight years old because he was trampled by a donkey. His parents should have
been watching more carefully while he was workin’ on the farm. That’s not an uncommon
thing to run across, because this is, so, I’m trying to pretend like the 1800s, 19th century was some kind of ideal time, like, “Oh, let’s go frolic
in the field,” or whatever, “we all get to go work in a factory.” But the point is, the relative point, so the value of an opportunity is always going to be defined by what your alternative options are, and when the alternative option is being stuck on the farm, never getting to meet someone, a life of the same work that your mother did her whole life and her grandmother did her whole life and you know, kind of back into eternity, this can seem pretty exciting. So these women take home, in four or five years work, the equivalent of about $20,000 in contemporary purchasing power. So the, kind of the life arc is that a woman goes to
start this kind of work when she’s between 16 to 18. She leaves around 22, 23, often gets married and
settles down afterwards. We do that a lot in this
country today, too, actually, it’s just we go to
college instead of work. So go to college, afterwards, you know, age of marriage is rising again, but you know, a lot of people
kind of get settled down and start their lives in some way. Except the difference is today, you’re lucky if you’re
only $20,000 in debt as opposed to actually taking home and having $20,000 in your bank account. So this is money that
these women are using to put husbands and brothers through medical school
or through law school, to kind of allow them to maybe
be a little bit more picky about who they would like to marry. It’s not as pressing of an issue if you do have something that you can use to continue
to support yourself. They buy their own apartments, they buy things like pianos, which is the 1850s flat screen TV. Banks are opening just to
service their accounts. So you know, remember the
situation we’re coming from where just a generation earlier, none of those kind of luxuries are available to women, and in fact, they’re
explicitly denied them. Okay, so how does all
of this new opportunity translate into actual political change? So I already mentioned a little bit that these mills were really dependent on being able to attract women who would be able to
perform this work for them. So one way that we can see how concerned they were, and the length that they
were willing to go to in order to attract female labor is that they would hire recruiters to travel around the countryside, this is mostly in the
northeaster United States here we’re still talking about, and they would go into a town, they would put up an
advertisement like this in the local paper. “75 young women from 15 to 35 “wanted to work in the
cotton mills in Lowell.” Mr. Boynton here, he’s
gonna show up at Town Hall, everybody’s welcome to come and to visit and to hear about the opportunity and learn more about it. This is to overcome an educational barrier since this kind of work and this idea of moving
to the city for work is not common at this period of time. You have to convince people that it’s a real opportunity, and they get involved in this
just vicious competition, for who’s going to be able
to attract the young women in this period in time to be able to come to
work in their factory. So you have these headhunters
kind of cruising around, bringing people in, like Aurelia Barney, and giving her their presentation as to why she should consider
working in their mill. So I’ll just read Aurelia’s letter to her sister here briefly. “Had anyone had told me
three weeks before I came “that I should ever work
in a Lowell factory, “I should have ridiculed the idea at once. “But they’re building new factories here “and they sent out a man “to get girls to work in them. “He came to New York and picked up girls “at least 72 in number “that did not all come at
the same time that I came. “There were only 18 that came then, “but they all came this spring, “and who wonders if I
did get the Lowell fever, “but I do not regret that I came.” So the Lowell fever was,
would have been typhoid. So early American cities had
incredible sanitation problems in addition to the other
difficulties they encountered. Here you have this young woman saying, “Even though I got typhoid, “I am still glad that I came to Lowell “to take advantage of
this work opportunity.” Why, she can make two or
three people could have in the town she came from, Peru, New York, and she likes weaving. She’s sick of teaching,
she tried to be a teacher, which would have been, you know, in addition to domestic work, teaching would have been
maybe one of the few things you could have done for a little bit as a young woman until you got married. She could only get a dollar and a quarter. She’s making two or
three times as much now, so she says, “I guess you and Harriet “had better come to Lowell and get rich “with the rest of the 16,000 girls here.” This independence, this independence is being communicated to women back to their families, back to their communities to
advertise this opportunity, winds up being one of the vehicles through which you start
to change these ideas about what kinds of opportunities are going to be available to women. But I just love Aurelia. There are so many stories like this that you can find in their journals, in the Lowell Offering, in Voices of Industry, which is another magazine that the women working in the mill create, more in the 1850s than in the, the Lowell Offering’s mostly in the 1840s. But so, this opportunity, and how much these
mills are willing to pay for the women to come
