What Were Jobs During the Early 1900s?

Common occupations during the early 20th century included blacksmith, factory worker and midwife. Female employees were becoming more common in factory work during the early 1900s, but midwifery was one of a handful of jobs dominated by women.

Transportation and farm labor during the early 20th century still depended on large animals, particularly in rural areas. For this reason, blacksmiths and farriers were as valued then as mechanics are during the 21st century. Farriers made horse and ox shoes and customized them to fit the animal’s hooves, while blacksmiths generally produced and repaired tools. Not all rural towns were large enough to have both a blacksmith and a farrier, however, so one man often did the job of both.

Factory work was common in larger cities and often conducted by immigrants. Factory workers endured brutally long shifts and often faced dangerous working conditions for very little pay. Factories employed many women but paid them roughly 60 percent of the wages earned by male workers.

Female midwives oversaw most births until the early 1900s. At this point, medical doctors began to scrutinize the profession, believing that laboring women were better cared for by a professional in a hospital setting. Despite this criticism, African-American women and immigrants still leaned heavily on midwives to deliver babies and handle postnatal care.