The emergence of an urban, industrialized society affected the lives of American women in the late nineteenth century. Women during this time were beginning to see that not only did they belong in the home, but they could also find a role in the workplace. Men, on the other hand, maintained their role in the job market. However, the jobs of both men and women in the nineteenth become more and more specialized in their nature.
Women in the 1800s were searching for jobs that had typically been done by men. These jobs included office work and factory work. As women searching for work found, the jobs they wanted to obtain were not there. Men, or other women who had started the search earlier had already filled these jobs. However, with the reorganization of industrial society, more and more jobs would begin to become available.
The increasing number of jobs meant there was more specialization in the workplace. Along with the specialization of industry came improved technology. This would prove to be a great way to get women into jobs. Technology, for example, led to the production of the typewriter. In the 1880s, also, the employment of women in offices begin to climb sharply. This coincidence has led some analysts to conclude that the invention of the typewriter was basically responsible for the employment of women in offices in the United States (p68).
The invention of the typewriter led to excellent jobs for women in the nineteenth century. Women could now hold clerical occupations. These clerical occupations included positions as stenographers and typists. For women, these were dream jobs. Now, women would not have to work in factories under extremely harsh conditions. Clerical work was generally seen as more desirable than industrial work, and this spurred women of working-class origins to seek clerical jobs (p71). In taking clerical positions, women would work fewer hours and make decent pay. The payment that these clerical workers made was often thought to be extra money. In addition women were often thought to be working for pin money with which to make frivolous
purchases (p69). This made it all right for employers to pay clerical workers, more specifically women clerical workers, less pay than men made.
Women were given these jobs as clerical workers and typists, for the most part because it was not thought to be a dominant male job, and because it had not yet been claimed as a male job. In fact, it was not too long afterwards that women were claimed to be more manually dexterous and tolerant of routine than men and therefore more suited, by virtue of their very natures, to operate typewriters (p68). Another reason that women received these jobs over males is because there were more literate females than males. The supply of literate male labor was simply not large enough to fill the great demand for office workers (p69). This is due to the fact that some men had to go to work at an early age to bring in money for the family.
During this period, women seemed to gain more respect, and therefore they started to pursue more types of jobs. Women were lawyers, teachers, and doctors. Women were said to be good teachers of elementary age children because of their maternal instincts. Here again, it was also cheaper
to employ women in schools. Of course, differences in salaries might also have exerted influence as communities hired teachers: in 1861, the average salary for male teachers in rural districts was $6.30 per week; for women, it was $4.05. In urban districts, men earned $18.00 per week; women, only $6.91 (p64). Lawyers faced the same situation, except there were very few women in the law profession. By 1891 the nation boasted two hundred licensed women lawyers. (Of course, the figure represented less than 1 percent of all the nations attorneys.)(p64-5). Female doctors of the nineteenth century were rare as well. Women were believed to have less brains than men do, therefore it was known that women could not be good doctors. This is because women were more emotional and not as logical as men.
Many women also entered domestic positions. Though, these positions were not looked upon as highly as those previously mentioned positions, they were phenomenal occupations for some women. Because once again, this meant that they were not in factories. Another upside to these jobs was the fact that no education or literacy was required.
The emergence of an industrialized society played a large role in the advancement of women. For the first time in America women gained some of what they deserved. They were educated, and just as capable as their male counterparts. In some cases, as in the clerical positions, they were seen as more qualified than males, due to their dexterity. This change in this period has helped to shape the role of women today. Had it no been for these women, women in America might still be oppressed today.
One should note however, that this did not totally change the role of women. It only helped. At this point most women could still not vote, nor had there been any women politicians. Even today, women are still not treated the same. Women do not make as much or get the same respect that males often receive. However, had the specialization of the workplace not occurred women today would be worse off, and may have never found their place in society.