The Changing Lives of American Women

 

The Changing Family

 

Age of First Marriage

Average Household Size

 

Male

Female

1790

--

--

5.79

1890

26.1

22.0

4.93

1900

25.9

21.9

4.76

1910

25.1

21.6

4.54

1920

24.6

21.2

4.34

1930

24.3

21.3

4.11

1940

24.3

21.5

3.77

1950

22.8

20.3

3.52

 

Age of Mothers at Various Stages of the Family Life Cycle

 

1880

1920

1950

Age of first marriage

22

21

20

Birth of first child

23

23

23

Birth of last child

34

31

30

Marriage of last child

55

54

51

Death of one spouse

56

65

66


Questions for Discussion

  1. Describe the basic changes that have taken place in the timing of key events of women's lives.
  2. How have these changes in your view altered the nature of family life?

 

Changes in Birth Rate

1800:

7-8 children per mother

1900:

3.5 children per mother


 

Changes in Divorce Rate

Year

Percentage of those married in that year that eventually divorced

1870

8%

1890

10%

1900

12%

1920

18%

1930

24%

1940

26%

1950

30%

1960

39%

1970

48%


Questions for Discussion

  1. What factors, in your view, contributed to the decline in the birth rate?
  2. Has the divorce rate risen sharply or gradually? What factors might have contributed to the increasing divorce rate?

 

Women in the Labor Force

 

1900

1930

Percentage of women in the labor force

20.6%

24.8%

Proportion of labor force made up of women

18.1%

21.9%


 

Occupational Distribution of Women Workers

 

1900

1930

Professionals

8

14

Managers

1

3

Clerical and sales

8

28

Skilled artisans

1

1

Operatives and laborers

26

19

Domestic Servants

29

18

Other Service Workers

7

10

Farmers

6

2

Farm Laborers

13

6


Questions for Discussion

  1. What proportion of women worked in 1900? in 1930?
  2. How did the occupational distribution of women workers change over time?

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