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Why Women Worked in the U.S. Meat-Packing Industry in 1932

Where women are supporting themselves or are the sole support of others, the importance to the family of their employment is fairly obvious. Of 634 women reporting who were not the sole support of themselves or others, it may be said in brief that roughly a third reported working because of insufficiency of husband’s earnings or the need to keep up the general family expenses, and almost another third had lost their husbands through death, desertion, or divorce, or were helping relatives other than husband and children. Another large group has been discussed-that in which the husband was unsteadily employed, either through the vicissitudes of industry or through his own incapacity. Many women reported being at work for some very definite purpose, such as to educate children, pay for a home, or pay a series of doctor and hospital bills, buy furniture, make a visit to the old country, or get a start in life and save something while young. A few specifically mentioned the high cost of living. Less than 3 percent gave choice rather than necessity as their reason for working. (U.S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau 1932; p. 126)