Centennial Series: The Women's Movement in the Progressive Era

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, domesticity defined American women's lives. They were expected to maintain the homes to which they had no legal claim, relinquish earned wages to their husbands, and rear the children. Eager to look beyond their home life and gain power and authority within their communities, women, as early as 1830, formed social organizations known as women's clubs. These groups, consisting mostly of middle-class homemakers, centered on protecting mothers and children, explored all issues related to health and welfare, and drove social change (Tucker, 2004).

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