American Women Then and Now

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

A Statistical Portrait at the Beginning and End of the Century

by Borgna Brunner



In 1900, men outnumbered women in the U.S.: 38.8 million versus 37.2 million, a ratio of 95.9 women for every 100 men.


By 1999, the situation had reversed: there were 139.5 million women versus 133.4 million men, a ratio of 95.5 males per every 100 women.

In 1900 a woman's average life expectancy was 48.3 years.


By 1998 women on average could expect to live to 79.4 years.

In 1900 the median age of marriage for women was 21.9 years.


By 1998 the median marriage age had risen to 25 years.

In 1900, fewer than 0.5% of the female population were divorced.


By 1998, the percentage of divorced women had shot up to 10%.

In 1915, the rate of women dying during childbirth was 60.8 per every 1,000 women.


In 1997, maternal deaths in childbirth had nearly vanished, to 0.8 per every 1,000 women.

In 1900, 19% of the nation's women held jobs.


By 1998, that proportion tripled to 60%.

In 1900, 23 PhDs were awarded to women.


In 1998, 515,000 women received doctorates.

In 1900, 63 homicides committed by women.


In 1998, the figure was 1,241.

Figures from 1900 and 1915 are from the Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970.

Figures from 1997, 1998, and 1999 are available on our list of women's statistics links.

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