work in their factories kind of set the stage then not only for this cultural change where women now do have
significantly different lives that they can choose to
embark on if they want to, than they had access to before, but it also puts these
economic and political leaders in a situation, which I’m gonna talk about going on into the next section, where they now need to pay
a little bit more attention to what these women want. So if you are the
political decision-maker, and women can’t vote, women can’t give you
campaign contributions, you might not be particularly motivated to really take their
interest into account. This importance of women
for economic production and the increased bargaining power that they now have is only
one part of the story. The next part of the story, and my second kind of hypothesis for why so much changed in
the 19th century United States is that we lived in a really robustly competitive federal structure in the 19th century United States. So this idea that there
are different states that you can choose to go live in, that they’re going to have
different sets of laws around property and the rights of women within a marriage, creates this situation in which you actually have
political competition. So when we talk about theories of political competition today, one of the, there are a few contexts that you still hear about
this in the United States. So there are a disproportionate number of American corporations
headquartered in Delaware. Why is this? ‘Cause Delaware has some of the laws that are friendliest to incorporation of any state in the country, and you are, as long as, I think you have to have some
degree of presence there, but I don’t think very much. But incorporation laws, one of those areas in law where you often have a choice, an easy choice that you can make between the law of different states. It doesn’t necessarily have
to be where you were born or where you currently live. We think about this a
lot in our daily lives in terms of public school systems, you know, other local
public goods as well, but I think school systems
is one of the most common where people really do
actively think a lot, “Hmm, maybe I’d like to live in Arlington “instead of Fairfax,” or vice versa, “because I like what’s going on “with the school and the
neighborhood better.” So we see political competition still in some more circumscribed ways. One of the reasons why we don’t see it in as many areas of life as
we did in the 19th century is that now so much is
dictated at the federal level. So federal agencies and federal law are putting constraints on how different the laws in different
states can possibly be. So recently in the news, there’s been talk about state laws reforming occupational choice. You know, that’s another, or occupational licensing law rather. That is one area where we can still get some degree of competition. Pot legalization was another recently. But there are huge swaths
within criminal justice, within tax, within
family and property law, where states can’t really
differentiate themselves anymore. It was almost all up for
grabs in the 19th century. The federal government was teensy. It was pretty much just the
military and the treasury at the beginning of the 19th century, and I think when the
United States was founded, the federal government
accounted for about 1% of governmental expenditure, or, I’m sorry, they kind of, the federal government
was about 1% of GDP. Now of course it’s over 40% of GDP, so kind of the balance of power between federal and state government has really shifted in the United States. But it used to be the case that states held the bulk of the substantive power, which is why the United States was considered a republic. It wasn’t one government
that had little subsidiaries that had a few things they could do. It was really about all these states being independent governing bodies and having just a few things
that they did together, like a common currency and military. So that’s really changed
over the past 200 years. But because there was
still so much competition and so much that was up in the air, so many states kind of
over this period of time I’m describing where women
are gaining economic rights, the United States is also taking shape. Nobody knew in 1800 or even 1830 what all of the different
states were going to be, was the boundary of the United States going to extend all the
way to the Pacific Ocean? They certainly did not
know what the shapes of those states were going to be, how large of territory
they were going to cover. So this really is something that looks a lot more like a competitive market, where you have this
possibility for political entry and exit of different
kind of governing bodies depending on how well they do. We just don’t have that kind
of competitive discipline in the political sphere anymore. So this is just a very, you can think about this kind of in a very simple
market exchange kind of model, and you can think about how competitive this political environment might be according to these kind of
supply and demand conditions. So what kind of alternatives and choice are available on the demand side? Do you have women and families who are actually able to
meaningfully make this choice and to move about the country? So that requires not
just being politically allowed to do so, but there’s also a
technological aspect of it, how possible, how feasible is it to actually move into
this different territory? Is it safe, is there a road to get there? So this is all, these are all conditions that are changing over the 19th century, and jurisdictions also
have to have autonomy in how they form their law. So I already talked about
