Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Women Workers in Seven Professions by Edith J. Morley

Part 5 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

married women outworkers within the provisions of Part I. of the Act
necessitated much careful investigation among employers and outworkers
in a large number of trades all over the country, such as tailoring,
glove-making, lace manufacture, carding of hooks and eyes, pins and
needles, buttons and fish-hooks at Birmingham, net-making at
Bridport, chain-making at Cradley Heath, straw hat-making at Luton,
chair-making, box-making, and boot, shoe, and hosiery manufacture.
This investigation was undertaken by the women staff. The enquiry
entailed hundreds of visits, both in the poorest parts of industrial
towns and in remote country districts, and in interviews with
employers and workers great tact and patience were required. Of the
evidence given by the women inspectors, Mr Pope reports that they
'one and all gave evidence with extreme moderation, impartiality and
discretion. The conspicuous fairness and the success with which they
had collected information were frequently a matter of commendation
from employers, who informed me that the enquiry had afforded them
information about their own trades which years of work in it had not
made known to them.'"

_The General Post Office_

This paper would not be complete without some reference to the large
number--now nearly 3,000--of women clerks employed by the General Post
Office, all of whom enter the service by open competition, either
as girl clerks between sixteen and eighteen years of age or as women
clerks between eighteen and twenty. Their duties are necessarily of a
clerical nature, and in their earlier years at least they can hardly,
perhaps, be included in the "higher grades." Yet the supervisory posts
which become necessary wherever large numbers of workers are employed
call for considerable administrative ability and are proportionately
better remunerated. All women clerks are eligible for these posts, and
indeed they are never filled in any other way.

The highest post open to a woman clerk in the General Post Office is
that of Superintendent at the _Savings Bank,_ the present holder
of which is on a scale of L350-20-L600. There are 4 Deputy
Superintendents at L270-15-L330; 13 Assistant Superintendents at
L210-10-L260; and 53 Principal Clerks at L150-10-L200. The Savings
Bank has the largest group of women clerks--numbering 1,210--of any
department, and of these 150 are in the first class.

The next largest group of Women Clerks is in the _Money Order
Department;_ in this office the women outnumber the men in the
proportion of 5 to 1. They number 592, of whom 67 are in the
first class. There is one Superintendent at L350-20-L500; 1 Deputy
Superintendent at L270-15-L330; 5 Assistant Superintendents at
L210-10-L260; and 24 Principal Clerks at L150-10-L200.

The _Accountant General's Department_ has 1 Superintendent at
L280-15-L400; 3 Assistant Superintendents at L210-10-L260; and 3
Principal Clerks at L150-10-L200. The staff of clerks numbers 416, of
whom 57 are in the first class.

The _London Telephone Service_ has 1 Assistant Superintendent at
L210-10-L260 and 5 Principal Clerks at L150-10-L200, with a staff of
278 clerks, of whom 21 are in the first class.

The _Accountants Offices_ are the only ones in Edinburgh and Dublin
which employ women as Clerks. In Dublin there is 1 Superintendent at
L210-10-L250 and 2 Assistant Superintendents at L150-10-L170. Of
the staff of 61 clerks, 7 are first class. In Edinburgh there is 1
Superintendent at L200-10-L250, and 1 Assistant Superintendent at
L150-10-L190. Of the staff of 69, 8 are in the first class.

In consequence of the employment of so large a number of women, the
General Post Office found it necessary many years ago to employ a
Woman Medical Officer. The present holder of this office receives
a salary of L350-20-L500. She has the help of two Assistants, whose
salary is L180-15-L300.

A few posts which may properly be deemed "higher" are also open to
Women Counter Clerks and Telegraphists. In the London Postal District
there are 3 Supervisors at L180-10-L250, 50 Assistant Supervisors
(first class) at L140-6-L170 and 61 Assistant Supervisors (second
class) at L115-5-L130.

In the _Central Telegraph Office_ the Chief Supervisor of Women
Telegraphists receives a salary of L180-10-L300 (not a large salary
for supervising a staff numbering nearly 1,000), the 13 Supervisors
receive L180-10-L250, and the 35 Assistant Supervisors L140-6-L170.

