Part 3 out of 4
over-repressive policy, an over-righteous judgment, plus a mother
ignorant of the facts of life, plus a girl's longing for joy--the sum of
these equaled ruin in Edna's case.
WOMAN'S HELPING HAND TO THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER
Annie, Sadie, Edna, thousands of girls like them, girls of whom almost
identical stories might be told, help to swell the long procession of
prodigals every succeeding year. They joined that procession ignorantly
because they thirsted for pleasure. Their days were without interest,
their minds were unfurnished with any resources. At fourteen most of
them left public school. Reading and writing are about as much
intellectual accomplishments as the school gives them, and the work
waiting for them in factory, mill, or department store is rarely of a
character to increase their intelligence.
Ask a girl, "Why do you go to the dance hall? Why don't you stay home
evenings?" Nine times in ten her answer will be: "What should I do with
myself, sitting home and twirling my fingers?"
If you suggest reading, she will reply: "You can't be reading all the
time." In other words, there is no intellectual impulse, but instead an
instinct for action.
The crowded tenement, the city slum, an oppressive system of ill-paid
labor, these are evils which a gradually developing social conscience
must one day eliminate. Their tenure will not be disturbed to-day,
to-morrow, or next day. Their evil influence can be offset, in some
measure, by a recognition on the part of the community of a debt,--a
debt to youth.
The joy of life, inherent in every young creature, including the young
human creature, seeks expression in play, in merriment, and will not be
The oldest, the most persistent, the most attractive, the most
satisfying expression of the joy of life is the dance. Other forms of
recreation come in for brief periods, but their vogue is always
transitory. The roller skating craze, for example, waxed, waned, and
disappeared. Moving pictures and the nickelodeon have had their day, and
are now passing. The charm, the passion, the lure of the dance remains
perennial. It never wholly disappears. It always returns.
In New York City alone there are three hundred saloon dance halls. Three
hundred dens of evil where every night in the year gallons of liquid
damnation are forced down the throats of unwilling drinkers! Where
the bodies and souls of thousands of girls are annually destroyed,
because the young are irresistibly drawn toward joy, and because we, all
of us, good people, busy people, indifferent people, unseeing people,
have permitted joy to become commercialized, have turned it into a
commodity to be used for money profit by the worst elements in society.
Could a more inverted scheme of things have been devised in a madhouse?
New York is by no means unique. Every city has its dance hall problem;
every small town its girl and boy problem; every country-side its
tragedy of the girl who, for relief from monotony, goes to the city and
It is strange that nowhere, until lately, in city, town, or country, has
it occurred to any one that the community owed anything to this
insatiable thirst for joy.
Consider, for instance, the age-long indifference of the oldest of all
guardians of virtue, the Christian Church. To the demand for joy the
evangelical church has returned the stern reply: "To play cards, to go
to the theater, above all, to dance, is wicked." The Methodist Church,
for one, has this baleful theory written in its book of discipline, and
persistent efforts on the part of enlightened clergy and lay members
have utterly failed to expurgate it. The Catholic, Episcopalian, and
Lutheran churches utter no such strictures, but in effect they defend
the theory that joy, if not in itself an evil, at least is no necessity
To meet the growing social discontent, the increasing indifference to
old forms of religion, the open dissatisfaction with religious
organizations which had degenerated into clubs for rich men, there was
developed some years ago in America the "institutional church." This was
an honest effort to give to church members, and to those likely to
become church members, opportunity for social and intellectual
diversion. Parish houses and settlements were established, and these
were furnished with splendid gymnasiums, club rooms, committee rooms,
auditoriums for concerts and lectures, kitchens for cooking lessons, and
provision besides for basketry, sewing, and embroidery classes. These
are all good, and so are the numberless reading, debating, and study
clubs good, as far as they go. But what a pitifully short way they go!
They have built up congregations somewhat, but they have made not the
slightest impression on the big social problem. The reason is plain. The
appeal of the institutional church is too intellectual. It reaches only
that portion of the masses who stand least in need of social
To this accusation the church, man instituted and man controlled since
the beginning of the Christian Era, replies that it does all that can
be done for the uplift of humanity. That the church seems to be losing
its hold on the masses of people is attributed to a general drift of
degenerate humanity towards atheism and unbelief.
The people, the great world of people,--what a field for the church to
work in, if it only chose! The great obstacle is that the church
(leaving out the institutional church), on Sunday a vital, living force,
is content to exist all the other days in the week merely as a building.
Six days and more than half six evenings in the week the churches stand
empty and deserted. Simply from the point of view of material economy
this waste in church property, reduced to dollars and cents, would
appear deplorable. From the point of view of social economy, reduced to
terms of humanity, the waste is heartbreaking.
What would happen if something should loose those churches, or, at any
rate, their big Sunday-school rooms and their ample basements from this
icy exclusiveness, this week-day aloofness from humanity? Can you
picture them at night, streaming with light, gay with music, filled with
dancing crowds? not crowds from homes of wealth and comfort, but crowds
from streets and byways; crowds for which, at present, the underworld
spreads its nets? The great mass of the people, packed in dreary
tenements, slaves of machinery by day, slaves of their own starved souls
by night, must go somewhere for relaxation and forgetfulness. What would
happen if the church should invite them, not to pray but to play?
Some of the results might be a decrease in vice, in drinking, gambling,
and misery. At least we may infer as much from the success of the
occasional experiments which have been tried. We have a few examples to
prove that human nature is not the low, brutish thing it has too often
been described. It does not invariably choose wrong ways, but, on the
contrary, when a choice between right ways and wrong ways is presented,
the right is almost always preferred.
A year ago in Chicago there was witnessed a spectacle which, for utter
brutality and blindness of heart, I hope never to see duplicated.
Chicago had for some time been in the midst of a vigorous crusade
against organized vice. Too long neglected by the authorities and the
public, the so-called levee districts of the city had fallen into the
hands of grafting police officials, who, working with the lowest of
degraded of men, had created an open and most brazen vice syndicate.
Without going into details, it is enough to say that conditions finally
became so scandalous that all Chicago rose in horror and rebellion. The
police department was thoroughly overhauled, and a new chief appointed
who undertook in all earnestness to suppress the worst features of the
system. He had no new weapons it is true, and he probably had no
notion that he could make any impression on the evil of prostitution.
But he might have restored external decency and order, and he might
possibly have prepared the way for some scientific examination of the
problem. But a thing happened: one of those shocking blunders we too
often let happen. The efforts of the chief of police were set back,
because of that blunder, no one can tell how far. A new hysteria of vice
and disorder dates from the hour the blunder was made.
In October of 1909 "Gypsy" Smith, a noted evangelical preacher of the
itinerant order, was holding revival meetings in an armory on the South
Side of Chicago. With mistaken zeal this man announced that he was going
down into the South Side Levee and with one effort would reclaim every
one of the wretched inhabitants. He invited his immense congregation to
follow him there, and assist in the greatest crusade against vice the
world had ever seen.
In Chicago, as in other cities, no procession or parade is allowed to
march without permission from police headquarters. To the sorrow of all
those who believed that reform had really begun, Chief of Police Steward
issued a permit to "Gypsy" Smith. It is probable that the chief feared
the effect of a refusal. To lift up the fallen has ever been one of the
functions of religious bodies. Before issuing the permit, it is said
that he used all his powers of persuasion against the parade.
By orders from headquarters every house in the district was closed,
shuttered, and pitch dark on the night of the parade. Every door was
locked, and the most complete silence reigned within. It was into a
city of silence that the procession of nearly five thousand men, women,
and young people of both sexes marched on that October midnight. In the
glare of red fire and flaming torches, to the confused blare of many
Salvation Army brass bands, the quavering of hymn tunes, including the
classic, "Where Is My Wandering Boy To-night," and the constant
explosion of photographers' flashlights, the long procession stumbled
and jostled its way through streets that gave back for answer darkness
But afterwards! The affair had been widely advertised, and it drew a
throng of spectators, not only from every quarter of the city, but from
every suburb and surrounding country town. Young men brought their
sweethearts, their sisters, to see the "show." As "Gypsy" Smith's
procession wound its noisy way out of the district, and back into the
armory, this great mob of people surged into the streets pruriently
eager to watch the awakening of the levee. It came. Lights flashed up in
almost every house. The women appeared at the windows and even in the
street. Saloon doors were flung open. The sound of pianos and
phonographs rose above the clamor of the mob. Pandemonium broke loose as
the crowds flung themselves into the saloons and other resorts. The
police had to beat people back from the doors with their clubs. A riot,
an orgy, impossible to describe, impossible to forget, ensued. Many of
those who took part in it had never been in such a district before.
This horrible scene somehow typified to my mind the whole blind,
chaotic, senseless attitude which society has preserved toward the most
baffling of all its problems. Nothing done to prevent the evil, because
no one knew what to do. After the evil was an established fact, after
the hearts of the victims were thoroughly hardened, after the last hope
of return had perished, then a "vice crusade"--led by a man!
Another scene witnessed about the same time seems to me to typify the
new attitude which society--led by women--is assuming towards its
problem. It was in the large kindergarten room of one of the oldest of
Chicago's social centers,--the Ely Bates Settlement. A group of little
Italian girls, peasant clad in the red and green colors of their native
land, swung around the room at a lively pace singing the familiar "Santa
Lucia." As the song ended the children suddenly broke into the maddest
of dances, a tarantella. Led by a graceful young girl, one of the
settlement workers, they danced with the joyous abandon of youthful
spirits untrammeled, ending the dance with a chorus of happy laughter.
This was only one group of many hundreds in every quarter of
Chicago,--in schools, settlements, kindergartens, and other
centers,--who were rehearsing for the third of the annual play
festivals given out of doors each year in Chicago. The festivals are
held in the most spacious of the seventeen wonderful public gardens and
playgrounds established of late throughout the city. Lasting all day,
this annual carnival of play is shared by school children, working girls
and boys, and young men and women. In the morning the children play and
perform their costume dances. In the afternoon the fields are given up
to athletic sports of older children, and in the evening young men and
women, of all nationalities, many wearing their old-world peasant
dresses, revive the plays and the dances of their native lands. Tens of
thousands view the beautiful spectacle, which each year excites more
interest and assumes an added importance in the civic life of Chicago.
