View original document

The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.




Bulletin Number 241

Maurice J. Tobin, Secretary
Frieda S. Miller, Director


Letter of Transmittal

Washington, June


SIR : I have the honor of transmitting a report on the employment of
women in an emergency period, prepared for the use of officials and
agencies responsible for manpower utilization, and of employers, for
women workers, and other interested individuals.
This bulletin brings together facts relevant to the place of women in
today's economy and factors bearing on the effective utilization of
womanpower during emergency periods, for this purpose drawing on
the experience of World Wars I and II.
Respectfully submitted.
FRIEDA S . MILLER, Director.

Secretary of Labor.

Women's Place in the Economy Today
Women workers
Womanpower potential
Wartime Experience—World Wars I and II
World War I
World War II
Factors to be Considered in the Optimum Utilization of Women in an
Emergency Period
Recruitment and placement
Working conditions
Community facilities
The Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor
Some Women's Bureau publications


I. Women's Place in the Economy Today
Women today are an integral and significant part of the labor force
of the country. During the past half century the increase in the
number of women who work has been tremendous; since 1900, the
number has more than tripled. The 18% million women workers in
April 1952 formed 30 percent of all workers.
The long-term trend toward increased participation of women in
the labor force was accelerated by two world wars. Immediately
following the close of World War II, there was a marked withdrawal
of women from the labor force. Nevertheless, their rate of participation in April 1947 remained higher than it had been in 1940, prior to
the war. Since 1947, this rate has risen again. If the present emergency is prolonged and the full impact of defense production makes
itself felt, the rate will undoubtedly continue to be accelerated because
women today constitute the largest labor reserve in the Nation.
In April 1952, one-third of all women of working age were in the
labor force:1

In the labor force
Not in the labor force.


57, 566, 000

100. 0

18, 798, 0C0
38, 768, 000

32. 7
67. 3

Employable women in the 38% million not now in the labor force
constitute the Nation's largest single labor reserve.
An effective manpower program must concern itself not only with
drawing new workers into the labor force but also with the most
effective utilization of women already employed. Thus, it is necessary
to have information both on women in the labor force and on those
who form the womanpower potential.
W o m e n Workers

Certain facts about today's women workers are important in planning
a manpower program:
First, according to a census report for 1951, there are more married
than single women workers. Almost half of all women in the labor
1 All statistics are from reports for April 1952, U. S. Department of Commerce, Bureau
of the Census, unless otherwise noted. Persons under 14 years of age and those in institutions are usually excluded in considering that portion of the population from which the
labor force is drawn. Under present social conditions, 16 years of age might yield a more
realistic picture, however, in order to conform to current statistical practice, all figures
on labor force and on manpower potential include persons 14 years of age and over.



force are married and less than one-third are single. The others are
widowed, separated or divorced. An almost complete reversal in proportion of women workers who are married and those who are single
has taken place within the last 11 years.


All women workers
Married, with husband present.




Second, many of the women who work are mothers with children
under 18 years of age. Over one-fourth of the women in the civilian
labor force in 1950, or more than
million women workers, had
children under 18 and over iy 2 million of these working mothers had
children younger than school age.
Third, the woman worker today is older, on the average, than ever
before. Older women came into the labor force in great numbers
during World War I I as did women of all ages but, unlike the
younger women, did not leave after the war was over. Women 45
years of age and over formed 32 percent of the 18% million women
in the labor force in April 1952.
Occupationally, women congregate chiefly in a few major types
of activity. Clerical and kindred workers predominate; over onefourth of the employed women (29 percent) are in clerical occupations. Next in importance are the semiskilled factory workers or
operatives; one-fifth (19 percent) of women workers are in this
group. Next in number of women employed are three broad groups,
each with approximately one-tenth of the working women : Professional and technical workers, service workers,2 and private household
workers. No other occupational group employs as much as 10 percent
of the women who work.
An even greater concentration of women workers is found in certain
industries, according to the most recent (1951) estimates of the Bureau of the Census. The majority of women workers (80 percent) are
found in four major industry groups: Manufacturing industries (25
percent), wholesale and retail trade (22 percent), personal services
(IT percent), and professional and related services (16 percent).
Other service industries3 account for 7 percent, and agriculture,
public utilities, and government each account for about 4 percent of
the women employed in 1951. Very few women are employed in
either mining or construction industries.
This information on industry and occupation serves as a rough
guide to the pattern of employment for women. It shows where
2 Service workers include persons in service occupations other than private household
workers, such as waitresses.
3 Other service industries include finance, insurance, and real estate ; business and repair
services ; and entertainment and recreation services.


