Part 1 out of 3
By HARRIOT STANTON BLATCH
[Illustration: Jeanne d'Arc.--the spirit of the women of the Allies.]
TO THE ABLE AND DEVOTED WOMEN OF GREAT BRITAIN AND FRANCE
Who have stood behind the armies of the Allies through the years of the
Great War as an unswerving second line of defense against an onslaught
upon the liberty and civilization of the world, I dedicate this volume.
HARRIOT STANTON BLATCH
FOREWORD BY THEODORE ROOSEVELT
I. OUR FOE
II. WINNING THE WAR
III. MOBILIZING WOMEN IN GREAT BRITAIN
IV. MOBILIZING WOMEN IN FRANCE
V. MOBILIZING WOMEN IN GERMANY
VI. WOMEN OVER THE TOP IN AMERICA
VII. EVE'S PAY ENVELOPE
VIII. POOLING BRAINS
IX. "BUSINESS AS USUAL"
X. "AS MOTHER USED TO DO"
XI. A LAND ARMY
XII. WOMAN'S PART IN SAVING CIVILIZATION
Jeanne d'Arc--the spirit of the women of the Allies
They wear the uniforms of the Edinburgh trams and the New York City
subway and trolley guards, with pride and purpose.
Then--the offered service of the Women's Reserve Ambulance Corps in
England was spurned. Now--they wear shrapnel helmets while working
during the Zeppelin raids.
The French poilu on furlough is put to work harrowing.
Has there ever been anything impossible to French women since the time
of Jeanne d'Arc? The fields must be harrowed--they have no horses.
The daily round in the Erie Railroad workshops.
In the well-lighted factory of the Briggs and Stratton Company,
Milwaukee, the girls are comfortably and becomingly garbed for work.
The women of the Motor Corps of the National League for Woman's Service
refuting the traditions that women have neither strength nor endurance.
Down the street they come, beginning their pilgrimage of alleviation and
succor on the battlefields of France.
How can business be "as usual" when in Paris there are about 1800 of
these small workshops where a woman dips Bengal Fire and grenades into a
bath of paraffin!
Countess de Berkaim and her canteen in the Gare de St. Lazarre, Paris.
An agricultural unit in the uniform approved by the Woman's Land Army of
A useful blending of Allied women. Miss Kathleen Burke (Scotch)
exhibiting the X-ray ambulance equipped by Mrs. Ayrton (English) and
Madame Curie (French).
It is a real pleasure to write this foreword to the book which Mrs.
Harriot Stanton Blatch dedicates to the women of Great Britain and
France; to the women who through the years of the great war have stood
as the second line of defense against the German horror which menaces
the liberty and civilization of the entire world.
There could be no more timely book. Mrs. Blatch's aim is to stir the
women of this country to the knowledge that this is their war, and also
to make all our people feel that we, and especially our government,
should welcome the service of women, and make use of it to the utmost.
In other words, the appeal of Mrs. Blatch is essentially an appeal for
service. No one has more vividly realized that service benefits the one
who serves precisely as it benefits the one who is served. I join with
her in the appeal that the women shall back the men with service, and
that the men in their turn shall frankly and eagerly welcome the
rendering of such service _on the basis of service by equals for a
Mrs. Blatch makes her appeal primarily because of the war needs of the
moment. But she has in view no less the great tasks of the future. I
welcome her book as an answer to the cry that the admission of women to
an equal share in the right of self government will tend to soften the
body politic. Most certainly I will ever set my face like flint against
any unhealthy softening of our civilization, and as an answer in advance
to hyper-criticism I explain that I do not mean softness in the sense of
tender-heartedness; I mean the softness which, extends to the head and
to the moral fibre, I mean the softness which manifests itself either in
unhealthy sentimentality or in a materialism which may be either
thoughtless and pleasure-loving or sordid and money-getting. I believe
that the best women, when thoroughly aroused, and when the right appeal
is made to them, will offer our surest means of resisting this unhealthy
No man who is not blind can fail to see that we have entered a new day
in the great epic march of the ages. For good or for evil the old days
have passed; and it rests with us, the men and women now alive, to
decide whether in the new days the world is to be a better or a worse
place to live in, for our descendants.
In this new world women are to stand on an equal footing with men, in
ways and to an extent never hitherto dreamed of. In this country they
are on the eve of securing, and in much of the country have already
secured, their full political rights. It is imperative that they should
understand, exactly as it is imperative that men should understand, that
such rights are of worse than no avail, unless the will for the
performance of duty goes hand in hand with the acquirement of the
If the women in this country reinforce the elements that tend to a
softening of the moral fibre, to a weakening of the will, and
unwillingness to look ahead or to face hardship and labor and danger for
a high ideal--then all of us alike, men and women, will suffer. But if
they show, under the new conditions, the will to develop strength, and
the high idealism and the iron resolution which under less favorable
circumstances were shown by the women of the Revolution and of the Civil
War, then our nation has before it a career of greatness never hitherto
equaled. This book is fundamentally an appeal, not that woman shall
enjoy any privilege unearned, but that hers shall be the right to do
more than she has ever yet done, and to do it on terms of
self-respecting partnership with men. Equality of right does not mean
identity of function; but it does necessarily imply identity of purpose
in the performance of duty.
Mrs. Blatch shows why every woman who inherits the womanly virtues of
the past, and who has grasped the ideal of the added womanly virtues of
the present and the future, should support this war with all her
strength and soul. She testifies from personal knowledge to the hideous
brutalities shown toward women and children by the Germany of to-day;
and she adds the fine sentence: "Women fight for a place in the sun for
those who hold right above might."
She shows why women must unstintedly give their labor in order to win
this war; and why the labor of the women must be used to back up both
the labor and the fighting work of the men, for the fighting men leave
gaps in the labor world which must be filled by the work of women. She
says in another sentence worth remembering, "The man behind the counter
should of course be moved to a muscular employment; but we must not
interpret his dalliance with tapes and ribbons as a proof of a
superfluity of men."
Particularly valuable is her description of the mobilization of women in
Great Britain and France. From these facts she draws the conclusion as
to America's needs along this very line. She paints as vividly as I have
ever known painted, the truth as to why it is a merit that women should
be forced to work, a merit that _every one_ should be forced to work! It
is just as good for women as for men that they should have to use body
and mind, that they should not be idlers. As she puts it, "Active
mothers insure a virile race. The peaceful nation, if its women fall
victims to the luxury which rapidly increasing wealth brings, will
decay." "Man power must give itself unreservedly at the front. Woman
power must show not only eagerness but fitness to substitute for
I commend especially the chapter containing the sentence, "This war may
prove to us the wisdom and economy of devoting public funds to mothers
rather than to creches and juvenile asylums;" and also the chapter in
which the author tells women that if they are merely looking for a soft
place in life their collective demand for a fair field and no favor will
be wholly ineffective. The doors for service now stand open, and it
rests with the women themselves to say whether they will enter in!
The last chapter is itself an unconscious justification of woman's right
to a share in the great governmental decisions which to-day are vital.
No statesman or publicist could set forth more clearly than Mrs. Blatch
the need of winning this war, in order to prevent either endless and
ruinous wars in the future, or else a world despotism which would mean
the atrophy of everything that really tends to the elevation of mankind.
Mrs. Blatch has herself rendered a very real service by this appeal that
women should serve, and that men should let them serve.
The nations in which women have influenced national aims face the nation
that glorifies brute force. America opposes the exaltation of the
glittering sword; opposes the determination of one nation to dominate
the world; opposes the claim that the head of one ruling family is the
direct and only representative of the Creator; and, above all, America
opposes the idea that might makes right.
Let us admit the full weight of the paradox that a people in the name of
peace turns to force of arms. The tragedy for us lay in there being no
choice of ways, since pacific groups had failed to create machinery to
adjust vital international differences, and since the Allies each in
turn, we the last, had been struck by a foe determined to settle
disagreements by force.
Never did a nation make a crusade more just than this of ours. We were
patient, too long patient, perhaps, with challenges. We seek no
conquest. We fight to protect the freedom of our citizens. On America's
standard is written democracy, on that of Germany autocracy. Without
reservation women can give their all to attain our end.
There may be a cleavage between the German people and the ruling class.
It may be that our foe is merely the military caste, though I am
inclined to believe that we have the entire German nation on our hands.
The supremacy of might may be a doctrine merely instilled in the minds
of the people by its rulers. Perhaps the weed is not indigenous, but it
flourishes, nevertheless. Rabbits did not belong in Australia, nor
pondweed in England, but there they are, and dominating the situation.
Arrogance of the strong towards the weak, of the better placed towards
the less well placed, is part of the government teaching in Germany. The
peasant woman harries the dog that strains at the market cart, her
husband harries her as she helps the cow drag the plough, the petty
officer harries the peasant when he is a raw recruit, and the young
lieutenant harries the petty officer, and so it goes up to the
highest,--a well-planned system on the part of the superior to bring the
inferior to a high point of material efficiency. The propelling spirit
is devotion to the Fatherland: each believes himself a cog in the
machine chosen of God to achieve His purposes on earth. The world hears
of the Kaiser's "Ich und Gott," of his mailed fist beating down his
enemies, but those who have lived in Germany know that exactly the same
spirit reigns in every class. The strong in chastizing his inferior has
the conviction that since might makes right he is the direct
representative of Deity on the particular occasion.
The overbearing spirit of the Prussian military caste has drilled a race
to worship might; men are overbearing towards women, women towards
children, and the laws reflect the cruelties of the strong towards
As the recent petition of German suffragists to the Reichstag states,
their country stands "in the lowest rank of nations as regards women's
rights." It is a platitude just now worth repeating that the
civilization of a people is indicated by the position accorded to its
women. On that head, then, the Teutonic Kultur stands challenged.
An English friend of mine threw down the gauntlet thirty years ago. She
had married a German officer. After living at army posts all over the
Empire, she declared, "What we foreigners take as simple childlikeness
in the Germans is merely lack of civilization." This keen analysis came
from a woman trained as an investigator, and equipped with perfect
command of the language of her adopted country.
"Lack of civilization,"--perhaps that explains my having seen again and
again officers striking the soldiers they were drilling, and journeys
made torture through witnessing slapping and brow-beating of children by
their parents. The memory of a father's conduct towards his little son
will never be wiped out. He twisted the child's arm, struck him savagely
from time to time, and for no reason but that the child did not sit bolt
upright and keep absolutely motionless. The witnesses of the brutality
smiled approvingly at the man, and scowled at the child. My own protest
being met with amazed silence and in no way regarded, I left the
compartment. I was near Eisenach, and I wished some good fairy would put
in my hand that inkpot which Luther threw at the devil. Severity towards
children is the rule. The child for weal or woe is in the complete
control of its parents, and corporal punishment is allowed in the
schools. The grim saying, "Saure Wochen, frohe Feste," seems to express
the pedagogic philosophy. The only trouble is that nature does not give
this attitude her sanction, for Germany reveals to us that figure, the
most pathetic in life, the child suicide.
