I’m currently reading Robert Heilbroner’s The Economic Transformation of America. Let me pause for a moment and point out that if you have not read anything by Heilbroner, you need to. This may not be the right book to set out on your Heilbroner journey with (unless you are just really interested in this specific topic, of course), but it’s very good. The first Heilbroner book I read was The Worldly Philosophers and I recommend it to you. Go get it.
Heilbroner points out that in the 1830s and 1840s, women were working, but they were constrained to seven professions: teaching, needlework, working as domestics, keeping boarders, setting type, and working in bookbinding and cotton factories. He goes on to say that by 1890, women were working in all but 9 of the 369 professions listed in the Census. Unfortunately, Heilbroner does not relay those 9 professions (at least not in the edition I have). I decided to dig through the 1890 Census data myself and find that information. Here are the jobs listed in the 1890 Census with no female workers:
- Officers of United States army and navy
- Soldiers, sailors, and marines (United States)
- Apprentices (leather curriers, etc.)
As you can plainly see, that’s only 3 professions! Unless you somehow split those professions out a bit (for example, you could count soldiers, sailors, and marines as 3 professions), this doesn’t fit at all. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for you. I’m not a professional researcher, so I don’t know what I’m missing in this process. If you’ve got some good information on the subject, please leave a comment.
Image from Museo24 – Women as factory workers.