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Mature Women
for Employment

James P. Mitchell, Secretary
Mrs. Alice K. Leopold, Director

BULLETIN 256, 1955







1 V



The Story of
23 Local Programs

Women’s Bureau Bulletin No. 256

James P. Mitchell, Secretary

Mrs. Alice K. Leopold, Director
Washington : 1955

This report was prepared in the Division of Research
of the Women’s Bureau by Pearl C. Ravner with the
assistance of Jean A. Wells and Annie Lefkowitz.

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

Chapter 1. A Wealth of Resources '
Role of community organizations____________________________
Occupations taught
2. Industrial and Commercial Sewing______________________
Community hand-sewing project: Scranton__________________
Community power-sewing project: Hazleton_________________
Power sewing-machine operators: Denver___________________
Dressmakers and alteration workers: Washington, D. C_____
3. Institutional Housekeeping
The Hannah Harrison School: Washington, D. C____________
A hotel training school: Washington, D. C___ ______________
Emily Griffith Opportunity School: Denver _ _ _______________
4. Housework and Related Service Jobs_____________________
The service training program: New York City_______________
The service workers’ training program: Chicago_____________
The domestic workers’ training program: East St. Louis____
5. Food-Service Occupations
Waitress, hostess, and cashier training: Washington, D. C___
Commercial-foods course: Washington, D. C
Waitress, cashier, and hostess training: Denver____ _________
Food-service training: Chicago
6. Other Examples: Cosmetology and Retail Sales_______
Cosmetology: Denver _ ______________________________________
Retail sales: Denver
7. The Nursing Occupations
Refresher course for registered nurses: New York City______
Practical-nurse training: New York City_______________________
Nurse-aide training: New York City
Hospital-attendant training: Chicago
Practical-nurse training: Denver
8. Production Work in the Electronics Industry__________
A 4-month program: New York State_________________________
An 18-month program:New York State______________________
9. Conclusions
Learning new skills after 35
Finding a job
Characteristics of the 23 training programs studied by the Women’s
Bureau, 1953-54____________________________________





The Women’s Bureau is greatly indebted to the many organiza­
tions and individuals who supplied the information on which this
bulletin is based. We wish to thank especially Howard L. Johnson
of the Emily Griffith Opportunity School, V. Charlotte Authier of
the New York City Department of Welfare, Alvin E. Rose of the
Chicago Department of Welfare, Garrett W. Keaster of the Illinois
Public Aid Commission, Genevieve E. Poole of the Hannah Harrison
School, Mrs. Virginia IT. Conway of the Washington Restaurant As­
sociation, Dr. Estelle S. Phillips of the District of Columbia Board
of Education, Dorothy Weddige of the New York City Department
of Hospitals, S. A. Simrell and Joseph J. Garrity of the Pennsyl­
vania State Employment Service, Mary Bourke of Washington, D. C.,
and W. A. Parker and William F. Roselius of New York.
The photographs used are by courtesy of the Emily Griffith Op­
portunity School, Denver, Colo. (figs. 1 and 4); the Chicago Depart­
ment of Welfare (fig. 2); the New York City Department of Welfare
(fig. 3).

This study was made in an effort to find answers to some of the
problems met by middle-aged and older women in looking for work.
The 23 training programs described show not only that mature
women can learn a new skill but also that they can afterward secure
a job doing the work for which they have been trained. To accom­
plish this, the women must be willing to learn; the community must
be willing to supply training, counseling, and placement facilities;
and employers must be willing to hire competent workers regardless
of age.
All three conditions existed in the programs dealt with in this re­
port; not because the particular women, communities, or employers
were unique, but because the need was realized and interested people
were able to work together.


This Report Shows—
That there are training programs which suc­
cessfully prepare middle-aged and older women
for paid employment.
That there are employment opportunities for
mature women.
That mature women are an important labor
resource for employers faced with a need for
competent workers.
That much can be accomplished >yith the
facilities at hand in every community.

A wealth of resources that can be used to meet the special counseling,
training, and placement needs of mature women job seekers exists in
almost every community. Most of these resources are found among
established community organizations—the public schools, State em­
ployment sen-ices, the public welfare authorities, employers, and
many other-local groups. New facilities—on a large scale—“-are fre­
quently unnecessary; what is always necessary, however, is new think­
ing and willingness to adapt existing facilities to meet newly recog­
nized needs.
This report provides examples of projects established by community
organizations to meet the training needs of women ranging in eco­
nomic standing from those receiving public assistance to those able to
pay tuition fees at private schools. The programs described were
selected in an effort to show the variety of institutions and groups that
can participate in developing such projects, the wide range of occu­
pations for which mature women can be successfully trained, the
facilities available in both large and small communities in different
parts of the country, and the varied nature of the needs—on the part
of mature women, employers, and the community—that can be met by
such programs. No attempt was made either to survey all programs
that train mature women for employment or to evaluate the programs
visited. Information on a total of 23 training courses was secured
by visiting the following 12 projects:

j j.-.:


Project visited


Emily Griffith Opportunity School_ Denver, Colo_________________
Department of hospitals__ :
New York City_________
Hannah Harrison School_______ _____Washington, D. C____________
Department of welfare
Chicago, 111____________
Joint department of welfare and board of New York City_________
education project.
Public aid commission
: East St. Louis, 111_____
Hotel training school__________________
Washington, D.C_
Joint restaurant association and board of
education project.
Community hand-sewing project . .. ...
_ Scranton, Ba___________
Community power-sewing project_____
Hazle]top,|Pu _________
Electronics company 4-month program_ New,. York State___________
Electronics company 18-month program__

Number of



training mature women for employment

Role of Community Organizations
Existing facilities in almost any city or town can be adapted to assist
mature women in preparing for employment. There must, however,
be evidence of a real need on the part of women job seekers for such
services and, equally important, this need must be recognized by the
One of the chief resources in every locality is the public school sys­
tem which has the physical equipment and, often, the trained person­
nel particularly suited to training women for paid employment.
Although the training programs offered by local schools vary con­
siderably from State to State and from town to town, a variety of
courses are given free of cost in most communities. Many of these
courses are designed primarily to meet the vocational needs of the
young or the recreational needs of adults. In some school systems,
however, considerable attention is given to preparing adult men and
women for paid employment. The Emily Griffith Opportunity
School, the adult-education branch of the Denver public school sys­
tem, is included in this report as an example of intensive and varied
vocational training that can be made available through a local public
school system.
Another potential resource which exists in almost every community
is the public employment service. In close touch with local employ­
ers, aware of the general labor market situation, staffed with trained
counseling and placement personnel, the public employment service
is equipped to stimulate community action and to provide advisory
services. Two of the projects studied—the community hand-sewing
project in Scranton and the community power-sewing project in
Hazleton—were developed primarily by employment-service person­
nel who not only organized community-wide participation but also
played a large part in operating the programs. In other programs,
the employment service made major contributions by providing spe­
cialized recruitment, counseling, and placement services.
Private schools, especially in the larger communities, offer substan­
tial vocational-training opportunities for women who can afford to
pay tuition. In most instances, the courses offered by the private
vocational, trade, or commercial school are attended almost wholly
by young men and women interested in preparing for a career.
Courses and recruitment programs, therefore, are usually planned
with the young student in mind. That such schools can also play a
significant role in preparing mature women for employment is shown
by the activities of the hotel training school described in this report.

a wealth of resources
City and State agencies responsible for public assistance have, in a
number of communities, developed training programs. Concerned
with helping recipients of public assistance regain economic self-suf­
ficiency and personal self-respect, public welfare agencies in Chicago,
New York City, and East St. Louis established rounded programs that
provide training in basic skills, counseling in work attitudes, and
assistance in securing a job.
One of the chief methods by which workers in this country are
taught specific job skills is on-the-job training. Employers, however,
must be willing to hire on the basis of ability regardless of age and
to open training programs to their mature women employees. Three
of the projects visited—two electronics companies and the New York
City Department of Hospitals—illustrate what employers can do in
establishing training programs which permit mature women to “earn
while they learn.”
Community groups, employer associations, unions, women’s organ­
izations, and interested individuals can do much to stimulate the
development in their community of services for the middle-aged or
older woman who is looking for work. The programs studied clearly
indicate the importance of such efforts both in creating an awareness
of the need and in establishing functioning projects.

Occupations Taught
The question of which job to learn is one of the most important
confronting the mature woman who desires to prepare herself for
employment. The question of which occupations should be taught
is of equal importance to the organizations or groups concerned with
meeting the needs of these women. In both cases, a major factor in
selecting the occupations is the existence of job opportunities for ma­
ture women in that particular type of work.
In almost every program studied, the occupations taught were se­
lected ei ther wholly or in part because of local shortages of competent
personnel. The degree of shortage ranged from a serious and con­
tinuous need—exemplified by the various programs to train nursing
personnel—to a one-time local demand for more industrial handsewers.
The types of jobs covered by the training programs include:
Industrial and commercial sewing (industrial handsewer, power sewing-machine
operator, dressmaker and alteration worker).
Institutional housekeeping (housekeeper, dining-room supervisor, hotel hostess,
linen-room supervisor).
Domestic work and related service jobs (maid, laundress, commercial and in­
dustrial cleaner).




training mature women for employment
Food-service occupations (food supervisor, waitress, hostess, cashier, counter
girl, bus girl).
Nursing occupations (professional nurse—refresher course, practical nurse,
nurse aide, hospital attendant).
Production work in the electronics industry (assembler, inspector, winder or
assembler technician).

These occupations do not in any way reflect all the jobs mature
women can learn successfully. They serve only as examples and spe­
cifically exclude office occupations dealt with in a previous report.1
Another factor frequently considered in establishing a training
program is the length of time it takes to teach a specific skill. Be­
cause most mature women seeking work do not have the time to invest
in a long training period, occupations were usually chosen that can be
taught in short, intensive courses. In addition, in those instances
where the students were to come from a specific group—such as publicassistance recipients—the general educational level of the group was
taken into account.
The 23 training programs dealt with in this report have been
grouped into chapters on the basis of the occupations or skills taught.
All programs of one organization are not necessarily found in the
same chapter but are reported in the appropriate occupational chap­
ter. (See appendix table.)
The particular projects visited by the Women’s Bureau representa­
tives in late 1953 and early 1954 do not represent all those currently
in operation; they serve only as examples of what some communities—
made aware of the need—have been able to accomplish.
1 “Older” Women as Office Workers.
Labor, Washington, D. C. 1953. 25^.


