Gaining Ground:A Profile of American Women in the Twentieth Century

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Gaining Ground:
A Profile of American Women
in the Twentieth Century

In the 19th century, the French observer Alexis de Tocqueville attributed the strength and prosperity of the American people to the “superiority of their women.” Singular praise indeed. As we begin the 21st century, America is as prosperous as it has ever been. There is a question however that begs asking: Is there still such a dynamic relationship between America and its women? And has that relationship been a reciprocal one?

This report documents the trends in well-being of American women in the 20th century in seven categories: demographics, health, family, education, economics, attitudes and religion. While women have made phenomenal strides forward in life-expectancy, economics, education, and in maternal health, the areas of personal well-being are cause for concern.

The human drama of birth, life, and death is far more than mere numbers. But step back. Consider the broad outlines and contours revealed by the trends reported in this study: Behind the data you can see an incredible mosaic of the lives of American women in the 20th century. Landmark events have reshaped American culture and society, and thus the lives of American women. Changes in the population reflect the effects of wars, waves of immigration, epidemics, advances in medical technology, economic booms and depressions. Then, in turn, these historic events have effected dramatic shifts in attitudes, values, and cultural norms.

In these fundamental paradigm shifts, we can see the results of forces that have been at work changing the landscape, altering forever what once was . . . into what is today.

The entire report is available as a complete download (745kb), or in sections as presented below. Gaining Ground Talking Points are also available for download.

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