When did women start working?

I don’t quite get it when somebody says working women are modern women. Women have always been working. Throughout history.

In many parts of India, a girl’s good health was a consideration when selecting a bride because she was seen as one more hand working in the fields and tending to the cattle, apart from regular housework like fetching water, washing clothes at the river banks, grinding, cooking, raising many babies etc.

The mothers often had to get back to work soon after a delivery. (One hears of babies delivered in fields, mother back to work the next day).

The babies were left in hammocks on trees (etc), older children looked after the little ones, the kids played in big groups, they got hurt, fell ill, drowned in rivers and fell into wells (still do), were picked up by wild animals and died of snake bites.

Mortality rate was high. Many babies died, many mothers died too. There were no Day Care Centers like we have today. Women felt privileged if they could afford not to work.

Nobody thought these women should not work. Their neglected babies and families did not become a topic of discussion, when it came to working-women gender roles were not rigidly defined or followed.  Why?

Their work did not threaten the established norms, because they did not earn anything. They worked hard, but they were not independent.

Problems started only when they started getting their own money. It gave them the power to fight back against injustice.

Bollywood generally has working women who leave their babies ‘burning in high fever’ at home, but Mother India and Rihayi have a more realistic examples of working women.

Mirch Masala, my favorite, has suspense, drama, romance, lots of working women, women-bonding and a surprise ending! Have you seen the movie? Take a look !


62 thoughts on “When did women start working?

  1. Oh u r so rt IHM! Its the financial independence which hs made a few ppl feel all the difference!

    Smita Patil is just too gud in that movie isn’t it?

    Yes she is gorgeous and I loved the entire movie… hated Naseeruddin Shah, shows what a good actor he is 🙂


    • My comments don’t appear on board as soon as i submit it.. You are screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeening meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

      Nimmy it’s not you, I have enabled moderation because sometimes I get comments that simply cannot be printed, there will be blog fights here!! I have always had to have moderation 😦


  2. “Problems started only when they started getting their own money. It gave them the power to fight back against injustice”

    Thatz the whole big deal… Problem is not with women working,but with women earning.. People ,that includes husband,in laws and kids,are not ready to do some compromise and adjustments and hence they are irritated when wife.DIL/mom works…

    …and then the easiest thing to do is say this modernization is creating all the trouble.


  3. I guess anything is way off when it’s portrayed in the wrong way, isn’t it? But you’re right, the “rights” is where the trouble started.

    I think the older system was very convenient and it had become a way of life…


  4. the snap at the top is really inpressive. can we have clones of the driver to replace many of the present drunken masters.

    I found the message very nice and the thought behind putting it there even nicer 🙂


  5. I love ur header 🙂
    the truck driver is a smart fellow..

    I don’t know why its like this but I feel the difference myself..
    I was “working” (earning) for 7 years and this 3/4th of a year of working only at home(n not earning) has changed things for me..I dont enjoy spending. Its not the same to live without financial independence, however much support you have from the man and family.. I think its better when the couple partners in domestic as well as outdoor responsibilities.

    I am not getting into what the society or extended family thinks or responds on it..

    Tara many f my working friends have said the same thing. And this is just the smallest of the positives. Confidence, adn the ability to survive on your own are amongst others!!


  6. There have been studies which have tried to put dollar values to the work that “non-working” women do at home e.g. cooking, cleaning, taking care of the baby etc. and for a large percentage of women, the dollar value comes out to be larger than what their male partners are making by going out and doing a job.

    In the US, the number of college going women is now out-numbering the college going men and that trend is going to continue. In fact, some people have predicted a women dominated society in some number of decades. It will be interesting for future generations to see how gender roles will change over time and how men will be treated by women dominated society 🙂

    I feel we will have a balanced society… any kind of abuse or domination by any one group is the society does lead to injustice and unhappiness.


    • Women in the Caribbean too outnumber men at universities for the past decade. The men are in crisis in my country because they do not know what their role is now. Many are not nurturers and don’t know how to. They say that they have been emasculated. Not our fault…we are the smarter ones. We no longer put the man at the front of the line, either he is at our side or at our back side! Before a man thought that he was king because of what he had in his pants, well that isn’t enough for today’s women. We want companionship and love based on mutual respect. Hey gone are the days when men can tell a woman to get out of his house! He has forgotten that the mortgage is in her name. teee heee! Yet women seem to be afraid of politics, they see it as a dirty game men play. We have to change that mindset however it is an uphill battle. You know the saying behind every successful man there is a brainy and strong woman. I wonder how this will sound to you…behind every successful woman there is a ………….man Fill in the blank LOL


  7. I love the truck driver 😉

    “Problems started only when they started getting their own money. It gave them the power to fight back against injustice.”

