April 15, 1915

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The dislocations of war altered the relationship of women to the world beyond home and hearth. For the first time in modern history, war was fought on a scale that depleted the economy of its traditional breadwinners. The cultural norm in the industrial world of women relegated to the family hearth while the males worked changed dramatically and permanently. The lead editorial in the Capital Journal addressed this issue in “The Women At Work:”

That more than a million Englishwomen have offered to take the work-places of men who go to the front and that a like condition exists in France, Germany, Austria and Russia is a fact of tremendous significance. It means far more than loyalty and patriotism.

When the war ends untold numbers of the women of Europe will find themselves without their masculine bread-winners, or with crippled men helpless to take their former places as wage-earners. Upon the women will rest the burden of the entire industrial structure of their countries.

. . . Of far greater importance to women than the ballot in asserting their equality with men is their ability to support themselves and to lead independent individual lives, if need be.

. . . Every woman should be trained to do some useful things to support herself by it if necessary. The exigency often occurs where least expected, and the helplessness of many a woman of education and refinement under such circumstances is painful to contemplate.

The disparity between men’s and women’s wages is not always an arbitrary discrimination against woman because she is a woman; it is very often due to differences in the grade of work.

“. . . It is very often due to differences in the grade of work” after a century remains a hurdle in a world where “breadwinner” is gender-neutral term.

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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