that, so I won’t belabor it. But that’s the two sides of our kind of exchange system here, and in addition to the political choice, in addition to different
political jurisdictions actually having that autonomy, and I’ll talk in a little bit about some of, some more of the reasons why they felt the need
to be so competitive, it was possible for single women to choose to live in
different jurisdictions. So if women didn’t like the situation they were facing in Connecticut, they could choose to move to somewhere that had a better legal
structure for them. You could save up to get
from New York to California on just a few months worth of salary from working in one of these mills. Of course, as the 19th century progresses, there are more industries and more different kinds of
labor opportunities for women, but it is something that’s affordable. The frontier often has
higher salaries to offer because there aren’t as
many people out there yet, so you’re not gonna
face as much competition for your labor services. So again, we have this idea
of another opportunity, another way to get away from the farm, and another way that women can substantively choose a different life. So we’re talking still
about this kind of expansion of alternatives that
are available to them. In addition, over this period of time, the cost of getting out to a
different state or territory is plummeting. So in 1800, if you
started in New York City, it would take you, after the Panama Canal opens, it’s possible to get to
California in three months. Before that, you’re looking
at six to nine months, because the only options available are the overland routes like you would have been
playing in Oregon Trail. The odds of winning, you know we, California is a state now, so clearly the odds of winning were higher than they actually were in that video game, which to my knowledge, nobody actually ever
made it to California. (audience laughs) But, so you’re talking
about six to nine months, you’re talking about a substantial risk, you’re talking about not earning during that period of time. It’s a huge investment to settle. By 1930, you can get from New York to several places in
California in three days. The real significant change when you go from three to six months to a week or two to get to California is when the transcontinental
rail connects. It connects in Promontory City, Utah. There are rail companies
building from the east and also from the west. They meet in the middle,
and all of a sudden, you don’t have to go by stagecoach, you can now go by train. It’s not, you know, people might complain about Amtrak today, but these early train
rides were much worse. The cars were often open, so you were getting
covered in dirt and soot. There were not really places
to stop along the way. There certainly wasn’t
plumbing in the car. So again, not an easy trip, but this opportunity to
get across the country gives women this ability to choose to live somewhere different. So we not only had this
economic opportunity, we have now have this
opportunity in terms of mobility, that there are alternatives in terms of where you’d like to live. Why would they go, and why is this important? So here you start to see the
politicians getting involved. So if you, especially
if we’re talking about the western territories
of the United States, these are not yet admitted to
the United States of America. They’re being run by what’s
called a territorial government. So when the territory is first claimed, this could be as few as four people: a governor, an assistant governor, or whatever the right word for, lieutenant government or
whatever, secretary, treasurer. These are the four people who
are governing that territory. They’re often ex-military. They’re appointed by the United States, the federal government of
the United States of America. So these are kind of crossover political, military operatives, and their job is to try
to bring that territory into the United States. So they’re being politically appointed for a specific purpose, to make sure that territory comes under the control of the
United States government, and to make sure later on in, later on, by the middle
of the 19th century, we’re starting to get the battle between the slave and the
non-slave holding states complicating this issue a little bit. But largely, whether or
not a territory can join the United States is predicated on whether the population is large enough. So when Thomas Jefferson
writes the northwest ordinance which is the first major kind of territorial governing document, he describes in there these
specific calculation numbers you have to hit to be consider
by Congress for admission. They use that as a template
for all other territories that become, that are brought
under United States control. They increase the population
numbers a little bit as the 19th century goes on, but in effect, the situation you have is that you have this small
number of individuals, these territorial governors whose career prospects and whose job depend on them attracting
population to that territory. So this is why they do things like publish advertisements about how great their territory is, that they circulate in
newspapers around the country, and they say things like, this is, by the way, this is the governor of Montana, the territory of Montana, saying, “Here in Montana, “there is remunerative labor,” it’s so hard not to say renumerative, “remunerative labor for all. “Montana is especially
desirable for women.” You have the governor of the territory of Colorado and Nevada, which
was combined at the time saying, “It would be a great blessing “if an immigration of females “to Colorado and Nevada
could be obtained.” So you get this group that was considered politically an underclass, that couldn’t even go