Women’s Bureau, Bull. 248.

U. S. Department of

Industrial and commercial sewing is a field which can provide job
opportunities for mature women, since it includes occupations em­
ploying large numbers of women 45 years or over. For example, in
1950, over one-half million women—655,000—were reported by the
Bureau of the Census to be working as operatives and related work­
ers in the apparel industry and over 130,000 women were reported as
dressmakers and seamstresses outside of factories. Almost one-third
of the operatives were 45 years or over, and two-thirds of the dress­
makers and seamstresses were in this age group.
Four very different projects demonstrate the success with which
mature women can be trained and placed as industrial and commercial
sewers. One project, in Scranton, Pa., trained women for industrial
hand-sewing; another program, in Washington, D. C., prepared
women for work as dressmakers and alteration workers. Two pro­
grams—a public school adult-education course in Denver and a
project initiated by the State Employment Service in Hazleton, Pa.—
trained middle-aged and older women to be power sewing-machine
operators. In all four instances, the classroom work of the mature
women was satisfactory and high proportions of the “graduates”
surveyed were placed in jobs—78 percent in Hazleton, 89 percent in
Washington, and almost 100 percent in both Scranton and Denver.
Subsequent reports from employers of many of the trainees indicated
satisfaction with their on-the-job performance.
The success of the mature women in learning how to operate power
sewing machines is of especial interest because of the belief prevalent
among some employers, training authorities, and personnel officials
that women over 35 years cannot be taught to operate a power sewing
machine at the speed necessary for production work. In Hazleton,
37 of the 56 trainees attending the course during the period studied
were women 35 or over, with the majority in the late forties. In Den­
ver, 49 of the 67 women trainees were believed to be over 35 years
and most of these women, it was judged, were in their forties or fifties.

Community Hand-Sewing Project: Scranton
A course to teach mature women the fundamental techniques of
industrial hand-sewing was developed in 1952 by the Pennsylvania


training mature women for employment
State Employment Service in cooperation with other community
groups. Given only once, the course was organized at that time to
meet a pending shortage of industrial hand sewers in the Scranton
A convenient location was found at the Jewish Community Center
where sewing equipment was available, and free supplies were se­
cured from a large local manufacturer who needed such workers. A
home-economics representative was assigned by the Pennsylvania State
College Extension Service as class instructor, while the Employment
Service detailed a counseling staff member to act as both assistant
instructor and as judge of the progress and employability of the
Trainees were selected by the Employment Service from their file
of women job applicants. Of the 27 women chosen from the much
larger number available, all were 35 or over and about half were 50
or over. Many of the women were widows; most had limited educa­
tion and work experience; and all were in real economic need. At
the time they were selected, these women were considered below
acceptable standards for immediate employment but with an employ­
ability potential.
One 4-hour class was held each week for 13 weeks. Some of the
essential aspects of industrial sewing covered in the course were: how
to hold a garment while sewing; how to sew with a long thread still
attached to a spool; how to sew a straight seam; and how to make
blind stitches, chain stitches, and handmade buttonholes. Informal
counseling was also available to the women, many of whom were
lacking in self-confidence.
Of the 27 women who started, 26 completed the course. Almost all
Avere placed. Those who did not work best under pressure were placed
in jobs as alteration seamstresses in department stores or menders in
laundries. The others secured work as production sewers in awning,
trouser, and coat factories.

Community Power-Sewing Project: Hazleton
A continuing community project which began in June 1953 prepares
unemployed men and women for locally available jobs as power sew­
ing-machine operators. A vacant schoolhouse is the training site, and
rent, instruction, heat, and light are paid for by the State Department
of Public Instruction. The industrial development committee of the
Hazleton Chamber of Commerce contributed $3,600 for the purchase
of 11 power sewing machines, and 4 more machines were donated by
a local machine distributor.

industrial and commercial sewing
Major responsibility for operating this free program is divided be­
tween the Pennsylvania State Employment Service and the Hazle­
ton School District. The Employment Service recruits and tests the
applicants, selects the suitable ones for the class, and places the train­
ees. The local school authorities select the instructor, determine the
teaching methods, and set the standards for completion of training.
Most of the trainees have been recruited from among job applicants
at the Employment Service in Hazleton. Job seekers interested in the
project are given aptitude tests for motor coordination, form per­
ception, and manual and finger dexterity. The tests are considered
valuable both because they save time and money by eliminating un­
suitable applicants and because they can be used as an argument in
encouraging employers to hire trained “test-selected” operators, re­
gardless of age.
Trainees receive individual instruction and proceed at rates com­
mensurate with their ability. The course requires, on the average, 4
weeks of daily attendance for 6 hours each day. The first week is
devoted to developing familiarity with the use and maintenance of
power sewing machines. During the second week, students start learn­
ing the basic sewing operations. When trainees complete the total
list of basic operations, the teacher recommends that they practice
further on those performed best. This is done to give the trainees
certain fields of specialization that can be listed when applying for a
job. Inexpensive material is supplied by the school district to allow
the students to make simple garments which are then donated to
charitable organizations. Trainees are also permitted to practice on
their own material and keep the completed garment.
Criteria used by the instructor to determine whether a trainee is
ready to be certified to the Employment Service as a graduate of the
course are: ability to perform all the basic sewing operations; speed
of performance at the machine; ability to get along with others; and
her own opinion about the trainee’s chance for competing successfully
in a factory setting. Close communication is maintained between the
instructor and the placement-interviewer at the Employment Service
so that the characteristics and abilities of each individual are kept in
mind when making specific job referrals.
During the first 6 months the program was in operation, two-thirds
of the trainees were women over 35 years of age. Many of these
trainees, discouraged at first, exhibited a marked improvement in
their general outlook after completing the course. The Employment
Service successfully placed over three-fourths of the graduates as
power sewing-machine operators in the local needle-trades industry;
information regarding most of the others was not available.


training mature women for employment

Power Sewing-Machine Operators: Denver
In May 1951 the Emily Griffith Opportunity School in Denver re­
sponded to a request of the local apparel-manufacturing industry and
reinstated in its curriculum a power sewing-machine course that had
been given during World War II. In the 2y2 years following re­
sumption of this course, 150 women were trained and placed as sewingmachine operators. Most of these women were 35 years or over.
At first, there was a shortage of applicants since the school did not
have the financial resources to publicize the new course. This problem
• ;ps.



Members of an industrial sewing class concentrate on learning to
operate power sewing machines at high speed.

was solved when local apparel manufacturers agreed to pay for classi­
fied advertisements in newspapers, to post announcejuents in their
shops so that employees could spread the news, and to recommend the
course to inexperienced workers applying for jobs. Since then the
course has been filled to capacity and usually has a waiting list.
A major problem arose several months after the course was started
when employers complained that the speed and output of the gradu­
ates were below production standards. Analysis indicated that their
slowness stemmed from two factors: the sewing machines at the school
were old, and the trainees were practicing on scraps of material in­
stead of making whole garments. As the school could not buy new
equipment, industry members on the school’s advisory committee for

industrial and commercial sewing
this course decided to lend the school modern machines. The school,
in turn, made temporary arrangements with the Bureau of Public
Welfare to make whole garments which could then be distributed to
needy families or institutions. As a result, trainees were able to meet
speed requirements.
Classes are held daily over a period of 6 to 8 weeks. As in the
Hazleton program, trainees are given individual instruction and per­
mitted to progress at their own pace. The subject matter is also simi­
lar. During the first 4 weeks, students learn the basic sewing opera­
tions; in the latter part of the training period, students are assigned
to modern sewing machines and concentrate on attaining speed.
Placements have been relatively easy and are made chiefly by the
instructor since she is familiar with each student’s abilities. Women
who are relatively slow are usually recommended to laundries or ho­
tels for repairing linens or to department stores for altering clothing.
Faster operators are sent to production shops. Because the local ap­
parel industry was expanding in 1952-53, job interviews were speedily
arranged for almost every student. Of the 35 women completing the
course during the school year, 31 were placed as power sewing-machine
operators; 1 became a power sewing-machine teacher; 1 was employed
as a saleswoman; and 2 were not working.
The value of the course to the women students is illustrated by the
following two examples: >•
Mrs. A.—A widow past 55 when she entered the class, Mrs. A had to sup­
port both herself and her 13-year-old son; her husband’s death following a
long illness had exhausted family savings. The only jobs she had been able
to secure in the few intervening years were on a part-time basis as sales­
woman or unskilled factory worker at a very low wage. As soon as she
heard about the power sewing-machine course, Mrs. A applied for admis­
sion and, determined to succeed, learned quickly. Holding a part-time job
throughout the training period, she completed the course in 8 weeks. Imme­
diately placed as a power-machine operator in a curtain and drapery factory,
she was subsequently reported to be a satisfactory worker by her employer.
Mrs. B.—Over 50, Mrs. B was a widow with no dependents. After her hus­
band's death, she tried to make a living by doing both domestic work and
home sewing. Preferring sewing, Mrs. B soon realized that she had to learn
modern techniques to improve her speed. While taking the course, Mrs. B
also studied dressmaking at night and continued to do part-time work. When
a vacancy for a power sewing-machine teacher was reported by a local insti­
tution, she was recommended as an outstanding student and chosen for the

Dressmakers and Alteration Workers: Washington, D. C.
A more comprehensive type of commercial-sewing course is offered
by the Hannah Harrison School, a privately endowed organization in


training mature women for employment
Washington, D. C. Designated as training for clothing construction
and alterations, this course prepares women for employment as dress­
makers or alteration workers in clothing or tailoring shops, sewing
instructors in retail stores selling yard goods or sewing equipment,
and for self-employment as dressmakers. The program is free, and
includes full maintenance throughout the 5-month course.
To qualify for admission, women must know how to operate a sew­
ing machine, read patterns, and have some knowledge of dressmak­
ing. With this background, they are taught the special techniques
used by commercial workers to alter and construct clothing for women.
During the course, students must cut, sew, fit, and finish six garments.
They start on a simple article such as a blouse and then advance to
coats and suits. In addition, some training time is devoted to work
on slipcovers and draperies.
Only nine women over 35 years of age had enrolled in this course
from the date of the school’s opening in 1950 to the time of the
Women’s Bureau study in late 1953. (Most of the mature women
students at the Hannah Harrison School attended the institutional
housekeeping course described in chapter 3.) These nine women,
ranging in age from 40 to 59 years, all completed their training. Five
started their own dressmaking businesses; one was planning to do
so; two were placed by the school as alteration workers in department
stores; and one became a sewing instructor in a store.