The man responding to his stern upbringing is in turn cruel to his
inferiors, and full of subterfuge in dealing with equals. He is at home
in the intrigues which have startled the world. In such a society the
frank and gentle go to the wall, or--get into trouble and emigrate. We
have profited--let us not forget it--by the plucky German immigrants who
threw off the yoke, and who now have the satisfaction of finding
themselves fighting shoulder to shoulder with the men of their adopted
country to free the Fatherland of the taskmaster.
The philosophy of might quite naturally reflects itself in the education
of girls. Once when I visited a Hoehere Toechter Schule, the principal had
a class in geometry recite for my edification. I soon saw that the young
girl who had been chosen as the star pupil to wrestle with the pons
asinorum was giving an exhibition of memorizing and not of mathematical
reasoning. I asked the principal if my surmise were correct. He replied
without hesitation, "Yes, it was entirely a feat in memory. Females have
only low reasoning power." I urged that if this were so, it would be
well to train the faculty, but he countered with the assertion, "We
Germans do not think so. Women are happier and more useful
It would be difficult to surpass in its subtle cruelty the etiquette at
a military function. The lieutenant and his wife come early,--this is
expected of them. For a few moments they play the role of honored
guests. The wife is shown by her hostess to the sofa and is seated there
as a mark of distinction. Then arrive the captain and his wife. They are
immediately the distinguished guests. The wife is shown to the sofa and
the lieutenant's little Frau must get herself out of the way as best
My speculation, often indulged in, as to what would happen if the
major's wife did not move from the sofa when the colonel's wife
appeared, ended in assurance that a severe punishment would be meted out
to her, when I heard from an officer the story of the way his regiment
dealt with a woman who ignored another bit of military etiquette. A
debutant, once honored by being asked to dance with an officer at a
ball, must never, it seems, demean herself by accepting a civilian
partner. But in a town where my friend's regiment was stationed a very
pretty and popular young girl who had been taken, so to speak, to the
bosom of the regiment, danced one night at the Kurhaus early in the
summer season with a civilian, distinguished, undeniably, but
unmistakably civilian. The officers of the regiment met, weighed the
mighty question of the girl's offense, and solemnly resolved never again
to ask the culprit for a dance. I protested at the cruelty of a body of
men deliberately turning a pretty young thing into a wall-flower for an
entire season. The officer took my protest as an added reason for
congratulation upon their conduct. They meant to be cruel. My words
proved how well they had succeeded.
Another little straw showing the set of the wind: we were sitting, four
Americans, one lovely early summer day, in a restaurant at Swinemuende.
We had the window open, looking out over the sea. At the next table were
some officers, one of whom with an "Es zieht," but not with a "by your
leave," came over to our table and shut the window with a bang. The
gentleman with us asked if we wanted the window closed, and on being
assured we did not, quietly rose and opened it again. No one who does
not know Prussia can imagine the threatening atmosphere which filled
We met the officers the same night at the Kurhaus dance. They were
introduced, and almost immediately one of them brought up the window
incident and said most impressively that if ladies had not been at the
table, our escort would have been "called out." We could see they
regarded us as unworthy of being even transient participants of Kultur
when we opined that no American man would accept a challenge, and if so
unwise as to do so, his womenfolk would lock him up until he reached a
sounder judgment! The swords rattled in their sabres when the frivolous
member of our party said with a tone of finality, "You see we wouldn't
like our men's faces to look as if they had got into their mothers'
Although I had often lived months on end with all these petty tyrannies
of the mailed fist, and although life had taught me later that peoples
grow by what they feed upon, yet when I read the Bryce report, German
frightfulness seemed too inhuman for belief. While still holding my
judgment in reserve, I met an intimate friend, a Prussian officer. He
happened to mention letters he had received from his relatives in Berlin
and at the front, and when I expressed a wish to hear them, kindly asked
whether he should translate them or read them in German as they stood.
Laughingly I ventured on the German, saying I would at least find out
how much I had forgotten. So I sat and listened with ears pricked up.
Some of the letters were from women folk and told of war conditions in
the capital. They were interesting at the time but not worth repeating
now. Then came a letter from a nephew, a lieutenant. He gave his
experience in crossing Belgium, told how in one village his men asked a
young woman with her tiny baby on her arm for water, how she answered
resentfully, and then, how he shot her--and her baby. I exclaimed,
thinking I had lost the thread of the letter, "Not the baby?" And the
man I supposed I knew as civilized, replied with a cruel smile,
"Yes--discipline!" That was frank, frank as a child would have been,
with no realization of the self-revelation of it. The young officer did
the deed, wrote of it to his uncle, and the uncle, without vision and
understanding, perverted by his training, did not feel shame and bury
the secret in his own heart, but treasured the evidence against his own
nephew, and laid it open before an American woman.
I believed the Bryce report--every word of it!
And I hate the system that has so bent and crippled a great race.
Revenge we must not feel, that would be to innoculate ourselves with the
enemy's virus. But let us be awake to the fact that might making right
cuts athwart our ideals. German Kultur, through worship of efficiency,
cramps originality and initiative, while our aim--why not be frank about
it!--is the protection of inefficiency, which means sympathy with
childhood, and opportunity for the spirit of art. German Kultur fixes an
inflexible limit to the aspirations of women, while our goal is complete
freedom for the mothers of men.
The women of the Allies can fight for all that their men fight for--for
national self-respect, for protection of citizens, for the sacredness of
international agreements, for the rights of small nations, for the
security of democracy, and then our women can be inspired by one thing
more--the safety and development of all those things which they have
won for human welfare in a long and bloodless battle.
Women fight for a place in the sun for those who hold right above might.
[Footnote 1: Report of the Committee on Alleged German Outrages
appointed by his Britannic Majesty's Government, 1915. Macmillan
Company, New York.
Evidence and Documents laid before the Committee on Alleged German
Outrages. Ballantyne, Hanson & Co., London. 1915.]
WINNING THE WAR
The group of nations that can make the greatest savings, will be
victorious, counsels one; the group that can produce the most food and
nourish the populations best, will win the war, urges another; but
whatever the prophecy, whatever the advice, all paths to victory lie
Needs are not answered in our day by manna dropping from heaven. Whether
it is food or big guns that are wanted, ships or coal, we can only get
our heart's desire by toil. Where are the workers who will win the war?
We are a bit spoiled in the United States. We have been accustomed to
rub our Aladdin's lamp of opportunity and the good genii have sent us
workers. But suddenly, no matter how great our efforts, no one answers
our appeal. The reservoir of immigrant labor has run dry. We are in
sorry plight, for we have suffered from emigration, too. Thousands of
alien workers have been called back to serve in the armies of the
Allies. In my own little village on Long Island the industrious Italian
colony was broken up by the call to return to the colors in Piedmont.
Then, too, while Europe suffers loss of labor, as do we, when men are
mobilized, our situation is peculiarly poignant, for when our armies are
gone they are gone. At first this was true in Europe. Men entered the
army and were employed as soldiers only. After a time it was realized
that the war would not be short, that fields must not lie untilled for
years, nor men undergo the deteriorating effects of trench warfare
continuously. The fallow field and the stale soldier were
We have all chanced on photographs of European soldiers helping the
women plough in springtime, and reap the harvest in the autumn. Perhaps
we have regarded the scene as a mere pastoral episode in a happy leave
from the battle front, instead of realizing that it is a snapshot
illustrating a well organized plan of securing labor. The soldiers are
given a furlough and are sent where the agricultural need is pressing.
But the American soldier will not be able to lend his skill in giving
the home fields a rich seed time and harvest. The two needs, the field
for the touch of the human hand, and the soldier for labor under calm
skies, cannot in our case be cooerdinated.
Scarcity of labor is not only certain to grow, but the demands upon the
United States for service are increasing by leaps and bounds. America
must throw man-power into the trenches, must feed herself, must
contribute more and ever more food to the hungry populations of Europe,
must meet the old industrial obligations, and respond to a whole range
of new business requirements. And she is called upon for this effort at
a time when national prosperity is already making full use of man-power.
When Europe went to war, the world had been suffering from depression a
year and more. Immediately on the outbreak of hostilities whole lines of
business shut down. Unemployment became serious. There were idle hands
everywhere. Germany, of all the belligerents, rallied most quickly to
meet war conditions. Unemployment gave place to a shortage of labor
sooner there than elsewhere. Great Britain did not begin to get the pace
until the middle of 1915.
The business situation in the United States upon its entrance into the
war was the antithesis of this. For over a year, depression had been
superseded by increased industry, high wages, and greater demand for
labor. The country as measured by the ordinary financial signs, by its
commerce, by its labor market, was more prosperous than it had been for
years. Tremendous requisitions were being made upon us by Europe, and to
the limit of available labor we were answering them. Then into our
economic life, with industrial forces already working at high pressure,
were injected the new demands arising from changing the United States
from a people as unprepared for effective hostilities as a baby in its
cradle, into a nation equipped for war. There was no unemployment, but
on the contrary, shortage of labor.
The country calls for everything, and all at once, like the spoiled
child on suddenly waking. It must have, and without delay, ships, coal,
cars, cantonments, uniforms, rules, and food, food, food. How can the
needs be supplied and with a million and a half of men dropping work
besides? By woman-power or coolie labor. Those are the horns of the
dilemma presented to puzzled America. The Senate of the United States
directs its Committee of Agriculture to ponder well the coolie problem,
for men hesitate to have women put their shoulder to the wheel. Trade
unionists are right in urging that a republic has no place for a
disfranchised class of imported toilers. Equally true is it that as a
nation we have shown no gift for dealing with less developed races. And
yet labor we must have. Will American women supply it, will they, loving
ease, favor contract labor from the outside, or will they accept the
optimistic view that lack of labor is not acute?
The procrastinator queries, "Cannot American man-power meet the demand?"
It can, for a time perhaps, if the draft for the army goes as slowly in
the future as it has in the past.
However, at any moment a full realization may come to us of the
significance of the fact that while the United States is putting only
three percent of its workers into the fighting forces, Great Britain has
put twenty-five percent, and is now combing its industrial army over to
find an additional five hundred thousand men to throw on the French
front. It is probable that it will be felt by this country in the near
future that such a contrast of fulfillment of obligation cannot continue
without serious reflection on our national honor. Roughly speaking,
Great Britain has twenty million persons in gainful pursuits. Of these,
five million have already been taken for the army. The contribution of
France is still greater. Her military force has reached the appalling
proportion of one-fifth of her entire population. But we who have
thirty-five million in gainful occupations are giving a paltry one
million, five hundred thousand in service with our Allies. The situation
is not creditable to us, and one of the things which stands in the way
of the United States reaching a more worthy position is reluctance to
see its women shouldering economic burdens.
