|She bringeth her food from afar: some questions posed for theory and research by married American women's work roles|
Esther Manning Shively Westervelt
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Tags: employment, Married women, United States, women
DIMENSIONS FOR THE STUDY OF THE EMPLOYMENT OF MARRIED WOMEN
The mind that has no fixed goal loses itself; for, as they say, to be everywhere is to be nowhere.
--Montaigne, of Idleness
The Purpose and The Rationale of The Study
The unknown eternally beckons the scientist and the philosopher. Yet the unknown threatens as well as tempts the searching mind. It tempts the spirit of inquiry but threatens the sense of past accomplishment, for, once discovered, the unknown so often turns ˘facts÷ into fallacies. To those scientists who study human beings this threat can be peculiarly potent. The human capacity to change most aspects of the human environment generates a constant process of turning past pacts into present fallacies.
To the scientist any ˘fact÷ inspires a question or a series of questions. The increasing employment of mature married women in America is the ˘fact÷ with which the present study begins. All information and speculation regarding the lives of woman has relevance for those seeking answers to questions of ˘why?÷ ˘what?÷ ˘when?÷ and ˘to what end?÷ this employment. Literature about women is plentiful, as the most casual examination of almost any general library card index will reveal. Does this literature contain all we need to know about the history, the meaning, the value, and the future of the employment of married women? Does it prescribe how and when a married woman should work and explain the implications of her work for her education, her family life and her personal development? Need we only compile and catalogue it to understand the implications of married womenĂs employment for society and the individual? Even a random perusal of what falls easily to hand shows that this literature lends itself to none of these ends.
The most patent characteristic of the literature is its wealth of putative ˘knowns÷--a wealth which almost automatically establishes the quantity of unknowns. Scholarly works in the field are, naturally, less fervent and positive than the popular and semi-professional publications, but they may be described as often considerably less than wholly empirical in their approach. In fact, no area of social research is perhaps so lacking in valid data and so generously endowed with confident, albeit conflicting, dicta.
The fundamental goal of this study is to stimulate new research in areas relevant to the employment of married women, by indicating that such research is both needed and possible. New research begins with asking new questions or with asking old questions in new ways--in the social sciences it more often begins with the latter. To formulate these questions, or, in other words, to identify the unknowns, requires a sorting and sifting of the available data in an attempt to distinguish what may be fact from what is almost surely fallacy.
Since the employment of a mature married woman can be understood only in the light of her own past and present and those of her society, it is clear that material relevant to it will be found in all areas of the social sciences. The mere compilation of data and dicta from various disciplinary sources would not, as I have already suggested, serve to formulate new questions and point the way to new research. The material must be appraised as well as collected. Is this undertaking feasible? Can the generalist evaluate, however roughly, the validity of findings from different specialized divisions of the social sciences, each with its own relatively distinct body of theory and methodology?
There are, I think, certain broad measures which can be applied to all of the material. First, obviously, is whether or not different sources partially or wholly contradict each other. Second, are there questions which have been asked but never quite answered? Third, are there in some studies deficiencies in the theory and/or data which obviate any conclusive findings? Another way to phrase this last question is: what kind of information can be found with a given set of theory and data? For the purposes of scientific inquiry we ask of theory not, ˘Is it true?÷ but, ˘Is it useful?÷ Of data we must ask not only, ˘Is it accurate?÷ but, even more urgently, ˘Is it relevant?÷ Within any science, or among several, the identification of unknowns begins with these questions.
The interdisciplinary base is of such paramount importance to this study that to demonstrate its importance and its practicality might be described as a secondary aim of the work. In our day macroscopic perceptions are often obscured by the proliferation of the microscopic. Cassirer, in his outline of the crisis in manĂs knowledge of himself, remarks
No former age was ever in such a favorable position with regard to the sources of our knowledge of human nature.... Our technical instruments for observation and experimentation have been immensely improved, and our analyses have become sharper and more penetrating. We appear, nevertheless, not yet to have found a method for the mastery and organization of this material...our wealth of facts is not necessarily a wealth of thoughts.