Each of the large parks in Chicago's system is provided with a municipal
dance hall, spacious buildings with perfect floors, good light, and
ventilation. Any group of young people are at liberty to secure a hall,
rent free, for dancing parties. The city imposes only one
condition,--that the dances be chaperoned by park supervisors.
Beautifully decorated with growing plants from the park greenhouses
these municipal dance halls are scenes of gayety almost every night in
the year. Park restaurants in connection with the halls furnish good
food at low prices. Of course no liquor is sold. Nobody wants it. This
is proved by the fact that saloon dance halls in the neighborhood of the
parks have been deserted by their old patrons.
Women have recognized the debt to youth and the joy of life, and they
are preparing to pay it.
In this latest form of social service they have entered a battlefield
where the powers of righteousness have ever fought a losing fight. Men
have grappled with the social evil without success. They have labored
to discover a substitute for the saloon, and they have failed. They have
tried to suppress the dance hall and they have failed. They have made
laws against evil resorts, and they have sent agents of the police to
enforce their laws, but to no effect.
The failure of the men does not dishearten or discourage the women who
have taken up the work. They believe that they have discovered an
altogether new way in which to fight the social evil.
They propose to turn against it its own most powerful weapons. The joy
of life is to be fed with proper food instead of poison. Girls and young
men are to be offered a chance to escape the nets stretched for them by
the underworld. In many cities women's clubs and women's societies are
establishing on a small scale amusement and recreation centers for young
people. In New York Miss Virginia Potter, niece of the late Bishop
Potter, and Miss Potter's colleagues in the Association of Working
Girls' Clubs, have opened a public dance hall. The use of the large
gymnasium of the Manhattan Trade School for Girls was secured, and every
Saturday evening, from eight until eleven, young men and women come in
and dance to excellent music, under the instruction, if they need it,
of a skilled dancing-master. A small fee is charged, partly to defray
expenses, and partly to attract a class of people who disdain
philanthropy and settlements. The experiment is new, but it is
undoubtedly successful. As many as two hundred couples have been
admitted in an evening. In half a dozen cities women's clubs and women's
committees are at work on this matter of establishing amusement and
recreation centers for young people. In New York a Committee on
Amusement and Vacation Resources of Working Girls has for its president
a social worker of many years, Mrs. Charles M. Israels. Associated with
the committee are many other well-known social economists,--women of
wealth and influence who have given years to the service of working
girls. The committee began its work by a scientific investigation into
the dance halls of New York, the summer parks and picnic grounds in the
outlying districts, and of the summer excursion boats which ply up and
down the Hudson River and Long Island Sound. The revelations made by
this investigation, carried on under the supervision of Miss Julia
Schoenfeld, were terrible enough. They were made to appear still more
terrible when it was known that men of the highest social and commercial
standing were profiting hugely from the most vicious forms of
amusement. A state senator is one of the largest stockholders in Coney
Island resorts of bad character. An ex-governor of the State controls a
popular excursion boat, on which staterooms are rented by the hour, for
immoral purposes no one can possibly doubt. The women of the committee
submitted the findings of their investigators to the managers of these
amusement places and to the directors of the steamboat lines, and in
many instances reforms have been promised. The point is that a committee
of women had to finance an investigation to show these business men the
conditions which were adding to their wealth, and into which they had
never even inquired.
Another investigation made by the committee revealed the meagerness of
the provision made by churches, settlements, and business establishments
for working girls' vacations. There are, in round numbers, four hundred
thousand working women in Greater New York. Of these, something like
three hundred thousand are unmarried girls between the ages of fourteen
and thirty. In all, only 6,874 of these young toilers, who earn on an
average six dollars a week, are provided with vacation outings. They are
usually given vacations, with or without pay, but they spend the idle
time at Coney Island, on excursion boats, or in the dance hall.
Of the 1,257 churches and synagogues of New York, only six report
organized vacation work for girls and women. Of the twenty or more large
department stores, employing thousands of women, only three have
vacation houses in the country. Of the hundred or more social
settlements in New York only fifteen provide summer homes. There are
several vacation societies which do good work with limited resources,
but they are able to care for comparatively few. We have heard much of
fresh air work for children, and we can afford to hear more. But that
the fresh air work for young girls and women who toil long hours in
factory and shop must be extended, this committee's investigation
The first practical work of the committee, after the investigation of
amusement and recreation places, was a bill introduced into the State
Legislature providing for the licensing and regulation of public dancing
academies, prohibiting the sale of liquor in such establishments, and
holding the proprietor responsible for indecent dancing and improper
Against the bitter opposition of the dancing academy proprietors the
bill became a law and went into effect in September, 1909. Almost
immediately it was challenged on constitutional grounds. The committee
promptly introduced another bill, this one to regulate dance halls.
This bill, which passed the legislature and is now a law, aims to wipe
out the saloon dance hall absolutely, and so to regulate the sale of
liquor in all dancing places that the drink evil will be cut down to a
minimum. The license fee of fifty dollars a year will eliminate the
lowest, cheapest resorts, and a rigid system of inspection will not only
go far towards preserving good order, but will do away with the
wretchedly dirty, ill-smelling, unsanitary fire traps in which many
halls are located. The dance-hall proprietor who encourages or even
tolerates "tough" dancing, or who admits to the floor "White Slavers,"
procurers, or persons of open immorality, will be liable to forfeiture
of his license.
The committee has done more than try to reform existing dance halls. It
has taken steps to establish, in neighborhoods where evil resorts
abound, attractive dance halls, where a decent standard of conduct is
combined with all the best features of the evil places--good floors,
lively music, bright lights. Two corporations have been organized for
the maintenance, in various parts of the city, of model dance halls, and
one hall has already been opened. The patrons of the model dance hall do
not know that it is a social experiment paid for by a committee of
women. It is run exactly like any public dancing place, only in an
Every extension of use of public places, schools, parks, piers, as
recreation places for young people between fifteen and twenty is
encouraged and supported by the committee. Already two public schools
have organized dancing classes, and several settlements have thrown open
their dances to the public where formerly they were attended only by
settlement club members.
By helping working girls to find cheap vacation homes in the country,
and by establishing vacation banks to help the girls save for their
summer outings, the committee hopes to discourage some of the haphazard
picnic park dissipation. In summer many trades are slack, girls are
idle, and out of sheer boredom they hang around the parks seeking
amusement. It is only a theory, perhaps, but Mrs. Israels and the others
on her committee believe that if many of these girls knew that a country
vacation were within the possibilities, they would gladly save money
towards it. At present the vacation facilities of working girls in large
cities are small. In New York, where at least three hundred thousand
girls and women earn their bread, only about six thousand are helped to
summer vacations in the country. What these women are doing now on a
small scale, experimentally, will soon be adopted, as their children's
playgrounds, their kindergartens, their vacation schools, and other
enterprises have been adopted, by the municipalities. Their probation
officers, long paid out of club treasuries, have already been
transferred to many cities, east and west. Soon municipal dance halls,
municipal athletic grounds, municipal amusement and recreation centers
for all ages and all classes will be provided.
Already New York is preparing for such a campaign. The newly-appointed
Parks Commissioner, Charles B. Stover, looking over his office force,
dismissed one secretary whose function seemed largely ornamental, and
diverted his salary of four thousand dollars to recreation purposes for
young people. Commissioner Stover desires the appointment of a city
officer who shall be a Supervisor of Recreations, a man or a woman whose
entire time shall be devoted to discovering where recreation parks,
dancing pavilions, music, and other forms of pleasure are needed, and
how they may be made to do the most good. A neighborhood that thirsts
for concerts ought to have them. A community that desires to dance
deserves a dance hall. In the long run, how infinitely better, how much
more economical for the city to furnish these recreations, normally and
decently conducted, than to bear the consequences of an order of things
like the present one. The new order must come. It is the only way yet
pointed out by which we may hope to close those other avenues, where the
joy of youth is turned into a cup of trembling, and the dancing feet of
girlhood are led into mires of shame.
THE SERVANT IN HER HOUSE
According to the findings of the Massachusetts State Bureau of Labor
Statistics, whose investigation into previous occupation of fallen women
was described in a former chapter, domestic service is a dangerous
trade. Of the 3,966 unfortunates who came under the examination of the
Bureau's investigators, 1,115, or nearly thirty per cent, had been in
domestic service. No other single industry furnished anything like this
From time to time reformatories and institutions dealing with delinquent
women and girls examine the industrial status of their charges, always
with results which agree with or even exceed the Massachusetts
statistics. Bedford Reformatory, one of the two New York State
institutions for delinquent women, in an examination of a group of one
thousand women, found four hundred and thirty general houseworkers,
twenty-four chamber-maids, thirteen nursemaids, eight cooks, and
thirty-six waitresses. As some of the waitresses may have been
restaurant workers, we will eliminate them. Even so, it will be seen
that four hundred and seventy-five--nearly half of the Bedford
women--had been servants.
In 1908 the Albion House of Refuge, New York, admitted one hundred and
sixty-eight girls. Of these ninety-two were domestics, one was a lady's
maid, and nine were nursemaids.
Of one hundred and twenty-seven girls in the Industrial School at
Rochester, New York, in 1909, only fifty-one were wage earners. Of that
number twenty-nine had worked in private homes as domestics. Bedford
Reformatory receives mostly city girls; Albion and Rochester are
supplied from small cities and country towns. It appears that domestic
service is a dangerous trade in small communities as well as in large
On the face of it, the facts are wonderfully puzzling. Domestic service
is constantly urged upon women as the safest, healthiest, most normal
profession in which they can possibly engage. Assuredly it seems to
possess certain unique advantages. Domestic service is the only field of
industry where the demand for workers permanently exceeds the supply.
The nature of the work is essentially suited, by habit, tradition, and
long experiment, to women. It offers economic independence within the
shelter of the home.