[Illustration: They wear the uniforms of the Edinburgh trams and the
New York City subway and trolley guards, with pride and purpose.]
While it is quite true that shifting of man-power is needed, mere
shuffling of the cards, as labor leaders suggest, won't give a bigger
pack. Fifty-two cards it remains, though the Jack may be put into a more
suitable position. The man behind the counter should of course be moved
to a muscular employment, but we must not interpret his dalliance with
tapes and ribbons as proof of a superfluity of men.
The latest reports of the New York State Department of Labor reflect the
meagerness of the supply. Here are some dull figures to prove
it:--comparing the situation with a year ago, we find in a corresponding
month, only one percent more employees this year, with a wage advance of
seventeen percent. Drawing the comparison between this year and two
years ago, there is an advance of "fifteen percent in employees and
fifty-one percent in wages;" and an increase of "thirty percent in
employees and eighty-seven percent in wages," if this year is compared
with the conditions when the world was suffering from industrial
depression. The State employment offices report eight thousand three
hundred and seventy-six requests for workers against seven thousand, six
hundred and fifty applicants for employment, and of the latter only
seventy-three percent were fitted for the grades of work open to them,
and were placed in situations.
The last records of conditions in the Wilkes-Barre coal regions confirm
the fact of labor scarcity. There are one hundred and fifty-two thousand
men and boys at work today in the anthracite fields, twenty-five
thousand less than the number employed in 1916. These miners, owing to
the prod of the highest wages ever received--the skilled man earning
from forty dollars to seventy-five dollars a week--and to appeals to
their patriotism, are individually producing a larger output than ever
before. It is considered that production, with the present labor force,
is at its maximum, and if a yield of coal commensurate with the world's
need is to be attained, at least seventy percent more men must
This is a call for man-power in addition to that suggested by the Fuel
Administrator to the effect that lack of coal is partly lack of cars and
that "back of the transportation shortage lies labor shortage." An order
was sent out by the Director General of Railways, soon after his
appointment, that mechanics from the repair shops of the west were to be
shifted to the east to supply the call for help on the Atlantic border.
Suggestive of the cause of all this shortage, float the service flags of
the mining and railway companies, the hundreds of glowing stars telling
their tale of men gone to the front, and of just so many stars torn from
the standards of the industrial army at home.
The Shipping Board recently called for two hundred and fifty thousand
men to be gradually recruited as a skilled army for work in shipyards.
At the same time the Congress passed an appropriation of fifty million
dollars for building houses to accommodate ship labor. Six months ago
only fifty thousand men were employed in ship-building, today there are
one hundred and forty-five thousand. This rapid drawing of men to new
centers creates a housing problem so huge that it must he met by the
government; and it need hardly be pointed out, shelter can be built only
by human hands.
One state official, prompted no doubt by a wise hostility to coolie
labor, and dread of woman labor, has gone so far as to declare publicly
that any employer who will pay "adequate wages can get all the labor he
requires." This view suggests that we may soon have to adopt the methods
of other belligerents and stop employers by law from stealing a
neighbor's working force. I know of a shipyard with a normal pay-roll of
five hundred hands, which in one year engaged and lost to nearby
munition factories thirteen thousand laborers. Such "shifting," hiding
as it does shortage of manpower, leads to serious loss in our productive
efficiency and should not be allowed to go unchecked.
The manager of one of the New York City street railways met with
complete denial the easy optimism that adequate remuneration will
command a sufficient supply of men. He told me that he had introduced
women at the same wage as male conductors, not because he wanted women,
but because he now had only five applications by fit men to thirty or
forty formerly. There were men to be had, he said, and at lower wages
than his company was paying; but they were "not of the class capable of
fulfilling the requirements of the position."
The Labor Administration announced on its creation that its "policy
would be to prevent woman labor in positions for which men are
available," and one of the deputy commissioners of the Industrial
Commission of the State of New York declared quite frankly at a labor
conference that "if he could, he would exclude women from industry
We may try to prevent the oncoming tide of the economic independence of
women, but it will not be possible to force the business world to accept
permanently the service of the inefficient in place of that of the alert
and intelligent. To carry on the economic life of a nation with its
labor flotsam and jetsam is loss at any time; in time of storm and
stress it is suicide.
Man-power is short, seriously so. The farm is always the best barometer
to give warning of scarcity of labor. The land has been drained of its
workers. A fair wage would keep them on the farm--this is the philosophy
of laissez faire. Without stopping to inquire as to what the munition
works would then do, we can still see that it is doubtful whether the
farm can act as magnet. Even men, let us venture the suggestion, like
change for the mere sake of change. A middle-aged man, who had taken up
work at Bridgeport, said to me, "I've mulled around on the farm all my
days. I grabbed the first chance to get away." And then there's a finer
spirit prompting the desertion of the hoe. A man of thirty-three gave me
the point of view. "My brother is 'over there,' and I feel as if I were
backing him up by making guns."
The only thing that can change the idea that farming is "mulling
around," and making a gun "backs up" the man at the front more
thoroughly than raising turnips, is to bring to the farm new workers who
realize the vital part played by food in the winning of the war. As the
modern industrial system has developed with its marvels of specialized
machinery, its army of employees gathered and dispersed on the stroke of
the clock, and strong organizations created to protect the interests of
the worker, the calm and quiet processes of agriculture have in
comparison grown colorless. The average farmhand has never found push
and drive and group action on the farm, but only individualism to the
extreme of isolation. And now in war time, when in addition to its usual
life of stirring contacts, the factory takes on an intimate and striking
relation to the intense experience of the battle front, the work of the
farm seems as flat as it is likely to be unprofitable. The man in the
furrow has no idea that he is "backing up" the boy in the trench.
The farmer in his turn does not find himself part of the wider relations
that attract and support the manufacturer. Crops are not grown on order.
The marketing is as uncertain as the weather. The farmer could by higher
wages attract more labor, but as the selling of the harvest remains a
haphazard matter, the venture might mean ruin all the more certain and
serious were wage outlay large. In response to a call for food and an
appeal to his patriotism, the farmer has repeatedly made unusual efforts
to bring his land to the maximum fertility, only to find his crops often
a dead loss, as he could not secure the labor to harvest them. I saw,
one summer, acres of garden truck at its prime ploughed under in
Connecticut because of a shortage of labor. I saw fruit left rotting by
the bushel in the orchards near Rochester because of scarcity of pickers
and a doubt of the reliability of the market. The industry which means
more than any other to the well-being of humanity at this crisis, is the
sport of methods outgrown and of servants who lack understanding and
inspiration. The war may furnish the spark for the needed revolution.
Man-power is not available, woman-power is at hand. A new labor force
always brings ideas and ideals peculiar to itself. May not women as
fresh recruits in a land army stamp their likes and dislikes on farm
life? Their enthusiasm may put staleness to rout, and the group system
of women land workers, already tested in the crucible of experience, may
bring to the farm the needed antidote to isolation.
To win the war we must have man-power in the trenches sufficient to win
it with. To win, every soldier, every sailor, must be well fed, well
clothed, well equipped. To win, behind the armed forces must stand
determined peoples. To win, the people of America and her Allies must be
heartened by care and food.
The sun shines on the fertile land, the earth teems with forests, with
coal, with every necessary mineral and food, but labor, labor alone can
transform all to meet our necessities. Man-power unaided cannot supply
the demand. Women in America must shoulder as nobly as have the women of
Europe, this duty. They must answer their country's call. Let them see
clearly that the desire of their men to shield them from possible injury
exposes the nation and the world to actual danger.
Our winning of the war depends upon the full use of the energy of our
entire people. Every muscle, every brain, must be mobilized if the
national aim is to be achieved.
MOBILIZING WOMEN IN GREAT BRITAIN 
In no country have women reached a mobilization so complete and
systematized as in Great Britain. This mobilization covers the whole
field of war service--in industry, business and professional life, and
in government administration. Women serve on the Ministry of Food and
are included in the membership of twenty-five of the important
government committees, not auxiliary or advisory, but administrative
committees, such as those on War Pensions, on Disabled Officers and Men,
on Education after the War, and the Labor Commission to Deal with
In short, the women of Great Britain are working side by side with men
in the initiation and execution of plans to solve the problems which
confront the nation.
Four committees, as for instance those making investigations and
recommendations on Women's Wages and Drink Among Women, are entirely
composed of women, and great departments, such as the Women's Land Army,
the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, are officered throughout by them.
Hospitals under the War Office have been placed in complete control of
medical women; they take rank with medical men in the army and receive
the pay going with their commissions.
When Great Britain recognized that the war could not be won by merely
sending splendid fighters to the front and meeting the wastage by steady
drafts upon the manhood of the country, she began to build an efficient
organization of industry at home.
To the call for labor-power British women gave instant response. In
munitions a million are mobilized, in the Land Army there have been
drafted and actually placed on the farms over three hundred thousand,
and in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps fourteen thousand women are
working in direct connection with the fighting force, and an additional
ten thousand are being called out for service each month. In the
clerical force of the government departments, some of which had never
seen women before in their sacred precincts, over one hundred and
ninety-eight thousand are now working. And the women civil servants are
not only engaged in indoor service, but outside too, most of the
carrying of mail being in their hands.
Women are dock-laborers, some seven thousand strong. Four thousand act
as patrols and police, forty thousand are in banks and various financial
houses. It is said that there are in Great Britain scarce a million
women--and they are mostly occupied as housewives--who could render
greater service to their country than that which they are now giving.
The wide inclusion of women in government administration is very
striking to us in America. But we must not forget that the contrast
between the two countries in the participation of women in political
life and public service has always been great. The women of the United
Kingdom have enjoyed the municipal and county franchise for years. For a
long time large numbers of women have been called to administrative
positions. They have had thorough training in government as Poor Law
Guardians, District and County Councilors, members of School Boards. No
women, the whole world over, are equipped as those of Great Britain for
service to the state.
In the glamor of the extremely striking government service of British
women, we must not overlook their non-official organizations. Perhaps
these offer the most valuable suggestions for America. They are near
enough to our experience to be quite understandable.
The mother country is not under regimentation. Originality and
initiative have full play. Perhaps it was well that the government
failed to appreciate what women could do, and neglected them so long.
Most of the effective work was started in volunteer societies and had
proved a success before there was an official laying on of hands.
Anglo-Saxons--it is our strong point--always work from below, up.
A glance at any account of the mobilization of woman-power in Great
Britain, Miss Fraser's admirable "Women and War Work," for instance,
will reveal the printed page dotted thick with the names of volunteer
associations. A woman with sympathy sees a need, she gets an idea and
calls others about her. Quickly, there being no red tape, the need
begins to be met. What more admirable service could have been performed
than that inaugurated in the early months of the war under the Queen's
Work for Women Fund, when work was secured for the women in luxury
trades which were collapsing under war pressure? A hundred and thirty
firms employing women were kept running.
