Historians of women’s labor in the United States at first largely disregarded the story of female service workers—women earning wages in occupations such as salesclerk , domestic servant, and office secretary. These historians focused instead on factory work, primarily because it seemed so different from traditional, unpaid “women’s work” in the home, and because the underlying economic forces of industrialism were presumed to be gender-blind and hence emancipatory in effect . Unfortunately, emancipation has been less profound than expected, for not even industrial wage labor has escaped continued sex segregation in the workplace.
To explain this unfinished revolution in the status of women, historians have recently begun to emphasize the way a prevailing definition of femininity often determines the kinds of work allocated to women, even when such allocation is inappropriate to new conditions. For instance, early textile-mill entrepreneurs, in justifying women’s employment in wage labor, made much of the assumption that women were by nature skillful at detailed tasks and patient in carrying out repetitive chores; the mill owners thus imported into the new industrial order hoary stereotypes associated with the homemaking activities they presumed to have been the purview of women. Because women accepted the more unattractive new industrial tasks more readily than did men, such jobs came to be regarded as female jobs. And employers, who assumed that women’s “real” aspirations were for marriage and family life, declined to pay women wages commensurate with those of men. Thus many lower-skilled, lower-paid, less secure jobs came to be perceived as “female.”
More remarkable than the origin has been the persistence of such sex segregation in twentieth-century industry. Once an occupation came to be perceived as “female.” employers showed surprisingly little interest in changing that perception, even when higher profits beckoned. And despite the urgent need of the United States during the Second World War to mobilize its human resources fully, job segregation by sex characterized even the most important war industries. Moreover, once the war ended, employers quickly returned to men most of the “male” jobs that women had been permitted to master.
Question: According to the passage, job segregation by sex in the United States was
- greatly diminished by labor mobilization during the Second World War
- perpetuated by those textile-mill owners who argued in favor of women’s employment in wage labor
- one means by which women achieved greater job security
- reluctantly challenged by employers except when the economic advantages were obvious
- a constant source of labor unrest in the young textile industry
Question: According to the passage, historians of women’s labor focused on factory work as a more promising area of research than service-sector work because factory work
- involved the payment of higher wages
- required skill in detailed tasks
- was assumed to be less characterized by sex segregation
- was more readily accepted by women than by men
- fitted the economic dynamic of industrialism better
Question: It can be inferred from the passage that early historians of women’s labor in the United States paid little attention to women’s employment in the service sector of the economy because
- the extreme variety of these occupations made it very difficult to assemble meaningful statistics about them
- fewer women found employment in the service sector than in factory work
- the wages paid to workers in the service sector were much lower than those paid in the industrial sector
- women’s employment in the service sector tended to be much more short-term than in factory work
- employment in the service sector seemed to have much in common with the unpaid work associated with homemaking
Question: The passage supports which of the following statements about the early mill owners mentioned in the second paragraph?
- They hoped that by creating relatively unattractive “female” jobs they would discourage women from losing interest in marriage and family life.
- They sought to increase the size of the available labor force as a means to keep men’s wages low.
- They argued that women were inherently suited to do well in particular kinds of factory work.
- They thought that factory work bettered the condition of women by emancipating them from dependence on income earned by men.
- They felt guilty about disturbing the traditional division of labor in family.
Question: It can be inferred from the passage that the “unfinished revolution” the author mentions in line 13 refers to the
- entry of women into the industrial labor market
- recognition that work done by women as homemakers should be compensated at rates comparable to those prevailing in the service sector of the economy
- development of a new definition of femininity unrelated to the economic forces of industrialism
- introduction of equal pay for equal work in all professions
- emancipation of women wage earners from gender-determined job allocation
Question: The passage supports which of the following statements about hiring policies in the United States?
- After a crisis many formerly “male” jobs are reclassified as “female” jobs.
- Industrial employers generally prefer to hire women with previous experience as homemakers.
- Post-Second World War hiring policies caused women to lose many of their wartime gains in employment opportunity.
- Even war industries during the Second World War were reluctant to hire women for factory work.
- The service sector of the economy has proved more nearly gender-blind in its hiring policies than has the manufacturing sector.
Question: Which of the following words best expresses the opinion of the author of the passage concerning the notion that women are more skillful than men in carrying out detailed tasks?
Question: Which of the following best describes the relationship of the final paragraph to the passage as a whole?
- The central idea is reinforced by the citation of evidence drawn from twentieth-century history.
- The central idea is restated in such a way as to form a transition to a new topic for discussion.
- The central idea is restated and juxtaposed with evidence that might appear to contradict it.
- A partial exception to the generalizations of the central idea is dismissed as unimportant.
- Recent history is cited to suggest that the central idea’s validity is gradually diminishing.
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