to court for themselves, and now they are the target of a major political PR campaign, where you have these territorial governors who are working to create
the law for that territory, to increase its population and to bring it into the United States, and one of their main targets in this is to try to make their
territory appealing to women. One of the reasons why women become particularly important rather than just population in general is that frontiers are usually
initially settled by men. So the first census in Denver is 95% male. It’s pretty hard to build a robust society with 95% men. So it’s very important
on these frontier reaches to try to convince some women to move out. This is not only for, you know, like relationship and
family formation reasons, which is critically important, but also because women
are seen as civilizing, like it’s not a real society until you have women there as well, and there are a lot of important services that are primarily run, operated by women along the frontiers: things like laundries, things
like inns, boarding houses, things like that, and these are the opportunities that they’re encouraging women to move out and to take advantage
of in these territories. There are several other of these that are explicitly made by people I know to be governors or political officials. There are hundreds more who I
have no idea who wrote them. But they’re all over the newspapers. So just in the time that I
was doing the Chicago research I found hundreds of these. They say things like,
“Go west young girl.” “In Texas, they’re paying
servant girls $20 a month.” “Field County California
has 1100 unmarried men “and 28 unmarried men, go west, girls.” So they were aware of that
kind of population disparity I was mentioning as well. This is my favorite one, just because of the sheer drama of it. “For humanities sake, and a mutual benefit “to the race and to both
sections of the country, “do Mr. Editor earnestly recommend “the immigration from down east “of a few thousands virtuous “and industrious young ladies “to this section of the union.” So women are opening these newspapers. This one about the glamour of Utah was published in New York City. This one about California
being published in Chicago, this one in Texas being
published in Cleveland and read in Cleveland. So this is information that’s
getting around the country. Women do have access to this information about the different kinds of wages and job opportunities
and life opportunities that are going to be available to them along the territories. The homestead act begins
to allow even single women to claim homesteaded
property in their own names. So you have this great relaxation of both legal tradition and the way that these, that family is kind of thought of and the way that women are being treated by the political system coming out of this structure that was, I don’t know if you wanna think about it as just being this unique moment in time. Even if the particular way it came about in the United States experience is unique, there are many ways to
go about incorporating elements of political
competition in a modern society. All you have to do is
make it easier to choose, easier to move. So even if this particular
historical example was unique, this idea of people being able to choose how they would like to be governed, it really happened in history and it really mattered to a group who was a minority, who was currently underrepresented in the political system, being able to get the power
they needed for change to occur. All right, this one’s
shorter, so don’t worry, but my third kind of argument or idea that I wanna share with you that I think really mattered in the United States experience, to this legal system changing is the ideological component. So this idea that even if you have these
political incentives in place for our leaders to be more
accountable to the population, even if you have expanding opportunity, you have all these ingredients, but if people don’t actually want a more egalitarian society, incentives to be responsive to the people won’t bring you a more
egalitarian society. The whole idea of these
compatible incentive structures that encourage politicians to take account of what people want and what people value is that it’s gonna give
the people what they want. So what if they want something
that looks different, that continues to exclude women from making their own economic decisions? The fact that really critical people believed that this was
something women would value mattered for this change
being able to happen. So we know politicians believed it. This is, I already
shared a couple examples of this kind of quote, but here’s yet another
territorial governor saying, “There are many things that we have to do “to secure immigration. “I know that we have to be liberal “in politics and religious
and in social matters.” So he’s recognizing this need to form their government and their society in a way that’s gonna be
responsive to the people. This is Susan B. Anthony. I have her pictured here with her parents, Daniel and Lucy Anthony. The reason for that is that Anthony had a lot of childhood experiences that really shaped her
values and her principles and put her in the position to wind up being so successful doing
the work that she did through the second half
of the 19th century and the early 20th century with reforming women’s property law, with being considered one
of the critical figures that brought about women’s suffrage, advocating for women on
all kinds of margins, including the treatment
of women in the household, so she also advocated
against domestic abuse, things like that. So she really was this
