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The Trade Union Woman by Alice Henry

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face the consequences, bear some of the burden, and do its share
towards preventing the continuance of the evil. We do not cure
smallpox by punishing the patient, nor do we thus prevent its
recurrence among others. We handle the disease both by treating the
sick person himself, and by finding the causes that lead to its
spread, and arresting these. Industrial eruptive diseases have to
be dealt with in like fashion, the cause sought for, and the social
remedy applied fearlessly.



The melting-pot of the races is also the melting-pot of nationalities.
The drama that we are witnessing in America is a drama on a more
tremendous scale than can ever have been staged in the world before.

By the unawakened and so-called pure American the incoming Italian or
Jew is regarded as an outsider, who may be graciously permitted to hew
wood and draw water, to forge steel in a rolling-mill or to sew in a
factory, to cut ice or make roads for the rest of us, and who may,
on the other hand, be given the cold shoulder more or less politely,
generally less, when it comes to acquaintanceship, to the simple
democratic social intercourse which we share with those whom we admit
as our equals.

I, too, am an immigrant, although an English-speaking and Anglo-Saxon
immigrant. Therefore I am accepted among Americans as one of
themselves. But there comes to me often a bitter sense of separation
from my fellow-immigrants, a separation by not one wall, but many.
First, the wall we none of us can help, the wall raised by difference
of language. Next, the wall raised by different manners and customs.
This we might try to scale oftener than we do. Again, there are
separating walls, harder than these either to surmount or to lay low,
walls of provincial arrogance and crass self-satisfaction, and the
racial pride that is mostly another name for primitive ignorance.

An ordinary city-dwelling American or an English-speaking foreigner
earning a living in business or in one of the professions or even in
some of the skilled trades might live a lifetime in the United States
and never meet non-Americanized foreigners socially at all. In church
or club or on the footing of private entertainment these first-comers
and their friends keep themselves to themselves. And although among us
such race-defined limits are less hard and fast than, say, the lines
of class in old European countries, still there they are. The less
enlightened do not even think about the immigrant within our shores
at all. Those somewhat more advanced will talk glibly about the
Americanization of the foreigner that is going on all the time. So is
it. That is true, but the point here to be noted is that the desirable
and inevitable process of the Americanization of the foreigner, and
his assimilation by and into the American nation takes place outside
the charmed circles wherein these good respectable folks dwell; takes
place in spite of their indifference; takes place without their active
assistance, without their cooeperation, save and except so far as that
cooeperation is unconscious and unavoidable.

The Americanizing process takes place in the street, in the cars, in
the stores, in the workshop, at the theater, and the nickel show, in
the wheatfield and on the icefield; best and quickest of all in the
school, and nowhere so consciously as in the trade union, for all that
section of foreigners whom organized labor has been able to reach
and draw into its fold. Carried out for the most part in crude and
haphazard fashion the process goes on, only in the vast majority of
cases it is far slower than it need be.

Too many are but little touched, or touched only in painful ways by
the Americanizing process, especially the married women who stay in
their homes. Their lot is so often a tragedy. They have lost their own
country and yet have not gained another. Even this is not the worst.
The younger folks are in some fashion made over into American men and
women. And here comes in the crucial question which concerns something
more than universality of opportunity, quality of opportunity. These
little Poles and Ruthenians and Bohemians are finally made over into
Americans. Their life-contribution will be given to the generation now
growing up, of which they will form a part. We want that contribution
to be as fine as possible. They cannot give more than they themselves
are. And what they are to be in very large part we are making them.
Will they not be all the finer citizens-to-be if we come closer to
them and to their parents in the warm friendly social relations of

The plane of social intercourse is the last to be transformed by
democracy. Here is it that aristocratic and undemocratic limitations
hamper us the longest. Here we are still far behind the fine, free and
admirable planing out of differences, and rounding off of angles and
making over of characters that is part of the democracy of the street
and the marketplace. Here between strangers is the closest physical
nearness. Here the common need to live and earn a living supplies a
mutual education through the very acts of serving and being served,
of buying and selling and using the common thoroughfares and means
of transportation. And that basic democracy of the street and the
marketplace is all between strangers.

It is the very fact that this blending of peoples, this rubbing off of
racial angles, takes place in and through the commonplace surroundings
of everyday life, that blinds most to the greatness and the wonder
of the transformation and to the pressing importance of the right
adjustments being made, and made early. But to the observer whose eyes
are not holden, there comes a sense that he is every day witnessing a
warfare of Titans, that in these prosaic American communities it is
world powers that are in clash and in conflict while in preparation
for the harmony to be.

Upon careful consideration it would appear that the immigrant problem
is only a slightly varied expression of the general social and
economic problem. It focuses public attention because the case of the
immigrant is so extreme. For instance, whatever conditions, industrial
or civic, press hardly upon the American worker, these conditions
press with yet greater hardship upon the alien. The alien and his
difficulties form therefore a first point of contact, the point where
the social reformer begins with his suggestions for improvement.
The very same thought unconsciously forms the basis of many of the
proposed methods of dealing with the immigrant, however startlingly
these may differ from one another in expression. On the one hand we
have such suggestions as that of Mr. Paul Kellogg, which he called "A
Labor Tariff, A Minimum Wage for the Immigrant." It does not take
very acute reasoning to perceive that if such a proposal were ever to
become law, it would not be very long before there would have to be a
universal minimum wage for everyone.

On the other hand, Mr. Edward B. Whitney in his Memorandum appended to
the Report of the Commission of the State of New York argues thus
in discussing the claim made by the majority of the Commission that
certain special help and protection is needed by the alien. He asks
"whether, if a further extension of this kind of state charity is to
be made, it would not be better to take up something for the benefit
of our own citizens or for the benefit of citizen and alien alike."
Mr. Whitney is entirely logical. Only progress rarely takes place for
logical reasons, or on lines dictated by logic, but it does in
almost all cases follow the line of least resistance, and the wise
progressive accepts gratefully whatever he can get, without being too
anxious as to whether it seems to be logically the next step or not.

The immigrant has hitherto been used as an excuse to permit the
dehumanizing of our cities; he has been used industrially as an
instrument to make life harder for the hardly pressed classes of
workers whom he joined on his arrival here. That such has been his
sorry function has been his misfortune as well as theirs. Would it not
be equally natural and far more fair to utilize his presence among us
to raise our civic and economic and industrial standards? It is no
new story, this. Out of every social problem we can construct a
stepping-stone to something better and higher than was before. The
most that we know of health has been learned through a study of
the misadjustments that bring about disease. What has been done
educationally to assist the defective, the handicapped and the
dependent has thrown a flood of light upon the training of the normal
child. Through work undertaken in the first instance for the benefit
of the exceptions, the minority, the whole community has benefited.

In this connection no one will deny that immigrants, both men and
women, have their handicaps. In the great majority of instances they
are handicapped by an upbringing among primitive conditions, by their
unavoidable ignorance of our language and our customs, and by a quite
natural mental confusion as to our standards of conduct, to them
so curiously exacting in some respects as, for instance, where the
schooling of their children is concerned, so incomprehensibly lax in
others, say, in the unusual freedom accorded to those same children
when grown but a little older.

We shall find that whatever we do for the immigrant will be, in the
end, so much accomplished for the good of all. Let us lessen this
unfair pressure upon him, as far as we can, and we shall surely find
that in helping him to help himself, we have, at the same time,
benefited all workers.

It is easy to see that the great strikes in the sewing and textile
trades of the last few years have proved a searchlight especially into
women's industrial conditions, educating the whole public by informing
them of the terrible price paid for our comfort by the makers of the
commonest articles of household purchase and use, the sacrifice of
youth, health, happiness, and life itself demanded by any industry
which exacts of the employes cruelly long hours of work at an
exhausting speed, and which for such overwork pays them wretchedly.

These uprisings have besides stimulated to an encouraging degree the
forming of an intelligent public opinion upon the problem of the
immigrant, and a wholesomely increased sense of responsibility towards
the immigrant. And indeed it was time. Miss Grace Abbott, director of
the Chicago League for the Protection of Immigrants, tells a story,
illustrating how very unintelligent an educated professional man can
be in relation to immigrant problems.

"Not long ago," she says, "I listened to a paper by a sanitary
engineer, on the relation between the immigrant and public health. It
was based on a study of typhoid fever in a certain city in the United
States. He showed that most typhoid epidemics started among our
foreign colonies, and spread to other sections. This, he explained, is
because the foreigner has been accustomed to a pure water supply, and
is therefore much more susceptible to typhoid than the American
who has struggled since birth against the diseases which come from
polluted water.

"Instead, then, of urging this as an additional reason for giving
us all decent water, he drew the remarkable conclusion that in the
interests of the public health, some new basis for the exclusion of
immigrants must be adopted. In this way," Miss Abbott adds, "most
discussions on the immigrant are diverted, and leave the fundamental
problems quite untouched. For whether we adopt a literary and physique
test, increase the head-tax, and do all the other things suggested by
the restrictionists, thousands of immigrants will continue to come to
us every year."

Apart from general considerations, these gigantic industrial
upheavals have afforded to the public-spirited citizen an unsurpassed
opportunity of understanding and appreciating the industrial problem
as it affects and is affected by the immigrant girl and young woman. A
few of us, here and there, from personal and trade experience knew the
facts years ago as well as they are generally known today. But not
all the Government reports, not an army of investigators could have
imparted this knowledge to the public, and impressed upon them the
sordid suffering of the working and living conditions of the foreign
woman in the sewing trades in any great American city.

For in strikes of such magnitude, where whole groups of the
participators themselves lived for months in a white heat of idealism
and enthusiasm, life-stories are no longer dragged out of shy retiring
girls, but are poured out in a burning flood by those very same girls,
now quite transformed by the revolution through which they have
passed, and by the new ideas of liberty and sisterhood with which they
are possessed.

I speak of the woman worker here, because it is she who is my concern
at present, and in all the now historic strikes she has played a very
large part. Indeed in the first of these risings, in the shirtwaist
strikes of 1909-1910 in New York and Philadelphia, very few men
workers were involved, and in the huge Chicago strike, 1910-1911,
among the makers of men's ready-made clothing, although there the girl
strikers numbered only about one-fourth of the whole, even that fourth
made up the very respectable total of, it is believed, somewhere
around 10,000 individuals, the population of a small city. Indeed it
would give most Americans pause to be told that in this same Chicago
strike the whole of the workers, men and women together, numbered more
than the troops that Washington was able to place in the field at any
one time during the War of Independence.

Most of these strikes have been strikes of unorganized workers, who
did not know even of the existence of a union till after they had gone
out, and therefore with no idea of appealing to an organization for
even moral support. In Chicago the strikers belonged to nine different
nationalities, speaking as many different languages, so it is clear
that the pressure must have been indeed irresistible that forced so
many thousands with apparently no common meeting-ground or even common
means of communication out of the shops into the street. When
the organized strike, they know why. When the unorganized of one
nationality and one tongue strike, they can tell one another why. Yet
these people struck in spots all over the city almost simultaneously,
although in most cases without any knowledge by one group that other
groups were also resisting oppression and making a last stand against
any further degradation of their poor standards of living. Amid every
variety of shop grievance, and with the widest possible difference
in race, language and customs, they shared two disadvantageous
conditions: industrially they were oppressed, and socially they were
subject races. Therefore they were one people, in spite of their nine
nationalities. These two conditions acted and reacted upon one another
complicating and intensifying the struggle. But because of this very
intensity it has been easier for the onlooker to separate out the real
questions at issue, easier for the sympathetic American to come into
wholesome and human relationship with this large body of his brothers
and sisters. To him they could be one group, for their interests
were one, and they had been too long separated from him and from one
another by the accidents of birth and speech.

So the searchlight turned on then on the sewing trades has since cast
its enlightening beams on industrial conditions in other trades, in
which, too, one race is perpetually played off against another with
the unfailing result of cuts in wages and lowering of standards of

All tests of admission to secure some measure of selection among new
arrivals are but experiments in an untried field. We have no tests but
rough-and-ready ones, and even these are often inconsistent with one
another. For instance, for a good many years now the immigration
inspectors have taken such precautions as they could against the
admission of the insane, but it is only recently that modified Binet
tests have been used to check the entry of a socially far more
injurious class, the congenitally feebleminded.

Those who have worked extensively among newly arrived foreign girls
find that they arrive here with, as a rule, much less idea of what
awaits them, what will be expected of them, and the difficulties
and even dangers they may encounter, than the men. When the Chicago
Women's Trade Union League began its immigration department a few
years ago, it was found that three dollars was about the average
sum which a girl had in her pocket when she reached the city of her
destination. Ten dollars was felt to be a fortune, while I have since
heard of young girls landing alone in a great city, and without a
single cent with which to leave the depot. It is often said, why do
their mothers let them go away (sixteen and eighteen are common ages)
so young, so inexperienced? It must be remembered that many of the
Polish and Lithuanian girls, for example, come from small villages.
The mothers themselves have never seen a big city, and have not
the remotest conception of any place of more than five hundred
inhabitants, where the distances are short, and where everyone knows
everyone else. They have no idea of the value of money, when it comes
to earning and spending it in America. Three dollars a week is to
mother, as to daughter, an ample sum for the young traveler.

It often happens that many of the young immigrants have had letters
from those who had preceded them. But we know what human nature is.
The person who succeeds proudly writes home the good news. The still
more successful person is able to take a trip home and display the
visible signs of his or her wealth. The unsuccessful, as a rule,
either does not write at all, or writing, does not admit the
humiliating truth.

In the ignorance and inexperience of the young foreign girl the white
slaver finds his easiest prey, and the betrayer is too often the man
speaking her own tongue. On this terrible subject the nation, like
other nations, is beginning to wake up to its responsibilities in
relation to the immigrant girl as in relation to other girls. This
special danger to young womanhood is so linked with other social
questions that I merely allude to it here, because of the certainty
I entertain that much even of this danger would lessen if the
trade-union movement among women were so strong and so extensive that
any woman, young or old, could travel from place to place as a member
of a truly world-wide organization. Then she would have a better
chance of arriving well posted as to ways of earning her living, and
of finding friends in every city and every town and village.

It may be urged that there exist already organizations world-wide in
their scope, such as the religious associations, for the very purpose
of safeguarding wandering girlhood. There are, and they accomplish a
notable amount of good. But their appeal is not universal; they never
have money or workers enough to cope adequately with a task like this,
and they are not built upon the sound economic basis of the trade

The immigrant problem was not encountered by the first factory workers
here, who were American-born. So we find the earliest leaders in the
trade organization of women were wholly drawn from the daughters of
the native settlers. They felt and spoke always as free-women, "the
daughters of freemen." When this class of girls withdrew from the
factories, they gave place to the Irish immigrant, in some respects a
less advanced type than themselves. I have briefly traced some of the
economic reasons which affected the rise, growth and eventual passing
away of the various phases of trade unionism among women in this
country. The progress of these was radically modified by the influx
into the trades of workers from one nation after another; by the
passing from a trade or a group of trades of body after body of the
old workers, starved out or giving way before the recent arrivals,
whose pitiful power to seize the jobs of the others and earn some sort
of a living, has lain in their very weakness and helplessness.

So the first Irish girls who came into the factory life of New England
were peasants, with no knowledge of city life, but quick and ready to
learn. They went into the new occupations, and picked up the new ways
of doing things. And by the time they had grasped the meaning of this
strange industrial world in which they found themselves, they were
in the relentless grasp of machine-controlled industry. Under
untold handicaps they had to begin at the very beginning, and start
rebellions on their own account. From the sixties on we can detect the
preponderance of Irish names in the annals of early trade unionism.
When they had adapted themselves to their conditions, for they quickly
became Americanized, they showed in the trade unions which they
organized the remarkable qualities for political leadership which the
Irish and Irish-Americans have ever since displayed in this country.
The important role which Irish and Irish-American men have played in
the councils of American trade unionism is well known, and their power
today remains very great. So as regards the women, by glancing over
the past we can readily trace the influence of the Irish girl, in the
efforts after organization, unsuccessful as these often were. It was
Maggie McNamara who led the Brooklyn Female Burnishers' Association
in 1868. It was during the sixties that Kate Mullaney was leading her
splendid body of Troy laundresses, and twenty years later we find
Leonora Barry, another Irish girl, as the leading spirit among the
women of the Knights of Labor.

Except in isolated instances, no other race has come to the front
among working-women until recently. We read of German women and
Bohemian women as faithful unionists. But Germans, Bohemians and
Scandinavians advanced or lost ground along with the others. By this
time, moreover, the nation had become more habituated to absorbing
immigrants from various nations, and the distinction between races
was less accentuated after a few years' residence. On the part of the
Germans and Scandinavians, amalgamation has been so speedy, and in the
end so complete, that most of those who have been here some time, and
invariably the children of the first-comers, are Americans through and

With the foreign peoples that we have with us today, the situation
is somewhat different. Certain general principles are common to the
course of all these migrations. They originate, on the one hand, in
economic pressure, complicated not unfrequently with religious wars or
persecutions, and on the other, in the expectation of better times
in a new country. They meet the demands of a new country, asking for
labor, and are further subject to the inducements of agents. Under our
haphazard social arrangements, the newly arrived often meet wretched
conditions, and have no means of knowing how they are being used to
lower yet further wages for themselves and others.

Always, whatever their own descent and history, the older inhabitants
feel resentment, knowing no more than their unfortunate rivals what
is the underlying reason of the trouble. Milder forms of antagonism
consist in sending the immigrant workers "to Coventry," using
contemptuous language of or to them, as we hear every day in "dago"
or "sheeny," and in objections by the elders to the young people
associating together, while the shameful use that is continually made
of the immigrants as strike-breakers may rouse such mutual indignation
that there are riots and pitched battles as a consequence.

The first indignant efforts to exclude the intruders are vain. More
and more do experienced trade unionists admit this, and plead for the
acceptance of the inevitable, and turn all their energies towards the
organization of the unwelcome rivals. Scabs they must be, if
left alone. Better take them in where they can be influenced and
controlled, and can therefore do less damage. Here is where the help
of the foreign organizer is so essential to overcome the indifference
and quell the misgivings of the strangers in a situation where the
influence of the employer is almost always adverse.

At length the immigrant gains a footing; he is left in possession,
either wholly or partly, and amalgamation to a great degree takes
place. A generation grows up that knew not the sad rivalry of their
fathers, for fresh industrial rivalries on different grounds have
replaced the old, as sharply cut, but not on race lines.

Every one of these stages can be seen today in all the industrial
centers and in many rural ones, with one people or another.

While the tendency of the organized labor movement, both in the United
States and in Canada, is towards restriction, whether exercised
directly through immigration laws, or indirectly through laws against
the importation of contract labor, there exist wide differences of
opinion among trade unionists, and in the younger groups are many who
recognize that there are limits beyond which no legislation can
affect the issue, and that even more important than the conditions of
admission to this new world is the treatment which the worker receives
after he passes the entrance gate. If it is necessary in the interests
of those already in this country to guard the portals carefully, it is
equally necessary for the welfare of all, that the community through
their legislators, both state and national, should accept the
responsibility of preventing the ruthless exploitation of immigrants
in the interest of private profit. Exploited and injured themselves,
these become the unconscious instruments of hardly less ruthless
exploitation and injury to their fellows in the competitive struggle
for a bare subsistence.

Such exploitation could be in some degree checked through the
authorities assuming control, and especially by furnishing to the new
arrivals abundant information and advice, acquainting them with the
state of the labor market in different localities and at different
times. It is for the authorities also to see that the transportation
of newly arrived foreigners from place to place is rendered secure;
to encourage their early instruction in the language and laws of the
country and the ordinances of the city, along with enlightenment as to
the resources in time of trouble, which lie open to the poorest, if
they but know where to turn.

In the first number of the _Immigrants in America Review_, the editor,
Frances A. Kellor, points out what an unusual opportunity has been
granted to America to formulate a definite program with reference
to alien residents. Now is the time, she insists, to perfect laws,
establish systems and improve conditions, when, owing to the European
War, but few immigrants are arriving, and therefore, when no great
rush of people demand expedients. "Now is the time to build, to
repair, to initiate, so we may obviate the necessity for expedients."

The writer shows that efforts ought to be directed along seven lines,
and the work on these seven lines should be closely cooerdinated.

1. _Transportation_. The safe transportation of admitted aliens to
their destination.

2. _Employment_. Security of employment, and adequate cooerdinated,
regulated labor-market organization.

3. _Standards of living_. Making it possible for the immigrant
to adopt and maintain better standards of living, by removal of
discriminations in localities, housing and sanitation, and by
preventing overcrowding.

4. _Savings_. Information regarding savings banks, loan funds,
agricultural colonies, and legislation regarding the same.

5. _Education_. Reduction of illiteracy, the teaching of civics, and
extension of opportunity of education and industrial training.

6. _Citizenship_. Higher and simpler naturalization requirements, and
processes, and placing the legal status of the alien upon a just and
consistent foundation.

7. _Public Charges_. National and state cooeperation in the care of any
who may become public charges.

No one can suppose that every Greek boy desires to become a shoeblack,
or that every Scandinavian girl is fitted for domestic service and for
nothing else; that every Slavic Jewess should become a garment-worker;
that every Italian man should work on the roads; that the Lithuanian
and Hungarian, no matter what their training or their ability, should
be compelled to go into the steel-rolling mills. All this because they
land speaking no English, and not knowing how to place themselves in
occupations better adapted to their inclinations and qualifications.
No one knows how many educated and trained men and women are thus
turned into hewers of wood and drawers of water, to the ruin of their
own lives and the loss of the community.

