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Lynn WeinerEdit

Lynn Weiner is Professor of History and Dean of the College of Arts and Science at Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL. Weiner received an AB in History at U. of Michigan--Ann Arbor, and an MA and PhD in American Studies from Boston University. Weiner specializes in U.S. social and cultural history, women's labor history history, and popular culture. From Working Girl for Working Mother is Weiner's sole book publication.

From Working Girl to Working Mother: The Female Labor Force in the United States, 1820-1980 [1986]Edit

In this 1980s text, Weiner historicizes the basic demographic shift in female employment between the late 19th and late 20th century. Weiner's analysis explains that the late 19th century saw the rise of the "working girl", the young female who worked for personal wages between leaving school and entering marriage. In 1890, 70% of the female labor force was comprised of such women, primarily white. Married women who worked at the time were largely shunned, and predominantly poor, black or immigrant (thus, no one much cared what they did). Public opposition to working girls often focused on how work may threaten a young woman's potential for raising children.

Over the course of the 20th century, however, the trend inversed. Working girls went down while working mothers went up, comprising 40% of the female work force by 1940 and continuing to gain 60% by the late 1970s. The working mother became the increasingly middle class mother, and women often took second jobs to increase the family's standard of living (early in the 20th century, there was an inverse relationship between husband salary and wife's likelyhood of working; later in the century women worked regardless, often to still compete with an ever-increasing standard of living). While these gains were strongly asserted by feminists, public conversation often voiced tremendous uncertainty about the attention and security children were growing up in; many social works and social scientists questions a woman's capacity to nuture a family while working, and the feminine mystique was trumpeted in the 1950s. Working mothers were blamed for the maladjustment of young men. While the emphasis of charity had often been on widows with children (resulting in the establishment of widow's pension, the basis of welfare), there was more difficulty in addressing the needs of married women (such as through the veto of governmentalized child care by Richard Nixon). Weiner contends that the biggest crisis facing working women is that our social values are still influenced by a Victorian notion of the seperate spheres, and therefore there has not been adequate provision to support children; when we place children in a childcare that is based on a business model, rather than on a model of public good and education, we effectively corporatize and commodify the child's earliest experiences (Weiner sees the development of "flextime" as one hopeful and supportive response to the changing idea of women and the workplace).

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