“I stand outside this woman’s work, this woman’s world.”

After class, I couldn’t stop thinking about a “woman’s work” and what historical records were left that would help me to better understand how the reality of labor became a myth of domesticity. In my Google searching, I came across an amazing resource from the Harvard University Library’s “Open Collections Program.” The collection, entitled “Women’s Work, 1800-1930” helped me establish a historical basis for women (of all ages, gender, and class) working in jobs “acceptable” fields and in non-traditional vocations.

Women Working, 1800-1930

The collection’s aim, as quoted from their website, “focuses on women’s role in the United States economy and provides access to digitized historical, manuscript, and image resources selected from Harvard University’s library and museum collections. The collection features approximately 500,000 digitized pages and images including: 7,500 pages of manuscripts, 3,500 books and pamphlets, and 1,200 photographs.” [1] I think it’s particularly effective for our discussion, because it lies outside of traditional nomenclature of “feminism” and into primary sources about that terms historical roots.

You can search collections easily, but I believe the real asset is that it allows you to browse by topic (including Race, Class, and Feminism!), state, dates, people, etc. With access to magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and trade magazines, this website if useful for anyone who wants to get some historical background into labor history, women’s history, and American history through the 19th and 2oth centuries.

Belsan, Bessie. Scrapbook: "Vocations," 1919. Monroe C. Gutman Library, Harvard Graduate School of Education. A scrapbook combining newspaper and magazine articles, photographs, and annotations on various occupations. Assembled by Bessie Belsan.
Charity, Organizations: United States. New York. Brooklyn. Bureau of Charities: Bureau of Charities, Brooklyn, N.Y.: Bedford Kitchen, Unidentified Artist, c. 1900
Industrial Problems, Welfare Work: United States. Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh. H.J. Heinz Company: A Sewing Class, Unidentified Artist, c. 1903
How to be happy though married : being a handbook to marriage / by a graduate in the university of matrimony. Hardy, E. J. (Edward John), 1886.

[1]  “Open Collections Program: Women Working.” http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/ww/.

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