DOL Women's Bureau Turns 97

The bureau was created by Public Law No. 259 on June 5, 1920, which gave the bureau the duty to "formulate standards and policies which shall promote the welfare of wage-earning women, improve their working conditions, increase their efficiency, and advance their opportunities for profitable employment."

The U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau has been around a long time. Ninety-seven years, to be precise, something the agency is celebrating.

The bureau was created by Public Law No. 259 on June 5, 1920, which gave the bureau the duty to "formulate standards and policies which shall promote the welfare of wage-earning women, improve their working conditions, increase their efficiency, and advance their opportunities for profitable employment." The law also gave the bureau the authority to investigate and report to the U.S. Department of Labor upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of women in industry.

Back in 1920, women were 21 percent of all gainfully occupied persons, according to DOL, which reports in its history of the bureau that, prior to World War I, of all women employed in the manufacturing industries, three-fourths were making wearing apparel or its materials, food, or tobacco products, and during that war, the number of women in industry increased greatly and the range of occupations open to them was extended, though they remained concentrated in certain occupations such as domestic and personal service, clerical occupations, and factory work.

DOL reports that women's participation rate in the U.S. civilian labor force hit a high of 60 percent in 1999. In 2010, women were 47 percent of employed persons.

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