Date of Award

Fall 2002

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Lucy Salyer


Between 1880 and 1918, thousands of women in Barre, Vermont and Trinidad, Colorado entered the paid labor force. They worked as boardinghouse keepers, domestic servants, waitresses, laundresses, prostitutes, office workers, saleswomen, telephone operators, business owners, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, artists, musicians, and midwives. By compiling and manuscript census records for 1880, 1900, and 1910, and city directories for the period 1880 to 1918, this study identified 3,634 working women in Barre and 3,886 working women in Trinidad. Cross-checking these names against probate, city, and county court records, marriage and death records, newspapers, local manuscript collections, and oral histories, stories of a few hundred women emerged. The patterns in aggregate data provided an overall picture of female employment in each community. Personal stories of the smaller subset of women provided a clearer look into their lives. By comparing working women in two communities in the East and West, this study provides a baseline for examining how two diverse regions affected women's working lives.

Although Barre and Trinidad, were located in disparate regions, the northeast and the Rocky Mountain west, employed women of each community had similar work opportunities and experiences. During the time period under study, each community grew from a town into a small city, with concomitant population and economic growth. Women's opportunities for earning wages underwent an expansion that included growth in office work, sales, the telephone industry, teaching, nursing, and other professions. The women of Barre and Trinidad took advantage of this expansion. Nonetheless, a woman's gender, not the region in which she resided, nor her race/ethnicity, or economic class, primarily determined the type of paid labor she found.