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HIST 221 (7)
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HIST 221
Gil Troy

Born for Liberty (Sara M. Evans) Surviving the Great Depression • 1930 new breed of Hollywood stars: the femmes fatales ◦ self-confidence and mannish ways ◦ women had to be grownups, partners in the struggle • Depression damaged masculinity ◦ women suffered physical and verbal abuse • cities began to resemble war zones • women participated actively, powerfully in labour and social movements • domestic concerns finally succeeded in reshaping the state, but they were disconnected from women's broader claims for independence and citizenship • traditional sex roles no longer work, unemployed men are ashamed • black women faced unemployment with few resources ◦ available manufacturing and clerical jobs closed to them ◦ crowd into the field of domestic labour • relief programs discriminated against blacks ◦ whites controlling the New Deal relief programs in the south excluded blacks • women revived their foremothers' skills in home production to stretch family resources (patch clothing, recycle, can vegetables, saving food) • contraception became commonplace to prevent the birth of children families could not afford • low birthrates and marriages delayed • women on the front lines through churches to collect food and clothing, helping charities and the community • many women and older children sought wage-earning work • growing public hostility toward women workers, especially married ones • legislation to prohibit/limit the employment of married women • separate labour markets ensured that only rarely did women and men compete for the same jobs. The consequence of firing women was not that men gained access to jobs but simply that more households faced destruction ◦ offered women some protection from unemployment ◦ jobs in clerical, trade, and service areas disappeared more slowly ◦ women were not holding traditional male jobs • homeless women • rural women hardships ◦ lost their land to mortgage foreclosure ◦ could not sell produce for what it cost them ◦ Mexican migrant farm workers deported in massive numbers • FDR's election signaled a historic shift in women's political roles • suddenly the federal government assumer major responsibilities for regulating the economy and for supplying the basic needs of citizens unable to care for themselves • Eleanor Roosevelt and a bunch of women social workers hem influence FDR ◦ E.Roos. had an active political life through the League of Women Voters, the Women's Trade Union League, the peace crusade, and the Democratic party ◦ used her position as first lady to gain publicity for groups on the margins of society such as women, unemployed, and blacks ◦ articles and radio shows that she did • Native-american women leaders remained outside the female political networks of the New Deal ◦ Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) ◦ advocating respect for tribal autonomy, encouragement of traditional religion and ceremonies ◦ greater protection for indian lands ◦ women gained new rights to vote and run for office • With the prodding of Molly Dewson, FDR appointed numerous "first" women not only in the cabinet but also in the judiciary • women filed numerous key positions in the new relief agencies and in the Department of Labour • sought to redefine governments as a maternal commonwealth providing protections for the weak and assistance for those in need • Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching ◦ represented one of the last opportunities for women to generate organized power outside the corridors of public political life by drawing on traditional women's networks ◦ lynching not only functioned as an instrument of terror against black men but it also reinforced the dependency of white women and kept them in their places as well ◦ set out to organize the wives and mothers of the lynchers themselves and to mobilize them to exercise their authority as the moral guardians of the home ◦ exposed the perpetrators and forced prosecution • participation in the great union drives of the 1930s opened new possibilities for collective activity and changes in the conditions of women's lives • Yet the organizational efficiency of the women, their willingness to endure harassment, insult, and physical abuse, did not translate into feminist action • Women's Emergency Brigade during the Flint, Michigan, sit-down strike at General Motors ◦ while men sat at their machines, women organized the continual delivery of food and necessities, making the forty-four day occupation possible • unions persisted in viewing the organization of female workers as a secondary priority ◦ emphasized the organization of heavy industry where the labour force was heavily male • separate labour market for women with separate, lower pay scales • preexisting practices such as separate seniority lists for women and men, job segregation, and wage differentials were written into local contracts • women became a grassroots force for the first time. The openness and experimentalism of the New Deal and the presence of E.Roos. in the White House allowed a key group of women reformers powerful ways to reshape the state along the lines of politicized