What more thrilling example of courage and forethought has been shown
than by the Scottish Women's Hospitals in putting on the western front
the first X-ray car to move from point to point near the lines? It but
adds to the appeal of the work that those great scientists, Mrs. Ayrton
and Madame Curie, selected the equipment.
It was a non-official body, the National Union of Women's Suffrage
Societies, which opened before the war was two weeks old the Women's
Service Bureau, and soon placed forty thousand women as paid and
volunteer workers. It was this bureau that furnished the government with
its supervisors for the arsenals. The Women's Farm and Garden Union was
the fore-runner of the official Land Army, and to it still is left the
important work of enrolling those women who, while willing to undertake
agricultural work, are disinclined to sign up for service "for the
duration of the war."
Not only have unnumbered voluntary associations achieved miracles in
necessary work, but many of them have gained untold discipline in the
ridicule they have had to endure from a doubting public. I remember
hunting in vain all about Oxford Circus for the tucked-away office of
the Women's Signalling Corps. My inquiries only made the London bobbies
grin. Everyone laughed at the idea of women signalling, but to-day the
members are recognized officially, one holding an important appointment
in the college of wireless telegraphy.
How Scotland Yard smiled, at first, at Miss Damer Dawson and her Women
Police Service! But now the metropolitan police are calling for the help
of her splendidly trained and reliable force.
And the Women's Reserve Ambulance Corps--I climbed and climbed to an
attic to visit their headquarters! There was the commandant in her
khaki, very gracious, but very upstanding, and maintaining the strictest
discipline. No member of the corps entered or left her office without
clapping heels together and saluting. The ambulance about which the
corps revolved, I often met in the streets--empty. But those women had
vision. They saw that England would need them some day. They had faith
in their ability to serve. So on and on they went, training themselves
to higher efficiency in body and mind. And to-day--well, theirs is
always the first ambulance on the spot to care for the injured in the
air-raids. The scoffers have remained to pray.
If Britain has a lesson for us it is an all-hail to non-official
societies, an encouragement to every idea, a blessing on every effort
which has behind it honesty of purpose. Great Britain's activities are
as refreshingly diversified as her talents. They are not all under
In the training for new industrial openings this same spirit of
non-official service showed itself. In munitions, for instance, private
employers were the first to recognize that they had in women-workers a
labor force worth the cost of training. The best of the skilled men in
many cases were told off to give the necessary instruction. The will to
do was in the learner; she soon mastered even complex processes, and at
the end of a few weeks was doing even better than men in the light work,
and achieving commendable output in the heavy. The suffrage
organizations, whenever a new line of skilled work was opened to women,
established well-equipped centers to give the necessary teaching. Not
until it became apparent that the new labor-power only needed training
to reach a high grade of proficiency, did County Councils establish, at
government expense, technical classes for girls and women.
[Illustration: Then--the offered service of the Women's Reserve
Ambulance Corps in England was spurned. Now--they wear shrapnel helmets
while working during the Zeppelin raids.]
Equipment of the army was obviously the first and pressing obligation.
Fields might lie fallow, for food in the early days could easily be
brought from abroad, but men had to be registered, soldiers clothed and
equipped. It was natural, then, that the new workers were principally
used in registration work and in making military supplies.
But in the second year of the war came the conviction that the contest
was not soon to be ended, and that the matter of raising food at home
must be met. Women were again appealed to. A Land Army mobilized by
women was created. At first this work was carried on under a centralized
division of the National Service Department, but there has been
decentralization and the Land Army is now a department of the Board of
Agriculture. It is headed by Miss M. Talbot as director. Under this
central body are Women's Agricultural Committees in each county, with an
organizing secretary whose duty it is to secure full-time recruits.
The part-time workers in a locality are obtained by the wife of the
squire or vicar acting as a volunteer registrar. Many of these
part-time workers register to do the domestic work of the lusty young
village housewife or mother while she is absent from home performing her
allotted task on a nearby farm. The full-time recruits are not only
secured by the organizers, but through registrations at every post
office. Any woman can ask for a registration card and fill it out, and
the postmaster then forwards the application to the committee. The next
step is that likely applicants are called to the nearest center for
examination and presentation of credentials. When finally accepted they
are usually sent for six weeks' or three months' training to a farm
belonging to some large estate. The landlord contributes the training,
and the government gives the recruit her uniform and fifteen shillings a
week to cover her board and lodging. At the end of her course she
receives an armlet signifying her rank in the Land Army and is ready to
go wherever the authorities send her.
The farmer in Great Britain no longer needs to be converted to the value
of the new workers. He knows they can do every kind of farm work as well
as men, and are more reliable and conscientious than boys, and he is
ready, therefore, to pay the required minimum wage of eighteen
shillings a week, or above that amount if the rate ruling in the
district is higher.
Equally well organized is the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, familiarly
known as the Waacs. The director is Mrs. Chalmers Watson. A would-be
Waac goes to the center in her county for examination, and then is
assigned to work at home or "somewhere in France" according to training
and capacity. She may be fitted as a cook, a storekeeper, a telephone or
telegraph operator, or for signalling or salvage work. Let us not say
she will supplant a man, but rather set a man free for fuller service.
My niece, a slip of a girl, felt the call of duty at the beginning of
the war. Her brothers were early volunteers in Kitchener's Army. They
were in the trenches and she longed for the sensation of bearing a
burden of hard work. She went to Woolwich Arsenal and toiled twelve
hours a day. She broke under the strain, recuperated, and took up
munition work again. She became expert, and was in time an overseer told
off to train other women. But she was never satisfied, and always
anxious to be nearer the great struggle. She broke away one day and went
to Southampton for a Waac examination, and found herself one of a group
of a hundred and fifty gentlewomen all anxious to enter active service
and all prepared for some definite work. They stood their tests, and
Dolly--that's the little niece's pet name, given to her because she is
so tiny--is now working as an "engine fitter" just behind the fighting
lines. Dainty Dolly, whom we have always treated as a fragile bit of
Sevres china, clad in breeches and puttees, under the booming of the
great guns, is fitting patiently, part to part, the beating engine which
will lift on wings some English boy in his flight through the blue skies
But it must not be supposed that the magnificent service of British
women, devoted, efficient and well-organized from top to bottom,
realized itself without friction, any more than it will here. There were
certainly two wars going on in Great Britain for a long time, and the
internal strife was little less bitter than the international conflict.
The most active center of this contest of which we have heard so little
was in industry, and the combatants were the government, trade unions
and women. The unions were doing battle because of fear of unskilled
workers, especially when intelligent and easily trained; the government,
in sore need of munition hands, was bargaining with the unskilled for
long hours and low pay. Finally the government and the unions
reluctantly agreed that women must be employed; both wanted them to be
skillful, but not too skillful, and above all, to remain amenable. It
has been made clear, too, that women enter their new positions "for the
war only." At the end of hostilities--international hostilities--women
are to hand over their work and wages to men and go home and be content.
Will the program be fulfilled?
The wishes of women themselves may play some part. How do they feel?
Obviously, every day the war lasts they get wider experience of the
sorrows and pleasures of financial independence. Women are called the
practical sex, and I certainly found them in England facing the fact
that peace will mean an insufficient number of breadwinners to go around
and that a maimed man may have low earning power. The women I met were
not dejected at the prospect; they showed, on the contrary, a spirit not
far removed from elation in finding new opportunities of service. After
I had sat and listened to speech after speech at the annual conference
of the National Union of Women Workers, with delegates from all parts of
the country, presided over by Mrs. Creighton, widow of the late Bishop
of London, there was no doubt in my mind that British women desired to
enter paid fields of work, and regarded as permanent the great increase
in their employment. No regrets or hesitations were expressed in a
single speech, and the solutions of the problems inherent in the new
situation all lay in the direction of equality of preparation and
equality of pay with men.
The strongest element in the women's trade unions takes the same stand.
The great rise in the employment of women is not regarded as a "war
measure," and all the suggestions made to meet the hardships of
readjustment, such as a "minimum wage for all unskilled workers, men as
well as women," are based on the idea of the new workers being permanent
factors in the labor market.
The same conclusion was reached in the report presented to the British
Association by the committee appointed to investigate the "Replacement
of Male by Female Labor." The committee found itself in entire
disagreement with the opinion that the increased employment of women was
a passing phase, and made recommendations bearing on such measures as
improved technical training for girls as well as for boys, a minimum
wage for unskilled men as well as women, equal pay for equal work, and
the abolition of "half-timers." But while it was obvious that the
greatest asset of belligerent nations is the labor of women, while
learned societies and organizations of women laid down rules for their
safe and permanent employment, the British Government showed marked
opposition to the new workers. If the Cabinet did not believe the war
would be brief, it certainly acted as if Great Britain alone among the
belligerents would have no shortage of male industrial hands. At a time
when Germany had five hundred thousand women in munition factories,
England had but ten thousand.
There is no doubt that the country was at first organized merely for a
spurt. Boys and girls were pressed into service, wages were cut down for
women, hours lengthened for men. Government reports read like the
Shaftesbury attacks on the conditions of early factory days. We hear
again of beds that are never cold, the occupant of one shift succeeding
the occupant of the next, of the boy sleeping in the same bed with two
men, and three girls in a cot in the same room. Labor unrest was met at
first by the Munitions War Act prohibiting strikes and lockouts,
establishing compulsory arbitration and suspending all trade-union rules
which might "hamper production." Under the law a "voluntary army of
workers" signed up as ready to go anywhere their labor was needed, and
local munition committees became labor courts endowed with power to
change wage rates, to inflict fines on slackers, and on those who broke
the agreements of the "voluntary army."
To meet the threatening rebellion, a Health of Munition Workers
Committee under the Ministry of Munitions was appointed to "consider and
advise on questions of industrial fatigue, hours of labor and other
matters affecting the physical health and physical efficiency of workers
in munition factories and workshops." On this committee there were
distinguished medical men, labor experts, members of parliament and two
women, Miss R.E. Squire of the Factory Department and Mrs. H.J. Tennant.
The committee was guided by a desire to have immense quantities of
munitions turned out, and faced squarely the probability that the war
would be of long duration. Its findings, embodied in a series of
memoranda, have lessons for us, not only for war times, but for peace
times, for all time.
