Working Women of the Old Port

Filling fish cans at Burnham & Morrill, Portland, 1934
Filling fish cans at Burnham & Morrill, Portland, 1934

Women’s History Month offers us the opportunity to reflect on how gender roles have changed over time, but it also invites us to examine our assumptions more closely. Despite the perception many have of women in the past staying close to home, in 1900, about twenty percent of all women and girls who lived in Portland–more than 5,500–worked for wages.

The exhibit Working Women of the Old Port highlights the variety of jobs–ranging from dirty, hot, and dangerous work in factories to teaching school or owning one’s own business–that women held in and around Portland in the early part of the 20th century.

And this being International Women’s Day, it’s important to remember that a number of these women were probably immigrants to the United States.

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