domesticity Women at War: The 1940s • women's most mundane activities were suffused with nationalistic fervour (saving and recycling, volunteering, boring shit like that) • surge of patriotism and the creation of new jobs • government drafted young men, making manpower a premium • half the southern agricultural labour force migrated to cities into overcrowded and alien environments • revived economy and wartime realities made sudden spurt in the birthrate (baby boom) • volunteered with the Red Cross, drove ambulances, flew planes, served food and entertained soldiers, sold war bonds • only the employment of women could meet industrial demands • to entice women into the factories, while allaying anxieties about the consequences of change, the government mounted a major propaganda campaign • women working in previously male jobs get the male rate • creation of women's branches in the army, navy, coast guard, and marines ◦ glamorized service-women appeared everywhere in the media ◦ women's work sustained the traditional values and labour force segregation of the civilian world ▪ most worked in clerical and supply areas or as nurses ▪ avoided sending them overseas as much as possible • discrimination against women in traditionally male blue-collar jobs continued in spite of the crisis ◦ employers reluctant to invest in training women for skilled work, thought this was temporary ◦ refused to hire black women • unions were unambiguous about protecting the wages they had fought for and they worried lower wages for women might create an incentive for industries to retain female workers after the way • critical shortages of housing and transportation • mothers of small children have virtually no help in putting their kids somewhere while at work • marked shift toward older and married women ◦ had overwhelming preference for retaining their jobs after the war • business owners and government planners worried that women might not be willing to give up higher paying industrial jobs once they had access to them ◦ tried to hire the wives of servicemen to guilt them • ads that praised working women also emphasized the temporary nature of their positions • racial prejudice towards Japanese-Americans ◦ an order removing Americans of Japanese descent from west coast states to inland relocation camps ◦ humiliation of implied disloyalty • Birth Control Federation of American changed its name to Planned Parenthood ◦ family stability rather than individual freedom • turning point in the birth of a self-conscious homosexual identity among lesbians and gay men ◦ lesbians joined the armed services for all-female environment ◦ new safety in public spaces to meet other lesbians because women were all overt the public area now • women's duty was simply to respond, to do what was necessary "for the duration" ◦ exhilaration of wartime communal effort had neither structural nor ideological support for continuation after the war • women mustered out of the factories • female task to oversee the quality of this private life, to purchase wisely, and to serve as an emotional centre of the family and home • union women expressed great concern that seniority must operate in a nondiscriminatory way so that women would have equal opportunity when postwar layoffs came • skilled industrial jobs were once again closed to them • fought back, staging picket lines, but got little support ◦ protests were sporadic and unconnected • Women's Bureau of the United Auto Workers ◦ executive board creates Women's Bureau to ensure equal pay and seniority rights ◦ women condemned the classification of jobs as male or female and the existence of separate seniority lists ◦ interracial leadership • new definition of the housewife's role: child-centered, consumer conscious, and fully responsible for all housework • discontent with the social role of housewives and confusion about whether to define themselves principally as persons or as women • isolate women in the house • older married women found themselves forced into lower-paying, female- dominated jobs, but refused to withdraw altogether • ferocious pursuit of private domesticity, marriage and birth rates skyrocket • extreme pressures to take their patriotic and public activities of the war years back into the enclosed safety of motherhood and the home • governmental control of the media and economy during the war ensured efficient use of voluntary energies ◦ little discussion of the political meaning of women's changing participation in public life ◦ wartime propaganda justified the erosion of gender boundaries "for the duration" and no more The Cold War and the "Feminine Mystique" • renewed emphasis on polarized images of femininity and masculinity • red scare, cold war rhetoric and attacks on "subversives" led by figures like McCarthy had marked sexual overtones ◦ warning against school teachers (mostly women) as potential communists ◦ attacking anyone outside the norms of white middle-class culture ◦ new dimension of sexual fear ▪ lesbians dismissed from the armed services as "undesirable" ▪ McCarthy want government to seek out and fire all homosexuals • women have many careers, but only one vocation: motherhood • féminine mystique defined women al
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