The world changes in the blink of an eye. In the 21st century, we have the luxury of visiting scenes from history in books, film, and documents, with the safety and conveniences of modern life. Join me to examine the lives of our ancestors, imagine their experiences, and connect with their struggles and triumphs.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Discrimination Against Women

Trouble in Chatham Street

Quite a commotion was produced yesterday morning among the traffickers in new clothes, old clothes, and “matters and things in general.” located in Chatham street, who have for years past been in the habit of throwing open their shops for trade, and exposing their wares at their doors and windows. The common Council have recently passed a resolution for the enforcement of the long neglected ordinance for the prevention of Sunday trafficking, the police under the direction of the Mayor, have commenced enforcing a strict and general observance of that ordinance, heretofore enforced only against the poor women and boys who eked out a few pence profit by selling apples and pea nuts. Almost with the rising of the sun, yesterday, the Chatham street retailers who have heretofore been in that practice, opened their shops and stalls, and hung out their articles of trade, as usual, but before ten o’clock they received a visit from officer Merritt, who warned them to take in their “traps,” and close their shops, and that in case of their refusal or neglect to comply in stanter, or their reopening on any future Sabbath for the purposes of trade, they would be proceeded against according to law. Most, if not all of them, had the discretion to comply with the requirement, and henceforth a strict watch will be kept upon them which will render it both unsafe and disagreeable for them to continue desecrating the Sabbath in the manner which has been too long tolerated. N. Y. Sun.
Hartford Watchman
Hartford, Connecticut
June 2, 1838

Image courtesy of Library of Congress -
"Magisterial vigilance, or the picket guard civilly clearing Cornhill of a few old apple women"

*Note the article states the ordinance banning commerce on Sundays had always been enforced against women and children eking out a few pennies selling food. This illustrates yet another way women were controlled and kept powerless. Both women and children were deemed a nuisance, but even more telling, women were relegated to the same status level as children. Many of the women resorting to such business were likely widows or may have been deserted. Few jobs were open to them. Poor Laws often worked against them (as they did against most); the laws discriminated against those not native to a town or region, and if they had relocated for marriage, they were shunned if they lost their ties to the community through death or abandonment. They were often home-bound, caring for young children or disabled. Without a means for income on their own, they were often forced into extreme poverty or marriage and rarely had the opportunity to change their station.

I also can't help but see a subtext of religious punishment. Women not allowed to sell apples....


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