Lexington Workforce in 1950s and ’60s

During the mid 20th century, women began to leave the home and enter the workforce.  WWII in particular was the biggest reason for this.  With a large portion of America’s male population away at war, the women chose to pick up where the men had left off.  Once the war was over, women continued to work where they could do so and the population of women in the workforce continued to grow as it has done so to this very day.  Employment between 1947 and 1967 increased from 5.5 million o 11.6 million, and about 85 percent of that growth came from jobs offered at the state and local level by privately owned businesses.  Business owners as well as local and state governments needed more workers than were available in the traditional job pools, so many of those jobs were offered to Blacks and to women workers in numbers never seen before in peace times. Typically the women’s jobs were found in teaching, nursing, clerical work and domestic service, but in Lexington, Kentucky this was all about to change.   Of course, the cultural norms remained the same despite the growing diversity in the workforce.  African-Americans still experienced racial and sexual discrimination along with a lack of job security.  Unions became critically important in offering them a voice, and this union activism coincided with the racial and sexual revolutions of the civil rights era (see footnote 1).

New industries made their way to Lexington in 1958 (see footnote 2):  IBM, Trane and Square D Electric were slated to locate in an industrial park located on the north-western side of Lexington.  The plan for the industrial park expanded Lexington’s boundaries and proposed thousands of new jobs to the area, not only for factory work but also in housing construction.  New subdivisions were proposed to be built nearby, and from 1950-1970, the population of Fayette County rose from 100.9 thousand to 174 thousand people.

— footnotes —

1.  Robert H. Zieger and Gilbert J. Gall, American Workers, American Unions, 3rd ed. (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1986), 210.
2. Ladislas Segoe and Associates, “Master Plan Supplement, 1958,” The City-County Planning and Zoning Commission of Lexington and Fayette County, Kentucky, 1958. Accessed November 22, 2010. http://www.lexingtonky.gov/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=11400.

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