Wednesday, March 08, 2006

International Women's Day: March 8 :: United Nations

What are some of the key factors of the 20th century that improved the lives of women and those with whom they share their lives?

Here are some suggestions, acknowledging that these show great variation across the globe:

1. Invention of the electric stove, vacuum cleaner and other household labor saving devices. Households became easier to run, benefiting households. At the same time, the value of time devoted to household chores declined and women were attracted into work outside the home.

2. Cultural mores changed and the doors of education opened. Women's lives were changed, and greater opportunities as adults opened up to them.

3. Effective, reliable contraception. Women could enjoy sex and delay bearing children until later in marriage. The children of those women benefited for the better care they received from a more mature mother.

4. Removal of laws and government regulations discriminatory to women. In the early 1900s in many US states, a public school teacher who married (!) would be terminated.

5. Spread of free market capitalism fueling economic growth. Like all the items listed above economic growth, too, benefited females and males and the families they created.

6. Real wages have grown, and they have grown fastest for characteristics where women form the majority - not brawn, but verbal skills and brains.

I'm not sure how much the UN or NOW contributed to any of these factors, if at all. I welcome comments, including suggestions, on the key factors improving women's lives, whether following the theme of 1 through 6 above, or not.

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