Introduction There is not a doubt that the lives of women have changed over the past century. Australian women have gone through periods where she was the property of the man, and her father could arrange a marriage between her and somebody else. She has seen periods where she was unable to initiate a divorce, and periods where she could initiate a divorce, yet had to show grounds, which made divorcing difficult…
This is where the current state of woman is, and it has resulted in a high failure rate for marriages. This paper will examine how the roles of women have changed in Australian society, both in and outside of marriage, and how these roles have affected marriage and divorces in the last century. Discussion The largest change for women, in the realm of marriage, is the fact that patriarchy has shifted. For instance, one may view the movie The Piano for an example of how things used to be for women in Australia and New Zealand. In The Piano, the woman in the marriage was in the marriage because it was arranged, and, although it was evident that the main character, Ada, had a husband who wanted a “real” marriage, this never manifested. It was quite simply obvious that Alistair, the husband in this scenario, saw Ada as a way to bolster his social standing and really nothing more (The Piano). The Piano reflects a time in Australian history, indeed, in the history of the world, where women were regarded as property, and, because of this, fathers were able to force their daughters into loveless marriages. This reflects the standing of women in general during the 1850s. While The Piano reflects a time during the 19th Century, this paper will deal with the changing status of women during the 20th Century, but it is a helpful touchstone nonetheless. From the patriarchy in the 1850s, as evident in The Piano, a wave of reforms hit Australian society in the late 1800s, in a first wave of feminism in which women demanded to be counted as an equal in society, as well as within her own family. This was a wave of reform in which women were able to divorce their husbands, instead of divorce being the sole province of the man, which is what the case was before these reforms. This actually showed that the feminist movement gave more rights to women then did England, as women were not granted the right to divorce her husband on the grounds of adultery until 1923 in England, yet this right was granted in New South Wales in 1881 (James, 2005). This all leads to the rights of women at the turn of the century. The irony is that, according to Folbre (1991), while women were beginning to have parity with men in divorce court, their rights as within the marriage were actually being rolled back a bit. Folbre states that, in 1800, the work that a woman performs within the marriage was considered productive work for the purpose of labor force participation. In other words, the work that women did in 1800 was considered a part of the overall economic structure, and this work was considered to be a source of wealth. By 1900, however, this work was no longer considered productive, and women were considered to be “dependent,” along with senior citizens, children and disabled persons (Folbre, 1991). In other words, at the beginning of the 19th Century, the women’s contributions to the household were considered a driver of economic growth; by the beginning of the 20th Century, this was no longer true. This shows that, at a time when women were getting some parity when it comes to divorce court, she was simultaneously being oppressed within the marriage itself, as she was considered to be the same as a child or a disabled person within the ...
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