Thursday, June 14, 2018

Women in the Workforce

Information is from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The 1870 US Census was the first count females in the workforce. It showed that not all women in the Victorian period were either idle or worked in sweat shops. They were found in a variety of occupations. Two-thirds of women were teachers. Others were in dress making, millinery, and tailoring. But, they were found in less gentile occupations such as iron and steel workers, miners, and etc.

"In the beginning of the 20th century women were regarded as the guardians of morality; they were seen as made finer than men and were expected to act as such...." The Civil War changed things and America was now educating women. In the United States World War I made space for women in the work force and World War II allowed for many jobs for women. Thousands of women joined the different branches of the military.
Working at the Woolrich Arsenal, London,
United Kingdom, 1917.

"The increase of women in the labor force gained momentum in the late 19th century." Women married and if they worked it was out of necessity. Most of these women were considered lower class.

After this point, the change took place in four phases.

First phase—late 19th century. Women workers were young and unmarried.

Second phase—married women begin to exit the work force. There was a greater demand for clerical positions. This phase, 1930-1950, has been called the Transition era. During this phase, women worked out of necessity.

Third phase—"Roots of Revolution"—1950 to late 1970s, women's expectations of future employment changed. They saw themselves going to college and possibly graduate school. Many women attended to find a husband.

Fourth phase—The Quiet Revolution—1970 and continues today. Women flooded colleges and graduate schools and entered professions of Medicine, Dentistry, and Business.

The big jump in the 1970s is believed to be due to the birth control pill. It was introduced in the 60s, but was not readily available until the 70s.

Lack of wage equality is still practiced today and is still one of the highest of any developed nation.

It took many years for women to be allowed into management positions. I'd like to share with you an excerpt from The Way Back, my time travel set in the 1930s oil fields of Texas. Amber Mathis, an investment banker in present time ends up in the 1930s and takes over her husbands New York bank while he's in the oil fields. I hope you enjoy it.

