Much Madness is divinest Sense-
To a discerning Eye-
Much sense-the starkest Madness-
Emily Dickinson

a soul in bondage

"A Soul in Bondage", 1895

adams memorial

This is a photograph of the Adams
Memorial, built in honor of Mrs. Adams
after she committed suicide in 1892.

      Industry, Anxiety and New Social Conditions

Anxiety was a common complaint among men and women in the latter half of the nineteenth century. As cities grew and new industries developed away from the home, many Americans felt displaced and uncertain about their futures. The birthrate declined significantly in the latter half of the century, there was a 15% jump in divorce rates between 1870 and 1920, and physicians estimated one abortion for every four live births.

In addition to the strain placed on families due to changes in the American social and economic structures, men and women struggled to understand the impact of these changes on their roles within society. Increasingly, men and women were expected to operate in separate spheres. For men, this generally meant greater autonomy; however for women, these new gendered spaces limited their ability to participate in the new economy. While their domestic power increased, the power of domesticity decreased since it was no longer a source of income, leading to a decrease in women's power.

Women resisted these changes and the threat of their resistance can be understood through the strength of the response by advice givers. The more rigid the requirements for women, the stronger the threat. By the turn of the century, it was clear that the threat of women voting was strong (seven states had given women the right to vote). This was the foundation for an outpouring of advice from various professional and popular media sources (art and magazines).


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