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Gender, the Service Sector, and U.S. Business History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 December 2011

Angel Kwolek-Folland
ANGEL KWOLEK-FOLLAND is professor of history and women's studies and Interim Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Florida.
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Despite the importance of service-sector activities, both to women and to the U.S. economy, services have not figured prominently in business history. A consideration of the usefulness of this subject to business history is followed by a case study of household services in the nineteenth century, showing their social and economic value and the ways in which they exemplified the integral relations between women's work and business.

Copyright The President and Fellows of Harvard College 2007


1 Kwolek-Folland, Angel, Incorporating Women: A History of Women and Business in the United States (New York, 2002);Google ScholarEnterprise & Society 2 (special issue on gender and business) (Mar. 2001); and Business History Review 72 (special issue) (Summer 1998). Mary Yeager recently compiled and edited a comprehensive three-volume set of previously-published articles on women in business history, Women in Business (Cheltenham, 1999). In her insightful review of the collection, Katrina Honeyman noted that almost two-thirds of the 57 articles ponder American issues. Honeyman, Katrina, Engendering Enterprise, Business History 43 (Jan. 2001): 11926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar See also Beachy, Robert, Craig, Beatrice, and Owens, Alastair, eds., Women, Business, and Finance in Nineteenth-Century Europe: Re-thinking Separate Spheres (Oxford, 2006).Google Scholar

2 See the introduction to this issue for a discussion of the definition and gendered nature of the service industries. On occupational sex segregation, see Preston, Jo Anne, Occupational Gender Segregation: Trends and Explanations, Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance 39 (Dec. 31, 1999): 61124;CrossRefGoogle ScholarMeyer, Lisa B., Economic Globalization and Women's Status in the Labor Market: A Cross-National Investigation of Occupational Sex Segregation and Inequality, Sociological Quarterly 44 (Summer 2004): 35284;Google Scholar and Anker, Richard, Theories of Occupational Segregation by Sex: An Overview, in Women, Gender and Work: What is Equality and How Do We Get There? ed. Loutfi, Martha Fetherolf (Geneva, 2001), 12956.Google Scholar

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5 Changes in federal law (the 1963 Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Executive Order 11375 mandating affirmative-action strategies in federal contracting procurement) led all states to outlaw sex discrimination by 1975. See Steger and Wardell, Gender and Employment in the Service Sector, 93.

6 Wajeman, Judy, Patriarchy, Technology, and Conceptions of Skill, Work and Occupations 18, no. 1 (1991): 2945.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

7 See, for example, Fiorina, Carly, Tough Choices: A Memoir (New York, 2006).Google Scholar

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9 For example, works such as Aron's, Cindy SondikLadies and Gentlemen of the Civil Service: Middle-Class Workers in Victorian America (New York, 1987);Google ScholarSusan Porter Benson's Counter Cultures: Saleswomen, Managers, and Customers in American Department Stores, 1890-1940 (Urbana, Ill., 1988);Google Scholar and Katzman's, DavidSeven Days a Week: Women and Domestic Service in Industrializing America (Urbana, Ill., 1978)Google Scholar address corporate business structure, consumerism and retail sales, and the assumptions underlying entrepreneurship and self-employment, yet all are usually characterized as labor history.

10 Goldin, Claudia, Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women (New York, 1990),Google Scholar especially the appendix to ch. 2; Conk, Margo A., Accuracy, Efficiency, and Bias: The Interpretation of Women's Work in the U.S. Census of Occupations, 1890-1940, Historical Methods 14 (Spring 1981): 6572;CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Scott, Joan W., A Statistical Representation of Work: La Statistique de I'industrie Paris, 1847-1848, in Gender and the Politics of History (New York, 1988), 1338.Google Scholar

11 Kwolek-Folland, Incorporating Women, esp. p. 5.

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16 See, for example, Cunningham, Mary, Power Play: What Really Happened at Bendix (New York, 1984);Google ScholarHerr, Lois Kathryn, Women, Power, and AT&T: Winning Rights in the Workplace (Boston, 2003);Google ScholarHopkins, Ann, So Ordered: Making Partner the Hard Way (Amherst, Mass., 1996);Google ScholarLauder, Este, Este: A Success Story (New York, 1985);Google Scholar and Steel, Dawn, They Can Kill You but They Can't Eat You: Lessons from the Front (New York, 1993).Google Scholar