The present modest foray into the organization and examination of a body of related material can, I realize, at best only suggest, in concrete terms, the scope of such an undertaking.
What of the societal rationale for this work? Is the subject worth the attention here turned upon it and the further research which will be proposed herein? First, how salient a feature of our society is the employment of mature married women? Apparently impeccable evidence indicates that it is increasingly prevalent. During the past decade the labor force participation of this group has grown proportionately more than that of any other group in the population. In two decades the average age of women in the labor force has risen eight years--from about thirty-two to about forty. In the same period, the percentage of married women in the labor force has nearly doubled, and the number of employed women with children has almost tripled. It is still true that at any one time these employed women represent a minority of all wives and mothers, but in longitudinal perspective it is perfectly possible that they represent a majority. In other words, it is more likely than not that most women today are, have been, or can expect to be employed at some time during their mature years of marriage and motherhood.
Whether there is a ˘problem÷ which justifies extensive social research depends, however, not so much on the salience of a phenomenon as upon the nature of social attitudes toward the phenomenon. In America the stimulus to major research undertakings is essentially pragmatic; money and talent tend to converge on the study of those aspects of our social condition which seem to be a present or potential source of social or individual difficulty. Behavior patterns which appear to threaten such difficulties are often those which give rise to discomfort and apprehension in some sectors of the society but cannot be judged as ˘good÷ or ˘bad÷ under any generally accepted behavioral code. Such activities usually become social ˘issues.÷ An issue can, I think, be described as a question which is asked in such a way that it cannot be answered. The question cannot be answered because it is couched in ˘loaded÷ terms. Any behavior closely related and potentially menacing to very ancient human values will thus become an issue.
The employment of mature married women attracts this kind of social attention because it is inextricably involved with the enduring human concerns of marriage, motherhood, and the relation between the sexes. A womanĂs paid employment tends to be regarded in the light of its possible implications for her other roles. To the extent that it is construed as diminishing the centrality of marriage and motherhood in the lives of women it arouses apprehension in men and women alike.
Maternity as a nurturing and protective function is more than pan-human; it exists throughout most of the sentient animal world. Marriage has been postulated as the indispensable development by which man emerged from the primates, and the human family seems to be presaged in the higher subhuman primates. From its inception marriage has served an economic as well as a social purpose; originally the family was the unit of production and, to a greater or lesser degree, depending upon the complexity of the society, it has also been the basis for the division of labor between the sexes.
Vast and intricate economic, political, and social structures have grown out of these simpler units of social organization, but they have not eliminated them nor have they greatly tempered the strength of the values associated therewith. WomenĂs activities therefore are apt to be examined and adjudged not by the light of surrounding, objective circumstances--that is to say, not by empirical observation--but by the emotional heat of hereditary compulsions.
Married women who work for pay are thus singled out from the general American population for an amount and intensity of attention which may be out of all proportion to their numbers. Popular articles praise, vituperate, and counsel them. The professional literature weighs their actions and dissects their motives. They are described as vital recruits to the labor force of an expanding economy; as women whose psychological and physical state of health enables them to lead full lives; as psychological cripples, frustrated by the society and by their own limitations, a major contributing cause of juvenile delinquency, of the psychological and economic emasculation of the male, and of homosexuality.
These social attitudes are most vividly described by illustrations from popular publications. In 1945, while women were still manning the World War II production front, Waller, in an article for lay readers, stated
The battles in the coming war on women will be three: the battle for jobs, the battle of the birth rate, and the battle of personal ascendancy. But may God help the men, the women and the United States of America if the men lose. At least for the next generation, the patriarchal family must be restored and strengthened. Women must bear and rear children; husbands must support them.
Two months later, in a similar publication, Greenbaum remarked
It does not appear likely, then, that at the warĂs end women will lay down their tools and trudge away to their homes--those whomen who need to work and those who want to work... (The women who need to work) are the women...who will have to support themselves and their families.... (The women who want to work) are the women who have been educated to believe that the happiest and most adjusted woman is the one who can use her productive capacities to the fullest degree, not restricted merely to child-bearing.
