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Tuesday Tidbits: Female Firsts - Women in the Workforce: Part 2

In this week's Tuesday Tidbits,  we continue to highlight Female Firsts: A Brief History of  Women in the Workforce. This is Part 2: The Dawn of the 20th Century and the 1930s: A Step Back for Women.

The Dawn of the 20th Century

Female FirstMary Pickford is a founding member of United Artists Film Studio in 1919.

Would You Believe:  A law is passed in 1908 making it illegal for women to smoke in public in New York City.

The presence of women in the public sphere increased significantly at the beginning of the 20th century. America was moving away from the Victorian ideal of the demure woman, cloistered away from society and into an age of social liberalism. Coined the “Progressive Era”, the early 20th century was symbolized by the image of the suffragette and by the flapper in the 1920s. Women gained greater access to education during this time, and World War I opened up opportunities for women in industry. Fifty percent of women worked outside the home during the war. Jobs, such as nursing, teaching, clerical work and telephone receptionist, actually became classified as “women’s work”. However, women gained entry into professional fields, such as engineer, lawyer or doctor, more slowly.  

1930s -- A Step Backward for Women

Female First: Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House, is the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Would You Believe: Twenty-six states have laws on the books prohibiting married women from working on the moral grounds that a woman should be caring for her husband and not stealing his job.

In the 1930s, women worked long hours and were compensated with poor wages. More than half of women worked fifty hours a week or more. The average salary of a woman in 1937 was $525, compared with men who received $1027. The Depression was to blame. Many working women struggled to meet basic expenses with their meagre salaries. Certain industries hired women at lower wages, such as canning, textiles, candy, and meatpacking.

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