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THE HISTORY OF A WOMAN'S PURPOSE

Updated: May 28, 2023



Looking at history, especially when you have to consider race and gender in the equation, will always be controversial.


Why? Because there is so much hidden history and so many conflicting narratives, it is difficult to decipher the truth or portray a perspective that serves all parties.


But in this blog post, I will try to express my succinct findings which play a huge part in how many women think about the subject of purpose.


My hope is that it will also shed some light onto why it can be so difficult for some to understand their purpose. And in doing so, relieve some of the guilt and pressure if you’re someone who has been plagued with the confusion of not knowing your purpose.


I must also point out that my findings were focused on a western setting, so not all cultures may be represented in this summary. Feel free to share any perspectives you may have.


So without any further ado, here goes…


Image by Rosy_Photo - Pixabay


SLAVERY


Before I address single women, let’s address the elephant in the room.

For approximately 400 years up until it’s abolishment in 1865, slavery existed worldwide but predominantly in the West where it was legal to enslave black people.


I don’t need to remind you of the brutality of this era and therefore the undesired impact this would have had on the way that a black woman fulfilled her purpose.


Unlike free women, for an enslaved woman in America, her master would have been her first priority before her husband, children and peers, even if this order went against her true feelings. She would have had to carry out her master’s orders (and the orders of his family) before addressing even her own needs for the sake of her survival.


When it came to work on the plantation, one account said that you could not tell the difference between a man and a woman in the field because the women worked just as hard as men and wore pantlets or breeches just like them.


Other accounts say that enslaved women carried out what was considered to be ‘men’s work’ often to a better degree than the man. This could be due to the fact that after working in the fields, women were usually the ones to carry out domestic duties, therefore building up extra skills which often made them better workers.

And since enslaved men could not be the stereotypical provider to the family, with her extra skills this allowed women the right to hold positions of authority. All this despite the opposite being observed amongst their masters where traditional gender roles were upheld.


What’s interesting is that during the time of emancipation, those in charge of managing the transition of the freedmen and women imposed the social norms of men being the workers or breadwinners upon them, unaware that they might have done things differently when they were slaves.

After slavery, women lost their equal or superior status in the public domain and married women had to look to their husbands for domestic, financial and political support amongst other needs.


In Africa, a woman's primary social role [and purpose] was that of mother. In slavery, this aspect of African womanhood was debased. Whereas childbirth in Africa was a rite of passage for women that earned them increased respect, within the American plantation system, it was an economic advantage for the master, who multiplied his labor force through slave pregnancy.


Before World War One, single women in general were often guarded by a male figure (such as brother or father) and would have engaged in ‘female’ work roles but they usually worked for their own keep.


Image by qimono - Pixabay



SINGLENESS


Up until approximately 1865, a single woman who didn’t have to work to support herself would likely have resigned herself to a ‘boring’ life in her childhood home with her parents. (One researchers words, not mine).


In America especially, single women were referred to as “old maids” or “spinsters.” They were widely regarded as pitiable women who lived off the kindness and condescension of their family members. (A horrible summation, I know).


But by the late 19th century, prospects for women started to change, creating the more modern “bachelor girl”—independent, educated, cultured, and fashionable.


That was the case, at least for Caucasian women. I admit that this research lacks the perspective of all ethnicities because during the time I had, the sources I found were limited.


As you can probably imagine, a lot of the sources were written from a Caucasian or Black perspective, given the sensitive period in history that I have been focusing on.

One statistic shows (in America), in 1880, 35.4 percent of married black women and 73.3 percent of single black women were in the labor force compared with only 7.3 percent of married white women and 23.8 percent of single white women. Black women’s higher participation rates extended over their lifetimes, even after marriage, while white women typically left the labor force after marriage.


What does this all mean?

It’s just an insight! For a single woman back then, her primary purpose appeared to be self-sustenance. I presume there was a lot more to singlehood, but from the sources I’ve found, there is a huge focus on the married woman. One can only imagine the unannounced contributions that single women made to society at that time. One thing is for sure, they would have had a purpose despite how others viewed them.


From what I can glean, most women desired marriage. For those who wanted marriage but remained singe or those who desired to be single, I can imagine it took a level of courage to maintain the ‘single’ status due to the outside pressure. Marriage was a common expectation and to be single carried a certain stigma. But as we know, over time this changed...



Image by jatocreate - Pixabay



KIDS!


Put it this way, prior to the 20th century, there was an expectation for women to have children. Case closed. It may seem unfair to today's standards but that's just how it was.

In the context of purpose for a woman, my main findings were that children were considered to be economic assets in history due to the contribution they made to the workforce within the household.