17 Kwolek-Folland, Angel, Engendering Business: Men and Women in the Corporate Office, 1870-1930 (Baltimore, 1994);Google ScholarStrom, Sharon Hartman, Beyond the Typewriter: Gender, Class, and the Origins of Modern American Office Work, 1900-1930 (Urbana, Ill., 1992).Google Scholar

18 Cunningham, Power Play; Herr, Women, Power, and AT&T; Hopkins, So Ordered.

19 Herr, Women, Power and AT&T.

20 Ibid.; Cunningham, Power Play; Hopkins, So Ordered.

21 See, for example, MacLean, Nancy, The Hidden History of Affirmative Action: Working Women's Struggles in the 1970s and the Gender of Class, Feminist Studies 25 (Spring 1999): 4378;CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Katzenstein, Mary Fainsod, Feminism within American Institutions: Unobtrusive Mobilization in the 1980s, Signs 19 (Autumn 1990): 2754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

22 Kwolek-Folland, Engendering Business; Benson, Counter Cultures; Gamber, Wendy, The Female Economy: The Millinery and Dressmaking Trades, 1860-1930 (Urbana, Ill., 1997),Google Scholar and The Boardinghouse in Nineteenth-Century America (Baltimore, 2006); and Tone, Andrea, Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America (New York, 2001).Google Scholar

23 Tone, Devices and Desires.

24 Since the publication of Chandler, Alfred D. Jr's Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, Mass., 1977),Google Scholar big business has been a central element of business history. On Chandler's contribution, see Richard R. John, Elaborations, Revisions, Dissents: Chandler, Alfred D. Jr's The Visible II and after Twenty Years, Business History Review 71 (Summer 1997): 151200.Google Scholar

25 On the devaluation of women's work, including consumption, see the introduction to this issue. Boydston, Jeanne, in Home and Work: Housework, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic (New York, 1990),Google Scholar discusses what she terms the pastoralization of housework, the process by which domestic labor was devalued in both the home and the marketplace as wages rose in economic importance. See also Nelson, Elizabeth White, Market Sentiments: Middle-Class Market Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (Washington, D.C., 2004);Google Scholar and Pacuet, Laura Byrne, The Urge to Splurge: A Social History of Shopping (Toronto, Ont, 2003).Google Scholar

26 Holton, Robert J., Globalization and the Nation-State (New York, 1998);Google ScholarRobertson, Roland, Globalisation or Glocalisation? Journal of International Communications 1, no. 1 (1994): 3352;CrossRefGoogle ScholarSantos, Boaventura de Sousa, Toward a Multicultural Conception of Human Rights, in Moral Imperialism: A Critical Anthology, ed. Hernndez-Truyol, Berta Esperanza (New York, 2002), 3960;Google Scholar and Scholte, Jan Aart, Globalization: A Critical Introduction (New York, 2000).Google Scholar

27 Cleary, Elizabeth Murray; Sturtz, Within Her Power.

28 Hoganson, Kristin, Consumers' Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity, 1865-1920 (Chapel Hill, 2007).Google Scholar

29 Ibid., 57.

30 See, for example, Freeman, Carla, Is Local; Global as Feminine: Masculine? Rethinking the Gender of Globalization, Signs 26 (Summer 2001): 9831039;CrossRefGoogle Scholar Amott and Matthaei, Race, Gender, and Work; Boserup, Ester, Women's Role in Economic Development (New York, 1970);Google ScholarEnloe, Cynthia, Bananas, Beaches, and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (Berkeley, 1990);Google ScholarFreeman, Carla, High Tech and High Heels in the Global Economy: Women and Pink-Collar Identities in the Caribbean (Durham, 1999);Google ScholarHansen, Karen, Salaula: The World of Secondhand Clothing and Zambia (Chicago, 2000);Google ScholarKempadoo, Kamala and Doezema, Jo, eds., Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance, and Redefinition (New York, 1998);Google ScholarNash, June, ed., Crafts in the World Market: The Impact of International Exchange on Middle American Artisans (Albany, 1993);Google Scholar and Safa, Helen I., The Myth of the Male Breadwinner: Women and Industrialization in the Caribbean (San Francisco, 1995).Google Scholar

