Experiential Blog Post: Google NGrams

I decided to look at the relative frequency of words that apply to women and their roles in society over the course of time to find insights about their status or recognized importance.

All Comparisions
All Comparisons

For my experiment I compared “women”, “mother”, “wife”, “girl”, “female” and “lady”. It’s clear from the outset that the occurrence of “women” is far higher than the other words that were compared and really spikes in the late 1900’s especially in the early 90’s. I realized now (far after the fact) that I forgot “woman” from the initial analysis but including it doesn’t change the trends that much. Oddly enough its not quite as pronounced as “women” and doesn’t spike up as significantly either.

"Women" vs "Woman"
“Women” vs “Woman”

Ignoring whatever is the cause of the difference, the two words still trend together fairly well. The occurrence of “female” also tracks pretty well.

"Women" vs "Wife"
“Women” vs “Wife”

On the other hand, over the past 300 years, the word “wife” stays fairly stable and unchanged. I think this points to a difference between the traditional role women play (in the household) and the emphasis on the actual women themselves. While traditional roles and words describing those (like “wife” and “mother”) stay relatively constant throughout recent history, words describing the people themselves occur more as importance and attention is directed at them.

Looking at the early half of the seventeenth century and even up to the year 1900, the word “women” actually occurs less than “mother”. I think this really points to the difference and culture shift that is indicated in the written English language.

3 thoughts on “Experiential Blog Post: Google NGrams”

  1. Right after 1900 is very interesting. As you stated, the word “women” started to be used more than the word “mother” which signifies how the perception of women changed in literature during that time.
    I find it how the words women, mother, and wife are all used at about the same frequency directly following 1900. I believe this is because during that time period writers started to use the words interchangeably. The writing at the time reflected the different roles, and now our culture has broadened its view and can accept women as equals as older generations did not until the beginning of the 20th century.

  2. The word “women” started to become more widely used around the time of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in 1920. This could explain why “women” was becoming more popular than “mother” because women were changing their role in society. On another note, I am surprised a spike in “woman” hasn’t occurred recently. It has become a quasi-derogatory term to “put women in their place” and is often used by teens in a joking manner. Though this doesn’t make the term “woman” completely derogatory, I am surprised there hasn’t been a sharper increase.

  3. I think you are right in saying that it definitely exemplifies a cultural shift. It definitely shows how much more women are not being categorized and stereotyped. Wife was probably more prevalent up until the 1900’s simply because that was the only role women were able to assume for the most part. I think that the early 1900’s marked the beginning of an upward trend for women. Especially during WWI “women” were called to help the country by working in factories. They weren’t seen as the the wives of the men who went of to war but the women who aided their husbands. The trend only continued upward into the roaring 20’s when women gained a “rebellious” trend wearing short skirts and sleeveless dresses which was basically an attack on the old dress codes.

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