Women were always an integral part of any and are permanent parts of all movements and settlements. In early America, a woman’s life tended to center around farm and family. For the most part labor was observed, whereby, men did the outside work such as planting and harvesting the crops while the women worked inside the house, transforming the raw products into usable commodities. All of a woman’s work comes under the general heading of housewife and it varied from region to region. Despite variations, the activities were much the same throughout the different regions. First came supervision of the house. Women swept, scrubbed, polished, made their own brooms, soap and polish. They carried water, made starch, ironed, carried firewood, built fires, and made candles. They sewed and made everything and they were usually in charge of the family bookkeeping. They also worked outside the house.
Women kept their own gardens and every fall canned and preserved vast amounts of homegrown fruits and vegetables. They ran home bakeries and dairies, did the milking, made butter, and kept the hen yard. Women performed usually jobs held by men. They were blacksmiths, silversmiths, and sail makers, tailors, painters, and wheelwrights and shopkeepers of every sort. Many women practiced medicine. They became nurses, unlicensed physicians and midwives. The kind of doctoring they did at home caring for the well being of their families extended outside the home.
Many women worked side by side with their spouses without being given any power or able to share in the political power with men. Most women simply accepted the division of political labor and their role as women, being described as their husbands “better half.” Family
membership had always been women’s most important affiliation. In the past it had been an affiliation women shared with men. The significance of the family as a primary economic unit was maintained throughout the 1800’s for the majority of Americans who continued to live on farms. Among the new emerging middle class, however, such was not the case. For the new middle class home and family was seen as separate from the world of work and money. The middle class women continued to perform their traditional work but it was no longer considered real work, because unlike men, they earned no money. Cut off from the money economy, women might labor all day, producing all sorts of goods and service vital to the well being of the family and
yet in the eyes of the world they did not work. When World War II broke out and the United States entered things changed for women as they did during World War I.