Discovery Set: Working Women

Industrialization, urbanization, growing educational opportunities, the advent of woman suffrage, and the effects of war are but some of the factors that have contributed to tremendous changes in the nature of women's labor in the United States. Like men, women have organized to achieve safe working conditions and fair wages--pressing their case to overcome obstacles raised by employers, legislatures, and at times, male co-workers. African American working women have faced the additional barriers of segregation and racial prejudice. 

Over time, the pool of women seeking gainful employment has expanded beyond "working-class" women and immigrants to include women from families of greater means. Women's desires and demands for professional satisfaction have grown as has their expertise and experience. Today, the U.S. economy depends on a high percentage of its citizenry participating in the labor force, and despite a labor shortage, working conditions, wages, diversity and inclusion, and opportunities for women's advancement continue to be areas for dispute and negotiation. 

These documents present a sampling of the great variety of women's experiences as contributing members of the U.S. workforce.

For further reading: 

War Opens Up New Fields for Women’s Endeavor. Orie Latham Hatcher and the Bureau of Vocations, July 1917, Social Welfare History Project

Bureau of Vocations for Women (1921), Social Welfare History Project

Frances Perkins: She Boldly Went Where No Woman Had Gone Before, Social Welfare History Project

Esther Peterson: Advocate for Worker’s Rights and Consumers, Social Welfare History Project

International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Social Welfare History Project

National Women’s Trade Union League, Social Welfare History Project

Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, Social Welfare History Project

Discovery Set: Working Women