The unregulated private employment office, the padrone and the
sweat-shop are the agencies who direct the newcomers to jobs, whether
it be in the city or out in the country camp.

Many of the new arrivals would gladly take up agriculture, if they
knew where to go, and were safeguarded against imposition--having a
fee taken, for instance, and then landed several hundred miles away,
penniless, to find all the jobs gone.

The immigrant on landing is very much like the child leaving school to
go to work, and requires vocational guidance just as sorely.

The needs of the alien are closely related to the general question of
unemployment. He suffers in an acute degree from the want of system in
the regularization of industry, and the fact that we have failed
to recognize unemployment, and all irregularity of employment as
a condition to be met and provided against by industry and the

Americans take credit to themselves that so many immigrants do well,
succeed, become prosperous citizens and members of society, but wish
to shoulder none of the blame when the alien falls down by the way, or
lives under such home conditions that his babies die, and his older
children fall out of their grades, drift into the street trades or
find their way into the juvenile court. Americans forget how many of
all these evil results are due to the want of social machinery to
enable the alien to fit into his new surroundings, or the neglect to
set such social machinery agoing where it already exists. In the small
towns it is not unusual for health ordinances to be strictly enforced
in the English-speaking localities, and allowed to remain a dead
letter in the immigrant districts. In Chicago it was in the stockyards
district that garbage was dumped for many years; garbage, the product
of other wards, that the residents of those other wards insisted be
removed from their back-doors. How much of the high infant death-rate
among stockyards families has been due to the garbage exposed and
decaying, so carefully brought there, from the fine residential

Legally the alien suffers under a burden of disabilities of which he
is usually wholly unaware, until he has broken some law or regulation
devised, it would appear, often for his discomfiture, rather than
for anyone's else benefit. These laws and regulations, in themselves
sometimes just and sometimes unjust, make up a mass of the most
inconsistent legislation. State laws, varying from state to state, and
city ordinances equally individual limit the employment of aliens
on public work. Peddlers' and fishers' licenses come under similar
restrictions; so with the owning of property, the right to leave
property by will, say, to a wife and children in Europe, and the right
even to protection of life, in violation of treaty rights. "The state
courts have never punished a single outrage of this kind" [violence at
the hands of a mob]. The federal government, Miss Kellor states, makes
a payment to a victim's heirs out of a secret service fund "if the
ambassador is persistent, and threatens to withdraw from Washington if
the murder of his countrymen is not to be punished."

These are all most serious handicaps, and certainly the need for
investigation of all laws, the codifying of many, and the abolition of
some is urgent.

If some of these handicaps were lifted from the immigrant, complaint
against under-cutting competition of cheap foreign labor would largely
cease, and the task of organizers among the foreign workers would be
much simplified, even while we are waiting for the day when it will be
possible for all to obtain work without turning others out of their
jobs, which can only come about when we produce intelligently for the
use of all, instead of for the profit of the exceptional few.

Here and there work on the lines sketched out is beginning, even
though much of it is as yet unrelated to the rest. The community is
making headway, in the acknowledgment by various states, headed by New
York, of the just claim of the immigrant, once he is admitted within
our borders, to the protection of the government. For long after
the Federal authorities took over the control of immigration, their
concern was limited to some degree of restriction over the entry
of foreigners, and the enforcement of deportation, when such was
considered necessary. Quite a fresh departure, however, was made
in the year 1910, when the state of New York, following the
recommendations of its State Commission on Immigration (1909),
established its Bureau of Industries and Immigration, which really
grew out of the activities of a private society. Other communities
are also realizing their responsibility. California established a
permanent Commission on Immigration and Housing in 1913, and the
Investigating Commissions of Massachusetts and New Jersey recommended
similar agencies in their reports to the legislatures in 1914.

New York has already accomplished excellent results, and more
important still, has shown the direction, in which other states may
both follow and cooeperate. A few years more may see us with interstate
legislation insuring the better care and protection of immigrants all
over the country, interstate legislation being the curiously
indirect method which the United States has hit upon to overcome
the imperfections and deficiencies of its national instrument of
government. One of these days may even find the Federal House at
Washington taking over, in other lines besides that of foreign
workers, the functions outlined for it in the first instance by the
daughter states.

The United States Government has recently entered a new field in the
passage of a law, authorizing the protection of immigrants in transit
to their destination, and providing for the establishment of a station
in Chicago, where the immigrants will go on their arrival, and will
thus be protected from the gross frauds from which they have so long
suffered. The present administration also promises an experiment
in the development of the Bureau of Information in the Immigration

It is not so easy for any of us to give the same dispassionate
consideration to the problem that is with us as to that which has long
been settled, and has passed away into the calm atmosphere of history.
And truly, there are complications in the present situation which our
fathers had not to face. And first, the much greater dissimilarity in
training, mental outlook, social customs, and in the case of the
men and women from eastern Europe, not to speak of Asia, the utter
unlikeness in language, makes mutual knowledge and understanding much
more difficult, and the growth of mutual confidence, therefore, much

No one has yet analyzed the effects upon the nervous system of the
migrating worker, of the unsettlement of habits, and the change of
surroundings and social environment, working in connection with the
changed climatic conditions, and the often total change in food. This
is one phase of the immigrant problem which deserves the most careful
study. And when, as too often in the case of the Russian Jew, this
complete alteration of life is piled on top of the persecutions so
many of them have endured, and the shocks so many have sustained
before leaving their native land, the normal, usual effects of
the transition are emphasized and exaggerated, and it may take a
generation or longer before complete Americanization and amalgamation
is brought about.

The longer such a change is in being consummated, the more is the
new generation likely to retain some of their most characteristic
qualities permanently; to retain and therefore to impress these upon
the dominant race, in this case upon the American nation, through
association, and finally, through marriage. Especially is this a
probable result where we find such vitality and such intensely
prepotent power as among the Jews.

In reference to trade-union organization among women, while each
nationality presents its own inherent problem, there is equally
no doubt but that each will in the future make its own special
contribution towards the progress and increased scope of the movement
among the women workers.

As matters are developing today, the fulfillment of this promise of
the future has already begun most markedly among the Slavic Jewesses,
especially those from Russia. These young women have already brought,
and are every day bringing into the dreary sweatshop and the
speeded-up factory a spirit of fearlessness and independence both
in thought and action, which is having an amazing effect upon the
conditions of factory industry in the trades where they work. So also,
supporting and supported by the men of their own race, these Russian
Jewish girls, many of them extremely young, are inspiring their
fellow-workers and interpenetrating the somewhat matter-of-fact
atmosphere of American trade unionism with their own militant
determination and enthusiasm. With most, the strike has been their
initiation into trade unionism, often the general strike in their own
trade, the strike on a scale hitherto unparalleled in trades where
either the whole or a very considerable proportion of the workers are
women. Some again, especially among the leaders, approach unionism
through the ever open door of socialism. If I speak here of the women
of the Slavic Jewish race, it is not that I wish to ignore the men. I
have to leave them on one side, that is all.

These girls add to courage and enthusiasm, such remarkable gifts of
intellect and powers of expression as to make them a power wherever
they have become awakened to the new problems that face them here and
now, and to their own responsibilities in relation thereto. They are
essentially individualists. They do not readily or naturally either
lean upon others or cooeperate with others, nor yet confide in others.
They come here with a history generations long of ill-treatment and
persecution. Many thousands of them have witnessed their dearest
tortured, outraged and killed with the narrowest possible escape from
some similar fate themselves. To most any return to their native
country is completely barred, and they do not therefore nurse the
hope, so inveterately cherished by the Italians, for instance, that
they may some day be able to go back.

When the Russian Jewish girl first hears of a trade union, she has
usually been some years in one of our cities, working in a factory or
a sweatshop, let us say as a garment-worker. The religious and social
liberty which she has here learnt to consider her due has stimulated
her desire for further freedom, while the tremendous industrial
pressure under which she earns her daily bread stirs the keenest
resentment. One day patience, Jewish girlish patience, reaches its
limit. A cut in wages, exhausting overtime, or the insults of an
overbearing foreman, and an unpremeditated strike results. It may be
small, poorly managed, and unsuccessful. The next time things may go
better, and the girls come in touch with a union, and take their first
lessons in the meaning of collective bargaining. (What is passing in
the minds of the rank and file at this stage I am not certain. The
obscurities of their psychology are more difficult to fathom.) But I
am sure that to the leaders of the young protestants it is not so
much in the light of a tower of refuge that the trade union presents
itself, but rather as an instrument by means of which they believe
that they can control a situation which has become unbearable. As
happens to many endowed with the gift of leadership, they travel much
farther than they had any idea of when they set out. As time goes on,
if they are real leaders, they learn to understand human nature in
its varied aspects, the human nature of bosses, as well as the human
nature of their fellow-wage-earners. After a year or two as presidents
or secretaries of their local, you will hear these fiery-tongued
little orators preaching endurance, in order to gain an end not
obtainable today, aye, even advising compromise, they to whom the very
word compromise had erstwhile been impossible. This implies no loss of
principle, no paltering with loyalty, but merely putting in practice
the wisdom of the experienced statesman. Nearly all, sooner or later,
embrace the socialist philosophy, and many are party members. In that
philosophy they find a religious sanction in their most determined
struggles after victory, and unfailing support and consolation in the
hour of defeat.

As for the rank and file, with them, too, something of the same mental
processes probably goes on in a minor degree; but they are much longer
in learning their lesson, and meanwhile are often exceedingly hard to
direct. They are impulsive beyond belief. It used once to be remarked
that Jewish girls were the easiest of all to organize during a strike,
and the hardest of all to hold in the union afterwards. This is
fortunately not so true today, now that there are a few trained
leaders of their own race, whom they trust, and who understand their
moods, and know, better than most Americans, how to handle them.

The alien is forever being resented as an obstacle, even if an
unconscious one, in the way of organization. Yet as far as women are
concerned, it is to this group of aliens in particular that is due the
recent tremendous impulse towards organization among the most poorly
paid women. In the sewing trades, and in some other trades, such as
candy-making, it is the American girls who have accepted conditions,
and allowed matters to drift from bad to worse. It is the foreign
girl, and especially the Slavic Jewess who has been making the fight
for higher wages, shorter hours, better shop management, and above
all, for the right to organize; and she has kept it up, year after
year, and in city after city, in spite of all expectations to the

One of the indirect benefits of the colossal strikes in the sewing
trades in which these Jewish girls have played so conspicuous a
part has been the increasing degree in which those of differing
nationalities have come to understand one another, as men and women
having common difficulties and common rights, as all alike members
of the great working people. Through sore trial many have learnt the
meaning of "class consciousness," who never heard of the word.

