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The Workplace for Women and Children Then and Now

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The Workplace for Women and Children Then and Now

The American workplace for women and children as we know it in today's world has come a long way from where it was over a century ago. Many improvements have transformed the type of work that is done, increased the wages that are now being paid for the services, and changes have also adjusted the amount of hours that are spent on duty. Not all men could support their families by themselves in the early 1900's. Many of the women and children had to go to work in order to help support their families, and get them through the rough days. In our society today, it is normal for parents to go off to work in the mornings, for the children to go to school, and if they are capable, then go to a part-time job. Contrary to the turn of the twentieth century, in 2008 the workplace is largely populated by both women and children, with many changes taking place over the last hundred years.

"In 1900 less than 5.6% of married women worked outside the home."1 A woman going to work in the 1900's was not acceptable at first, but unfortunately the economy was tough, and some men couldn't earn enough money on their own and had to turn to their spouses for help to support the family. "Women accounted for 18% of the labor force in 1900, and 20.4% of all women worked in some capacity."2 "In 1902, women took on temporary and seasonal work in all sectors of farm production, especially during harvest. Sorting and packing produce was a common feature of rural life." Although some women would work as long and as hard as their husbands, or any other male figure in the family, they still were not paid as much as men. This was extremely hard on some of the people with larger families. Not only did the women have to worry about not being paid enough, but they also feared that they could be taken advantage of in a man's working world.3

In order to support themselves, most single women must maintain a profession, and this is found to be a common requirement for single women in today's society. "In 2006, 50.3% of women were not married and 60% of these unmarried women were in the labor force."4 In addition to the single women workforce, married women work for the same reasons today that they did in the 1900's, to help support their families. There is still a slight problem with women not being paid as much as men, or not being able to get job promotions or raises because they are female. It is not as bad as it was in the 1900's, but unfortunately it does still happen. Thankfully, today many women have the option of being "stay at home moms", or some have their own businesses based out of their homes, while others may choose to work on a part-time basis. "According to a Pew Research Center survey taken among working mothers in 1997, those with minor children (ages seventeen and under), just one-in-five (21%) said full-time work was the ideal situation for them, down from the 32% who said this back in 1997. Six-in-ten (up from 48% in 1997) of working mothers said part-time work would be their ideal, and another one-in-five (19%) said they would prefer not working at all outside the home."5

The priorities of working women have come to the forefront over the last few decades. "In 1940, less than 8.6% of mothers with children under the age of eighteen worked, but by 1987, 60.2% of women with children under eighteen were working."6 "A survey taken in 2006 by the American Association of University Women found that 83% of women would choose a job that had lower pay but provided benefits, such as family leave, flexible hours, and help with family care."7 Today, working mothers must be able to carefully balance between their profession as well as their family and household. "The availability of affordable childcare can have a huge impact on a woman's choices regarding work."8 A conscientious working mother will also insure that her profession allows adequate time off for parental involvement, and will allow sufficient time away to care for ill family members, if ever necessary. "In addition, flextime as well as other similar employment benefit options can be important supports for working mothers."9

It has been said, "From the beginning of human history, even though the very young did their share of work in the family, it was expected that they would help their parents anyway they could: foraging for food, herding animals, raising crops, and doing household chores."10 Since most parents spent a great deal of time working in the mills to support their families in the 1900's, some of the children went to school, but most of the older children went to work as well. Even with the entire household working hard, "according to many estimates, families couldn't earn enough money to support themselves even



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