In 1850 women played a significant role in the industrialization process, with many working up to 14 hours a day in manufacturing industries which included woollen and cotton textiles, paper, rubber goods and shoes. Angry female mill workers in Pennsylvania brought about a ten-hour limit on the working day after staging a series of strikes while, in Maine, women reformers successfully campaigned for reduced working hours. In the New England states, women comprised 40 per cent of the manufacturing workforce, shrinking to an average of 25 per cent by 1900. In 1900, women’s wages were often at subsistence level and averaged $273.03 per annum, compared to the male average of $490.90. By 1920, the year women gained the vote, over 50 per cent of the US states had limited women’s legal working hours to less than ten hours a day, having responded to the social reform movements initiated by female suffragists.
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