Your female ancestor’s life in 1917 was very different than the way women live in 2017. It can be interesting to take a look at what has changed over the years. Here is a quick comparison of what American women’s lives were like in 1917 and in 2017.
In 1917: Upper class women were the primary founders and members of voluntary World War I wartime organizations. They were able to devote much of their time and money to them. Middle-class and lower class women were more likely to be serving as nurses with the military.
In 2017: Any woman who is physically capable of volunteering for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or National Guard, can choose to do so. Women can take part in any aspect of the military, including combat positions.
In 1917: For the first time, vast numbers of women were able to take jobs outside of the home – and get paid for doing them. They were replacing the men who had been working in various industries when the men went to war.
Some of the jobs women were employed in included: bank clerks, ticket sellers, elevator operators, chauffeur, street car conductor, railroad trackwalker, section hand, locomotive wiper and oiler, locomotive dispatcher, block operator, draw bridge attendant, and employment in machine shops, oil mills, powder and ammunition factories, airplane works, boot blacking and farming. The women in farming were called “farmerettes.”
In 2017: Women can apply for, and be hired for, any job for which they have the appropriate qualifications. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in compensation for substantially similar work under similar conditions. (Despite this, not all employers adhere to that regulation.)
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in hiring on the basis of gender (and other criteria). In the 1970’s Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It made it illegal for employers to exclude pregnancy and childbirth from a woman’s sick leave and health benefit plans.
In 1917: Women did not have the right to vote. The women’s suffrage movement began in the early 1800’s. The Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, was ratified on August 18, 1920.
In 2017: American women have the right to vote. The League of Women Voters is still working to ensure that all eligible voters – particularly ones from traditionally underrepresented or underserved communities – including first time voters, non-college youth, new citizens, minorities, and low-income Americans – have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
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