Lastly, housework pays extremely well. A girl totally ignorant of the
art of cooking, of any household art, one whose function is to clean,
scrub, and assist her employer to prepare meals, can readily command ten
dollars a month, with board. The same efficiency, or lack of efficiency,
in a factory or department store would be worth about ten dollars a
month, without board. The wages of a competent houseworker, in any part
of the country, average over eighteen dollars a month. Add to this about
thirty dollars a month represented by food, lodging, light, and fire,
and you will see that the competent houseworker's yearly income amounts
to five hundred and seventy-six dollars. This is a higher average than
the school-teacher or the stenographer receives; it is almost double the
average wage of the shop girl, or the factory girl. It is, in fact,
about as high as the usual income of the American workingman.
It is true that the social position of the domestic worker is lower than
that of the teacher, stenographer, or factory worker. This undoubtedly
affects the attractiveness of domestic service as a profession. But the
lower social position is in itself no explanation of the high rate of
immorality. At least there are no figures to prove that the rate of
morality rises or falls with the social status of the individual.
In the contemplation of what is known as the "servant problem," I think
we have been less scientific and more superficial than in any other
social or industrial problem. For the increasing dearth of domestic
workers, for the lowered standard of efficiency, for the startling
amount of immorality alleged to belong to the class, we have given every
explanation except the right one.
At the bottom of the "servant problem" lies the fact that it exists in
the privacy of the home. Now, we have reached a point of social
consciousness where we allow that it is right to intrude some homes and
ask questions for the good of the community. "How many children have
you?" "Are they all in school?" "Does your husband drink?" We have not
yet reached the point of sending agents to inquire: "How many servants
do you keep; what are their hours of work, and what kind of sleeping
accommodations do you furnish them?"
Some intelligent inquiry has been made into surface conditions. The
Sociological Department of Vassar College, under Professor Lucy Maynard
Salmon, during the years 1889 and 1890, made an exhaustive study of
wages, hours of work, difficulties, advantages, and disadvantages of
domestic service. Professor Salmon's book, "Domestic Service," giving
the results of the inquiry, is a classic on the subject. It deals,
however, almost entirely with the ethical side of the problem, the
social relation between mistress and maid. The relation between the
worker and the industry is hardly examined at all.
A later inquiry into the servant problem was conducted in 1903, in half
a dozen cities, by organizations of women which associated themselves
for the purpose, under the name of the Intermunicipal Committee on
The Woman's Municipal League of New York, the Educational and Industrial
Union of Boston, the Housekeepers' Alliance, and the Civic Club of
Philadelphia were the moving elements in the investigation. Co-operating
with them were the College Settlements Association and the
Association of Collegiate Alumnae, which together established a
scholar ship for the research. This research was most ably conducted by
Miss Frances Kellor, a Vassar graduate, and nine assistant workers, all
of whom were college women. The report of the investigation was
published a year later in the volume "Out of Work."
This investigation by organizations of educated and expert women was the
first survey ever made of domestic service _as an industry_, the first
scientific study of domestic workers _as an industrial group_. It was
the first intelligent attempt to review housework as if it were a trade.
The most important conclusion of the investigators was that housework,
domestic service, although carried on as a trade, is really no trade at
all. The domestic worker is no more a part of modern industry than the
Italian woman who finishes "pants" in a tenement, or the child who stays
from school to fasten hooks and eyes on paper cards.
Do not let us make a mistake concerning the underlying cause of the
servant problem. Let us face the truth that we have two institutions
which are back numbers in twentieth century civilization: two left-overs
from a past-and-gone domestic system of industry. One of these is the
tenement sweat shop, where women combine, or try to combine,
manufacturing and housekeeping. The other is the private kitchen--the
home--where the last stand of conservatism and tradition, the last
lingering remnant of hand labor, continues to exist.
No woman who is free enough, strong enough, intelligent enough to seek
work in a factory or shop, is ever found in a sweat shop or seen
carrying bundles of coats to finish at home.
Exactly for the same reason the average American working woman shuns
housework as a means of livelihood. You will find in every community a
few women of intelligence who are naturally so domestic in their tastes
and inclinations that they shrink from any work outside the home. Such
women do adhere to domestic service, but, broadly speaking, you behold
in the servant group merely the siftings of the real industrial class.
In a tentative, halting sort of fashion we are learning to humanize the
factory and shop. Factory workers, mill hands, department store clerks,
have been granted legislation in almost every State of the Union,
regulating hours of work, sanitary conditions, ventilation, and in some
cases they have been given protection from dangerous machinery. In
department stores they have been granted even certain special comforts,
such as seats on which to rest while not actually working.
Of course, we have done no more than make a beginning in this matter of
humanizing the factory and the shop. But we have made a beginning, and
the movement toward securing better and juster and healthier conditions
for workers in all the industries is bound to continue. So long as
manufacturing was carried on in the home, no such protective legislation
as workers now enjoy was dreamed of. We had to wait until the workers
came together in large groups before we could see their conditions and
understand their needs.
Housework, because it is performed in isolation, because it is purely
individual labor, has never been classed among the industries. It has
rather been looked upon as a normal feminine function, a form of healthy
exercise. No one has ever suggested to legislators that sweeping and
beating rugs might be included among the dusty trades; that bending over
steaming washtubs, and almost immediately afterwards going out into
frosty air to hang the clothes, might be harmful to throat and lungs;
that remaining within doors days at a time, as houseworkers almost
invariably do, reacts on nerves and the entire physical structure; that
steady service, if not actual labor, from six in the morning until nine
and ten at night makes excessive demands on mind and body.
Such conditions exist because the workers are too weak, too inefficient,
too unintelligent to change them. Yet the demand for servants so far
exceeds the supply that they are in a position, theoretically, to
dictate the terms of their own employment. If they elected to demand
pianos and private baths they could get them; that is, if instead of
remaining isolated individuals they could form themselves into an
industrial class, like plumbers, or bricklayers, or carpenters. Even as
isolated individuals they are able to command a better money wage than
more efficient workers, which proves how great is the need for their
The housekeeper clings to her archaic kitchen, firmly believing that if
she gave it up, tried to replace it by any form of co-operative living,
the pillars of society would crumble and the home pass out of existence.
Yet so strong is her instinctive repugnance to the medieval system on
which her household is conducted, that she shuns it, runs away from it
whenever she can. Housekeeping as a business is a dark mystery to her.
The mass of women in the United States probably hold, almost as an
article of religion, the theory that woman's place is in the home. But
the woman who can organize and manage a home as her husband manages his
business, systematically, profitably, professionally--well, how many
such women do you know?
It would seem as if in the newer generations, the average housekeeper is
not in the professional class at all. Usually she lacks professional
training. If she was brought up in a well-to-do home where there were
several servants, she knows literally nothing of cooking, or of any
department of housekeeping. Even when she has had some instruction in
household tasks, she almost never connects cooking with chemistry, food
with dietetics, cleanliness with sanitation, buying with bookkeeping.
She is an amateur. And she takes into her household to do work she
herself is incapable of doing, another amateur, a woman who might, in
many cases, do well under a capable commander, but who is hopelessly at
sea when expected to evolve a system of housekeeping all by herself.
This irregular state of affairs in what should be a carefully studied,
well-organized industry is reflected in the conditions commonly meted
out to domestics. Take housing conditions, for example. Some
housekeepers provide their servants with good beds; of course, not quite
as good as other members of the household enjoy, but good enough. Some
set aside pleasant, warm, well-furnished rooms for the servants. But
Miss Kellor's investigators reported that it was common to find the only
unheated room in a house or apartment set aside for the servant. They
found great numbers of servants' rooms in basements, having no sunlight
At one home, where an investigator applied for a "place," the
housekeeper complained that her last maid was untidy. Then she showed
the applicant to the servant's room. This was a little den partitioned
off from the coal bin!
In another place, the maid was required to sleep on an ironing board
placed over the bathtub. In still another, the maid spent her night of
rest on a mattress laid over the wash tubs in a basement. A bed for two
servants, consisting of a thin mattress on the dining-room table, was
Unventilated closets, rooms opening off from the kitchen, small and
windowless, are very commonly provided in city flats. Even in spacious
country homes the servants' rooms are considered matters of little
"One woman," writes Miss Kellor, "planned her new three-story house with
the attic windows so high that no one could see out of them. When the
architect remonstrated she said: 'Oh, those are for the maids; I don't
expect them to spend their time looking out.'"
I remember a young girl who waited on table at a woman's hotel where I
made my home. One morning I sent this girl for more cream for my coffee.
She was gone some time and I spoke to her a little impatiently when she
returned. She was silent for a moment, then she said: "Do you know that
every time you send me to the pantry it means a walk of three and a half
blocks? This dining-room and the kitchens and pantries are a block
apart, and are separated by three flights of stairs. I have counted the
distance there and back, and it is more than three blocks."
"But, Kittie," I said to her, "why do you work in a hotel, if it's like
that? Why don't you take a place in a private family?"
"I've tried that," said the girl. "I had a place with the ----family,"
mentioning an historic name. "They had sickness in the family, and they
stopped in town all summer. My room was up in the attic, with only a
skylight for ventilation. During the day, except for the time I spent
sitting on the area steps after nine o'clock, I was waiting on the cook
in a hot kitchen. They let me out of the house once every two weeks.
Here I have some freedom, at least."
I have told this story to dozens of domestics, many of them from homes
of wealth, and they agree that it is a common case. It is very rare,
these girls say, to find a mistress who is willing to allow her maids to
leave the house except on their days out. They concede certain hours of
rest, it is true, but those hours must be spent within doors. "Why, if
you went out I should be sure to need you," is the usual explanation.
Imagine a factory girl or a stenographer being required to remain after
hours on the chance of being needed for extra work.
There is an aspect to this phase of the servant question which is
generally overlooked by employers. This is an isolation from human
intercourse to be found in no other industry. When the household employs
only one servant the isolation is absolute. The girl is marooned, within
full sight of others' happy life. Even when kindness is her portion she
is an outsider from the family circle. Important as her function is in
the life of the household, she is socially the lowest unit in it.
During the course of a great strike of mill operatives in Fall River,
Massachusetts, a few years ago, a considerable group of weaver and
spinner girls were induced, by members of the Women's Trade Union
League, to take up domestic service until the close of the strike. As
the girls were in acute financial distress they agreed to try the
experiment. These were mostly American or English girls, some of them
above the average of intelligence and good sense.
