The history of women in the U.S. labor force has been affected by diverse forces some of which include legal, cultural, ethno-racial and demographic. In the same manner as men, women who existed in the pre-industrial America made a significant contribution to their community and household economies. This was achieved via paid and unpaid workforce or labor (Hill, 2013). Moreover, women’s material compensations for their work were subject to social practices, cultural beliefs and policies that subordinated them to men. Married women were not allowed to be involved in the signing of employment contracts without special legal arrangements between them and their employers or husbands. This limitation was also extended to the owning of property and claiming of their wages. Widowed or single women were forced to work so that they could meet their needs. Besides, these women were limited to working in low-paying jobs and earned lower salaries than men. In the view of the history of women in the taskforce, it is clear that attitude towards women in the labor-force underwent significant transformations in the progressive, World War II and Post War eras.
The progressive era led to the reproduction of tough conditions that limited the positions that women occupied in the taskforce. Such conditions were heightened as the industrial economy developed. As many families became dependant on money for their survival, free women and men enhanced their involvement in the paid work force. Women took part in domestic activities, and worked in needle trades as seamstress. This period was marked by an emergence of several factories, which made women essential workers. One of the main factories that provided regular work to women was the New England Daughters (Adshade, 2012). Some women also participated in family production departments or units, while others worked as home-laborers in shoes, textile or other products.
The significance of women’s employment to their families was obscured by social convention and law. Furthermore, governments did not value the significance of women’s employment to the national economy’s development. Polices that granted married women formal rights to their earnings and property became prominent in the late nineteenth century. Such reforms were aimed at preserving households in a society that was experiencing industrialization. As such, these reforms were not linked to the need for achieving equality in labor rights for both women and men. The growing perception of men as breadwinners alongside the emergence of an urban middleclass led to the reinforcement of the tendency to perceive women as secondary wage earners. This perception was embraced regardless of the wages that women brought to their families. However, most of the African-American women who arrived in the northern U.S. as enslaved laborers constituted the telling exception to this rule. Slavery, which was the labor mechanism that established the South and spurred industrialization in the North, illustrated the significance of uncompensated work or labor to national and regional economic growth. In addition, it highlighted the significance of employing women in the manual labor. Enslaved women were always involved in the performance of heavy field activities. Furthermore, they conducted domestic chores such as cleaning, cooking and raising children. Studies have shown that African-American women have contributed to the workforce at a higher rate than any other race since the late years of the nineteenth century (Aguero, 2008). This observation was evident in statistics released in 1997 in relation to the composition of American women in the labor force. In these findings, it was noted that 51% of black women were involved in full-time jobs, and 42% of women in full-time jobs were white. On the other side, 35% were Hispanic (Aguero, 2008). In the immediate periods that followed the Civil War, female activists such as Susan Anthony demanded the inclusion of the guarantee or assurance of the voting rights to all women in the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S constitution. Susan Anthony was a famous and robust advocate of rights of women during this period. This amendment played a vital role in the beginning of attitude transformation in relation to the women’s role in the work force (Leber, 2012). Besides, the inclusion of the voting right was not limited to the white women only, but also to the African-American males. Some of the organizations that were established to aid in the realization of this goal were the National Women Suffrage Association and American Women Suffrage Association. The National Women Suffrage Association was developed by Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone. Besides, some men also collaborated with women in advocating for the rights of both the male and female employees in the progressive era. This is shown in the film Metropolis in which Freder joined hands with Maria to fight for worker’s rights. However, the right to vote for women was realized in the year 1919 when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. In the years between 1800s and 1900s, both the women and women’s agencies worked for the attainment of the right to vote alongside a broad-based political and economic equality. In additions, social reforms formed part of these group’s agenda.
A significant change of attitude to women’s position in the workforce occurred between the years 1880 and 1910. This time was characterized by an increase in the number of women who were employed in the U.S. from 2.6 million individuals to 7.8 million individuals (Adshade, 2012). Women began to be treated with respect as opposed to the progressive era when they were left to perform domestic chores and take care of children. As such, women began working in various sectors of the U.S economy such as industry and business. Besides, women were not employed in the well-paying jobs as men were granted a priority in these areas. Thus, the economic gap between men and women continued to exist. Men often struggled to keep women from joining lucrative jobs as they feared the competition that they could face from women who were empowered economically. As such, the financial potential of men was always used as tool to dominate women. 60% of employed women worked as domestic servants in the 20th century. Enactment of new law granted women benefits such as exercising authority over their earnings, taking custody of children in case of divorce cases and owning property. In the year 1896, women had obtained the right to vote in four states; Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. The women and women’s agencies also worked to reform various social issues. Consequently, in the start of the early century, women’s clubs is cities and towns across the country were operating to facilitate better schools, suffrage child labor regulation and women in unions among others. It was believed that women could manage to hold high positions in jobs through proper education. Therefore, advocating for proper education and schools for women was considered a vital pathway towards the realization of a suitable position for women in the workforce.
