Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A blast from the past on the subject of working women

Norman Rockwell's 1943 painting of "Rosie the Riveter."
While looking through the Post-Register of April 30, 1940 (researching the Looking Back column that I write for the paper), I saw a story about a survey conducted by the local Business and Professional Women's Club. Some of you might find it interesting, others appalling.

As part of a national effort, the club's research committee, headed by Lucille Rennie, interviewed 134 employers, asking four questions:

  • Do you refuse to hire married women?
  • Would you dismiss an employee upon her marriage?
  • Would you refuse to promote married women?
  • In the event of pregnancy, would you re-employ a woman after the child is born?

Most employers said they were favorably inclined toward having married women in the workplace, saying they brought level-headedness and stability. They had reservations about mothers of newborns, however, and everything was of course contingent upon the husband's approval.

The one exception was the Idaho Falls School Board, whose representatives said they weren’t inclined to hire married women and that any single woman who decided to get married wouldn't be getting a new contract.

The story said the survey could be a useful pointer to the Idaho Legislature. "Laws have been introduced in many state legislatures in the past few years with the idea of removing the married woman from the payroll. In most states this proposed legislation has failed as unconstitutional and in violation of the rights of the citizen. (In) some states, however, some such legislation has been enacted."

Given the date of the story, let's remember that Pearl Harbor is less than a year-and-a-half away and that following the United States' entry into World War II any objections to working women -- married or single -- would take a backseat to the war effort.

On that note, you might be interested to know that  Mary Keefe, the woman who posed as Rosie the Riveter for Norman Rockwell's famous Saturday Evening Post cover, died on April 21, at age 92. Here's a link to the story in the New York Times: Mary Keefe, Model for Rockwell’s ‘Rosie the Riveter,’ Dies at 92.