Though the percentage of women workers in the paid labor force in Connecticut only rose from 23.7 percent to 26.3 percent between 1880 and 1920, the total number of women working tripled, while the state population did little more than double.
Society began to accept the fact that single women could and should work, and could do so without ruining their reputations. The increase in the number of women workers however, is not nearly as significant as the shift in occupations, which, however, left unchanged the low status of women in the work force.
Throughout the period, the proportion of women working in the paid labor force in Connecticut was greater than in the U.S. as a whole. And, because Connecticut was such a strong manufacturing state, more women worked in manufacturing and fewer in agriculture than elsewhere. In 1910 Connecticut was the leading producer of firearms and ammunition in the U.S.; produced almost half of the brass, bronze and silverware products; and produced the more value in clocks and watches than any other state.
The attached charts give a detailed outline of the changes in employment during this period.
The most notable change is the shift out of domestic work, into clerical work. The percentage of women in manufacturing and agriculture gradually decreased. There is a dramatic
in percentage and numbers in the domestic area, and an even more dramatic
for women in the clerical field. Trade and transportation, and professional and public service show moderate increases.
What happened to cause the opening of this new field—clerical work? Why does the percentage of women in manufacturing drop? And what does the sharp decrease in domestics tell us about women’s ability to make choices in the work place?