"Give the Boys a Trade": Gender and Job Choice in the 1890s
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DeVault, Ileen A.
[Excerpt] It seems redundant (but is unfortunately not unnecessary) to say that this response emphasizes the gendered nature of the famed "manliness" of turn-of-the-century skilled workers. Davis Montgomery has described how "the workers' code celebrated individual self-assertion, but for the collective good, rather than for self-advancement." The process by which these skilled workers chose their jobs suggests an intermediate step: between the "collective good" of the union and the "self-advancement' of the individual stood the smaller collective unit of the male-headed household. The sense of what it meant to "be a man" thus not only holds the potential of explicating workers' relationships with their employers and supervisors but also redounds back to their original choices of occupations, and in so doing prefigures family roles and relationships. These examples only begin to touch on the ways in which exploring male workers' job decisions may open up new areas for research. Just as it has done for women's labor history, raising these issues holds the potential of uncovering new insights into the connections between men's workplace concerns and their family and community experiences. A labor history that fully takes gender into account in this way will be that much richer and, perhaps, that much more true to the realities of working-class life in the past.
labor movement; gender; job choice; wages; clerical work
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