On a seven day week the verdict was that "if the maximum output is to be
secured and maintained for any length of time, a weekly period of rest
must be allowed." Overtime was advised against, a double or triple shift
In July, 1916, the committee published a most interesting memorandum on
experiments in the relation of output to hours. In one case the output
was increased eight percent by reducing the weekly hours from
sixty-eight to fifty-nine, and it was found that a decrease to fifty-six
hours per week gave the same output as fifty-nine. It need hardly be
said that there was no change in machinery, tools, raw material or
workers. All elements except hours of work were identical. Twenty-seven
workers doing very heavy work increased their output ten percent by
cutting weekly hours from sixty-one to fifty-five. In a munition plant
employing thirty-six thousand hands it was found that the sick rate
ranged from five to eight percent when the employees were working
overtime, and was only three percent when they were on a double shift.
The war has forced Great Britain to carry out the findings of this
committee and to consider more seriously than ever before, and for both
men and women, the problem of industrial fatigue, the relation of
accidents to hours of labor, industrial diseases, housing, transit, and
industrial canteens. The munition worker is as important as the soldier
and must have the best of care.
While the friction in the ranks of industrial women workers was still
far from being adjusted, the government met its Waterloo in the contest
with medical women. The service which they freely offered their country
was at first sternly refused. Undaunted, they sought recognition outside
the mother country. They knew their skill and they knew the soldiers'
need. They turned to hospitable France, and received official
recognition. On December 14, 1914, the first hospital at the front under
British medical women was opened in Abbaye Royaumont, near Creil. It
carries the official designation, "Hopital Auxiliaire 301." The doctors,
the nurses, the cooks, are all women. One of the capable chauffeurs I
saw running the ambulance when I was in Creil. She was getting the
wounded as they came down from the front. The French Government
appreciated what the women were doing and urged them to give more help.
At Troyes another unit gave the French army its first experience of
nursing under canvas.
After France had been profiting by the skill of British women for
months, Sir Alfred Keogh, Medical Director General, wisely insisted that
the War Office yield and place a hospital in the hands of women. The
War Hospital in Endell Street, London, is now under Dr. Flora Murray,
and every office, except that of gateman, is filled by women. From the
doctors, who rank as majors, down to the cooks, who rank as
non-commissioned officers, every one connected with Endell Street has
military standing. It indicated the long, hard road these women had
traveled to secure official recognition that the doctor who showed me
over the hospital told me, as a matter for congratulation, that at night
the police brought in drunken soldiers to be sobered. "Every war
hospital must receive them," she explained, "and we are glad we are not
passed over, for that gives the stamp to our official standing."
It was a beautiful autumn day when I visited Endell Street. The great
court was full of convalescents, and the orderlies in khaki, with veils
floating back from their close-fitting toques, were carefully and
skillfully lifting the wounded from an ambulance. I spoke to one of the
soldier boys about the absence of men doctors and orderlies, and his
quick query was, "And what should we want men for?" It seems that they
always take that stand after a day or two. At first the patient is
puzzled; he calls the doctor "sister" and the orderly "nurse," but ends
by being an enthusiastic champion of the new order. Not a misogynist did
I find. One poor fellow who had been wounded again and again and had
been in many hospitals, declared, "I don't mean no flattery, but this
place leaves nothink wanting."
The first woman I met on my last visit to England upset my expectation
of finding that war pushed women back into primitive conditions of toil,
crushed them under the idea that physical force rules the world, and
made them subservient. I chanced upon her as she was acting as
ticket-puncher at the Yarmouth station. She was well set-up, alert,
efficient, helpful in giving information, and, above all, cheerful.
There were two capable young women at the bookstall, too. One had lost a
brother at the front, the other her lover. I felt that they regarded
their loss as one item in the big national accounting. They were
heroically cheerful in "doing their bit."
Throughout my stay in England I searched for, but could not find, the
self-effacing spinster of former days. In her place was a capable woman,
bright-eyed, happy. She was occupied and bustled at her work. She jumped
on and off moving vehicles with the alertness, if not the
unconsciousness, of the expert male. She never let me stand in omnibus
or subway, but quickly gave me her seat, as indeed she insisted upon
doing for elderly gentlemen as well. The British woman had found herself
and her muscles. England was a world of women--women in uniforms; there
was the army of nurses, and then the messengers, porters, elevator
hands, tram conductors, bank clerks, bookkeepers, shop attendants. They
each seemed to challenge the humble stranger, "Superfluous? Not I, I'm a
recruit for national service!" Even a woman doing time-honored womanly
work moved with an air of distinction; she dusted a room for the good of
her country. Just one glimpse was I given of the old-time daughter of
Eve, when a ticket-collector at Reading said: "I can't punch your
ticket. Don't you see I'm eating an apple!"
One of the reactions of the wider functioning of brain and muscle which
struck me most forcibly was the increased joyfulness of women. They were
happy in their work, happy in the thought of rendering service, so happy
that the poignancy of individual loss was carried more easily.
This cheerfulness is somewhat gruesomely voiced in a cartoon in _Punch_
touching on the allowance given to the soldier's wife. She remarks,
"This war is 'eaven--twenty-five shillings a week and no 'usband
bothering about!" We have always credited _Punch_ with knowing England.
Truth stands revealed by a thrust, however cynical, when softened by
There was no discipline in the pension system. No work was required. The
case of a girl I met in a country town was common. She was working in a
factory earning eleven shillings a week. A day or two later I saw her,
and she told me she had stopped work, as she had "married a soldier, and
'e's gone to France, and I get twelve and six separation allowance a
week." Never did the strange English name, "separation allowance," seem
more appropriate for the wife's pension than in this girl's story.
Little wonder was it that in the early months of the war there was some
riotous living among soldiers' wives!
And the comments of women of influence on the drunkenness and waste of
money on foolish finery were as striking to me as the sordid condition
itself. The woman chairman of a Board of Poor Law Guardians in the north
of England told me that when her fellow-members suggested that
Parliament ought to appoint committees to disburse the separation
allowances, she opposed them with the heroic philosophy that women can
be trained in wisdom only by freedom to err, that a sense of
responsibility had never been cultivated in them, and the country would
have to bear the consequences. In reply to my inquiry as to how the
Guardians received these theories, I learned that "they knew she was
right and dropped their plan."
The faith of leading women that experience would be the best teacher for
the soldier's wife has been justified. A labor leader in the Midlands
told me that an investigation by his trade union showed that only one
hundred women in the ten thousand cases inquired into were mis-spending
their allowances. And when I was visiting a board school in a poor
district of London, and remarked to the head teacher that the children
looked well cared for, she told me that never had they been so well fed
and clothed. There seemed no doubt in her mind that it was best to have
the family budget in the hands of the mother. In the sordid surroundings
of the mean streets of great cities, there is developing in women
practical wisdom and a fine sense of individual responsibility.
Perhaps of greater significance than just how separation allowances are
being spent is the fact that women have discovered that their work as
housewives and mothers has a value recognized by governments in hard
cash. It makes one speculate as to whether wives in the warring nations
will step back without a murmur into the old-time dependence on one man,
or whether these simple women may contribute valuable ideas towards the
working out of sound schemes of motherhood pensions.
The women of Great Britain are experiencing economic independence, they
are living in an atmosphere of recognition of the value of their work as
housewives and mothers. Women leaders in all classes give no indication
of regarding pensions or remuneration in gainful pursuits as other than
permanent factors in social development, and much of the best thought of
men as well as women is centered on group experiments in domestic
cooeperation, in factory canteens, in municipal kitchens, which are a
natural concomitant to the wider functioning of women.
Great Britain is not talking about feminism, it is living it. Perhaps
nothing better illustrates the national acceptance of the fact than the
widespread amusement touched with derision caused by the story of the
choleric gentlemen who, on being asked at the time of one of the
government registrations whether his wife was dependent upon him or not,
roared in rage, "Well, if my wife isn't dependent on me, I'd like to
know what man she is dependent on!"
Only second to Britain's lesson for us in the self-reliance of its
women, and the thorough mobilization of their labor-power and executive
ability, is its lesson in protection for all industrial workers. It
stands as one people against the present enemy, and in its effort does
not fail to give thought to race conservation for the future.
[Footnote 2: Through the courtesy of the Editors of _The Outlook_, I am
at liberty to use in this and the following chapter, some of the
material published in an article by me in _The Outlook_ of June
MOBILIZING WOMEN IN FRANCE
Compared with the friction in the mobilization of woman-power in Great
Britain, the readjustment in the lives of women in France was like the
opening out of some harmonious pageant in full accord with popular
sympathy. But who has not said, "France is different!"
It is different, and in nothing more so than in its attitude toward its
women. Without discussion with organizations of men, without hindrance
from the government, women filled the gaps in the industrial army. It
was obvious that the new workers, being unskilled, would need training;
the government threw open the technical schools to them. A spirit of
hospitality, of helpfulness, of common sense, reigned.
[Illustration: The French poilu on furlough is put to work harrowing.]
And it was not only in industry that France showed herself wise. I found
that the government had cooeperated unreservedly with all the
philanthropic work of women and had given them a wide sphere in which
they could rise above amateurish effort and carry out plans calling for
When the Conseil National des Femmes Francaises inaugurated its work to
bring together the scattered families of Belgium and northern France,
and when the Association pour l'Aide Fraternelle aux Evacues
Alsaciens-Lorrains began its work for the dispersed peoples of the
provinces, an order was issued by the government to every prefect to
furnish lists of all refugees in his district to the headquarters of the
women's societies in Paris. It was through this good will on the part of
the central government that these societies were able to bring together
forty thousand Belgian families, and to clothe and place in school, or
at work, the entire dispersed population of the reconquered districts of
Nor did these societies cease work with the completion of their initial
effort. They turned themselves into employment bureaus and with the aid
and sanction of the government found work for the thousands of women who
were thrown out of employment. They had the machinery to accomplish
their object, the Council being an old established society organized
throughout the country, and the Association to Aid the Refugees from
Alsace-Lorraine (a nonpartisan name adopted, by the way, at the request
of the Minister of the Interior to cover for the moment the patriotic
work of the leading suffrage society) had active units in every
One of the admirable private philanthropies was the canteen at the St.
Lazarre station in Paris. I am tempted to single it out because its
organizer, Countess de Berkaim, told me that in all the months she had
been running it--and it was open twenty-four hours of the day--not a
single volunteer had been five minutes late. The canteen was opened in
February, 1915, with a reading and rest room. Six hundred soldiers a day
have been fed. The two big rooms donated by the railway for the work
were charming with their blue and white checked curtains, dividing
kitchen from restaurant and rest room from reading room. The work is no
small monument to the reliability and organizing faculty of
It was in France, too, that I found the group of women who realized that
the permanent change which the war was making in the relation of women
to society needed fundamental handling. Mlle. Valentine Thomson, founder
of La Vie Feminine, held that not only was the war an economic struggle
and not only must the financial power of the combatants rest on the
labor of women, but the future of the nations will largely depend upon
the attitude which women take toward their new obligations. Realizing
that business education would be a determining factor in that attitude,
Mlle. Thomson persuaded her father, who was then Minister of Commerce,
to send out an official recommendation to the Chambers of Commerce to
open the commercial schools to girls. The advice was very generally
followed, but as Paris refused, a group of women, backed by the
Ministry, founded a school in which were given courses of instruction in
the usual business subjects, and lectures on finance, commercial law and
Mlle. Thomson herself turned her business gifts to good use in a
successful effort to build up for the immediate benefit of artists and
workers the doll trade of which France was once supreme mistress.
