A thoughtful, carefully researched study of the slow advance toward economic parity and the even slower-changing public perception of women's ""place."" Beginning with a backward look at the suffragettes who represented a ""narrowed vision"" from 19th-century feminism, Chafe focuses on employment as the chief engine of social change. Although the number of women in the labor force has steadily increased, the author points to the tenacity of the notion that ""women's work was worth less than men's"" -- an assumption which lingered into the post-World War II era. Despite the cigar-toting sexually liberated flapper, Chafe characterizes the interwar years as largely regressive: the number of females entering the professions actually declined; the AFL's ""open hostility to women"" hampered unionization; and although women honeycombed New Deal relief agencies, their monetary and status gains were small. Chafe (History -- Duke Univ.) dwells extensively on the clash between social idealism which demanded that women stay hone and mind baby and the economic realities which led middle-class wives to the office for a second family paycheck; he also argues that the cultural and ideological ""lag"" between theory and practice has retarded the funding of child-care centers and perpetrated the myth that women work for ""pin-money"" holding down ""jobs"" rather than pursuing ""careers."" Firmly avoiding rhetoric and the more tenuous psychosexual side of feminism, he examines the ways in which sexual inequality has been rooted in our social structure, implicitly questioning the efficacy of ""direct conversion"" (or mere consciousness-raising) as a means of eradicating society's vested interest in domesticity. A judicious survey of the socioeconomic imbalance between the sexes and the folksy bromides spawned to justify it.