An occupational field in which maturity is generally recognized
as an asset is that of institutional housekeeping. Covering a wide
range of specific jobs and skill levels—from executive housekeeper to
hotel maid—this type of work provides opportunities for women well
past their youth and makes the most of their ability to deal with
people, their familiarity with household duties, and their willingness
to assume responsibility. In 1950, the decennial census reported over
80,000 women employed in public-housekeeping occupations. About
85 percent of these women were 35 years of age or over and approxi­
mately 40 percent were 55 or over.
Ihe three institutional-housekeeping programs studied by the
Women’s Bureau varied considerably in origin and development.
However, those in charge all stressed the fact that women are not con­
sidered older workers in these occupations until they are well over
50 years and that, provided health is good, opportunities for work
continue past 65. Mature women formed the majority of students in
all the courses although, in each case, the program was open to all
age groups. At the privately endowed Hannah Harrison School many
trainees were over 50 years; at the fee-charging hotel training school
104 of the 212 resident students enrolled during the period studied
were women 40 years of age and over; and, at the two evening courses
given by the Denver school, 18 of the 21 institutional-housekeeping
students and 35 of the 40 hotel students were women 35 years or over.
In all the courses, the general opinion of the teaching staff was
that progress depended on individual ability, regardless of age.
Where there was thought to be an age-related difference in learning
ability, it was usually in speed; younger persons tended to learn
faster. This, it was believed, resulted from the fact that older women
had been away from school longer and were not accustomed to study­
ing. In classroom practice and on-the-job performance, however, it
was thought that the mature women—because of their familiarity
with related work in their own homes—did better than the younger
women and were particularly well suited for the housekeeping
The placement records of the women trainees corroborate the gen­
eral impression that institutional housekeeping offers good employ11
338830° - -55------ 3

training mature women for employment
ment opportunities for women over 35: At the Hannah Harrison
School, 93 percent of the women who completed their training during
the period studied were placed; at least 67 percent of the hotel training
school graduates were placed; and most, of the women completing the
course at the Denver school either secured new jobs or were promoted.

The Hannah Harrison School: Washington, D. C.
Since 1950 this school, established under the will of a local mer­
chant “for the purpose of providing for worthy women, under the
necessity of earning their own livelihood,” has supplied free tuition
and maintenance for women selected to attend any one of the four
training courses offered: Institutional housekeeping, clothing con­
struction and alterations, commercial foods, and office work. Each
course takes approximately 5 months and the cost is estimated at
$1,200 to $1,500 for each trainee. The entire program is administered
by the local Young Women’s Christian Association, and the trainees
live and are taught in a special building designed to accommodate
50 students.
At the time of the Women’s Bureau study in the fall of 1953, 120
women had been enrolled at the school. The majority—73 women—
were 35 years or over. Of this group, 47 women—almost two-thirds—
selected the institutional housekeeping course which trains women
for executive housekeeping positions in hospitals, hotels, private
schools, college dormitories, and residential clubs and lodges. Of
these 47 women, 41 completed their training.
The subjects covered in the course include: purchase, use, and care
of institutional supplies and equipment; operation of an institutional
laundry; care and control of linens; floor maintenance; sanitation;
preparation of budgets; and employee training. Field trips are
made by the group to various institutions so that the trainees may
observe actual work situations. Throughout the training, the in­
structor emphasizes the importance of executive and organizational
ability and the value of good attitudes and grooming in this type of
Thirty-eight of the 41 women who had completed the course were
placed by the school—34 in housekeeping and related work. Exactly
half of the 38 jobs were in hospitals; the others were in a variety of
institutions. The occupations in which the 38 women were placed
are as follows:

institutional housekeeping
Number of

Job title
Assistant housekeeper_______________
Executive housekeeper_______________
Supervisor: maintenance, dining, linen
Food preparation___________________
Resident counselor__________________
Weaving teacher____________________





A general observation made about the older women was that, al­
though many were good students, a considerable number had difficulty
adjusting to a new situation. Chief among these were the women
deprived of emotional, social, and financial security by recent widow­
hood or divorce. A large number of the mature women fell in this
group. Of the 47 institutional-houskeeping trainees over 35 years
of age, 4 were single and 4 married; but 21 were widowed, 14 divorced,
and 4 separated. These women needed—and received from the staff—
sympathy, encouragement, and the kind of counseling which inspired
new hope and confidence in their own ability.

A Hotel Training School: Washington, D. C.
A 4-month course offered by a private vocational school trains men
and women for a wide variety of jobs in the hotel industry. The
tuition fee is $300 and includes instruction, textbooks, and demon­
stration materials. A permanent placement service is available to all
students completing the course. While positions are not guaranteed,
many graduates secure their first job through the school’s employment
register, and all graduates can call on the placement director at any
time for assistance in finding a new job.
The course is divided almost equally into three parts which are
taught in the following sequence: “front of house,” “back of house,”
and “management and executive.” Defined broadly, “front of house”
operations are those concerned with the registration of guests and
with their accommodations; “back of house” operations encompass
the preparation and serving of foods and the maintenance of the
premises; and “management and executive” functions include ac­
counting, special services, and entertainment. The school building
is arranged to simulate a hotel atmosphere and has demonstration
rooms such as a lobby, kitchen, dining room, and other hotel rooms.
Teaching methods include lectures, assigned reading, demonstrations,
and visits to hotels, restaurants, and bakeries.


training mature women for employment
Of 212 students enrolled between September 1951 and May 1953,
108 were women 35 years or over. Eiglity-six of these women com­
pleted their training. Almost all were 40 or over, though ages ranged
from 35 to 61 years. These women were willing to move to whatever
locality offered the best employment opportunities. Widows pre­
dominated, as they had among the women attending the institutional
housekeeping course at the Hannah Harrison School.
Information available on the placement of the 86 who completed
training shows that more than two-thirds—58 women—were placed in
hotel and related occupations; no information is available on the
placement experience of the other 28 women. The following is a list
of occupations in which the women were placed:
Type of
and job title

Front-office clerk------------------------Housekeeper___________________ _________________
Assistant housekeepei ______________
Hostess Manager - --------------------Food checker______________
-------------------------------Newsstand operator-__________
----- ------------Restaurant: Hostess__ ________________
-------Hospital: Housekeeper. -----School:
Dining-room supervisor--------------------Assistant dietitian______________
- ----------------------Boardinghouse: Manager_________
__ ------------------------------------Motel: Front-office clerk-------------Club: Receptionist______
- ---------------------------------------—
No report _________________________________________________



Summaries of the background and work experience of two of the
women provide information on why they took the course and their
subsequent work experience.
Mrs. C—A widow 58 years of age whose children were grown, Mrs. C’s
previous employment experience included 10 years of practical nursing and
a temporary job doing clerical work. She enrolled in the school because she
wanted to learn apartment management and preferred a job that would
involve meeting people. After completing the course, Mrs. C was placed as
a floor housekeeper in a large hotel. She was in charge of several floors,
supervised maids and housemen on these floors, and was responsible for the
cleanliness of the rooms and hallways.
Mrs. D—Forty-eight years old, divorced, and with a mother partially
dependent on her for support, Mrs. D—after spending 21 years as an office
worker—wanted to change her occupation. Immediately after completing


institutional housekeeping
the course, Mrs. D was placerl as a front-office clerk in an eastern resort
hotel for the summer season, and then as a floor housekeeper in a very large
hotel. Shortly after, she was offered a more exacting and better paid job
as an executive housekeeper in a smaller hotel.

Emily Griffith Opportunity School: Denver
Two evening courses given at this school, the adult-education branch
of the Denver public school system, prepare women for work in the
field of public housekeeping. One course, institutional housekeeping,
is designed to train personnel for hospitals and extends over two school
semesters, or 38 weeks. The other course, hotel training, is for one
semester only. Both courses are held for 2 hours on 2 nights each
week and are taught by women employed as full-time executive
While the instruction encompasses a wide variety of duties, there is
little expectation that students without previous work experience in
hospitals or hotels can step from the classroom into executive positions,
as housekeepers or administrators. These students are prepared, how­
ever, for immediate employment in jobs that entail limited responsi­
bility. For students with experience, many of whom were already
working in hospitals or hotels, training assists them to advance.
A recent outgrowth of the institutional housekeeping course is the
hospital apprenticeship program instituted at four of the local hos­
pitals. Each hospital has accepted a course graduate to receive 1 year
of in-service training in executive housekeeping. All four trainees
are women over 35 years.
The instructors, in both courses, themselves mature women em­
ployed as executive housekeepers, were convinced that public- house­
keeping offered possibilities for interesting and rewarding careers.
They found that some of the students had initially regarded institu­
tional housekeeping as a menial occupation. However, as the students
became aware of the duties, responsibilities, and dignity attached to
the position there was a sharp change in their attitudes. The neces­
sity of learning to make bulk purchases, to budget large sums of money,
to supervise other workers, and to acquire a wide range of detailed in­
formation developed considerable respect among the trainees for the
housekeeping occupations.