kind of feminist visionary. Her parents, Daniel and Lucy, owned one of the textile
mills that I described kind of in the first part
of this presentation. It was a smaller one, it wasn’t nearly as large
as the one in Lowell, but Daniel Anthony wanted
to break into that industry and he owned, at different points in time, two different mills, both in Pennsylvania. But the thing that’s important about that is that Susan was there, and she was watching
these women work and earn, and she was, she wanted
initially to be a lawyer, and was told that she couldn’t because women weren’t
allowed to go to law school. So it created this cognitive
dissonance for her. “I’m seeing this women do all this work “and make all these
decisions for themselves, “but yet I’m being told “that I’m not allowed to do X, Y, and Z “just because of my gender?” She had seen the
capability of those women, so this didn’t make sense to her why there would ever be logic behind this system that would deny women the ability to make their
own decisions in this way. Another important connection
is that Daniel Anthony was an active abolitionist,
so he was involved with several different
Quaker organizations. He got kicked out of
one because he allowed the teenagers in the community to come have a dance at his house ’cause he didn’t want
them to dance at the bar. He wanted to protect
them from the alcohol, but the dancing was bad, too, so he got kicked out of a Quaker. He joined another one, so he actually wound up working
with Frederick Douglass, if that’s, so a very, former slave, free black who was considered one of the most impactful orators on behalf of the free black population and their rights in this period of time. So she had the, in addition to this idea that women were fully capable, she also had this idea
that change was possible, reform was possible, and it was important to
try to do the right thing. Then here’s, I saved the most, I’m not saying Susan B.
Anthony wasn’t important, she’s incredibly important, but I think this is
the most important one. So the fact that the women themselves just, the women who were
working in these factories, working on these farms, your kind of every day
daughters, wives, and mothers, the fact that they believed that their economic rights were important I think was probably more
critical than anything else. So this is another quote
from the Lowell Offering. So this is a mill woman
writing this piece. They call them, at that time, they called themselves the Mill Girls, and so most of the historical literature called them the Mill Girls, and then one time, I had
a grad student say to me, “Why are you calling them girls? “That’s so offensive. “These are adult women.” I thought, just because
history called ’em that doesn’t mean I have to, too. You know, we revise the language
of history all the time. So I take that very seriously. So these women, “have an indefeasible “and inalienable right to buy and sell, “solicit and refuse, choose
and reject, as have men. “These propositions we
are prepared to defend, “and while we have mind,
talent, acquisition, ability, and a pen, we will defend them.” So this recognition of the
fact that there were decisions that were being denied to them, that were critically important to them being able to make decisions
within their lives. So she’s recognizing that this goes, that buying and selling is part of this, but it’s only part of it. So it’s also about choosing and rejecting different options in life. It really, at the end of the day, is about that question I started with: do you get to plan your life? Are you the architect, or the author, whichever analogy you
prefer, of your own life, or are you just doing
a fill-in-the-blanks, and somebody else is really putting most of the words on the page? So this idea that there
were important decisions that were being denied to them, that it as important to fight against, this was an ideology that was increasingly
understood by women in general, over the course of the 19th century, and ideas were an important part of that. One of the reasons I really
wanted to emphasize that today is that I know this idea that ideas are important is very critical to the
mission here at IHS, and so without this kind of understanding of an ideology of liberalism and equality, I am not sure that all of these economic and political incentives that I described in the
first half of the talk would have been able to
do much at all for women. A brief digression, and just something a tiny bit less, not a digression, but now for something different in Monty Python speak. However, institutional
change is rarely linear. It’s not unanimously agreed on, and of course, as you can imagine, I told a very optimistic story so far. There are gonna be some bumps in the road. So one of the really kind of moments of backlash, maybe, against this expansion
of rights for women, came about in the, particularly in the early progressive era, when women became kind
of something of a pawn in this debate over the appropriate role for labor and capital. So here, this is kind, this is Mary van Kleeck. This is actually a picture of Mary, and she was, women by
the early 19th century, more and more of them had
received an advanced education. There’s more of what we’d
call now a middle class people who have some leisure time to be able to do things
like agitate for change, and many of these women who
were very heavily involved in the social reform movement in the late 19th, early 20th century, they were very kind of moved by the socialist program, this idea that there was, you know, and I have a
lot of empathy for this, especially coming from the women, having lived in a situation which they were so clearly