women are now employed and where additional women workers
could be absorbed with the greatest facility. It also shows, in broad
outline, where it will be necessary to make provision for the introduction of women if the labor shortage becomes so acute that women are
needed in what, by tradition, have not been woman-employing
occupations or industries.
W o m a n p o w e r Potential

It is generally recognized that the 38% million women who are not
workers represent the largest single source for expanding the labor
force. This does not mean that all of these women are a potential
source of additional labor. Many of them (over 3% million) are
girls still in school. An even larger group (over 5% million) are 65
years of age and over. In 1950 a very large group (almost 11 million)
had children younger than 6 years of age; a larger group, of course,
had children younger than 12 years; and others had home responsibilities which create barriers to their employment. From the remainder,
however, must come a large proportion of the additional workers
needed to sustain the defense economy.
By far the greatest proportion of these women who are not in the
labor force are homemakers. It is from these women, the housewives,
that the bulk of the new women workers will have to be drawn—
preferably from those housewives who do not have young children.

Not in the Labor Force,
April 19-52
Total, 14 years
65 years and
and over

Keeping house
In school
Unable to work



33, 500, 000
3, 848, 000
868, 000
552, 000

5, 002, 000
628, 000
246, 000

Any realistic planning for the effective recruitment and utilization
of women workers must be based upon the realization that new women
workers must be sought primarily among married women, at present
housewives with no children under 6 years of age.


II. Wartime Experience—World Wars 1 and II
Since the turn of the century, there has been a steady growth in the
extent to which women have participated in the labor force. This
long-run trend was greatly accelerated by the two world wars.
World W a r I

No comprehensive information on the extent of women's employment in World War I exists. Nor is there any detailed list of the
occupations in which they engaged. However, certain fragmentary
information is available and a number of marked and definite trends
have been observed. A Nation-wide survey by the Women's Bureau
(Bulletin No. 12), based upon unpublished materials in Government
files and supplemented by field investigations, disclosed a number of
salient facts:
First. The popular belief that women in industry rendered real service to
the Nation during the war is sustained by the figures showing the numbers of
women employed both in war agent and implement industries and in war food
and fabric industries, by the preponderance of evidence from employers holding
important Government contracts, and by the official statement of the Assistant Secretary of War, acting as Director of Munitions.
Second. The labor shortage and excessive demands on industries essential
to the production of implements and agents of warfare resulted during the
war in: (a) A sharp increase in the number of woman workers in these
industries during the war; (&) a marked decrease in the number of women
in the traditional woman-employing industries, resulting in a relief of the
long standing congestion of woman labor in these pursuits and in part contributing to a marked increase in the wage scales of the women remaining
in these industries; (c) the employment of woman labor in other skilled
crafts from which women had been practically debarred before the war.
Third. When the managers of private, Government, and Governmentcontrolled plants were confronted with the necessity of employing women in
skill-exacting positions there were practically no trained women available,
because: (a) Public and private vocational institutions had given little
encouragement to the training of women in mechanical occupations; (6)
organized labor policies in fact—although not always in official regulations—
discouraged apprentice work for women in skilled occupations.
Fourth. The training of women employed in skilled occupations during
the war was provided principally by the employing firms.
Fifth. The success attending the emergency employment of women in
occupations requiring a high degree of skill and the expansion of commercial
trade, has resulted in the retention of women in most of these crafts and
industries since the close of the war and bids fair to encourage a larger use
of woman labor in the future.

