Women in the U.S. Postal System
Women began entering the work force in greater numbers in the 1970s, including the postal system. It was in this decade that Americans began seeing women with mail at their doorsteps, or behind the post office counter, in greater numbers. Many of these women struggled to be recognized for their work within the service. But as new working women elsewhere were finding, employment offered opportunities for greater financial independence. In 1974 the Women’s Program was established to help women work together to promote and protect themselves. Greater numbers and cooperation encouraged women to form voting blocks, winning more recognition within postal unions and associations.
Women have continued to explore wider employment opportunities within the postal service. In 1971 the Los Angeles Times reported that in the previous year nine women had found jobs as postal security officers in that area.1 As Judy Beard notes in her recollections, women have made their way into other typically male-dominated areas, working as mechanics, electronic technicians, and truck drivers.
Today, the financial opportunities afforded by the Postal Service allow many women to support their families, although many women have noted that the long hours often required for their jobs keep them away from their families more often than they would like. Changes in attitudes and projects such as the Women’s Program have helped to advance working conditions for women within the Postal Service. Today women are a large and critical component of the postal work force. Women’s numbers are highest in the postmasters’ offices and rural carrier positions, where approximately half are women. And while no woman has yet been named to the top postal office, they have, and continue to, serve on the U.S. Postal Service’s 11-member Board of Governors, the organization that, since 1971, has been responsible for appointing the Postmaster General.
1 Post Office Uses Women for Security, Los Angeles Times, December 17, 1971, p. G8.