Schooled to be Wage Workers (1900-1950)

While some girls were educated to be ladies, others were educated for wage work. Schools concentrated on cooking, laundry, and plain sewing to educate working-class girls from 1900 to the 1950s.

Domestic Worker's Uniform, around 1960

Gift of Mrs. Jefferson Patterson

An unidentified woman wore this uniform when she worked for Mrs. Jefferson Patterson, a Washington, D.C., journalist and socialite. Her labor bought Patterson the time to pursue her career.

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1900

Like other schools, Hampton Institute introduced young girls to domestic science so they could care for their future families and, if necessary, find work in other people's homes. 

Whittier Primary School, Hampton, Virginia, around 1900

Whittier Primary School, Hampton, Virginia, around 1900

Courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-120667

1939

In South Carolina, preteens learned how to operate sewing machines to prepare for work in the clothing industry.

Sewing Class, South Carolina, 1939

Sewing Class, South Carolina, 1939

Courtesy of Library of Congress. LC-USF34-051641-D

1950s

Indian boarding schools trained teenagers for work in kitchens and homes.

Chilocco Home Economics Class, Oklahoma, around 1955

Chilocco Home Economics Class, Oklahoma, around 1955

Florence Correll Collection, Courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society