“Mrs. Hathaway,”Mrs. Jonas’s voice sounded through the telephone, “Mr. Stiles is here with several gentlemen from banks on Wall Street. They’d like to speak with you.”Amber grinned, impressed with the older woman’s authoritative tone. “Are you available?”
“Show them to the conference room. I’ll be with them shortly.”Shortly, my ass. She’d let them wait thirty minutes or so. “Offer them a cup of coffee.”
Amber hung up and continued viewing the file on her desk. She shut the folder and leaned back in the massive leather chair. Thursday after her announcement in the boardroom, Mr. Stiles voiced his displeasure at not consulting him before making employee changes. After all, hiring and firing was his job. That’s what Mr. Hathaway paid him to do. She’d done her best to salve his wounded pride, but he’d have none of it. Perhaps she should have asked his advice but there hadn’t been time. Actually, she’d not wanted to consult Stiles because she knew he would object to a woman. She didn’t want the hassle of arguing with him.
She checked her appearance in the bathroom mirror. Her charcoal suit had a pencil thin, mid-calf skirt with a kick pleat in the back. The jacket sported a gored peplum, which emphasized her small waist. She reapplied the Coty red lipstick hating the taste. If she stayed in this time she’d be dead before they developed lipstick that felt creamy on the lips and didn’t taste so bad. Heck, it probably had lead in it.
Looking behind each hip, she tried to make sure the seams in her silk stockings were straight. The bathroom needed a full-length mirror. She smoothed her hands down and skirt and exited the room. Passing up the elevator, she took the stairs down to the second floor. A man’s heated voice could be heard through the door.
“What is Hathaway thinking to let a woman, especially his wife, handle the affairs of his bank?”
A snort and, “Hell if I know. From her picture in the paper, she’s quite a looker. Maybe he’s not thinking with his brain. Harharhar.”
A round of ribald laughter followed. She didn’t wait for them to finish, but waltzed through the door into the haze of cigar smoke.
“Gentlemen.”They stood, albeit it reluctantly.
“Mrs. Hathaway.”Mr. Stiles and two of her guests had the good grace to blush while the third, chin tucked towards his stocky chest stared belligerently. They had to know she’d heard their comments.
She advanced into the room and went immediately to open the windows. A cross breeze drifted through the room dissipating some of the smoke. In her opinion, cigars stunk like cow poop. She wrinkled her nose and all of the men but Mr. Stocky Body snuffed them out in the ashtrays.
Taking the seat at the head of the table, she waved her hand towards the other chairs. “Sit down gentlemen. I’m delighted you’ve come to meet me today and welcome me to the banking community.”
Amber coughed and struggled to not laugh out loud. Mr. Stocky Body choked on a mouthful of cigar smoke. David pounded him on the back, and then rushed to the sideboard for a glass of water. “Here, Mr. Stockman, maybe this will help.”Mr. Stockman? How appropriate. The name fit him perfectly.
Wheezing, gasping for air, Mr. Stockman took the glass of water with a shaking hand and raised it to his lips. After an experimental sip, he took several more but continued to wheeze. From experience at sucking something down the windpipe, Amber knew it would take a few minutes for him to recover.
“Mr. Stiles, while Mr. Stockman regains control, introduce me to the other gentlemen.”
He stood. “Directly to your right is Mr. John Knowles, President of First New York Charter Bank and next to him is Mr. Charles Worth, President of Manhattan Bank and Trust.”
Amber leaned forward in her chair and shook each man’s hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, gentlemen. That your banks survived the stock market disaster is indicative of your financial and intellectual prowess.”Not really, but stroking their egos a little wouldn’t hurt anything. Both men sat a little straighter in their chairs and smiled before glancing at Mr. Stockman to observe his reaction.
She turned to Mr. Stockman and offered her hand. “Can we get you anything, Mr. Stockman?”He wiped his big paw on his handkerchief and took her small one, squeezing a bit harder than necessary. She didn’t flinch.
“No, thank you, Mrs. Hathaway.”His coughing fit hadn’t softened his booming baritone. He cleared his throat. “We’re here to help you with business matters while your husband is out of the state.”
“That’s kind of you, but I’m quite able to manage on my own.”
“Now, my dear, your announcement of last week is proof you are not. A woman doesn’t have the business acumen or the toughness necessary to manage a bank. Why, Mr. Stiles here is bewildered by your promotions and the fact that you didn’t consult him is another indication of your needing our help.”He waved his now unlit cigar. “We’ll help you reverse those untimely decisions and set things right.”
Amber couldn’t believe the audacity of the big man. Well, of him and his cohorts. She tried to tamp down her anger. They weren’t insulting her personally, but the entire female race, a common occurrence in this time period when it came to women in business. Elbows against her waist, hands clasped, she looked at each man in turn, ending with Mr. Stockman.
“That’s very considerate of you, but not necessary.”
Mr. Stiles started to speak, but she raised a finger and glared. He shut up.
“Mr. Stockman, first of all, I’m not your or anyone’s dear.”The big man’s mouth fell open. She cocked an eyebrow and smiled. “Except Mr. Hathaway’s, of course. Secondly, though you gentlemen have a number of years on me, I’m just as qualified as you are—maybe more so. I have an MBA from Harvard and have worked as an investment banker for years.”
Stockman snorted. “I seriously doubt that. Women aren’t accepted into Harvard’s MBA program.”
Oops, I should’ve kept my mouth shut on that little boast. Women weren’t allowed into the MBA program until 1959.
“Believe what you will, but I’m as qualified as you are. Wellman knows it and trusts me with this bank and to handle his investments. As a matter of fact, you’d be wise to allow me to help you select new venture possibilities for your banks.”
“Now, see here, young woman. You’d do well to show some respect.”Ah, Mr. Worth speaks.
Mr. Knowles added, “That’s right, Mrs. Hathaway. We came here to help, not to be insulted.”
Teeth clamped on his cigar, Mr. Stockman grinned. He removed the stogie and muttered, “Well said, gentlemen.”
“Isn’t that what you’ve done to me, been disrespectful?”
“Why no, my dear…er, ah,Mrs. Hathaway, we came here with the best intentions.”Mr. Stockman placed the cigar in the ashtray and folded his hands on the tabletop. “You’ve made a mistake in promoting a woman to a management position. The promotion must be rescinded. It sends the wrong message about the banking industry.”
“I tried to tell you, Mrs. Hathaway. Women aren’t up to high-pressure jobs. Hathaway Bank is unusual in that it hires more women than is standard, but only as secretaries and bookkeepers.”Yes, Amber knew the statistics. After World War One—or The Great War, as people in this age would call it—women moved into secretarial and sales jobs in department stores, “lace collar”jobs. Prior to that time they worked as domestics. The only professional jobs they held were in nursing and teaching. At least women were no longer barred from jobs after marriage.
“Yes, Mr. Stiles, I’m aware of that. However, Mrs. Dyers has a college education, she knows the business, Mr. Hathaway trusts her and I trust her. Mr. Hathaway wasn’t pleased I’d promoted Mrs. Dyers, but he agreed she was qualified and bowed to my judgment.”She stood. “And that is the end of the matter. Now, is there anything else?”She waited. “Nothing? Good day then and please, stop in again.”
Mr. Stiles, trying to go unnoticed, slunk to the door and held it open. In a huff, Mr. Stockman, blustering something under his breath about, “you’ll change your tune…”stalked out the door with his two associates on his heels.

