Financial History 144 Winter 2023 | Page 14

Library of Congress
President Herbert Hoover signed into law The Economy Act of 1932 , which contained a controversial “ married persons clause ” that remained in place until June 1937 . The act adversely affected women in government jobs throughout much of the Great Depression .
student years in higher education while the economy was in a depression , which may explain why her father talked her out of her first calling of chemistry . He believed she would not be able to find a job in that field .
When Brown took a job as a secretary in a law office , her parents were perhaps satisfied , but she was not . At the urging of the lawyers that she worked for , who saw her as a bright and talented young woman , she entered college . She went on to earn a bachelor ’ s degree in economics from the University of Kansas in 1933 , a master ’ s degree from Tufts University in 1935 and a doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois in 1937 .
After graduation , Brown became involved in research at Princeton University , where she met and married Charles F . McCoy in 1939 . She went on to have four children and decided to apply for a teaching position at the University of Arizona in the 1950s . Despite her academic credentials and early experience , the department of economics “ wouldn ’ t have her ,” according to a former colleague . In his words , the head of the department “ absolutely refused to have anything to do with her .” McCoy instead took a part-time teaching job in the marketing department .
Things eventually changed when the economics department launched a doctoral program in 1957 and realized that “ no one in the department was qualified to teach in it .” McCoy was then hired . One might imagine that her career was much improved — and in some ways it was .
She earned teaching awards and by all accounts was a popular professor with her students . It took 16 years for her to be promoted to full professor . She remained the only woman in the economics department during her years at the University of Arizona and , according to her daughter , her office was “ always in the darkest , deepest corner , and she knew it was because she was a woman .” Summing up her experience as a female faculty member , her daughter remarked , “ They treated her like dirt .”
The context for women of color was full of unique challenges . In the spring of 1921 , at the age of 23 , Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander earned her doctorate in economics — one of three Black women to obtain a doctorate by that time , the first Black woman to obtain a doctorate in economics and the first Black woman to get a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania . Unlike her male colleagues and despite her outstanding accomplishments , Alexander found it difficult to find employment after completing her degree . In her own words , “ I did all my graduate work in economics and insurance . I couldn ’ t get work anywhere .” As a result , she decided to go to law school .
To Work or to Wed
When McCoy approached the chair of the department she hoped to join , it was , of course , a man . In 1948 , the AEA published a list of 175 department chairs titled “ Chairmen or Heads of Departments of Economics , Deans of Schools of Business , and Directors of Business Research Bureaus and Institutions in Selected Colleges and Universities .” This extensive list shows that of the 175 institutions listing chairs of economics departments , only six reported having women chairs in economics . In other words , only 3 % of those listed were women , and 97 % were men . The six institutions with women department chairs in economics were all women ’ s colleges . Although Viva B . Boothe was listed as director of the Bureau of Business Research at Ohio State University , no women chairs were found at Ivy League schools , state universities or smaller co-educational colleges . This reality reflected the lack of women faculty outside women ’ s colleges and the gendered nature of the labor market for scholars at institutions of higher learning .
Several subsequent studies have shown the benefits of having women managers in academic settings on women ’ s earnings and the number of women entering graduate school , but in the early years of the profession , the doors to faculty employment were closed for most women , and one means of closing the door was through the “ marriage bar .”
Most often , those few women who did secure positions in research universities were disproportionately single and not married . Many universities and colleges had what historians refer to as marriage bars , which prevented married women from being hired or , if already employed , called for their firing once they married or their marriage was discovered . Such was the case for Caroline F . Ware , who kept her maiden name upon marrying economist Gardner Means and was not allowed to fulfill her contract for summer teaching at the University of Wyoming in 1935 when it was discovered that she was married . When national attention was brought to the incident , the university reported that the rule was to “ spread employment .” Unsurprisingly , Ware pointed out that the university was an educational institution and “ not a work-relief organization .”
Like other universities , the University of Wyoming had provisions prohibiting the appointment of married women as instructors and calling for the dismissal of female teachers who marry . According to Claudia Goldin , marriage bars arose in teaching and clerical work in the late 1800s
12 FINANCIAL HISTORY | Winter 2023 | www . MoAF . org