"Women's work" referred to work that was considered suitable for women and usually included the undervalued and unpaid labor of housekeeping and child-rearing. As recently as the 1960s, most women were limited to certain fields: paid domestic work, nursing, teaching, and secretarial work. Women who worked in alternative fields often didn’t get credit for their work. These examples from the Smithsonian collections prove women’s work is any work that women want to do!
Discover the stories behind these objects or browse other collection items related to women and their work.
Grades 9–12. Time: Variable (1–2 class periods, plus at-home work). Aligned to CCSS, National Standards for History and C3 standards.
In this lesson plan, students will use the example of the Postal Service's Dead Letter Office to explore working women throughout American history. Students will answer the question: How has society held, and responded to, contradictory perceptions of women's role in the workforce?
Bev Grant and Working WomenBev Grant and Working Women
Songs about work and labor compiled by Meredith Holmgren, Curator of American Women's Music.
Smithsonian American Women
Remarkable objects and stories of strength, ingenuity, and vision from the National CollectionBuy the Book