Traditionally a woman-employing occupation of major importance,
household employment began to decline in importance as early as
World War I. With the increase of job opportunities for women in
other occupations that took place during World War II, this drift of
women workers away from employment in private households was
accelerated. In the 10-year period between 1940 and 1950—when the
total number of employed women rose 4% million—there was a drop
of 300,000 in the number of women domestic workers. Among the
causes frequently given for this decrease are the relatively undesirable
wages and working conditions, the occupation’s low social status, and
the lack of training and performance standards.
From time to time individual communities have attempted to deal
with local shortages of domestic workers by establishing householdemployment committees to formulate standards and determine the
placement and training needs in their own localities. Immediately
after World War II, some communities organized training courses for
unskilled women to raise their level of competence and to increase their
employment opportunities. However, these courses were few in num­
ber; a 1946 survey of 19 communities with active household-employ­
ment committees reported that only 5 offered such training programs.
The three training programs described in this chapter were estab­
lished to meet the needs of a specific group of women—those on public
assistance. However, the experience gained from these programs will
be useful to all concerned with establishing courses to train women for
private-household employment, regardless of the groups from which
the students are drawn. In addition, the results of these programs
will be of vital interest to citizens concerned with restoring independ­
ence to the dependent. The goals of these three projects can best be
summed up in the words of the administrators of the service training
program in New York City:
Reduction of the relief rolls through employment is a positive goal toward
which tlie Department of Welfare continuously strives—not only does such
a solution of the client’s problem bring relief to the overburdened taxpayer
in the community, but it likewise tends to improve the vitality of the
community by maintaining to a fuller degree the activity and productivity
of its members. For the individual involved, the psychological impact
is profound. No longer do these persons need to feel dependent, unsure


housework and related service jobs
of themselves, and relegated to the shelf. They may again look forward to
accomplishment and a good sense of participation in the life around them.

This quotation applies equally to two other programs—in Chicago
and East St. Louis—which provide vocational counseling, training,
and placement for women receiving public assistance. All three of
the programs were developed by municipal or State welfare agencies
responsible for public assistance. In Chicago and East St. Louis, the
welfare agencies were the sole sponsors; in New York, the Board of
Education joined with the Department of Welfare in developing the
training program.
The oldest, the broadest in occupational approach, and the only one
which trains both men and women is the Chicago program. However,
the domestic workers’ project is only 1 of 4 established by the Chicago
Department of Welfare on the basis that many men and women re­
ceiving public assistance can be made employable if given supplemen­
tary counseling in addition to financial aid.
In April 1947, the department established a rehabilitation division to
develop an integrated program of vocational guidance, training, and
placement for assistance recipients who were potentially employable.
The first project organized was an experiment in teaching good work
habits and was known as the “industrial training service.” This has
steadily expanded until it now accommodates 600 trainees learning a
variety of relatively unskilled jobs such as soldering, assembling, pack-

Trai nees learn teamwork on the assembly line by assembles children’s


training mature women for employment
aging, sorting, envelope stuffing, and figurine painting. Encouraged
by the success of the first project, three more were developed: A
domestic workers’ training project was started in November 1949, and
projects to train food-service workers and hospital attendants were
initiated in September 1952.
In New York City the service training course, begun in 1953, was
based in part on the experience gained by the Department of Welfare
in a household training program it had administered between 1943 and
1947. Although this program draws upon the diverse facilities offered
by a number of municipal and State agencies, from X-ray examina­
tions by the Department of Health to the placement facilities of the
State Employment Service, major responsibility is shared between the
two sponsoring agencies. The Board of Education provides the teach­
ing services; the Department of Welfare is responsible for providing
the building and equipment, arranging placements, and day-to-day ad­
The program in East St. Louis is administered solely by the Illinois
Public Aid Commission. Providing an example of action possible in
a small community, the project drew upon the resources of existing
community organizations and various facilities made available by in­
dividuals interested in the project’s success.
Several factors underlay the decision reached by the sponsors of
each of the programs to train the women on public assistance for this
occupation. First, a shortage of domestic workers existed in each lo­
cality and there would be jobs for competent women after the training
was completed. Second, domestic work involves skills which the
women already possessed to a certain extent. Third, a short course
would be sufficient to make them employable for this type of work.
Fourth, the occupation permits part-time employment for women un­
able to work full time. Fifth, mature women find that their age is not
a barrier in securing household employment.

The Service Training Program: New York City
A continuing program to train women receiving public assistance
for household and related service jobs was instituted in 1953 after the
two sponsoring agencies—the New York City Department of Welfare
and the Board of Education—were advised by the New York State
Employment Service that there was a continuous shortage of maids,
cooks, laundresses, institutional attendants, and similar workers.
Trainees are selected by department of welfare case workers and con­
tinue to receive their regular assistance allotments. The women se18

housework and related service jobs
lected are judged able to benefit from the training and are without
family responsibilities requiring that they remain at home.
The service training program holds classes from 9 a. m. to 3: 45 p. m.
daily for approximately 12 weeks. The subjects dealt with include
nutrition, house care, sewing, child care, laundry, and simple bedside
care. Teaching techniques are a combination of the lecture and demon­
stration methods, with lecture time kept to a minimum. Since a great
many of the women have never used modern cleaning methods or
equipment, they must be taught not only how to operate sewing ma­
chines, washing machines, and modern kitchen equipment but also the
new, time-saving cleaning methods. Trainees judged incapable of
meeting final performance standards are dropped from the course after
the first 6 weeks.
Almost all the women need advice on good grooming and, through­
out the course, the teachers emphasize the importance of an attractive
appearance. Near the end of the program, a representative of the New
York State Employment Service advises the students, both individu­
ally and as a group, on job opportunities and on proper behavior and
dress for job interviews. Graduation exercises are held at the end of
the program and a certificate indicating satisfactory completion of
training is awarded to each graduate. No woman who is below average
in performance is given a certificate.
At the time this study was made, two classes had completed courses
held in the first half of 1953 and a third class was scheduled to begin.
Although the service training program was designed for all women
receiving assistance, regardless of age, almost all the trainees were
middle-aged or over. Of 150 women in the first two classes, 91 com­
pleted the program. Only 1 woman was under 40 years, 25 were be­
tween 40 and 49 years, 54 women were between 50 and 59, and 11
women were 60 years of age or over. Although most of the trainees
had held jobs in the past, many had not worked for more than 10 or
20 years.
Approximately one-third of the trainees had, on their last job, been
factory workers. When interviewing recruits, the registrar at the
service training center had been impressed by the number who, be­
cause of their age, felt they would be unable to secure regular factory
employment in the future. These women were willing to enroll in
the course, for they thought that household employment was one occu­
pation in which age was not an obstacle and that it offered a steadier
and more permanent source of income.
Of the 91 women completing the first two courses, 40 were placed—
chiefly in jobs requiring the use of skills taught in the service training
338830'’—55------ i


training mature women for employment



Women attending a service training program are taught the fundamentals
of housework.

housework and related service jobs
program. Tlie majority of those who did not secure jobs were con­
sidered unemployable because of poor health. As a result, it was
decided that a physical examination would be used to screen future
Before they were trained, all 91 graduates were considered incapable
of supporting themselves. Because of the specialized counseling,
training, and placement services they received, however, a significant
number proved they were able to become economically independent.
Experiences of three of the women illustrate the satisfactory adjust­
ment to the working world made possible by the course.
Miss E—Supported by her father, Miss E had never been prepared to earn
a living. When his death left her at the age of 55 with no financial resources,
she became a recipient of public assistance. On first entering the course,
Miss E was not interested in either training or employment, and did not
participate freely in the class work. Through the efforts of her teachers,
however, her skills were developed so that her final rating was above average.
Simultaneously, her attitude toward working changed and, on graduation,
Miss E was placed as a nurse aide.
Miss P—Aged 53, Miss F had worked as a finisher and packer in a factory
and, from 1047 to 1948, had operated her own small newsstand. She had not
worked since 1948 and it appeared doubtful that she could benefit from the
training as her right hand and leg were affected by paralysis. Miss F was
willing to try, however, since her medical report did not indicate that her
disability precluded participation in the course. At first her awkwardness in
performing some of the work made her shy and retiring but as the class
progressed her coordination and self-confidence improved. Her rating on
graduation was above average, and she was placed immediately, not as a
domestic worker but as an assembler in a factory. The change in her attitude
is best expressed in her own words: “The teachers proved to us it could be
done, no matter what the handicap might be.”
Mrs. O—A widow of 63, Mrs. G in the past had been employed as a pantry
worker but had not had a job in over 4 years. On entering training, her
appearance was unkempt, and her attitude dejected. She became interested
in the training, and her appearance and attitude improved. Encouraged by
the staff, she lost the fear that her age was an insurmountable handicap in
finding a job. When Mrs. G completed the course, she was placed as a pantry

The Service Workers’ Training Program: Chicago
Although similar in basic purpose to the program conducted in
New York City, the service workers’ training program administered
by the Chicago Department of Welfare differed from the New York
program in many ways. The Chicago program was shorter, the train­
ing facilities and equipment were not as extensive, and, at the time
of the study, all aspects.of> the program were administered by the De­
partment of Welfare.


training mature women for employment
Begun in November 1949, the program was temporarily discontin­
ued in June 1952 as other training programs operated simultane­
ously by the Rehabilitation Division of the Department of Welfare
proved more attractive to potential trainees. However, it is planned
to reinstitute this program whenever the need arises in the future.
Between November 1949 and June 1952 a total of 13 classes were
held. Given for three consecutive weeks every other month, the
classes had a total enrollment of 127 trainees. Subjects covered in the
3-week course included cleaning the home, laundering and ironing,
care of children, and simple meal preparation. Discussions covered
such additional topics as safety in the home, telephone manners, good
grooming, and how to look for a job.
The trainees were selected by the placement and vocational coun­
selors of the Rehabilitation Division from their case loads. Before
admission to the course, the women were given simple aptitude tests
to evaluate their capacity to absorb program content and to hold a job.
A complete medical examination was also given.
As measured by the 64 women who attended the first 6 classes (in­
formation for all 13 classes is not available), placements were ex­
tremely high. All but 5 women were placed shortly after they fin­
ished the course and these 5 either eventually found their own jobs
or, for valid reasons, were unable to accept employment.