The new spirit is beginning to touch the Italian girl, and as time
goes on, she, too, will be brought into the fold of unionism. To meet
with large success, we need as leaders and organizers, Italians, both
men and women, of the type of Arthur Carotti, as capable and devoted.
The Italian girl is guarded in her home as is the girl of no other
race, and this works both for good and for evil. The freedom of the
streets, accorded so unquestioningly to their girls by the parents of
other nationalities, is conscientiously denied to the Italian girl. No
respectable family would permit their daughters to go to any sort of
an evening gathering, to attend church or dance or union meeting,
unless accompanied by father, mother or brother. While no one can
help deeply respecting the principles of family affection and
responsibility which dictate this code of manners, there is equally no
blinking the fact that it raises a most serious barrier in the way of
organizing girls of Italian parentage. Nor on the other hand is it
of the least avail to protect the girl against the evils of the
industrial system of which the whole family form a part. In especial
it does not serve to shield her from the injurious effects of cruel
overwork. In no class of our city population do we find more of this
atrocious evil, misnamed homework than among Italian families,
and whether it is sewing, artificial-flower-or feather-making or
nut-picking, neither grown daughters nor little children are spared
here. Along with the mother and under her eye, the whole group
work day after day, and often far into the night at occupations in
themselves harmless enough under proper conditions, but ruinous to
health and happiness when permitted to intrude under the family roof.
For the wrong of home-work is not to be measured even by the injury
suffered by the workers themselves. All parasitic trades, such as
these, lower wages in the open market. The manufacturer is continually
impelled to cut down wages in his shops to keep pace with the
competition of the ill-remunerated home-worker.

As I have said above, I believe that every race that has settled down
here in this America has some special contribution to bestow, which
will work for good to the whole labor movement. I have instanced the
case of the Slavic Jewess as one who has certainly arrived. From
others the gift has still to come. From the Italian girl it will come
in good time, for they are beginning to enter the unions now, and from
the lips of their own fellow-countrywomen even Italian mothers will
learn to accept for their daughters the gospel they will not listen to
from foreigners like ourselves. The most severely handicapped of all
the nationalities so far, to my thinking, is the Polish. They are what
is called pure Slavs, that is, with no Jewish blood. They are peasant
girls and cannot be better described than they are in a pamphlet
on "The Girl Employed in Hotels and Restaurants," published by the
Juvenile Protective League to Chicago.

In these places Polish girls are chosen for the following reasons:

1. Because they come of strong peasant stock, and accomplish a large
amount of work.

2. They are very thorough in what they do.

3. They are willing to take low wages.

4. They are very submissive, that is, they never protest.

5. They are ignorant of the laws of this country, and are easily
imposed upon.

6. They never betray their superiors, no matter what they see.

What a scathing indictment of the American people is set forth in this
brief summing up!

The trades that swallow up these strong, patient, long-enduring
creatures are work in the meat-canning plants, and dish-washing and
scrubbing in restaurants and hotels. These really valuable qualities
of physical strength and teachableness, unbalanced by any sense of
what is due to themselves, let alone their fellow-workers, prove their
industrial ruin.

It is only when they are fortunate enough to get into a better class
of work, and when they chance upon some well-organized establishment
and are drawn into the union as a matter of course that we find Polish
girls in unions at all. Intellectually they are not in the running
with the Russian Jewess and the peasant surroundings of their
childhood have offered them few advantages. One evening, for instance,
there were initiated into a glove-workers' local seventeen new Polish
members. Of these two only were able to read and write English, and of
the remainder not more than half were able to read and write Polish.
As to what is to be the later standing and the ultimate contribution
of the Polish girl, I cannot hazard a guess. I only know that she
possesses fine qualities which we are not utilizing and which we may
be obliterating by the cruel treatment so many thousands of Polish
girls are receiving at our hands.

I cannot see any prospect of organizing them in any reasonable numbers
at present. The one thing we can do to alleviate their hard lot is to
secure legislation--legislation for shorter hours and for the minimum

Their suspiciousness is perhaps the chief barrier in the way of social
elevation of the Poles. That Poles can be organized is shown by
the remarkable success of the Polish National Alliance and kindred
societies. Their capacity for cooeperation is seen in their
establishment of their own cooeperative stores.



The problems that face the woman organizer are many and complex. They
are the harder to handle, inasmuch as there is very little assistance
to be had from any body of tradition on the subject among women
workers. The movement for organization among women is still so
inchoate. The woman organizer turns to the more experienced men
leaders, and finds that often, even with the best will in the world,
they cannot help her. The difficulties she meets with are, in detail,
so different from theirs that she has to work out her own solutions
for herself.

It is indeed a blind alley in which she has so often to move. The
workers are young and ignorant, therefore, by all odds, they require
the protection of both legislation and organization. Again, the
workers are young and ignorant, and therefore they have not learnt the
necessity for such protection. Their wages are in most cases low,
too low for decent self-support. But just because their wages are so
inadequate for bare needs it is in many cases all the more difficult
to induce them to deduct from such scanty pay the fifty cents a month
which is the smallest sum upon which any organization can pay its way
and produce tangible benefits for its members.

Left to her own devices, the solution of her financial difficulties
which the average girl finds is always to lessen her expenses so as to
manage on the lessening wage that is inevitable in all trades if not
resisted. To find a cheaper room, to take one more girl into her room,
to spend a few cents a day less for food--these are the near-hand
economies that first present themselves to the girlish mind. This is
on the economizing side. When it comes to trying to earn more, to work
longer hours is surely the self-evident way of increasing the contents
of the weekly pay envelope. The younger and inexperienced the worker,
the more readily is she fooled into believing that the more work she
turns out, under a piece-work system, the more money will she earn,
not only in that week but in the succeeding weeks.

To this child-like and simple code of worldly wisdom and of ethics,
the policy advised by the organizer is indeed entirely foreign. To
some very good girls, indeed, it seems ethically wrong not to work
your hardest, or, as they say, do your best, especially when you are
urged to. To more, it seems a silly, not to say impossible plan, not
to try and earn as big a wage as possible. But the organizer comes in
and she approaches the question from the other end. She does not talk
about a standard of living, but she preaches it all the time. It is
her business and her vocation to bring the girls to see that the first
step towards getting more wages is to want more wages, to ask for more
wages, and then, seeing that the single girl has no power of bringing
about this result by herself, to show them that they must band
together with the determination to make their wage square with their
ideas of living, and not think that they must forever square their
mode of living with their wage.

In the acceptance into the mind of this idea is involved a complete

It is in making of this ideal theory a living force, by helping girls
to put it into practice in everyday shop life that the girl organizer
has her special work cut out for her. And here she necessarily
contrasts favorably with the average man organizer when he tries to
deal with girls, because she understands the girl's work and the
girl's problems better, and the girl knows that she does.

I have taken wages as the prime subject of the organizer's activities
only because wages form the crux of the whole question. There, without
any deceiving veils falling between, we come close up to the real
point at issue between the employer and the employed, between the
employe and the community, the standard of living that is possible,
as measured by the employe's share of the product of labor. But in
practice, money wages form only one element of the standard of living
problem, although the one around which least confusion gathers.

Whatever form the demands of labor organizations may take, the essence
of the demand is the same: better terms for the worker always, however
temporary circumstances or technical details may obscure the issue.

That this holds of reductions in hours of work has become a truism
among trade unionists, who recognize that any reduction of hours
of work eventually, though not perhaps immediately, results in a
readjustment of wages, whether week-workers or piece-workers or both
be involved, till the original money wage at any rate is reached,
supposing, of course, that no other influence enters in as an element
to lessen rates of pay.

The question of equal pay for equal work involves indeed much more
complicated issues, as regards both the individual worker and the
whole body of women workers in the trade or branch of the trade
affected. But even here, the underlying purpose is the same, the
assuring, to the total number of workers whose labor has gone into the
production, of a certain amount of finished marketable work, of an
increased, or at the least, not a lessened share of the product of
their toil. It is not to be questioned that if women are permitted
to work at the same operations as men for a lesser remuneration, the
man's wage must go down. In addition, he may, even at the lowered
rate, lose his job, as the employer may cherish the not altogether
groundless hope that he may cut down the women's wage yet further and
employ yet more women, and yet fewer men.

In the same way the provision of better sanitary conditions, the
fencing off of dangerous machinery, the prohibition usually of
dangerous processes or of the use of dangerous materials, such as lead
or white phosphorus, all involve an addition small or large, to the
cost of manufacture. If, however, there be in all these instances an
increase in the cost of manufacture there are also results to the
well-being of the workers, which, if they could be measured in money,
would be out of all proportion to the money cost to the employer or
to the purchasing community. But again, it is the maintenance of the
workers' ideal standard of living which causes the trade union to
demand that their share of the product of their toil shall not be
lessened by needless or avoidable risks to life or limb or health.

I have taken these demands in the order, in which, generally speaking,
the organizer can induce the young girl worker to consider them in her
own case. Better pay makes by far the easiest appeal, whether it be to
the very young girl with her eager desire for a good time or to her
older sister upon whom, quite surely, years have laid some of life's
increasing burdens.

Next in order of attractiveness came shorter hours, especially if the
wage-earners can be assured that wages will stay where they are.

But nothing short of both years and trade experience, apparently, will
impress upon the worker all that is implied in those words that we
write so easily and pronounce so glibly--sanitary conditions.

The young girls have all the blessed, happy-go-lucky care-free-ness
of children, the children they are in years. They start out on their
wage-earning career with the abounding high spirits and the stores of
vitality of extreme youth. They are proud of their new capacity to
earn, to begin to keep themselves and to help the mother and the
others, and at first it does not seem to them as if anything could
break them down or kill them. They do not at first associate bad air
with headaches or sore throats, nor long standing with backaches, nor
following the many needles of a power sewing-machine with eye trouble.
The dangerous knife-edge on the revolving wheel, or the belting
that may catch hair or clothing is to them only an item in the
shop-furnishings, that they hope may not catch them napping.

All along the progress of labor organization has been exceedingly slow
among women as compared with men, and has been far indeed from keeping
pace with the rate at which increasing numbers of women have
poured into the industrial field. So that it was not strange that
well-meaning labor men, judging from personal experiences or arguing
from analogy, came to the conclusion, paralyzing indeed to their own
strivings after an all-inclusive, nation-wide organization of the
workers, that women could not be organized. Or if such a labor man did
not like to put it quite so bluntly, even to himself, he would shake
his head, and regretfully remark that women did not make good trade
unionists. If someone less experienced or more hopeful came along with
plans for including or for helping women, the veteran trade unionist
had too often a number of facts to bring forward, the bald accuracy of
which was not to be disputed, of how in his own trade the women were
scabbing on the men by working for a lower wage, or that they were so
indifferent about the meetings, or worse still, how that women's local
did so fine during the strike, and then just went to pieces, and now
there wasn't any local at all.

