Lara Vapnek teaches history at St. John's University and specializes in the history of gender and labor in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States. She is the author of Breadwinners: Working Women and Economic Independence, 1865-1920 (2009) and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn: Modern American Revolutionary (2015). Her current research focuses on mothers, milk, and public health in New York City from the 1850s through the 1930s.
Where did domestic workers fit into popular discussions of the "working girl" at the turn of the twentieth century? This lecture explains how labor reformers focused public attention on women who worked in factories, but domestic workers themselves sought independence by leaving behind jobs in households in favor of work in industrial, retail, or clerical occupations. This lecture captures the tensions between female reformers and domestic workers, and it explains how differences of age, race, and ethnicity, limited women's occupational mobility.