The Domestic Workers’ Training Program: East St. Louis
The 3-week domestic workers’ training program was instituted in
1952 by the Illinois Public Aid Commission to train public-assist­
ance recipients for employment in private households and for clean­
ing commercial or industrial establishments. When the program be­
gan, the trainees were provided with two basement rooms and the use
of the nursery in a neighborhood community house. Gradually, ad­
ditional facilities were made available without cost by interested in­
dividuals. These include a small private hotel for women, where
the trainees are able to acquire a knowledge of an institutional type
of cleaning; two suites of doctors’ offices; and private homes and
Classes are held daily from 9 a. m. to noon during the 3-week course.
Trainees are required to be punctual and have perfect attendance;
tardiness or lost time must be made up. These rules are strictly en­
forced in order1 to accustom the women to a routine which requires
them to arise early and be at work at a designated time. The staff
is composed of two persons: an employment representative who is a
permanent staff member of the Illinois Public Aid Commission and

housework and related service jobs
is responsible for planning the program, selecting the trainees, and
placing the graduates; and the instructor who was employed specifi­
cally for this program.
Between March 1952 and June 1953, eight groups—a total of 69
women—completed the 3-week course. Some of the trainees found
jobs in private homes either on a full-time or part-time basis; the rest
were placed in cleaning jobs in commercial or industrial establish­
ments. However, as stated by the program’s employment representa­
tive,. “The trainees employed gained more than a job; they obtained
satisfaction from leaving the rut of dependency to follow a more in­
dependent way of life.”


There seems to be less discrimination against older women by em­
ployers in the restaurant industry than in many other industries.
Restaurant owners are apt to regard mature women as desirable em­
ployees, possessing certain positive qualities well suited to the foodservice occupations. Employers have found them to be stable, courte­
ous, dependable, and cooperative in this work where public contact
is important. Also, many of (he mature women are willing to accept
work on shifts found inconvenient by younger women.
Although work in the food-service industry ranges from general
helpers in cafeterias to hostesses in the more expensive eating establish­
ments, the bulk of the jobs are for waitresses. Of the 850,000 women
reported by the 1950 census as employed in eating and drinking estab­
lishments, approximately 450,000 were waitresses. Women cashiers
numbered 22.000 and counter and fountain workers numbered 17,000.
(Hostesses are included with waitresses.)
The four programs studied differ widely in the level of jobs for
which students are prepared, in length of training, and in basic pur­
pose. In Washington, I). C., a training program for waitresses, host­
esses, and cashiers, jointly sponsored by the Board of Education and
the local restaurant association, was in operation in 1953, as well as
a commercial-foods course conducted by the Hannah Harrison School.
In Denver, a program for waitress, cashier, and hostess training was
offered as part of the public school system’s adult-education program
and, in Chicago, the Department of Welfare had developed a program
to prepare recipients of public assistance for employment as general
helpers in cafeterias and restaurants.
Although varying in many ways, the four programs had two char­
acteristics in common: First, a considerable proportion of the trainees
in all four programs were mature women; many were past 50 years.
Second, the women completing the courses were easily placed.
One of the chief reasons for the ease with which the mature women
graduates were placed is the shortage of competent food-service work­
ers which has existed in many localities since 1940. In fact, two of
the four programs—the one conducted by the Board of Education
and the Restaurant Association in Washington and the course given by
the Denver school—were developed at the request of the local restau­
rant industry because of shortages of trained food-service personnel.

food-service occupations

Waitress, Hostess, and Cashier Training: Washington, D. C.
Dating back to February 1940, this joint project of the Board of
Education and Restaurant Association shows how the schools can
assist industry to meet a personnel shortage and, at the same time, pro­
vide the training needed by mature women job seekers.
Costs are shared; the school system provides funds for the instruc­
tors salary while tire Association provides training space and facilities,
and pays for advertising and placement. Responsibilities are also
shared. The Board of Education develops the course of study; and
the Association selects the trainees and places them after the course
is completed.
1 his free, 4-week course calls for 2 hours of class attendance, 5
days each week. Classes are given both mornings and evenings; and
the students may choose the more convenient time. Trainees are re­
cruited chiefly by advertisements inserted in the help-wanted columns
of local newspapers a few days before the opening of a new class.
1 he course is planned to train—in sequence—waitresses, hostesses,
and cashiers. During the first 2 weeks, the trainees are taught how a
waitress takes care of her station, receives and seats guests, takes orders
for meals, gives and picks up orders in the kitchen, and serves meals,
tn the third week students are taught to perforin the supervisory, ad­
ministrative, and public-relations duties of a hostess. In the last week,
use of the cash register and other usual duties of a cashier are ex­
plained. Throughout the course; conscious efforts are made by the
instructor to instill self-confidence in the woman who is apprehensive
about securing a job because of her age. One lesson during the final
week is devoted entirely to a discussion of the advantages of maturity
in this type of work.
Although the course is open to men and women of all ages, the
majority of trainees have been women between 40 and GO years of age.
Detailed information secured on the 26 women enrolled in the Decem­
ber 1953 class showed that G were under 35 years, 3 were between 35 and
39 years, and 17 were 40 years of age or over.
Placement is not guaranteed, but almost all the women secure jobs
when they complete the course. For example, of the 20 women over
35 years who attended the December 1953 class, 14 were working a
month later, 2 were not available for employment, and 4 were to be
employed shortly.

Commercial-Foods Course: Washington, D. C.
I his 5-month course is one of four training programs offered by
the Hannah Harrison School, described in more detail elsewhere in


training mature women for employment
-------- -------------------------------------- I
tMs report. The commercial-foods course is taught by the school dieti­
tian and the school’s kitchen and dining room serve as laboratories
for the practical application of instruction in planning menus, pur­
chasing food, cooking, and serving.
Between the fall of 1950 and the spring of 1953, nine women over35 years enrolled in this course and all but one completed the training.
The 8 women over 35 who completed the course were placed. Three
women went to work in hospitals, 2 in restaurants, 2 iir stores, and
1 in a museum. The level of work secured by the women varied con­
siderably: four of the women became food supervisors; the others
secured jobs as hostess, cashier, cook, and counter girl.

Waitress, Cashier, and Hostess Training: Denver
The training course for waitresses, cashiers, and hostesses has been
offered yearly since first added to the Emily Griffith Opportunity
School’s curriculum at the request of restaurant owners unable to find
competent personnel. As students are interested in different types of
food-service jobs, the school permits a choice in courses of study.
The complete food-service course is 1G weeks in length and calls for
5 hours’ attendance, 5 days each week. In addition, there is a 4-week
course for busboys, and an 8-week course for women who wish to be
waitresses only.
All food-service students except busboys receive the 8 weeks of wait­
ress instruction and practice. After this, those women desiring to
become either cashiers or hostesses are given 4 weeks of cashier train­
ing followed by 4 weeks of hostess training. Throughout the course,
stress is placed on the development of a pleasing personality and
appearance, courtesy, and good customer relations. Daily classes con­
sist of 1 hour of lecture and discussion and 4 hours of practice train­
ing in the school dining room, serving lunch to students and faculty.
During this practice, students are encouraged to develop speed, ac­
curacy, and confidence. The dining-room standards of service that
the trainees are required to meet are comparable to those in the best
Anyone 16 years or over may apply for admission to the course.
The teacher of the class interviews applicants and screens them on
the basis of their interest, physical condition, appearance, and ap­
parent ability to get along with others. In case of doubt, the testingsection of the school is requested to give appropriate aptitude or
psychological tests.
Since the inception of the course, the majority of students have
been mature women. Between September 1952 and June 1953 there

food-service occupations
were 33 women trainees over 35 years. They constituted approxi­
mately two-thirds of the food-service students, and half were judged
to be over 50.
Every woman over 35 years who completed training during the
1952-53 school session was placed if she desired employment. Vir­
tually all the graduates of the 8-week waitress course secured jobs
as waitresses. Half of the 16-week course graduates were placed as
cashiers or hostesses; the rest secured jobs as waitresses. Although
the graduates of the 16-week course were often reluctant to accept
work as waitresses, it was judged best for them to do so with the
thought that they could move into a hostess or cashier job when a
vacancy arose.

Food-Service Training: Chicago
The food-service training program is one of four projects developed
by the Rehabilitation Division of the Chicago Department of Welfare
to prepare public-assistance recipients for productive employment.
This 4-week course is designed to provide unskilled persons with the
basic techniques needed to make them employable as general helpers in
cafeterias, dining rooms, cafes, and restaurants.
Since general orientation to good work habits and attitudes is even
more important for assistance recipients than it is for the average
new worker, the first week is devoted to this aspect of their training.
During the second week, food-service students are assigned to the
city-operated cafeteria in the department of welfare building, where
they receive a direct introduction to their duties. The final 2 weeks
are spent working in cafeterias and dining rooms operated by three
cooperating non-profit organizations. Supervisors of the cooperating
cafeterias and restaurants help the trainees adjust to duties as met
with on the job and, at the end of the 2 weeks, evaluate them on such
factors as performance, aptitude, attendance, and appearance.
Trainees who complete the course satisfactorily are graduated at a
special ceremony held by the Chicago Department of Welfare. Each
“graduate” receives a diploma; for many of these women this is the
first award ever received. The final event of graduation day is the
distribution of job referrals by the vocational counselor.
Seventeen food-service training courses had been held between the
time the project was initiated in September 1952 and the end of 1953.
Of the 81 trainees enrolled since the course’s inception, almost all were
over 35. Records for a group of 20 recent trainees show that most
were' past 40, and that some were past 60. The majority of these
women, after completing the course, secured work as general helpers


training mature women for employment
in cafeterias or dining rooms. Others found jobs as bus girls or
second cooks and a few became cleaners in private homes or hotels.
Short histories of two trainees illustrate the value of the project
in helping to secure jobs for hard-to-place women of mature years.
Mrs. H—Mrs. H had lived in Chicago for the last 18 of her 53 years.
She had worked as inspector in a felt factory for 10 years, but was laid
off when the factory curtailed operations. After looking for a job for over
a year, she was forced to seek public assistance. Mrs. H was classified
as potentially employable and assigned to food-service training. She was
found to be an apt student and completed the course successfully. On her
first job referral, she was hired as second cook in a private institution and
received one of the highest rates of pay offered a food-service course
Mrs. I—At age 45, Mrs. I's most recent job was that of maid, but she
had been employed for only 4 months when she broke her hip. While
physically unable to work, she had been helped by family and friends. On
her recovery, however, she was unable to find another job and applied for
public assistance. Assigned to the food-service project, Mrs. I completed
the course and, with the help of the Rehabilitation Division, immediately
secured work as a cafeteria helper in a home for the aged.


