Abstract: On the Road to Increased Female Labor Participation in the United States after World War Two

Maggie Walsh


This paper juxtaposes women's increased labor participation with their ability to drive automobiles. Traditionally the motorcar has been perceived as a masculine vehicle. Yet some women always drove cars. The number and percentage of female drivers, however, increased notably in the years after the Second World War. This growth was initially a response to new suburban living arrangements which required mobility for effective domestic labor. When women moved into the paid labor force in much larger numbers, they also needed access to automobiles to facilitate their journey to work as well as to manage their households. Furthermore they increasingly wanted to work in locations convenient to their homes. The doubling of cars in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s was directly related to this rise in the paid female labor force. Not all of the increase can, however, be attributed to working women. Other components of the population were also responsible for the higher usage of cars.