Women and the Workplace

  • Nancy A. Walker
Part of the The Bedford Series in History and Culture book series (BSHC)


The mass-circulation “service” magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s and Woman’s Home Companion always considered their readers to be women who worked—worked, that is, as homemakers and sometimes as volunteers in their communities. While these magazines frequently published articles about women who indisputably had careers outside the home—media celebrities, health professionals, journalists, and even politicians—these were clearly presented as exceptional women, not necessarily role models for the average reader. Both during the war years and afterward, the magazines mirrored the culture’s deep ambivalence about women’s paid employment. Titles of two articles in the January 1944 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal announce the two sides of a continuous argument: “You Can’t Have a Career and Be a Good Wife” and “Working Wives Make the Best Wives.” It is not surprising that in magazines aimed primarily at homemakers, the majority of articles on the subject warn of the dangers of trying to inhabit both worlds: fatigue, neglected children, husbands with threatened egos. A Journal poll in 1940 indicated that its readers agreed: 74 percent of those responding believed that housewives led “more pleasant lives” than did women who worked outside the home. Yet by 1948, in part because of the increase in women’s paid employment during World War II, a Census Bureau study found that seventeen million women were in the paid labor force, half of them married.


Married Woman Woman Worker Good Housekeeping Good Wife Pleasant Life 
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Copyright information

© Bedford/St. Martin’s 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy A. Walker
    • 1
  1. 1.Vanderbilt UniversityUSA

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