What the women of today can learn from the women of 1860s
Women of today have a lot they can learn from the women of the past: their strength, solidarity, and courage. Women in the 1860’s joined the workforce taking over men’s jobs when the men went off to war. Male supervisors brought women into the federal workforce because they would do the work for half the pay or less, than their male counterparts. They didn’t take these jobs out of only patriotism, but because they paid so much more than just about any other position open to women at the time. By the time the war ended and men returned to the work force they were earning twice to three times as much as women. Women began to wonder why they were working for such low wages. Hundreds of women began to petition Congress to raise their salaries, forcing Congress to debate whether men and women should receive equal pay.
However, since the pay gap exists to this day, no one will be surprised to hear that Congress didn’t exactly pass a straight forward equal-pay law, although it came very close in the 1860 and 1870s. Instead, Congress passed a law allowing supervisors to appoint women to the graded class of clerkships available to men at the time. Since there was no incentive besides simple justice, most women remained in lower paying “female” positions. Women came incredibly close to erasing the wage gap back in the 1800’s, a time where gender equality was almost nonexistent. Women of today can certainly learn a lesson from their ancestors. They have much more collective bargaining power than they realize, and it’s time women put their power to good use.