Many occupations became increasingly professionalized during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, requiring degrees and admittance to professional organizations. For instance, women who had previously worked as healers and midwives now had to compete with male doctors, who disparaged traditional home medicine practices. As it became more difficult for women to receive training in the professions, their reputations suffered. In time, the numbers of women in professional fields grew, but gaining acceptance remained difficult until well into the twentieth century.
Nevertheless, certain professions were not only open to women, but also encouraged female participation. Teaching was a field that seemed to suit ideas about women’s character and temperament. Based on notions of women’s maternal and nurturing nature, primary school teaching became a very common profession. However, throughout the nineteenth century, women began to follow other vocations, such as reform work, missionary work, and literary pursuits.
At the end of the nineteenth century, retail and office professions became feminized. The women who entered these professions, many of whom came from immigrant families and would have worked in factories hitherto, saw themselves as professionals, "business women."
These collections contain town records and personal records documenting the employment of teachers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
During the late nineteenth and into the twentieth century, women began taking on greater managerial roles in companies. These collections document women’s roles as managers, presidents, and other executive positions.
These collections document women's work as office clerks, typists, and secretaries.
These collections document women working in retail, in the literary and public relations fields, as Christian missionaries, and in other professional fields.