Cornell University

Ileen DeVault : Research

Current Research:

"Families at Work" examines the ways in which workers' family lives intersected with their worklives.  I look at the many manifestations of "family" and their impact for different groups of workers between 1880 and 1930.  How did family units at that time develop economic strategies for family survival?   The reality of working-class life required economic contributions from not only husbands, but also wives and mothers and children in order for a working-class family to achieve minimal standards of comfort, let alone participate in improving their conditions.  The ways in which families at the turn of the last century maneuvered among the options they confronted provide us with historical insight into both the choices they made at that time and the choices families still face today.

"Where the wind blows from all directions:  Men, Marriage, and Masculinity in Pysht, Washington, 1900-1930" examines the workforce of the Merrill & Ring Logging Company in Pysht, Washington, in the early decades of the 20th century.  Despite the common wisdom which tells us that most loggers at this time were footloose and single (part of the IWW's "hobo" clientele), a number of the residents of Merrill & Ring's logging camp in Pysht not only were married but had their wives and even children with them in the remote Olympic Peninsula.  I use this example to interrogate the meaning of "marriage" for working-class men at this time.