Who Was Working

After more than 40 years, Studs Terkel’s Working remains one of the best-known non-fiction books ever published. What’s truly remarkable is the fact that this is not a book about wars, politics or celebrities (though a few do make appearances), but about everyday people talking about what they do for a living. I was curious to see if there was a trend between what kinds of people were chosen to be included as subjects. However, for a book about work, Working mentions few numeric figures. I read through the book and made notes about each subject. Among these, I recorded age (either given or estimated from birth year and approximate time of writing), years working, sex and their apparent fulfillment with their work. These charts represent my findings and include only subjects who disclosed all criteria. They skim off all of Terkel’s personal detail and leave only some small clues about what it took to get into Working in the 1970s.