“Simply fire all the women…”

Some people were outraged at this quote from 1938, “Simply fire all the women, who shouldn’t be working anyways, and hire the [unemployed] men. Presto! No unemployment. No relief rolls. No depression. ”

I defended it as follows…

To understand this better in a historical context, it wasn’t until the 50s that our culture began to shift to a two-income economy. A job was not seen as a privilege, or even a “career” for most people, but a duty. Before that we lacked the technology that was developed later that made housekeeping much easier. Being a house wife was a full time job. There were no electric washing machines or driers or dishwashers and most of your family’s clothes you made, you didn’t go buy at the store. So without the wife working at home, the home literally fell apart. There were those who could afford servants, but most people couldn’t. Laundry didn’t take a few hours but the entire day. You cooked everything from scratch. If you didn’t keep your house clean you’d have bugs invading every room and diseases that we pop a pill to take care of today could kill you, and keeping your house clean was how you prevented that. Women performed a vital function in the home and most men did not take that for granted (although as men, I imagine they didn’t note their gratitude out loud as often as the women would like) You’d see single men living with their sister so they had someone to handle that half of the necessary work.

So when a woman’s husband couldn’t find work as the job he needed was being filled by a woman, it wasn’t just the men who felt anger at that, but their wives as well. To try to project our modern needs onto historical settings is to ignore the reality. That a woman’s place was presumed to be in the home was not to relegate them to uselessness, but to assign value appropriately. Remember until the 20th century 95% of men were farmers. As the 20th century progressed more and more men left farming to find other jobs, so women who took non-specialized jobs (jobs that pretty much anyone could do) so that their family could have an extra income was seen as taking income from the family of the man who could have held that job.

Another factor not really noted is that as more and more families became two-income families, they had more disposable income. The law of supply and demand meant that prices therefore would go up, creating a hardship on the single income family, some of which would then become two-income families not out of want but out of necessity. Women who would have preferred to be at home, being forced to work to make ends meet. But this perpetuated the cycle as more women where being forced into the work force the average family income increased as did the prices in response, forcing more women into the work force. Meanwhile television was being dominated by feminists who began, subtly at first then more aggressively, to belittle and shame any women still at home. Being a working mother is only reasonable if being a stay-at-home mom is meaningless. You cannot logically claim both are valid. So the societal pressure to belittle the stay-at-home mother grew until the few remaining today find tremendous pressure to abandon their commitment and find a job outside the home. It’s considered a fringe group now.

While the quote above seems harsh and outrageous by today’s standards, our society and how we’ve allowed it to dictate a woman’s choices would seem equally insane to them, then.