Woman's Exponent Classics: Women Self-Supporting


This article from the original Woman’s Exponent in 1883 covers a lot of topics, women working outside of the home, voting, and becoming educated. This was reprinted in a 1975 issue of Exponent II. I find the last sentence interesting and wish there was more context surrounding it (it appears to have been taken from the end of the article). Enjoy!

Women Self-Supporting
Woman’s Exponent, 15 May 1883
Reprinted in Exponent II Vol. 2, No.1 (September 1975)

Step by step women are advancing in industrial pursuits, and becoming more helpful in the great battle of life, the struggle for temporal existence, termed in common parlance, “getting a living.” Even women of refinement and possessed of superior attainments do not feel quite satisfied to be dependent altogether upon the exertions of the “men folks,” of the household, but intelligent cultivated women step out into avenues of employment and actually earn money of their own. It is true that woman is the homekeeper as well as the housekeeper, and that her hands must beautify and adorn, and her sweet face and quiet, gentle ways make home the most delightful place in the world to its inmates by performing all the duties incidental to such a position, and whenever it is possible, it seems only consistent that she should be relived of all pecuniary cares, but it frequently happens that the wheels of life’s lumbering coach get clogged, and impediments often lie in the pathway of prosperity, and if the wife, the help meet can assist in removing any of these obstructions, so much the better and easier are they to overcome. And there are instances where heavier burdens fall on delicate, sensitive, shrinking women, and find them totally unprepared to lift up any burden; for misfortune comes to rich as well as poor, and not unfrequently women are left to work out the problem of bread and butter, or depend on upon the charity of friends.

How difficult for those who have never been educated in the school of self-reliance, never been disciplined in any regular habits of business, perchance, not trained in methods of economy in performing labor. On such women heavy indeed fall the burdens of self-support.

The best way to better the condition of women in these respects is to make industrial occupations for women popular, and to elevate labor. In order to do this, much must be done by means of the press and the platform. It is the opinion of many well-meaning people, and those of good judgment too, that the ballot is to be the great lever towards lifting women into the higher broader atmosphere of independence, but granting that even, women need the advantage of public expression through newspapers and organizations of their own, whereby they mutually educate and benefit each other, to accomplish the necessary good. There is no better method of communication between people engaged in any public enterprise than that of a newspaper, and until women talk to each other freely in this way and express their views and feelings, no great, tangible change will take place in the advancement of the masses of women. And it must be a paper, too, that women represent their own interests in public print as well as in other directions, especially those who have the exercise of the ballot? The Latter-day Saint women have many good reasons for sustaining a paper of their own…The Exponent has now completed its eleventh volume. It is said to be a good missionary paper and a great benefit to the Elders of the Church who are out in their fields of labor proclaiming the Gospel.

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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  1. Proud Daughter of Eve says:

    This was published in 1883. I don’t at the moment recall when the Church issued the Manifesto on Polygamy but 1883 is certainly in the time when polygamy was an issue. So them “Women’s Exponent” was good evidence against all the wild accusations about Mormon Women and how they were treated. I think that perhaps explains that last sentence about it being a good missionary paper.

  2. Tatiana says:

    I can’t help but feel that we’ve let those sisters down, and that they would have expected us to have come much further in 123 years, toward women’s full equality, than we have. I hope they are looking upon us with understanding. I feel so proud that they are part of our LDS heritage!

  3. Tanya Sue says:

    This is great! Thanks for posting it.

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