Monday, July 11, 2016

Old Alabama Stuff (13): Women in Alabama Industries in 1924

In 1924 a publication entitled Women in Alabama Industries was published by the U.S. Department of Labor. Subtitled "A Study of Hours, Wages, and Working Conditions", the work was the 34th "Bulletin" from the Women's Bureau", an agency within the Labor Department established by Congress in 1920 and still functioning today. Alabama was the 11th state examined in the series. Let's take a look at the report, which sold for 15 cents.  

As noted in one of the excerpts clipped below, there were almost 224,000 women "gainfully employed" in Alabama in 1920. Many worked as domestic servants, laundresses and farm laborers. However, some 15,000 were in textile mills, garment and food factories, printing and publishing plants, and other manufacturing jobs. Another 5400 worked in retail stores, and about 1200 worked in power laundries. Sample industrial locations were studied in 31 towns and cities, including Birmingham, Dothan, Gadsden, Mobile, Montgomery, Selma, Sylacauga, Talladega and Tuscaloosa. These surveys were done in February, March and April 1922.

The report has five parts. After an introduction, areas such as hours, working conditions, wages and demographic and sociological characteristics of the workers are all examined in great detail. For instance, section three on working conditions covers such things as posture, ventilation, lighting, toilets, lunch rooms and health and accident hazards. 

In 1920 the population of Alabama was about 2,348,000. Thus 9.5% of the people in the state were women working outside the home or on farms. Of course, a much smaller percent worked in manufacturing as covered in this report. Most of these women probably worked because they were not yet married, were widowed or were adding needed family income. They were also setting the stage for even greater influxes of women into the state's workforce during World War II and again in the 1960's and following decades until the present. 

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