31 See the introduction to this issue, especially the discussion of Fraser's, NancyWhat's Critical about Critical Theory? The Case of Habermas and Gender, New German Criticism 35 (SpringSummer 1985): 107.Google Scholar

32 Lawrence is on the state's eastern border. It has an important place in the political and social history of the late nineteenth century, and in the 1870s it was moving from the frontier stage to consolidation as an urban agricultural center, the most common town form in the nineteenth-century United States. For the most part, its demographic profile is typical of towns under 10,000 in this period.

33 The United States federal constitution mandated that a national census be taken every ten years, beginning in 1790. State censuses, when taken, occurred in mid-decade and tended to adopt the same categories and in many cases the same coverage as the federal census, which set the agenda for what was counted in any given decade. Both federal and state censuses shifted their interests over time, depending on political debates as varied as concern over the sources of immigration, miscegenation in a postslavery society, urban infrastructure problems (such as water and sewer systems), the value of natural resources, and the growth of a female wage-labor force. The most useful work on the social evolution of the federal census is Anderson's, Margo J.The American Census: A Social History (New Haven, 1988),Google Scholar especially ch. 4. See also U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, pt. 1 (White Plains, N.Y., 1972), series G-495-581 and G582-601, 322.

34 The overall categorization has had a remarkable longevity. Service sector industries, for example, have remained constant since the 1870s. See, for example, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Business Reports SAS03, Service Annual Survey: 2003 (Washington, D.C., 2005).

35 Boydston, Home and Work.

36 Fraser, What's Critical about Critical Theory? 107.

37 Evans, Sara M. and Nelson, Barbara J., Wage Justice: Comparable Worth and the Paradox of Technocratic Reform (Chicago, 1989).Google Scholar

38 Demographic data is drawn from the 1875 Kansas State manuscript census, Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka, Kansas) hereafter KSMC, cemetery records, city directories, and other archival sources for Lawrence, Douglas County. I created a data set that includes 7,265 individuals.

39 See, for example, Hunter, Tera, To Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women's Lives and Labors after the Civil War (Cambridge, Mass., 1997).Google Scholar On daily domestics as self-employed, see Clark-Lewis, Elizabeth, Living In, Living Out: African American Domestics in Washington, D.C., 1910-1940 (Washington, D.C., 1994),Google Scholar esp. ch. 6.

40 On domestic service in the nineteenth-century, see Hasia Diner, Erin's Daughters in America: Irish Immigrant Women in the Nineteenth Century (Baltimore, 1983); Dudden, Faye, Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, Conn., 1983);Google Scholar Katzman, Seven Days a Week; and Lasser, Carol, The Domestic Balance of Power: Relations between Mistress and Maid in Nineteenth-Century New England, Labor History 28, no. 1 (1987): 522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

41 Ellen Austin, 1875 KSMC, nos. 12324 and 1310332.

42 Household financial records, Mrs. James C. Fannie Horton Diary, Lawrence, Kansas, 1874, Horace Moore Collection, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

43 N. C. Sonne, 1875 KSMC no. 1253270.

44 In this period, Lawrence's residential neighborhoods were racially integrated, although by the mid-1880s clear class distinctions were emerging.

45 Horton diary, 15 Feb. 1874.

46 Horton diary, 16 July 1874. See also, James Skein, 1875 KSMC no. 211; M. H. Stock-well, 1875 KSMC no. 46368; and Lawrence City Directory for 1873-74 (Lawrence, 1874) hereafter LCD.

47 Hughes, Langston, Not Without Laughter (New York, 1995), 139.Google Scholar The novel was first published in 1930 but is set at the turn of the century.