    As long as the money went to the husband or the in-laws also, there might not have been any problems. It is when the women realizes that they don’t have to depend on anyone to live well with their children and starts to assert themselves, the problems start.

    I guess the only way to get out of this mindset is to bring up our kids with the right kind of values. It is so right that you evnetually become what you have seen around in your childhood.

    I agree Bindu! And mothers can do it the best. If we raise our sons and daughters as equals and let them see a wrong as wrong, we can make a huge difference!


  8. “Problems started only when they started getting their own money. It gave them the power to fight back against injustice.”

    Very very true IHM!!! The problems began the day when women started earning more than men and the day women moved onto the gallery of power & quit being mere puppet!!!

    Seen the movie but don’t remember it 😦

    Do you remember the end?? What did the women do?? That’s the part I loved!


  9. so true IHM. women start earning and BAM! the whole world’s against them. I don’t quite understand how people can say that working women cannot take proper care of their children. We have great examples in our culture who have proved that working women DO take very good care of children. Even our politicians.. say Mrs Indira Gandhi – she gave birth to gems of children.

    I come from a family of working women. My paternal grandmother was a working woman. And in those days too, she used to work night shifts some times. All her children are fab. My grandfather never complained that she is not taking good care of them. My mom used to work and she was the Principal of the school, which means she had to spend a lot of time at work, but we turned out fine, we never felt neglected. Infact we used to love all the attention and were always very proud of her. In spite of her job et al, I was never asked to do any work at home as opposed to my cousins whose moms did not work. She would take care of everything. And for every Birthday, we used to get different presents from both our parents! Mom used to buy stuff out of what she earned and I am sure it made her feel great that she could give whatever she wants to her children. MIL retired recently. Her son is a gem of a person. He is super duper proud of her. On the day after my wedding, both my ILs sat me down and told me that just because I am married now doesn’t mean I should sit at home and while away time. They were like if you want to be a housewife, its ur wish but if you want to work and be independent, we are all with you. Since I am not supposed to work here with the visa restrictions, they convinced me to go for higher studies so that it will keep me occupied and get me another degree.

    I am sure there will be zillions of examples working moms who are just as good as any others. Then, why put a restriction on a woman telling her not to work? So what if she earns money? Does she not contribute to the household expenses? People have to grow up, isn’t it?

    It’s good to read about a son being super-duper proud of his mom for being independent 🙂 My mum is working too, we didn’t feel neglected either… in fact we were spoiled and like you never did anything at home – I couldn’t cook when I got married. She is very independent even today (she’s 68) and has made her life very organised and comfortable. I am proud of her (although she watches the kind of serials I hate 😉 ).

    p.s Love ur header. Just too good!

    I plan do to a post on messages found on the road 🙂 This picture i took in Delhi and added special messages 🙂


    • Hahaha! Moms!!! My mom watches those sick serials too and both me and my dad keep telling her to stop.. But she is just too much! She watches them and then tells me the story over an international call! 😀

      And she gives me some justification for watching them too…!!

      Yea, definitely do a post on the messages, some people just make a lot of sense randomly and they deserve an applause..

      Some of my pictures are in another hard disk.. some hassle here, will do it at the earliest 🙂


  10. True, the problem arose when we started earning. You know there are times when I can feel the difference in which a society perceives a woman whos earning and a homemaker. Its quite sad that how money sometimes tends to give the woman what is her due. Whereas the homemaker’s hardwork is her duty towards her family!
    And this thing about women working since ages is so true. The ITES industry borrowed 24/7 idea from homemakers.

    A, on one hand we say women shouldn’t work, on the other we treat them like burdens, it’s… aren’t we so confused?!


    • Oh we sure are! And this burden thing is engraved into the minds of women the day they are born. Even if 25 years down the line they end up earning in millions, the initial years are spent with ever ending list of what one shuld do, how one shuld behave etc etc. Though over the years I think a lot is changing and I hope this change continues. The fact is anyone can be burden man, woman, animal irrespective, but when it comes to a woman its a tag….

      We can change it, starting with our immediate environment A… like I know my kids will never imagine a girl as a burden!


  11. I don’t understand still this whole Controlling issue!
    What are we? Untamed animals that need to be held down by sort of force so that we don’t escape??? 😡

    Yes, probelms started when women started keeping their money with them!