World W a r I!

Between the spring of 1940 and the spring of 1945 almost 6 million
women entered the labor force. By the latter date there were 19*4
million women workers; and 36 percent of all civilian workers were
women. In April 1952, women constituted 30 percent of all workers,
6 points less than in 1945. Before World War I I women composed
only 25 percent of the labor force.

During World War II for thefirsttime women entered the armed
forces. Their number rose to 270,000 in April 1945, about 1 y2 percent
of the total.
At the height of war production 37 percent of all women were in
the labor force* In April 1952, 33 percent of the 57y2 million
women 14 years and over were in the labor force. This is still considerably more than the 28 percent of all women who were workers
in 1940. In actual numbers, there were approximately 5 million more
women working in 1952 than in 1940, only 1 million fewer than during
the height of the war.
World War II not only increased the total number of women workers
but changed the distribution of women in the work force both by
occupation and by industry.
During the war the number of women increased tremendously in
three occupational groups: Clerical workers, operatives or semiskilled
factory workers, and farm workers. From March 1940 to April 1945,
the number of women clerical workers rose from 2y 2 million to almost
5 million; the number of operatives and kindred workers rose from
slightly more than 2 million to more than 4y2 million women; and the
number of farm workers increased from a little more than % million
to almost 2 million workers. These were the most striking numerical
increases; but increases were also found among proprietors, salespersons, craftsmen and foremen, and service workers other than domestics. Only two occupational groups showed a decline in numbers
of women employed during the war. These groups were professional
and technical workers, and private household workers.5
The change in the industrial concentration of women workers
which took place during World War II is also relevant to present
manpower planning. In October 1940 women composed only 24
percent of all production workers in manufacturing industries. This
increased to 33 percent in October 1944. The greatest part of this
increase took place in the durable goods industries which produce
the basic products of a war economy. In the durable goods industries
the proportion of all production workers who were women rose from
8 percent in 1940 to a dramatic and unprecedented 25 percent in 1944;
that is, from less than one-tenth to one-fourth of all production
These wartime changes have certain clear implications concerning
the emergency employment of women:
1. T h e number of women employed will increase in m o s t occupational groups.
2. T h e number will increase most sharply in clerical occupations, semiskilled
f a c t o r y occupations and on the f a r m .
> In July 1944, almost 40 percent of the woman population, or 2 0 % million women were
in the civilian labor force. This figure, however, represents a seasonally high number.
6 "Recent Occupational Trends," Monthly Labor Review, August 1947, pp. 139-147.
6 U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Women in Factories," August


III. Factors To Be Considered in the Optimum Utilization
of Women in an Emergency Period
The recruitment and integration of women into the labor force as
well as the most efficient utilization of those women already at work
is a two-sided problem. One aspect of the problem relates to their
effective recruitment, placement, training, and utilization by industry
in those occupations most necessary to the economy and into which
they can most easily be absorbed. The other aspect deals with the
provision by communities of those facilities and services which enable
women, especially those with home responsibilities, to leave the home
and go to work. Proper placement, training, and working conditions
are necessary to insure effective functioning on the job; they are all
nullified, however, if the lack of essential housing, child-care, or transportation facilities results in undue absenteeism, Irgh turn-over and,
perhaps, complete withdrawal from the labor force. This is especially
true when it is necessary to recruit women who are not seeking work
because'of economic need but who must be appealed to on patriotic
grounds. These women who are not seeking employment of their own
volition will be under real pressure to leave employment if their dual
role becomes too difficult.
Recruitment and Placement

At such time as active measures may be necessary to bring more
women into the labor market, consideration of their home obligations
is an important matter. Recruitment, accordingly, needs to be developed on the basis of considered policies and orderly procedures with
efforts directed toward first bringing into the labor market those
women without important family responsibilities, including young
single women and older age groups. If the emergency becomes extreme
and the labor shortage acute, doubtless there will be mothers of young
children .and young girls voluntarily entering the labor force, perhaps
on a part-time basis. As these groups are drawn into the labor force
provision must be made for adequate community facilities.
One of the best means of planning to meet anticipated manpower
needs is by the provision of guidance and counseling for new entrants
into the labor force, whether they are young girls just finishing high
school or older women seeking to enter industry for the first time.
Supplying information on occupations which are in short supply,
and which are therefore desirable to enter, and on the training necessary to fill those occupations is one of the most important services that
can be rendered potential women workers. Recruitment into the labor
force is just the start. Proper placement and preparation for the job
are essential if there is to be effective utilization of the new recruits.

