“I honestly believe there is no sound reason why women should not be in business,” Miss Loretta Larsen told the Omaha Bee-News in 1930. Larsen appeared in this series of photos when she won a contest sponsored by the newspaper. The reporter was fascinated that Larsen was a career woman, “executive secretary of a large railroad contracting firm.”
But not to worry, folks. “The lure of home loses none of its luster because she spends eight hours in an office,” reads a caption below a photo of Larsen working in her garden. A photo of Larsen holding a broom is labeled, “And here she shows again that the business woman can always find time for her domestic duties if she plans efficiently.”
Larsen clearly saw herself as a modern, progressive woman, and she made a point of arguing for an expanded role for women. But she did so by reassuring potential critics that gender roles would not fundamentally change. As Larsen told the reporter:
“‘Surrender the home for business?’ she echoes. ‘Not so long as woman lives will that ever happen. If the woman in the business world is the right kind, the home need not suffer from any lack of attention. Lots of times the combination results in much better home conditions. It might add a touch of efficiency to domestic things.’”
Over the years similar arguments were made on behalf of women’s suffrage, participation in sports, or in campaigns for political office. To gain admittance into traditionally male domains, women accepted a double burden of responsibility.
–By David L. Bristow, Editor, 3/29/2023