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This Grand Experiment: When Women Entered the Federal Workforce in Civil War-Era Washington, D.C.

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In the volatility of the Civil War, the federal government opened its payrolls to women. Although the press and government officials considered the federal employment of women to be an innocuous wartime aberration, women immediately saw the new development for what it was: a rare chance to obtain well-paid, intellectually challenging work in a country and time that typical In the volatility of the Civil War, the federal government opened its payrolls to women. Although the press and government officials considered the federal employment of women to be an innocuous wartime aberration, women immediately saw the new development for what it was: a rare chance to obtain well-paid, intellectually challenging work in a country and time that typically excluded females from such channels of labor. Thousands of female applicants from across the country flooded Washington with applications. Here, Jessica Ziparo traces the struggles and triumphs of early female federal employees, who were caught between traditional, cultural notions of female dependence and an evolving movement of female autonomy in a new economic reality. In doing so, Ziparo demonstrates how these women challenged societal gender norms, carved out a place for independent women in the streets of Washington, and sometimes clashed with the female suffrage movement. Examining the advent of female federal employment, Ziparo finds a lost opportunity for wage equality in the federal government and shows how despite discrimination, prejudice, and harassment, women persisted, succeeding in making their presence in the federal workforce permanent.


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In the volatility of the Civil War, the federal government opened its payrolls to women. Although the press and government officials considered the federal employment of women to be an innocuous wartime aberration, women immediately saw the new development for what it was: a rare chance to obtain well-paid, intellectually challenging work in a country and time that typical In the volatility of the Civil War, the federal government opened its payrolls to women. Although the press and government officials considered the federal employment of women to be an innocuous wartime aberration, women immediately saw the new development for what it was: a rare chance to obtain well-paid, intellectually challenging work in a country and time that typically excluded females from such channels of labor. Thousands of female applicants from across the country flooded Washington with applications. Here, Jessica Ziparo traces the struggles and triumphs of early female federal employees, who were caught between traditional, cultural notions of female dependence and an evolving movement of female autonomy in a new economic reality. In doing so, Ziparo demonstrates how these women challenged societal gender norms, carved out a place for independent women in the streets of Washington, and sometimes clashed with the female suffrage movement. Examining the advent of female federal employment, Ziparo finds a lost opportunity for wage equality in the federal government and shows how despite discrimination, prejudice, and harassment, women persisted, succeeding in making their presence in the federal workforce permanent.

31 review for This Grand Experiment: When Women Entered the Federal Workforce in Civil War-Era Washington, D.C.

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    Author Ziparo looks at the entrance of the women who entered the US workforce including the challenges, triumphs, roadblocks and the paths they had to tread as they worked. She looks at individual women and how they had to fight for better pay or to even be considered for the positions they applied to. It's definitely an intriguing bit of history that does not really get covered in Civil War history. Unfortunately it was a struggle. It reminded me very much of an academic thesis that had been tur Author Ziparo looks at the entrance of the women who entered the US workforce including the challenges, triumphs, roadblocks and the paths they had to tread as they worked. She looks at individual women and how they had to fight for better pay or to even be considered for the positions they applied to. It's definitely an intriguing bit of history that does not really get covered in Civil War history. Unfortunately it was a struggle. It reminded me very much of an academic thesis that had been turned into a book. The text is dry and not easy to get through, so it was very surprising to see people call it readable. Not really. In the end it could be a little frustrating to see how far we have come and how far we still have to go. The reader can see situations that might not be all that far from what women face today and it's a pity that the progress that might have happened ended up not happening. Borrowed from the library.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Gilmore

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    Claire August

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    SpoonSlots

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