Women and Labor Reform


US History (11th) Progressive Era Women and Labor Reform
Students explore their preconceptions about “women’s work.” They examine the massive entry of women into the workforce in the 1800s, especially in the textile industry. Then, they learn about the growth of women’s roles in the labor movement during the Progressive Era. Finally, students express their views about progress achieved, and remaining to be achieved, in working women’s roles up to the present day.

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Overview

In this experience, students explore their preconceptions about “women’s work.” They examine the massive entry of women into the workforce in the 1800s, especially in the textile industry. Then, they learn about the growth of women’s roles in the labor movement during the Progressive Era. Finally, students express their views about progress achieved, and remaining to be achieved, in working women’s roles up to the present day.

Objectives

  • Describe women’s emerging role in the workforce.
  • Explain the role of women’s organizations in the struggle for better working conditions.




Waitress taking customer orders, 1988


Have you ever heard the phrase “women’s work”? Sometimes that phrase is used to refer to work historically done by women. 


What do you think people mean when they say “women’s work”? Do you think there is such a thing? Write your thoughts about the phrase “women’s work” on the wall.

Post your answer

You may choose to point out to students that the phrase “women’s work” is often used in an attempt to demean or minimize the importance of the work being done. Encourage students to compare their images of women’s work today with the very different image of it a century ago.


In this experience, you’ll study how the concept of women’s work has changed over the decades, and how women took a leading part in the American labor movement, including the struggle for better working conditions, during the Progressive era.

Objectives

  • Describe women’s emerging role in the workforce.
  • Explain the role of women’s organizations in the struggle for better working conditions.




Katherine Graham, publisher and chairwoman of the board of the Washington Post


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