It is frequently assumed that the mechanization of work has a revolutionary effect on the lives of the people who operate the new machines and on the society into which the machines have been introduced. For example, it has been suggested that the employment of women in industry took them out of the household, their traditional sphere, and fundamentally altered their position in society. In the nineteenth century, when women began to enter factories, Jules Simon, a French politician, warned that by doing so, women would give up their femininity. Friedrich Engels, however, predicted that women would be liberated from the “social, legal, and economic subordination” of the family by technological developments that made possible the recruitment of “the whole female sex into public industry.” Observers thus differed concerning the social desirability of mechanization’s effects, but they agreed that it would transform women’s lives.
Historians, particularly those investigating the history of women, now seriously question this assumption of transforming power. They conclude that such dramatic technological innovations as the spinning jenny (spinning jenny: n.多轴纺织机), the sewing machine, the typewriter, and the vacuum cleaner have not resulted in equally dramatic social changes in women’s economic position or in the prevailing evaluation of women’s work. The employment of young women in textile mills during the Industrial Revolution was largely an extension of an older pattern of employment of young, single women as domestics (domestic: a household servant). It was not the change in office technology, but rather the separation of secretarial work, previously seen as an apprenticeship for beginning managers, from administrative work that in the 1880’s created a new class of “dead-end” jobs, thenceforth considered “women’s work.” The increase in the numbers of married women employed outside the home in the twentieth century had less to do with the mechanization of housework and an increase in leisure time for these women than it did with their own economic necessity and with high marriage rates that shrank the available pool of single women workers, previously, in many cases, the only women employers would hire.
Women’s work has changed considerably in the past 200 years, moving from the household to the office or the factory, and later becoming mostly white-collar instead of blue-collar work. Fundamentally, however, the conditions under which women work have changed little since before the Industrial Revolution: the segregation of occupations by gender, lower pay for women as a group, jobs that require relatively low levels of skill and offer women little opportunity for advancement all persist, while women’s household labor remains demanding. Recent historical investigation has led to a major revision of the notion that technology is always inherently revolutionary in its effects on society. Mechanization may even have slowed any change in the traditional position of women both in the labor market and in the home.
18. The author mentions all of the following inventions as examples of dramatic technological innovations EXCEPT the
(A) sewing machine
(B) vacuum cleaner
(E) spinning jenny
19. It can be inferred from the passage that, before the Industrial Revolution, the majority of women’s work was done in which of the following settings?
(A) Textile mills
(B) Private households
(E) Small shops
20. It can be inferred from the passage that the author would consider which of the following to be an indication of a fundamental alteration in the conditions of women's work?
(A) Statistics showing that the majority of women now occupy white-collar positions
(B) Interviews with married men indicating that they are now doing some household tasks
(C) Surveys of the labor market documenting the recent creation of a new class of jobs in electronics in which women workers outnumber men four to one
(D) Census results showing that working women’s wages and salaries are, on the average, as high as those of working men
(E) Enrollment figures from universities demonstrating that increasing numbers of young women are choosing to continue their education beyond the undergraduate level