• Length:
    10 Weeks
  • Effort:
    2–3 hours per week
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  • Course Type:
    Self-paced on your time

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About this course

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As we see American women coming into positions of economic and political influence, we start to wonder: why now? The Women Have Always Worked MOOC, offered in four parts, explores the history of women in America and introduces students to historians’ work to uncover the place of women and gender in America’s past.

The 19th Amendment–which gave women the right to vote–is our launching point for course three. We will explore the new cultural and economic opportunities that emerged for women in the 1920s, while gaining an understanding of how racial, familial, and legal structures placed constraints on that independence. We'll conclude course three with a look into World War II and how the massive changes wrought by women's essential contributions to the war effort provided new opportunities and new barriers that emerged over the twenty-year interwar period.

What you'll learn

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  • How the the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which formally established women’s right to vote, impacted women's political participation and created competing understandings of equality in the 1920s
  • How the emergence of two different groups of feminists (equality feminists and social feminists) came about
  • How the laws of coverture, domesticity, and citizenship continued to constrain women's independence in the early 20th Century
  • How protective labor legislation sealed women's positions in a segmented labor force
  • How Depression-era unemployment impacted masculine identities, family life, and marriage
  • How women played a critical role in strikes to improve working conditions
  • How attitudes about married women and women with children in the workforce changed from the Great Depression to World War II
  • How women experienced discrimination based on gender and race while working in military industries and serving in the military
  • How efforts to return women to the home after the War supported men's reentry into the workforce and the idea of the American standard of living

Meet your instructors

Alice Kessler-Harris
R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History Emerita
Columbia University
Nick Juravich
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Women's History
New-York Historical Society

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