The country's ability to draw large numbers of women into the
labor force and keep them there will depend in large part on determining and utilizing to the full the capabilities of the individual
worker. Individual women have demonstrated their ability to perform
successfully almost any type of work which has been traditionally
reserved for men. The proper placement of both men and women
depends on discovering the personal capacities of each person and
matching these capacities to the requirements of a given job.

Examples of women's training needs during World War I I are
helpful in providing guidance for present emergency planning. The
shortage of trained nurses, for example, was partially alleviated by
the establishment of a cadet nurses' program for the armed services.
College women were encouraged to specialize in engineering, science,
and medical laboratory work. Large numbers of women were trained
in Engineering, Science, and Management War Training Courses to
meet the demands for women in essential high-level jobs.
Many women who were to enter industrial plants for the first time
received preemployment training in the fundamentals of production—
safety, tools, machines, and many other factors which men take for
granted. As more men were drawn into the armed forces, it became
necessary to provide women with training in the semiskilled and
skilled jobs. During the period 1940^45, approximately iy 2 million
women were trained in war production courses given under the Vocational Training for War Production Workers Program. In addition,
many women were trained in the industrial plants by employers
themselves. Women were able to fill jobs as inspectors, welders, machine operators, and supervisors when they were provided with the
necessary training.
Many of the problems of the supervisors of women and of men
working w^ith women were smoothly ironed out by providing'these
men with sufficient instruction to enable them to understand women
workers' contributions to essential production. It was found, as a
result of the World War I I experience, that women can equal men
in job performance, provided the jobs are within their physical abilities
and that they are given the proper training.
* The points to be emphasized in planning a training program to
meet the needs arising from the increased utilization of women may
be summarized as follows:
1. Immediate steps should be taken toward the training of more women for
essential jobs, at present in short supply, which women traditionally occupy
and which require a considerable learning time (e. g. as nurses, teachers,
stenographers, laboratory technicians).


2. Training of women for occupations which women ordinarily do not perform
but into which they will be drawn as manpower shortages develop should
be planned for at once.
3. Orientation training should be provided for women without previous work
4. The men workers should be oriented to working with women before women
are brought into plants in large numbers.
5. Men who are to instruct or supervise women workers should be given
special training.
6. Training for upgrading should be provided for women workers to enable
them to advance and to perform more skilled jobs.
7. Supervisory training should be provided for women capable of assuming
supervisory positions in order that their skills and abilities be fully utilized.

Working Conditions

An important factor affecting the utilization of women workers is
the existence of working conditions standards relating to their
employment. The standards are of two general kinds:
Labor laws requiring the observance of certain specific standards.
Voluntary (nonlegislative) standards maintained through the processes of
collective bargaining or by employers on their own initiative.

A major piece of Federal legislation affecting labor standards outside the area of labor-management regulation, is the Fair Labor Standards Act originally passed in 1938. Under the amendments of 1949
the basic minimum wage for covered workers is 75 cents an hour with
time and one-half the worker's regular rate after 40 hours a week.
This law applies to men and women without distinction.
The most comprehensive legislation establishing a standard for
women's employment is embodied in the large number of State laws,
over 300 in number, now in effect. This development began in the
last quarter of the nineteenth century when Massachusetts passed in
1879 thefirstenforceable law limiting hours of work for women. The
nature and extent of major types of legislation now in effect for women
cover the following:
Daily and/or weekly hours of work (43 States and the District of Columbia).
Day of rest (22 States and the District of Columbia).
Meal periods (27 States and the District of Columbia).
Rest periods (8 States).
Night work (23 States and the District of Columbia).
Seating (46 States and the District of Columbia).
Occupational limitations (29 States).
Weight-lifting (10 States).
Industrial homework (20 States).
Employment prohibited before and after childbirth (6 States).
Equal pay (13 States).
Minimum wage (26 States and the District of Columbia).

