Week 9 Readings

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18 responses to “Week 9 Readings

  1. Nye: Made fascinating connections between the nineteenth century private toll road, canal system, railroad, and automobiles. Even during the depression I find it exciting how public transportation survived because of the government use in the cities and transportation never came to a complete end. Also, he points out the country ties due to transportation and how rapid transportation carried urban culture out into the countryside which brought many goods and visitors to the small towns. This allowed people to move around faster and have more transportation options depending on where they were traveling. I find the great depression very remarkable so I would have liked if he would have went into more detail during that time period with public transportation, however, he did state the main points and made it clear how the depression did effect transportation.
    The reading in Pursell, The Culture of Engineers by Sinclair was different than what Nye wrote but still on the same topic. Sinclair gave an altered perspective and focused mainly on the engineers themselves, during the nineteenth century and great depression. His overall reading I did not find as interesting, but I did find the documents more thought-provoking where he gave a broader breakdown of the vocational guidance, 1932 unemployed engineers and the pay decrease during this time period. Also, the documents talked about the relief that was provided to the engineers which was interesting to see the break down and how much pay was actually lost. When he talks about the plans for the future I thought his layout was very written very well, where he talked about who would be called back to work first, and how married men would have their jobs back immediately. I think it would be a good topic to learn more about this system and exactly how it was put together and the thought process behind it after the great depression.

    • Rachael Piazza

      Women have now become the main focus on industries and what makes up “women’s work” both in telephone companies and on the farm. After reading both articles and both talking about the work of a woman and even minorities I found it interesting that women have actually been a topic where we still tend to see the artifacts of technology still being male dominated.
      When looking at the reading talking about the telephone companies I was shocking to see all the difficulties back women had to go through to even land a low paying job where white women were getting promotions and becoming managers. As white women were progressing the black ladies who eventually did get hired were soon replaced by technology and once again out of a job. Women of different color were not treated equally and were not given the same opportunities as a white woman when it came to employment.
      Prussel focused more on gender and the farm life instead of race in the workplace. His main focus was Women’s life on a farm I found to be put into a battle. Farms were no longer at “home” next to the house but rather away from the house where the male would have to travel to do work. Women were working on the farm; however, they were paid less than the male and even shared some of the same farm tasks as males.
      After thinking about both readings and looking at our society today most of these issues between race and gender still exist. Today, you still see women getting paid less than a male would for having the same career and tasks, and African American women being paid even less than a white woman. We still face the same challenges today people just don’t point them out and tend to not be thought be about like it would of in the nineteenth century. Both articles made strong arguments and pointed out a lot of facts to help understand what the daily life was like both on the farm and working for a telephone switchboard company.

  2. Megan Bannon

    I found it interesting that new technologies developed in cities first and then later made it to farm areas. It does however make sense that the Industrial Revolution took place after WWI because the nation was mostly an agricultural area in the 1920s.
    Kleinegger brings up an interesting point of women’s roles on the farm with his short story about a woman murdering her husband. They did not think to look in the kitchen for weapons, because at the time men and women’s roles were so separated. Kleinegger also points out that the rise in factories also changed the amount of work women were involved with in order to, “save labor, relieving the ‘women folks’ of nearly all the drudgery of cheese making” (172). Men and women had a large division proximity wise and were also split task wise on the farm


    Green explores African American Women in jobs by analyzing how technology improved switchboards to transfer calls. The issue with new technology was that it eliminated jobs where more was automated. Therefore, women were not needed to work the switchboard, which in turn cut job costs. I was however surprised by the amount of racism and segregation they faced while working for companies, especially the Bell System. This type of work could be extremely stressful and Green shows how these women coped with their problems.

