Here I go again, off on another issue dealing with Women’s Rights. Just writing that sentence makes me smile because I am the same woman who once said, “Gloria Steimen ruined it for the rest of us” and “I would be perfectly happy at home all the time waxing the floor and wearing pearls.”
Yes, there was a period in time when I, Nana Anna believed everything I ever wanted and every personal goal I ever had could be fulfilled without ever leaving the confines of my home. This of course was before I realized the crippling reality of finding myself a single mother with very limited education and an ex-husband who could care less if I ever ate anything but rice and noodles again.
The history of women in the working world does not paint a pretty picture when it comes to equality of the sexes. But where did all this start? Why don’t women make as much as men for the same job?
Perhaps the whole thing can be traced back to Caucasian motherhood? That’s right, I said Caucasian motherhood. Now, before the accusations of racism even begin, let me remind everyone that the first African-American mothers in the US were slaves. Theirs is an entirely different story. So let’s start by looking back at the time before we, the white middle class suburban mothers climbed out from behind our mops and took our rightful place among American workers. We stayed at home, raised our kids, cooked meals, doted on our husbands and gathered together in civic clubs determined that together we could make the world a better place. Our value in society was not in our earning power but in our collective power to give birth to and nurture the next generation of professional men who like our husbands would one day become highly paid professionals capable of supporting their own families and thus the cycle would continue. So what happened? First it was WWII, and women who had never worked before joined the poor foreign immigrant women who worked in American’s factories and together they managed keep our country up and running while all our men fought to defend it. By the way, this wasn’t such a great thing for African-American women. They had just managed to raise themselves from the lowest level of domestic work into those same factories, when they found themselves unable to compete with their higher educated and more respected white middle class contemporaries. So back to cleaning other folk’s houses they went.
Then the war ended and all the fathers, brothers and sons returned home naturally working women were expected to do the same thing. Some did but there were a few who chose to continue in pursuit of careers outside the realms of housewife and mother. However, they were paid less than their male counterparts, just as they are today, but do you know why? Here it comes, the answer you’ve all been waiting for; men simply could not afford to replace mothers and the valuable services they provided. When women went to work gone were the days of free housekeeping, laundry and childcare. So, to encourage women to stay at home, white professional men made the decision to pay white working women lower wages. If this explanation sounds hard to believe, take a minute and add up the costs. How much is a middle class stay at home mom worth? I have no idea so don’t expect me to offer an amount.
As for the other moms, the African-Americans and poor Immigrants left out in the work force not by choice but because their husbands did not make enough money to support an entire family. They continued on the paths they started out on, underpaid and overworked. In the end, no one was better off.
So now that you know the reason women are paid less than men, do you feel any better? I bet not. Is there a solution? Yes, I think there is. Let’s take a look at valuing up motherhood. By supporting each other and remaining active in our communities, mothers can make a difference both in the working world and at home. After all, if we had not been so darn good at it from the beginning, we’d all be making a lot more money now.
Information on Workforce Salaries by Demographic can be found at: