Society and Culture change (Women)

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The impact of the First World War


  • Before WW2, women in the USA were struggling to get the right to vote 
  • The war gave them a chance to work despite being offered lower wages than men
  • One gain from the war was that Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the constituion, giving women the vote under the same state rules as men in 1920 
  • In 1920 the League of women voters was set up to encourage women to vote. 
  • Poorer women did not vote and few black women voted. 
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The roaring twenties

  • It was called the Roaring Twenties because an economic boom meant that many people were better off than ever before
  • Mass production made consumer goods cheaper and road building meant cars could travel futher and faster
  • This affected the position of women as there was expectation that things would return back to normal after the war, inlcuding women resuming their traditional roles as wives and mothers
  • Many people believed women's war work had been an execeptiopn and that women should not take work away from returning men
  • Most married women were obliged to work at home for low wages
  • Some jobs such as teaching were barred to married owmen. 
  • It was lives of single, well of and mostly white women that were more open to change 
  • Changomg indusatries had created office jobs which became seen as womens work 
  • A womens bureau of labor was set up in 1920 to improven working conditions for women 
  • Between 1910 and 1940, the number of working women went up from 7.6 million to 13 million
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  • Flapped made the most of their independence and worked, had short hair and wore short dresses
  • Some smoked and dranked in public and even drank drove their own cars. They even went to Jazz clubs and speakeasies 
  • They behaved like men by going to male dominated sporting events
  • People were shocked at flappers as they allowed themsevles sexual freedom
  •  Flappers shifted the public perception of women but were only a small percentage of the female population 
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The impact of the great depression

  • If husbands kept their jobs, womens with families managed, or looked for work to supplement their husbands income 
  • Women who were widowed, divorced or deserted had to take any work they were offered. A 1932 Women's Burea of Labor report on women workers in meat packagin found that 97% of them were working as the only wage earner or to boost their husbands wage
  • The womens Bureau was largely ignored within the Burea of Labor because of its focus on women. 
  • Muller v Oregon rulling that womens working hours should be no more thna ten hours day had caused poorest women to break these restrictions and lose their jobs
  • Labour regulations often applied only to industrial work, not to farming or domestic service where a large proportion of the labour force was black and female
  • The migrant pool was enormous, with mexians blacks and blacks all competiting for badly paid jobs with poor working conditions 
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The impact of the New Deal

  • The New Deal administration understood that many families were under immense pressure in the 30s 
  • The New Deals aid for Families with dependedt children provided some benefits for poor families
  • However, men came first in in new deal polices, for example the civilian conservation corps found work for 17-23 year olds 
  • Eleanor Roosevelt wanted something similiar for jobless young women in forestry and set up Cam Tera in 1933 which was set up and funded by private funding 
  • In 1934 Eleanor held a white house conference for unemployed women and after this camps were federally funded
  • By 1936 there were 36 csamps taking about 5,000 women a year, even thouh they only took women for 2 or 3 months and provided no work or wages 
  • Black women benefited less from the New Deal than white4s, adn fro every dollar a white man earned a white woman earned 61 cents and a black women earned 23 cents 
  • Fannie Peck set up a series of Houseswives league in Detroit in 1930 and encouraged women to work in black run shops. THey soon spread to other towns 
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The impact of the Second World war (Before and Dur

Before and during the Second World War  

  • WW2 resuced the USA from the Depression and once again women showed they could do mens work well. The iconic image of Rosie the Rivertor ' we can do it' urged women into war work 
  • The selective Training and service act prepared to draft men into military and to train women to fill their places in shipbuilding and aircraft assembly 
  • 16 percent of married in 1940, because of childcare problems. The 1941 Lanhams childcare provision was extened and by 1944 there were 130,000 children in day care 
  • The percentage of women in the workforce grew from 15 percent to 23 percent 
  • Worker shortages meant black women could train for professions where they had previously had not been welcome, the number of black women on nursing courses rose from 1,108 in 1939 to 2,600 in 1945 
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The impact of the second world war (Post-war chang

Post war changes

  • Not all men returned to their old jobs (some took advantage of GI bills thar guranteed an education) but most wanted their old jobs back
  • About half the married women who worked during the war left work when it ended through choice or social pressure or because federally funded day care centers clsoed down in 1946
  • The female employment rate rose again after the war, particularly for 45-54 year old, as the percentage of them working rose from 10% in 1940 to 22% in 1950 
  • Before the war, married women were barred from many jobs but these restrictions were lifte during the war and so a wider range of jobs were opened to women
  • Many white women wanted to enter the workforce and were often employed before non-white women. 
  • The war changed the atiudes of husbands to married women working. In 1936 82% of people said women should not work, and this dropped to 12% in 1942
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What changes did Suburban living make 1941-60

