In spite of the fact that American society strongly urged women to find happiness in the home with their husbands and children, many women chose the role of worker. The greatest increase in working women was among older, middle-class wives. Millions of women worked to add extra support for their family, but they still wanted to maintain traditional gender roles. By the mid-1950s, 40% of wives were employed, 20% held professional jobs, 8% were skilled workers, 10% were unskilled workers, and 2% were in business. While white women often chose to go to work, black women had to go to work. In 1950, 57% of black women had jobs while 37% of white women had jobs.
Many women found work as saleswomen in department stores both in St. Louis and across the country. The role of saleswomen was certainly not the ideal role for women according to the dominant ideology, but it was a job meant for women. Department store developers had brought women into the stores beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Saleswomen could sell products to female customers better than men. The saleswomen were often from a lower class than the customers. The department store became a meeting place for women of different roles and classes.
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