Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

Life Before Equal Pay Day: Portrait of a Working Mother in the 1950s

Interesting look back at Life Magazine’s feature on a working wife and mother.


In 1956, 16% of women with children under 6 worked outside the home. Twenty-seven-year-old Jennie Magill of Hammond, Ind., was one of them. When LIFE Magazine published a special double issue on “The American Woman: Her Achievements and Her Troubles,” the editors selected Magill for its cover. Smiling lovingly at her child, who smiles adoringly back, Magill was introduced to America as the face of that rare specimen, the “Working Mother.”

The American Woman LIFE Cover LIFE Magazine

For historical context, this was seven years before the Equal Pay Act prohibited sex-based wage discrimination and The Feminine Mystique exposed the plight of the joyless housewife. It was more than a decade before the Equal Rights Amendment was proposed and half a century before many Americans began to observe Equal Pay Day, which takes place this year on April 14, representing how far into the year women would have to work to earn the equivalent of…

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This entry was posted on April 19, 2015 by in Uncategorized.
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