In 1956 Life magazine devoted a special issue to ˘The American Woman.÷ Some of the titles illustrate the persistent duality of opinion regarding womenĂs roles: ˘Changing Roles in Modern Marriage: Psychiatrists Find in Them a Clue to Alarming Divorce Rise÷; ˘My Wife Works and I Like It: A Husband Takes a Strong Stand in a Controversy÷; ˘Women are Wonderful: They Like Each Other for the Sound Sturdy Virtues that Men Do Not Have÷; ˘Women are Misguided: They are Still Waging a Shrill, Ridiculous War over the Dead Issue of Feminism.÷
In January, 1957, a magazine designed to assist families in their economic planning published an article entitled ˘Should the Wife Work?÷ Accompanying a horde of intimidating questions about the economics, the psychology, and the implications for family life of a wifeĂs employment was the warning:
Before you kiss the kitchen good-by, examine your motives. Study the consequences of your move, too, or you may find yourself wallowing in problems you never bargained for.
Four months later the same magazine carried an article entitled ˘Part-Time Jobs for Women,÷ which opened enthusiastically
Ladies, hereĂs a way to perk up your family income--and give your disposition a boost in the bargain. Take a part-time job.
Illustrations like these are abundant. I shall close this little collection with two that are particularly telling. A single page of the New York Times one day contained the following two headlines: ˘Woman Pilot Flies Rough Arctic Route,÷ and ˘Woman Stirs Protest--Two Men Quit Town Board After Voters Name Her.÷ One of the resigning selectmen quoted in the latter release said, ˘She is a fine woman and has worked hard, but I donĂt think in a small town a woman serving with two men on a board is the right thing.÷
That these clashes of opinion about women in public employment are related to old and basic human values is clear from the long and wide history of such differences. The woman of SolomonĂs heart inspired him to vivid poetic imagery. She was one who
looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.
King Lemuel, of the same historical era, described a virtuous wife as she who
worketh willingly with her hands...she bringeth her food from afar...she planteth a vineyard...she considereth the field and buyeth it...she stretcheth her hands to the needy...she maketh fine linen and selleth it, and delivereth girdles into the merchant
At about the same time a Chinese sage wrote
A clever man builds a city,
A clever woman lays one low;
With all her qualifications, that clever woman
Is but an ill-omened bird.
For disorder does not come from heaven,
But is brought about by women.
A clever woman in America today may find employment in the higher echelons of industry or the professions and be generally regarded as a figure or prestige and glamour. But when career-planning for women is the subject of current folklore, it follows the lines of the popular refrain
I'm strictly a female female
And my future I hope will be
In the home of a brave and free male.
Advertisers seem to expect to find most women exclusively employed at home or anxiously searching for a man who will provide them with a home in which to be employed. A cursory inspection of advertisements in womenĂs magazines will disclose that the major portion of the products advertised fall into two broad categories: those designed to increase a womanĂs sexual attractiveness, and those designed to conserve the housewifeĂs time and energy and make her home more attractive.
Should the object of these advertisements find herself well-groomed, attractively housed, and yet with time and energy to spare, and decide to market the last outside her home, what reception may she expect? Employment agencies may greet her with surprise, evasion, and the information that her age and lack of recent experience severely limit her opportunities, if she seeks employment which entails some special skill and responsibility. But employment agencies may also approach her in her home or drive down her suburban street with sound trucks blaring to encourage her to undertake part-time work of a usually routine and relatively unremunerative nature. In some specialized fields where current shortages exist, as in teaching and nursing, she may be welcome in many communities, but these shortages can be ephemeral. What may she expect a decade from now when todayĂs bumper crop of youngsters are in the labor force?
