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Status Of Women In The Workplace

2626 words - 11 pages

Are male and female participation in the workforce destined to be mutually exclusive? The Waltham Mills of the mid-1820s and 1830s in addition to the thriving post-War 1950s are especially interesting in the context of the evolution of workplace participation in earned work, along with the social changes in gender roles, for example, that accompanied these shifts.
While men have, throughout American history, sustained a substantial degree of authority over the workplace and, more generally, the conception and definition of “work” itself, women, on the whole, have found themselves somewhat pigeonholed in the home. As in the 1830s, when the large textile mills of Waltham, Massachusetts, in the midst of an industrial revolution, battled a shortage of workers by employing more women than ever before, the booming economic growth of the post-War 1950s also brought women out to work in droves. However, in addition to simply flooding women into the workforce to account for the deficit of male workers following the War, the groundbreaking 1950s presented women as a sustainable source of labor. The greater gender diversity in the workforce would redefine the so-called entrenched gender role structure that for centuries had existed in society and, thus, the workplace. It was obvious that the nature of work was changed forever. But what exactly led to this massive radical shift in sentiment against the status quo? After all, we know societal change doesn’t come easily. What were the origins of this movement which sought to redefine a society so inexorably accustomed to a workplace composed of exclusively men, and a household composed of a woman and her children? Women’s blooming and unprecedented participation in relatively large numbers in the workplace in the 1830s, culminating in their sustained participation in growing numbers during the post-War economic boom of the mid 1950s, brought the idea of equality between men and women at work, and indeed at home as well, to the center of society’s consciousness, and, in turn, made women a permanent part of earned work in America alongside men.
In order to understand this evolution, one must examine both what led women to enter the workplace in such large numbers, as well as what compelled men, who hitherto viewed work for wages as their domain, to become comfortable with the idea of women in the workplace in the first place. At the outset, it does appear that the labor deficit, which accompanied periods punctuated by a shortage of working men, is what motivated the induction of women into the workplace, particularly during the decades that we are comparing. Women were brought in as America sought to expand factory production in the textile industrial boom of the 1830s, and were again brought to supplement labor during the high economic growth period in post-War America. The economic necessity of fulfilling the labor deficit was undoubtedly a catalyst that led to a surge of women out of the traditional role...

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