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  • Photographs taken in 1972 for a project titled

M is for Mail[woman]

Women were not allowed into the U.S. Postal Inspection Service until 1969. Their biggest hurdle involved having to wear a skirt for a uniform. After many complaints the agency decided to change it to something more conducive to the rigors of the job; a pant suit. While women make up 40% of the 493,381 postal workers people still refer to a person in this career as a mailman. Research shows that occupation titles with a gendered noun or suffix attached to them shape cultural expectations about what kinds of people perform that job. "When children hear a job title that has a gender mark on it, like an e-s-s ending or an m-a-n ending, and you ask them to draw pictures or talk about who’s doing that job, they will pick the one that matches the gender of the word. If we’re going to be fair in opening up the world of work to men and women, and make it possible for everybody, maybe our job titles should reflect that" (Snyder, 2015). Great news for women at work breaking traditional gender barriers: Megan Brennan, who rose from a letter carrier in Pennsylvania in 1986 to chief operating officer in late 2010, was appointed the 74th and the first female Postmaster General of the United States and the Chief Executive Officer of the world’s largest postal organization.

Adapted from and and (BYU English professor Delys Snyder presented corpus research on sexist job titles at a Women’s Studies colloquium entitled, “A Corpus Study of the Changes in the Use of Sexist Job Titles over the Last Fifty Years.”(

Julia O'Dell, Mail Clerk

Syracuse, New York 1972

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