Housework with its great variety of tasks made severe draughts on the
strength of girls accustomed to using one set of muscles. The long hours
and the confinement of domestic service affected nerves adjusted to a
legal fifty-eight-hour week.
But the girls' real objection to housework was its loneliness. Hardly a
single house in Boston, or the surrounding suburbs, where the girls
found places, was provided with a servants' sitting room. There was
absolutely no provision made for callers. For a servant is supposed not
to have friends except on her days out. On those occasions she is
assumed to meet her friends on the street.
In England people recognize the fact that they have a servant class.
Every house of any pretentions provides a servants' hall.
In the United States a sitting room for servants, even in millionaires'
homes, is a rarity.
More than this, in many city households, especially in apartment
households, the servants are prohibited from receiving their friends
even in the kitchen. "Are we allowed to receive men visitors in the
house?" chorused a group of girls, questioned in a fashionable
employment agency. "Mostly our friends are not allowed to step inside
the areaway while we are putting on our hats to go out."
There is no escaping the conclusion that a large part of the social
evil, or that branch of it recruited every year from domestic service,
is traceable to American methods of dealing with servants. The domestic,
belonging, as a rule, to a weak and inefficient class, is literally
driven into paths where only strength and efficiency could possibly
protect her from evil.
Servants share, in common with all other human beings, the necessity for
human intercourse. They must have associates, friends, companions. If
they cannot meet them in their homes they must seek them outside.
Walk through the large parks in any city, late in the evening, and
observe the couples who occupy obscurely placed benches. You pity them
for their immodest behavior in a public place. But most of them have no
other place to meet. And it is not difficult to comprehend that
clandestine appointments in dark corners as a rule do not conduce to
proper behavior. Most of the women you see on park benches are domestic
servants. Some of them, it is safe to assume, work in New York's
Fifth Avenue, or in mansions on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive.
[Illustration: AN UNTHOUGHT-OF PHASE OF THE SERVANT QUESTION]
The social opportunity of the domestic worker is limited to the park
bench, the cheap theater, the summer excursion boat, and the dance hall.
Hardly ever does a settlement club admit a domestic to membership;
rarely does a working girls' society or a Young Women's Christian
Association circle bid her welcome. The Girls' Friendly Association of
the Protestant Episcopal Church is a notable exception to this rule.
In a large New England city, not long ago, a member of the Woman's Club
proposed to establish a club especially for domestics, since no other
class of women seemed willing to associate with them. The proposal was
voted down. "For," said the women, "if they had a clubroom they would be
sure to invite men, and immorality might result."
But there is no direct connection between a clubroom and immorality,
whereas the park bench after dark and the dance hall and its almost
invariable accompaniment of strong drink are positive dangers.
The housekeeper simply does not realize that her domestics are _girls_,
exactly like other girls. They need social intercourse, they need
laughter and dancing and healthy pleasure just as other girls need them,
as much as the young ladies of the household need them.
Perhaps they need them even more. The girl upstairs has mental resources
which the girl downstairs lacks. The girl upstairs has the protection
of family, friends, social position. The last is of greatest importance,
because the woman without a social position has ever been regarded by a
large class of men as fair game. The domestic worker sometimes finds
this out within the shelter, the supposed shelter, of her employer's
[Illustration: ANOTHER SERIOUS CONTRIBUTION TO THE SOCIAL QUESTION]
Tolstoy's terrible story "Resurrection" has for its central anecdote in
the opening chapter a court-room scene in which a judge is called upon
to sentence to prison a woman for whose downfall he had, years before,
been responsible. A somewhat similar story in real life, with a happier
ending, was told me by the head of a woman's reformatory. This official
received a visit from a lawyer, who told her with much emotion that he
had, several days before, been present when a young girl was sentenced
to a term in a reformatory.
"She lived in my home," said the man. "I believe that she was a good
girl up to that time. My wife died, my home was given up, and of course
I forgot that poor girl. She never made any claim on me. When I saw her
there in court, among the dregs of humanity, her face showing what her
life had become, I wanted to shoot myself. Now she is here, with a
chance to get back her health and a right state of mind. Will you help
me to make amends?"
The head of the reformatory rather doubted the man's sincerity at first.
She feared that his repentance was superficial. She refused to allow
him to see or to communicate with the girl, but she wrote him regularly
of her progress. Several times in the course of the year the man visited
the reformatory, and at the end of that period he was allowed to see the
girl. This institution happens to be one of the few where a rational and
a humane system of outdoor work is in vogue. The girl, who a year back
had been almost a physical wreck from drugs and the life of the streets,
was again strong, healthy, and sane. The two forgave each other and were
If the position of the domestic, while living in the shelter of a
family, is sometimes precarious, her situation, when out of a job, is
often actually perilous.
If a girl has a home she goes to that home, and regards her temporary
period of unemployment as a pleasant vacation. But in most cases, in
cities, at any rate, few girls have homes of which they can avail
"In no city," says Miss Kellor's report, "are adequate provisions made
for such homeless women, and their predicament is peculiarly acute, for
their friends are often household workers who cannot extend the
hospitality of their rooms."
I think I hear a chorus of protesting voices: "We don't have anything
to do with the servant class you are describing. Our girls are
respectable. They meet their friends at church. They come to us from
reputable employment offices, which would not deal with them if they
were not all right."
Are you sure you know this? What, after all, do you really know about
your servants? What do you know about the employment office that sent
her to you? What do you know of the world inhabited by servants and the
people who deal in servants? Can you not imagine that it might be
different from the one you live in so safely and comfortably?
Are you willing to know the facts about the world, the underworld, from
which the girl who cooks your food and takes care of your children is
drawn? Do you care to know how a domestic spends the time between
places, how she gets to your kitchen or nursery, the kind of homes she
may have been in before she came to you? Make a little descent into that
underworld with a girl whose experience is matched with those of many
Nellie B---- was an Irish girl, strong, pretty of face, and joyful of
temperament. The quiet Indiana town where she earned her living as a
cook offered Nellie so little diversion that she determined to go to
Chicago to live. She gave up her place, and with a month's wages in her
pocket went to the city.
It was late in the afternoon when her train reached the station. Nellie
alighted, bewildered and lonely. She had the address of an employment
agency, furnished her by an acquaintance. Nellie slept that night, or
rather tossed sleepless in the agency lodging house, on a dirty bed
occupied by two women besides herself. In all her life she had never
been inside such a filthy room, or heard such frightful conversation.
Therefore next morning she gladly paid her exorbitant bill of one dollar
and seventy-five cents, besides a fee of two dollars and a half for
obtaining employment, and accepted the first place offered her.
The house she was taken to seemed to be conducted rather strangely.
Meals were at unusual hours, and the household consisted largely of
young women who received many men callers. For about a week Nellie did
her work unmolested. At the end of the week her mistress presented her
with a low-necked satin dress and asked her if she would not like to
assist in entertaining the men. Simple-minded Nellie had to have the
nature of the entertaining explained to her, and she had great
difficulty in leaving the house after she had declined the offer. She
had hardly any money left, and the woman refused to pay her for her
Nellie knew of no other employment agency, so she was obliged to return
to the one she left. When she reproached the agent for sending her to a
disreputable house he shrugged his shoulders and replied: "Well, I send
girls where they're wanted. If they don't like the place they can
The fact is, they cannot always leave when they want to. Miss Kellor's
investigators found an office in Chicago which sent girls to a resort in
Wisconsin which was represented as a summer hotel. This notorious place
was surrounded by a high stockade which rendered escape impossible.
The investigators found offices in other cities which operate
disreputable houses in summer places. To these the proprietors send the
handsomest of their applicants for honest work.
Three girls sent to a house of this kind found themselves prisoners. One
girl made such a disturbance by screaming and crying that the proprietor
literally kicked her out of the house. The investigators for the
Intermunicipal Committee on Household Research saw this girl in a
hospital, insane and dying from the treatment she had received. Another
of the three escaped from the place. She, too, was discovered in a state
of dementia. The fate of the third girl is obscure.
[Illustration: THE SERVANT GIRL AND THE EMPLOYMENT AGENCY]
Not all employment agencies cater to this trade. Not all would consent
to be accessory to women's degradation. But the employment agency
business, taken by and large, is disorganized, haphazard, out of date.
It is operated on a system founded in lies and extortion. The offices
want fees--fees from servants and fees from employers. They encourage
servants to change their employment as often as possible. Often a firm
will send a girl to a place, and a week or two later will send her word
that they have a better job for her. Sometimes they arrange with her to
leave her place after a certain period, promising her an easier position
or a better wage. They favor the girl who changes often. "You're a nice
kind of a customer!" jeered one proprietor to a girl who boasted that
she had been in a family for five years. The girl was a _customer_ to
him, and she was nothing more.
To his profitable customer the agent is often very accommodating. If she
lacks references he writes her flattering ones, or loans her a reference
written by some woman of prominence. References, indeed, are often
handed around like passports among Russian revolutionists.
Many of these unpleasant facts were brought to light in the course of
the investigation made by the Intermunicipal Committee on Household
Research. The result of their report was a model employment agency law,
passed by the New York State Legislature, providing for a strict
licensing system, rigid forms of contract, regulation of fees, and
inspection by special officers of the Bureau of Licenses. The law
applies only to cities of the first class, and unfortunately has never
been very well enforced. Perhaps it has not been possible to enforce it.
In all the cities examined by the Intermunicipal Committee on Household
Research the investigators found the majority of employment agencies in
close connection with the homes of the agents. In New York, of three
hundred and thirteen offices visited, one hundred and twenty were in
tenements, one hundred and seven in apartment houses, thirty-nine in
residences and only forty-nine in business buildings. In
Philadelphia, only three per cent of employment agencies were found
in business buildings. Chicago made a little better showing, with
nineteen per cent in business houses. The difficulty of properly
regulating a business which is carried on in the privacy of a home is
apparent. When an agency is in a business building it usually has
conspicuous signs, and often the rooms are well equipped with desks,
comfortable chairs, and other office furnishings. But the majority of
agencies are of another description. Those dealing with immigrant girls
are sometimes filthy rooms in some rear tenement, reached through a
saloon or a barber shop facing the street. Often the other tenants of
the building are fortune tellers, palmists, "trance mediums," and like
A large number of these agencies operate lodging houses for their
patrons. There is hardly a good word to say for most of these, except
that they are absolutely necessary. Dirty, unsanitary, miserable as they
usually are, if they were closed by law, hundreds, perhaps thousands of
domestics temporarily out of work, would be turned into the streets.