  3. Isabel Saari

    I’ve always been interested in the American way of consuming. It seems as though buying has become a very important part of our culture that speaks towards our nations patriotism and wealth as a whole. On an individual level, consuming is a status symbol that allows others to assume your economic status. Because of my interest in this aspect of our culture, I enjoyed reading about how technology on the farm grew into a way of consuming. As food products became increasingly available to purchase because of mechanization, women began to lose their role as primary food preparers. As they considered whether to purchase a food product or not, they also became criticizers of the food industry as they compared the purchased products to what they can create themselves. The availability of food products also allowed for the growth of urban centers, where people would be unable to farm otherwise. The purchasing of goods slowly molds society from many different angles that we can still see the evidence of today.

  4. The section of Pursell on consumerism and technology for farm women was especially interesting. Particularly there was a short section on page 181 where the argument was made that “men may have been more responsive to egalitarian appeals on behalf of their daughters than on behalf of their wives.” I had not considered the idea that farmers might be motivated to bring time “saving” appliances into their homes in an effort to keep their daughters in farm life. When explained it made good sense that farmer daughters had more mobility and left the farm life after growing up without what they considered poor appliances. Farm wives of course were less likely to leave because they were already married to farmers, while daughters could leave farms and marry nonfarmers.

  5. jpeytonbrown

    Pursell’s article tells about the coming of TSP technology for telephone operators. TSP connects calls automatically, instead of having an operator plug in a cord every time a call was placed. When TSP came in the 1960s, a big question about it was did it take away the skilled labor women were doing and make it less skilled? There were also questions about hiring African American telephone operators, even in northern parts of the country. The Bell system hired plenty of black women, but chose to put them in positions that paid very little and that technology would soon replace.

  6. Mercia Spicer

    Personally I enjoyed the article about out of the barns and into kitchens rather than the African American women in the Bell System. I enjoyed the first article because I felt like it contained more information that I previously didn’t really have any knowledge about. I felt like it showed good examples of antecedent ie. women doing work by hand. To me it was interesting to read that women welcomed less work that they had and it makes me question when did they start to resent only having to do in home labor? I also wonder if it was women in the cites who had more responsibility that resented having to stay inside rather than farm women. Because farming was very laborious than working machines. This article was also a good example of the 3 assumptions that are made when predicting the future of new technology. Especially the third assumption that the new technology will only solve problems and fix everything. Women made cheese and provided eggs but as more people began to want it made it harder for women by themselves to provide. Therefore a problem was created for women, the fact that they couldn’t contribute any longer to the farms income. I wonder if that was another reason men felt like it was all their money and didn’t have to give luxuries to their wives. The other article although it was specifically addressing the Bell system I felt like was more common and understandable. I think it wasn’t only black women that jobs found ways to get around sounding discriminatory so i think that is why It didn’t catch my attention as much.

  7. Both readings focused on gendered industries and the evolution of traditionally “women’s work” over time, both on the farm and in telephone companies. As much of our readings and daily artifacts have been male-dominated, the focus on women – especially minority women – is welcome.
    In the first reading, I was interested to read about the “masculinization of agriculture.” Before the 20th century, women were the predominant producers of dairy and egg products, but that role shifted over time to bigger corporations with better resources and manpower. Like we saw with the textiles, these industries moved out of the “cottages” and into much larger plants/factories. The geography of labor was also very interesting – as tasks were clearly divided into indoor/outdoor and female/male respectively, the distance between home and work also increased. The physical and mental distance between “real work” and “women’s work” has intriguing implications for male/female relationships.

    In the second reading, it was frustrating (but sadly, not surprising) to read about the additional challenges black women faced in the workforce. Black women were stuck in low-level, poor-paying positions at phone companies like Bell, with no opportunity for advancement, as they would eventually be displaced by technology. Even when the women protested against the unfair practices by their employers, their industry’s unions refused to help them, giving preference to their white counterparts.

