Women spark a fire in the workforce and history
March 28, 2017
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“Trailblazing Women in Business and Labor” is this year’s theme for the fifth annual women’s history month lecture hosted March 23, in the Leslie F. Malpass Library Garden Lounge.
The Women of the Western Illinois University History Department discussed women’s achievements throughout the years. History Department Chair Jennifer McNabb discussed the start of labor for women.
“Ordinary women, they were trailblazing in their own way,” McNabb said. “Women were excluded from guilds because it was too masculine for them. Guilds are exclusive organization for men to move up the job ladder. Women could not be masters, which were the top bosses.”
McNabb elaborated, saying that these kinds of restrictions continued over time, evolving into the modern view of a housewife.
McNabb continued quoting from the works of Alice Clark, an author known for writing on how women’s domestic work has changed throughout history.
“They didn’t focus on women in the 80s,” McNabb said. “Alice Clark says their work was finally recognized, and it was domestic work. They never got paid to do the work they were born to do, which was cleaning the house and take care of the children. Women also were held at a higher standard when it came to being pure and not speaking ill about others.”
McNabb said women still to this day aren’t treated equally. Women would do the same job as men but would get paid in clothing, while men would get clothing and money. Associate Professor of the History Department, Ute Chamberlin, said that over time, women started to help in the job force by default much like Amalie Krupp, who took over her husband’s business after he passed away.
“Krupp was married by 19 and a widow by 25,” Chamberlin said. “Her husband was 45 when she married him. Since he died, she inherited the Steel army man’s company. She had so many new ideas for the company. She had so many successes under her belt when (she was) the boss. Women in the Kurrp family played an important role in (the) company.”
According to Chamberlin, that role exemplified how faulty these views of women in the work force were.
“When she died, she gave her shares to her grandson because her son had died early,” Chamberlin said. “The grandson ended up running the company into the ground because he was not a businessman. Later women of the Krupp family tried to help, and other shareholders helped bring it back up. Women’s accomplishments were always pushed to the side and not honored.”
Ginny Boynton, professor of history, led on with the 20th century and women who went into the industry labor. She spoke on topics that affect people such as civil rights. These women have gotten several countries that support their achievement, giving examples of diverse women in the workforce.
“Dolores Huerta was an education major and was an activist for civil rights and she also worked as a teacher and hated that students were so poor and wanted to improve it,” Boynton said. “Hattie Canty was an education major and started a union and became president of two. Sandra Felmen was a maid at a hotel who fought for equal rights and civil rights and held a boycott for seven years. All these women came from nothing but worked to get more.”
Teejay Hanes, an RPTA major who was attending the lecture, said she learned many new things she would have never known before.
“I’m surprised there are men here and they also wanted to be informed about the history of women,” Hanes said. “I like how they talk about all races of women because everyone had it rough. It makes me sad that we are still fighting for women’s rights today, and we have been fighting since the ’60s.”