"Facts are not to be explained away," he would conclude. No, they are
not to be explained away, but some facts may be explained, and not
unfrequently the explanation is based upon some other fact, which has
been overlooked. With the present question, the one important fact
which explains a good deal is the youth of so many women workers. This
by no means disposes of each particular situation with its special
difficulties, but it does help to explain the general tendency among
the women to be neglectful of meetings and to let their local go to
pieces, which so distracts our friend.

This new competitor with men, whom we think of and speak of as a
woman, is in many cases not a woman at all, but only a girl, very
often only a child. From this one fact arises a whole class, of
conditions, with resulting problems and difficulties totally different
from any the man trade unionist has to deal with among men.

The first and most palpable difficulty is that the majority of workers
are yet at the play age. They are still at the stage when play is
one of the rightful conditions under which they carry on their main
business of growing up. Many of them are not ready to be in the
factory at all. Certainly not for eight, ten or twelve hours a day.
And so those young things, after an unthankful and exhausting day's
toil, are not going to attend meetings unless these can be made
attractive to them. And the meeting that may appear entirely right and
even attractive to the man of thirty or forty will be tiresome and
boring past endurance to the girl of sixteen or eighteen.

Then there are other huge difficulties to encounter. The very first
principles of cooeperative action and mutual responsibility are unknown
to the great majority of the young workers. Too rarely does it
happen, that in her own home the girl has learnt anything about trade
unionism, at least trade unionism for women. The greater number of
girls are not the daughters of factory mothers. The mother, whether
American or foreign-born, grew up herself in simpler conditions, and
does not begin to comprehend the utterly changed environment in which
her little daughter has to work when she enters a modern factory. If
American, she may; have married just out of her father's home, and if
foreign-born she may have been tending silkworms or picking grapes
in Italy, or at field-work in Poland or Hungary. Very different
occupations these from turning raw silk into ribbon or velvet in an
Eastern mill, or labelling fruit-jars in an Illinois cannery.

Again, neither in the public nor in the parochial school are the
workers-to-be taught anything concerning the labor movement or the
meaning of collective bargaining. Even if they should have attained
the eighth grade with its dizzy heights of learning, the little
teaching they have received in civics has not touched upon either of
the most vital problems of our day, the labor movement or the woman

The mere youth, however, of the girl workers is not in itself the
chief or the most, insuperable difficulty. If these girls were boys
we might look forward to their growing up in the trade, gaining
experience and becoming ever more valuable elements in the union
membership. But after a few years the larger percentage of the girls
marry and are lost to the union and to unionism for good. Nay, a girl
is often such a temporary hand that she does not even remain out
her term of working years in one trade, but drifts into and out of
half-a-dozen unskilled or semi-skilled occupations, and works for
twenty different employers in the course of a few years. The head of a
public-school social center made it her business to inquire of fifty
girls, all over sixteen, and probably none over eighteen how long each
had held her present job. Two only had been over a year at the one
place. The rest accounted for such short periods as four months, six
weeks, two weeks, at paper-box-making, candy-packing or book-binding
with, of course, dull seasons and periods of unemployment between.

In the organized trades conditions are not quite so exasperating, but
even in these the short working term of the girl employe means an
utter lack of continuity in the membership of the trade and therefore
of the union. The element of permanence in men's organizations is in
great measure the result of the fact that men, whether they remain in
one particular trade or shift to another, are at least in industry for
life as wage-earners, unless indeed they pass on into the employing or
wage-paying class.

But instead of seeing in the temporary employment of so many girls
only another reason why they need the protection and the educational
advantages of organization, we have been too contented to let ill
alone, and all alike, the girl, the workingman, and the community are
suffering for this inertia.

In this connection the first and most important matter to take up is
that of women organizers, for women workers will never be enrolled in
the labor movement of America in adequate numbers except through women
organizers. And where are these today?

A most emphatic presentation of the practical reasons why the man
organizer can rarely handle effectively young women workers, and why
therefore women are absolutely necessary if the organization on any
large scale is to be successful, was made before the Convention of the
American Federation of Labor in Toronto in 1909.

The speaker was Mr. Thomas Rumsey of Toledo. He described his own
helplessness before the problem. He told, how, to begin with, it was
not possible for a man to have that readiness of access to the girl
workers when in their own homes and in their leisure hours which the
woman organizer readily obtained.

"If a girl is living at home," he said, "it is not quite, so awkward,
but if she is in lodgings I can't possibly ask to see her in her own
room. If I talk to her at all it will be out on the street, which is
not pleasant, especially if it is snowing or freezing or blowing a
gale. It is not under these conditions that a girl is likely to see
the use of an organization or be attracted by its happier and more
social side." Then he went on to say that he himself often did not
know what best to say to his girl when he had caught her. He was
ignorant, perhaps almost as ignorant as an outsider, of the conditions
under which she did her work. He might know or be able to find out her
wages and hours; he might guess that there was fining and speeding up,
but he would know nothing of the details, and on any sanitary question
or any moral question he would be utterly at sea. He could neither
put the questions nor get the answers, nor in any way win the
girl's confidence. Therefore, Mr. Rumsey concluded, if the American
Federation of Labor is going to acknowledge its responsibilities in
the great field of labor propaganda among women it must seriously take
up the question of organizing women by women.

On a similar basis of reasoning it is easy to see that in the great
majority of cases the successful organization of the women in any
particular trade can be best carried out by one of themselves, a
woman from their own trade. Not only do the girls believe that she
understands their difficulties better than anyone else, but in most
instances she does indeed bring to her work that exact knowledge of
details and processes which gives the girls confidence that she
can fairly state their case, that she will not, through technical
ignorance, ask for impossibilities, nor on the other hand permit
herself to be browbeaten by a foreman or superintendent because
she does not know anything about the quality of material used, the
peculiarities of a machine or the local or seasonal needs of the
trade. Employers and managers also quickly recognize when organizers
know whereof they talk. They, like the employes, realize that with
such competent and efficient organizers or business agents they, too,
are on firmer ground, even though they may not always acknowledge it.

To these sound general rules there are exceptions. There are cases
where a man organizer can be invaluable, especially in some great,
even if temporary, crisis. Also, there are in the American labor
movement a few women who possess a genius for organizing on the very
broadest lines. So profound is their sympathy with all their sisters,
so thorough their grasp of general principles, so quick their
perception of details, so intimate their knowledge of human nature and
so sound and cool their judgment that they can be sent far afield
into trades quite foreign to those of which they have had personal
experience, and make a success of it. But such as these are rare and,
when found, to be prized and cherished. The ordinary everyday way of
drawing the women workers into the union and into the labor movement
would be to have in every trade women from that trade at work all
the time organizing their fellow-workers and holding them in the

When the preliminary difficulties of organization have been met and
overcome, when the new union has been set on its feet or the old one
strengthened, there remains for the girl leader to keep her forces

The commonest complaint of all is that women members of a trade union
do not attend their meetings. It is indeed a very serious difficulty
to cope with, and the reasons for this poor attendance and want of
interest in union affairs have to be fairly faced.

At first glance it seems curious that the meetings of a mixed local
composed of both men and girls, should have for the girls even less
attraction than meetings of their own sex only. But so it is. A
business meeting of a local affords none of the lively social
intercourse of a gathering for pleasure or even of a class for
instruction. The men, mostly the older men, run the meeting and often
are the meeting. Their influence may be out of all proportion to their
numbers. It is they who decide the place where the local shall meet
and the hour at which members shall assemble. The place is therefore
often over a saloon, to which many girls naturally and rightly object.
Sometimes it is even in a disreputable district. The girls may prefer
that the meeting should begin shortly after closing time so that they
do not need to go home and return, or have to loiter about for two or
three hours. They like meetings to be over early. The men mostly name
eight o'clock as the time of beginning, but business very often will
not start much before nine. Then, too, the men feel that they have
come together to talk, and talk they do while they allow the real
business to drag. Of course, the girls are not interested in long
discussions on matters they do not understand and in which they have
no part and naturally they stay away, and so make matters worse, for
the men feel they are doing their best for the interests of the union,
resent the women's indifference, and are more sure than ever that
women do not make good unionists.

Among the remedies proposed for this unsatisfactory state of affairs
is compulsory attendance at a certain number of meetings per year
under penalty of a fine or even losing of the card. (A very drastic
measure this last and risky, unless the trade has the closed shop.)

Where the conditions of the trade permit it by far the best plan is to
have the women organized in separate locals. The meetings of women and
girls only draw better attendances, give far more opportunity for all
the members to take part in the business, and beyond all question form
the finest training ground for the women leaders who inconsiderable
numbers are needed so badly in the woman's side of the trade-union
movement today.

Those trade-union women who advocate mixed locals for every trade
which embraces both men and women are of two types. Some are mature,
perhaps elderly women, who have been trade unionists all their lives,
who have grown up in the same locals with men, who have in the long
years passed through and left behind their period of probation and
training, and to whose presence and active cooeperation the men have
become accustomed. These women are able to express their views in
public, can put or discuss a motion or take the chair as readily as
their brothers. The other type is represented by those individual
women or girls in whom exceptional ability takes the place of
experience, and who appreciate the educational advantages of working
along with experienced trade-union leaders. I have in my mind at this
moment one girl over whose face comes all the rapture of the keen
student as she explains how much she has learnt from working with men
in their meetings. She ardently advocates mixed locals for all. For
the born captain the plea is sound. Always she is quick enough to
profit by the men's experience, by their ways of managing conferences
and balancing advantages and losses in presenting a wage-scale or
accepting an agreement. At the same time she is not so overwhelmed by
their superiority, born of long practice in handling such situations,
but that she retains her own independence of judgment and clearness
of vision, and at the fitting moment will rise and place the woman's
point of view before her male co-workers. Oh yes, for herself she is
right, and for the coming woman she is right, too. But the risk is
rather that she and such as she pressing on in their individual
advancement will outstep the rank and file of their sisters at the
present stage while trade unionism among women is still so young a
movement, and one which under the most hopeful circumstances will
have to fulfill for many years the task of receiving, teaching and
assimilating vast numbers of young and quite untrained, in many cases
non-English-speaking girls.

The mixed local for all mixed trades is, I believe, the ultimate
goal which women trade unionists ought to keep in mind. But with the
average girl today the plan does not work. The mixed local does
not, as a general rule, offer the best training-class for new girl
recruits, in which they may obtain their training in collective
bargaining or cooeperative effort. To begin with, they are often so
absurdly young that they stand in the position of children put into
a class at school two or three grades ahead of their capacity and
expected to do work for which they have had no preparation through the
earlier grades. Many of the discussions that go on are quite above
the girls' heads. And even when a young girl has something to say and
wishes to say it, want of practice and timidity often keep her silent.
It is to be regretted, too, that some trade-union men are far from
realizing either the girls' needs in their daily work or their
difficulties in meetings, and lecture, reprove or bully, where they
ought to listen and persuade.

