If the working-class women of my mother's generation had been born in any other time, they would have led other lives - not necessarily better or worse, but definitely other. A decade earlier, they might have built airplanes and let the devil and Hitler take the daily dusting. Ten years later, they could have had Ph.D.s in aeronautics. Women, unless they were quite wealthy, have always worked: in the house and out of the house, on the farm, in factories, sometimes caring for other people's kids, often leaving their own with the family herd under grandma's practiced eye. I've read that early in this century, when desperate families flooded into cities seeking work, leaving their rural support systems behind, female factory workers had to bundle their toddlers up on boards and hang them on hooks on the walls. At break time they'd unswaddle the kids and feed them. I like to mention this to anyone who suggests that modern day care is degrading the species.
Barbara Kingsolver, "The Household Zen" in High Tide in Tucson, New York: Harper Collins, 1995