1890s: The rural population was forced to move toward urban areas as low prices and industrialization of farm equipment made smaller farms less profitable. Today: Family-run farms are disappearing across the United States at the rate of several hundred a year, primarily due to large corporations controlling food production and pricing.
1890s: The advent of rail transportation from rural areas to the teeming cities of the late nineteenth century made dairy farming more attractive than crop farming, since production was less weather dependent, costs were lower, and an ever-expanding customer-base was within easy reach. Today: While small dairies still exist, increasing production costs and lower prices have forced many dairy farmers to sell out to larger concerns, with an average dairy in the western United States milking one to two thousand cows.
1890s: Women could not divorce their husbands, even for having an affair, unless they could prove their husbands had treated them cruelly or abandoned them. Today: All fifty states permit couples to divorce by mutual consent, although in twenty pro-family groups have proposed, and in several cases passed, legislation for making divorce harder to obtain when children are involved.
1890s: State-supported education was provided for all children, with education being compulsory to age eleven. Today: Increasing dissatisfaction with public schooling has led to exploration of alternative educational methods, including independent public charter schools and 1.2 million students in home schools.
1890s: Teacher, rural worker, domestic helper, and nurse were some of the positions open to women seeking financial independence; those who chose nontraditional career paths, such as medicine, were ridiculed. Today: Although women still earn less per hour on the average then male workers, unlimited career opportunities are now available to them.
1890s: Women who bore children out of wedlock were considered “ruined”; they and their children could hope for little more that social marginalization. Today: Single parenting has become commonplace, with more than 30 percent of U.S. children being born to fathers and mothers who are not married.