For thousands of years, the assumption of most people in the world has been that families consisted of men, who provided economic support for the family unit, and women, who were the nurturers of the children, managers of the home, and unpaid labor. Naturally, as is true of most generalities, there have been exceptions.
More than half a century ago, American anthropologist Margaret Mead studied various communities of people on the mountainous island of New Guinea. The Arapesh people lived at the base of the mountain. Among these people, men were the hunters, and women spent the day practicing new dances and songs and applying “make-up” to their faces. But, at the top of the mountain, she discovered a tribe, called the Tshambuli. Women in that community did the hunting, and men made up new songs, provided entertainment by dancing, and decorated their faces. Interestingly, whatever roles were played by men were valued higher than those of women, even though the Tshambuli women were the breadwinners.
As more people joined the Industrial Revolution, the expected practice was that men left the home in the morning to work at some other location, while women worked in the home. When a young man and young woman got married, it was assumed that he’d be the breadwinner and that she would bear children, raise them, clean the home, and do the cooking. That model was dominant in the United States through the 19th and most of the 20th centuries. Then, roles began to change.
With the exception of “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II, when many millions of men were forced to leave the civilian work force in order to serve in the armed services, the paid work force was primarily male. Around the decade of the 1970s, the number of women involved in paid work outside the home began to increase. This was partly due to rising expectations with regard to material goods, and partly due to the fact that more women were prepared for jobs because of increased schooling. Additionally, the divorce rate began to rise because of the enacting of the “no-fault” divorce rules. Consequently, many women who had previously relied on their husbands for economic support had to make inroads to the paid work force...