Working Women the Subject of Lecture

Laura Lacy

This Women’s History Month, there is one class that is looking at the roles women play in the work force in a whole new way.

The strife of the working woman was the topic professors Francien Rohrbacher and Robert Donaghy brought to their Humanities 135 class on March 11. Their discussion titled, “Why Women Work” was one of the many open in-class discussions being held this March for Women’s History Month.

Many of the events on our women’s history month calendar here consisted of scheduled classes, such as this, that focus solely on women’s history for a day.

The intention of the discussion was to address some of the issues women have faced for trying to work and also the contributions they have made as working women. It began with a look into why women were not traditionally part of the work force in the past.

The impact of religion, societal norms and tyrannical regimes has always played a big role. Expectations for women to fulfill their supposed purpose as mothers and wives have had immense impact on the lives of millions. A need to sustain the population and the economy has allowed gender roles to govern?society consistently throughout history. Though times may seem to have improved, “there is still work to be done,” said Rohrbacher.

Rohrbacher brought into discussion some of the staples of women’s history that have shaped the course for the working woman today. Only 40 years ago, the feminist movement erupted in the U.S. where women called for equal pay, equal rights and a shift in the social mentality. Rohrbacher spoke to the class about the stigma that was placed upon most women for being a feminist in those times. The sacrifices made then to make the world as it is now for working women are almost immeasurable.

Another topic mentioned was that still in many parts of the world it is taboo for a woman to work. For some, it’s simply just dangerous. One example Rohrbacher mentioned is the current crisis in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico near El Paso.

Rohrbacher and Donaghy were studying two texts that focused on the issues of working women with the class. The first was by Virginia Woolf titled “Professions for Women.” This is a shortened version of a speech Woolf gave to the National Society for Women’s Service on Jan. 21, 1931 that was abbreviated into an essay.

The piece by Woolf takes a deeper look into herself and what it took for her to establish herself as a “professional woman.” Rohrbacher calls attention to what Woolf names the “Angel in the House.” Woolf creates this “Angel” that represents the subdued irreproachable woman that fills only the expectations that men have placed upon her. Woolf speaks of how she had to battle with the “angel” to become the successful woman that she became.

“Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer,” said Woolf in “Professions for Women.”

The second text that this humanities class was studying was “The Importance of Work” by Gloria Steinem from her novel “Outrages Acts and Everyday Rebellions,” written in 1983.
This particular piece by Steinem reinforces the idea that women should have a choice when it comes to working. She states that most women do not simply want to work, but they have to work. Steinem calls into question why a woman should even have to explain why they are working.

“If a woman wants a job, shouldn’t she be able to?” said Rohrbacher. “Who cares why?”