The housewife contemplating employment may be asked by family, friends, and potential employers questions more difficult to answer than those regarding qualifications and recent experience. She will be urged to search her soul to discover if she wishes to work to earn more money, or from boredom, or because everyone is doing it, or because she wishes to be independent of her husband. She will be exhorted to consider if her work will contribute to the welfare of the community, or will use any special talents, or will net any real cash [returns] after expenses are deducted. She will be warned to think carefully of the effect of her work upon her childrenĂs emotional and physical security, their load of home responsibilities, upon relatives and friends materially or emotionally dependent upon her, upon her own health, upon the comfort of her home, upon her husbandĂs feelings.
Interviewers of mature married women seeking employment may find that some of them have vague goals in employment and unrealistic or uncertain estimates of their own skills. Women who do not seek employment may yet express a feeling of futility about the manner in which some of their time is spent.
Finally, even the casual observer can note that most of the working women he meets seem likely to be working because of financial need, if the circumstances of their employment and of their home situation are reliable indicators.
If some married women want to work because they have time and energy to spare and if other married women need to work for the material needs of their families, and if the structure of the society and the economy is such as to make their employment not only feasible but perhaps frequently necessary, is resistance to or equivocation about this employment healthy for the society? Or, to turn the question on its head, if resistance and equivocation are so strong, is the employment of married women a healthy thing for the society? In a society like ours, is employment a necessary outlet for womenĂs talents and energies and an important source of labor skills for the economy? Or, is this employment the most available, but woefully inappropriate, means married women can find to use energy and talent, as well as being a potential threat to labor force adjustments in times of recession or an over-supply of labor? And, above all, what actually is the nature and extent of the employment?
These questions arise because involved in this matter is a contradiction between the culture and the social structure and a discordance between the potentialities of some individuals and the social demands made upon them. This is described as ˘social lag.÷ Ogburn, who is credited with evolving the first definition of this phenomenon said
A cultural lag occurs when one of the two parts of a culture which are correlated changes before or in a greater degree than the other part does, thereby causing less adjustment between the two parts than existed previously.
Social lag creates difficulties in a society and, in a society like ours which believes that social planning based on social research can help eliminate the difficulties, a problem arising from social lag is worthy of study.
Social lag is a major cause of the need for studies like the present one. If the workrooms and research laboratories of social scientists were insulated from its effects, there might be less necessity to compare and analyze their findings in a search for contradictions and deficiencies. But, since no member of a society can be entirely immune to its pressures and discords, the theories evolved, the questions asked, and the variables considered important by social scientists reflect to some extent the impact of the society. Professional training may minimize this impact; it may also serve to disguise it.
It is also possible that a study of this kind may help to reveal a bit more clearly the nature of the social lag which affects the lives of American women today. When, as herein, the potentialities and expressed needs of individuals are considered in their relation to all aspects of the social structure--so far as all these can be understood in the available literature--more complex implications concerning the nature of the lag may emerge than when the latter is regarded mainly as the relation between cultural tradition and practical necessity.
The primary purpose of this study is, however, to stimulate new research in areas relevant to the employment of married women through a survey and analysis of relevant, representative, current material from the social sciences. It is not intended to be an encyclopedia of useful information, although it may, hopefully, open up new avenues of both information and inquiry to some readers. It is designed to ask, and to help others to ask, new questions.
The Background in Research
A number of recent works have drawn attention to the many factors which affect and are affected by the employment of mature married women. Womanpower, compiled by the National Manpower Council, was the first effort to set forth in one volume detailed information about womenĂs roles in todayĂs labor force. So significant did the participation of married women appear to the Council that in the fall of 1957 it sponsored a conference of leaders in management, labor, education, and social planning to discuss ˘Work in the Lives of Married Women.÷ The conference accentuated the complex ramifications of the questions involved and stressed the need for further study, including study which would draw together various research findings and related views.
Since 1953 the Commission on the Education of Women of the American Council of Education has been at work at extending understanding in its field and in stimulating new research. The Commission found that the kaleidoscopic and interrupted pattern of womenĂs working lives appears to be a major problem for womenĂs education and for the women themselves. They perceived also that the resolution of issues connected with the education of women demands research in many areas.