  8. Alli Leibowitz

    The reading this week really caught my attention. The history of how technological change influenced race and gender is not a common topic of study. I felt like these two chapters provided really good examples to show what effect technological change did have on race and gender. The first chapter we had to read on farm technology brought up topics I never even thought would have influenced women’s lives on farms and how their roles changed with the introduction of new farming technology. I had this same revelation when I read the second chapter assigned. The jobs that technology replaced not only increased unemployment but emphasized and exposed the inequalities with race and gender that occurred in workforce. I was surprised to read how accepting some of the African American women workers were towards the telephone technology and saw it as an opportunity to find better paying occupations. It was also interesting to read about the different resistance mechanisms workers used. African American women were specifically hired because employers knew that technology would replace their tasks.

  9. The bit about consumerism was extremely interesting to me, especially because in my psychology seminar we’ve been discussing consumption and how it shapes society. We use products to shape our identities – they show our status, can outwardly show our beliefs, and more – so it was interesting to read about the rise of the consumerist society seen today.
    One quote that stood out to me was about farmers who were fathers to daughters being more likely to support egalitarian work for their daugther than for their wife. This is something I still notice today. Men will want the best for their daughters yet turn around and say demeaning things about women; they’re contradictory often within the same conversation. Of course in this case it was about farm work and keeping extra hands around, but I couldn’t help but think about the current equivalent.

  10. Andrew Boswell

    This week’s Pursell readings helped me understand more about jobs women had on farms and why their husbands worked so far away from them. According to the table, women had various jobs to do on a farm and yet they usually got paid less. I find it interesting how the first part of the assigned reading seemed to be about “the battle of the sexes” whiles the second focused more on race. I never would have guessed that AT&T had such a problem with both racial and sexual segregation, but I guess that was a possibility because of that time period. I would like to also mention that I like how the reading described the computerization of various jobs as a “drastic transformation”. It makes me wonder what we would consider a “drastic transformation” for the technology or jobs of this generation.

  11. Leah Kaufman

    A lot of the issues that were highlighted upon in the readings are still issues that are prevalent today. For instance, African American women were given low paying jobs and without a change to get promotions. There were gendered jobs between men and women and the problem that still exists today while women continually are getting paid less. I also liked how it was addressed that men would want their daughters to succeed and be mobile but would not hold those same expectations for their wife. I really like reading the exact differences that men and women would face because these issues are considered gone today yet they are more subtle I would argue. Back in American history you can specifically see how gendered and racially jobs were divided.

  12. This article was very interesting. When comparing women doing work to moving to machines, is sometimes a boring topic and seems like histoirans just talk about it like it’s supposed to happen and women did not have a real big role anyways. This article talks about how women’s handy work was curical to the production of new technogoly and without them working, we would have never created this new machines to make work easier. Also this piece of reading talked about moving from farmers to factories and how consumerism played a huge role, which I have never heard that word before “consumerism” and I really liked how it was explained and thought of. My last thought was famers who were more likey to support things for their daughter than for their wife, why? Because their daughter was their own and had half of them in them? What about your wife and loving her like you have never loved anything before? How were the relationships between mothers and daughters if fathers were supporting daughters more than they were supporting wives?

  13. I found Kleinegger’s “Out of the Barns” absolutely fascinating. One of my areas of interest in historic preservation is agricultural preservation. This article was particularly eye-opening because we never look at the farms through the lens of gender. I find this particularly profound because dairy became the main form of commercial agriculture in this part of Virginia after the Civil War. I previously overlooked the transition from women doing the dairying to men as it was commercialized. This shift parallels many changes in agricultural architecture, such as the wide use of concrete in barns, chicken coops, and dairies for sanitary purposes.

  14. In the pages, 169-188, I liked this reading because it explained the ways how farmer men and women had to make a living and how they coped with or without new technologies available to them. It focused more on the women’s points of view and how they thought that it was wrong if their husbands got a new farming technology but that their wives had to wait to get “running water and a kitchen sink.” Kleinegger also talks about division of labor and how some women would complain about doing what was considered men’s work and vice versa.

