A digital scrapbook on the lives of women in The 1920’s to the 50’s and up to Now-
Written by Paris-
Today, when we think about the difference between men and women, they are fairly similar, and despite some differences, there is equality. But throughout the 1900s, people were more sexist. In the time of the Famous Five, things changed, yet still, in later years, women were still treated unequally, with men being the dominant gender. At one point, somehow women just ended up as housewives again, but certain ladies took charge. In this digital scrapbook, you will learn all about life for women in the 1920’s, the time of the Famous Five*, the 1950’s, as well as now. You will also learn about the similarities and differences between those time periods and now.
Life for Women in the 1920’s
The 1920’s was a declaration of independence. Sometimes referred to as ‘The Roaring Twenties,’ and ‘The Jazz Age,’ some people may think back and say, “Those were the days.” But were they really? “H I M ” Club, 1927 (Happy Independent Women)
In the 1920’s women could rarely land a job.
It didn’t matter anyway, because the day they got married, they would get fired and be forced to take on the role of a homemaker. Women wouldn’t get many choices for jobs; they only could get ‘traditional’ jobs like domestic servants, secretaries, nurses, teachers, salesclerks and factory workers. And if they did get a better job, then they wouldn’t get much business; no man would put his business affairs in the hands of a female lawyer nor would they go to a lady doctor, despite the condition they were in.
Women got lower paychecks than men as well.
They gained only 54%-60% of what men did and earned just over $8 a week. (55 hours) There were cultural restrictions as well. Japanese and Chinese women were not allowed to enter Canadian hospitals, colleges and universities. More and more woman got hired as sales help in stores, stenographers in offices and as factory workers because they could do their job just as well as men for a much smaller amount of money.
Before women got the vote, they fought for it.
Women would parade around, signs in their hands, protesting for rights and freedoms. At President Woodrow Wilson’s second inauguration in 1917, Alice Paul led a march around the White House. They were against a well-organized and well-funded anti-suffrage movement which said that most women really didn’t really care whether they had the vote or not. Women also used humor. In 1915 writer Alice Duer Miller wrote: | Why We Don’t Want Men to Vote -Because man’s place is in the army. -Because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it. -Because if men should adopt peaceable methods women will no longer look up to them. -Because men will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms, and drums. -Because men are too emotional to vote. Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to appeal to force renders them unfit for government.
Life for Women in the 1950’s
Despite getting the vote in 1929, women were still not treated as equals in the fifties and early sixties. There were improvements from back in the 1920’s, but still not as great as possible. In this next section of my digital scrapbook you will learn all about women’s life in the 1950’s, the challenges, how men stayed as the dominant gender, and the women who stood up. In the 50’s there was the same employment problem as in the 1920’s. If it was women versus men for who had the higher amount of professional jobs, then the answer would be obvious: Men would win by a landslide.
The Good Wife’s Guide
Recently I came across an article on the Internet from a May 1955 issue of Housekeeping Monthly, titled ‘The Good Wife’s Guide.’ Today it would be considered very sexist, and some parts are so absurd that it’s almost funny. For example: – Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first – remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours. – Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction. – Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him. These are just a few of them. His topics of conversation are more important than yours? Really? It also talked about showing sincerity in your desire to please him. To me it sounds like back then, the most important part of a woman’s life was catering to her husband’s needs.
Women and Jobs
In the 1950’s women could barely ever land a job. Unfortunately, they held less than 40% of the professional positions. Female workers would be expected, just like in the 1920’s, to accept a way lower salary than a man who did the same duties. If a woman did end up earning a college degree, which wasn’t very likely back then, when she applied for a job, there was a high chance that she would be passed over and the position would go to a male applicant. In 1950 there were 40,174,705 employed males and only 15,559,454 employed females, which is less than half as many as the men. People didn’t get divorced very much in the 50’s, and if they did, it was pretty grim. Women’s prospects as single people were quite bad. Even these days, divorced women suffer about a 45% decline in economic status. It was worse in the 50’s.
Eleanor Roosevelt put pressure on President John Kennedy and turned out successful.
She noticed that only 9 out of his 240 appointees to office were women, and she sent him a three-page list. The list was filled with the names of women that were certified for government service. He put Roosevelt in charge of the Commission of Women, which was created later, in 1960. Her declaration also included a call for equal job opportunities and equal pay for women, expansion of child care facilities, as well as an end to laws that discriminate against women.
Life for Women Now
A women life has taken a step up over the past decades. Men and women are almost completely equal. When you turn on the TV, are there female actors and news reporters on it? When your little sister breaks her arm and you go to the hospital are there female doctors? When it’s Career Day at your school and you go to your dad’s office are there lady lawyers in the building? The answers are yes, yes and yes again. Now there is less gender discrimination than ever. | Yet it still is a bit shaky; there is still a sense of inequality between men and women. Sometimes people don’t notice because everyone seems so equal, but gender inequity is still ever-present.