being treated unfairly by many of the major systems in the world. You know, they’re looking
for an alternative. Many of them come to focus on this idea that it’s the conflict
between labor and capital, that it’s the, it’s business that is taking advantage of them, which of course is a
common, I guess pitfall. We interact so directly and
so frequently with business, so much of what government
does is kind of unseen. This is why studying the
economics and politics and going to your IHS summer seminar and coming to GMU to study
econ is so important, being able to understand those things that are less obvious. But this idea, this idea that there is something that’s really screwed up
here going on in employment, winds up translating pretty directly into some political changes
that are negative for women. So this idea that they’re going to now need to modify supply and demand and modify some of these relationships winds up taking the form of a political reform movement that is focused on working conditions. They actually, you know, they’re focused on this conflict between labor and the industrialist, kind of in general, writ large, so many of these reformers would have preferred these reforms to apply to everybody. They did not initially
intend to target women. But the courts strike down, initially, interference in the
employment relationship between men and their employers. But the courts wind up
becoming much more sympathetic to this idea that women
might need protecting. So we’re uncomfortable on interfering between the voluntary choices
of men and an employer, but they make this public interest case with respect to women. So women are the mothers
within our society, it’s important for them to be healthy. The state actually has an interest in encouraging motherhood and encouraging healthy mothers. So what they do is they
marshal a bunch of early kind of pseudo scientific evidence, like they do surveys
where they have people stand at the factory, outside the factory, and then when women are exiting, they’ll ask them, “Do
you have health problems? “Are you tired at the end of the day?” “I just finished a 10 hour shift, “of course I’m tired.” But they published this survey data and they present it to the courts, and the courts accept this claim that doing this kind of work for too long or in the wrong conditions
is harming women, and in doing so, their
harming the very future of the United States, our ability to continue to be a society. The background to all of this is fear that immigration is going to be the downfall
of the United States. This is 1890s, 1900s. Much like today, there are, there were large, I mean larger then, there were large waves of immigration, proportionately large, there were large waves of immigration. There was this fear that
people who were not white were just not going to be as good and as valuable to the union as people who were white. So this is the heyday
of scientific racism, and this background, this
idea that if white women are not having enough children, we will wind up substantively
harming ourselves and basically bringing
ourselves down from the inside, unfortunately gets some
political traction. So it winds up working against immigrants. It also winds up working against women. We see that all but six states by 1918 have decided
to limit working hours, but just for women. So through the 19th century, we’ve had all these expansions in women’s ability to make
their own economic decisions, and now in the early 1900s, we’re starting to say, “Okay, well, you can
participate in the economy, “but not on the same terms as men. “You can participate “but you have to leave after eight hours,” or you have to, another
change they really want is for women to be prohibited
from working at night. So they’re agitating for women to not be allowed to work after a certain hour in the evening. This is a really severe disability, especially if you are in a family that needs two incomes
to be able to survive. When else are you going to work? Your husband is working during the day. You probably have to be at home, caring for the children. There are actually specific, there’s one specific
case that I can think of off the top of my head where they say, “Oh, well, you know,” I can’t remember the name, I’m making up the name, “Mary got fired because of your new law, “don’t you think that’s terrible?” The response is, “No, she should
be home with her children. “What was she out doing working?” That wasn’t the right, that was not the right thing for her or for the public. So we had this interference now in women being able to choose how they would like to spend their time, what they think is the best way for them to spend their
time and their energy. So this is, and some
courts do recognize this as being counter to the spirit of the Married Women’s Property Acts, and the other legislation that expanded women’s economic rights, but nonetheless, it winds up prevailing. It’s overtaken by New Deal reforms that wind up extending a
lot of these protections to the entire population, which is why the gender
component of many of them go away over time. But it actually wasn’t unconstitutional to discriminate based on gender in the law until the 1970s. This is not ancient history, this is not that long ago. You know, this is our
mothers and our grandmothers who lived in situations in which their ability to work and their incentive to work and to develop the skills
to be able to productively do this kind of labor
outside the household was being directly constrained by law. So this is a severe kind of limitation, and this is one of the pieces of history that explains for me why we still do see so much variation in the opportunities and the choices that women
make in the labor market. So we have largely
