In 1840 leaders of the antislavery movement gathered in London, England. Among the Americans attending were woman.
Yet, when they tried to take part in the actual meeting, they found themselves ignored and silenced. Men angrily claimed that it was not a woman's place to speak in public. They voted not to allow woman delegates to play a role in the meeting. Instead, the woman sat and said nothing.
Today, this sounds like discrimination, but in the beginning of the antebellum years, this outlook towards woman, by men, was not unusual. Many people believed that woman should not play a role in public life. Their role was supposed to be in the home, washing clothes, fixing dinners and attending to children. Women were not supposed to be "speaking their minds" or participating in voting. Woman could not vote, sit on juries, or hold public office. Many laws treated woman as children. In most states, a husband controlled any property his wife inherited or any wages she earned.
A husband could also punish his wife, as long as he did not seriously harm her. Most women of this period accepted their role without complaint. Society however was changing and new roles for women were developing. Nevertheless, some woman felt stifled, and they launched a major new movement to win a new role in society. But what exactly was this new role and what did this movement actually move the woman to? The antebellum time was a time of many social and political changes. American men and woman became closer emotionally in the early 1800's, and thus more women married for love. At the same time though, husbands and wives were leading completely different lives.
In colonial times the home and workplace had usually been one and the same. Husbands and wives worked along side each other. As factories and other business opened up America's cities, the home and the workplace became separate. Husbands left home and woman ran the households. .