As a woman was the one to carry children, childrearing naturally became the focus of a large portion of her life. While I’m sure there were many more sentimental reasons towards having a large family, the contribution that children made to the overall wealth of the household was undeniable and spoken of a lot in historical documents.


While I could not find much on the purpose of women without children, there is a strong sense that women were subservient to men, if not to their own husbands, then to close relatives who would have been a protective figure to the unmarried woman. Therefore a lot of their time would have been to support the ambitions of the leading male figure.


Towards the 20th Century women were having children later and it was becoming more common for women to decide to have fewer children or in some cases, none at all. This was due to the shifting perspective of wealth.

Reading between the lines, the change in demand from farmers to more industrialised positions meant that larger families were becoming more expensive to sustain, thus, the incentive to downsize.

When women were called to work during the world wars, this created a new perspective on women’s capabilities, rights and therefore her perceived purpose.


Image by trevoykellyphotography - Pixabay



21st CENTURY GIRL

Then came the rise of feminism, the gradual change in men and women’s roles and fast forward to 2022, we see the expectations that we have today.


No matter what view you have on these changes, it is hard to deny the challenge that has been created with the position of purpose.


As many women decide not to marry or have children, and those who do desire marriage are getting wed later and later, this leaves a period where the ‘fulfilment’ gap has to be filled.


"The ‘fulfilment’ gap has to be filled."


What must a single woman now do with her time?


Not to mention the economic implications that the whole shift has created. Like the fact that it’s rare that one person's income can cover the needs of an average sized family, so where married women may have had the choice not to work in the past, that choice has been weakened gradually over time.

Universities have generated a higher expectation in what jobs are acceptable to the ‘educated’ population and with more and more people going to university, gaining alternative qualifications and therefore looking for high paid quality jobs along with a limit to the jobs available, there is more dissatisfaction now then ever.

And if all of THAT was not enough, cue 2020 and the commotion that it caused - High inflation, redundancies, business closures, you name it.

So we are currently faced with a situation where not only are there men and women of high skill and expectation looking for work, there are more people who would have otherwise been employed ALSO having to look for work. Furthermore, the work that is available has been highly impacted with all the regulations and damage caused by the past few years, can you see where this is going?


So how do we establish purpose now?


The fact is, every problem opens up a doorway for new solutions and therefore opportunities and as individuals, it is our job to take stock of where we are now, what we have to offer the world and what solutions we can provide.

That is where ‘finding purpose’ comes in!


There’s no shame in wanting marriage and desiring to serve your husband and family, but if that is not an option for you right now, there’s other ways to achieve purpose for now.


And even if you are married, if you have the time and opportunity to do more, I‘ve got you as well…


SOLUTION

It starts with knowing what you’re good at, understanding your gifts, identifying what skills you’re willing to learn and aligning that with a need you have identified in society.


This is not always an easy process, especially if you’re a multi-passionate woman who has many abilities and ideas. That’s why it’s important to do the work to pinpoint your priorities and work towards your purpose.


No risk, no reward.


Have you been playing it too safe?


When’s the last time you took a chance on yourself? I mean REALLY pushed the boat out to try something different?


It’s in the unknown where you will find the biggest pay-off. Why? Because if you knew all there is to know, you’d be living your purpose and therefore living the dream already!


And I believe deep down you have a dream. I mean, don’t we all?

Yes you may have seen some dreams come true already, but while you live there’s so much more for you. You just have to be willing to go get it. Reach that target, hit that milestone, do that thing…


So I’ll ask you again… Have you been playing it too safe?


Maybe playing it safe is not the problem, maybe you lack direction or consistency?


If any of these factors have been a barrier between you and your purpose, I believe today is the day you can shift that.


It’s called ‘FIND YOUR UNIQUE PURPOSE,’ a workbook I designed to help women just like you to overcome their mental blockages, anxieties and perceived limitations.


What you get 💥:

✅ A 32 page workbook (digital download)

✅ A BONUS pack of productivity organisers

✅ A 7 day money back guarantee


Benefits:

* System to find your unique purpose

* Save hundreds of soul-searching hours

* Identify your natural abilities and passions

* Identify your spiritual gifts (as found in the Bible)

* Explore options to utilise gifts and talents

* Set effective goals to express your purpose immediately 

* Only takes a few hours to complete

* Will help anyone who feels STUCK in life or business














Sources:

Black Slave Gender Roles: How They Were Changed by Emancipation by: Caile Morris


Men, Women & Gender by: Jennifer Hallam


SINGLE LADIES – 19TH CENTURY STYLE by: Erika Janik


How Victorian “Bachelor Girls” Revolutionized America’s View of Single Women by: Karen Lee


Female Labor Workforce Participation: The Origin of Black and White Differences, 1970 and 1980.




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