    Hey Pixie good to see you, I thought you were so busy you’d write a post and disappear 🙂


  12. I would want all women to work ! At times, its better when you have someone to share your dinner, rent and all the other related expenses 😉

    Vimmuu it is very good! I have a niece whose husband wants to start an NGO, and a friend whose husband starting a new career, both possible because the wife’s are earning very well.


  13. Women always worked and continue working. My MIL never worked out of home, but she worked her bones off at home all through her good years, now suffering with worn out knees. Whereas FIL did work outside of home, but got rest once he got home and he is in pretty good shape. A woman’s work does not end, it is never 9 to 5. Most do not even get to sit down and drink a cup of tea.

    I agree with some comments here. Problem is not exactly with woman earning, it is when that empowers them. There are many working woman who let their husbands/families control their money and their lives.

    I agree Lakshmi 🙂 Empowerment is sadly seen as a threat, not as a opportunity to share some confidence, an equal partner is not a threat, it’s a partner in the real sense of the word. Some guys are brought upto be ‘guardians’ of their spouses, not companions or partners.. 😦 .


  14. I find it funny when people ask me if I am working. Just because we are at home, doesnot mean that we are sitting around relaxing. Sad thing is, that for women, it is damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    ‘Problems started only when they started getting their own money. It gave them the power to fight back against injustice.’ – That is so true. When women started getting independent in the true sense, when they did feel that they had to stay in relationships – because that was the only option.

    When women started asserting their likes and dislikes.

    When women started voicing their opinions.. That’s when the society felt threatened. They felt more comfortable with women who could be subjugated…

    And the fact is everybody will be happier is a more balanced society !

    I loved the movie, IHM! And feel like watching it again now! Wish we had more movies like this.

    I loved it too!! Loved at all the subtle social realities it showed… and of course the fantastic last scene 🙂


  15. Nothing to disagree here, everything you said is spot on, so is my small comment:)

    BTW I wonder do people sit in front of their PCs with a binocular to see when your post is coming like dur se dikahi dey raha hain kya , so much competition to be the first :P:P:P

    How immature Mustaf, no?? I just can’t imagine myself doing such a thing on somebody’s blog!! I prefer to be 6th or 7th. 😆


  16. I agree.. problem was/is never with women working.. it is with women being independent! And I often find the rules or norms in the society is so gender biased…even today! it’s sad and it is a never ending fight…isn’t it?

    Perplexed if mothers want they can make a major difference, every well raised boy and girl gives hope.


    • true.. but I know of a few ‘boys’ who walk around thinking they are god’s gift to womankind..They truly believe so! it is beyond me as to why! But having said that, I also do know a lot..LOT of really good, broad minded men who respect woman a lot too 🙂


  17. u know IHM we have double standards…. lots of it when it comes to women….

    whether its working, wearing what we want (look at traditional outfits… they are sexy), enjoying sex…. the desire is to be controlled

    so as long as we work if they want us to and dont if they dont want us we are fine else we are modern (read bad) women

    Modern or independent is very bad 😦


  18. Women start working when they are born and keep working till they die – thats the truth, hai na ?????

    Also they worked away from home, like they do today, leaving their children on their own .

    But, there are some men and some families, who just cannot tolerate working women !!! They resent the financial independence which the job gives her. But why everybody else is so worked up, when a woman works and enjoys life ?????

    I recently have been told that ‘working women neglect their familes, and that a man’s job is to work and a woman’s to stay at home and take care of his needs… that is how nature meant it be, that is our tradition’… I am saying that is not what has been happening, so how did it become our tradition? Haven’t women been working all along?


  19. “Bollywood generally has working women who leave their babies ‘burning in high fever’ at home, but Mother India and Rihayi have a more realistic examples of working women.”

    There are so many movies like that. Hit ones too. 😐

    Couple of weeks back I watched an old one starring Rakhee and Parikshit Sahni but it was a balanced one and in the end her in laws become supportive of her working status.

    What’s with the header? Ha..ha..ha..

    Does he reads my blog Sol heh heh 😆


  20. True IHM women always work, whether at home or outside. And guess what? They work even when they visit their relatives on vacation, while the men sit and eat like guests do.

    Yes Shilpa and I have seen and hated it at my place, specially the relatives who were wives of the men in the family, ended up in the kitchen on everybody’s day off… !!! This simply is like ragging in the name of tradition.


  21. Before tenth century In India, females were the masters of farming, they got best farming skills and scientific knowledge regarding farming.

    am so glad to know this, I had an idea from books and hearsay, that women have always worked in fields, but hanks for confirming it!! I know that all my maids have worked as farmers, construction workers etc at some point in their lives, and they were either not paid, or paid lesser for the same work 😦


  22. Great thought-provoking post IHM.

    I resent the fact that society believes women should stay at home and get physically drained, while men goes out for work. Even get paid!

