Well maybe from the attitudes of my own family I can expand on mouseys question. I think I owe that to the excellent question mousey posed. I believe women like my great grandmothers realized they lived in a male dominated world and that there was nothing they could do about it. They were just happy to be the legitimate wife and often being the legitimate wife was only possible because your papa was a well thought of man in the community.
Good women were watched and held back for good men and legitimate marriages. Women worked to be the legitimate wife. As the alternative was not good. Even women who were married legitimately found their positions much lowered if their husband died and they did not have a large extended family to care for them. women with no family to help found their reputation ruined when men outside their family stopped by to help with donations and chores like chopping wood for winter. Because the gossip mill would start . Why would so and so be going to that widow womans house?
Even if nothing was going on the woman was now a marked woman.
That is why down my family holler many " good Christian widows lived with their children under my grandfathers protection. These women it was understood were available for a good marriage and their children were considered to still be in the upper crust of local society . All be it they were poor, so they helped the family farm thrive and thereby earned their living. What other choice did they have? There was very little work for a decent woman to do in those days.
Nursing which paid little , school teaching was still done by mostly men, but a woman could get lucky and get that low paying job, or clerking in a store for starvation wages. Or being a maid, which by the way reduced the womans social standing.
My great grandmothers were the legitimate wifes and they were happy with their position. That gave them a respect among the community at large and even more important they ran their own closer community of the farm . My grandmother rarely tried to change my grand fathers mind. She would talk to her women folk , That is daughters , cousins, sisters and granddaughters about something grand pa was doing and how she wished he wouldn't do that. But she was only willing to cross him for one of her own. His decisions about the other people who lived on the holler and family land were never questioned because she had to pick her battles if she ever hoped to win one with grandpa.
As I said we did not own slaves but we had handy men who lived on the farms their entire lifes and were willing slaves if you know what I mean. They had their own little shack and did just what the leader of the family told them to do. ( the eldest male) And we had women who worked the farm who lived in small homes off by themsleves , as well as ones who lived in a large communal home and were available for fun . These womens services were sold for a new born pig or a turkey. They bartered and sold moonshine too. These women had their own accumulated wealth in that some had large herds of livestock . Sometimes grandpa and grandma would decide one of their girl children showed some promise and moved it to the home of one of the women who worked and lived on the farm by themselves and did not go to the whore house. Grand pa occasionally moved a male child to one of these homes too because he would say " That boy is powerful smart and doesn't need to live with them women" But none ever lived near the family. The legitimate family that is.
These women were treated well as were the handy men. Even today in my family we take care of men who are not family but as the old timers say have been part of the family since they were born. They live out their lives in small homes and we all make sure they have what they need.