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A resource for reliable information about ificant people, places, events, and things in Minnesota history. The part played by women in Minnesota's development has been deeply influenced by demography. Immigrants have been important in Women in minnesota state from its beginnings until the twenty-first century, and in their struggles for cohesion, identity, and leadership, newcomers have relied on women as supporters of community and preservers of language and culture. Therefore, until very recent years, Minnesota has been slow in giving equal rights and political prominence to women, especially in places like the Iron Range, where ethnic traditions are strong.
Minnesota has produced no nationally heard voices for feminism, nor has the state had many celebrated female artists and reformers. Yet there have been notable teachers, and the influence of women in Minnesota has been great within families and schools, and when they are working as a group in their communities and through their organizations. Long before Minnesota was a state, Dakota and Ojibwe women in the region had a strong voice in deciding policies of trade or of war and peace, although they were not ordinarily a part of tribal councils. Usually working together, they processed hides and meat, raised gardens, made maple sugarand gathered wild fruit, nuts, and herbs.
They also were responsible for building and maintaining the dwelling, whether a skin tipi or a bark house, and it belonged to the wife. Thus, a woman had the right, backed by others in the community, to tell an abusive or lazy husband to leave. The role of men was in performing the strenuous and often dangerous job of hunting. Men also defended the family or band in warfare when necessary and generally represented the tribe in external relations. By contrast, white women on isolated frontier homeste worked alongside men to turn the prairie into a farm and had almost no contact or influence outside their immediate families.
Even as settlement increased and community life developed, farmwomen had little chance to work together other than at occasional church events. One exception in Minnesota was the Patrons of Husbandry, better known as the Grange.
Started by an Elk River settler named Oliver H. Kelley, the Grange grew into a nationwide brotherhood of farmers during the s. At the urging of Kelley's niece, Caroline Hall, the organization admitted women and became a sisterhood as well. During the first 30 years of statehood c. Domestic service was one, and many young immigrants became maids, cooks, and housekeepers. But American-born women tended to shun domestic service as demeaning work.
For the better educated, school teaching was an option; however, pay was low and in rural districts teachers had to "board around" with local families. Not until the s, with the growth of the Twin Cities and the opening of mills and factories, did more opportunities appear. Byfarmers' daughters working in city sweatshops gave Minneapolis and St.
Paul more women living independent of their families than most other urban centers in the country. Better working conditions, but not better pay, came with the invention of the typewriter and other office machines, and with the growing complexity of business operations. The "paperwork revolution" in the early twentieth century provided a whole new field of employment for women. By the s, women were well established not only in clerical work but also in such traditional women's occupations as teaching and nursing.
As the decade drew to a close, new industrial unions brought women more opportunities and better pay. For example, at the Strutwear Hosiery Company in Minneapolis, a fierce strike in and led a craft union of skilled male knitters to admit some production workers, mostly women, who had been excluded. And in the service industry, organizer Nellie Stone Johnson made female and minority employees the core of a new union of all Twin Cities hotel and restaurant workers. During the labor shortage of World War II, women were asked to take jobs.
The country assumed that they would return to homemaking after the war, but they did not. In Minnesota, as elsewhere, nearly half the state's women continued in employment outside Women in minnesota home, although their average wages and chances for promotion were far lower than those of men. This inequality continued for decades before a group of Minnesota women, known as the Willmar 8brought it to the nation's attention in and They staged a strike at a Willmar bank after being told that they need not apply for promotion, even while training the men hired for supervisory positions.
They received little support from either government or unions, and they lost their jobs, but the publicizing of their story brought the beginnings of change in the white-collar world. InMinnesota mandated a comparable worth policy for state employment, and init was extended to local governments.
This put indirect pressure on private businesses to equalize pay and opportunities. Nevertheless, the first decade of the twenty-first century still saw a "glass ceiling" in much of the corporate world and an average disparity of more than 20 percent in pay between men and women in Minnesota. In an informal way, much education always has been carried on through the arts. Storytelling, painting, singing, and making decorative crafts communicate the elements of a culture to the young. This was especially true in American Indian societies where much of the instruction was provided by women in connection with daily tasks, through the decoration of functional objects like moccasins, or with the creation of highly prized ceremonial wear like bandolier bags.
Among Euro-Americans, activities such as quilt-making, embroidery, and lace-making were generally dismissed as "crafts," and women who had the opportunity aspired to more pure forms of "art," like sketching, piano playing, singing, and writing. These were the tests of cultivation and class status for both a woman and the community in which she lived. To demonstrate that their cities and towns were indeed "civilized" places, women on the Minnesota frontier often combined to patronize the arts with choirs, art shows, or dramatic productions, and to bring noted performers or lecturers to the state.
