Women's Two Roles: Home and Work

Women's Two Roles: Home and Work

Women's Two Roles: Home and Work

Women's Two Roles: Home and Work

Excerpt

DURING the present century the social position of women has undergone a series of profound changes, in which we can distinguish two main phases. The first is characterized by the admission of women to an increasing variety of hitherto 'masculine' jobs, provided, on the whole, that the women were unencumbered by family ties. The outstanding feature of the second phase is the endeavour of a growing number of women to combine family and employment. Altogether, this social change amounts to a gradual recapture of positions which were lost when women were squeezed out of the economic process by the Industrial Revolution.

Before that revolution women had at all times played a very active part in the economic life of society, as they do in agricultural communities to this day. Their two roles, raising a family and doing economically productive work, were fused into one way of life, work at home. When industrialization forced these to be separated, it was at first thought that women could carry on only one, namely, the family function. They had, therefore, first to assert their right to work alongside men; and now they have to prove that they can carry on both functions in one and the same lifetime, which is so much longer now than it was.

The process of eliminating women from economically active positions of course affected different social groups in different ways, as does the complementary process of bringing them back into paid jobs. In both the urban and the rural proletariat the latter was an immediate effect of industrialization, and the exploitation of women and children in its early phases was one of the blackest spots in the social history of the nineteenth century. Later, as wages rose, many working-class women left the labour market, since it was felt to be an important element in a higher . . .

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