Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Response to the Depression: Fire Women

Seventy-five years ago, in the depths of the Great Depression, King County officials thought that a good way to spread opportunity would be to fire some 77 "working wives" from the County Welfare Department. A committee of women, including elected officials and representatives of various professional groups and women's clubs, presented a petition protesting the decision, but the officials stuck by their guns. See Working Wives' Plea Overridden, Seattle Daily Times, Feb. 14, 1938, at 1, link (UW restricted).

If you need to dig through news accounts of long-ago events (or if you just enjoy browsing), you're lucky that the University Libraries subscribes to lots of resources, including a digital version of the Seattle Times, 1900-1985, where I found this story. See the Libraries' News Guide.

The story about the King County workers mentions that the petition also protested the firing of Lea Puymbroeck Miller, a UW faculty member who was also a "working wife." Over 200 faculty members, meeting in the law school building, passed a resolution asking that the UW reverse itself, but the Board of Regents unanimously refused. For more, see Claire Palay, Lea Miller's Protest: Married Women's Jobs at the University of Washington and Married Women's Right to Work: "Anti-Nepotism" Policies at the University of Washington in the Depression (2009).

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