Many are unfamiliar with the cities they live in. Many more are barred
from hotels on account of small means. Often a girl finding it
impossible to bring herself to lie down on the wretched beds provided by
these lodging houses, leaves her luggage and goes out, not to return
until morning. She spends the night in dance halls and other resorts.
According to Miss Kellor's report this description of employment
agencies and lodging houses attached to them applies to about
seventy-five per cent of all offices in the four cities examined. For
greater accuracy the investigators made a brief survey of conditions in
cities, such as St. Louis, New Haven, and Columbus, Ohio. The
differences were slight, showing that the employment agency problem is
much the same east and west.
Domestic servants have their industrial ups and downs like other
workers. Sometimes they are able to pay the fees required in a
high-class employment office, while at other times they are obliged to
have recourse to the cheaper places, where standards of honesty, and
perhaps also, of propriety, are low. Domestic workers are the nomads of
industry. Their lives are like their work,--impermanent, detached from
It is for the housekeepers of America to consider the plain facts
concerning domestic service. Some of the conditions they can change.
Others they cannot. No one can alter the economic status of the kitchen.
Like the sweat shop, it must ultimately disappear.
What system of housekeeping will take the place of the present system
cannot precisely be foretold. We know that the whole trend of things
everywhere is toward co-operation. Within the past ten years think how
much cooking has gone into the factory, how much washing into the steam
laundry, how much sewing into the shop. As the cost of living increases,
more and more co-operation will be necessary, especially for those of
moderate income. At the present time millions of city dwellers have
given up living in their own houses, or even in rented houses. They
cannot afford to maintain individual homes, but must live in apartment
houses, where the expenses of heat, and other expenses, notably water,
hall, and janitor service, are reduced to a minimum because shared by
all the tenants. There may come a time when the private kitchen will be
a luxury of the very rich.
For a time, however, the private kitchen and the servant in the kitchen
will remain. That is one servant problem. But the housekeeper still has
another "servant problem," and I have tried to make it clear that this
problem pretty closely involves the morals of the community.
Now this matter of community morals has begun to interest women
profoundly. In many of their organizations women are studying and
endeavoring to understand the causes of evil. They are securing the
appointment of educated women as probation officers in the courts which
deal with delinquent women and girls. Sincerely they are working toward
a better understanding of the problem of the prodigal daughter.
Since about one-third of all these prodigals are recruited from the
ranks of domestic workers it is possible for the housekeepers of the
country to play an important part in this work. Every woman in the
United States who employs one servant has a contribution to make to the
movement. The power to humanize domestic service in her own household is
in every woman's hand.
Loneliness, social isolation, the ban of social inferiority,--these
cruel and unreasonable restrictions placed upon an entire class of
working women are out of tune with democracy. The right of the domestic
worker to regular hours of labor, to freedom after her work is done, to
a place to receive her friends, must be recognized. The self-respect of
the servant must in all ways be encouraged.
Above all, the right of the domestic worker to social opportunity must
be admitted. It must be provided for.
Yonkers, New York, a large town on the Hudson River, points out one way
toward this end. In Yonkers there has been established a Women's
Institute for the exclusive use of domestics. It has an employment
agency and supports classes in domestic science for those girls who wish
to become more expert workers. There are club rooms and recreation
parlors where the girls receive and meet their friends--including their
men friends. A group of liberal-minded women established this unique
institution, which is well patronized by the superior class of domestic
workers in Yonkers. The dues are small, and members are allowed to share
club privileges with friends. It is not unusual for employers to present
their domestics with membership cards. It cannot be said that the
Women's Institute has solved the servant problem for Yonkers, but many
women testify to its happy effects on their own individual problems.
The Committee on Amusements and Vacation Resources of Working Girls in
New York is collecting a long list of farmhouses and village homes in
the mountains and near the sea where working girls, and this includes
domestics, may spend their vacations for very little money.
Every summer, as families leave the city for country and seaside,
domestics are thrown out of employment. A department in the Women's Club
can examine vacation possibilities for domestics. The clubs can also
deal with the employment agency. Some women's organizations have already
taken hold of this department. The Women's Educational and Industrial
Union of Boston conducts a very large and flourishing employment agency.
Women's clubs can study the laws of their own community in regard to
public employment agencies. They can investigate homes for immigrant
girls and boarding-houses for working women.
Preventive work is better than reform measures, but both are necessary
in dealing with this problem. Women have still much work to do in
securing reformatories for women. New York is the first State to
establish such reformatories for adult women. Private philanthropy has
offered refuges and semipenal institutions. The State stands aloof.
Even in New York public officials are strangely skeptical of the
possibilities of reform. Last year the courts of New York City sent
three thousand delinquent women to the workhouse on Blackwell's
Island,--a place notorious for the low state of its _morale_. They sent
only seventeen women to Bedford Reformatory, where a healthy routine of
outdoor work, and a most effective system administered by a scientific
penologist does wonders with its inmates. Nothing but the will and the
organized effort of women will ever solve the most terrible of all
problems, or remove from society the reproach of ruined womanhood which
blackens it now.
Note 1: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1904.
VOTES FOR WOMEN
Although Woman Suffrage has been for a number of years a part of the
program of the International Council of Women, the American Branch,
represented by the General Federation of Women's Clubs, at first
displayed little interest in the subject. Although many of the club
women were strong suffragists, there were many others, notably women
from the Southern States, who were violently opposed to suffrage. Early
in the club movement it was agreed that suffrage, being a subject on
which there was an apparently hopeless difference of opinion, was not a
proper subject for club consideration.
The position of the women in regard to suffrage was precisely that of
the early labor unions toward politics. The unions, fearing that the
labor leaders would use the men for their own political advancement,
resolved that no question of politics should ever enter into their
In the same way the club women feared that even a discussion of Woman
Suffrage in their state and national federation meetings would result in
their movement becoming purely political. They wanted to keep it a
non-partisan benevolent and social affair.
[Illustration: SUFFRAGETTES IN LONDON ADVERTISING A MEETING]
Somehow, in what mysterious manner no one can precisely tell, the
reserve of the club women towards the suffrage question began some years
ago to break down. At the St. Louis Biennial of 1904 part of a morning
session was given up to the suffrage organizations. Several remarkable
speeches in favor of the suffrage were made, and there is no doubt that
a very deep impression was made, even upon those women openly opposed to
the movement. Six years later, at the biennial meeting held in
Cincinnati, Ohio, in June, 1910, an entire evening was given up to an
exhaustive discussion of both sides of the question.
Dating from that evening a stranger visiting the convention might almost
have thought that the sole object of the gathering was a discussion of
the right of women to the ballot. Women floated through the corridors of
the hotel talking suffrage. They talked suffrage in little groups in the
dining-room, they discussed it in the street cars going to and from the
The local suffrage clubs had planned a banquet to the visiting
suffragists and had calculated a maximum of one hundred and fifty
applications for tickets.
Three days before the banquet they had had nearly three hundred
applications, and when the hour for the banquet arrived every available
seat, the room's limit of three hundred and seventy-five, was occupied.
Outside were women offering ten dollars a plate and clamoring for the
privilege of merely listening to the after-dinner speakers. Something
must have happened in the course of those eight years to make such an
astounding change in the attitude of the club women.
The fact is that until the club women had been at work at practical
things for a long period of years, they did not realize the social value
of their own activities. They thought of their work as benevolent and
philanthropic. That they were performing community service, _citizens_'
service, they did not remotely dream. There is nothing surprising in
their _naivete_. It is a fact that in this country, although every one
knows that women own property, pay taxes, successfully manage their own
business affairs, and do an astonishing amount of community work as
well, no one ever thinks of them as citizens.
American men are accustomed to women in almost all trades and
professions. It doesn't astonish a New Yorker to see a hospital
ambulance tearing down the street with a white-clad woman surgeon on the
back seat. A woman lawyer, architect, editor, manufacturer, excites no
particular notice. In the Western States men are beginning to elect
women county treasurers, county superintendents of schools, and in
Chicago, second largest city in the country, a Board of Education,
overwhelmingly masculine, recently appointed a woman City Superintendent
Yet to the vast majority of American men women do not look like
As for the majority of American women they have always until recently
thought of themselves as a class,--a favored and protected class. They
cherished a sentimental kind of delusion that the American man was only
too anxious to give them everything that their hearts desired. When they
got out into the world of action, when they began to ask for something
more substantial than bonbons, the club women found that the American
man was not so very generous after all.
A typical instance occurred down in Georgia. A few years ago the women
of Georgia found a way to introduce into the legislature a child-labor
law. It was really a very modest little bill and it protected only a
fraction of the pitiful army of cotton-mill children, but still it was
worth having. The women worked hard and they got some very powerful
backing and a barrel or two of petitions. Nevertheless, the bill was
defeated. One legislative orator rose to explain his vote.
"Mr. Speaker," he said eloquently, "I am devoted to the good women of my
State. If I thought that the women of my State wanted this bill passed
I would vote for it; but, sir, I have every reason to believe that the
good women of my State are opposed to this bill, and therefore;"
At this juncture another member handed to the orator a petition bearing
the name of five thousand of the best known women in Georgia. The orator
stammered, turned red, felt for his handkerchief, mopped his brow, and
continued: "Mr. Speaker, I deeply regret that I did not see this
petition yesterday. As it is, my vote is pledged."
Incidents of this kind have occurred too frequently for the women of the
United States to escape their meaning. They have learned that they
cannot have everything they want merely by asking for it. Also they have
learned, or a large number of them have learned that the old theory of
women being represented at the polls by their husbands is very largely a
The entrance of women in large numbers into labor unions, and into
membership in the Women's Trade Union League is another factor in the
increasing interest of American women in suffrage. After a decision of
the New York Court of Appeals that the law prohibiting night work of
women was unconstitutional, nearly one thousand women book-binders in
New York City made a public announcement that they would thenceforth
work for the ballot. They had been indifferent before, but this close
application of politics to their industrial situation--bookbinding is
one of the night trades--made them alive to their own helplessness.