Thank you for stopping by.



  1. Linda, I'm sure this required a lot of research, but it sound very intriguing.

  2. Yes, it did, Caroline and I loved every minute. While writing this story, I ran across many things needing research. One example is divorce in the 1930s.

  3. Linda, Amber has the markings of an intriguing character: moxie, smarts and grace to say nothing of audacity in a time when women were left behind. Our roles have changed tho' still blocked by so many glass cielngs! Good for you in bringing this story to print.

    1. Thank you, Arletta. She was a shocker for the people of the 1930s. They believed women should be at home keeping house, something she didn't know much about. While in Kilgore, she did stay home some but would have been much happier in the oil office

  4. Interesting post, Linda, and your research of what it was like for women in the workforce is very evident in the narrative of your excerpt. Even in the late 70's when I worked as a secretary for a TV station, sexist jokes and other forms of harassment continued to be acceptable - harharhar, indeed!

    1. You know, I guess I was lucky as I wasn't exposed to that, but hear so many were. It may have been because I was so naive when working during high school and college. Then my first job was as a teacher. I just don't remember any harassment. Lucky, I guess.

  5. Linda,

    I worked in a law firm in the late 1980s as a legal secretary. The way I got the job was because I could take shorthand for the senior attorney who was stuck in the olden days of dictation. He refused to used a personal recorder. It was critical for his "girl" to be able to sit on the opposite side of his desk in professional secretary attire including heels with a minimum height of 3 inches (yes) and take shorthand while he droned on and on. Oh, the stories I could share about working for that certain 'type' of men during the 70s through the 90s and even into the early 2000s.

    1. I can't imagine wearing 3 inch heels to work every day. You probably had to wear those pencil shirts too. I would love to hear your stories sometime. Bet they would make for good reading.

  6. Linda,

    A very nice overview of the movement. I admit, I grew up during the 50's and was part of the movement of the 70's. It was and still is a most interesting time. In many ways I've always worked non-traditional jobs or jobs that either men or women would do. That probably gave me a different perspective. Still, I wouldn't trade it for the world. Doris

    1. Hi Doris, I'm like you, I think. The jobs I had were non-traditional also and I didn't experience the discrimination women in some jobs did. As a teacher, men and women were on the same pay scale. However, coaches received more money, men and women both.


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