All Work, No Pay: Women's Invisible Labor

This website is based on an exhibit that was on view at the National Museum of American History from March 2019 to May 2022.

American women have always worked, but their work in the home is often unpaid and invisible. One way to see this work is through what women wore.

This labor—cleaning, cooking, child rearing, and other care work—fused with notions of what it meant to be a woman and shaped Americans’ ideas about work, gender, and clothing.  

Seeing women as unpaid laborers has had lasting economic and social consequences. It often led to lower wages for women and to the enduring sentiment that much invisible, unpaid care work was and is still “women’s work.”