The girls, as a rule, are not only happier in their own women's local,
but they have the interest of running the meetings themselves. They
choose their own hall and fix their own time of meeting. Their
officers are of their own selecting and taken from among themselves.
The rank and, file, too, get the splendid training that is conferred
when persons actually and not merely nominally work together for a
common end. Their introduction to the great problems of labor is
through their practical understanding and handling of those problems
as they encounter them in the everyday difficulties of the shop and
the factory and as dealt with when they come up before the union
meeting or have to be settled in bargaining with an employer.

But there are other and broader reasons still why it is women who
should in the main be the leaders and teachers of women in the trade
union, that newest and best school for the working-women. Women have
always been the teachers of the race. It was in the far-back ages with
motherhood as their normal school that primitive women learnt their
profession and handed on to their daughters their slowly acquired
skill. Whenever woman has been left to self-development on her own
lines her achievements have always been in the constructive direction.
Always she has been busy helping to make some young thing grow,
whether the object of her solicitous attention were a wild grass, a
baby, or an art. What does education mean but the drawing forth of
latent qualities? Is not the best teacher the one who calls these
forth? Are not women teachers, trained, wise, and patient, urgently
needed in the labor movement of our day? Just now, when the number of
young girls in industry is so great, the girls need them, we know.
Possibly the men also would be the gainers through their influence.
The labor movement is a constant fight, it is true, but it is also a
school of development. In the near future we hope it will mean to
all workers even more than a discipline, a storehouse of culture, a
provider of joy and of pleasure, of care in sickness, of support in
adversity, and best of all, a preparation for and a hastener on of
that cooeperative commonwealth for which more and more of us ever watch
and pray.

The need for the woman organizer admitted, the demand for women
organizers becomes pressing. And where are they to be found? The reply
is that they are not to be found, not yet. If the organizers were
to be obtained such requests would be increased fourfold. But the
material is ready to hand. The born organizer, with initiative,
resource, courage and patience exists in every trade, in every city,
and she comes of every race. But on the one hand she is untrained, and
on the other cannot stop to receive training unless for a little while
she is relieved from the pressing necessity of earning her living.

The problem of how to provide women organizers in response to the
demand for such workers, with its solution, was admirably put by Mrs.
Raymond Robins, in her presidential address before the Fourth Biennial
Convention of the National Women's Trade Union League in St. Louis, in
June, 1913, when she said:

The best organizers without question are the trade-union girls. Many
a girl capable of leadership and service is held within the ranks
because neither she as an individual nor her organization has money
enough to set her free for service. Will it be possible for the
National Women's Trade Union League to establish a training-school
for women organizers, even though in the beginning it may be only a
training-class, offering every trade-union girl a scholarship for a

The course finally outlined included a knowledge of the principles
of trade unionism, and their practical application in field-work, a
knowledge of labor legislation, of parliamentary law, and practice in
writing and speaking.

In the following year, 1914, the League was able to give several
months of training to three trade-union girls. Cordial cooeperation
was received from both the University of Chicago and North-western
University. For the present no further students have been received,
because of the need of larger financial resources to maintain classes
in session regularly.

The need for a training-school is attested by the constant demands
for women organizers received at the headquarters of the League from
central labor bodies and men's unions, and by the example of the
thorough training given to young women taking up work in other fields
somewhat analogous. Such a school for women might very well prove in
this country the nucleus of university extension work in the labor
movement for both men and women, similar to that which has been so
successfully inaugurated in Great Britain, and which is making headway
in Canada and in Australia.

At the Seattle Convention of the American Federation of Labor held in
November, 1914, a resolution was passed levying an assessment of one
cent upon the entire membership to organize women. Efforts were mainly
concentrated upon workers in the textile industry, to which special
organizers, both men and women, were assigned. There is no trade
which has worse conditions, and consequently wages and regularity
of employment are immediately affected adversely by any industrial

Women in the labor movement will have to make their own mistakes
and earn their own experience. I have dwelt elsewhere upon the many
advantages that accrue to women and girls from belonging to an
organization so vital and so bound up with some of our most
fundamental needs, as the trade union. On the very surface it
is evident that in such a body working-women learn to be more
business-like, to work together in harmony, to share loyally the
results of their united action, whether these spell defeat or success.
If they err, they promptly learn of their mistakes from their,
fellow-workers, men or women, from employers, and from their families.

Here, however, is perhaps the place to call attention to one markedly
feminine tendency, which should be discouraged in these early days
lest in process of time it might even gain the standing of a virtue,
and that is the inclination among the leaders to indulge in unlimited
overwork in all their labor activities. Labor men overwork too, but
not, as a rule, to the same degree, nor nearly so frequently as women.

Do not mistake. Women do not fall into this error because they are
trade unionists, or because they are inspired by the labor movement or
by the splendid ideals or by the aspiration after a free womanhood.

No! Trade-union and socialist and suffrage women overwork because they
are women, because through long ages the altruistic side has been
overdeveloped. They have brought along with them into their public
work the habit of self-sacrifice, and that overconscientiousness
in detail which their foremothers acquired during the countless
generations when obedience, self-immolation and self-obliteration were
considered women's chief duties. Personally these good sisters are
blameless. But that does not in the least alter the hard fact that
such overdevotion is an uneconomical expenditure of nervous energy.

When a wiser onlooker, wise with the onlooker's wisdom, urges
moderation even in overwork, there is put forward the pathetic plea,
variously worded:

"So much to do, so little time to do it."

I have never heard that hard-to-be-met argument so well answered as by
a woman physician, who gave these reasons to her patient, one of the
overdevoted ilk.

"Agreed," she said, "there is so much to do that you cannot possibly
do it all, nor the half, nor the tenth, nor the fiftieth part of it.
Furthermore, the struggle is going on for a long, long time, and there
are occasions ahead when your aid will be needed as badly or more
badly than today. And when that hour comes, if you do not take care
of yourself now, you will not be there to furnish the help others
require. Not that I think you are dangerously ill, but I'm reminding
you that, at the rate you are going, your working years, the years
during which your energy and your initiative will last, are going to
be few, so pull up and go slow!

"You are a leader, and you are so, partly at least, because you are a
highly trained person. It has taken many years to train you up to this
pitch of efficiency. You can handle agreements, at a pinch you can
draft a bill. You are a favorite and influential speaker. You are
invaluable in a strike, and you have often prevented strikes. We all
want you to go on doing all these things. Now, tell me, which is
the most valuable to the whole labor movement, a few years of your
activity, or many years?"

That puts the matter in a nutshell.

I do not wish to overlook the fact that there are exceptional
occasions when overwork to the extent of breakdown or even death is
justified, or to have it supposed that I think mere life our most
valuable possession, or that there may not be many a time when truly
to save your life is to lose it. But I repeat that habitual, everyday
overwork, is uneconomical, injurious to the cause we serve, and likely
to lessen rather than heighten the efficiency of the indispensable
leaders when the supreme test comes.



When we begin! to survey the vast field of industry covered by
different occupations we get the same sense of confusion that comes
to us when we look at an ant-heap. The workers are going hither and
thither, with apparently no ordered plan, with no unity or community
of purpose that we can discover. But those who have given time and
patience to the task have been able to read order even in the chaos of
the ant-hill. And so may we, with our far more complex human ant-hill,
if we will set to work. The material for such a study lies ready to
our hand in bewildering abundance; but to make any practical studies
which shall aid the workers and the thinking public to follow the line
of least resistance in raising standards of wages and of status as
well will be the work of many years and of many minds. Even today
there are some general indications of how the workers are going to
settle their own problems.

Some foreign critics and some critics at home are very severe upon the
backwardness of the labor movement in the United States, and in
these criticisms there is a large element of truth. Yet there is one
difficulty under which we labor on this continent, which these critics
do not take into consideration. That is the primal one of the immense
size of the country, along with all the secondary difficulties
involved in this first one. There has never been any other country
even attempting a task so stupendous as ours--to organize, to make
one, to obtain good conditions for today, to insure as good and better
conditions for tomorrow, for the wage-earning ones out of a population
of over ninety millions spread over three million square miles. And
with these millions of human beings of so many different races, with
no common history and often no common language, this particular task
has fallen to the lot of no other nation on the face of this earth.
Efforts at organization of the people and by the people, are
perpetually being undermined. Capitalism is nationally fairly well
organized, so that there has been all the time more and more agreement
among the great lords of finance, not to trespass on one another's
preserves. But it is not so with the workers. Even in trades where
there exists a formal national organization, there will be towns and
states where it will either be non-existent or extremely weak, so that
workers, especially the unskilled, as they drift from town to town in
search of work, tend to pass out of, rather than into, the union of
their trade. And thus members of every trade organization live in
dread of the inroad into their city or their state of crowds of
unorganized competitors for their particular kind of employment. Why,
if it were Great Britain or Germany, by the time we had organized one
state, we should have organized a whole country.

But the big country is ours, and the big task must be shouldered.

It is only natural that trade-union organization should have
progressed furthest in those occupations which, as industries, are the
most highly developed. The handicrafts of old, the weaving and the
carving and the pottery, have through a thousand inventions become
specialized, and the work of the single operative has been divided
up into a hundred processes. These are the conditions, and this the
environment under which the workers most frequently organize. The
operations have become more or less defined and standardized, and the
operatives are more readily grouped and classified. Also, even amid
all the noise and clatter of the factory, they have opportunity for
becoming acquainted, sometimes while working together, or at the noon
hour, or when going to or coming from work. There are still few enough
women engaged in factory work who have come into trade unions, but the
path has at least been cleared, both by the numbers of men who have
shown the way, and by the increasing independence of women themselves.
Similar reasoning applies to the workers in the culinary trades. These
also are the modern, specialized forms of the old domestic arts of
cooking and otherwise preparing and serving food. The workers, the
cooks and the waitresses, have their separate, allotted tasks; they
also have opportunities of even closer association than the factory
operatives. These opportunities, which may be used among the young
folks to exchange views on the latest nickel show, to compare the
last boss with the present one, may also, among the older ones, mean
talking over better wages and hours and how to get them, and here may
spring up the beginnings of organization.

The number of women organized into trade unions is still
insignificant, compared with those unreached by even a glimmering of
knowledge as to what trade unionism means. The movement will not only
have to become stronger numerically in the trades it already includes.
It must extend in other directions, taking in the huge army of the
unskilled and the semi-skilled, outside of those trades, so as
to cover the fruit-pickers in the fields and the packers in the
canneries, the paper-box-makers, the sorters of nuts and the knotters
of feathers, those who pick the cotton from the plant, as well as
those who make the cotten into cloth. Another group yet to be enrolled
are the hundreds of thousands of girls in stores, engaged in selling
what the girls in factories have made, and still other large groups
of girls in mercantile offices who are indirectly helping on the same
business of exchange of goods for cash, and cash for goods, and who
are just as truly part of the industrial world and of commercial life.
But the pity is that the girl serving at the counter and the girl
operating the typewriter do not know this.

