The Seattle Library Board fires married women on August 23, 1932.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 6/20/2002
  • Essay 3854
On August 23, 1932, the Seattle Public Library Board of Trustees votes not to employ married women and to ask for the resignations of married women already on the staff. The action comes after drastic cuts in funding for the library during The Great Depression. Library salaries are cut 10 to 17 percent, 30 employees are dropped from the employment rolls, branches are closed one day a week, and hospital services, bookmobile services, and adult education programs are cancelled.

The resolution read:

It shall be the policy of the Seattle Library Board not to employ a married woman whose husband is able to provide her a living. Any library employee marrying a husband able to provide a reasonable income will be required to tender her resignation. Under extenuating circumstances the Board may suspend these rules.

Nine women were dismissed over the next six months because their husbands had jobs. Fourteen other married women kept their positions by submitting affidavits and swearing to the fact that their husbands earned less than $100 a month.

During World War II, the library board reaffirmed its policy of not hiring married women, but would take women whose husbands were in military service.

On October 6, 1942, the board allowed newly married women employees to retain their jobs, but they were placed on one-year probation like new hires. The board resolution stated, "It is expected that they will continue to show a professional interest in their work with membership in professional associations and attendance at professional meetings" (Proceedings).

Sources: Memorandum from Librarian, Seattle Public Library, August 30, 1932, Ballard Branch, Seattle Public Library, Ballard Historical Information vertical file, folder 1800.03; Minutes of Proceedings, Library Board of Seattle, bound volumes, Seattle Public Library archives, Vol. 4, pp. 379, 381, 385; Vol. 5, pp. 40-41, 124-125, 315, 335.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You