The labor force contributions of the immigrant women were hindered by factors such as immigration policies, employer discriminations, and cultural attitudes, which prevented some married women from participating in jobs outside their homes. As such, these women were limited to employment in home-based industries that focused on employing families as they were family-operated enterprises Leber, 2012). Discrimination and poverty contributed to the concentration of immigrant women in exploitative occupations in migrant agricultural labor, low-wage manufacturing and domestic work. For instance, in the early years of the 20th century, women dominated the low-paying factories, garment industry and crowded workplaces. However, this did not hinder women from advocating for their rights. Some women cont
inclusion of the guarantee or assurance of the voting rights to all women in the Fourteenth Amendment. It is crucial to note that Susan .B. Anthony was a famous and robust advocate of women’s rights during this period during this period. This political step played a vital role in the beginning of attitude in relation to the women’s role in the workforce (Leber, 2012). Besides, the voting right was not limited to white women only, but also to Africa-American males. Some of the organizations that were established to aid in the realization of this goal were the National Women Suffrage Association and the American Women Suffrage Association. The National Women Suffrage Association was developed by Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone. Moreover, some men also collaborated with women in advocating for the rights of both the male and female employees in the progressive era. This is shown in the film Metropolis in which Freder joins hands with Maria to fight for workers’ rights. As such, the right to vote for women was realized in the year 1919 when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. In the years between the 1800s and 1900s, both the women and women’s agencies worked to attain the right to vote, a broad-based political and economic equality. Furthermore, social reforms formed part of these groups’ agenda.
A significant step was witnessed during the World War II. This was evident in the women’s demonstration that they could handle jobs that were meant for men efficiently. In contrast to this, men were still domineering in terms of finance. This is because they were controlled vital sectors of the industry such as media. For example, in the movie Citizen Kane, Foster Kane is depicted as a millionaire newspaper tycoon. In addition, Gail Wynand is seen to be wealthy publisher in the film The Fountainhead. In the World War II period, African-American women made substantial steps towards the involvement in industrial jobs. The Word War II era registered a different picture from that of the progressive periods, which excluded women from performing certain tasks (Labedz, 2013). Contrastingly, some of them continued to work in jobs that were not valued by men. This is evident in the movie, Modern Times, in which Gamine worked as café dancer. Moreover, women’s potential to perform men’s work efficiently was facilitated by the fact that many men participated in the war. As such, the need for war materials increased, which led to the opening of manufacturing jobs to women. Many women began witnessing an increase in their earning power as opposed to the progressive periods, which were associated with low earning on the part of women. Contrastingly, the employment of women during this period was encouraged for the duration in which the war was present. This is because when the war was over, civilian and federal policies substituted women employees with men.
When the World War II was over, there was a significant rise in the birth rates. Many scholars do link the baby boom to the presence of prosperity and peace that was witnessed after the war. On the other side, it is believed that American shifted to the family as a means of ensuring safety in relation to the ideology of cold war and domestic revival. In contrast to what happened during the World War II, in the 1950s, women were noted to resume the state of the progressive periods (Leber, 2012). Many women were involved in the performance of domestic tasks such as cleaning, taking care of babies and cooking, while men were involved in various employment fields. Moreover, women who had interests in pursuing their preferred careers often faced tough critique from famous writers, psychologists and psychiatrists. This was also extended to women who wanted to have jobs. Such women were always termed “lost” or “unlovely”. When the U.S. economy was expanded internationally, men’s wages or earnings were noted to be higher than before this development. As a result of this, several middle class families managed to live in a comfortable way on the incomes of single breadwinners. In relation to this, statistics reveal that many married women were involved in the job market or labor force in the early years of 1960s.
Many middle and aspiring middle-class families realized that their dreams did not correspond to their finances. Therefore, many families wanted additional incomes, which were vital in meeting their needs that kept on increasing. As such, men realized that they could achieve this goal when women were allowed to contribute to the financial needs. This was significant in affording the lifestyles that these families wanted (Heyman, 2013). On the other side, middle-class women experienced the cultural pressure, which required them to stay home. Furthermore, many women expressed little interest in working in the nine-to-five occupations that were available for them. They were not interested in working in factories or as bookkeepers and secretaries. Besides, these women don express the desire to work as salespeople in store departments of corporate workplaces. Corporate or bureaucratic workplaces required that work and home life be separated from each other in a clear way. However, women faced problems living their homes to go to the work places. One of the main issues that made women face this problem was how to reconcile their domestic requirement with their job needs. As a result of this, Tupperware home sales was established to enable women do work at home (Sidle, 2011). This ensured that women could work in their preferred hours and attend to their domestic activities. Besides, home-party-selling enabled women perform income-generating work that ensured that they stayed at home. As a result of this, men continued to dominate most of the lucrative job positions as seen in the 1954 movie, Executive Suite. In this movie, George Caswell is an investment banker, while Frederick Alderson is a treasure in a prominent company. Contrastingly, in the late years of twentieth century, women were also involved in professional occupations as well as teaching. In the movie the Executive Suite, women such as Avery Ballard’s secretary are seen to be employed in professional occupations. In addition, Julia is seen to be a member of the board in a prominent company alongside being the key shareholder in this company. Moreover, in this era, women are seen to venture to lucrative jobs in the market. For instance, in the movie Nine To Five, Judy Bernly begins a secretarial career in one of the prominent corporations. In addition, Violet Newstead is displayed as an office manager, which is a well-paying job.
In conclusion the progressive, World War II and Post War eras were marked by significant transformations in perception of women’s involvement in the task-force. This follows the movement of women from home-based jobs to other professional occupations such as teaching among others. The progressive period was associated with women involvement in domestic activities and low-paying jobs. This observation was also noted in the World War II era in which women were not allowed to work in well-paying jobs. However, these perceptions changed as women got involved in men’s work following the involvement of men in war. As periods, progressed, people began viewing women from a positive view-point, which enabled them participate in other professional occupations. Thus, the three eras provide different pictures of the role of women in the task force.
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