48 Zukin, Sharon and DiMaggio, Paul, eds., Structures of Capital: The Social Organisation of the Economy (Cambridge, 1990);Google Scholar Corporate Culture, a special issue of Social Text 44 (FallWinter 1995); Benson, Counter Cultures; Kwolek-Folland, Engendering Business; and Baron, Ava, ed., Work Engendered: Toward a New History of American Labor (Ithaca, 1991).Google Scholar

49 Rose, Mark, Cities of Light and Heat: Domesticating Gas and Electricity in Urban America (University Park, Md., 1995);Google ScholarJacoby, Sanford M., Modern Manors: Welfare Capitalism since the New Deal (Princeton, 1997);Google Scholar and Edwards, Richard, Contested Terrain: The Transformation of the Workplace in the Twentieth Century (New York, 1979).Google Scholar

50 Before commercialization moved laundering to specialized facilities (by the 1890s in major urban areas), washing took place in residential neighborhoods, inside and outside of domestic dwellings. See Mohun, Arwen, Steam Laundries: Gender, Technology, and Work in the United States and Great Britain, 1880-1940 (Baltimore, 1999).Google Scholar

51 Lu Wilson, Household financial records, Horton diary, n.p.; Ronnie Brown, 6 May 1874, and Maria Brown, 1875 KSMC no. 3279304.

52 Fannie's diary notes expenditures for washing-machine parts and repairs, indicating that she possessed some sort of washing or wringing machine. This was unusual in 1875, and no doubt made it easier to do the laundry on her premises, once the washer had mastered the machine. See entries for Cash Account May 1875, Horton diary.

53 On household technology, see Cowan, Ruth Schwartz, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave (New York, 1983);Google Scholar and Strasser, Susan, Never Done: A History of American Housework (New York, 1982).Google Scholar

54 The Home Cook Book (Chicago, 1874), 376, 377, 379.

55 See, for example, Burt, S. H., The Universal Household Assistant, or What Everyone Should Know: A Cyclopedia of Practical Information (New York, 1885), 29108, 158, 268, 48385;Google ScholarThe Home Messenger Book of Tested Receipts (Detroit, 1873); Holmes, Marion, How to Cook (Chicago, 1883), 337;Google Scholar and The Housewife's Library: (Many Volumes in One) Furnishing the Very Best in All the Necessities (Philadelphia, 1883), 631-32.

56 Hunter, To Joy My Freedom.

57 Lily Barnes, 1875 KSMC no. 1163176. Scruggs was born in Virginia in 1794, no doubt as a slave. Cemetery records from Lawrence document her death in 1884, at ninety years of age. Her lifetime spanned the creation of the Constitution, the end of slavery, and the birth of modern America. Jane Scruggs, KSMC no. 5111116, Oak Hill Cemetery, permit no. 2708, lot 1222.

58 Patsey Felton, 1875 KSMC no. 68588.

59 See, in particular, Dudden, Serving Women, 155-92. Dudden constructs supervision as noneconomic activity, in fact as the antithesis of production.

60 Lasser, The Domestic Balance of Power; and Katzman, Seven Days a Week.

61 Kwolek-Folland, Engendering Business.

62 For example, an advertisement placed by a prospective domestic in the Daily Kansas Tribune hereafter DKT, 6 Jan. 1874, 2, which ran for several weeks.

63 Important Business, Western Recorder, 28 June 1885, 2; Hunter, To Joy My Freedom, 74-97. Waller encouraged further reports of their collective action, but either the women did not meet or they were not interested in publicizing their efforts, as the paper had no follow-up report.

64 Gamber, The Boardinghouse.

65 Jacob Oesch, KSMC no. 22629; J. N. Vanhoesen, KSMC no. 15152; Miss Coathope, DKT, 4 July 1874, 4; Lillian Bell, Lawrence Daily Journal, 16 Jan. 1885; and Miss Ferris, 24 Mar. 1885.

66 DKT, 10 Jan.; LCD, 143; Katja Rampelmann, Small Town Germans: The Germans of Lawrence, Kansas from 1854 to 1918 (unpublished master's thesis, University of Kansas, 1993), 24, 54; DKT, 1 Jan. 1874, 2. The ad appeared at least once a week in the 1870s.