American Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-7-1973


This work is an investigation into changes in women's status in Sweden and the United States since the Second World War. Status has been measured through objective examination of legal, educational, and employment factors. A brief history of social developments and the women's movement in each country over the past three decades is included.

An interdisciplinary approach is used throughout the study which draws upon a wide variety of materials in English and Swedish including court cases, histories, government documents, sociological studies, numerous unpublished Swedish studies, statistical data, and a series of conversations held with Swedish experts in Sweden during 1971-1972.

The data show that Swedish women's position under the law has been substantially better than American women's since the 1930's.

Today Swedish women enjoy total equality of legal rights with men. Viewed as a whole, today in the United States women's legal position is at a point not far below men's; however, there are distinct excep­tions to this rule, most notably the married woman's rights in the areas of domicile, name, and consortium. Sexual differentiation in the law of support, minimum age of contract, and criminal law is standard throughout most of the states. The type of legal system observed in each country has exerted a strong influence on women's status and the ease of thoroughgoing reform.

In terms of general level of attained education as well as propor­tion of the female population obtaining advanced education, American women are better off today than Swedish women--just as they were in 1945. In terms of constituting a proportion of those persons completing education at various levels, Swedish women's contemporary rates compare favorably with American women's below the graduate level. However, a larger proportion of professional graduates and workers are female in Sweden than in the United States. In both countries women tend to cluster in the same curricula--humanities, education, and health fields--and pre­pare themselves for the same few occupations--office and commercial work, lower level teaching, health occupations, and social services.

In general, the situation of women within employment is the most similar in the two countries with the female labor force being concen­trated in a few occupations sex-labeled female that are typically among the lowest in status and pay. Rapid expansion of the female work forces in both countries since 1950 has resulted largely from the influx of married and older women. Cultural values, educational systems and philosophies, as well as political and economic history have exerted considerable influence on the educational and employment patterns in both countries.

Because of the complexity of status it is impossible to flatly state that women's position is better in one country than the other. However, the rate of progress from 1945-1970 in every area investigated has been greater in Sweden than the United States, where essentially no progress has been realized in education and only mild progress in the legal and employment areas.

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)


Second Committee Member

Joel M. Jones

Third Committee Member

Ferenc M. Szasz