The occupations of beauty operator and saleswoman currently offer
fruitful employment opportunities for mature women. Trade schools
and high schools in many communities include these two courses
among the long list of daytime or evening classes given free of charge
as part of the public school program. In general, the courses are
given to meet the employment needs of the young girl rather than of
the older woman.
The public school system in a community, however, can be one of
the chief resources for training mature men and women for employ­
ment. In some communities, this resource has been developed and
utilized; in others, it remains untapped. The Emily Griffith Oppor­
tunity School in Denver supplies an example of an adult-education
system designed “. . . to give folks who need more training just as
much or as little as they want, and at the moment they want it.”
Ever since 1916, when 2,398 adults—instead of the 200 expected on
opening night—flocked to the school planned for Denver residents
aged 16 or over, there lias been a continuous expansion in the school's
activities and enrollment. Several years after the school was opened,
a few vocational classes given on nonschool property proved so pop­
ular that the idea of taking instruction to the students became an in­
tegral part of the program. During the depression of the early 1930’s,
counselors were added as part of an organized guidance program to
assist trained but unemployed students to prepare for, and find, jobs.
In the fall of 1953, over 200 courses were being taught to 23,000
students. Many of these courses were given in local business estab­
lishments, community centers, and public school buildings.
The classroom informality that is customary enables the instructors
to combine teaching with counseling. Like most of those engaged
in training mature women, the school staff finds that continual coun­
seling—in matters both personal and vocational—contributes mate­
rially to their success in finding and keeping a job.
The training programs for beauty operators and saleswomen given
by the Emily Griffith Opportunity School are described in this


training mature women for employment

Cosmetology: Denver
Although the 9-montli cosmetology course is not designed especially
for mature women, 33 of the 70 persons enrolled in the course during
the 1952-53 school session were women of 35 years or over. About
two-thirds of these women were beginners and had enrolled for the
full course; the remainder were former beauty operators who had
joined the class to prepare for the State board of cosmetology
Classes are scheduled for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and are held
during the daytime except for a supplementary course on sales tech­
niques given at night for a 6-week period. Each day begins with 1
hour of theory in which students are taught a limited amount of anat­
omy, physiology, and chemistry. Students spend the rest of the morn­
ing on station, receiving instruction and practicing on one another.
In the afternoon, the trainees practice on customers who have regular
appointments at the school and are charged only the cost of supplies.
Weekly tests in theory are given; time records on practical operations
are kept for each student; and the final examination is patterned after
that of the State board of cosmetology. The intensive nature and
high standards of the course are shown by the fact that, since the
course began 14 years ago, only one student who took the State ex­
amination failed to pass.

A cosmetology student practices on a “customer.”

cosmetology and retail sales
The placement record of the women completing the cosmetology
course is excellent. Not only have the graduates, regardless of age,
generally secured jobs but—with the help of the school—most of the
women had jobs waiting for them. Of the 15 mature women in the
beginners’ group who completed training during the 1952-53 school
year, 2 opened their own shops and the rest were employed as beauty
operators. All eight mature women in the refresher group also found
immediate employment.
The ease with which these women were placed illustrates the need
for competent beauticians in many localities. The 189,000 women
employed as “beauticians, barbers, and manicurists” in 1950 were
16,000 fewer than women in the same occupations in 1940.

Retail Sales: Denver
An even more extensive shortage exists for competent saleswomen.
The course given at the Emily Griffith Opportunity School to pre­
pare interested persons for retail sales work merits special attention
because of the large number of jobs for mature women in this field.
In 1950, according to the United States Bureau of the Census, there
were 1,192,000 women employed as saleswomen in retail trade estab­
lishments, and more than half of these women were 35 or over. In
addition, the fact that numerous part-time jobs are available in this
occupation makes it one that offers special advantages to many older
women who do not wish full-time work.
In general, there are few age restrictions in hiring retail sales per­
sonnel. Employers frequently hire women over 50 for sales work,
and some employers set no maximum age limitation. Also, those
older women interested in part-time jobs furnish the personnel needed
to handle peak business loads and to substitute during relief periods
of full-time employees.
Although retail sales work is not an occupation which requires
extensive training, it involves a type of skill that can be advanta­
geously developed by instruction. Such preemployment training is
particularly valuable when there are many job applicants and em­
ployers are able to choose those with previous experience.
Organized to supply trained salespeople for the Denver area and
to assist persons encountering placement difficulties, the “retail sales
and personality development course” covers basic principles of sales­
manship and acquaints the students with actual work situations.
Classes are held 2 hours daily, during the daytime, for a school semes­
ter of 19 weeks. In addition to teaching the specific duties of filling
out sales checks, making basic arithmetical computations, operating


training mature women for employment
a cash register, and wrapping packages, some instruction is given on
general retail-store operation.
Three weeks of the course are devoted to personality development.
During this part of the course, work habits and attitudes, employeecustomer relations, and basic factors influencing personality are dis­
cussed. The teacher intensifies her efforts to help the students become
psychologically adjusted to the business world. In devoting so much
time to this subject, the school has been guided by the belief—held by
many store executives—that the qualities most needed to be a good
salesperson are emotional maturity, a pleasing personality, the ability
to meet the public, and a neat appearance. This part of the training
is considered especially important for the older women who often
lack the self-confidence and aggressive drive needed for successful
sales work.
The two courses given during the 1952-53 school year were,attended
by 69 students. Of these, 46 were women and approximately half of
the women were over 35 years. Many of the trainees in this group
were married women interested in part-time jobs as a means of sup­
plementing the family income and participating in some out-of-the
home activity. The majority of the mature women students com­
pleted the course and subsequently secured work as saleswomen in de­
partment stores or other retail establishments.


Five programs studied by the Women’s Bureau illustrate attempts
made by three communities to alleviate local nursing shortages, and
the important part played by middle-aged and older women in pro­
viding the urgently needed labor supply. Only one of the programs,
a refresher course for registered nurses, attempts to augment the sup­
ply of active professional nurses. The other four programs deal with
training practical nurses or auxiliary workers such as nurse aides and
hospital attendants.
The New York City Department of Hospitals is comprised of 33 in­
stitutions owned and operated by the city. In early 1952, the continu­
ing shortage of nursing workers caused the commissioner of hospitals
to publicize the situation. lie wrote to 25 major counseling groups
and women’s organizations describing the urgent need and stressing
the fact that qualified women, particularly those over 40, were desired
as trainees for the three programs offered by the department. These
programs are: an 8-week refresher course for inactive registered
nurses, a 1-year practical-nurse training course, and 4 weeks of onthe-job training for nurse aides. Although trainee recruitment was
stimulated by the 1952 publicity campaign, the nursing shortage con­
tinued acute, with the greatest need for registered nurses. The use of
practical nurses and nurse aides to perform a variety of tasks in order
to ease the workload of the professional nurses is illustrated by com­
paring positions budgeted and positions filled, as of August 31, 1953,
in the 33 institutions administered by the Department of Hospitals:

Jobs budgeted---------------------------------------- 14, 697
Jobs filled------------------ -----------------------13,212



7, 415

2, 435


4, 847

In Chicago, a 4-week course to train Hospital attendants was devel­
oped by the Rehabilitation Division of the Chicago Department of
Welfare. The choice of occupation was determined to a large extent
by the fact that there was a shortage of competent hospital attendants
in the Chicago area.
In Colorado, the shortage of nursing personnel prompted the Gov­
ernor to call a statewide conference in 1946 on the problem. A result­
ant study made by hospital and school administrators approved the
integration of the practical nurse into the nursing team and formu-


training mature women for employment
lated a practical-nursing program with minimum standards for in­
struction, curriculum, and student qualifications. In 1949, a practicalnurse training program jointly operated by the Emily Griffith Op­
portunity School and three Denver hospitals was established in ac­
cord with the suggested standards.
Mature women composed a large proportion of the trainees in the
five programs at the time of the study. In New York City, 189 of the
202 women enrolled in the refresher course were 35 or over, and a
large proportion of the practical-nurse and nurse-aide trainees were
over 40. Almost all the women attending the Chicago hospital-at­
tendants’ training course were over 40; in Denver, women over 35 com­
prised slightly over half the graduates of the practical-nurse train­
ing program.
None of the mature women completing any of these training pro­
grams, regardless of occupational level, had difficulty securing work.
The shortage of professional nurses, practical nurses, and other com­
petent nursing workers is so prevalent that frequently no age maxi­
mum is set by employers when hiring nursing personnel.
Despite the current acute shortages, training opportunities have
age restrictions. Almost no courses are open to the middle-aged
woman who wishes to become a professional nurse; an entry age ceil­
ing of 35 years is practically universal among schools of nursing. This
is not true for the occupation of practical nurse, where women in their
forties are encouraged to enter training, although women over 50 or
55 years are frequently barred. It is interesting to note that, though a
maximum age for entrance was set at 50 to 55 years by the New York
practical-nurse program, individual exceptions were made and, of the
88 trainees who were over 35, 11 were between 50 and 54 years and 3
were 55 or over. In Denver, no age maximum was set for entrance to
the course and, of the 92 women trainees, 10 were between 50 and 54
years, and 11 were 55 years of age or over.

