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Government regimes that have ruled Guatemala and Nicaragua during the twentieth century have resulted in significant social problems that affected the cultural structures of many communities, unbalanced rules regarding gender roles, and enforced patriarchal laws that dehumanised women and children. In Nicaragua, the villagers depend on coffee picking as their source of income. Women and children form the largest labor force in the coffee estates mainly because patriarchal laws position men into better jobs than their female colleagues.
Male counterparts in every household whether wealthy or peasant had authority over their wives and children. A husband had control over his wife’s body, labor, wages, and property (Dore 214). Besides, men were allowed to commit adultery as long as it was discrete and did not affect the other family; however, a woman’s infidelity was met with harsh criticism by the society and permitted grounds for divorce or even murder by the husband, fathers, and brothers (216).
Unmarried women and daughters were subjected to male dominance unless the senior male emancipated the daughter legally by granting her independence. Patriarchal authority and Nicaragua’s civil code of 1867 placed women in the same class as children stating that both groups were all equal. The public had the power to make decisions regarding a woman’s legal rights; thus, enslaving them in the hands of their husbands. Due to this, freedom for a woman was guaranteed by the death of the man where widows would claim more privileges such as owning property, signing contracts, and acclaiming wages.
In Guatemala, gender inequality was evident in the market places that were crowded by women traders. Gender and ethnicity dictated how people lived their lives in the locality. Due to the popularity and rise of patriarchal nationalism, the liberal government enhanced male concessions and increased inequalities between men and women to marginalise and reduce the influence of women in the market (Carey Jr 582). The regime imposed harsh rules on women denying them the chance to sell their products in open market. Women performed many of the duties in the coffee plantations; however, laws such as the corvée labor legislation and the vagrancy law, which operated in ensuring laborers for large landowners, only applied to the male population.
Moreover, municipalities never recognised the efforts of female vendor’s participation in the growth of the economy, and they resulted in imposing rules such as household tax without informing the women in the markets. The Guatemalan society ensured easy access of men to opportunities such as education, employment, and wealth; thus, failing to recognise women’s creativity in contributing to businesses that would support the well-being of their families. Equally important, Kaqchikel parents denied their daughters an opportunity for education stating that the system would induce indolence among their children. Women were economically discounted towards their role in the growth of the Mayan community; however, oral history contradicts this notion and provides evidence of women traveling to other parts of the region to sell their products.
The government denied women the opportunity to sell their wares outside market zones because they believed that their activities supported monopoly; thus, women were arrested, and heavy fines would follow.
Powerful regimes in Nicaragua and Guatemala imposed various strategies to enslave women and subdue them to their male counterparts. In Nicaragua for example, the expansion of the coffee production prompted the government to unleash a land privatisation mechanism and a debt peonage strategy that dismantled the culture of the landed peasantry in Nicaragua. The society in Diriomo was in earlier times dictated by social class, but since the introduction of land privatisation, the system transformed to gender and race stratification.
Diriomo’s municipal government organised labor drafts that forced peasants to pick coffee and work under peonage, without forgetting a significant number of the laborers were women. According to Dore, the increased demand for coffee resulted in a patriarchal from above system, which consisted of dominant coffee planters who introduced complicated gendered rights, concessions, and coercions that formed a system of patriarchy from above (219). The patriarchy enforced extreme power to the coffee planters such that some landowners expected women to provide sex as an obligation. Consequently, the patriarchy from above resulted in the formation of patriarchy from below, which made the peasant men register their wives and children to the labor regime.
In Guatemala, the government embarked on a program to move traders from public spaces to enclosed buildings. The move was aimed to reduce the influence of Mayan women who had dominated and controlled the modus operandi of public spaces during market days. Moreover, the Estrada Cabrera and Ubico regimes tried to reorganise the marketplace based on goods rather than people; however, the traditional traders resisted the move stating that the strategy interfered with their businesses. Additionally, the Guatemalan government also introduced stringent laws that prohibited women from selling their products out of the enclosed buildings. The legislation had no moral grounds but only operated to control the movement of women in the marketplace. Cabrera’s regime implemented the use of employed spies, draconian police force, and labor drafts (mandamientos) to curtail the individual freedom of women.
Inconclusively, the oppressed population in Nicaragua resisted the system of patriarchy from above by hiring a Diriomo lawyer who would represent them in a court of law. Peons complained of abuse and improper pay off wages by their masters; however, due to the influence that coffee planters had on the society, they would rework the evidence provided by the complainant, in the end winning the case. The plant owners such as Don Alejandro Mej´ıa would provide false information in the courtrooms to indicate how they pay remuneration to their workers including food and clothing.