The shirt-waist strike and the garment workers' strike in New York and
Philadelphia, waged so bitterly in 1910, brought great numbers of women
into the suffrage ranks. Not only were the women strikers convinced that
the magistrates and the police treated them with more contempt than they
did the voting men, but they perceived the need of securing better labor
laws for themselves. The conviction that women of the wealthier classes
would stand by them in securing favorable laws, as they stood by the
strikers in the industrial struggle, was a strong lever to turn them
towards the suffrage ranks.
[Illustration: MRS. HARRIOT STANTON BLATCH]
The Women's Trade Union League building, used as strike headquarters in
all strikes involving women workers, is a veritable center of suffrage
sentiment in New York! One floor houses the offices of the Equality
League of Self Supporting Women, of which Harriot Stanton Blatch is
founder and president. This society, which is entirely made up of trade
and professional workers, claims an approximate membership of twenty-two
thousand. A number of unions belong to the League, and there is also a
very large individual membership.
In Chicago the suffrage movement and the labor movement is more closely
associated than in any other American city. In Chicago, it will be
remembered, the Teachers' Federation is a trade union and is allied to
the Central Labor Union. Teachers, almost everywhere denied equal pay
with men for equal work, are eager seekers for political power. When, as
in Chicago, they are associated with labor, they become convinced
Organized labor has always been friendly to woman suffrage, but in
Chicago not only the union women but the union men are actively friendly
towards the cause. The original moving spirit in the Chicago
organization was a remarkable young working girl, Josephine Casey. Miss
Casey sold tickets at one of the stations of the Chicago Elevated, and
she formed her first woman suffrage club among the women members of the
Union of Street and Elevated Railway Employees. Later she organized on a
larger scale the Women's Political Equality Union, with membership open
to men and women alike. The interest shown in the union by workingmen,
many of whom had never before given the matter a moment's thought, was,
from the first, extraordinary. During the first winter of the society's
existence, union after union called for Woman Suffrage speakers.
Addresses were made before fifty or more. Some of the more popular
speakers often made four addresses in an evening. Mrs. Raymond Robins,
president of the National Women's Trade Union League, and Miss Alice
Henry, secretary of the Chicago branch of the League, won many converts
by their expositions of the exceedingly favorable labor laws of
Australia and New Zealand, where women vote.
[Illustration: MEETING A RELEASED SUFFRAGETTE PRISONER.]
Unquestionably the mighty battle which is waging in England made a deep
impression on American women of all classes. The visits made in this
country by Mrs. Cobden Sanderson, Mrs. Borrman Wells, Mrs. Philip
Snowden, and, most of all, Mrs. Pankhurst, leader of the militant
English Suffragists, aroused tremendous enthusiasm from one end of the
country to the other. Never, until these women appeared, telling, with
rare eloquence, their stories of struggle, of arrest and imprisonment,
had the vote appeared such an incomparable treasure. Never before,
except among a few enthusiasts, had there existed any feeling that the
suffrage was a thing to fight for, suffer for, even to die for.
Up to this time the suffrage was a theory, an academic question of right
and justice. After the visits of the English women, American suffragists
everywhere began to view their cause in the light of a political
movement. They began to adopt political methods. Instead of private
meetings where suffrage was discussed before a select audience of the
already convinced, the women began to mount soap boxes on street corners
and to talk suffrage to the man in the street.
The first suffrage demonstration was held in New York in February, 1908.
The members of a small but enthusiastic Equal Suffrage Club announced
their intention of having a parade. Most of the women being wage earners
they planned to have their parade on a Sunday. When they applied at
Police Headquarters for the necessary permit they found to their disgust
that Sunday parades were forbidden by law.
"Not unless you are a funeral procession," said the stern captain of the
The woman replied that they were anything but a funeral procession, and
threatened darkly to hold their parade in spite of police regulations.
They got plenty of newspaper publicity in the succeeding days, and on
the following Sunday a huge crowd of men, a sprinkling of women, a
generous number of plain clothes men, and New York's famous "camera
squad" assembled in Union Square, where all incendiary things happen.
The dauntless seven who made up the suffrage club were there, and at the
psychological moment one of the women ran up the steps of a park
pavilion and spoke in a ringing voice, yet so quietly that the police
made no move to stop her.
"Friends," she said, "we are not allowed to have our parade, so we are
going to hold a meeting of protest at No. 209 East 23d Street. We invite
you to go over there with us." She and the others walked calmly out of
the square, and the crowd followed. They turned into Fifth Avenue, and
the crowd grew larger. Before three blocks were passed there were
literally thousands of people marching in the wake of ingenious
The sight aroused the indignation of many respectable citizens.
"Officer," exclaimed one of these, addressing an attendant policeman, "I
thought you had orders that those females were not to parade."
"That ain't no parade," said the policeman, serenely; "them folks is
just takin' a quiet walk."
The suffragists have taken more than one quiet walk since then. Street
speaking has become an almost daily occurrence. At first there was some
rioting, or, rather, some display of rowdyism on the part of the
spectators and some show of interference from the police. The crowds
listen respectfully now, and the police are friendly.
The most practical move the New York Suffragists have made was the
organization, early in 1910, of the Woman Suffrage Party, a fusion of
nearly all the suffrage clubs in the greater city into an association
exactly along the lines of a regular political party. At the head of the
party as president is Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the
International Woman Suffrage Association. Each of the five boroughs of
the city has a chairman, and each senatorial and assembly district is
either organized or is in process of organization.
[Illustration: THE WOMEN'S TRADES PROCESSION TO THE ALBERT HALL MEETING,
APRIL 27, 1909]
Absolutely democratic in its spirit and its organization, the party
leaders are drawn from every rank of society. The chairman of the
borough of Manhattan is Mrs. James Lees Laidlaw, wife of a prominent
Wall Street banker. Mrs. Frederick Nathan, president of the New York
State Consumers' League, is chairman of the assembly district in which
she lives. Mrs. Melvil Dewey, whose husband is head of a department at
Columbia University, is chairman of her own district. Other chairmen are
Helen Hoy Greeley, lawyer; Lavinia Dock, trained nurse; Anna Mercy, an
East Side physician; Maud Flowerton, buyer in a department store;
Gertrude Barnum, sociologist and writer. Practically every trade and
profession are represented in the party's ranks.
The object of the Woman Suffrage Party is organization for political
work. Last winter the party made the first aggressive move towards
forcing the Judiciary Committee of the Assembly to report on the bill to
give women votes by constitutional amendment. They succeeded in getting
a motion made for the discharge of the committee, sixteen legislators
voting for the women.
New York is the present center of the progressive suffrage movement,
with Chicago not very far behind.
In rather amazing fashion are women in many American communities
beginning to realize that politics are as much their business as men's.
In Salt Lake City when a city council undertakes to give away a valuable
water franchise, or extend gamblers' privileges, or otherwise follow the
example of many another city council in bending before the god of greed,
the women of Salt Lake send the word around. When the council meets the
women are in the room. They don't say anything. They don't have to say
anything. They can vote, these women. More than once the deep-laid plans
of the most powerful politicians in Salt Lake City have been completely
frustrated by a silent warning from the women. The city council has not
dared to pass grafting measures with a roomful of women looking on.
[Illustration: HELEN HOY GREELEY]
Even the non-voting woman has discovered the power which attaches to her
presence, in certain circumstances. In San Francisco during the second
Ruef trial, when the decent element of the city was fighting to down one
of the worst bosses that ever cursed a community, the women, under the
leadership of Mrs. Elizabeth Gerberding, performed this new kind of
picket duty. The courtroom where the trial was held was, by order of the
boss's attorney, packed with hired toughs whose duty it was to make a
mockery of the prosecution. Every point against the Ruef side was
received by these toughs with jeers and hootings. The district attorney
was insulted, badgered, and openly threatened with violence.
Mrs. Gerberding, whose husband is editor of a newspaper opposed to boss
rule, attended several sessions, and induced a large number of women of
social importance to attend with her. These women went daily to the
courtroom, occupying seats to the exclusion of many of the tough
characters, and by their presence doing much to preserve order and to
assist the efforts of the district attorney. When the assassin's bullet
was fired at the district attorney a number of the women were present.
Out of the horror and detestation of this crime was organized the
Women's League of Justice, which soon had a membership of five hundred.
The league fought stoutly for the reelection of Heney as district
attorney. Heney was defeated, and the league became the Women's Civic
Club of San Francisco, pledged to work for political betterment and a
clean city government.
In four States of the Union, Washington, Oregon, South Dakota, and
Oklahoma, the voters will this autumn vote for or against constitutional
amendments giving women the right to vote. It is not very probable that
the Suffragists will win in any of these States, not because the voters
are opposed to suffrage, but because they are, for the most part,
uninformed. The suffrage advocates have not yet learned enough political
wisdom to further their cause through education of the voters.
Although enormous sums of money have been spent in suffrage campaigns,
in no one has enough money been available to do the work thoroughly. In
the four States where the question is at present before the voters,
complaint is made that there is not enough money in the treasuries
properly to circulate literature.
Many of the wisest leaders in the National Woman Suffrage Association,
including Dr. Anna Shaw, Ida Husted Harper, and others, are advising an
altogether new method of conducting the struggle for the ballot. They
advocate selecting a State, possibly Nebraska, where conditions seem
uncommonly favorable, and concentrating the entire strength of the
national organization, every dollar of money in the national treasury,
all the speakers and organizers, all the literature, in a mighty effort
to give the women of that one State the ballot. The vote won in
Nebraska, the national association should pass on to the next most
favorable State and win a victory there. The moral effect of such
campaigns would no doubt be very great.
