7 May: Anne Hewitt (alumna), 'From Working Women to Working Wives to Working Mothers: The Progression of Female Employment in the Mid-Twentieth Century United States
The progression of U.S. female employment in the mid-twentieth century is defined by an unprecedented increase in the labor force participation rate (LFPR) of married mothers. LFPR rose 144% for mothers with children under 18 and 208% for married mothers with children under 6. Yet previous research has not focused on working American moms between 1950 and 1970. In my MPhil research, I set out to fill this gap in the existing literature. Using 1% sample census data from IPUMS-USA, I constructed occupational structures, mapped variation in LFPR, and ran regressions to test explanatory demand and supply-side variables across states. I also took an original “male data approach”, by assessing shifts in male labor force shares as a proxy for changing demand for married mothers’ labor. The occupational structures show the rapid expansion of the services sector, and that demand for married mothers most increased in professional services. The increase in married mothers’ LFPR between 1950 and 1970 ranged from 82% to 251% across states, but interestingly did not exhibit regional trends. The first-difference regression results show that the increase in married mothers’ LFPR across states is first explained by increasing demand for married mothers in services and second by expanding part-time work. The mid-century rise of working married mothers is therefore a story of growing demand, and the transition of the U.S. economy toward services.
My name’s Anne Hewitt, and I matriculated at Newnham College in 2019 to complete my MPhil in Economic & Social History. I was supervised by Dr. Leigh Shaw-Taylor and supported by the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure (CamPop). I am originally from Virginia, U.S.A, and before Newnham, I graduated from LSE with a BSc. in Economic History. While at Newnham, my violin and I joined the Raleigh Society and loved performing in quartets. Since graduating from Cambridge, I have been remote working as a research analyst at Fideres, an economic consultancy in London. I also was elected to the Roll Committee last month to promote young alumni during Newnham’s 150th anniversary.
I am so thrilled to finally return (virtually!) to Newnham to present my finished dissertation: From Working Women to Working Wives to Working Mothers: The Progression of Female Employment in the Mid-Twentieth Century United States. We are an amazing community of women researchers and I hope my paper’s story resonates with our continuing mission to amplify women’s academic, economic, and social contributions.