Some workers would accuse their masters of sexually offending their wives and daughters to seek justice and patriarchal protection from the court. In Guatemala, Mayan women resisted operating their businesses in the new market buildings claiming that the enclosed structures marginalised their sales. The women would express their power and resistance by spreading their wares on the streets to create an environment where the estranged could move around freely. Moreover, women would respond to the strict regulations of cleanliness by ignoring the laws and continuing with their activities regardless of the warnings given to them by the municipal officials.
Mayan women also demonstrated their power by resisting the government’s plan to reorganize the market based on goods. Maximiliana Chonay was arrested for refusing to take the place that corresponds her position in the market. Chonay’s actions were meant to disrupt the government’s attempt of imposing a capitalist market in Mayan. Furthermore, Mayan women would cause disagreements over modalities of production and exchange to seek the attention of the government. Many would infringe the stated laws and monopolize their products, an act they would confess in the courtroom without objection.
Carey Jr, David. “Hard Working, Orderly Little Women": Mayan Vendors and marketplace Struggles in Early Twentieth - Century Guatemala.” Ethnohistory 55.4 (2008): 579-607. Print.
Dore, Elizabeth. Patriarchy from Above, Patriarchy from Below Debt Peonage on Nicaraguan Coffee Estates, 1870–1930, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.
The Ku Klux Klan has always been on the wrong side of political affairs and general public opinion. This is largely because of the extremist views and ideologies that this group so openly professes. Coming from a past mired with racial segregation, slave trade and a tough battle for racial equality, the views of the KKK are not exactly welcome in the American society. What makes matters worse in the American society is the need for this group of individuals to openly declare their fight in support of white supremacy and racial segregation even in the institution of marriage.
Nonetheless, one cannot deny the fact that the KKK has been a major influence in the history of the American society, insofar as matter society are concerned. This group, though now broken down into many small Klans, still wields some influence on the American society. In essence, it is a key player in the shaping of the political history of the United States of America. The woman of the KKK longs for freedom and liberty, but she is her own obstacle towards realizing tis goal.
The recruitment of American men and women into the KKK has always been a secretive affair. The processes involved in becoming a fully fledged member of the KKK have always been synonymous to controversy. However, the establishment of the women’s chapter of the KKK, or WKKK as it is commonly referred to, was a huge leap for this religious group, and for the American society at large. At the time when many women wanted to join the KKK, a message of restoration proved bait enough to lure many women into joining the Klan. While this is true, it is also a fact that many women at the time of the formation of the KKK preferred to keep their membership a secret.
The need for many women to keep their husbands in the dark regarding their membership of the KKK women’s chapter is proof of the gender inequality that many women suffered in the American society at the time. This desire to restore America aside, the formation of the KKK women’s chapter is also evidence of the desire of many women to join the political class and become involved in the political processes that influenced their lives. Needless top day, this set a significant precedent for the development of women’s rights and liberties in America.
The activities of the KKK have always been the bone of contention setting this group apart from other religious groups. Nonetheless, the women in the KK have always had a slightly softer approach insofar as addressing their concerns and issues is concerned. Unlike their male counterparts who would even resort to murder and violence to support their cause, the women understood the need to fight their battles in a different fashion. As a result, the women’s chapter of this controversial group opted to engage in political assault on businesses and business owners. The freedom that all individuals enjoyed in the USA, regardless of race or religion, provided many different races with an opportunity to better their state in comparison to their former states.
Consequently, African-Americans and Jews fought to secure their place in the American society. This women’s chapter mad it their goal to launch political assaults on these individuals in a bid to threaten their positions and livelihoods. Unfortunately, many of the times these assaults were launched, casualties would succumb to the assaults. The women believed that, in their own way, they were helping to restore the American society to its former state.
Political assaults aside, holding rallies, festivals and ritual carnivals formed an integral part of the WKKK. Being a religious group, these activities held significant value in their lives and those of their loved ones. The endless rallies were conducted to recruit more Native Americans into the fold and into supporting white supremacy by extension. The rallies and festivals aside, ritual carnivals formed the very core of the WKKK activity list. The burning of the cross was a significant feature of these ritual carnivals. It was the WKKK’s way of denouncing catholic influence and asserting their religious independence.
This was central to the WKKK, seeing that it was established to restore the American society. Rites of passage such as births and weddings were also a highlight of the life of ‘The Woman of the KKK’. Being a believer in the natural role of women as nurturers and care-givers, these rites bear great meaning to the woman of the KKK.