Legal standards in these fields vary rather widely from State to
State. As one would expect, the highly industrialized States have

much more extensive regulations and, generally speaking, a pattern
of standards that has come to be regarded as socially desirable, while
the less industrialized States have established fewer and less effective
legal standards.
Working conditions standards maintained through collective bargaining or voluntarily by employers, irrespective of legal requirements,
are even more extensive than standards required by law. For example,
the scheduled workweek in most industrial establishments is 40 hours,
and frequently, as in the apparel industry, less; this is the usual workweek in department stores in large cities. But in no State is the legal
limit on hours for adult women in any industry as low as 40 hours.
These industrial practices are an outgrowth of the continued recognition that efficient production and full utilization of labor are increased by greater general awareness of the harmful effects on workers
of fatigue, insanitary and unsafe surroundings, poor personnel practices, and the great variety of factors that influence morale and
Legislative requirements in many areas of the country do not meet
desirable standards. It is therefore essential, in any program for
increasing the participation of women in defense production, that
the interrelationship between tested standards and production be kept
in the forefront of planning.
Unforeseen emergencies in defense production may on occasion
arise in a particular plant or locality, necessitating a degree of adjustment in one or more of these standards for a limited period. There
will be a wide variation in the urgency of production in different
industries, branches of industries, or occupations, and variation of
availability of women workers in different geographic areas. If longer
hours or adjustments in other standards are to be permitted without
resulting sacrifice of productive efficiency, such changes must be accompanied by sound supervision and satisfactory working conditions,
and in accordance with procedures and standards set by law.
Community Facilities

Community factors related to the employment of women must be
considered to a far greater degree than at any time in the history of the
country, not only because defense production may call for the use
of women in the labor force to an unprecedented extent, but also
because of the long-term increase that has taken place in the number
of women who work. Today, 3 out of every 10 women of working age
are already in the labor force, and it is expected that expanded defense
production will call forth additional workers from the 38% million
women not now in the labor force but who form the Nation's largest
labor reserve. At present, married women far outrank single women


in the labor force, and one-fourth of all women workers have children.
Moreover, it is expected that the majority of new recruits to the labor
force will be women with homemaking responsibilities. The exigencies of the times have made the employment of women, especially those
with homemaking responsibilities, a question where the basic issue
involves measures to facilitate the adjustment of the home and the
community to the social and economic change in women's place in
the American economy.
Both the defense production program and the maintenance of national health and well-being require that community plans be undertaken to provide adequate help for employed women with home
responsibilities, and also for the needs of the younger woman worker
and the older woman worker whose pattern of living smay have been
seriously altered by the needs of emergency production. In fact, the
unprecedented use of women in the labor force and the assignment of
increasing numbers of men to military service, whether at home or
abroad, disrupts the community pattern in various ways and requires
that special attention be given to maintaining the stability and welfare
of community life. The situation becomes particularly critical where
hundreds of women workers are recruited and brought into a community that is unaware of the problems relating to community facilities and services concomitant with such in-migration.
The lack of adequate provision for the care of children and other
dependents creates conditions which have a direct bearing on turnover, absenteeism, and loss of productivity. Moreover, if adequate
facilities were provided, local womanpower in many cases would be
utilized, making it unnecessary to import workers, men or women,
from other areas. This would tend to reduce pressure on existing
Community facilities problems vary in intensity according to the
different types of communities involved and the varied needs of women
workers. It is not possible, therefore, to pose a set of solutions that
will fit all situations. With such a variety of communities calling
for programs to be planned and shaped specifically to meet widely
divergent situations, the solutions will have to follow local patterns
of development.
The experiences of World War I I indicate that community facilities
problems closely related to the increasing employment of women are
interdependent. For example, inadequate transportation, in many
instances, aggravates the housing problem and causes under-utilization
of recreation and child-care centers. Thus, an appraisal of a specific
problem such as child care, housing, transportation, recreation, essential consumer services, or health services must take into consideration
the general framework of over-all community needs.

