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What Were Some of the Jobs in the 1900s for Men?
The types of available jobs for men in the 1900s were as varied as the different types of skills and personalities in the men themselves. From agriculture work to business to blue collar to industry and trades, men, as the traditional breadwinners of most of the 1900s, had to find work and maintain their jobs through economic recession, wars, global changes, advances in technologies and the drastic changes in traditional gender roles.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, "At the turn of the century, about 38 percent of the labor force worked on farms." Although men comprised the largest share of the workforce, when it came to agriculture work, such as animal or crop farming, women shared in the duties, as well. More than most other areas of work during the early 1900s, women played a role in keeping a farm running. However, men were responsible for managing the business end of the farm, as well as overseeing workers, planting and harvesting, maintaining livestock and selling produce and other farm goods to make enough money to sustain the family.
As the shift away from the agriculture life began toward the mid-1900s, men moved from farm life and rural living to more urban living, and into business sectors that required a higher level of education than in previous times. Known as "white collar" jobs, men expanded to working in offices and commuting to get to their jobs. Wages were also higher in the business sector, so many men were able to provide more for their families if they held a job as a businessman. It was this boom in business employment that led to some of the highest personal propriety rates in the U.S. during the mid-1900s.
Blue Collar Work
"Blue collar work" refers to jobs that involve manual labor and skilled trades, such as construction, road work, repairs and demolition, During the beginning to mid-1900s, these jobs were traditionally held only by men, because they often required a great deal of physical strength and stamina. These jobs also often required many hours at work to make enough money to sustain a family, because the wages are often low. Although women eventually began to move into these areas toward the end of the century, blue collar work remained a male-dominated area.
The urbanization of America during the early 1900s brought about a sharp increase in industrial and factory production, as well as the demand for factory-made goods. For a brief time during World War II, women held most of these types of jobs; however, industrial work otherwise remained a male-dominated area in the 1900s. Car factories, production and processing plants, textile manufacturing and factory assembly lines are a few examples of industry jobs held by men in the 1900s.
Alicia Purdy is a freelance writer and editor living in Utah. She has a master's degree in journalism and a bachelor's degree in broadcast communications.