The drive to remove catholic influence from their society saw the women of the KKK engage in a rigorous battle. This battle drove the women of the KKK to providing bibles to all children in their local schools. This even saw some schools being forced to dismiss catholic teaching staff, for the simple reason that they would influence the children in the wrong way. The firm stand by these women to take charge of the situation by providing children with bibles and desensitizing them from catholic influence was a pivotal step in American history. This proved that all women are capable of taking charge of their situations, as well as remedying the problems that form obstacles to their paths. This has had tremendous influence on the history of the USA, seeing that it helped the society to appreciate the ability of women to take charge just as men.
The women of the KKK believe in white supremacy. They also believe in racial segregation to prevent “genetic corruption”. As a result, the woman of the KKK was viewed as the paragon of sexual as well as racial supremacy. To the society, she was a virtuous, dutiful and respected woman. The fact that she only mingled with her race, and even so very respectfully, made her admired in society. She is the pillar of the KKK society and the way of life. She took care of her husband and children because it was her duty. The men of the KKK valued the respectability of women a great deal. This is evidenced by the fact that any woman who was deemed without virtue was treated badly and looked down upon, regardless of the fact that they are from the same race. Such a woman was placed on the same pedestal as her African-American counterparts.
Prohibition is one of the foundation stones of the KKK. Women believed strongly in the power of prohibition, and the numerous benefits it bears for the society. Women of the KKK believed that alcohol was the source of all vice a society. Needless to say, women and children would be the ones on the losing end in a case where alcohol has become a part of the father’s life. For this reason, temperance was highly regarded by the KKK and the WKKK alike.
Closely related to prohibition was the concept of morality. Morality had a firm place in the KKK society. However, many women felt that they were being cheated because the men had given themselves provisions to interact with African-Americans and other races even sexually while women were not allowed the same privilege.
For this reason, many women felt that men were betraying their society and their own kind in interacting with these other races.
Prostitution and gambling formed some of the keystone features of the WKKK manifesto. The need to eliminate these vices from their society saw the women engage in spirited efforts to rescue their men and children. Their firm belief in restricted immigration was evidence of their desire to restore the natively Anglo-Saxon American community to its former state-one without influences from different races.
In the course of its activities, the WKKK faces a web of challenges that come form all directions. Putting external challenges aside, the challenges that the WKKK faces come primarily from within the KKK society. Despite spirited efforts, the woman of the KKK still feels misplaced and undervalued and underappreciated in their society. First and foremost, their financial discrimination by the Klansmen of the KKK highlighted the reluctant nature of the KKK Klansmen to embrace change. The two groups have been embroiled in a lengthy court battle over the division of monetary collections from their local groups. The KKK awarded the WKKK a small share of the collections, arguing “the WKKK does not need plenty of money for its functions”.
The gender inequality supported by the KKK Klansmen supports the women going back to their natural roles as nurturers and care-givers. It is not surprising that the number of women in the WKKK has been on the decline for quite some time. The absence of true political freedom for the WKKK has restricted them from exercising any leadership in the KKK society. The KKK Klansmen argue “it would be defeating the purpose and tradition of the KKK to do so”. It is also noteworthy that a large number of women in the WKKK, and KKK by extension would not like their daughters to join the organization. These women believe that even today, the woman in the KKK is still undervalued and not appreciated enough. This they argue is evident in the running of the KKK.
The social challenge of achieving gender equality and fairness remains one of the toughest to overcome. All over the United States of America and the world at large, organizations such as the KKK continue to undermine the power and ability of the institution of the woman in society. The establishment of the WKKK was a milestone for the development of women’s rights, seeing that such an extremist religious group could afford to have a women’s group, as well.Nonetheless, there is still much to be done in the fight for gender equality.
The necessity to realize that women are just as able as men are, is vital in the forging of the future. The woman of the KKK is in essence, her own enemy. She desires to fight for her own freedoms and rights, but is also willing to conform to a much stronger social standard: that of accepting the duties and definitions of her by the society such as in the KKK. If any meaningful progress is to be made in the fight for gender equality, America will need to make history once more. Gender equality must become a true reality.
Bacchetta, P and Margaret Power. Right-wing women. New York: Routledge, 2002.
Blee, Kathleen M. 2009. Women of the Klan: racism and gender in the 1920s. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press.
Brophy, Alfred L. "Norms, Law, and Reparations: The Case of the Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Oklahoma." Harv. BlackLetter LJ 20 (2004): 17.
Fox, Craig. 2011. Everyday klansfolk: white protestant life and the KKK in 1920s Michigan. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.
Gonzalez-Perez, Margaret. Women and terrorism. London: Routledge, 2008.
Kerbawy, Kelli R. Knights in white satin. Huntington, WV: [Marshall University Libraries], 2007.
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