Women in the 1940s

March 5, 2013 in 1960s-1970s

The role of women was a much stronger one during the civil rights era than some like to believe.  Many women did not work outside of the home, so working in the movement was what they considered their contribution to society.  As expected, sometimes this work effected their homes lives and the dynamics of their family.  Conflict arose when the man of the household and the wife had different views of how the maid should be treated or even blacks in general.  Women became more and more outstanding as the years passed.  In her biography, Passing for Black, Mae Street Kidd tells of how she took her husband’s car and hid it so he wouldn’t give other women rides in it.

Other women would use their cars to transport not only their own maids, but sometimes other peoples’ maids as well.  When blacks were protesting having to sit in the back of the bus they had to walk to work.  Sometimes this could be several miles one way.  The white women would give them rides allowing for their maids to continue to boycott the buses without having to make the strenuous walk home after a long day’s work.

In many cases, such as the women driving their maids, women of all colors noticed a problem with the way society was treating blacks.  In Freedom on the Border Anne Braden recounts learning of the tragedy that happened in a Hardinsburg, Kentucky hospital.  Three black men were hurt in a car accident and taken to a hospital did not accept black patients.  The men were in such bad shape that as the hospital staff let them lay on the floor waiting for them to be taken somewhere else, one of the men died.  Braden and her friend, Mary Agnes Barnett, decided to take a stand about the injustices happening in hospitals.  They eventually got a law passed that said Kentucky hospitals could not receive their license if they refused emergency treatment to anyone.

Women’s roles ranged from simple acts of kindness for a few individuals to making a difference for the entire black population of Kentucky.  Without women stepping up and making a difference, we would not have made such great strides in defeating racism.






2 responses to Women in the 1940s

  1. I really like the way you talked about how women’s roles affected their own personal lives. I feel like a lot of the time we just think about how these actions helped out people and affected the community but it was really nice that you brought up how this affected their own home lives as well.

  2. It is sad that women played such important roles in the civil rights era yet are overlooked in the history books. I like how you elaborated on this issue in your post. The world could use more Anne Bradens and Mae Street Kidds!

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