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Women Postmasters

postmaster Only until recent decades have women really had opportunities to pursue just about any occupation. For the most part they were expected to be housewives and care for the children. Some jobs such as a teacher were acceptable.

We generally don’t think of our female ancestors as ‘postmistresses’ but rather many ladies did hold that position by official appointment. The earliest started in the 1770s. Ever since the 1800s, the U. S. Post Office Department has appointed numerous ladies which made up about 10% of those in charge of a local post office and more important were paid the same salary as men. The main drawback was the post office generally only hired single ladies believing married ladies should be supported by their husbands.

Some of those attitudes changed in 1900 with rural free delivery started and women were hired for those positions. During World War II, the number of female postmasters increased significantly – to more than 17,500 out of 42,680 in 1943. In August 1949, more than 40 percent of the nation’s 41,575 postmasters were women. By 2008, 15,388 of the nation’s 25,089 postmasters were women, representing more than 61 percent. That is not counting mail carriers.

The US Postal Service has an online database with those individuals who has served as postmasters / postmistresses across the country. To see if you had an ancestor (male or female) place a given and surname. You can do just a surname if it is unusual / less common. You may have to try several various forms of spelling and different given names especially if a nickname was used.

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