Take two other great classes of women, who have to be considered and
reckoned with in any wide view of the wage-earning woman. These are
nurses and teachers. The product of their toil is nothing that can be
seen or handled, nothing that can be readily estimated in dollars and
cents. But it must none the less be counted to their credit in any
estimate of the national wealth, for it is to be read in terms of
sound bodies and alert minds.

Large numbers of women and girls are musicians, actresses and other
theatrical employes. The labor movement needs them all, and, although
few of them realize it, they need the labor movement. These are
professions with great prizes, but the average worker makes no big
wage, has no assurance of steadiness of employment, of sick pay when
out of work, or of such freedom while working as shall bring out the
very best that is in her.

In almost all of these occupations are to be found the beginnings
of organization on trade-union lines. The American Federation of
Musicians is a large and powerful body, of such standing in the
profession that the entire membership of the Symphony Orchestras in
all the large cities of the United States and Canada (with the single
exception of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) belongs to it. Women, so
far, although admitted to the Federation, have had no prominent part
in its activities.

Nurses and attendants in several of the state institutions of Illinois
have during the last two years formed unions. Already they have had
hours shortened from the old irregular schedule of twelve, fourteen
and even sixteen hours a day to an eight-hour workday for all, as far
as practicable. The State Board is also entirely favorable to concede
higher wages, one day off in seven, and an annual vacation of two
weeks on pay, but cannot carry these recommendations out without an
increased appropriation from the legislature.

There are now eight small associations of stenographers and
bookkeepers and other office employes, one as far west as San
Francisco, while there is at least one court reporters' union.

The various federations of school-teachers have worked to raise school
and teaching standards as well as their own financial position. They
have besides, owing to the preponderance of women in the teaching
profession, made a strong point of the justice of equal pay for equal
work. Women teachers are perhaps in a better position to make this
fight for all their sex than any other women.

The fact that so many bodies of teachers have one after another
affiliated with the labor movement has had a secondary result in
bringing home to teachers the needs of the children, the disadvantages
under which so many of them grow up, and still more the handicap under
which most children enter industry. So it has come about that the
teaching body in several cities has been roused to plead the cause of
the workers' children, and therefore of the workers, and has brought
much practical knowledge and first-hand information before health
departments, educational authorities, and legislators.

Yet another angle from which the organization of teachers has to be
considered is that they are actually, if not always technically,
public employes. Every objection that can be raised against the
organization of public employes, if valid at all, is valid here. Every
reason that can be urged why public employes should be able to give
collective expression to their ideas and their wishes has force here.

The domestic servant, as we know her, is but a survival in culture
from an earlier time, and more primitive environment. As a personal
attendant, with no limitation of hours, without defined and
standardized duties, and taking out part of her wages in the form of
board and lodging, also at no standardized valuation, she will have to
be improved out of existence altogether.

On the other hand as a skilled worker, she fills an important function
in the community, satisfying permanent human needs, preparing food to
support our bodies, and making clean and beautiful the homes wherein
we dwell. Surely humanity is not so stupid that arrangements cannot be
planned by which domestic workers can have their own homes, like
other people, hours of leisure, like other workers, and organizations
through which they may express themselves. The main difficulty in
the immediate future is that the very reason why organization is
so urgently needed by domestic workers is the reason why it is so
difficult to form organizations, the individual isolation in which the
girls live and work. The desire for common action assuredly is there;
one little group after another are meeting and talking over their
difficulties, and planning how they can overcome them. The obstacles
in the way of forming unions of domestic workers are tremendous. What
such groups need, above all, is a union headquarters, with comfortable
and convenient rooms, in which girls could meet their friends during
their times off, or in which they could just rest, if they wanted to,
for many have no friend's house to go to during their precious free
days. Such a headquarters should conduct an employment agency. Other
activities would probably grow out of such a center, and the workers
cooeperating would help towards the solving of that domestic problem
which is their concern even more intimately than it is that of those
whom, as things are, they so unwillingly serve. That the finest type
of women are already awake, and nearing the stage when they themselves
recognize the need of organization, is evident from the fact that
in Chicago, Buffalo and Seattle, there lately sprang up almost
simultaneously, small associations of household workers formed to
secure regular hours and better living conditions.

There is no class of women or girls more urgently in need of a radical
change in their economic condition than department-store clerks. To
this need even the public has of late become somewhat awakened,
thanks mainly to a troop of investigators and to the writers in the
magazines, who on the one hand have roused nation-wide horror by means
of revelations regarding the white-slave traffic, and on the other
have brought to that same national audience painful enlightenment as
to the chronic starvation of both soul and body endured by so many
brave and patient young creatures, who on four, five or six dollars
a week just manage to exist, but who in so doing, are cheated of all
that makes life worth living in the present, and are disinherited of
any prospect of home, health and happiness in the future.

This story has been told again and again. Yet the public has not yet
learned to relate it to any effectual remedy. Undoubtedly organization
has done a great deal for this class in other countries, notably in
England and in Germany, and in this country also, in the few cities
where it has been brought about. But meanwhile their numbers are
increasing, and it hardly seems human for us to wait while all these
young lives are being ruined in the hope that a few years hence the
department-store clerks succeeding them may be able to save themselves
through organization, when there is another remedy at hand. That
remedy is legislation to cover thoroughly hours, wages and conditions
of work. No one suggests depending exclusively on laws. One reason,
probably, why the freeing of the negro slave has been so often merely
a nominal freeing is because he was able to play so small a part
himself in the gaining of his freedom. It was a gift, truly, from the
master race. But no one, surely, would use that argument in reference
to children, and an immense proportion of the department-store
employes are but children, children between fourteen and eighteen,
and in some states much younger. One hears of occasional instances
in which even children have banded together and gone on strike.
School-children have done it. The little button-sewers of Muscatine,
Iowa, formed a juvenile union during the long strike of 1911. But
these are such exceptional instances that they can hardly count in
normal times. And that such a large body of children and very young
girls are included among department-store employes adds immensely to
the difficulty of gaining over the grown-up women to organization.

[Illustration: A BINDERY

Hand folders on platform. Machine folder and hand gatherers below.]


Perhaps at some future time children may mature mentally earlier. If
along with this, education is more efficient, and the civic duty of a
common responsibility for the good of all is taught universally in our
schools, even the child at fourteen may become class-conscious, and
willing to fight and struggle for a common aim. But if that day
ever comes, it will be in the far future, and let us hope that then
childish energies may be free to find other channels of expression and
childish cooeperation be exerted for happier aims. The child of today
is often temporarily willful and disobedient, but on the whole he (and
more often she) is pathetically patient and long-suffering under all
sorts of hardships and injustices, and has no idea of anything like an
industrial rebellion. Indeed overwork and ill-usage have upon children
the markedly demoralizing effect of cowing them permanently, so that
in oppressing a child you do more than deprive him of his childhood,
you weaken what ought to be the backbone of his maturity. But improve
conditions, whether by law or otherwise, and you will have a more
independent "spunky" child, a better prospect of having him, when
grown up, a more wholesomely natural rebel. Indeed more or less, this
applies to human beings of any age.

As regards the minimum wage, the objection raised by certain among the
conservative labor leaders has been that it will retard organization
and check independence of spirit. This reasoning seems quite academic,
in view of the fact that it is the most oppressed workers who are
usually the least able and willing to assert themselves. Give them
shorter hours or better wages, and they will soon be pleading for
still shorter hours and yet higher wages. Wherever the regulation
of wages, through that most democratic method, that of wages boards
composed of representatives of workers and employers, has been
attempted, organization has been encouraged, and this plan of
legalized collective bargaining has been applied to trade after trade.
In Victoria, Australia, the birthplace of the system, and the state
where it has been longest in force, and more fully developed than
anywhere else, the number of trades covered has grown in less than
twenty years from the four experimental trades of shoemaking, baking,
various departments of the clothing trades and furniture-making to 141
occupations, including such varied employments as engravers, plumbers,
miners and clerical workers.

It is hardly necessary to say that minimum wages boards in Australia
control the wages of men as well as of women. This question, however,
does not enter into practical labor statesmanship in the United States
today, but the minimum wage for women is a very live issue, and its
introduction in state after state is supported by the working-women,
both speaking as individuals and through their organizations.

The objections of employers to any regulation of wages is partly
economic, as they fear injury to trade, a fear not sustained by
Australian experience, or by the experience of employers in trades
in this country, in which wages have been raised and are largely
controlled by strong labor organizations. In especial, employers
object to an unequal burden imposed upon the state or states first
experimenting with wages boards. This has no more validity than a
similar objection raised against any and all interference between
employer and employe, whether it be limitation of hours, workmen's
compensation acts or any other industrial legislation. It is only that
another adjustment has to be made, one of the many that any trade
and any employer has always to be making to suit slightly changing
circumstances. And often the adjustment is much less, and the
advantage to the employer arising from having more efficient and
contented employes greater than anticipated. Competition is then not
for the cheapest worker, but for the most efficient.

Public responsibility for social and economic justice is likely to
be quickened and maintained by the very existence of these permanent
boards created not so much to remedy acute evils as to establish in
the industry conditions more nearly equitable.

It has ever been found that in regard to ordinary factory legislation,
organized employes were the best inspectors to see that the law was
enforced. This principle holds good in even a more marked degree,
where the representatives of the workers have themselves a say in the
decision, as is the case during the long sessions of a wages board,
where all who take part in the discussions and in the final agreement
are experts in the trade, and intimately acquainted with the practical
details of the industry.

The very same misgivings as are felt and expressed by employers and by
the public regarding the effect of legislation for the regulation of
wages have been heard on every occasion when any legal check has been
proposed upon the downward pressure upon the worker, inevitable under
our system of competition for trade and markets. What a cry went up
from the manufacturers of Great Britain when a bill to check the
ruthless exploitation of babies in the cotton mills was introduced
into the House of Commons. The very same arguments of interference
with trade, despotic control over the right of the employe to bargain
as an individual, are urged today, no matter how often their futility
and irrelevance have been exposed.

The question of organization and the white alien has been dealt with
in another chapter, but organization cannot afford to stop even here.
It will never accomplish all that trade unionists desire and what the
workers need until those of every color, the Negro, the Indian, the
Chinese, the Japanese, the Hindoo are included. The southern states
are very imperfectly organized, and trade unionism on any broad scale
will never be achieved there until the colored workers are included.
In this the white workers, neither in the North nor in the South, have
yet recognized their plain duty. It is not the American Federation
itself which is directly responsible, but the national and local
unions in the various trades, who place difficulties in the way of
admitting colored members. "Ordinarily," writes Dr. F.E. Wolfe in his
"Admission to Labor Unions," published by the Johns Hopkins University
Press, "the unimpeded admission of Negroes can be had only where the
local white unionists are favorable. Consequently, racial antipathy
and economic motive may, in any particular trade, nullify the policies
of the national union." This applies even in those cases where the
national union itself would raise no barrier. I think it may be safely
added that there are practically no colored women trade unionists, the
occasional exception but serving to emphasize our utter neglect, as
regards organization, of the colored woman.

