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Explaining Women’s Liberation

There are alternative views of how women’s liberation came about. Perhaps the pill, that freed women from permanent pregnancy or lactation as a life choice. Or possibly all those brave women who fought for that freedom.

Then there’s reality. From Peter Jones’ book, “Veni, Vidi, Vici”:

Perhaps a third of Roman infants did not reach one month. About half of Romans born would not reach the age of five, those who reached 10 could hope to reach the age of 50. …(…)…If female roles were limited in ancient society it was because of the demographic imperative to maintain population numbers, not misogyny.

This largely held true everywhere until the 1840s when those infant death rates started to fall – town drains having more than anything else to do with it. Those infant death rates have only just fallen – in the past few decades – in some parts of the world and that is what explains the drop in fertility in those places. As it did in those places which did it earlier.

Of course, all those marches and shouting and throwing under racehorses did have an effect. For there are still some places where the liberation hasn’t quite happened even as the drop in birth rates has. But it’s the drains that came first – because they are what made room for it to be possible for a woman to spend her adult life doing something other than being pregnant or lactating.

Everything else flows from that possibility. Without it none of that economic nor political liberation would have happened. All very Marxist of course, technology determines social relations, but true for all that.

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Arthur the Cat
Arthur the Cat
9 months ago

“town drains having more than anything else to do with it”

I can’t remember who said it, but I’ve always liked the quote “plumbers and sewage workers have done more for mankind than scientists and poets”.

Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
9 months ago
Reply to  Arthur the Cat

Well maybe not scientists but certainly Hollywood actors.

Snarkus
Snarkus
9 months ago

So the Arab North African cities that were built 1000 years ago with sanitation should have had an outbreak of sexual equality ? Dont think so. But yes, consistent evidence that lowering childhood death rates and increasing income reduce births. Probably explains the number of young large families occurring in my rural backwater.

Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
9 months ago
Reply to  Snarkus

The Arab world of Omar Khayyam is pretty liberated. You could also check out the Thousand and One Nights. By modern standards, at least in Arab countries, they would be considered haram.

John B
John B
9 months ago

Washing machines.

Prior to which ‘wash day’ (invariably Monday) was a dawn to dusk, outdoor, arduous, labour-intensive, manual procedure.

Boganboy
Boganboy
9 months ago
Reply to  John B

We didn’t have a washing machine for the first part of my life. Mum had read in the papers that women had been electrocuted by them.

We went on a holiday to Mermaid Beach, and the place had a washing machine. Mum could just dump the stuff in to wash and come down to the beach with us. When we got home, mum got a washing machine.

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