Professional female networks

October 24, 2014

While women’s movement first organized on issues of women’s rights and suffrage, the movement has since worked for equality in employment opportunity and pay. In 1868, New York City journalist Jane Cunningham Croly was denied admittance to a dinner at an all-male press club, honoring author Charles Dickens based solely upon her sex. Croly soon organized a club for professional women called Sorosis, derived from the Greek meaning “a sweet fruit of many flavors”. Opportunities for professional or intellectual women to network were scarce, and by the end of the year, eighty-three women paid the $5.00 annual membership (equivalent to an average working woman’s weekly wage). The group met and Delmonico’s Restaurant, and regularly caused a stir because it was so unusual for an unescorted woman to dine in public. After the Civil War boom, the Beecher sisters with their American Woman’s Home (1869), attempted to direct women to prudently acquire and use the plethora of new consumer products available. The Beecher sisters felt that the chief cause of women’s social disadvantages was that they were not trained, as men are, for their peculiar duties, and the aim of their book was to “the honor and remuneration of domestic employment.”

In 1890, Croly and her Sorosis group invited women’s clubs throughout the United States to participate in a convention in New York. Sixty-three women’s clubs responded, resulting in the formation of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which has since become a major volunteer service organization mobilized to promote issues related to civil rights and human rights. Moving into the twentieth century, women’s voices in regards to domestic work shifted radically as they fought for and obtained the vote. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) was seventy-seven years old when she wrote The Solitude of Self (1892) after stepping down from the presidency of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Stanton recognized the political ramifications and psychological resources of “self” or of a woman having an individual life, ”Whatever theories may be on woman’s dependence on man, in the supreme moments of her life, he cannot bear her burdens.”

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