The WomenĂs Bureau of the United States Department of Labor, since its establishment in 1918, has kept current statistics on the number, distribution, circumstances of employment, and characteristics of women in the labor force and has both disseminated such information and worked for improved conditions of employment. In recent years the Bureau has been particularly interested in the increasing employment of mature married women and in focussing attention on the research implications of this phenomenon, including those related to encouraging and facilitating the employment of such women.
Meanwhile there have been in process several large scale studies concerned with child development, the total life development process, and the problems of aging which have shown the value and the practicality of an interdisciplinary approach to the study of broad areas of social activity. These studies have, of course, also great pertinence to the central concern here.
The general concensus of those who have concentrated their interest on the employment of mature married women is that our knowledge of the subject is greatly in need of clarification and expansion, and that available material is contradictory, as well as sometimes hazy and distorted. They have urged the need of some attempt to assimilate this material as a basis for further research.
Concurrently, specialists in theory and methodology have been working to facilitate interdisciplinary research in the social sciences. Merton has pointed out that the formulation of problems for research depends upon the breadth of the information with which the formulation begins:
for example, it would be premature to ask ŠwhyĂ the rate of mental illness has been increasing in the United States and to search for sociological factors that might help account for the rise. This is one of the cases in which the fact itself has yet to be established. Similarly, the present study is not an attempt to discover the causes of the increasing employment of mature married women in the United States. It is, rather, concerned with establishing the nature and extent of the apparent increase, and with identifying relevant known and unknown factors.
Therefore the questions which lead to the formulation of a problem
are of different kinds and...have different sources. Some are questions about sociological facts; others are questions about the adequacy, for given purposes, of sociological concepts. Some are...about observed empirical generalizations; others are social uniformities derived or conjectured from some underlying ideas. Some deal with the sources of observed patterns of social organization, others with their consequences.... They do not uniformly ask ˘Why?÷ an observed social phenomenon is as it is.
Moreover, the ˘knowledge÷ which furnishes both the questions and their answers must be evaluated in the light of its relation to other existential factors in the society where the study originates. This is a process which, ideally, would involve the consideration of every past and present cultural product and environmental manifestation.
Obviously the social sciences must continue for some time to fall short of this ideal but it is recognized as a measure of validity and an indicator of direction. Interdisciplinary research teams do not set about their work as an aggregate of independent specialists; they first develop a paradigm for the integration of concepts, approaches and techniques, for without this, as Morris and Seaman point out, there would be ˘an imbalance in kinds of variables, and in procedures and definitions.÷
The development of such paradigms has emphasized the need for a general theory in the social sciences which would serve as an aid in the classification of existing knowledge, as a guide to research, and as a point of departure for specialized work, all toward the end of greater ease of validation, revision and progress in the social sciences. The major work in this field is concerned with the development of such a theory for psychology, sociology, and anthropology, but it inevitably has a bearing upon approaches to the study of history, economics, statistical analysis, and the application of the social sciences, as in education. Whether such a theory, if it were generally accepted, would defeat its own ultimate end by producing a self-limiting rigidity is a question far beyond the scope of this work, as is the larger question of which it is a part--the relative merits of the empirical and the theoretical approach to problem design.
The point of major relevance to the present study is that both authorities concerned with the practical, social aspects of the employment of mature married women and scholars in the social sciences are stressing the necessity of considering a problem area in the light of all its theoretical and empirical facets.
Certain Basic Assumptions
Gardner Murphy has remarked
The very nature of discovery lies not so much in the more and more thorough exploitation of the material given by a given dimension, a process of infinite sub-division, but rather in the process of conceiving new dimensions.... Most limitations of individual and cultural inventiveness lie in assumptions; if you challenge the assumptions, there is a new dimension.
It should already be abundantly clear that the chief basic assumption underlying this undertaking, and many of those cited above, is that the comparison and analysis of related specialized material pertinent to a given area of interest will challenge old assumptions and produce new dimensions for study design.
