This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving American women the right to vote. To commemorate this anniversary, The Rakow Research Library at The Corning Museum of Glass explores stories of women in the glass industry during this critical moment in history through this special blog series.
In 1900, city skylines were exploding upward. People were taking to the streets to march and organize for equal pay for equal work and a 48-hour workweek. In the first decades of the century, factories were mechanized, and the first World War wrenched able bodies from the workforce. Between 1900 and 1920 machines and cultural changes transformed American industry.
The glass industry was no exception. Machines replaced workers as faster methods of production churned out light bulbs, bottles, and window glass. The labor force on the glass factory floor was changing too. Shortages of workers resulted in more opportunities for women, although Black and Asian workers were still largely excluded from applying for most glass factory jobs at this time.
Meanwhile, the fight for women’s suffrage began to heat up in the new century. Suffragists marched on Washington D.C., forcing political leaders to grapple with pressure from women’s unions and the power of organized political groups. Glassworkers’ unions passed resolutions supporting suffrage and “equal pay for equal work,” but women remained primarily in jobs considered “unskilled.” By the time the 19th amendment was ratified, over 70 years had passed since the suffrage movement’s origins at the Seneca Falls Convention in upstate New York in 1848.
Throughout the next six months, staff from across the Museum will follow the story of glass from the factory floor to the sales floor to the home and explore the place of women in all of those spaces. A series of blog articles will cover wages and working conditions, marketing to women, women in unions, women in science, and more. We hope you will join us in this exploration of women in glasshouses.
The first blog in the series comes from Linnea Seidling, curatorial assistant, and takes a look at jobs for women in the early 20th century. Check back on July 9, 2020, to get started.