  • Suburbs sprang up in a post-war economic and building bnoom that made homes more affordable. Suburbs were in commuting distance of the cities 
  • Black americans lived very similar lives to white women in white suburbs only low cost black ones. Happily integrated suburbs were rare, though not unkown 
  • In the 1950s subrbs grew rapidly. In 1960 19 million more people lived in surburbs than in 1950. Many surburbs had schools and shops. 
  • Suburbs created their own social life and if women worked, they were excluded from friendship groups. Most suburban housewives had labour saving devices 
  • Suburban life was potrayed on billboards and on television (I love Lucy show) as the lifestyle to aspire to i.e the american dream
  • As people left inner cities for the surburbs,those who remained were largely those who couldnt afford to move out. The long term effect of this was that inner citiies became locked into a downward spiral. 
  • Shopping malls became a focal point for many rural housewives and provided a greater variety of goods at a batter price than local stores. The first of these being built in 1954 in Detroit 
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The impact of women's liberation movement, 1961-80

  • In 1961, Kennedy set up a commision on the enquiry of the status of women. In 1963, it published its results, praising the Equal pay act and the wider job oppourtunites for women 
  • The commision found that the equal pay act was badly needed as women accounted for one in three workers. Their Wages were uniformly lower and minimum wages regulations also did no apply to the low paid work women did. The report also said that non-white women were in a worse position than whites because of racial dsicrimination
  • The 1963 report noted that, from infancy, girls were not encouraged to think about their carrers. 
  • The 1958 education act had said schools should have job counsellors to work with students. There were few consellors (12,000 in all state schools) and most were not trained, their advice was described as patchy and were not considering the abilities and needs of girls counselled
  • This report had some effect on government thinking as in 1964 the CRA included sexual equality as well as racial equality. 
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The impact of womens liberation movement 1961-80 (

  • In 1963, Betty Friedan published a book called The feminine Mystique about the constraintsw of surbaban life and was aimed at educated, married and white women. Her book had women thinking about womens rights and their own lives 
  • This spurred women to organise themsevles adn the NOW movement was set up in 1966 with Freidan as one fo the founding members. It aimed to work within the system to get equality and better enforcement of the civil rights act and the equal pay act 
  • Congress had been regularly asked to pass an ERA but didnt do so, womens groups held meeting, collected pettitions and lobbied politicians to change congress's mind. 
  • They say themselves as needing to work steadily for change
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The womens liberation movement 1961-80 (Young Radi

  • This strand of the movement were women who were under 30, white, middle class and  college educated
  • Many had worked with black american civil rights groups and radical groups like SNCC and SDS but the men who dominated these groups were often sexist so ignored the issue of womens equality
  • They set up local, radical groups to push for women's liberation and equality. They wanted immediate change and many drew direct parralles between their situation and the black americans 
  • The national magazien that spread news from all groups started in 1968 and was called the voice of the women's liberation movement. It was run by volunteers selling 200 in its first and then 2,000 in the next 
  • However, the media focused on the inflammaotry elements of feminism
  •  In 1970 almost every single feminist group including NOW participated in a strike of women in the 50th anniversary of women getting the vote 
  • The strike got a lot of publicity and NOW membership grew from 1,000 in 167 to 400,000 in 1974
  • Kate Millets Sexual politics tackled the dominance of men in literature and Gloria Steinems Ms magazine was widely praised as catering to the real needs of modern women 
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Opposition to the womens liberation movement

  • The movement attracted a lot of opposition especially among men. Conservatives of all kinds rejected the movement, stressing even more strongly the un-americaness of its demands and the abadonment of traditional roles
  • Some people didnt mind the equal rights arm of womens liberation, but objected to the calls fr free contraception and abortion
  • Phylilis Schalafly objected to demands for an Equal rights act and set up a group called STOP ERA

Phyllis was a conservative who opposed the ideas of the womens liberation movement. Among the reasons she gave for her opposition to ERA were the following: 

  • Women were designed to have babies, they shouldnt be equal in the matter of work, they would need the support of a husband when having a family 
  • She didnt want her daughters to be able to choose some jobs for example joining the army
  • Women would lose various tax and benefit priveleges under equal rights 
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Gains and limits to advancement

  • In 1967 Johnson extended his executive order calling for affirmative action to improve employment conditions for those discriminated against on the grounds of race or sex. The order only covered federal employees or businesses working with federal government
  • In 1972 the supreme court allowed acces to contraception to unmarried as well as married women
  • Abortion was federally legalised in 1973 by supreme court 
  • On 1972 the ERA was finally passed as an amendment to the constitution by Congress. All it needed was ratification by 38 of the 50 states. Howeever, 15 states were still refusing to ratify ERA in 1982 and there still isnt an equal rights act
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