"Just like a woman. Six days late. Yet they try to make men believe they are capable of conducting a business."

During the antebellum era only women of low socio-economic status worked, but the combined effects of post-Civil War financial pressures and industrialization led to a growing ‘feminization’ of the workforce. Women were typically engaged as factory operatives, domestic servants, textile manufacturers and teachers, but from the late 19th century onwards, a growing number began to move into jobs and careers traditionally supposed to be better-suited to the more practical and rational sex. The transition was tied in with the women’s rights movement and its rebellion against the limitations imposed through gender norms. This quotation from The Convert (1907) by southern suffragette Elizabeth Robins nicely demonstrates the conflict in male and female positions:

 

Men have never told us it was unfeminine for women to do the heavy drudgery that's badly paid. That kind of work had to be done by somebody, and men didn’t hanker after it. Oh, no! Let the women scrub and cook and wash, or teach without diplomas on half pay. That’s all right. But if they want to try their hand at the better-rewarded work of the liberal professions – oh, very unfeminine indeed. (p. 253)