Friday, November 10, 2006, 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Manhood, Work, and "Growing Old" during the Early Twentieth Century
Greg Wood, Penn State Erie
Commentators: Stephen Meyer, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and Colleen Doody, DePaul University
Beginning in the early twentieth century, life expectancies in the United States began to increase substantially. In 1900, a man would most likely live to be 46; by 1940, he might live 17 more years on average. While men surely treasured the prospect of longer life, "old age" became a new twentieth-century site where, like the nineteenth-century factory, working-class males struggled to define and sustain identities as "men." In new mass production industries, such as steel and automobile manufacturing, employers demanded youth, speed, and brawn. As a result, working men struggled to sustain their notions of manhood as they aged. This paper, which is the first chapter of a book manuscript in-progress, examines the burgeoning problems of age discrimination, gender, and class in American factories (ca. 1900-1929). While historians of labor and gender have often discussed gender inequality in workplaces, unions, and the modern welfare state, my research offers new insights: this paper (and the larger book project) argue that aging men's concerns about manhood in their later years greatly contributed to the widespread emphasis on preserving male authority and independence that shaped labor, retirement, and welfare state politics during the twentieth century.
All papers are pre-circulated electronically to those who plan to attend the seminar in person. For a copy of the paper, e-mail Jenny Fink at email@example.com, or call 312-255-3524.
Co-sponsored by the History Department of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northern Illinois University, Northwestern University and the Labor and Working Class History Association
The Newberry Library
Dr. William M. Scholl Center for
Family and Community History
60 W. Walton St.
Chicago, Illinois 60610
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