The moment America came to be, society’s most basic unit also followed. Typically, anyone would see a family composed of a husband, wife, children, and relatives/extended family.
During the early years, specifically in the 19th and 20th centuries, enslaved people were not acknowledged as part of the family. Marriage back then was transactional that benefits both parties’ families. Gaining properties and contingency plans were among the agendas for Americans to marry then.
If there’s anything constant, especially amongst families in the American society, it is changing, added with some shift in gender roles, functions, and behaviors towards one another. We are exploring the social history of one family’s life in America and how it affects the individuality of every member.
The Dilemma of a Wife
It was a difficult time for any woman who was married during the early 19th – 20th century to forfeit their identity to become one with her husband. Essentially, there will be an erasure of the life led so far. The husband retains whatever life he has been showing so far, making them emotionally distant.
They also have complete control over the assets and overall finances. Society has deemed the man with authority, putting the married woman at a disadvantage.
Government’s Family Aid
Although gender role imbalance dominated America’s 18th – 19th century, some changes had been lobbied before then, particularly in the 19th century, through the Married Women’s Property Acts, enacted on 1839. it was then that many states granted women to own property, work their way around the law, enter into legally binding agreements, etc. Even so, the woman’s role in society must still be determined by the husband.
Exploring the Modern Day Family
The basic unit of the American society is called a “nuclear family” that ticks all boxes of what the American family should look like: middle-class, patriarchal, and child-oriented. The modern-day family doesn’t tap into those categories anymore since they do not necessarily paint a picture of what a family should be like.
If there was one thing that blended in with the progress of a modern-day family, it is the help of the rise of a new age economy that brought technology to a constantly increasing peak. The changes in this aspect resulted in women’s direct participation as functioning members of society, whether in the workforce or in education. A large population of women of all ages took on part-time and full-time jobs to aid with the family’s expenses.
Shifting Into the Modern Family
The American family structure took a sharp turn after historical factors, making people shift their perspective on how families are built today. The effect trickled down across the country with divorce and falling out as part of family life. For example, California is the first to allow no-fault divorce. It permits both parties to state their divorce as ‘irreconcilable differences’ without finding fault. Every other state followed this kind of policy for 16 years.
This fundamental right extended to same-sex couples after the government legalized gay marriage in 2015. As much as there is a sliver of hope, more LGBTQ+ people still couldn’t stretch out the benefits of such laws because, in the eyes of the legal world, they are far from being into it.
Even though these scenarios continually depict the changes in how a family should function, diversity in terms of ethnicity, religion, and lifestyle is one of the critical components of building a familial foundation. But that doesn’t mean the family is close to extinction.
The war stripped off everything that society in the middle class has, including family. And it took a major overhaul just for a step to be taken. Even with the changing times and how the concept of family is replaced with another one, there’s the underlying importance of still keeping the tradition as it was.
It’s also important to remember that today’s world challenges the notion of a traditional family setup. Single parenthood, flexible family setup, and little to no children show how we as people can continually defy the mold given by time.