Rachel Wilestky, in the braver of her two shirtwaists


Growing up in the 70’s, I got the impression that women were entering the workforce for the very first time in history. Although I later learned about women assuming all kinds of jobs during World War II, it still seemed that working women were an anomaly.

So, it was interesting to read this story from Edna Ferber, published in a women’s magazine around 1913. She tells the tale of Rachel Wiletsky, a young woman in Chicago trying to make her way as a shop girl. With a knack for selling, she moves from a shoddy bazaar to a high-end department store job, only to find that beautiful clothes and accessories often mask very ugly personalities.