While the specialist may not deny this possibility, he may question the competence of the generalist to undertake the task. I have already indicated that there are certain measures which may be applied in all disciplines as a test of validity. In addition, contradictory findings and conclusions are, in many instances, not difficult to identify when the approach is objective. This is not to say, however, that I consider myself, or any scholar, a totally objective instrument, although in an undertaking of this nature, objectivity is an essential goal. When I fail of this goal, the reader whose subjective leaning differs from mine will, I am sure, recognize my failure.
Objectivity can be measured by the assumptions with which one does not begin, as well as those with which one does. I have not set out on this research on the assumption that the employment of married women is either ˘good÷ or ˘bad÷ for them or for their society, nor on the assumption that it is actually ˘increasing÷ and will continue to ˘increase.÷ These are originating questions, not assumptions.
Nor do I assume that this work and any research which may grow out of it can serve as a basis for long-term predictions about the roles of women. Murphy states:
Human realities at every point are interactions between potentialities in genes and potentialities in environment.
TodayĂs girls, like todayĂs boys, are growing up in a world in which adults of both sexes are uneasy immigrants. Television has been as potent as nuclear weapons in creating a formative environment for contemporary children entirely unlike that known by their parents in youth. Although it is conventional to bewail the effects on children of television programs featuring fictional violence, I find myself more interested in the effects of news broadcasts which bring into the living room and nursery the real violence of our times with a vividness which newspapers and radio could hardly have had for earlier generations. No child who today is 15 years old or younger has ever lived in a world innocent of the constant threat of nuclear warfare. Among the popular songs of today are
. . . we can be tranquil
And thankful and proud,
For man has been endowed
With a mushroom-shaped cloud
And we know for certain
That some lovely day
Someone will set the spark and
We will all be blown away. . .
and another which its author describes as a modern revival hymn, whose lilting lines include
WeĂll all go together when we go...
Oh, weĂll all fry together when we fry...
No one will have the endurance
To collect his insurance,
LloydĂs of London will be loaded
When they go.
We must expect that young people are developing new values which cannot be entirely comprehensible to adults who acquired their values in a very different setting, and that these new values will lead to new behavior patterns which are not readily predictable. The design and findings of research must not only be evaluated in the light of these differences in generations, but also applied with the recognition that they are, in one sense, tentative. Bronowski remarked that, at any given moment,
Human behavior...moves forward into an area whose general shape is known but whose boundaries are uncertain in a calculable way.
There are two related assumptions without which there would be little point in research in this field. One is that psychological needs for creative activity, for social interaction, and for status are common to both sexes, or, in other words, that the psychological need-structure of men and women is a product of their social setting as well as of their biological functions. The other is that, in our society, work is one source of satisfaction of these needs. These assumptions will be examined in the reports of the research relevant to them, but this work could hardly have been undertaken without some belief in their validity.
A further assumption is that psychological needs for growth and development can persist throughout the life span. This also will be examined in the light of the pertinent literature, but it is a corollary to the assumption that a society suffers if any segment of it is frustrated in its efforts toward development--that is, that there is a ˘problem÷ worth the attention of the society. Frustration is perhaps most intense when it arises from the blocking of development.
There is a final assumption which will be detailed in the discussion of organization and method which follows. That is that the limitations of a solitary worker, which set strictures upon the amount of material which can be surveyed, analyzed, and reported, may be compensated for by a systematic approach to selection of material.
Organization and Method
The originating questions about which this study is organized and which determined the areas of knowledge to be explored are as follows:
l. What is the historical background of employment of American married women?
2. What married women work where, when, and under what conditions of employment?
3. What sources of womenĂs motivation to employment lie within the individual?
4. What social influences affect womenĂs motivation toward employment and what is their effect?
5. What is the relation between a married womanĂs employment and her familyĂs welfare?
6. What are the economic implications of employment for the married woman and for the society?
7. What is the nature of the interaction among women, their education, and their employment?
8. What do we know about the employment of married women upon which planning and predictions can be based, and what do we need to know?
a. Organization of the Chapters
Each of these questions is the central concern of one of the succeeding chapters. Each chapter raises a number of subordinate, related questions. Chapter II, which considers the first question, searches historical, sociological, and biographical sources for evolving representative approaches, opinions, and research which places the current employment of married women in historical perspective.
