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Earning Power

Women and Work in Los Angeles, 1880-1930

Eileen Wallis

Publication Year: 2010

“The intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, and class are front and center in Eileen Wallis’s important new book on women in Los Angeles workplaces. Not only does her study capture the multicultural West, but also the different development of LA’s economy within the context of Progressive Era reform.”
\--Joanne Goodwin, associate professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and author of Gender and the Politics of Welfare Reform:
Mothers’ Pensions in Chicago, 1911-1929

Published by: University of Nevada Press

Series: The Urban West Series


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This book grew out of my scholarly interest in the lives of women in the urban West. With one side of my family rooted in Nebraska, the other side in Texas, and as a second-generation Angeleno, I have long been fascinated with how women survived, physically, emotionally, and particularly economically, in the American West...

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pp. xiii-xvi

As projects tend to do, this book has grown and evolved over the years. It began as my doctoral dissertation at the University of Utah. I am deeply indebted to the late Dr. Dean May, who encouraged me to pursue my interest in women in the urban West and who saw this dissertation through its formative stages. I also want to thank Dr. Eric Hinderaker, who stepped in as chair following Dr. May’s untimely...

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pp. 1-10

In 1933 Los Angeles police arrested striking garment worker Anita Castro for distributing union literature. She found herself in a city jail cell surrounded by other women: One women is sitting, young woman, and she’s crying and I says, “Why are you crying? But why are you in jail?” And she says, “because I was soliciting.” But I didn’t know what soliciting meant...

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1. Women in White-Collar Work

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pp. 11-32

Beginning with its March 1911 issue, Sunset magazine regularly devoted space to profiling women across the American West and their work. As might be expected for a magazine born as a promotional effort, the women profiled seem to have been selected for their potential to represent how women in the West were different from their eastern...

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2. Servants and Retail Workers in Los Angeles

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pp. 33-52

Few employment options existed for the vast majority of women who either arrived without professional training or whose ethnicity barred them from white- collar work. Th e real estate boom of the 1880s had increased Los Angeles’s population from eleven thousand to eighty thousand people in the space of a few years, but the newcomers...

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3. Working Women and the Limits of Welfare Capitalism

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pp. 53-67

Writing for the Los Angeles Express newspaper in 1903, reporter Elizabeth Banks interviewed a cross section of the city’s working women: servants, offi ce clerks, retail workers, and so on. These women told Banks that a woman should expect to pay thirty dollars a month for room and board in a “desirable and convenient” place, and that clerical workers, for example, received on average twenty- five dollars...

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4. Race, Class, and Gender in Los Angeles’s Unions

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pp. 68-85

During a meeting in November 1913, the Los Angeles Business Woman’s Civic Club appointed a special committee to investigate conditions facing unemployed women in the city. Worried about fi nding work for all the new arrivals, Jane Neil Scott, head of the Vocational Department of the ywca, told a reporter, “Th e only way I can sleep at night is to stop thinking. I have been connected with this business...

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5. Suffrage and Politics in Los Angeles

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pp. 86-115

In 1911 California prepared for local and statewide elections. Even to those individuals with a great deal of political experience, there seemed to be something different in the air that autumn. In Southern California women were suddenly everywhere in the political process because two of those elections dealt with issues near and dear to their hearts...

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6. Immigrant Women, Work, and Americanization

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pp. 116-148

In the 1920s sociologist Pauline Young interviewed Los Angeles resident Cora Jackson. Jackson was a Molokan, part of a reclusive religious sect that had fled Russia. Jackson had arrived in the city at the turn of the century. She told Young about her work history: We came to America on a Saturday, and I went to work in an American home on Monday. I was servant girl and nurse for small babies. I was only ten years old. I was never sent to school. I never could play...

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7. Wartime, Protest, and New Industries

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pp. 149-177

In the midst of 1919’s citywide labor unrest, Los Angeles’s Friday Morning Club invited representatives from several female trade unions to address its members. Th e meeting’s results exemplifi ed the lack of understanding that remained between elite club women and working- class women. Frances Nacke Noel served as presiding chairperson...

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pp. 178-186

Standing in downtown Los Angeles in 1929, a young working woman could find much about the city to celebrate, but also much to condemn. In just fifty years Los Angeles had grown from a small cow town with little infrastructure into a city that offered residents and business...


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pp. 187-220


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pp. 221-238


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pp. 239-248

Image Plates

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pp. 249-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780874178142
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874178135

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 8 b/w photographs, 1 line art
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: The Urban West Series
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OCLC Number: 613192846
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Earning Power

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women -- California -- Los Angeles -- Social conditions -- History.
  • Women -- Employment -- California -- Los Angeles -- History.
  • Women employees -- California -- Los Angeles -- History.
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