Exhibitions of the art, old and new, were held in many cities in the
United States, in South America and in England. The dolls went to the
hearts of lovers of beauty, and what promised surer financial return, to
the hearts of the children.
To do something for France--that stood first in the minds of the
initiators of this commercial project. They knew her people must be
employed. And next, the desire to bring back charm to an old art
prompted their effort. Mlle. Thomson fully realizes just what "Made in
Germany" signifies. The peoples of the world have had their taste
corrupted by floods of the cheap and tawdry. Germany has been steadily
educating us to demand quantity, quantity mountains high. There is
promise that the doll at least will be rescued by France and made worth
the child's devotion.
In industry, as well as in all else, one feels that in France there has
not been so much a revolution as an orderly development. Women were in
munition factories even before the war, the number has merely swelled.
The women of the upper and lower bourgeois class always knew their
husband's business, the one could manage the shop, the other could
bargain with the best of them as to contracts and output. Women were
trained as bookkeepers and clerks under Napoleon I; he wanted men as
soldiers, and so decreed women should go into business. And the woman of
the aristocratic class has merely slipped out of her seclusion as if
putting aside an old-fashioned garment, and now carries on her
philanthropies in more serious and cooerdinated manner. We know the
practical business experience possessed by French women, and so are
prepared to learn that many a big commercial enterprise, the owner
having gone to the front, is now directed by his capable wife. That is
but a development, too, is it not? For we had all heard long ago of Mme.
Duval, even if we had not eaten at her restaurants, and though we had
never bought a ribbon or a carpet at the Bon Marche, we had heard of the
woman who helped break through old merchant habits and gave the world
the department store.
But nothing has been more significant in its growth during the war than
the small enterprises in which the husband and wife in the domestic
munition shop, laboring side by side with a little group of assistants,
have been turning out marvels of skill. The man is now in the trenches
fighting for France, and the woman takes command and leads the
industrial battalion to victory. She knows she fights for France.
A word more about her business, for she is playing an economic part that
brings us up at attention. She may be solving the problem of adjustment
of home and work so puzzling to women. There are just such domestic
shops dotted all over the map of France; in the Paris district alone
there are over eighteen hundred of them. The conditions are so
excellent and the ruling wages so high, that the minimum wage law passed
in 1915 applied only to the sweated home workers in the clothing trade,
and not to the domestic munition shops.
A commission which included in its membership a trade unionist, sent by
the British government in the darkest days to find why it was that
France could produce so much more ammunition than England, found these
tiny workshops, with their primitive equipment, performing miracles. The
output was huge and of the best. The woman, when at the head, seemed to
turn out more than the man, she worked with such undying energy. The
commission said it was the "spirit of France" that drove the workers
forward and renewed the flagging energies. But even the trade unionist
referred to the absence of all opposition to women on the part of
organizations of men. Perhaps the spirit of France is undying because in
it is a spirit of unity and harmony.
It seemed to me there was one very practical explanation of the
unmistakable energy of the French worker, both man and woman. The whole
nation has the wise custom of taking meal time with due seriousness. The
break at noon in the great manufactories, as well as in the family
workshop, is long, averaging one hour and a half, and reaching often to
two hours. The French never gobble. Because food is necessary to animal
life, they do not on that account take a puritanical view of it. They
dare enjoy it, in spite of its physiological bearing. They sit down to
it, dwell upon it, get its flavor, and after the meal they sit still and
as a nation permit themselves unabashed to enjoy the sensation of hunger
appeased. That's the common sense spirit of France.
Of course the worker is renewed, hurls herself on the work again with
ardor, and losing no time through fatigue, throws off an
Wages perform their material share in spurring the worker. Louis Barthou
says that the woman's average is eight francs a day. Long ago--it seems
long ago--she could earn at best five francs in the Paris district. She
works on piece work now, getting the same rate as men. And think of
it!--this must indeed be because of the spirit of France--this woman
does better than men on the light munition work, and equals, yes, equals
her menfolk on the heavy shells. I do not say this, a commission of men
says it, a commission with a trade union member to boot. The coming of
the woman-worker with the spirit of win-the-war in her heart is the same
in France as elsewhere, only here her coming is more gracious. Twelve
hundred easily take up work on the Paris subway. They are the wives of
mobilized employees. The offices of the Post, the Telegraph and
Telephone bristle with women, of course, for eleven thousand have taken
the places of men. Some seven thousand fill up the empty positions on
the railways, serving even as conductors on through trains. Their number
has swollen to a half million in munitions, and to over half that number
in powder mills and marine workshops; in civil establishments over three
hundred thousand render service; and even the conservative banking world
welcomes the help of some three thousand women.
[Illustration: Has there ever been anything impossible to French women
since the time of Jeanne d'Arc? The fields must be harrowed--they have
Out on the land the tally is greatest of all. Every woman from the
village bends over the bosom of France, urging fertility. The government
called them in the first hours of the conflict. Viviani spoke
"The departure for the army of all those who can carry arms, leaves the
work in the fields undone; the harvest is not yet gathered in; the
vintage season is near. In the name of the entire nation united behind
it, I make an appeal to your courage, and to that of your children,
whose age alone and not their valour, keeps them from the war.
"I ask you to keep on the work in the fields, to finish gathering in the
year's harvest, to prepare that of the coming year. You cannot render
your country a greater service.
"It is not for you, but for her, that I appeal to your hearts.
"You must safeguard your own living, the feeding of the urban
populations and especially the feeding of those who are defending the
frontier, as well as the independence of the country, civilization
"Up, then, French women, young children, daughters and sons of the
country! Replace on the field of work those who are on the field of
battle. Strive to show them to-morrow the cultivated soil, the harvests
all gathered in, the fields sown.
"In hours of stress like the present, there is no ignoble work.
Everything that helps the country is great. Up! Act! To work! To-morrow
there will be glory for everyone.
"Long live the Republic! Long live France!"
Women instantly responded to the proclamation. Only the old men were
left to help, only decrepit horses, rejected by the military
requisition. More than once I journeyed far into the country, but I
never saw an able-bodied man. What a gap to be filled!--but the French
peasant woman filled it. She harvested that first year, she has sowed
and garnered season by season ever since. Men, horses, machinery were
lacking, the debit yawned, but she piled up a credit to meet it by
With equal devotion and with initiative and power of organization the
woman of leisure has "carried on." The three great societies
corresponding with our Red Cross, the Societe de Secours aux Blesses,
the Union des Femmes de France, and the Association des Dames
Francaises, have established fifteen hundred hospitals with one hundred
and fifteen thousand beds, and put forty-three thousand nurses in active
service. Efficiency has kept pace with this superb effort, as is
testified to by many a war cross, many a medal, and the cross of the
Legion of Honor.
Up to the level of her means France sets examples in works of human
salvage worthy the imitation of all nations. The mairie in each
arrondissement has become no less than a community center. The XIV
arrondissement in Paris is but the pattern for many. Here the wife of
the mayor, Mme. Brunot, has made the stiff old building a human place.
The card catalogue carrying information about every soldier from the
district, gives its overwhelming news each day gently to wife or mother,
through the lips of Mme. Brunot or her women assistants. The work of Les
Amis des Orphelins de Guerre centers here, the "adopted" child receiving
from the good maire the gifts in money and presents sent by the
Americans who are generously filling the role of parent. The widows of
the soldiers gather here for comfort and advice.
And the mairie holds a spirit of experiment. It houses not only courage
and sympathy, but progress. The "XIV" has ventured on a Cuisine
Populaire under Mme. Brunot's wholesome guidance. And so many other
arrondissements have followed suit that Paris may be regarded as making
a great experiment in the municipal feeding of her people. It is not
charity, the food is paid for. In the "XIV" fifteen hundred persons eat
a meal or two at the mairie each day. The charge is seventy-five
centimes--fifteen cents, and one gets a soup, meat and a vegetable,
The world seems to be counselling us that if we wish to be well and
cheaply fed we must go where there are experts to cook, where buying is
done in quantity, and where the manager knows about nutritive values.
If a word of praise is extended to the maire of the XIV arrondissement
for his very splendid work, an example to all France, he quickly urges,
"Ah, but Mme. Brunot!" And so it is always, if you exclaim, "Oh, the
spirit of the men of France!" and a Frenchman's ears catch your words,
he will correct, "Ah, but the women!"
And the women do stand above all other women, they have had such
opportunity for heroism. Whose heart does not beat the faster when the
names Soisson and Mme. Macherez are spoken! The mayor and the council
gone, she assumes the office and keeps order while German shells fall
thick on the town. And then the enemy enters, and asks for the mayor,
and she replies, "Le maire, c'est moi." And then do we women not like to
think of Mlle. Deletete staying at her post in the telegraph office in
Houplines in spite of German bombardments, and calmly facing tormentors,
when they smashed her instruments and threatened her with death.
One-tenth of France in the enemy's hands, and in each village and town
some woman staying behind to nurse the sick and wounded, to calm the
population when panic threatens, to stand invincible between the people
and their conquerors!
It is very splendid!--the French man holding steady at the front, the
French woman an unyielding second line of defense. But what of France?
Words of praise must not swallow our sense of obligation. Let us with
our hundred millions of people face the figures. The death rate in
France, not counting the military loss, is twenty per thousand, with a
birth rate of eight per thousand. In Paris for the year ending August,
1914, there were forty-eight thousand nine hundred and seventeen births;
in the year ending in the same month, 1916, the births dropped to
twenty-six thousand one hundred and seventy-nine. The total deaths for
that year in all France were one million, one hundred thousand, and the
births three hundred and twelve thousand.
France is profoundly, infinitely sad. She has cause. I shall never
forget looking into the very depths of her sorrow when I was at Creil. A
great drive was in progress, the wounded were being brought down from
the front, troops hurried forward. Four different regiments passed as I
sat at dejeuner. The restaurant, full of its noonday patrons, was a
typical French cafe giving on the street. We could have reached out and
touched the soldiers. They marched without music, without song or word,
marched in silence. Some of the men were from this very town; their
little sons, with set faces, too, walked beside them and had brought
them bunches of flowers. The people in the restaurant never spoke above
a whisper, and when the troops passed were as silent as death. There was
no cheer, but just a long, wistful gaze, the soldiers looking into their
eyes, they into the soldiers'.
