Throughout history, and particularly during the Victorian era (mid- to late-1800s), women—especially from the upper and middle classes—had little opportunities beyond those of the hearth and home. The New Woman was a response to these limiting roles of wife and mother. Starting in the late nineteenth century, more and more women remained unmarried until later in their lives, gained education, organized for women’s suffrage, and worked outside the home. Women also supported the war effort during World War I. Such developments allowed greater freedom. This was manifest, for example, in the image of the bicycle rider—wearing bloomers instead of long dresses and free to go wherever, whenever she wanted, by herself or with her friends. But these changes didn’t come easily or without pushback from both men and women who were unused to the notion of women’s independence. The following set illustrates the movement’s ideals, the women who embraced it, and a society made uncomfortable by this seismic shift in the roles of men and women.
Women At War - Chosen from among the thousands of collections of women’s experiences in the Veterans History Project, this modest selection spans four wars. While many of the collections are nurses’ tales, there is also the story of a code breaker (Ann Caracristi), a welder (Meda Brendall), and a flight surgeon (Rhonda Cornum), plus two women who rose through the ranks to secure places in the military history books. Jeanne Holm served her country for 33 years, in 1971 becoming the first woman general in the Air Force. And in December 1990, Darlene Iskra became the first woman to command a U.S. Navy ship.
Pullman resisted hiring women and did his best to keep attention away from the company’s female employees. At the Pullman shops, the women wage-earners were almost exclusively white, many of them European immigrants. But the Pullman company was also one of the largest employers of Black workers in the country. Those workers were chiefly Pullman Porters, smartly dressed and highly professional men who provided service on the trains that matched the railcar’s opulence and comfort. For decades, these services were provided only by Black men, but at the turn of the century, the Pullman company began to offer maids on their cars as an additional level of luxury to passengers.
Buchmeier, Sarah. "Pullman Women at Work: From Gilded Age to Atomic Age." JSTOR Daily, 30 Mar. 2022.
Buchmeier, Sarah. "Pullman Women at Work: From Gilded Age to Atomic Age." JSTOR Daily, 30 Mar. 2022,
New Work for the Modern Woman
In the early twentieth century, more women took roles as clerks, secretaries, and salespeople. When the company installed a new switchboard in the early 1920s, they hired a handful of telephone operators, who could collectively handle an impressive 850 calls a day. Of course, along with most industries, the gendered boundaries of work unraveled during the world wars. The Pullman factory in Chicago pivoted to help the war effort, building troop and hospital cars, as well as aircraft, tanks, and shells. Here, women stepped in as welders and riveters, and other jobs that men had left vacant when they went to fight overseas.
Gershon, Livia. "How Women Fought for the Right to Be Bartenders." JSTOR Daily, JSTOR.ORG, 20 May 2021,
How Women Fought for the Right to Be Bartenders
As Life magazine put it, “angry barmaids are tough opponents in any hassle.” Bartenders famously have many responsibilities: not just pouring drinks but offering a friendly smile and dealing efficiently with customers who’ve had a few too many. As historian Amy Holtman French writes, it took a political movement to turn bartending into a job that women were understood to be capable of doing