As the Era recedes further into the past, and first-hand knowledge becomes less and less accessible, it might be a good idea to have a thread where we can post -- and debunk -- some of the more pervasive falsehoods that have grown up around the period.
To start things off, if you've ever taken any kind of course or read any modern work on the history of 20th Century women in the workplace, you'll have encountered this claim:
"In the 1930s, twenty-six states passed laws prohibiting the employment of married women!"
This "factoid" has been floating around since the 1980s, and has commonly been used as a "look how far we've come" talking point in women's-studies texts -- but one thing is usually missing when you run across it in a textbook, in an article, in a class, or on the Internet -- any citation of the source, unless it's another textbook, speech, or article which doesn't cite *its* source. And the fact is, there is no source, because this isn't a fact at all. Only *one* state passed such a law, Louisiana -- in 1940 -- and it was almost immediately repealed.
The truth is more complex. During the Depression, there was much controversy about how many jobs ought to be permitted per household -- if two people in one household worked, that could mean that a job was not available to a household where nobody could find employment. This reasoning did lead to Civil Service regulations prohibiting the simultaneous employment of a husband and wife from the same family, and at the height of the Depression, in twenty six states legislation was *proposed* to restrict the employment of married women. But proposal is not enactment -- and a very strong movement developed in opposition to such bills, across a broad coalition of women's rights groups spearheaded by the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs leading to the defeat of these bills in all but one state. In an article published in the July 13, 1940 Christian Science Monitor, the Director of Research of that organization, Dr. Ruth Shallcroft, pointed out that over the course of the 1930s, the employment of married women in the United States jumped from one out of eight in 1930 to an estimated one out of five or six in 1940.
Shallcroft noted that opposition to the employment of married women remained strong in many areas, but stressed that no laws were on the books in any state restricting such employment -- and that "in all discussion on married women's employment the all-important factor is that human beings cannot be forced into any mold in their relationships and still be creative. Legislation such as that proposed against married women which would force a particular working arrangement among family members upon all families is certain to be a failure. If family stability is to be promoted, the family must be allowed the free choice of determining whether or not it is to the advantage of its members to have the wife gainfully employed."
The war years, and the years since, proved Shallcroft correct. Since 1940, no state has had any law prohibiting the employment of married women, and since 1930 only one state has had such a law -- which didn't remain law for very long.