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Underpaid, but Employed: How the Great Depression Affected Working Women

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tags: Great Depression, labor history, womens history



During the Great Depression, millions of Americans lost their jobs in the wake of the 1929 Stock Market Crash. But for one group of people, employment rates actually went up: women.

From 1930 to 1940, the number of employed women in the United States rose 24 percent from 10.5 million to 13 million. The main reason for women’s higher employment rates was the fact that the jobs available to women—so called “women’s work”— were in industries that were less impacted by the stock market.

“Some of the hardest-hit industries like coal mining and manufacturing were where men predominated,” says Susan Ware, historian and author of Holding Their Own: American Women in the 1930s. “Women were more insulated from job loss because they were employed in more stable industries like domestic service, teaching and clerical work.”

By the 1930s, women had been slowly entering the workforce in greater numbers for decades. But the Great Depression drove women to find work with a renewed sense of urgency as thousands of men who were once family breadwinners lost their jobs. A 22 percent decline in marriage rates between 1929 and 1939 also meant more single women had to support themselves.

Read entire article at History.com

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