Refresher Course for Registered Nurses: New York City
The program to provide refresher training for professional nurses
began in June 1952. Its purpose was to acquaint inactive registered
nurses, through classroom instruction and practice work, with the most
recent developments in the profession. Classes were scheduled in four
municipal hospitals and, between June 1952 and September 1953, a to­
tal of 202 women had participated in the nine courses that were held.
Only women with diplomas from an accredited school of nursing were

the nursing occupations
Of the 202 women who enrolled in the refresher course, only 13 were
under o5 years. Most of the women were in their forties or fifties
although ages ranged as high as the seventies.
Two types of training schedules, full time and part time, were de­
veloped. However, only the part-time schedule has been used because
the majority of members of each of the nine classes, when given a
choice, selected the part-time course. This schedule requires attend­
ance 2 or 3 days each week for 8 weeks, in contrast with the full-time
schedule requiring attendance 5 days a week for a month.
dhe training time is divided evenly between classroom instruction
and supervised nursing service in the wards. Both individual and
group instruction are given, and teaching techniques are ad justed to
the needs of each class. Each trainee is rated during the course and,
at the end of the course, students are required to pass written
Nurses who complete the course are expected to accept employment
in a city hospital for at least 3 months, and over two-thirds of the
graduates were placed in city hospitals. Of those remaining, a few
found other nursing jobs but most—for personal reasons—were unable
to return to nursing.

Practical-Nurse Training: New York City
Since the development of the acute shortage of professional and
other nursing personnel during World War II, there have been notable
changes in the occupation of practical nurse. Many States have estab­
lished new requirements for licensing and new standards of practice.
In addition, training opportunities have expanded considerably.
At present, most practical-nurse training is conducted in three
ways: by the public-school system, by private schools affiliated with
hospitals, or by schools operated by hospitals. The Denver practicalnurse program described later in the chapter is conducted jointly by
the public school system and three local hospitals. The New York
City program is operated completely by the hospitals.
Before World War II the New York City Department of Hospitals
had hired practical nurses from those trained, sometimes in coopera­
tion with the city-operated hospitals, by the public education system,
or by community organizations. However, the shortage of practical
nurses caused the department to open its own school, the Central
School for Practical Nurses, in 1943. Students receive free uniforms
and $10 a month. They may live at the school, where full mainte­
nance is provided, unless they prefer to live at home.


training mature women for employment
The 12-month program consists of 4 months of classroom work and
supervised care of patients, followed by 8 months of supervised prac­
tice in hospital wards. The 8 months of ward practice is spent half
in a general hospital and half in a hospital for the chronically ill. On
satisfactory completion of the course, students receive a certificate
which makes them eligible to take the licensing examination required
by New York State since 1938.
Students are carefully selected; on the average, only 1 out of every
3 applicants is found to be qualified. Information secured on 88
trainees who were over 35 showed that many of these women had per­
formed nursing duties before entering and had enrolled at the school
to improve their skills. A considerable number, however, wanted to
change from another type of work to practical nursing, which they
considered more interesting and higher paid. Personal interviews
with 1 student and 1 former student supplied information on why they
had enrolled in the course.
Mrs. J—The student, Mrs. J, was 36 years of age and childless. She had
been married for 11 years to a construction worker who did not earn enough
to support them, since his work was seasonal. She had enrolled in the course
because she had leisure time, liked to take care of sick people, and belio\ed
the occupation of practical nurse offered job security.
Mrs. K__Separated from her husband, Mrs. K had a married son and
daughter. She had never worked before but found that she was lonesome
and had too much leisure time. Becoming interested in caring for sick
people, Mrs. K entered the school in 1948 and had been working for the
Department of Hospitals since she was graduated in 1949. Mrs. K, aged 54,
enjoys her job and receives much satisfaction from working as a practical

The large majority of the women completing the course went to
work as practical nurses, not only in city-operated hospitals, but in
other institutions, or on private duty. The work performance of the
women over 35 who became practical nurses was highly commended
by the supervisory staffs of the various hospitals. It was felt that
mature women have generally selected the vocation, as shown in the
cases of Mrs. J and Mrs. K, because of their interest in nursing as well
as in securing a job. In addition, mature women usually have had a
certain amount of nursing experience in their own homes, are aware
of some of the less pleasant duties the job entails, and are reliable and
steady workers.

Nurse-Aide Training: New York City
A. 4-week program to train nurse aides in order to insure better
care for patients was instituted simultaneously in the 33 city-operated
hospitals in 1947. The program has been in continuous operation and,

the nursing occupations
although the exact number trained each year varies, the numbers
are always large. In 1951, for example, there were 2,610 students
Persons interested in, and qualified for, a job as a nurse aide are
hired with the understanding that they will be trained 4 weeks before
being given their regular ward assignment. They are paid the regu­
lar nurse-aide wage rate throughout the training period. Recruits are
secured through newspaper and magazine articles, through recommen­
dations of former trainees, and through the local office of the New
Nork State Employment Service.
Although some of the trainees are men, the greater number are
women. Many of the women trainees, although not the majority, are
women over 35. For example, of 533 trainees enrolled in the course
given at one of the city hospitals between December 1951 and June
1953, 18 percent were men, 61 percent were women under 35, and 21
percent—111 women—were over 35.
Information secured for 100 women trainees in the over-35 age
group showed that 81 completed the training and were assigned to
regular jobs as nurse aides in the hospital. In October 1953, 72 of
these 81 women were still working as nurse aides. As judged by their
supervisors, all but two women were doing average or above average

Hospital-Attendant Training: Chicago
The 4-week hospital attendant program is 1 of 4 projects developed
by the Rehabilitation Division of the Chicago Department of Wel­
fare to train persons receiving public assistance for employment. Be­
tween the beginning of the program in September 1952 and Decem­
ber 1953, 12 classes had been held in which a total of 131 public-assist­
ance recipients—almost all women past 35 years—had been enrolled.
Throughout the 4 weeks, trainees receive their usual allotments plus
payments for special expenses incurred.
One of the vocational and placement counselors of the Rehabilita­
tion Division is made responsible for each class. The counselor’s
duties include selecting the trainees, teaching the class during the first
week, arranging for the other 3 weeks of training, and securing jobs
for students who complete the course.
The first week of the course is devoted to general orientation to­
ward both training and employment. During the second week,
trainees report to the Red Cross offices for the regular home-nursing
course offered by this organization, in the last 2 weeks each trainee
is assigned, on a 40-hour week basis, to 1 of 7 cooperating institutions


training mature women for employment
to work under the supervision of a nurse or regular hospital
Shortly after the course is completed, almost all who are willing
and able to work are placed as nurse aides. Many of the trainees in
the early classes were retained as regular employees by the hospitals
or institutions where they received their last 2 weeks of training.

Practical-Nurse Training: Denver
Both hospitals and school administrators participated in planning
and organizing the 1-year practical-nurse program jointly operated,
since 1949, by the Emily Griffith Opportunity School and three Den­
ver hospitals. The actual training takes place in the hospitals and
is conducted by teachers who are also registered nurses. The teachers’
salaries, however, are paid by the school, which also has the responsi­
bility for curriculum planning, overall administration of the pro­
gram, and recruitment of trainees. Although the State of Colorado
does not regulate standards of instruction or issue licenses for practi­
cal nurses, this program has been accredited by the National Associa­
tion for Practical Nurse Education.
A number of problems faced in the first years after the program was
adopted have been solved in large measure by adding to the staff of
the school the position of nurse-educator. This has enabled one per­
son to devote full time to coordinating the program, facilitating the
exchange of teaching techniques and experiences among the three
hospitals, and standardizing the textbooks used and the amount of
time devoted to specific subjects.
Recruitment, formerly handled by each hospital, was also channeled
through the nurse-educator because it was difficult and time consum­
ing. Experience had shown that approximately 60 persons must be
interviewed to form a class of 20 students. Also, the criteria used
in student selection had varied by hospital, and there had been quite
a number who dropped out of the course. Further study of the prob­
lem and concentration of responsibility in the nurse-educator have
resulted in more standardized selection and fewer dropouts.
In order to obtain a sufficient number of qualified trainees, the school
has developed a recruitment program which utilizes the press, the
radio, and personal contacts. The school announces the formation of
each new class and prepares news and feature stories; the cooperating
hospitals place classified advertisements in local newspapers; and the
nurse-educator speaks before club and school groups. Publicity is also
given to the fact that the course is free and that the students can earn
as they learn. Students are paid $60 a month by the hospital after

the nursing occupations
their first 4 months of training, and $90 a month after their second 4
A weekly schedule of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, prevails through­
out the course. The trainees spend most of their first 1G weeks in the
classroom receiving instruction in nursing theory. The remainder of
the course is spent chiefly in floor duty in the hospital wards and in
practice duty with patients cared for by the Visiting Nurse Service
in private homes.
Women over 35 comprised slightly more than half of the 93 trainees
enrolled in the six practical-nursing courses offered between September
9o2 and August 1953. Practical-nursing jobs were secured by all
women who completed their year of training. Approximately oneiourth entered private duty; the others secured jobs in hospitals,
often m the hospitals at which they were trained. In December 1953
all but three women were known to be still employed.


The extensive use of women as production workers in the electronics
industry began during World War II when critical labor shortages
forced employers to seek new sources of labor for their rapidly ex­
panding plants. When production was cut back during the postwar
period, overall employment in the industry declined, with the decrease
greatest among women workers. However, after the outbreak of
fighting in Korea, the percentage of women in the industry again rose
along with an increase in the total number of workers.
In 1951, two precision-instrument manufacturers in New hork
State—finding it necessary to employ inexperienced women workers—
began to train women, including a substantial number past 35 years,
for production jobs. One program, 4 months in length, was limited
to training women for electrical assembly and inspection work. The
other, an 18-month program, though concentrating on training for
assembly work, also prepared women for the more skilled and higher
paid jobs.
Satisfaction with the success of their training programs and with
the work of the mature women participants was voiced by officials
of both the electronics firms. In the opinion of one executive:
Women over 35 have proved themselves to be aptly suited for the type of
precision and sedentary electrical-assembly work which requires patience,
a light sensitive touch, and good eyesight. ... Our experience to date has
proved that women in the so-called “middle-aged-group” are, generally, more
adaptable to this type of work. Their general dependability is considerably
greater than those in the younger groups. Over 70 percent of the females
now employed in these occupations are over 35 years of age. The com­
posite average age for all female employees is 39 years. It is our conclusion
that the middle-aged woman possesses more patience to perform the precise,
tedious type ot work............ They pay more attention to job details, con­
centrate on the work at hand, and develop into more dependable employees.
Their home conditions are usually more stable—thus having less effect upon
their attendance and continuity of employment.