    In pages, 253-290, talks about how African-American women were subjected to racial and class discrimination in the workplace. African-American women would be hired for jobs, like telephone operators, that were considered by whites to be low-class and unskilled labor. Most African-American women would not be promoted to new positions but rather demoted if new technologies replaced their work or just if the managerial staff wanted to. Some union individuals would not protect African-American women in the workplace because they thought that they were inferior and would instead attack them because of it.

  15. This week’s readings showed me just how deep the roots of inequality in the workplace for women and African-Americans do run. While nothing that I read surprised me regarding the transition of cheese from being made on farms by women to cheese being made in factories or the hiring of black women at low wages into jobs that companies such as AT&T knew were being phased out by technology, it helped me to understand how it is today that women still get paid seventy cents to every dollar that a man makes. The reading was especially helpful in shedding light on the inequalities in the workplace that still exist today when a milk plant manager said that it was an “advantage to use women in this work because more hands can be employed for the same amount of money” (172).
    It also wasn’t surprising to read that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn’t help in regards to equalizing job opportunities for African-Americans. Even with those phone companies that claimed they were equal opportunity employers, there were always ways around hiring someone white over someone black. African-American women had the double whammy of not only being female but also being a minority. It was hard enough to find a job as a women as it was but adding race to the mix made it even harder. I liked how Green pointed out that the failure of the working class to unite to fight this made the problem even worse as that still seems to be a problem today (282). The lines that of race, class, and gender that divide our society are the reasons that the societal issues that plagued the United States eighty years ago still aren’t remedied today.

  16. Life on the farm was difficult and unromanticized until the inter-wars era. World War I brought new technology to the battlefield; subsequently, new technology transferred through cities to rural areas. Technologies include transportation advancements, chemical creations and home appliances. Transpiration advancements lead to tractors in the field and chemicals and home appliances lead to efficiency in the kitchen. What is an efficient kitchen? How do the technologies aid?
    An effective kitchen is one where little preparation work must be done. Women, for example, were challenged with less work when Cheese Making and Butter Turning were granted to the factory system instead of the home. The saved time would allow for the women in the household to accomplish more per day, often at a cheaper rate due to the factories mass production.
    Since all cheese and two-thirds of butter was made in the factory, what dairy work did remain for women to do in the early twentieth century?” (173)
    Women operated cream separators and the actual milking of cows by hand. One can find evidence by citing advertisements of the era; the large majority depict women doing this work.
    Milk was essentially mechanized because of the large population that used it. The need to transport large volumes great distances promoted research in refrigeration technology. “On the other hand, poultry raising was not transferred to Frank Purdue-style factories until after WWII.” Post WWII, advancements were made to use light and heat technology to increase egg production and hens were isolated to a single nest to examine the weak producers.
    Although plenty existed, some women experimented without using butter or egg in traditional recipes calling for them. They did this to save both time and money. The food-production industry sought to demonize these women. Magazines began to ridicule women “Why shouldn’t farm folks save money by using cheaper butter substitutes instead of higher priced butter?” (176) The intent was to say that the wide use of margarine would cause cause the milk-producing families to bankrupt. “The producer-versus-consumer conflict over the use of margarine is graphically illustrated by a 1930s controversy that resulted when the Federal Burearu of Home Economics endorsed the use o margarine as economical.” (176) The resulting changed began a society where women were seen as consumers (the family shoppers) rather than producers (taking what the husbands buy and cooking/making it).

  17. erinwhiteman

    Out of all of our reading this week, I most enjoyed Kleinegger’s piece on farm women and the mechanization of their work. Kleinegger looks at cheese and dairy products in particular, and how the women who had once made these products at home began to make them in factories starting in first half of the twentieth century. Additionally, Kleinegger examines how this sort of mechanization of the process affected the economy. Farmers’ wives were torn between wanting lower prices and cheaper alternatives and supporting the farm industry by cooking “generously with butter, eggs, and cream” (Kleinegger 176). Overall, technology affects every aspect of a culture.