Thursday, May 9, 2013
Mbodj: Working Class Women in USA
Awa Daro Mbodj
Working Class Women in USA
Work is very important for every human being in order to survive. People need money to satisfy their needs, and most of the time in order to get money you have to work. However, working is not easy for everybody. Women struggle a lot in this domain. They face a lot of obstacle. Most of the people think that women have to stay home and take care of the family; her job is being a housewife. However, women don’t want to do tha;t they want to go outside their get a job and fight their rights in order to be equal with the working class men. It is not going to be easy because they will face discrimination, race, gender, and inequality. In this essay, I will talk about race, and gender discrimination.
Women have always participated in the working class even though they face a lot of obstacle. According to Abramovitiz,“More than 5 million women of all races worked outside the home by the 1900.”1 In the early 1900, women didn’t want to stay home and work anymore. They wanted to go outside and find good jobs and make money so they could help their family. It wasn’t easy at all because during that period the stereotype of a woman was to stay home and take care of their family. Men had to work and support the family. However, time changed and the economy was getting bad. Men couldn’t afford to take the charge of the family anymore. Women and children had to work in order to survive.
Discrimination was one of the biggest factors that affected the working class women. They were not allowed to do a lot of works because some people thought that some works were not fit for women. However, during that 1900’s, women had some specific jobs as secretary, nurse, teaching, tailor… etc. Even though they had same jobs as men they didn’t get the same salaries. Women always got the lower. They were poorer than men. Women always got low income during that period.
However because of the rising cost of live, long hours of work and salaries2, women decided to fight for their rights, they organized a lot of unions and strikes, so they could get protected by the government. “They fought for minimum wage, a shorter work day, and other labor market changes needed by women workers.”3. The unions helped them a lot to have these rights. It wasn’t easy at all but women fought for their rights. They could now work and help their family even though they still didn’t get equal paid as men.
During the great depression, most women were unemployed because the bad economy. Male workers were preferred than women because there were a lot of work that women couldn’t do. Women had to go back home and work at home if they still want to make money. However during the World War II, a lot of women were hired to do the men jobs because men went to war and there was nobody to do their jobs. Women started to have the freedom to have their own financial freedom, and they started to enjoy it. In addition, during WWII the salaries were pretty much high because of the lack of worker. However after the war, men wanted to get their jobs back, but women didn’t want to leave their jobs at all. Women were becoming more resistant, they imposed themselves. “They called for equal pay for equal work, nondiscriminatory seniority lists, protection of women’s jobs during the conversion to peacetime production, and female representation in union leadership roles”4. They didn’t want to be inferior to men anymore. They fought and got the 1962 Presidential Commission on the status of women, the 1963 Equal Pay Act, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, according to Mimi.
Race was a big problem in the domain of working class women. All women were not treated the same. The people that suffered the most were black women. White women were getting better jobs than black. People were very racist during the 1900’s. Even black men were having trouble having jobs especially black women. “Black women received far less job-search support from welfare caseworkers than did white women and far fewer job offers from employers.”5 Black women were racially discriminated. They could get good jobs as white women. They were the last to get hired, and they weren’t getting jobs like secretary, phone operator …A lot of door was closed to them. They were facing two discriminations which were the gender and racial discrimination. Even though they are in the labor force, they were restricted on many jobs possibility6. It wasn’t easy at all for them to get jobs. It was harder for them than white women. It wasn’t fair but race was very important during that period. Black women were very struggling. The kind of jobs that they used to get were households, waitress … but the white collar jobs were held by white women.
Among the working class women, there were the immigrant women. Women from southern and eastern Europeans came in USA to immigrate.7 Those women also needed to work in order to support their family. They were more likely to get better jobs than black women because they were white. However, white people that were born in USA got jobs easier than other women. Immigrant women came with their own culture and stereotype and tried to fit into the American society. They will face gender segregation, but they will handle it. They will be in some unions and fight for their right in the labor for.
The stereotype of women gender is to stay home, take care of the family, and the household. During 1900’s, men were supposed to work than women. Men were the head of the family and women were the one who was taking care of the family. Gender discrimination was one of the biggest problem in the working because most of the people though that women were not able to do certain work. However somebody had to take care of the family and it was the role of woman. Women were not only workers in the working class, but they were wives and mothers.8 If women and men both worked, who is supposed to take care of the family? Women didn’t have only one job but several jobs.
According to DeVault, young and single girls were more likely to work than married woman because they had more free time than others. They could support their families. Married woman who had a spouse worked less than married woman with absent spouse. This is because married woman with absent spouse didn’t have anybody to support her she had to work in order to survive while the married woman with spouse can depend on her spouse.9 The husband of the married woman without spouse could have been in another country, war or dead. This was why she had to work especially if she had children. However in a family gender played a role very important, but the role of each gender could switch depending on the situation. Some working class women had to work. It was not for pleasure but in order to survive.
A lot of women worked in the home. They work in their home because they couldn’t work for instance young mother or old women.10 Sometimes, some situation made working class women to work at home. One of the reasons could be flexibility another could be cheap labor. Employers liked getting their labor cheap. By doing business with home working women they didn’t have to pay social security, so they were saving money. Some women liked to home working because they had their own space and time and they could use their own family labor. It was more flexible for them and employers didn’t mind. The law didn’t like this kind of work but the women accepted that. Women could now stay in their home, take care of their family and gain some money even though it is not a lot. They weren’t controlled by anybody but employers were allowed to check their working place and see if all the conditions that they wanted were met before doing business with women.
In conclusion, work was a way for workers to meet their needs. Working class women struggled a lot because they faced discrimination in gender and race. All working class women were not allowed to do certain jobs. Jobs were very limited for them. Some people thought that women couldn’t do certain work, and they also thought that women’s job was to stay home and take care of their family. However women stood up and started to fight their rights. They organized a lot union in order for them to express themselves. They fought for equal pay for equal work. The women that struggle the most were black women because they were facing gender and racial discrimination. Some women did home working because it was easier or better for them, they could stay with their family and make money at the same time.
1 Abramovitz, Mimi, “Learning from the History of Poor and Working-Class Women’s Activism”, Annals of The American Academy Of Political & Social Science, 577 (2001): 118. accessed April 11, 2013.
3 Ibid,. 120
5 Ibid,. 126
6 Ileen A. Devault,” Family wages: The roles of wives and mothers in U.S. working class survival strategies, 1880-1930” Labor History, 54 (2013): 1-20, accessed April 11, 2013.
7 Ibid 9
8 Ibid,. 2
9 Ibid,. 5
10 Kathleen E. Christensen,” Women Working at home face Employer abuse”, Newsday, 58 (1986):58.