The Way We Worked

I can’t be certain this is true, but I strongly suspect that if you were to take a straw poll in your office and ask colleagues at what point in our history women began working outside the home, a significant number would say the 1960s. It’s my impression that in the popular imagination the history of female participation in the workplace (placing aside their unpaid work in the home, a not – insignificant contribution) began with the second-wave feminism movement of the 60s and 70s.

Of course, the trend towards increasing female workforce participation continued to rise at that time and was undoubtedly encouraged by the social activism of feminist groups and the writing of prominent authors like Gloria Steinem, but it was by no means the beginning. Others, recalling the ubiquitous American World War II icon, Rosie the Riveter, a symbol of women’s industrial war work, may suggest it happened then.

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Michael Dufresne is a freelance writer and archivist based in Ottawa.


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