Yet another world waiting to be conquered is the Dominion of Canada,
Canada with its vast area and its still small population, yet with its
cities, from Montreal to Vancouver, facing the very same industrial
problems as American cities, from New York to San Francisco. The
organization of women is, so far, hardly touched in any of the

One encouraging circumstance, and significant of the intimate
connection between the two halves of North America, is the fact that
the international union of each trade includes those dwelling both in
the United States and in Canada; these internationals are in their
turn, for the most part affiliated with both the American Federation
of Labor and the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada.

Whenever, then, the women of Canada seriously begin to unionize,
advance will be made through these existing international
organizations. As mentioned elsewhere, the Canadian Trades and Labor
Congress of Canada has endorsed the work of the National Women's Trade
Union League of America, and seats a fraternal delegate from the
League at its conventions.

It can only be a question of time, and of increasing industrial
pressure, when an active trade-union movement will spring up among
Canadian women. Among those who advocate and are prepared to lead in
such a movement are the President of the Trades and Labor Congress,
Mr. J.C. Watters, Mr. James Simpson of the Toronto _Industrial
Banner_, Mrs. Rose Henderson of Montreal, Mr. J.W. Wilkinson,
President of the Vancouver Trades and Labor Council, and Miss Helena
Gutteridge, also of Vancouver.

The President of the National Women's Trade Union League, in her
opening address before the New York convention in June, 1915, summed
up the situation as to the sweated trades tellingly:

For tens of thousands of girl and women workers the average wage
in sweated industries still is five, eight and ten cents an hour,
and these earnings represent, on the average, forty weeks' work
out of a fifty-two week year. Further, in the report of the New
York State Factory Investigation Commission we find that out of a
total of 104,000 men and women 13,000 receive less than $5.00 a
week, 34,000 less than $7.00 a week, 68,000 less than $10.00 a
week and only 17,000 receive $15.00 a week or more. These low
wages are not only paid to apprentices either in factories or
stores but to large numbers of women who have been continuously
in industry for years. Again, the New York State Factory
Investigating Commission tells us that half of those who have five
years' experience in stores are receiving less than $8.00 a week,
and only half of those with ten years' experience receive $10.00 a
week. Dr. Howard Woolston of the Commission has pointed out: "Even
for identical work in the same locality, striking differences in
pay are found. In one wholesale candy factory in Manhattan no male
laborer and no female hand-dipper is paid as much as $8 a week,
nor does any female packer receive as much as $5.50. In another
establishment of the same class in the same borough every male
laborer gets $8 or over, and more than half the female dippers and
packers exceed the rates given in the former plant. Again, one
large department store in Manhattan pays 86 per cent. of its
saleswomen $10 or over; another pays 86 per cent. of them less.
When a representative paper-box manufacturer learned that cutters
in neighboring factories receive as little as $10 a week, he
expressed surprise, because he always pays $15 or more. This
indicates that there is no well-established standard at wages in
certain trades. The amounts are fixed by individual bargain, and
labor is 'worth' as much as the employer agrees to pay."

It has been estimated by the Commission that to raise the wages of two
thousand girls in the candy factories from $5.75 to $8.00 a week, the
confectioners in order to cover the cost will have to charge eighteen
cents more per hundred pounds of candy. It is also estimated that if
work shirts cost $3.00 a dozen, and the workers receive sixty cents
for sewing them we can raise the wages ten per cent. and make the
labor cost sixty-six cents. The price of those dozen shirts has been
raised to $3.06. The cost of labor in the sweated industries is a
small fraction of the manufacturing cost.

In the face of such evidence is there anyone who can still question
that individual bargaining is a menace against the social order and
that education and equipment in organization and citizenship become a
social necessity?

Women unionists, like men in the labor movement, are continually asked
to support investigations into industrial conditions, investigations
and yet more investigations. They are asked to give evidence before
boards and commissions, they are asked to furnish journalists and
writers of books with information. They have done so willingly,
but there is a sense coming over many of us that we have had
investigations a-plenty; and that the hour struck some time ago for at
least beginning to put an end to the conditions of needless poverty
and inexcusable oppression, which time after time have been unearthed.

No one who heard Mrs. Florence Kelley at the Charities and Corrections
Conference in St. Louis in 1910 can forget the powerful plea she
made to social workers that they should not be satisfied with
investigation. Not an investigation has ever been made but has told
the same story, monotonous in its lesson, only varying in details;
workers, and especially women workers, are inadequately paid. Further
she considers that investigations would be even more thorough and
drastic if the investigators, the workers and the public knew that
something would come out of the inquiry beyond words, words, words.

Investigation alone never remedied any evil, never righted any
injustice. Yet as far as the community are concerned, average men and
women seem quite content when the investigation has been made, and
stop there. What is wrong? Will no real improvement take place till
the workers are strong enough individually and collectively to
manage their own affairs, and through organization, cooeperation, and
political action, or its equivalent insure adequate remuneration,
and prevent overwork, speeding up, and dangerous and insanitary

In a degree investigation has prepared the way for legislation.
Legislation will undoubtedly play even a bigger part than it has done
in the protection of the workers. Almost all laws for which organized
labor generally works affect women as well as men, whether they are
anti-injunction statutes, or workmen's compensation acts, or factory
laws. But there is another class of laws, specially favoring women,
about which women have naturally more decided opinions than men. These
are laws as to hours, and more recently as to wages, which are or are
to be applicable to women alone. A just and common-sense argument
extends special legislative protection to women, because of their
generally exploited and handicapped position; but the one strong plea
used in their behalf has been health and safety, the health and safety
of the future mothers of society. At this point we pause. In all
probability such protection will be found so beneficial to women that
it will be eventually extended to men.

One group of laws in which labor is vitally interested is laws
touching the right of the workers to organize. Many of the most
important judicial decisions in labor cases have turned upon this
point. In this are involved the right to fold arms, and peacefully to
suggest to others to do the same; the right to band together not to
buy non-union goods, and peacefully to persuade others not to buy.

One angle from which labor views all law-making is that of
administration. A law may be beneficial. It is in danger on two sides.
The first the risk of being declared unconstitutional, a common fate
for the most advanced legislation in this country; or, safe on that
side, it may be so carelessly or inefficiently administered as to be
almost useless. In both cases, strong unions have a great influence in
deciding the fate and the practical usefulness of laws.

Whether in the making, the confirming, or the administering of laws,
the trade unions form the most important channel through which the
wishes of the workers can be expressed. Organized labor does not speak
only for trade unionists; it necessarily, in almost every case, speaks
for the unorganized as well, partly because the needs of both are
usually the same, and partly because there is no possible method
by which the wishes of the working people can be ascertained, save
through the accepted representatives of the organized portion of the

An excellent illustration of how business can and does adjust itself
to meet changing legal demands is seen in what happened when the
Ten-Hour Law came in force in the state of Illinois in July, 1909.

The women clerks on the elevated railroads of Chicago, who had been in
the habit of working twelve hours a day for seven days a week at $1.75
a day, were threatened with dismissal, and replacement by men. But
what happened? At first they had to accept as a compromise a temporary
arrangement under which they received eleven hours' pay for ten hours'
work. Their places were not, however, filled by men, and now, they are
receiving for their ten-hour day $1.90 or 15 cents more than they had
previously been paid for a twelve-hour day, and in addition they now
are given every third Sunday off duty. This showed the good results of
the law, particularly when there was a strong organization behind the
workers. Mercantile establishments came in under the amended Ten-hour
Law two years later.

The new law was, on the whole, wonderfully well observed in Chicago,
and as far as I have been able to learn, in the smaller towns as well.
There were some violations discovered, and plenty more, doubtless,
remained undiscovered. But the defaulting employers must have been
very few compared with the great majority of those who met its
requirement faithfully and intelligently. The proprietors and managers
of the large Chicago department stores, for instance, worked out
beforehand a plan of shifts by which they were able to handle the
Christmas trade, satisfy their customers, and at the same time,
dismiss each set of girls at the end of their ten-hour period. To meet
the necessities of the case a staff of extra hands was engaged by each
of the large department stores. This was a common arrangement. The
regular girls worked from half-past eight till seven o'clock, with
time off for lunch. The extra hands came on in the forenoon at eleven
o'clock and worked till ten in the evening, with supper-time off.
Certain of the stores varied the plan somewhat, by giving two hours
for lunch. These long recesses are not without their disadvantages.
They mean still a very long day on the stretch, and besides, where is
a girl to spend the two hours? She cannot go home, and it is against
the law for her to be in the store, for in the eye of the law, if she
remains on the premises, she is presumably at work, and if at work,
therefore being kept longer than the legal ten hours.

That a law which had been so vigorously opposed should on the whole
have been observed so faithfully in the second largest city in the
United States, that it should in that city have stood the test, at
its very initiation, of the rush season, is a fact full of hope and
encouragement for all who are endeavoring to have our laws keep pace
with ideals of common justice.

Some time afterwards the constitutionality of the law was tested in
the courts. Since then, complaints have died away. There is no record
of trading establishments having been compelled to remove to another
state, and we no longer even hear of its being a ruinous handicap to
resident manufacturers. Even reactionary employers are now chiefly
concerned in putting off the impending evil, as they regard it, of
an eight-hour day, which they know cannot be very far off, as it has
already arrived on the Pacific Coast.

If the acquiescence of Illinois employers was satisfactory, the effect
upon the girls was remarkable and exceeded expectations. During that
Christmas week, the clerks were tired, of course, but they were not in
the state of exhaustion, collapse, and physical and nervous depletion,
which they had experienced in previous years. This bodily salvation
had been expected. It was what organized women had pleaded for and
bargained for, what the defending lawyers, Mr. Louis D. Brandeis and
Mr. William J. Calhoun had urged upon the judges, when the Supreme
Court of Illinois had been earlier called upon to pass upon the
validity of the original ten-hour law, although department-store
employes had not been included within the scope of its protection.

But the girls were more than not merely worn-out to the point of
exhaustion. Most of them were more alive than they had ever been since
first they started clerking. They were happy, and surprised beyond
measure at their own good fortune. Those juniors who could just
remember how different last Christmas had been, those seniors
whose memories held such searing recollections of many preceding
Christmases, were one in their rejoicing and wonderment. They caught
a dim vision of a common interest. Here was something which all could
share. That one was benefited did not mean another's loss.

From girl after girl I heard the same story. I would ask them how they

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