    There should be equality. Especially if both men and women are working. Husband’s should also take care of their working wife needs at home and perhaps begin in helping her in the household chore. Where is it written, that women should do all housework? 😉 We demand equality!

    l agree, men should help at home… a lot of them do, but women should also stop feeling guilty if a husband helps.


  23. Women as a part of human existence are pure in totality, the expression of whether love, sex, emotion or work has always been an integral part of the core elements a woman is made of….

    Kamal, actually women are just HUMANS. They are individuals just like all other humans… They can and do make mistakes, they can be pure or impure just like other humans, or evil or saintly, they can be unemotional also (yes!) …

    And as far work, bollywood and the Indian society go, well we may have come the long way but their are various times in a woman’s life when she is reminded that she is a Indian woman first & then a Woman in herself….

    true Kamal, as if Indian women are made of some other DNA!! It’s all indirect pressure to confirm to some convenient, biased rules


  24. Housework has never been considered work – no wonder men always ask “What did you do today? Watched TV?

    It’s not an Indian attitude – it’s a male attitude…

    Even women don’t think housework is work Sraboney!! But apart from housework, women have also been working as farmers outside the house.


  25. I remember an army officer who used to say, ‘O God make me an army wife in my next life. They just don’t have anything to do!’ It used to incense me. I sincerely wish he is born as an army wife in his next life! 😛 😉

    I agree, till women got financial independence no one was much bothered about her work or the neglected children!! And Mirch Masala is a movie I simply loved. 🙂


  26. The core issue is ownership of wealth and means of production. The Industrial revolution broke the feudal system of ownership and made it easier for women to own the wealth they create. Mirch masala is one of our all time favourite A Cd is here somewhere. Will see it once again and show it to my kids

    Industrial revolution was good for women in many ways!! I was reading recession is too!! 🙂
    I love Mirch Masala….. I think I too would willingly watch it again….


  27. I haven’t seen anything like this in my life yet.Have seen these things only in 80’s movies.May be i born and brought up in a better community, i don’t know.But heard about a few things in chennai.Like these house maids and flower sellers work hard in the day time and in the night there husband’s snatch a good sum of there money and spend it for alchol.
    I guess the only solution for this is encourage them to get good education.In my home town(kollam,kerala) most of the girls are having atleast a degree or diploma now(it is something like a prestige issue for parents to educate them and enable them to get a good job 🙂 ) and i really haven’t seen anything like girls\guys equality and all.Thats why i said,society has to encourage girls to get good education,may be that will solve everything.
    between haven’t see mirch masala(have to catch up lots of off-beat movies)…I don’t like Ketan Mehta movies much.though will see it,if i get a chance 🙂

    This is a lovely movie Anish, you will love it… you should also watch RIHAYEE, another offbeat but interesting movie 🙂 I think education is a huge first step, but we should take the second important step of changing attitudes also Anish… both are important…. attitude is very, very essential, because we see educated women, and even earning women can also be dependent, if they come home and obediently hand over their money, with no say in how it is spent or invested 😦


  28. I haven’t seen the movie, but I am going to watch it if I can lay my hands on it here.

    You will love the movie 2Bs Mommy!

    That’s so true – the problem begins when women start earning money in return for their hard work and get empowered.

    Same here, IHM – neither my son, nor my daughter will ever think that a women is a burden. I will be very surprised if even the thought crosses their mind. We as parents can make a huge difference in changing the attitude of society since we are the ones who are mentoring the future generation.

    yes we can!! 🙂


  29. women in labor – come on, tht is the most back breaking work – don’t you think so ? women don’t make a big deal out of this like always. because they take it for granted. and men don’t even consider it labor ! come on. and men make a big deal when they are in the room with the woman who is giving birth ..

    This irks me no end, I have blogged earlier about the thinking that women who are uncomfortable during pregnancy are just being fussy, they are told about how the women in the last generation went to work in the fields till the last day of pregnancy! And got back to work two days after delivery!!


  30. Love the header!!

    he he … I had fun doing it Allytude 🙂

    You know its not the financial part which most paternalistic people resent- its the independence.

    I agree Allytude, it IS the independence!!!


  31. Problems started only when they started getting their own money. It gave them the power to fight back against injustice.
    u’ve hit the nail on the head…

    the work that women did earlier… revolved around their homes and fields and things like that… it was not really going away from home and working in an alien environment. or, to put it more precisely, it didnt involve independence and financial security. thats where the problem always lies, isnt it?

