WWI Homefront

Women employees, Portland Company, 1917

Women employees, Portland Company, 1917
Item 8597   info
Maine Historical Society

During World War I, women entered the workplace like never before. Women were hired at businesses such as the Portland Company to replace male counterparts and to fill positions needed for the war effort.

While women were often welcomed into employment, a level of discrimination remained. Single women were preferred over married women or women with children, and only some positions allowed for women to dress in trousers. After the war, a percentage of women remained in the workforce, but industrial positions like those at the Portland Co. reverted to men returning from the front and defense contract positions were no longer needed.

However, changes were in store. In 1918, the Department of Labor established the ‘Women in Industry Service’, a precursor to the Women’s Bureau. The Women’s Bureau is an advocacy and research service for women in the workforce. Even in the 21st Century, it continues to pursue workplace equality.

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