But France can bear her burden, can solve her problem if we lift our
full share from her bent shoulders. Her women can save the children if
the older men, relieved by our young soldiers, come back from the
trenches, setting women free for the work of child saving. France can
rebuild her villages if her supreme architects, her skilled workers are
replaced in the trenches by our armies. France can renew her spirit and
save her body if her experts in science, if her poets and artists are
sent back to her, and our less great bare their breasts to the Huns.
MOBILIZING WOMEN IN GERMANY
The military mobilization of Germany was no more immediate and effective
than the call to arms for women. On August 1, 1914, the summons went
out, and German women were at once part of the smooth running machine of
The world says the Kaiser has been preparing for war for forty years.
The world means that he has been preparing the fighting force. The sword
and guns were to be ready. But the military arm of the nation, the
German government believes, is but the first line of attack; the people
are the second line, and so they, too, in all their life activities,
were not forgotten. The military aristocracy has never neglected the
function of women in the state. The definition of their function may
differ from ours, but that there is a function is recognized, and it is
related to the other vital social organs.
Slowly, through the last half of the nineteenth century, there had grown
up clubs among German women focusing on a definite bit of work, or
crystallizing about an idea. Germany even had suffrage societies.
Politics, however, were forbidden by the government; women were not
allowed to hang on the fringe of a meeting held to discuss men's
politics. But the women of the Fatherland were free to pool their ideas
in philanthropic and hygienic corners, and venture out at times on
educational highways. The Froebel societies had many a contest with the
government, for to the military mind, the gentle pedagogue's theories
seemed subversive of discipline as enforced by spurs and bayonets.
These clubs, covering every trade and profession, every duty and every
aspiration of women, were dotted over the German Empire. At last they
drew together in a federation. The government looked on. It saw a
machine created, and believing in thorough organization, no doubt gave
thought to the possibilities of the Bund deutscher, Frauenvereine. At
the outbreak of war, Dr. Gertrud Baumer was president of the Bund. She
was a leader of great ability, marshalling half a million of women. No
other organization was so widespread and well-knit, except perhaps Der
Vaterlandische Frauenverein with its two thousand one hundred and fifty
branches. It was evangelical and military. The Empress was its patron.
Its popular name is the "Armee der Kaiserin."
There the two great national societies stood--one aristocratic, the
other democratic, one appealing to the ruling class, the other holding
in bonds of fellowship the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural,
the professional and the industrial woman.
Every belligerent president or premier has faced exactly the same
perplexity. What woman, what society, is to be recognized as leader? The
question has brought beads of perspiration to the foreheads of
France solved the difficulty urbanely. It said "yes" to each and all. It
promised cooeperation and kept the promise. By affably--always affably
and hospitably--accepting this service from one society, and suggesting
another pressing need to its competitor, it sorted out capabilities, and
warded off duplication. Perhaps this did not bring the fullest
efficiency, but the loss was more than made up, no doubt, by a free
field for initiative. Britain ignored all existing organizations of
women, and after a year and a half of puzzlement created a separate
government department for their mobilization. America struck out still
another course. It took the heads of several national societies, bound
them in one committee, to which it gave, perhaps with the idea of
avoiding any danger of friction, neither power nor funds.
Germany faced the same critical moment for decision. The government
wanted efficient use of woman-power on the land, in the factory, in the
home, and that quickly. It made use of the best existing machinery. Dr.
Gertrud Baumer visited the Ministerium des Innern, and on August 1 she
issued a call for the mobilization of women for service to the
Fatherland in the Nationale Frauendienst. Under the aegis of the
government, with the national treasury behind her, Dr. Baumer summoned
the women of the Empire. By order, every woman and every organization of
women was to fall in line under the Frauendienst in each village and
city for "the duration of the war." 
In each army district, the government appointed a woman as directress,
and by order to town and provincial authorities made the Frauendienst
part of local executive affairs.
Among the immediate duties laid upon the Frauendienst by the authorities
was the task of registering all needy persons, of providing cheap eating
places, opening workrooms, and setting up nurseries for children,
especially for those who were motherless and those whose fathers had
fallen at the front and whose mothers were in some gainful pursuit. With
these duties went the administrative service of cooeperating with the
government in "keeping up an even supply of foodstuffs, and controlling
the buying and selling of food."
Germany anticipated as did no other belligerent the unemployment which
would follow a declaration of war, and prepared to meet the condition. A
great deal of army work, such as tent sewing, belts for cartridges,
bread sacks, and sheets for hospitals, was made immediately available
for the women thrown out of luxury trades. In the first month of the war
the Frauendienst opened work-rooms in all great centers; machinery was
installed by magic and through the six work-rooms in Berlin alone
twenty-three thousand women were given paid employment in one week.
Such efforts could not, of course, absorb the surplus labor, for
unemployment was very great. Eighty percent of the women's hat-makers
and milliners were out of work, seventy-two percent of the workers in
glass and fifty-eight percent in china. The Frauendienst investigated
two hundred and fifty-five thousand needy cases, and in Berlin alone
found sixty thousand women who had lost their employment. Charity had to
render help. Here, again, it is an example of the alertness of the
organization and its close connection with the government that the
Berlin magistracy deputed to twenty-three Hilfscommissionen from the
Frauendienst the work of giving advice and charity relief to the
unemployed. Knitting rooms were opened, clothing depots, mending rooms,
where donated clothing was repaired, and in one month fifty-six thousand
orders for milk, five hundred thousand for bread, and three hundred
thousand for meals were distributed for the city authorities.
The adjustment to war requirements went on more quickly in Germany than
in any other country. Before a year had passed the surplus hands had
been absorbed, and a shortage of labor power was beginning to be felt.
And now opens the war drama set with the same scene everywhere. Women
hurry forward to take up the burden laid down by men, and to assume the
new occupations made necessary by the organization of the world for
military conflict. To tell of Germany is merely to speak in bigger
numbers. Women in munitions? Of course, well over the million mark.
Trolley conductors? Of course, six hundred in Berlin alone before the
first Christmas. Women are making the fuses, fashioning the big shells,
and at the same heavy machines used by the men. That speaks volumes--the
same heavy machines. Great Britain and France have in every case
introduced lighter machinery for their women. But, whatever the
conditions, in Germany the women are handling high explosives, sewing
heavy saddlery, operating the heaviest drill machines. Women have been
put on the "hardest jobs hitherto filled by men." In the
German-Luxemburg Mining and Furnace Company at Differdingen, they are
found doing work at the slag and blast furnaces which had always
required men of great endurance. They work on the same shifts as the
men, receive the same pay, but are not worked overtime "because they
must go home and perform their domestic duties."
One feels the weight of the German system. Patient women shoulder double
burdens. They always did.
In the Post and Telegraph department there is an army of fifty thousand
women. The telephone service is entirely in their hands, and running
more smoothly than formerly. Dr. Kaethe Schirmacher declares comfortingly
in the _Kriegsfrau_ that "one must not forget that these women know many
important bits of information--and keep silent." Women have learned to
keep a secret!
One hundred and eighty nurses, experts with the X-ray, were in the front
line dressing stations in the early days of the war, and before a week
of conflict had passed women were in the Field Post, and Frau Reimer,
organizer of official chauffeurs, was on the western line of attack.
Agriculture claims more women than any occupation in Germany. They were
always on the farm, perhaps they are happier there now since they
themselves are in command. It is said that "the peasants work in the
boots and trousers of their husbands and ride in the saddle." War has
liberated German women from the collar and put them on horseback!
But strangest and most unexpected of all is the professional and
administrative use of women. The government has sent women architects
and interior decorators to East Prussia to plan and carry through
reconstruction work. Over a hundred--to be exact, one hundred and
sixteen at last accounts--have taken the places of men in
administrative departments connected with the railways. Many widows who
have shown capacity have been put in government positions of importance
formerly held by their husbands. Women have become farm managers,
superintendents of dairy industries, and representatives of landed
The disseminating of all instruction and information for women on war
economies was delegated to the League of Women's Domestic Science Clubs.
The Berlin course was held in no less a place than the Abgeordnetenhaus,
and the Herrenhaus opened its doors wide on Rural Women's Day when
Agricultural Week was held at the capital.
When the full history of the war comes to be written, no doubt one
reason for Germany's marvelous power to stand so long against the world
will be found in her use of every brain and muscle of the nation. This
has been for her no exclusive war. Her entire people to their last ounce
of energy have been engaged.
And this supreme service on the part of German women seeks democratic
expression. From them comes the clearest, bravest word that has reached
us across the border. The most hopeful sign is this manifesto from the
suffrage organizations to the government: "Up to the present Germany
has stood in the lowest rank of nations as regards women's rights. In
most civilized lands women already have been given a large share in
public affairs. German women have been granted nothing except within the
most insignificant limits. In New Zealand, Australia and most American
States, and even before the war in Finland and Norway, they had been
given political rights; to-day, Sweden, Russia and many other countries
give them a full or limited franchise. The war has brought a full
victory to the women of England, Canada, Russia and Denmark, and large
concessions are within sight in France, Holland and Hungary.
"Among us Germans not only the national but even the commercial
franchise is denied, and even a share in the industrial and commercial
courts. In the demand for the democratization of German public life our
legislators do not seem even to admit the existence of women.
"But during the war the cooperation of women in public life has
unostentatiously grown from year to year until to-day the number of
women engaged in various callings in Germany exceeds the number of men.
"The work they are doing includes all spheres of male activity; without
them it would no longer be possible to support the economic life of the
people. Women have done their full share in the work of the community.
"Does not this performance of duty involve the right to share in the
building up and extension of the social order?
"The women protest against this lack of political rights, in virtue both
of their work for the community and of their work as human beings. They
demand political equality with men. They demand the direct, equal and
secret franchise for all legislative bodies, full equality in the
communes and in legal representation of their interests.
"This first joint pronouncement on women's demands will be followed by
others until the victory of our cause is won."
[Footnote 3: "Die Frauenvereine jeder Stadt verbinden sich fuer die Dauer
des Krieges zur Organization Nationaler Frauendienst die zu Berlin am
1ten August begruendet wurde."]
WOMEN OVER THE TOP IN AMERICA
American women have begun to go over the top. They are going up the
scaling-ladder and out into All Man's Land. Perhaps love of adventure
tempts them, perhaps love of money, or a fine spirit of service, but
whatever the propelling motive, we are seeing them make the venture.
There is nothing new in our day in a woman's being paid for her
work--some of it. But she has never before been seen in America
employed, for instance, as a section hand on a railway. The gangs are
few and small as yet, but there the women are big and strong specimens
of foreign birth. They "trim" the ballast and wield the heavy "tamping"
tool with zest. They certainly have muscles, and are tempted to use them
vigorously at three dollars a day.
In the machine shops where more skill than strength is called for, the
American element with its quick wits and deft fingers predominates.
