The Paradox of Change: American Women in the 20th Century

By William H. Chafe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
The Persistence of Inequality

THE BURGEONING EMPLOYMENT of women may have been essential to victory in the war, but it also raised challenging questions about the future direction of male-female relationships and the perpetuation of the existing social order. It was one thing to encourage women to work as a temporary device to meet a war-induced labor shortage; it was quite another to view women as permanent jobholders. The achievement of economic equality required more than simply hiring women as replacements for men gone to war. It also entailed the establishment of a uniform standard of pay, equal access to the higher ranks of business and government, and, most difficult of all, the development of community services to ease the conflicts between the multiple roles of homemaker, parent, and worker. American women and men had to decide, for example, whether it was more important for a mother to care for her children all day long or be able to join men as an equal contributor to the work force. Not surprisingly, such issues involved substantial controversy and were not resolved easily. But they also highlighted the profound nature of the questions raised by changing gender roles. Thus, while women's economic activity may have altered significantly during the war years, the larger problem that remained was whether steps would be taken to root out the basic causes of persistent inequality between the sexes.


— I —

Discrimination against business and professional women constituted a primary example of enduring prejudice based on sex.The government had urged all women to sign up for jobs, regardless of their occupational background,

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