Chapter III concentrates primarily on statistical information concerning the paid employment of married women today toward the end of discovering chronological, socio-economic, regional, ethnic, and educational variables which affect its nature, incidence, and duration, so far as these emerge in statistics. Information regarding employer, union, and government practices and legislation is also examined for its implications on attitudes and their effect on womenĂs opportunities.
Chapter IV is concerned with the potentialities of the individual woman for various life activities and for continuing change and development as these are revealed by representative available physiological and psychological sources.
Chapter V examines socio-psychological, sociological, and anthropological sources, and certain more general commentaries, for the state of our knowledge concerning the nature and the direction of the social forces which mold womenĂs life activities and thus affect their employment.
Chapter VI sorts and sifts material from family sociology, child psychology, and related areas for theory and data relevant to the effect of a married womanĂs employment upon her childrenĂs development, her husbandĂs psychological well-being, and her domestic-social life. It considers the interrelationships with her employment of marital adjustment, the husbandĂs attitudes, community factors, the age of children, and socio-economic and ethnic factors.
Chapter VII considers the effect of the tax structure and the costs of paid employment upon a married womanĂs financial gain from working. It also examines known differentials in consumption patterns between working and non-working wives in the light of their implications for a consumer-oriented economy. It also considers the possible beneficial and detrimental results of the continued employment of married women as these may be calculated within the framework of differing theories and speculations regarding the future of our economy.
Chapter VIII is concerned with the effect of womenĂs goals upon their education, with the effect of their education upon their goals, and with the relationship of both to their employment, as well as with the possible implications of their employment for their education.
Chapter IX is a brief summary of the whole as a measure of present and possible plans and predictions, and as a broad guide toward the direction of future research.
Each chapter contains specific questions which seem to point toward further research in a specific problem area and/or within a specified discipline or subdivision thereof. Broader questions which require further refinement before being used as a basis for research design are also raised.
b. Method of selection of material
Although there are numerous exceptions, generally speaking the material surveyed and analyzed herein is of recent vintage--a great deal of it has been published during the past decade. Literature of an earlier date has been reported only when more recent work is an inadequate source of theories, opinions, or data which still exert an influence on work in this field.
Clearly, time and space would prevent complete coverage of all available, relevant material. My aim has been to cover all major trends in opinion, theoretical development, and empirical findings through the inclusion of representative examples. Toward this end, I have given precedence to major works, and compilations of works, in the field, and have not, generally speaking, returned to the original research reported in these. Using the major trends thus indicated as a point of departure, I have selected specific, more recent, smaller studies which illustrate continuing developments in theory, method, and findings. Since I am primarily concerned with reporting all current points of view, theoretical approaches, and kinds of data, I have made an effort to exclude nothing which would represent differences. This has meant that certain fairly well-known studies which closely duplicate some reported here were not included. The emphasis has been on representative, rather than inclusive, coverage.
The establishment of a criterion of quality for the selection of material from the social sciences is no easy matter due to the wide variations in the nature of this material. Generally speaking, I have been concerned with theories and opinions of competent observers in the social sciences, results of controlled experiments and studies, adequate surveys and similar reports of trained observers, and not concerned with popularized distortions of social scientific theories and haphazard presentations of random observations. For some materials, such as biographical and literary, standards of relevance are the most useful.
When correlations or comparisons of material were impossible due to sharp differences in definitions, terminology, and approach, no attempt has been made to force them. The existence of such obstacles to correlation and comparison itself indicates origins and directions for new questions, the formulation of which is the work of specialists in method and theory.
c. Certain basic variables
While the selection of variables is in part a function of specific disciplines and theoretical foundations, certain variables have seemed to me to be generally pertinent.
Employed married women are a heterogeneous group, differing in age, family responsibilities, socio-economic status, level of education, sub-cultural, regional, and ethnic backgrounds, as well as in type of employment. These differences represent categories of classification. Although there is some variation in emphasis due to the variation in the nature of the material examined in different chapters, generally speaking, I have tried to consider the implications of these categories of classification for current information and further research throughout.
