Throughout many years preceding World War I, many women were not happy with their jobs. In 1870 most women worked in the agriculture of their homes, or did domestic service. Even by 1910 though, more women were already working in factories, offices, stores and telephone exchanges. As opposed to 14. 8% in 1870, 24% of women were now working in 1910. The practices of withdrawing from work once married and only returning when necessary (i. e. husbands salary decreased, laid off, injured, desertion) was unfortunately still being widely accepted and practiced.
The birth of modern corporations began to change the ocation and nature of womens paid labor and was an important factor in the advancement of womens labor (Greenwald 5). Multi plant firms began to transform the structure of business, as well as adding an element of elementary competition. There were still although a few financial giants, created by vital industries, such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Swift, Borden, whose practices ultimately determined how people lived, and what they bought (Greenwald 7).
As large factories increasingly began to replace older and smaller factories, skilled work became less needed and women even started to ake goods as machine tenders. Already, this reorganization was improving womens status in the work force. There was although a great deal of gender segregation, women were low paid and restricted to unskilled and semiskilled jobs, usually in textile mills, food processing, apparel, tobacco factories, and commercial laundries. Men of course were given jobs concerning transportation and heavy industry.
Unfortunately, as heavy industry became increasingly important, it resulted in fewer opportunities for women because companies were hiring more men. Another factor of unfairness was the fact that women were barred from pprenticeship programs resulting in the loss of better-paid and more sophisticated jobs in the metal industry (Greenwald 11). World War I though would provide a great opportunity for women to get ahead and although the movement into the work force was already underway, and it would certainly provide as a stimulus.
As a result of World War I and changing social views, womens role and place in American Society changed greatly. The results of World War I on womens place in society can be seen clearly in statistical evidence. Between 1910-1920 there was a dramatic increase in omen in offices as clerks and in semi-skilled jobs, such as typists, cashiers, and typists. At the same time although, there was a decrease of women cleaners, tailoresses, dressmakers and servants.
As the men began to leave for war from America, more women began to work, the substantial change although was not the number of new entrants in the work force, but the numbers of women changing jobs and the new opportunities being opened to them. Many women decided to change jobs in hopes of better opportunities. Increased job standardization, specialization of work and increasing supervision resulted in making many jobs nterchangeable. Women cashiers for instance would become fare collectors or retail workers would move to office work.
This was called skill dilution and it enabled workers to move from one area to another. As the war progressed there was a greater need for American War materials, and after the 2nd draft of men in late summer, the male workforce was greatly decreased. Companies began to beg for workers, especially those that had contracts to fill and war resources to supply. Businesses realized the number of women who could work and began to print ads saying Women Wanted. Bridgeport munitions even distributed flyers from an airplane urging women to leave their homes and work.
This created many new opportunities for women, and they soon realized that. As women changed jobs and took over those formally done by white men, black women took the opportunity to do those formally of white women. This was the first time a white woman could chose her job, and she took it very seriously and to its full advantage. Many women researched, sought advice, and did other things in order to choose the best job possible (Greenwald 35). The rise in the productions of ar resources needed drew thousands of women into the iron and steel industries as well.
Women even began to produce explosives, fireworks, and even medicines. During the war, women did 20% of the manufacturing in the electrical industry. Women started to engage in untraditional jobs, such as grinding and drilling due to the absence of men as well. In all cases women looked for the best opportunities, for they saw the job of a switchboard operator more secure than that of dipping chocolates (Greenwald 46). In 1917, 99% of women were switchboard operators, compared to 24% in 1914. The war depended on women and men to work together.
Women were quick to see the war as a good opportunity to improve their economic status in the society and took full advantage of this. The recognition of women by others and the government for their efforts illustrated to them their importance in the war effort. The Secretary of War, Navy, the President, and many other officials all recognized women and their importance in the attempt to win the war. Thus, women saw the war, as a liberating experience and it was important to them to support the war effort (Braybon 15).