    Absolutely, Ashwathy!… it didn’t involve independence and financial security!!!


  32. The problem comes when neither the woman nor the man is willing to take care of the kids (when they are both working) – and some kids end up in day care centres or brought up by maids, which I think is not good. So, one of the two (either the man or the woman) has to take a break at least during the first 3-4 years after the baby is born, as a child requires full time attention of a parent at that stage.

    I hope due to the ego problems between the husband and wives of the ‘modern’ era, the child is not neglected. Both are to be blamed, if such a situation happens – They will get their due back when they are old anyway.

    Destination Infinity

    I agree DI that the kids should not be neglected.


  33. Loved this post IHM….there is so truth in it…

    “Their work did not threaten the established norms, because they did not earn anything. They worked hard, but they were not independent.”

    So, so true…..but even today there are so many families where women may be earning more but all the money is controlled by the man 😦

    I know …. that is why they are not able to protest or walk out… this sort of thing slowly kills all confidence.


  34. Problems started only when they started getting their own money. It gave them the power to fight back against injustice.

    i cannot tell you how thrilled i am, to have read this! how perfect!!!!!!

    yeah, going by how we Indians eat, drink and breathe bollywood, its sad that “working” = “modern” = “uncultured”

    my paternal grandma always equated boys arguing as a sign of intelligence, and girls arguing as a sign of lack of discipline.

    And here we don’t even appreciate the work done in the fields, you think there will be any real appreciation for the work done at home!

    mom is a housewife. its a full time job, i’d say, she’s doing overtime, since she has no one to help her out…


  35. Yes women have always worked . My father forbade my mother to work, this was a form of control. My mother bore 8 children for him amidst verbal and physical abuse. I married a man who felt that it was my duty to help him and work for his business. I was not a person of worth in his eyes. I saw the control thing , I demanded a salary for all the years I had worked for him and his brother. We had a lawyer work out the compensation. I quit the company left my sweet daughter with him for a few months and went to Paris to do an accelerated course I dreamt of. I missed my daughter so much even though we spoke on the phone. She was three years old. I made a vow to myself that my daughter will not be brought up with the mentality that she has to wait hand and foot on a man. I returned from France, a woman with a purpose. A year later my husband and I had separated. He had found God in a new religion and felt that I must join him. I refused and he left. I wasn’t working when he walked out on us on Christmas Eve. He took the car and refused to pay the rent I went to a lawyer and had that fixed. I got a job and moved on with my life. In the beginning I felt useless because of the verbal abuse I faced every day with him, but I soon got my spunk back and started to live again. I went on to bigger and better jobs , bought old cars to get my daughter to school and to activities. We had fun, it was lonely but we had fun. My lawyer told me that women have a way of bouncing back just give myself time. A year later I divorced him. My life only got better and better. Seven years later I met a wonderful man who accepted me as the person I am and never for once tried to change me. My daughter is grown and educated but still my sweetie pie. Life is a gamble at times, however we have to go after what we want in life. Women must not let a man define her self worth nor must we wait for a man to validate us.

    India has a similar culture! You have been very courageous!! Hats off to you, and my warmest wishes too. I am glad you moved on and found a wonderful man 🙂 Thanks or sharing!!


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  37. Great post, it is improving but a snail pace. In Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other countries they have a long way to go, the rules are still primitive for women there.

    Me – Yes and I pray that we continue to have freer laws…. I have blogged about girls in Yemen.


  38. That was one immensly interesting and thought provoking post. I am a “working” woman (though there is no such thing as a non-working woman) who, perhaps in her heart has always wanted to be a “home-maker”. Not that I regret the choices I have made, I have a lot of awe and respect for women who choose to invest more time (than I do) being moms and wives. My mother, grandmothers and my mother-in-law have all been “home-makers” and I have seen and appreciated the difference their presence in the house made in my life and the lives of our family members. I would often tell my mom that only because she agreed to stay at home, 4 other members of the family (my 2 siblings and my dad), could afford to succeed in our careers.
    I once wrote a little story around this, inspired by my mother. Hope you like it.

    My mom is a working woman, I feel it made us more independent… and also we were spoilt because she was always so efficient 🙂 Let me read your post 🙂


  39. Mirch masala is one of my all time favorites.

    …as a country we seem to go back and forth a lot and contradict our own system and way of life too….

    Me- True!!! We do as it suits the mightier ones amongst us’s immediate requirements!!


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