Few Minnesota women gained more than local fame as performers, but some women's organizations, like St. Paul's Schubert Club and the Minneapolis Institute of Artsgrew into civic institutions that achieved a wide reputation for excellence. In literature, individual women had more opportunity. The first women to preside over formal classrooms in Minnesota were missionaries or the wives of missionaries, and most of their students were American Indians.
As white settlement spread in the s, the demand for teachers in rural schools led to the need for female education. The territory's first private Women in minnesota, Hamline University, which opened classes at Red Wing inadmitted women along with men.
Other colleges did the same, and by the s, there were even a few female faculty members. One of those was Maria Sanfordwho had a wide impact on the growing state both as a professor of English at the University of Minnesota and a popular public lecturer on art, travel, and the classics. Inthe Sisters of St. Joseph founded the College of St. Catherine for Minnesota's Catholic women. Three other Catholic women's colleges quickly followed. Ina narrow majority of Minnesota men voted to allow women to cast ballots and run for office in school elections.
After that, a few women began to appear on school boards and in supervisory positions. It was not untilhowever, that the State Department of Education called for an Women in minnesota to widely practiced discrimination in hiring and promotion on the basis of sex and marital status. Meanwhile, teachers like St. Paul was the scene of the country's first teachers' strike. Inthe city of Minneapolis had only eight d female physicians, but the practice of midwifery by women was well accepted.
Infor example, when illegal settlers were expelled from the Fort Snelling military Women in minnesota, army wives there pled with the commander to make an exception for one woman who was always relied on for assistance with difficult births. They were unsuccessful. The best-known name among women in Minnesota medicine is that of Martha Ripley.
She was one of the state's first generation of female physicians. Inwhen no Minneapolis hospital would admit an unmarried woman for care in pregnancy or childbirth, Ripley rented an empty house and founded Maternity Hospital, open to Women in minnesota and doubling as a social service agency. Run mainly by women, it was known as one of the most distinguished medical facilities in the Upper Midwest until it closed in The organization of women's clubs among affluent wives of city businessmen in the late nineteenth century led to the founding of the influential Minnesota Federation of Women's Clubs in and to the widespread promotion of social services.
Groups like the Women's Christian Association, the Women's Welfare League, and the Women's Cooperative Alliance provided housing and counseling for young working women and promoted family sex education and birth control. One of the most ificant achievements was adoption in of the Minnesotren's Code, a comprehensive piece of legislation that made Minnesota a leader in the protection of women and children. Women also played an active role in the settlement house movement, which supplied poor neighborhoods with resident social workers and services during the early twentieth century.
Constance Currie, director of Neighborhood House on St. Paul's West Side, and Gertrude Brown, first director of Phyllis Wheatley House in Women in minnesota, were among many who helped shape their communities far beyond the doors of such institutions. Building on their tradition of working together, Minnesota women forged ahead during the transformative years of the s and s. Many social barriers to women were confronted and fell. A volunteer collective that formed in St. Paul in opened the country's first shelter for battered women two years later.
Other shelters, along with forward-looking laws on domestic violence, followed. A more controversial issue was abortion. Efforts to legalize it in the state began in the s and opposition crystallized with the organization in of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. Inthe US Supreme Court declared antiabortion laws unconstitutional, but the struggle over it has continued, appearing in one form or another in every Minnesota legislative session since that time.
Suffrage for Minnesota women was delayed through seventy-two years of organizing and protesting, and then came only with the adoption of the nineteenth amendment to the US Constitution. The chief opposition was from the state's large German Catholic population and from its brewing industry. As elsewhere in the United States, the prohibition movement became linked with women's rights in Minnesota because liquor was widely associated with domestic abuse.
Scandinavian communities were more supportive of suffrage for Minnesota women after their countries of origin allowed women to vote: Finland inNorway inDenmark inand Sweden in In the final years of the struggle for suffrageMinnesota women were divided. Led by Sarah Colvin of St. Paul, the Minnesota Congressional Union used street protest and civil disobedience, while the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Associationled by Clara Ueland of Minneapolis, lobbied the legislature. After the vote was achieved, the more radical Minnesota Congressional Union went on to work for an equal rights amendment, while the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association became the League of Women Voters.
Many women opposed an equal rights amendment, arguing that it would destroy the protective laws for which they had worked hard. Another fifty years passed before Minnesota women had more than a token presence at any level of government, lawmaking, or the courts.Women in minnesota
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