voluntary opportunity now. There are few ways in which you’re actually forcibly constrained, but there still are a
lot of pattern of careers that women just don’t go
into very substantially, or men don’t go into
in significant numbers. It takes a long time for
patterns like this to change. So understanding this history of the fact that we did put these explicit barriers in place. Of course motherhood and childbirth is still an important part
of that story as well, but I think claiming that motherhood is the only thing driving these choices when this history is so recent seems a little far fetched to me. Okay, so how can we
think about the legacy, the impact of this political
legacy on women’s lives today? Although reform in the United States has been quite effective, the same cannot be said for
every region in the globe. So this is a chart that shows restrictions on women’s employment in different regions around the world. So the way to read this chart is, if we look here at South Asia, 50% of the countries in South Asia prohibit women from working in jobs being hazardous or morally inappropriate. 63% of countries in South Asia prohibit, have some
prohibitions on industrial work, and 60% have some
prohibitions on night hours. The same is true for the Middle East, where we have significant,
still prohibitions on women’s ability to enter
into the particular occupations or in particularly ways. Also here in Africa. Some of the reform that has happened, so you might say, “Oh, you know, “oh, so that means that 40 plus percent “of countries in South Asia “don’t have any restrictions, “or 40% of the Middle East.” That may be true or it may not be true, because a lot of the
reform that has happened has been kind of motivated by the fact that aid of international organizations is often, if not limited, these governments are kind of pressured into making changes
that do not specifically bias against women, or bias
against particular races. So the question of
whether that actually is a cultural and social change coming along with that legal change, there is in some cases,
and there is not in others. So it’s a little complicated. Over a third of countries
restrict women’s. Many of that, many of those restrictions are in the form of passport controls, countries where you have to
get your husband’s permission to get a passport. Over half of countries prohibit women from working in specific jobs, and in 18 countries, husbands
are legally permitted to prohibit their wives
from working at all. You need husband’s permission to, and this is, this doesn’t
even touch on countries that prohibit women from
wanting bank accounts or prohibit women from being without male
chaperone in public, you know, all other kinds of restrictions. In addition to being a human rights issue, this is also an economic growth issue as I mentioned in the beginning. So this is a report by the
International Monetary Fund. They estimate that there are 40 countries who sacrifice between
15 and 30% of their GDP by excluding women from the workforce. So this is often coming
at a significant cost to the country as a whole. So I, there’s room for a lot
of research to be done here on what exactly are the
political dynamics, then, that are preventing this
change from taking place, given that it would be in the
interest of this population? You know, especially if you got, many of these are,
there are Middle Eastern oil-producing nations topping this list, you know, Qatar, Iran, the Emirates. These are situations where maybe, even if the population
as a whole would benefit, it might not matter at
all to the ruling group in that society. So you can get those kind of factors that lead to such a
significant increase in poverty for people who have to
live in these situations across the world. So hopefully this is
not a super-shocking set of kind of implications
after that presentation, but when we think about these women who still are facing these restrictions and their ability to make
their own economic decisions, and wondering how to
improve their situation, I think we can borrow from
the American experience. Access to economic
opportunity is important. One of the main ways
that economic opportunity can increase in developing nations is if we freely trade with them. Is it okay, or is it not okay to build a factory in Bangladesh? I picked kind of a controversial
example on purpose, because there are concerns, often, of should we be, you know, putting economic sanctions
against countries that don’t treat their people well? If labor standards aren’t up to snuff in these different industries in different parts of the world, does that mean we should
not be supporting them? Well, maybe, but you probably are limiting options for women in those
countries when you do so. Making it easier to cross borders, again, it’s that ability to exit that’s gonna be your protection, not only in individual relationships, but also from an oppressive
set of laws in your country, and the ideological point that remembering that economic rights are not counter to human rights. So when we make arguments about needing to protect
people from corporations, things like that, what we’re often doing is
hindering their human rights and their ability to
make economic decisions without really recognizing it or thinking about it in that way. So if we, in the name of
human rights and advancement wind up cutting of these opportunities, we do a disservice to these women. So making, doing the work
to educate on that margin is something that really can
make a meaningful difference and can change the fortunes
of women around the globe. Thank you. (audience applauds)

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