One of the principal reasons why men hesitate in this country to give
the voting power to women is that they do not know, and they rather fear
to guess, how far women would unite in forcing their own policies on the
country. If an Irish vote, or a German vote, or a Catholic vote, or a
Hebrew vote is to be dreaded, say the men, how much more of a menace
would a woman vote be. I heard a man, a delegate from an anti-suffrage
association, solemnly warn the New York State Legislature, at a suffrage
hearing, against this danger of a woman vote. "When the majority of
women and the minority of men vote together," he declared, "there will
be no such thing as personal liberty left in the United States."
[Illustration: SUFFRAGETTES IN MADISON SQUARE.]
Under certain conditions a woman vote is not an unthinkable contingency.
It has even occurred.
For the edification of the possible reader who is entirely uninformed,
it may be explained that women are not entirely disenfranchised in the
United States. Women vote on equal terms with men, in four States. They
have voted in Wyoming since 1869; in Colorado since 1894; in Utah and
Idaho since 1896. They vote at school elections and on certain questions
of taxation in twenty-eight States.
While it is true that in the States which have a small measure of
suffrage the women show little interest in voting, in the four so-called
suffrage States, they vote conscientiously and in about the same
proportion as men.
But here is a notable thing. The women of the suffrage States differ so
little from the women of other States, and women in general, that the
chief concerns of their lives are the home, the school, and the
baby,--the Kaiser's "Kirche, Kueche, und Kinder" over again. They vote
with enthusiasm on all questions which relate to domestic interests,
that is, which directly relate to them and their children. Aside from
this, the woman vote has made a deep impression on the moral character
of candidates and that is about all it has meant. In general politics
women have counted scarcely more than have the women of other States.
But the new interest in suffrage, the new realization of themselves as
citizens that has been aroused all over the United States within the
past two years have seriously affected the women voters of at least one
suffrage State, Colorado.
The women of Colorado, especially the women of Denver, have for several
years taken an active part in legislation directly affecting themselves
and their children. The legislative committee of the Colorado State
Federation of Clubs has held regular meetings during the sessions of the
State Legislature, and it has been a regular custom to submit to that
committee for approval all bills relating to women and children. This
never seemed to the politicians to be anything very dangerous to their
interests. It was, in a manner of speaking, a chivalric acknowledgment
of women's virtue as wives and mothers.
But lately the women of Colorado have begun to wake up to the fact that
not only special legislation, but all legislation, is of direct interest
to them. It has lately dawned upon them that the matter of street
railway franchise affects the home as directly as a proposition to erect
a high school. Also it has dawned on them that without organization, and
more organization, the woman vote was more or less powerless. So, about
a year ago they formed in Denver an association of women which they
called the Public Service League. Nothing quite like it ever existed
before. It is a political but non-partisan association of women, pledged
to work for the civic betterment of Denver, pledged to fight the corrupt
politicians, determined that the city government shall be well
administered even if the women have to take over the offices themselves.
The League is, in effect, a secret society of women. It has an
inflexible rule that its proceedings are to be kept inviolable. There is
a perfect understanding that any woman who divulges one syllable of what
occurs at a meeting of the League will be instantly dropped from
membership. No woman has yet been dropped.
It may well be understood that this secret society of women, this
non-partisan league of voters, is a thing to strike terror into the
heart of a ward boss. As a matter of fact, the corrupt politicians and
the equally corrupt heads of corporations who had long held Denver in
bondage regard the Public Service League in mingled dread and
detestation. Equally as a matter of fact politicians of a better class
are anxious to enlist the good will of the League. Last summer a Denver
election involved a question of granting a twenty years' franchise to a
street railway company. Opposed to the granting of the franchise was a
newly formed citizens' party. Opposed also was the Women's Public
Service League. In gratitude for the co-operation of the League the
Citizens' Party offered a place on the electoral ticket to any woman
chosen by the League.
It was the first time in the history of Colorado that a municipal office
had been offered to a woman, and the League promptly took advantage of
it. They named as a candidate for Election Commissioner Miss Ellis
Meredith, one of the best known, best loved women in the State. As
journalist and author and club woman Miss Meredith is known far beyond
her own State, and her nomination created intense interest not only
among the women of her own city and State, but among club women
On the evening of May 3, 1910, there was a meeting held in the Broadway
Theater, Denver, the like of which no American city ever before
witnessed. It was a women's political mass meeting to endorse the
candidacy of a woman municipal official. The meeting was entirely in the
hands of women. Presiding over the immense throng was Mrs. Sarah Platt
Decker, formerly president, and still leader of the General Federation
of Women's Clubs. Beside her sat Mrs. Helen Grenfell, for thirteen years
county and State superintendent of schools, Mrs. Helen Ring Robinson,
Mrs. Martha A.B. Conine, and Miss Gail Laughlin, all women of note in
their community. The enthusiasm aroused by that meeting did not subside,
and on the day of the election Miss Meredith ran so far ahead of her
ticket that it seemed as if every woman in Denver, as well as most of
the men, had voted for her. She took her place in the Board of Election
Commissioners, and was promptly elected Chairman of the Board.
There is nothing especially attractive about the office of Election
Commissioner. In accepting the nomination Miss Meredith said frankly
that she was influenced mainly by two things: first a desire to test the
loyalty of the women voters, and second, because, while women had been
held accountable for elections which have disgraced the city of Denver,
they have never before been given a chance to manage the elections.
Nothing is more certain that women, when they become enfranchised, will
never, in any large numbers, appear as office seekers. It is probable
that office will be thrust upon the ablest of them. Mrs. Sarah Platt
Decker has been spoken of as a possible future Mayor of Denver, and it
is certain that she could be elected to Congress if she would allow
herself to be placed in nomination.
A few women have been elected to the legislatures in the suffrage
States, and they have held high office in educational departments. In
suffrage and nonsuffrage States they have been elected to many county
offices. Miss Gertrude Jordan is Treasurer of Cherry County, Nebraska.
In Idaho, Texas, Louisiana, and several other States women have filled
the same position. The State of Kansas is a true believer in women
office-holders, even though it refuses its women complete suffrage.
Women can vote in Kansas only at municipal elections, but in forty
counties men have elected women school superintendents. They are clerks
of four counties, treasurers of three, and commissioners of one. In one
county of Kansas a woman is probate judge. The good and faithful work
done by these women ought to go a long way towards educating men of
their community to the idea of political association with women.
The attitude of men towards suffrage has undergone an enormous change
within the past two years. A large number of the thinking men of the
country have openly enlisted in the Suffrage ranks. It is said that
almost every member of the faculty of Columbia University signed the
Suffrage petition presented to the Congress of 1909. Well-known
professors of many Western universities and colleges have spoken and
written in favor of equal suffrage. In New York City a flourishing
Voters' League for Equal Suffrage has been formed, with a membership
running into the hundreds.
[Illustration: THE "QUIET WALK" OF THE NEW YORK SUFFRAGISTS, WHOM THE
POLICE WOULD NOT PERMIT TO PARADE]
To the average unprejudiced man the old arguments against political
equality have almost entirely lost weight. The theory that women should
not vote because they cannot fight is now rarely argued. Municipal
governments certainly no longer rest on physical force. The same is true
of state governments, and it is probably true of national governments.
At all events we are sincerely trying to make it true. For the rest it
would be extremely difficult to prove that women would make undesirable
citizens. To the anxious inquiry, What will women do with their votes?
the answer is simple. They will do with their votes precisely what they
do, or try to do, without votes. This has been proven in every country
in the world where they have received the franchise. In Australia, New
Zealand, Finland, and in the English municipalities the ideal of the
common good has been reflected in the woman vote. Social legislation
alone interests women, and so far they have confined their efforts to
matters of education, child labor, pure food, sanitation, control of
liquor traffic, and public morals. The organized non-voting women of
this country have devoted themselves for years to precisely these
objects. Without votes, without precedents, and without very much money
they instituted the playground movement, and the juvenile court
movement, two of the greatest reforms this country has contributed to
civilization. They have instituted a dozen reforms in our educational
system. They practically invented the town and village improvement idea.
They have co-operated with every social reform advocated by men, and it
is to be noted that wherever their judgment has been in error they have
conscientiously erred in favor of a wider democracy, a more exalted
[Illustration: SUFFRAGE DEMONSTRATION IN UNION SQUARE, NEW YORK]
However long-deferred Woman Suffrage may prove to be, it is pretty
generally conceded that women will inevitably vote some day. The
evolution of society will bring them into political equality with men
just as it has brought them into intellectual and industrial equality.
The first woman who followed her spinning-wheel out of her home into the
factory was the natural ancestress of the first woman who demanded the
The application of steam to machinery took women's trades out of the
home and placed them in the factory. The effect of this was that men
were confronted with a singular dilemma. They had to choose between two
courses; they had to support their women in idleness, or else they had
to allow them to leave the home and go where their trades had gone. The
first course involving the intolerable burden of doing their own and
their women's work, they were obliged to choose the second. The
jealously-guarded doors of the home were opened, and little by little,
grudgingly, the men admitted women to full industrial freedom.
Women's housekeeping, or most of it, has gradually been withdrawn from
the home and transferred to the municipality. There was a time when
women could ensure their families pure food, good milk, clean ice,
proper sanitation. They cannot do that now. The City Hall governs all
such matters. Again the men find themselves facing the old dilemma. They
must either support their women in idleness--do all their own as well as
the women's housekeeping--or they must allow their women to leave the
home and follow their housekeeping to the place where it is now being
Women are beginning to understand the situation. They are even beginning
to understand how badly the men are providing for the municipal family.
They are demanding their old housekeeping tasks back again. To this
point has the Suffrage movement, begun in 1848 by a band of women called
I have tried to set down in these pages the collective opinion of women,
as far as it has expressed itself through deeds. I have not succeeded if
any reader lays down the book with the impression that he has merely
been reading the story of the American club woman. I have not succeeded
at all if my readers imagine that I have been writing only about a
selected group of women. What I have meant to do is to show the
instinctive bent of the universal woman mind in all ages, reflected in
the actions of the freest group of women the world has ever seen.
I might have reanimated ages of stone and of bronze; might have shown
you women, through slow centuries, inventing the arts of spinning and
weaving, and pottery molding; learning to build, to till the earth, to
grind and to cook grains, to tan skins for clothing against the cold. No
one taught them these things. Out of their brains, as undeveloped and as
primitive as the brains of men, they would never have conceived so much
wisdom. The vague mind of the savage woman never sent her to the spider,
the nesting bird, and the burrowing squirrel to learn to weave and to
build and to store. When we find exactly what it was that taught
primitive woman how to lay the first stones of civilization, we have a
perfect philosophical understanding of all women.