Young women are working at the lathe with so much precision and accuracy
that solicitude as to what would become of the world if all its men
marched off to war is in a measure assuaged. In the push and drive of
the industrial world, women are handling dangerous chemicals in making
flash lights, and T.N.T. for high explosive shells. The American college
girl is not as yet transmuting her prowess of the athletic field into
work on the anvil, as is the university woman in England, but she has
demonstrated her manual strength and skill on the farm with plough
Women and girls answer our call for messenger service, and their
intelligence and courtesy are an improvement upon the manners of the
young barbarians of the race. Women operate elevators, lifting us with
safety to the seventh heaven, or plunging us with precision to the
depths. There were those at first who refused to entrust their lives to
such frail hands, and there are still some who look concerned when they
see a woman at the lever; but on the whole the elevator "girl" has
gained the confidence of her public, and has gained it by skill, not by
feminine wiles, for even men won't shoot into space with a woman at the
helm whose sole equipment is charm. With need of less skill than the
elevator operator, but more patience and tact in managing human nature,
the woman conductor is getting her patrons into line. We are still a
little embarrassed in her presence. We try not to stare at the
well-set-up woman in her sensible uniform, while she on her part tries
to look unconscious, and with much dignity accomplishes the common aim
much more successfully than do we. She is so attentive to her duties, so
courteous, and, withal, so calm and serious that I hope she will abide
with us longer than the "duration of the war."
In short, America is witnessing the beginning of a great industrial and
social change, and even those who regard the situation as temporary
cannot doubt that the experience will have important reactions. The
development is more advanced than it was in Great Britain at a
corresponding time, for even before the United States entered the
conflict women were being recruited in war industries. They have opened
up every line of service. There is not an occupation in which a woman is
When men go a-warring, women go to work.
A distinguished general at the end of the Cuban War, enlarging upon the
poet's idea of woman's weeping role in wartime, said in a public speech:
"When the country called, women put guns in the hands of their soldier
boys and bravely sent them away. After the good-byes were said there was
nothing for these women to do but to go back and wait, wait, wait. The
excitement of battle was not for them. It was simply a season of anxiety
and heartrending inactivity." Now the fact is, when a great call to arms
is sounded for the men of a nation, women enlist in the industrial army.
If women did indeed sit at home and weep, the enemy would soon conquer.
The dull census tells the thrilling story. Before our Civil War women
were found in less than a hundred trades, at its close in over four
hundred. The census of 1860 gives two hundred and eighty-five thousand
women in gainful pursuits; that of 1870, one million, eight hundred and
thirty-six thousand. Of the Transvaal at war, this story was told to me
by an English officer. He led a small band of soldiers down into the
Boer country, on the north from Rhodesia, as far as he dared. He "did
not see a man," even boys as young as fifteen had joined the army. But
at the post of economic duty stood the Boer woman; she was tending the
herds and carrying on all the work of the farm. She was the base of
supplies. That was why the British finally put her in a concentration
camp. Her man could not be beaten with her at his back.
War compels women to work. That is one of its merits. Women are forced
to use body and mind, they are not, cannot be idlers. Perhaps that is
the reason military nations hold sway so long; their reign continues,
not because they draw strength from the conquered nation, but because
their women are roused to exertion. Active mothers ensure a virile race.
The peaceful nation, if its women fall victims to the luxury which
rapidly increasing wealth brings, will decay. If there come no spiritual
awakening, no sense of responsibility of service, then perhaps war alone
can save it. The routing of idleness and ease by compulsory labor is the
good counterbalancing some of the evil.
The rapidly increasing employment of women to-day, then, is the usual,
and happy, accompaniment of war. But the development has its opponents,
and that is nothing new, either. Let us look them over one by one. The
most mischievous objector is the person, oftenest a woman, who says the
war will be short, and fundamental changes, therefore, should not be
made. This agreeable prophecy does not spring from a heartening belief
in victory, but only from the procrastinating attitude, "Why get ready?"
To prepare for anything less certain than death seems folly to many of
the sex, over-trained in patient waiting.
Then there is the official who constantly sees the seamy side of
industrial life and who concludes--we can scarcely blame him--that "it
would be well if women were excluded entirely from factory life." The
bad condition of industrial surroundings bulks large in his mind, and
the value of organized work to us mortals bulks small. We are all too
inclined to forget that the need for work cannot be eliminated, but the
unhealthy process in a dangerous trade can. Clean up the factory, rather
than clean out the women, is a sound slogan.
And then comes the objector who is exercised as to the effect of paid
work upon woman's charm. Solicitude on this score is often buried in a
woman's heart. It was a woman, the owner of a large estate, who when
proposing to employ women asked how many men she would have to hire in
addition, "to dig, plough and do all the hard work." On learning that
the college units do everything on a farm, she queried anxiously, "But
how about their corsets?" To the explanation, "They don't wear any,"
came the regret, "What a pity to make themselves so unattractive!"
I have heard fear expressed, too, lest sex attraction be lost through
work on army hats, the machinery being noisy and the operative, if she
talk, running the danger of acquiring a sharp, high voice. One could but
wonder if most American women work on army hats.
Among the women actually employed, I have found without exception a fine
spirit of service. So many of them have a friend or brother "over
there," that backing up the boys makes a strong personal appeal. But
some of the women who have left factory life behind are adopting an
attitude towards the present industrial situation as lacking in vision
as in patriotism. Throughout a long discussion in which some of these
women participated I was able to follow and get their point of view. To
them a woman acting as a messenger, an elevator operator, or a trolley
conductor, was anathema, and the tempting of women into these
employments seemed but the latest vicious trick of the capitalist. The
conductor in her becoming uniform was most reprehensible, and her
evident satisfaction in her job suggested to her critics that she merely
was trying to play a melodramatic part "as a war hero." In any case, the
conductor's occupation was one no woman should be in, "crowded and
pushed about as she is." It was puzzling to know why it was regarded as
right for a woman to pay five cents and be pushed, and unbecoming for
another woman to be paid eighteen dollars and ninety cents a week and
run the risk of a jolt when stepping outside her barrier.
But the ideals of yesterday fail to make their appeal. It is not the
psychological moment to urge, on the ground of comfort, the woman's
right to protection. The contrast between the trenches and the street
car or factory is too striking. But it is, however, the exact moment to
plead for better care of workers, both women and men, because their
health and skill are as necessary in attaining the national aim as the
soldiers' prowess and well-being. It is the time to advocate the
protection of the worker from long hours, because the experience of
Europe has proved that a greater and better output is achieved when a
short day is strictly adhered to, when the weekly half-holiday is
enjoyed, and Sunday rest respected. The United States is behind other
great industrial countries in legal protection for the workers. War
requirements may force us to see in the health of the worker the
greatest of national assets. Meantime, whether approved or not, the
American woman is going over the top. Four hundred and more are busy on
aeroplanes at the Curtiss works. The manager of a munition shop where
to-day but fifty women are employed, is putting up a dormitory to
accommodate five hundred. An index of expectation! Five thousand are
employed by the Remington Arms Company at Bridgeport. At the
International Arms and Fuse Company at Bloomfield, New Jersey, two
thousand, eight hundred are employed. The day I visited the place, in
one of the largest shops women had only just been put on the work, but
it was expected that in less than a month they would be found handling
all of the twelve hundred machines under that one roof alone.
The skill of the women staggers one. After a week or two they master the
operations on the "turret," gauging and routing machines. The best
worker on the "facing" machine is a woman. She is a piece worker, as
many of the women are, and is paid at the same rate as men. This woman
earned, the day I saw her, five dollars and forty cents. She tossed
about the fuse parts, and played with that machine, as I would with a
baby. Perhaps it was in somewhat the same spirit--she seemed to
love her toy.
Most of the testers and inspectors are women. They measure the parts
step by step, and weigh the completed fuse, carrying off the palm for
reliability. The manager put it, "for inspection the women are more
conscientious than men. They don't measure or weigh just one piece,
shoving along a half-dozen untouched and let it go at that. They test
each." That did not surprise me, but I was not prepared to hear that the
women do not have so many accidents as men, or break the machines so
often. In explanation, the manager threw over an imaginary lever with
vigor sufficient to shake the factory, "Men put their whole strength on,
women are more gentle and patient."
Nor are the railways neglecting to fill up gaps in their working force
with women. The Pennsylvania road, it is said, has recruited some seven
hundred of them. In the Erie Railroad women are not only engaged as
"work classifiers" in the locomotive clerical department, but hardy
Polish women are employed in the car repair shops. They move great
wheels as if possessed of the strength of Hercules. And in the
locomotive shops I found women working on drill-press machines with
ease and skill. Just as I came up to one operator, she lifted an engine
truck-box to the table and started drilling out the studs. She had been
at the work only a month, and explained her skill by the information
that she was Swedish, and had always worked with her husband in their
auto-repair shop. All the other drill-press hands and the "shapers,"
too, were Americans whose husbands, old employees, were now "over
there." Not one seemed to have any sense of the unusual; even the little
blond check-clerk seated in her booth at the gates of the works with her
brass discs about her had in a few months' time changed a revolution
into an established custom. She and the discs seemed old friends. Women
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood and Underwood_
The daily round in the Erie Railroad workshops.]
But everywhere I gathered the impression that the men are a bit uneasy.
A foreman in one factory pointed out a man who "would not have voted for
suffrage" had he guessed that women were "to rush in and gobble
everything up." I tried to make him see that it wasn't the vote that
gave the voracious appetite, but necessity or desire to serve. And in
any case, women do not push men out, they push them up. In not a single
instance did I hear of a man being turned off to make a place for a
woman. He had left his job to go into the army, or was advanced to
heavier or more skilled work.
As to how many women have supplanted men, or poured into the new war
industries, no figures are available. One guess has put it at a million.
But that is merely a guess. I have seen them by the tens, the hundreds,
the thousands. The number is large and rapidly increasing. We may know
that something important is happening when even the government takes
note. The United States Labor Department has recognized the new-comers
by establishing a Division of Women's Work with branches in every State.
It looks as if these bureaus of employment would not be idle, with a
showing of one thousand, five hundred applicants the first week the New
York office was opened. It is to be hoped that this government effort
will save the round pegs from getting into the square holes.
But even the round peg in the round hole brings difficulties. When Adam
Smith asserted that of all sorts of luggage man was the most difficult
to move, he forgot woman! The instant women are carried into a new
industry, they bring with them puzzling problems. Where shall we put
their coats and picture hats, how shall we cover up their hair, what
shall we feed them with? They must have lockers and rest rooms, caps
and overalls, and above all, canteens. The munition workers, the
conductors, in fact, all women in active work, get prodigiously hungry.
They have made a regiment of dietitians think about calories. Here is
what one of the street railways in New York City offered them on a
Tomato soup 10c. or with an order 5c.
Roast leg of veal 16c.
Lamb fricassee 16c.
Ham steak 16c.
Liver and onions 16c.