Kingdom Revolution: Bringing Change to Your Life and Beyond

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Kingdom Revolution : Bringing Change to Your Life and Beyond

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ISBN 13: 9780768430998

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Even in times of prosperity unskilled workers might perpetually lack good wages and economic security and therefore had to forever depend on supplemental income from their wives and young children. Wage workers—a population disproportionately composed of immigrants and poorer Americans—faced low wages, long hours, and dangerous working conditions. Class conflict developed. Instead of the formal inequality of a master-servant contract, employer and employee entered a contract presumably as equals.

But hierarchy was evident: employers had financial security and political power; employees faced uncertainty and powerlessness in the workplace. Dependent on the whims of their employers, some workers turned to strikes and unions to pool their resources. For the middle-class managers and civic leaders caught between workers and owners, unions enflamed a dangerous antagonism between employers and employees. They countered any claims of inherent class conflict with the ideology of social mobility.

Middle-class owners and managers justified their economic privilege as the natural product of superior character traits, including decision making and hard work. What a mistaken view do these men have of Northern labourers! They think that men are always to remain labourers here—but there is no such class. The man who laboured for another last year, this year labours for himself. And next year he will hire others to labour for him. In the first half of the nineteenth century, families in the northern United States increasingly participated in the cash economy created by the market revolution.

The first stirrings of industrialization shifted work away from the home. The market revolution therefore not only transformed the economy, it changed the nature of the American family.


As the market revolution thrust workers into new systems of production, it redefined gender roles. The market integrated families into a new cash economy. Women and children worked to supplement the low wages of many male workers. The ideal of an innocent and protected childhood was a privilege for middle- and upper-class families, who might look down upon poor families. Meanwhile, the education received by middle-class children provided a foundation for future economic privilege.

As artisans lost control over their trades, young men had a greater incentive to invest time in education to find skilled positions later in life. Formal schooling was especially important for young men who desired apprenticeships in retail or commercial work. University of Virginia. Education equipped young women with the tools to live sophisticated, genteel lives.

Middle-class youths found opportunities for respectable employment through formal education, but poor youths remained in marginalized positions. When pauper children did receive teaching through institutions such the House of Refuge in New York City, they were often simultaneously indentured to successful families to serve as field hands or domestic laborers. During the market revolution, however, more children were able to postpone employment.


As these children matured, their early experiences often determined whether they entered respectable, well-paying positions or became dependent workers with little prospects for social mobility. Just as children were expected to be sheltered from the adult world of work, American culture expected men and women to assume distinct gender roles as they prepared for marriage and family life.

Even nonworking women labored by shopping for the household, producing food and clothing, cleaning, educating children, and performing similar activities. While reality muddied the ideal, the divide between a private, female world of home and a public, male world of business defined American gender hierarchy. The idea of separate spheres also displayed a distinct class bias. Women were to be mothers and educators, not partners in production. But lower-class women continued to contribute directly to the household economy.

The middle- and upper-class ideal was feasible only in households where women did not need to engage in paid labor. In poorer households, women engaged in wage labor as factory workers, pieceworkers producing items for market consumption, tavern- and innkeepers, and domestic servants. While many of the fundamental tasks women performed remained the same—producing clothing, cultivating vegetables, overseeing dairy production, and performing any number of other domestic labors—the key difference was whether and when they performed these tasks for cash in a market economy. Cloth production, for instance, advanced throughout the market revolution as new mechanized production increased the volume and variety of fabrics available to ordinary people.

This relieved many better-off women of a traditional labor obligation. Purchasing cloth and, later, ready-made clothes began to transform women from producers to consumers.

One woman from Maine, Martha Ballard, regularly referenced spinning, weaving, and knitting in the diary she kept from to The production of cloth and clothing was a year-round, labor-intensive process, but it was for home consumption, not commercial markets. In cities, where women could buy cheap imported cloth to turn into clothing, they became skilled consumers. They stewarded money earned by their husbands by comparing values and haggling over prices.

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In one typical experience, Mrs. While servants or slaves routinely made low-value purchases, the mistress of the household trusted her discriminating eye alone for expensive or specific purchases. Women might also parlay their skills into businesses. In addition to working as seamstresses, milliners, or laundresses, women might undertake paid work for neighbors or acquaintances or combine clothing production with management of a boardinghouse. Even slaves with particular skill at producing clothing could be hired out for a higher price or might even negotiate to work part-time for themselves.