What Types of Jobs Did Women Have in 1900?

Updated April 17, 2017

Women had very few rights at the turn of the century. They certainly had no political rights. It was expected that the only skills they should possess were cooking, cleaning and sewing. Also expected was for a female to marry a man at a young age. If she was married, her place was at home. She was to take care of her children and household while her husband, figuratively, brought home the bacon. Being unmarried was chided by society, but single women needed to make a living. Since there was limited opportunity in 1900, there were very few respectable jobs a woman could attain.

Domestic Servants

Destitute times called for much needed help. A large portion of single women would acquire jobs as domestic servants. Unfortunately, the compensation was less than favourable, but it often provided the only means of survival. For this job, women were to work 15 hours a day, seven days a week. They were expected to tirelessly cook and clean. They would eat the leftovers of the meal they prepared for the family and weren't even paid actual wages. Their form of payment was a place to live, which was usually in a small room separate from the household.


Another occupation for women that was deemed acceptable by society was the schoolteacher. Still, rules set by the school district were strictly enforced. They were to dress simply with their bodies almost entirely covered. Skirts couldn't be more than two inches above the ankles. Female teachers weren't allowed to socialise with men or marry. If they did, they'd be dismissed from their job. An average schoolteacher's duties, aside from teaching, were to be the school janitor and set up holiday events.

Factory Mill Workers

Factory jobs mostly consisted of heavy lifting, more suited for the male workers at the time. So, women were given the job of packing merchandise and posting it. They were also given the task of cleaning the factory. Office jobs like secretaries and subordinate clerks were also available.

Telephone Operator

Originally, teenage boys were given telephone operator jobs. That proved to be a bad idea since they weren't mature enough. Eventually, women started being hired due to their pleasant voices, maturity and natural charisma that appealed to male callers. Still, they were paid less than men, and women who were Jewish or of African decent couldn't be hired.

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