Friday, January 17, 2014

Women and the WPA (part 8 of 10): 440,000

(A WPA toy shop in Chicago Illinois. The caption for this photo reads: "All toys (and) dolls are hand decorated with good wear-resisting enamels. New toys as well as those donated are kept clean and attractive by frequent redecorating." Shops like these gave jobs to unemployed Americans, and toys to the children of low-income families. It was a win-win situation. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

Employment of women in the WPA peaked at 440,193 in March of 1936. 

During the WPA's existence, female employment was typically in the 250,000-350,000 range, but went over 400,000 again in the last quarter of 1938.

Female employment was usually about 15% of total WPA employment, but as World War II escalated it went as high as 40%. For a variety of reasons, men were given preference for WPA jobs. Still, the WPA did much to facilitate the continued and expanding presence of women in the workforce, through direct employment and/or training. And this facilitation would prove beneficial not only for women, but for the entire nation's war effort: "Women as well as men were trained for jobs in the war industries through the vocational training program set up by the WPA in July 1940."

*Statistics and quote from the Final Report on the WPA Program, by the Federal Works Agency, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946. 

(WPA poster, image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

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