This Grand Experiment

When Women Entered the Federal Workforce in Civil War–Era Washington, D.C.

By Jessica Ziparo

352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 6 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3597-2
    Published: December 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3598-9
    Published: December 2017
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6885-7
    Published: November 2021

Civil War America

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Awards & distinctions

Named one of 35 over 35, Thirty-Five Debut Authors over Thirty-Five

In the volatility of the Civil War, the federal government opened its payrolls to women. Although the press and government officials considered the federal employment of women to be an innocuous wartime aberration, women immediately saw the new development for what it was: a rare chance to obtain well-paid, intellectually challenging work in a country and time that typically excluded females from such channels of labor. Thousands of female applicants from across the country flooded Washington with applications. Here, Jessica Ziparo traces the struggles and triumphs of early female federal employees, who were caught between traditional, cultural notions of female dependence and an evolving movement of female autonomy in a new economic reality. In doing so, Ziparo demonstrates how these women challenged societal gender norms, carved out a place for independent women in the streets of Washington, and sometimes clashed with the female suffrage movement.

Examining the advent of female federal employment, Ziparo finds a lost opportunity for wage equality in the federal government and shows how despite discrimination, prejudice, and harassment, women persisted, succeeding in making their presence in the federal workforce permanent.

About the Author

Jessica Ziparo earned her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and her J.D. from Harvard Law School.
For more information about Jessica Ziparo, visit the Author Page.

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