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Video: Women in the Work Force

Prior to the 1960s it was unusual for women to have careers outside the home for two reasons: job opportunities were scarce and society did not condone the idea. There were jobs open to women, menial or factory jobs as well as work as secretaries, librarians, or teachers. However, companies were run by men, and it was virtually unthinkable to have a female boss with male employees. Kathleen Donohue, a University of North Carolina-Charlotte historian, states that in the 1950s and 1960s a woman’s primary role was that of wife and mother. It was not easy to pursue a profession such as doctor, attorney, or engineer. Donohue reports that even women who got medical degrees had trouble getting a hospital internship. As late as the 1950s, 70 percent of hospitals would not take a female intern. Times have changed as discussed by four Georgia women who have been friends since high school. They talk about what was expected of women in the 1950s. Movies portrayed women as having careers until they met a man to marry. Today, women have the freedom and opportunity to choose both careers and family. Julie Culwell, daughter of one of the four friends talks about how she became an artist. Her mother wanted to study art but thought education was a safer career choice. Cynthia Jones, an African American graphic designer, who owns her own business, describes how her uncle was surprised her work looked so professional. She thinks it is sometimes more difficult for a relative to accept an individual’s capabilities. Today’s woman can dream and choose any career she likes, the sky is the limit.

Teacher tip: Discuss the negative impact on society when a group is denied the opportunity either through education or societal norms to reach its full potential. Extend the discussion by asking students to identify other groups in Georgia’s past who were denied opportunities.