I chose to interpret the woman mind through the modern American woman,
partly because she has learned the great lesson of organization, and has
thus been able to work more effectively, and to impress her will on the
community more strikingly than other women in other ages. What she has
done is apparent and easy to prove.
Also, I chose the American club woman because she represents, not an
unusually gifted type, but the average intelligent, well-educated,
energetic, wife-and-mother type of woman. The club woman is not radical,
or at least not consciously radical. She has not, like the progressive
German and Russian woman, theories of political regeneration or of
family reconstruction. What she desires, what ideals she has formed, I
think must fairly represent the desires and ideals of the great mass of
women of the twentieth century.
When we survey the activities the club women have engaged in, when we
discover why they chose exactly these activities, we have a perfect
philosophical understanding, not only of the modern woman mind, but of
the cave woman mind and all the woman mind in between.
The woman mind is the most unchangeable thing in the world. It has
turned on identically the same pivot since the present race began.
Turn back and count over the club women's achievements, the things they
have chosen to do, the things they want. Observe first of all that they
want very little for themselves. Even their political liberty they want
only because it will enable them to get other things--things needed,
directly or indirectly, by children. Most of the things are directly
needed,--playgrounds, school gardens, child-labor laws, juvenile courts,
kindergartens, pure food laws, and other visible tokens of child
concern. Many of the other things are indirectly needed by
children,--ten-hour working days, seats for shop girls, protection from
dangerous machinery, living wages, opportunities for safe and wholesome
pleasures, peace and arbitration, social purity, legal equality with
men, all objects which tend to conserve the future mothers of children.
These are the things women want.
In my introductory chapter I cited three extremely grave and significant
facts which confront modern civilization. The first was the fact of
women's growing economic freedom, their emancipation from domestic
slavery. I believe that women would not wish to be economically free if
their instinct gave them any warning that freedom for them meant danger
to their children. But no observer of social conditions can have failed
to observe the oceans of misery endured by women and children because of
their economic dependence on the fortunes of husbands and fathers.
Whatever may be the solution of poverty, whatever be the future status
of the family, it seems certain to me that some way will be devised
whereby motherhood will cease to be a privately supported profession. In
some way society will pay its own account. If producing citizens to the
State be the greatest service a woman citizen can perform, the State
will ultimately recognize the right of the woman citizen to protection
during her time of service. The first step towards solving the problem
is for women to learn to support themselves before the time comes for
them to serve the State. Through the educating process of productive
labor the woman mind may devise a means of protecting the future mothers
of the race.
The second fact, the growing prevalence of divorce, on the face of it
seems to menace the security of the home and of children. So deeply
overlain with prejudice, conventionalities, and theological traditions
is the average woman as well as the average man that it is difficult to
argue in favor of a temporary tolerance of divorce that a permanent high
standard of marriage may be established. But to my mind any state of
affairs, even a Reno state of affairs, looks more encouraging than the
old conditions under which innocent girls married to rakes and drunkards
were forbidden to escape their chains. It is not for the good of
children to be born of disease and misery and hatred. It is not for
their good to be brought up in an atmosphere of hopeless inharmony. What
is happening in this country is not a weakening of the marriage bond,
but a strengthening of it. For soon there will grow up in the American
man's mind a desire for a marriage which will be at least as equitable
as a business partnership; as fair to one party as to the other. He will
cease to regard marriage as a state of bondage for the wife and a state
of license for the husband. He will not venture to suggest to a bright
woman that cooking in his kitchen is a more honorable career than
teaching, or painting, or writing, or manufacturing. Marriage will not
mean extinction to any woman. It will mean to the well-to-do wife
freedom to do community service. It will mean to the industrial woman an
economic burden shared. When that time comes there will be no divorce
problem. There will be no longer a class of women who avoid the risk of
divorce by refusing to marry.
The third fact, the increasing popularity of woman suffrage, I disposed
of in the preceding chapter. Nothing that the women who vote have ever
done indicates, in the remotest degree, that they are not just as
mindful of children's interests at the polls as other women are in their
nurseries and kitchens.
On the contrary, wherever women have left their kitchens and nurseries,
whenever they have gone out into the world of action and of affairs,
they have increased their effectiveness as mothers. I do not mean by
this that the girl who enters a factory at fourteen and works there ten
hours a day until she marries increases her effectiveness as a mother.
Industrial slavery unfits a woman for motherhood as certainly as
intellectual and moral slavery unfits her.
Women who are free, who look on life through their own eyes, who think
their own thoughts, who live in the real world of striving, struggling,
suffering humanity, are the most effective mothers that ever lived. They
know how to care for their own children, and more than that, they know
how to care for the community's children.
The child at his mother's knee, spelling out the words of a psalm,
stands for the moral education of the race--or it used to. A group of
Chicago club women walking boldly into the city Bridewell and the Cook
County Jail and demanding that children of ten and twelve should no
longer be locked up with criminals; these same women, after the children
were segregated, establishing a school for them, and finally these same
women achieving a juvenile court, is the modern edition of the old
Woman's place is in the home. This is a platitude which no woman will
ever dissent from, provided two words are dropped out of it. Woman's
place is Home. Her task is homemaking. Her talents, as a rule, are
mainly for homemaking. But Home is not contained within the four walls
of an individual home. Home is the community. The city full of people is
the Family. The public school is the real Nursery. And badly do the Home
and the Family and the Nursery need their mother.
I dream of a community where men and women divide the work of governing
and administering, each according to his special capacities and natural
abilities. The division of labor between them will be on natural and not
conventional lines. No one will be rewarded according to sex, but
according to work performed. The city will be like a great,
well-ordered, comfortable, sanitary household. Everything will be as
clean as in a good home. Every one, as in a family, will have enough to
eat, clothes to wear, and a good bed to sleep on. There will be no
slums, no sweat shops, no sad women and children toiling in tenement
rooms. There will be no babies dying because of an impure milk supply.
There will be no "lung blocks" poisoning human beings that landlords may
pile up sordid profits. No painted girls, with hunger gnawing at their
empty stomachs, will walk in the shadows. All the family will be taken
care of, taught to take care of themselves, protected in their daily
tasks, sheltered in their homes.
The evil things in society are simply the result of half the human race,
with only half the wisdom, and not even half the moral power contained
in the race, trying to rule the world alone. Men's government rests on
force, on violence. Everything evil, everything bad, everything selfish,
is a form of violence. Poverty itself is a form of violence.
Women will not tolerate violence. They loathe waste. They cannot bear to
see illness and suffering and starvation. Alone, they are no more
capable of coping with these evils than men are. But they have the very
resources that men lack. Working with men they could accomplish
Note the inventiveness of women, most of which goes to waste because
they lack the wonderful constructive ability of men. Women invented
spinning. They could never have harnessed the lightning to their wheels.
Women established the first public playgrounds. Men extended the public
playgrounds across the country.
Women established the juvenile court. Men took it over and worked out a
new system of criminal jurisprudence for children. Women have cleaned up
a hundred cities. Men are rebuilding them. Slowly men and women are
learning to live and work together. Reluctantly men are coming to accept
women as their co-workers.
Woman's place is Home, and she must not be forbidden to dwell there. Who
would be so selfish, so blind, so reactionary, as to forbid her her
fullest freedom to do her work, must surrender opposition in the end.
For woman's work is race preservation, race improvement, and who opposes
her, or interferes with her, simply fights nature, and nature never
loses her battles.
Aberdeen, Countess of,
Albert Hall, London,
Albion House of Refuge, N.Y.,
Aldrich, Mrs. Richard,
Allgemeinen Deutschen Frauenbund,
American Federation of Labor
American women and common law
Arthur, Mrs. Clara B.,
Association of Collegiate Alumnae,
Association of Working Girls' Clubs,
Balliett, Thomas M.,
Barrett, Mrs. Kate Waller,
Bedford Reformatory, N.Y.,
Belmont, Mrs. O.H.P.,
Blatch, Harriot Stanton,
Boston Central Labor Union,
Boswell, Helen V.,
Brandeis, Louis D.
Catt, Mrs. Carrie Chapman,
Child, Lydia Maria,
Church, the Christian, its relation to social problems,
Civic Club of Allegheny County
Civic Club of Philadelphia,
Cliff Dwellers' remains,
Cobden Sanderson, Mrs.,
College Settlements Association,
Colorado State Federation of Clubs,
Conine, Mrs. Martha A.B.,
Consumers' League of N.Y.,
Conventions of women's clubs,
Cotton mills, women and girls in
Council of Women
Daughters of the American Revolution,
Daughters of the Confederacy,
Davis, Mrs. Jefferson,
Decker, Mrs. Sarah Platt,
Devine, Edward T.,
Dewey, Mrs. Melvil,
District of Columbia,
_Domestic Service_, Professor
Ely Bates Settlement,
Equality League of Self-Supporting Women,
Evans, Mrs. Glendower,
Fall River, Mass.
General Federation of Women's Clubs,
Gerberding, Mrs. Elizabeth,
German Woman Suffrage Association,
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, her _Women and Economics_,
Girls' Friendly Association,
Grannis, Mrs. Elizabeth,
Greece, Queen of,
Greeley, Helen Hoy,
Grenfell, Mrs. Helen,
Gulick, Luther H.,
Harper, Ida Husted,
Hundred Years' War,
Intermunicipal Committee on Household Research,
International Council of Women,
International Woman Suffrage Alliance
Israels, Mrs. Charles M.
Jefferson Market Court,
Kirby, John, Jr.,
Lafferty, Mrs. Alma,
Laidlaw, Mrs. James Lees,
Lake City, Minn.,
Legal Aid Society of N.Y. City,
Legal disabilities of women
Los Angeles, Cal.,
Lowell, Mrs. Josephine Shaw,
MacLean, Annie Marian,
Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics
Men, their attitude toward women
Mercantile Employers' Bill
Merchants' Association of N.Y.,