Before the war here were a few women wage earner organizations and trade unions, but during the war union membership grew a great deal. Women began to join ranks of formally male unions, such as the federation of Federal Employees, and the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks. In 1919, many household workers began to form local organizations for the purpose of bettering wages and working conditions in Alabama, Texas, and Oklahoma. The war fortunately hit at a time when cooperate capitalism was creating new technology and in turn new jobs and labor policies.
Because of this new structure, womens paid employment was changing and ncreasing opportunities in workplace and in autonomy were occurring (Greenwald 45). Women took their opportunity to its full potential, realizing how much they were needed. Many women would accept many jobs at one time and return to the one they preferred the most. This was called labor turnover, and it caused an increased wage period in the US, but it also caused the companies to change their policies and create more advantages for their employees.
Women seized opportunities to petition for fairer labor policies and struck at workplaces for better pay and conditions. Women began to stand up for their rights because they were needed (Greenwald 47). Corporations began to experiment with training programs for women and the federal government also began to create agencies to establish safe and sanitary working conditions for women in order to oversee their introduction into male dominated work. The impact of World War I on women workers created an impetus for the creation of agencies to protect womens rights.
In 1919 both the Womens Branch in the Ordnance Department of the Army was created, and the Womens Service Section of the US Railroad Administration. At this time employers were hiring because of work force shortage and they were still implementing policies which served their own interests. Soon they started to implement welfare policies though and 200 even added employment offices to help put women workers in the jobs best suited for them. 400 companies in 1919 began to expand their welfare measures, such as medical care, lunchrooms, bathrooms, and clubs, to attract women employees.
This was one of the first attempts that companies began to make which accommodated their employees needs more than their own. There were two training programs during the war, which received much publicity and created a basis for years to come (Greenwald 87). One was the Recording and Computing Machinery Corporation in Dayton, Ohio, and the other was the Lincoln Motor Company of Detroit, Michigan. The Recording and Computing Machinery Corporation created separate training facilities for women, ensured strict supervision, paid special attention to inefficient workers, and created a fair system of pay bonuses.
Their training school even consisted of female teachers to increase womens confidence, although they were supervised by a ale supervisor. The women would begin with ten days of training at a low pay, and from then move on to regular jobs. To ensure the work of the boss for each department was successful, bonuses were offered to the boss whose women produced the most output, but they were warned not to exhaust their workers. Both in the Recording and Computing Corporation and in the Lincoln Motor Company, women began to receive wages for piecework completion instead of just hourly wages.
Lincoln Motor Company had their own ideas although. They believed in a system of strict surveillance to protect women workers. On top of that they hired women only with good character and did not allow men and women to mingle. To make sure they did not communicate, the company gave men and women different rest periods, different entrances to company restaurants and alternate stopping times (Greenwald 85). To increase the employment of women workers and to satisfy them although, they did give social club dinners on a monthly basis for the women.
In 1919 they even thought about starting a womens orchestra, singing club, and baseball and basketball teams. All this was done so that the company ould have a part in every aspect of the women workers lives. In 1918 the government also began to take a greater part in the aspect of labor policies realizing the dramatic increase of women in new areas of work. In 1914 out of the total iron workforce, there was only 2. 3% women workers, but in 1918 after the 2nd draft for the war, 95% of workers were women. There was a great need for cannons, rifles and other army and defense equipment.
In 1918 the government ordered a policy for federal companies, based on the recommendations of the Womens Bureau of Ordnance. It restricted the workday to 8 hours, reated a fair wage scale, limited physical work done by women, and enforced existing state legal standards for employment of women. The Womens Bureau of Ordnance helped to create more stable and safe positions for women along with other organizations and unions. During the period of World War I when women were beginning to see their self worth, many women reformers emerged.
