The Contrast of Opportunity The most shared misunderstanding of history is that all groups gain opportunity, but this could not be further from the truth. Opportunity, for some, expanded while it contracted for others, making opportunity a contrasting topic. While there are numerous different groups that represent this contrast of opportunity, it is not possible to address all of these groups in such a short essay; therefore, the focus of this is in two main groups: white women and black men. From the beginning of American history to the end of the civil war, opportunity has expanded for white women, while it has contracted for black males. This contrast of opportunity can be perceived through the subjects of employment, education, and various rights. An important strand of opportunity is employment. Having employment opportunities means having opportunities to earn more money, attain better living conditions and become higher in the political world. Throughout early America, women worked strictly in their homes. Their jobs were to maintain the house, tend to the children and do as their husbands needed (Norton). As the years went by, however, this idea started to evolve. Women began working in schools and textile mills. A huge expansion of employment opportunity for women happened when women started working in the textile mills in Lowell, MA (Levy). These mills were not adequate working conditions and the women had strict rules they needed to follow (Montrie), but women still had the opportunity to work outside their homes and because of this, they flocked to those textile mills in Lowell, MA. While this booming of employment for women was occurring, free black males in the north were seeing quite the opposite. Even though the black males were free, many business owners in the north did not want to hire blacks because they feared that their workers would be taken away due to the fugitive slave laws (Levy), or they preferred to hire whites, even if the whites were Irish and German immigrants (Foner). Even though they were free, blacks still did not have the same employment opportunities that white men had. Lacking employment opportunities harshly affected many black families and caused them to live in the poor neighborhoods, where violence often occurred (Foner). The contrast of employment opportunity, in early America, between white women and free black men, was vast. While white women were becoming more prevalent in work outside the homes, free black males struggled to get jobs and hold them. Throughout the early years of America, education had very little importance. Schools were not necessary and, for many women, learning to read or write was not essential to work in the home and so they never learned. In the early 1700’s about 33% of white women were literate (Foner). As time went along, however, women became more interested in learning to read and write and so the literacy rate increased in women. In 1852, a woman by the name of Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a best-selling novel tilted, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This was a huge milestone for women in the writing world. She was the first to have a successful book, and to top things off, it was a highly controversial topic, freeing slaves. Stowe showed America that women were ready to read and write and get outside of the home, and most importantly that they were capable of doing so. Unfortunately for blacks, the story is not the same. In fact, in many states, it was actually illegal for anyone to teach slaves to read or write (Levy). Being illiterate was a major disadvantage for slaves when/if they were freed. It was hard for them to find jobs that did not require labor. It was also difficult because whenever free blacks received information they only heard it from other people. They were never able to read it for themselves. Their family was not able to teach them, just as how they are not able to teach their own families (Douglass). Education gives people power. It allows them to think, and communicate better. Lacking education could be a huge detriment to those trying to create a stable living for themselves and their families. People have the right to do many different tasks, such as owning land and voting. Throughout the history of America, different groups of people have lost these rights while others received them. In 1839, Mississippi granted women the right to hold property in their own names – with permission from their husbands (Mississippi). This was a huge moment in time for women in America. They were finally receiving rights that white men already acquired. While white women were receiving rights, free black men were losing them and having them changed. When America bought the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803 (Foner), all of the free blacks that were living there, lost all of the rights they were allowed, such as; the right to bear arms and the right to vote (Foner). In 1821, when New York eliminated the requirement of owning property to vote for whites, but in order for black men to vote, they needed to own $250 worth of property (Foner). Having certain rights in America gives the opportunity to have your voice heard on certain topics and gives more freedom.The aforementioned areas, where opportunity has contrasted for white women and black men, have had differing effects on America. Women working in the mills of Massachusetts, brought the country together as America begun the Industrial Revolution. It also started the idea of women’s rights and pulled feminists together. The employment options for free black men showed how America was split when it came to the matter of race. Some wanted blacks to work alongside them, while others were racist and refused to hire blacks. Education, though it may not be equal, brings people together. Those who were not literate would try to work together, or with literate folk to try to learn. Many advocacy groups form because of education as well. When it comes to the rights of people, more often than not, it does pull people apart. Each specific right has its own way of people reacting to it, but there are always conflicting opinions on everything. In today’s history, we see intense debates of different laws and rights, and that was no different as to how it was in early America.This contrasting growth and reduction of opportunity between white women and black men are just one of many contrasting predicaments. All throughout American history different groups of Americans gained opportunities while many others lost it. Some of these predicaments pushed people apart, others drew Americans together. The expanding of opportunities for white women was just beginning by the end of the civil war, in the years that followed women made many more strides towards better opportunities. However, in the period of early America to the Civil War, the opportunities of black men contracted, but after the civil war, their opportunities started expanding as well.