The type of production jobs filled by women workers in the electrical
manufacturing industry varies from company to company. Some firms
prefer to employ women for only a limited number of jobs such as
assembling, winding, or inspecting. Other companies have a more flex­
ible employment policy for women and place them in a wider range of

production work in electronics industry
jobs. The companies studied serve, to a certain extent, as examples
of each of these two approaches.
Both companies were alike, however, in their willingness to consider
older women as well as younger ones for training and employment.
More than one-third of the 190 women completing the 4-month train­
ing program were 35 or over, and more than two-thirds of the 250
women recruited for the 18-month training program were over 35.

A 4-Month Program: New York State
An on-the-job training program to prepare women for work as
electrical assemblers and inspectors was established in 1951 by a com­
pany engaged in designing, developing, and manufacturing precision
instruments. Having employed women during World War II, the
company once more turned to hiring women when increased orders in
1951 again required more workers.
Virtually the same procedures are used to train the recruits for both
assembly and inspection work. Since the company’s policy is to hire
only a few women at a time, it has been possible to follow what has
been described as the “see and show” method. When a new operation
is to be learned, an experienced woman worker sitting next to the
trainee demonstrates the steps to be followed. If there are questions
that cannot be answered by the demonstrator, a leadman is consulted.
Assembly operations taught the trainees include cutting, skinning,
and soldering of lugs to wires; simple wiring of small units and sub­
assemblies: forming and lacing of cables; coil winding; and simple
mechanical assembling of electrical component parts. Training for
inspection operations includes blueprint reading, the use of basic meas­
uring instruments, and repetitive inspection of large quantities of pur­
chased materials or of parts machined in the plant. The women pro­
gress toward reading complex blueprints or rough drawings so that
they can be given responsibility for the inspection of more complicated
parts. As inspection work requires mathematical accuracy, only
women who have completed high school with a good grade in mathe­
matics are accepted for this type of training.
While the instruction is informal, the progressive pay scale estab­
lished for trainees has been formalized by an agreement with the union
representing the production workers. At the end of the 4-month train­
ing period, women are classified as either class D wi reman or class D
parts inspector. However, instruction on new operations continues to
alternate with repetitive production work since continual changes are
made in the equipment manufactured.


training mature women for employment
A total of 250 women were hired bet ween the program’s inception in
April 1951 and December 1953. Of these, 190 completed the training
program. More than one-third of the trainees—70 women—were 35
years or over.
Information secured on 40 of these women who had completed their
training showed that 35 were classified as class D wiremen and 5 as
class D parts inspectors immediately upon completion. By December
1953, 10 of the 40 t rainees had progressed to class C wiremen and 4 to
class C parts inspectors. All these class C workers had received merit
wage increases in their new jobs.

An 7 8-Month Program: New York State
Recruiting plant workers became a problem to this company in 1951
when it began to manufacture, in quantity, the electro-mechanical
equipment it had previously developed. Located in an area where
experienced workers were in short supply, the company turned to hir­
ing women, the only local source of additional personnel. No hiring
age ceilings were set. Selection of new employees was based on health,
eyesight with glasses, and indications of intelligence, stability, and
patience. At first, new workers were chosen on the basis of a personal
interview. Subsequently, finger dexterity and mechanical comprehen­
sion tests—devised by the company with the help of the Employment
Service—were also used.
To help the new women recruits learn the specialized techniques
used in the plant, the company developed an 18-month on-the-job
training program. A period of this length was set because of the need
for assemblers proficient in many intricate and exact operations. In
this plant—because of the continuation of experimental work, con­
stant product improvement, and frequent rush orders—each assembler
must know more than one phase of an operation.
Most of the women are trained to become winder assemblers or in­
strument assemblers since those are the workers most needed. The
winder assembler trainees prepare wire coils for transformers and other
electrical units, and also learn how to operate various types of coil­
winding machines. Operations taught women learning to become
instrument assemblers include polishing shafts with fine abrasives;
alining gears; bending and forming electrical components; fastening
chassis parts; soldering wires; and laying out and harnessing compli­
cated multiwire patterns.
Upon reporting to work, each trainee is assigned to an instructor, a
woman who usually helps eight women and is located at a nearby work­
bench. The instructors are not supervisors; they demonstrate tech­

production work in electronics industry
niques, keep watch on each trainee’s progress, and supply work ma­
terials when needed.
In accord with the company’s stated policy of basing hiring decisions
on individual ability regardless of age, sex, or physical handicaps,
women workers are not restricted to jobs as winder or instrument as­
semblers. When job openings occur in the machine shop or in the
inspection or sheet-metal departments, women believed suitable for
that work are transferred; if none are available, new trainees are sent
there directly. Women learning these jobs receive instruction in the
routine operation of various machines and equipment, and gradually
become responsible for working more independently and on more
difficult assignments.
No production requirements are set for the new trainees since staff
members in all departments emphasize that it takes time to learn to
coordinate the hand and eye, and that stress on speed can spoil the
quality of work. Each woman is allowed to progress at her own rate.
Accuracy is of overriding importance in the production of precision
instruments, and the entire training program is designed to insure
high quality production.
About 250 women have been recruited for this training program
since its inception in 1951. It is estimated that 70 percent were at
least 35 years of age. On the basis of work records for 39 women in the
over-35 group, it was found that 26 completed the 18-month training.
Most of these trainees—18 women—became winder assemblers; 6 be­
came instrument assemblers; and 2 became winder or assembler tech­
nicians. A followup study of the same group made a few months
later showed that additional graduates had advanced to the techni­
cian grade, and that one woman had become a leadwoinan.


Learning New Skills After 35
Women 35 years or over constituted at least half of the trainees
in 18 of the 23 programs, and a substantial proportion in the remain­
ing 5. Women in their forties and fifties predominated, although
ages ranged to over seventy. On the whole, these women proved satis­
factory as students and, after completing their training, became compe­
tent workers.
Without exception, the instructors and administrators of the train­
ing programs stressed the fact that learning proficiency depended on
individual ability, regardless of age. Some of the instructors stated
that—in general, and allowing for a wide range of individual dif­
ferences—older women did not do as well as younger students in
class work and theory, but were better in demonstration and practice
work. These instructors thought that, since mature women had been
away from school for many years, they were no longer accustomed to
studying. In a number of courses, therefore, a conscious effort was
made to minimize theory and textbook work and emphasize the
practice technique.
The need of mature women for individualized counseling and guid­
ance was stressed by the majority of training program administra­
tors. Major emphasis was usually placed on developing the self­
confidence of the trainees, helping them to learn how to get along with
others, improving their health and appearance, and teaching them
good work habits. Services of professional psychologists and other
specialists were available in a few of the projects, but generally it was
the teacher who also filled the role of counselor.

Finding a Job
Most of the “35 plus” trainees were able to find employment, when
they completed training. In almost all instances, the women secured
jobs doing the work for which they had been trained.
Although the projects did not usually guarantee employment,
trainees were given considerable assistance in finding a job. Many
of the courses included instructions on how to apply for work, how
to fill out application forms, and how to behave during job inter­
views. In addition, the programs provided job placement services.

Some of the factors which brought about the successful placement
records ol most of the programs can be isolated:
1. Job opportunities existed in the occupation for which training
was offered.
2. The training programs had preparation for employment as a
nia.joi purpose, and had established adequate performance
standards which had to be attained by the trainees.
'*■ 11 ainees were carefully selected, and applicants judged un­
able to meet training or employment standards were rejected.
+. Classes were usually small, and trainees were given sufficient
individual attention to enable each to progress at her own
a. Efforts were made in almost all the courses to reproduce, or use,
actual work situations, and instructors were generally per­
sons v itli considerable work as well as teaching experience.
ti. Close contact was maintained with local employers, often
through the use of advisory committees that not only ad­
vised on the training programs but also cooperated in re­
cruitment and placement activities.
7. 1 rainees were given individualized placement assistance on the
basis of detailed knowledge by the placement officer, often
_ fhe project teacher, of the woman’s personality and abilities.
8. Consideration was given to the overall needs of the trainees in
many of the courses so that undesirable personal and work
attitudes were dealt with, as well as the lack of a specific skill.
I his resulted in preparing the women for employment and
the working world as well as for a particular type of work.
Middle-aged and older women constitute an essential segment of
this country’s overall manpower resources. In a number of the pro­
grams described in this report, employers—faced by shortages of
competent workers—turned to mature women as the source of the
urgently needed labor supply. On entering employment, such women
become contributors to our productive life and economic well-being.
The results achieved in these training programs show clearly that
women who have never worked or have not worked for many years
can—with proper counseling, training, and placement—become both
productive and satisfactory employees.


Characteristics of the 23 Training Programs Studied by the Women’s Bureau, 1953-54

Institution or project visited
Emily Griffith Opportunity School

Denver, Colo.


Occupation for which training offered

I Institutional housekeeper .
Waitress, cashier, hostess
Retail saleswoman
Practical nurse
________ ... ------------ -----------

Departmcnt of Hospitals New York, N. Y

Registered nurse (refresher)_____________
Practical nurse ---------- ------ ----------

Hannah Harrison School

Institutional housekeeper.. _
. .
Clothing construction and alteration worker

! Washington, D. C.

Department of Welfare____________

J Chicago, 111

Joint Department of Welfare and Board of Edu- New York, N. Y----cation Project.
Public Aid Commission: East St. Louis, 111
Hotel Train ing School - - Washington, D. C —
Joint Restaurant Association and Board of Edu- _ do-------- --------_
cation Project.
Community Hand-sewing Project....................... .
Scranton, Pa----------Community Power-sewing Project_____ ___
Hazleton, Pa---------L8-Month Electronics Company Program------------ New York State-----4-Month Electronics Company Programdo-------------------


Household or related worker.


Training time

19-38 weeks
8-16 weeks_____
9 months
19 weeks.. _____
1 year______ . . .
4-8 weeks
1 year. _________

5 months

12 weeks_______

I Industrial hand sewer
, Power sewing-machine operator------------------ ...
Assembler, technician or related worker .
| Assembler, inspector


4 months. .


13 weeks.................
4-6 weeks.._
18 months
4 months_ . ...




training mature women for employment