Among the community facilities and services which must be given
considerable attention are the following:
The care of dependents—preschool children; children of school age; other
Housing—for women with families and for women war workers recruited
for isolated defense plants.
Transportation—to work; to shopping facilities; to the child-care center;
and home after late-shift work.
Procurement and distribution of essential goods and services—shopping
facilities available; eating facilities at work and near the home; increased
family feeding facilities; laundry services or facilities.
General health and welfare—recreational facilities; medical and dental
care; provisions for guidance and counseling on special problems arising
from employment.


IV. The Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor
The major responsibility for matters relating to the recruitment,
training, and utilization of women for meeting defense and essential
civilian labor requirements was delegated to the Women's Bureau
in section 6 of General Order No. 48 issued by the Secretary of Labor
in September 1950. In addition to developing plans, programs, and
policy at a national level, the Women's Bureau functions as liaison
on matters relating to women workers with public and private organizations, conducts research studies and supplies informational materials.
While the Women's Bureau has no large field establishment, it has a
limited number of experienced field representatives who can be called
upon for advice when special problems arise relating to women workers.
General Order No. 48 also established a Women's Advisory Committee on Defense Manpower to advise the Secretary of Labor concerning the most effective use of women in meeting defense manpower
requirements. At the local level, if problems arise in a particular area
relating to the recruitment, training, and utilization of women, it may
be desirable in certain instances to establish a task force composed of
persons with special interest and experience in problems relating to
the employment of women. The assistance of the Women's Bureau
can be secured in suggesting or nominating persons to serve on this
task force. The Women's Bureau, can also supply pertinent informational material on problems and solutions arising in other places.



For general information—
1952 Handbook of Facts on Women Workers. Bull. 242.
Women Workers and Their Dependents. Bull. 239.
Women's Jobs: Advance and Growth. Bull. 232.
The Women's Bureau, Its Purpose, Its Functions. Leaflet 1.
Hiring Older Women. Leaflet 12.
Why Do Women Work? Leaflet 11.
Women's Chances for Advancement in Business and Industry.
Women as Workers—a Statistical Guide. Processed.
Various maps and charts.

Leaflet 14.

On standards for women workers—

Recommended Standards for Employment of Women. Leaflet 3.
Working Women's Budgets in Thirteen States. Bull. 226, revised December
State Minimum Wage Laws. Leaflet 4.
Working Women and Unemployment Insurance. Leaflet 5.
Summary of State Labor Laws for Women. Processed.
Digests of State Labor Laws for Women. (Separates for individual States.)
Equal Pay for Women. Leaflet 2.
Equal Pay Indicators. Processed. D-43.
Maternity Protection of Employed Women. Bull. 240.
Lifting and Carrying Weights by Women in Industry. Special Bull. 2.
Safety Clothing for Women in Industry. Special Bull. 3.
Washing and Toilet Facilities for Women in Industry. Special Bull. 4.
Women's Effective War Work Requires Good Posture. Special Bull. 10.
Women's Wartime Hours of Work. Bull. 208.

On utilization of women workers—

Part-Time Jobs for Women. Bull. 238.
Job-Training for Women and Girls. Leaflet 7.
Community Problems Relating to the Increased Employment of Women in
Defense Areas. Processed. D-36.
Part-Time Employment of Women in Wartime. Special Bull. 13.
The Industrial Nurse and The Woman Worker. Bull. 228.
Woman Workers in Two Wars. Reprint from Monthly Labor Review.
When You Hire Women. Special Bull. 14.
Series of Studies on employment of women in various defense industries.
Bull. 192, Nos. 1-9.


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office
Washington 25, D. C. - Price 5 cents