Women in the Olympics
Luckily, female athletes are in the Olympics. But a few sports are not included in that for some reason. Women cannot participate in ski-jumping, baseball, (women have to play softball), Greco-Roman wrestling, (women do freestyle wrestling), and boxing, and more. But boxing will be added at the 2012 games. There are some women-only sports. Only women can do synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics. For some sports there are multiple versions for men and women. In track and field, men do a decathlon, which is 10 events, and women do a heptathlon, which is 8 events. It’s the same in speed swimming; women only do 800m, whereas men do 1500m. What doesn’t make sense to me is why women have shorter races, when we are all equals. I think that women have made a big contribution to the Olympics. Whether they are out there competing or cheering while watching on the TV, the Games are lucky to have these women athletes.
We are lucky that we live in the 2000’s, because girls and women can go to school. If we lived in the 20’s or the 50’s my sisters and I might not be going to school, and we wouldn’t be able to learn, either. If we were in school back then, and we took a subject like Home Economics we would probably just end up learning about cooking, cleaning, and about how to please and cater to your husband’s needs when you got married, as well as take care of children. Girls have a chance to go to university now and get a good, well-paying job. Back in the 1920’s and the 1930’s, women usually just skipped university after high school and began working, doing a ‘female job’, once they were done. Whenever a girl did something wrong or bad at school, they would be hit and beaten. Luckily, now there are more reasonable punishments, and abuse is considered a crime. These days in school we learn about important things, and girls can get the education that they need to have a good future.
Who Would Have Believed It?
Not the women of the 20’s and the 50’s, that’s for sure. Now there are women doing things that no one ever would have believed back then. Today there are female astronauts, going off to space, women that are CEOs of big companies, professional basketball and beach volleyball players, lawyers, doctors, senators, and so many more things! There are women entrepreneurs, vice presidential candidates, best-selling authors, mayors, soldiers, female police officers and other emergency workers. Even our vocabulary around women has changed because I would never say ‘fireman’ about a female fire worker.
Then and Now
The differences between the 1920’s, the 1950’s and now are huge. But if you look closely, there are a few similarities between them as well.
Back then women didn’t have one thing: choices. They didn’t have the choice to get an education, and only a few girls could go to school, because usually their family could only afford to send one child to school, and the boy would be their first pick. Women didn’t have the opportunity to get an education, therefore they couldn’t get a job. So they had to get married, because that would be the only way to get the money from their husbands to take care of themselves. When women got married, all their property automatically went to their husband, so if they got a divorce, they would have absolutely nothing. Another thing was clothing. Women weren’t allowed to wear pants, short skirts, and they couldn’t show any leg. They always had to wear proper clothing, and they never were able to just throw on a pair of sweats and relax.
Women in the 1920’s and the 1950’s were constantly seen as housewives, which is something in common from then and now. How many families do you know with a stay-at-home dad? There are way more stay-at-home moms, and many more working dads. But, this only applies to families; single women work, just as men do. Another thing in women’s defense is that most moms choose to stay at home with their kids. But why not the dads? Is it just a stereotype that people continue to follow? Aside from the whole housewife topic, women really haven’t changed; they still are the same people with the same attributes. Women are still creative, multi-taskers, hard workers, and looking for the next challenge.
Over the time that I have studied and made this digital scrapbook I have learned a lot about life for women in different time periods. It makes me grateful that I live in a time period where there is equality between men and women. Now women are everywhere that men are, able to do what what only men used to be able to do. Life in the 1920’s and the 1950’s was quite unfair to many women in our country. But now, thanks to certain women like the Famous Five*, women are well-respected. And really, for women, it’s not who they are that has changed, just what they are allowed to do.
*The Famous Five, or The Valiant Five, were five Alberta women who asked the Supreme Court of Canada to answer the question, “Does the word ‘Persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?” in the case the five women, Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards, created a petition to ask this question. They sought to have women legally considered persons so that women could be appointed to the Senate.
How has Life for Women Changed from the 1920’s to the 1950’s to Now?
Was written on October 7, 2009
Paris R. in Grade Six!
She attended Elbow Park Elementary School in Calgary, AB, T2T2H8
I hope you found it interesting to re-view some of our history through the eyes of a young girl. How does her age color your perception of this article? What were your thoughts when you saw the article was written by “Paris” at the beginning of the article? Curious!
Here are the Sources Paris R. listed:
17: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/8413/life_in_the_50s_were_we_better_off.html?cat=4 http://jhunt61.spaces.live.com/Blog/cns!D77010893264915C!5582.entry http://www.angelfire.com/ca/HistoryGals/Elisa.html http://j-walk.com/other/goodwife/images/goodwifeguide.gif http://historyclass.tripod.com/id12.html http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What%20Olympic%20sports%20are%20for%20women%20only http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What%2osports%20can%20women%20not%20play http://womenshistory.about.com/od/suffrage1900/a/august_26_wed.htm | Sources