Employing women in 1943

Yesterday a new starter commenced in our section at work - a lovely lady.  Selecting a woman these days is normal, no special treatment is require when she starts. So when I came across instructions concerning the employment of women in 1943 I was very amused!

  • Pick young married women.  They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters. They are less likely to be flirtatious - they need to work or they wouldn't be doing it.
  • When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some point in their lives.  Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy.  It's always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.
  • General expereince indicates the "husky" girls - those who are just a little on the heavy side - are more even tempered and efficient then their under weight sisters. 
  • Stress at the outset the importance of time the fact that a minutes or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.
  • Given the female employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they'll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut our for them but they they lack initiative in finding work themselves.
  • Whenever possible, let the inside employee change from one job to another at sometime during the day.  Women are inclined to be less nervous and happier with change. 
  • Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day.  You have to make some allowances for feminine psychology.  A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day. 
  • Be tactful when issuing instructions or making criticism. Women are often sensitive, they can't shrug off harsh words the way men do.  Never ridicule a woman - it breaks her spirit and cuts of her efficiency.
  • Be reasonable considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl's husband or father may swear vociferously, she'll grow to dislike a place of business swhere she hears too much of this. 
  •  Retain a physician to give each woman you a hire a special physical examination - one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit, but reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job.
What can I say - I doubt these male employers who wrote this really understood women at all.  How did women run households and bring up children if they "lacked initiative in finding work themselves". And as for the last point, well, I doubt any man would have had a special male examination to see if they suffered from "mentally or physical" conditions.

I did show this to my boss and pointed out the need for "adequate number of rest periods" so I could powder my nose, he laughed at me.

By the end of the war I think most male employers knew that women were highly capable of working hard. 



  1. Some of these are great, Jo - and it's too bad they were lost along the way... Like the "be tactful" one and the "strong language" one! I also like the "rest" one, even if I don't wear lipstick... I think everyone (men AND women) should be ABLE to take their breaks, instead of work being so crazy that they don't have time to stop for their entitled breaks (like Dan often can't take breaks at all, has to eat on the run!). Sometimes I think it's laughable that back in the early to mid 1900s so much fuss was made about worker's rights etc - and for a while it worked... but then employers lost it somewhere along the way, and the big $$ dollar sign became more important than worker's rights (even simple ones like a lunch break). I think the salary is a huge culprit, too - the work has to be done, but the employer doesn't HAVE to pay overtime if that work takes longer than the set workday! :(

  2. Workdays have gotten so demanding for everyone that I have to agree with the adequate breaks idea for both men AND women. Otherwise, I agree with you. Whoever wrote this had no idea about all that women were doing in the home.

  3. Clara - with the push to maximise profits workers are having to worker longer hours, have shorter breaks and as you say, eat on the run – however it isn’t good for a person long term health. When I hear things like that, I realise how fortunate I am as this isn’t an issue for me. I know in some places the number of "toilet breaks" is monitored and that has nothing to do with rights, that is a health issue to. I don’t think employers see their employees as real living people sometimes.

  4. Amy - It is quite amazing how women have managed households and had babies for some many centuries!! And can all multi task as well.

  5. What a mixture!
    Some points were quite considerate - but others downright patronising!!
    An interesting read, Jo!

  6. I'm not sure rather to laugh or cry at this list. As Trish stated, some points were considerate, but others . . . how shall I put it . . . were quite ridiculous! I couldn't help but chuckle as I read that women need to take breaks simply to "powder their nose" and put lipstick on their lips. LOL!

    Well, I don't know where you found this, but it sure was entertaining reading. :)

  7. I think this is a great list. I haven't worked outside the home in 10 years, but I like the thought that "management" would treat women and men differently. Women are very capable of finding work, but at a job their minds might still be at home. Having their work laid out for them would seem good so that they could be more productiv ~ Especially if interrupted with a call from the school or husband.

  8. Mrs Santos - in today’s work environment men and women are treated equally, no special treatment for women, however the number of times I powder my nose is not counted or noticed by my colleagues!!. Interestedly, I work mostly with males and they also receive phone calls from their teenage children —probably as much as I do.

  9. Madame Wildflower - The list came from an article that was part of our weekly staff news letter (the person who puts it together often adds these sorts of interesting things). I have pinned it up in our tea area to remind my male collegues about the need to my extra breaks!


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