In-depth studies and debates: Women


Gilded Age: Positives

Clerical work increases 10x between 1870 to 1900

Knights of Labor promoted women’s members 

Economic expansion of USA produced urbanization/diversification 

Women joined TU, by 1880 there were 113 women’s assemblies and female membership of 50,000 

Factory workers rose from 18% to 22% between 1870-1900

Number of women in domestic service fell by half between 1870-1900 

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Gilded Age: Negatives

Industrialised cities – growth in female prostitution

Women opposed to strike breaking/marches 

In survey conducted by bureau of labour

  • found majority of men paid higher wages
  • gap higher in Southern factories 

Women subject to sexual exploitation and harassment

Male TUs often offered little/no support

  • 1882 – strike at textile mill over 20% pay cut failed after 4 months 
  • Women seen as undercutting wages 

2% of all unionists were women 

Influx of cheap immigrant labour – women not treated equally, worked in harsh conditions 

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New Deal: Positives

Frances Perkins

  • Secretary of Labour 1933-1945

Federal Emergency Relief Act 1933

  • homeless women could seek refuge in city shelters
  • counteracted legislation against employing married women 1932

Susan Ware 1981, rejects view New Deal achieved little for women – high powered political/gov 

‘social justice feminists’ – position of power, believed in helping men as well

discrimination against married women reflects ‘public mood’ not New Deal

  • 1936 Gallup Poll - 80% said married women should not work BUT more married women working in 1940 than 1933 

Eleanor Roosevelt influential women in politics

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New Deal: Negatives

Social attitudes 

  • discrimination against married women
  • rural women unable to break out of traditional stereotypes 

Wage gap – regulation of wage gap confirmed men had higher pay

Farm Security Act 1937

  • limitations of New Deal in helping women
  • improved conditions of poorer Southern farmers but did not reduce injustice to rural women

Jobs/employment – falling wages hit domestic workers/unprotected by labour 

Whole deal centered around men

  • New deal policies made without input of women
  • Men working so women could manage stable family life
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Black Power: Postitives

Fannie Lou Hamer – powerful speaker on wrongdoings of women in Mississippi

Elaine Brown/Kathleen Cleaver – females of black power = ‘sisters’

  • Articles, designed posters, legal advice, organizes, speakers
  • Links to local communities
  • Adopting leadership positions 
  • Escaped discrimination/suspicion of feminism as seen as pride for own race 

Birmingham Bus Boycott 1950- iimportant role in grassroots, freedom rides/sit-ins, Washington March 1963 (none invited to speak)

AA civil rights organizer Angela Davis – San Diego, California 1967, organized rally 

Women shaped Black Power – pamphlets/posters portrayed women as ‘revolutionary equals’, 1970s – 2/3 Black Panthers membership, participated on local level, helped dramatise male power

Developed aims of providing day care/food aid/support for poorer neighbourhoods 

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Black Power: Negatives

Black women suffered racism/sexism/classism

  • formed own organisations as Black Power concerns did not elevate women’s rights 

Feminism dismissed– “white women’s thing”

Black activists called for black women to “walk behind men”

Macho black power males

  • focused on reclaiming male sexuality, undermined middle class conservative USA 

Black power radicalization would destabilize women’s activism 

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