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Journal Article

"Light Manufacturing": The Feminization of American Office Work, 1900-1930

Sharon Hartman Strom
ILR Review
Vol. 43, No. 1 (Oct., 1989), pp. 53-71
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
DOI: 10.2307/2523208
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2523208
Page Count: 19
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"Light Manufacturing": The Feminization of American Office Work, 1900-1930
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Abstract

This study challenges the impression left by most historical accounts of office work that the feminization of office work was total, inevitable, and somehow "natural." The author argues that when business machines and rationalized systems of office work came together (around 1900), women were initially chosen to fill many of the new jobs partly because of the long-standing use of women in similarly routinized "light manufacturing"; and they were subsequently hired in ever-greater numbers primarily because the pervasive discrimination that denied them most career opportunities ensured that they would accept low wages. The feminization of office work was not, however, as extensive as the literature generally claims. By using the marriage bar, employers were able to create an office work force segmented by gender, with more prestigious job titles and almost all promotion opportunities reserved for men.

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