Women at Work – 1920

1925_Accounting_Office_BrooklynThe Nineteenth (XIX) Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920 when Tennessee became the 36th US state to ratify and thus provide the final vote to amend the US Constitution. The amendment had been passed by the US House of Representatives on May 21, 1919 and, as we were reminded in HRC’s speech the other night, was passed by the US Senate on June 4, 1919.

In 1921, the Sheppard-Towner Act (officially known as the Promotion of the Welfare and Hygiene of Maternity and Infancy Act) which provided federal funding for prenatal care and education and included the creation of women and children’s health clinics, passed Congress and was signed by President Warren G. Harding. Somewhat appropro, since, as we now know, old Warren G. fathered a daughter with Nan Britton who was not, as you might surmise, Mrs. Harding.

Times were changing.

Then during the 20’s female employment began to rise especially, of course, for single women. Common occupations for the ladies included typist, filing clerk, stenographer, social worker. nurse, teacher and librarian. But, at the same time, women more frequently filled the creative ranks as artists, singers, actors and designers; women like Martha Graham, Coco Chanel, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Dorothy Parker. (dang…I always thought Dorothy Parker was the bee’s knees).

Of course, we still had this kind of thinking….

“I pay our women well so they can dress attractively and get married.” – Henry Ford

Much still to be done.


image: Early Office Museum


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