What Was Life Like for Women in 1900?

In 1900, women did not have the right to vote or run for office. Much of what women could or could not do was dictated by their social class, family background, ethnicity, race, marital status and economic situation.

In 1900, 85 percent of women over the age of 25 were married or widows. Most women grew up imagining a life were they would be married, take care of the house while their husbands worked, and have children. If a woman had to work, she would teach, nurse, waitress, cook, clean or work in a factory.

Women had access to education in 1900 and were attending school in record numbers. Literacy rates among women surpassed those among men. Women attended colleges but were not permitted to study alongside men.

A college education was initially seen as a positive trait for a woman. However, educating women drew backlash from the community. College-educated women had fewer children than other women, and married later in life, if at all. The traditional role of women was being challenged.

In 1900, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) worked to give women equal rights. Wisconsin was the first state to allow women partial voting rights as well as the right to run for a seat on the school board. However, full voting rights were not granted until 1920.