Thus, one important variable is that of stages of life development, which may be further subdivided into social and physiological stages. The physiological stages are three: the child-bearing years, the menopause, and the post-menopausal years. The social stages are most usefully considered as stages of family development, as follows: the youngest child enters school, all children are adolescent, children are leaving home, children are gone from home but the husband is living, and, finally, the husband may be dead. Most married women today pass through all these stages and their employment interests and activities are apt to be at least partly related to them.
Socio-economic status and education are well-known variables in socio-psychological, sociological, and anthropological studies. Although they are interrelated, the interrelationship is neither uniform nor uni-directional and they must therefore be considered separately. Different studies use different socio-economic status scales, and I have not attempted to superimpose my own upon those used. When it has been useful to raise this consideration in connection with work not utilizing such a scale, I have used a five-point scale of lower-marginal, lower, lower middle, upper middle, and upper, drawn from WarnerĂs Index of Social Class. The levels of education which seem to me to have marked differential implications for womenĂs employment are grade school, secondary school, post-high school vocational training, college, and graduate and professional education. A further important category is adult education, although this does not fit neatly into the preceding sequence.
Two broad classifications affect place of residence. One is the distinction between urban and rural, and the intermediate category of suburban. The other is geographical location, in the absence of other classifications of this, the conventional United States divisions of New England, Middle Atlantic, East North Central, West North Central, South Atlantic, East South Central, West South Central, Mountain, and Pacific can be useful.
Sub-cultural and ethnic classifications are apt to be both elusive and deceptive. The community values and traditions of oneĂs home town may in some instances exert a greater effect on oneĂs self-concept, behavior and status than whether one is native or foreign-born, black or white, while in other situations, the latter may carry far greater weight than the former. Generally speaking, herein, I have been interested only in rather coarse sub-cultural and ethnic divisions--between white and non-white, native and foreign-born, Catholic and Protestant--although in instances where finer division was particularly relevant as a measure of material or a source of questions, I have used it. For example, Puerto Rican women are a group whose lives are and have been so much affected by their employment that they are of special interest.
I have tried to avoid the postulation of variables which are speculative rather than observable. For example, marital adjustment as a factor influencing a wifeĂs employment is a possible subject for study but not an empirical fact such as is the completion of 12 years of schooling. Many so-called sub-cultural and ethnic factors are becoming increasingly more speculative than empirical, due to the sharp decline in immigration and the steady assimilation of foreign groups into the population.
To discover that some variables whose existence can be clearly established have in some instances no effect is as important as to discover what effect others may have. That is to say, I have presented here a list of variables which may, in certain situations, be relevant to the employment of married women; not a list of those which are inevitably relevant. To discover how important they may be, and what may increase or decrease their importance, is a part of the exploration herein.
Some divisions and subdivisions of discipline and theory have been particularly popular in studies of womenĂs lives. Their popularity has tended--or so it seems to me--to exert an influence on both our general thinking and our formulation of research questions in this field. It has therefore seemed essential to subject the backgrounds and the implications of these disciplinary and theoretical approaches to a somewhat more intensive scrutiny than would be feasible for all of those which are reviewed here.
I do not believe that these excursions into general critique of theory are in any sense a digression from the central concern of this study. Although my own limitations, as well as those of space, prevent carrying such discussions into the higher philosophical levels of critical analysis, the suggestions offered may serve to raise fundamental questions of theory and method of the kind upon which sound development of further research depends. Complacency is the scientistĂs cardinal sin. For him, to be satisfied with either the quantity or the quality of his knowledge invites the dangers of rigidity and decay. JeffersĂ woman of ancient Crete warns us:
In future days men will become so powerful
That they seem to control the heavens and the earth,
They seem to understand the stars and all science--
Let them beware. Something is lurking hidden.
There is always a knife in the flowers. There
Is always a lion just beyond the firelight.