Mary Van Kleeck and Mary Anderson were just two of the many that impacted the lives of many women. These two women were chosen by the Chief of Ordnance to be the principal advisors on the ordnance matters for women. Kleeck lectured on industries and disorders within corporations and factories throughout much of 1917 and 1918. By June of 1917 she had also published three books on the matter. In response to the new range of female employment the Labor Department also created the Women in Industry Service (WIS) which was directed by Kleeck.
She believed that the war created a great potential for interesting new order in the industry and society (Greenwald 89). As a reformer Kleeck inspected many arsenals and consulted government officials and experts to decide what should be changed. Although her goals did ot have any legal force, this was the first time the federal government had taken a stand on improving working conditions for women. Her fellow reformer Mary Anderson believed that wage earners and middle class reformers should work together to change working conditions (Greenwald 67).
To do her job, Anderson took many different positions doing many different jobs in order to gain much work experience. By the end of WWI she herself had worked in at least 19 different jobs. From her experience she expected the government to launch a program of social and economic regulation to benefit women workers. Many eformers believed in wise management of jobs, personal and social efficiency, fair wages and decent conditions. Reformers saw women as substitutes for men during the war and saw this time as an opportunity to expand and promote womens postwar status (Greenwald 69).
Many reformers also believed that women should be given some advanced training and further schooling equal to that of men so that they could properly substitute for them. Reformers were eager to get women in to promising and more advantageous mens jobs. The Womens Branch of Ordnance Department even introduced ways to train women (Greenwald 70). At the end of 1918, the Womens Branch had expanded into many district offices. These offices would test jobs for women, and whatever job by actual trial that the Womens Ordnance officer could do she sanctioned for other women.
This introduced people to a host of many new job opportunities that women were capable of fulfilling. The Womens Branch succeeded in creating 8-hour days for many new companies and also tried for equal wages. This policy of equal wages although was the most difficult to achieve during the war because fair wages were given by employers who had highly profitable contracts, but those ith a fixed sums and contracts were not able to afford it (Greenwald 77). This was an important factor although, and the discrepancy between mens and womens wages was unacceptable.
For example, in the Rock Island Arsenal the maximum rate of pay for a skilled female was $3. 20/day, while that of a minimum male starting position was $3. 68/day. One of the most favorable and important industries during World War I was railroad work. This was because of the federal control of railroads taken during the war to secure transportation problems that may arise. In order to make sure hey would have no problems with workers, the government created a nationwide standard of 8-hour days, decent wages, well designed grievance procedures and a senior system for regional promotions and lay-off within all rails.
The war emergency provided a stimulus for national policy of equal work for equal pay and it allowed women to begin to gain entrance into uncommon employment and occupational advances within railroad labor. This is one of the many reasons the rail attracted women workers. After the signing of the Armistice in November 1918, women employed in ailway offices, yards and shops faced the critical problem of holding on to their jobs. . The men did not like the idea of women taking over their jobs. Many of them challenged women and the post-war labor reduction hit women hard.
In many cases the seniority policies of companies was broken and women were laid off. Unions helped to protect some women and keep their jobs, but as husbands returned, women reluctantly gave up their jobs and returned home much of the time. One agency which was greatly changed was the telephone company in which the women took many measures to keep their jobs and succeeded by cutting off ommunication weeks at a time and bringing the company to its knees. Although many women were fired when the war terminated, they had ultimately found a new sense of self worth for themselves and a greater awareness of what they could accomplish.
In essence, the war gave an opportunity for women to realize what they were capable of and gave many of them much work experience equal to that of mens. As a result of the war, women no longer accepted degraded job opportunities and unfair wages. Through the creation of Labor Organizations and Unions they sought to protect their rights. Women took the outbreak of the war o its full potential, opening as many doors for themselves as they could and proving what they could accomplish.
Through their great accomplishments and the realization of corporations of how much they were needed, women in America created a new image of themselves. The opportunities given to women as a result of the war allowed them to think more freely and expand their horizons. After the war ended, many had to give up their jobs, but those who worked did not return to the old standards. For the first time, the federal government recognized the rights of women in the work force and their importance in times of need.