A Female Head of Household in 1920?

If you’ve filled out your 2010 census form (you have, right?), you might have noticed that it asks you for the names of the people who live in your house.  It doesn’t ask you who the “head of household” is, because in 2010, not many families have such a person.  It’s kind of a retro concept.

It wasn’t always that way.

Past censuses listed the “head of household” first, and then the other family members, along with their relationship to the head.  In families in which there was a husband/father, he would be listed as the head.  The only time you’d typically see a female head of household is if there was no husband/father present.

So I was surprised to find this in the 1920 Census for Seaside, Clatsop County, Oregon (enumeration district 85, page 24):

This couple lists Mae A. Ackermann as the head of the household.  Her husband, Frederick E. Ackermann, is listed second.  I’ve never seen that before.

Was Mae an early feminist?  Was she making a statement about Fred or about their relationship?  Or was this the census-taker’s commentary on the politics of the Ackermann household?  I don’t know.  No other married couple on the page is listed this way.

Fred and Mae (listed variously as Mabel Pool, Mabel Poole, and Mae Oliver Pool) had been married five years when this census was taken.  There were no children in the household, and Mae has an occupation listed here:  owner of a candy factory (unusual in a time when women were mostly listed as “housewife.”)  Fred also had a job, as a traveling wholesale drug salesman.

The only thing I know about them after this is that Fred was listed as divorced on his death certificate from 1962.  I don’t yet know when they were divorced, or what happened to Mae afterward.

I suspect this will be an interesting couple to research.

UPDATE: The comments for this posts raised some interesting questions, which I addressed here.

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