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FORTY PLUS CLUBS AND WHITE-COLLAR MANHOOD DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION

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Abstract:

As scholars of gender and labor have argued, chronic unemployment during the Great Depression precipitated a “crisis” of masculinity, compelling men to turn towards new industrial unions and the New Deal as ways to affirm work, breadwinning, and patriarchy as bases for manhood. But did all men experience this crisis? During the late 1930s, white-collar men organized groups called “Forty Plus Clubs” in response to their worries about joblessness and manhood. The clubs made it possible for unemployed executives to find new jobs, while at the same time recreating the male-dominated culture of the white-collar office. For male executives, Forty Plus Clubs precluded the Depression-era crisis of manhood, challenging the idea that the absence ofpaid employment was synonymous with the loss of masculinity.

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