The Chinese culture have been suppressing their women for hundreds of years. From before the reign of Mao, through the cultural revolution, and even still today the role of women in china is changing. One thing that does not change is that women have always been viewed as second class citizens.
Before 1934 when Mao took power, women in china were mostly house wives. They did not do much farming and mostly stayed home and tended to their children. This is a big reason why baby boys were greatly more appreciated then girls because boys could go to work in the field and the girls could not. There was a lot of child marriages, were the girls parents would arrange a marriage with another family. Women were also not allowed to divorce their husbands. .
This all changed during the cultural revolution. Women's role changed dramatically under Mao and his communist government. Women were now able to work in the fields and in the factories in order to help Mao's communist machine to operate. Women were also allowed to divorce their husbands and Mao outlawed child marriages in a attempt to help protect women.