The _Postal District and Telegraph Offices_ in Dublin and Edinburgh
have each one Woman Supervisor of Counter and Telegraph Clerks at
L140-6-L875. In Dublin there are 12 and in Edinburgh 6 Assistants at
L110-5-L135. There are also a number of Supervisors in the provinces
whose rates of pay vary from L149-6-L175 to L115-5-L135, according to
the size of the district.

The _Telephone Service_ also offers a few important posts to women.
In the London Telephone Service a Woman Superintendent is appointed
at L200-10-L300, 9 Supervisors at L159-6-L190, and 40 Assistant
Supervisors at L110-5-L145. There are about 3,600 Women Telephonists
employed within the London postal area. The salaries of Supervisors in
the provinces vary from L125-5-L150 to L105-5-L120, according to the
size of the district.

The variety of work, which is now efficiently performed by women in
the various departments above enumerated, seems to prove conclusively
that when other branches are opened to them they will be equally

In the statements recently submitted to the Royal Commission of the
Civil Service on behalf of various women's organisations, the reasons
for throwing open to women the more highly paid and responsible posts
were admirably set forth.

On behalf of the Association of Headmistresses it was stated by Miss
R. Oldham:--

"In asking that in future some of the more highly paid
and responsible posts in the Civil Service should be thrown
open to women, the Headmistresses are conscious of the
fact that modern economic conditions have evolved the
woman who must of necessity, as well as by choice,
become self-supporting. The professions of teaching,
medicine, art, and literature offer openings with adequate
remuneration for the highly educated young woman of
to-day. Those lower branches of the Civil Service which,
with a few exceptions, alone are open to women do not
supply posts of enough responsibility and administrative
power to prove attractive to able women of secondary
school and university education, many of whom, in the
opinion of the Headmistresses are fitted, both by their
education and by their natural ability, to fill positions
of equal responsibility with their brothers.

"They desire to submit the following reasons why
women should be considered eligible for positions of
administrative responsibility in the service of the
State :--

"(1) Women have shown by their success in positions
of great responsibility that they are capable of
undertaking high administrative work.

"(2) Women have special gifts for social investigation
and inquiry, and special knowledge in many
important subjects, which ought to be used
in the service of the State.

"(3) Under present conditions of women's employment
in the Service, the ablest and most
highly qualified women do not enter it.

"(4) The presence of a large number of women in
the lower branches of the Civil Service makes
it desirable that there should be women
employed in higher and more responsible
posts. This would have the effect of ensuring
good discipline and judicious promotion.

"(5) The present almost total exclusion of women
from high and responsible posts has the effect
of discrediting them as applicants for such
posts outside the Service. Private employers
when asked to give women opportunities for
rising to posts of responsibility, are able to
point to the failure of the Government to
do so."

In the statement submitted by Mrs W.L.
Courtney on behalf of the Council on Women's
Employment in the Civil Service the claim was

"That women should be eligible for first division
appointments, or equivalent appointments, in suitable
offices, such as the Education Office, the Local Government
Board, the Home Office, the Insurance Commission,
and the Board of Trade. It has already been found
necessary to appoint women to responsible posts in the
Inspectorate of each of these offices, and the same
reasons which justify those appointments point also to
the desirability of appointing women to positions in the
corresponding internal administrative service."

There is another point to be remembered in this connection; it is
important that the recommendations made by Women Inspectors should
have the chance of being considered and acted upon by women in an
administrative capacity, as well as by men. Otherwise there is danger
that the women's point of view put forward by an Inspector may be
overlooked or her recommendations brushed aside.

Miss Penrose, Principal of Somerville College, Oxford, in her
statement for the Royal Commission, said:

"In branches of the Service, such as the Home Office,
the Local Government Board, and the Board of Trade, in
which a good deal of work is done, or should be done, by
women because it is concerned with women, I think it
would be an advantage to have one or more women on
the general administrative staff, which deals with the
work of the departments as a whole.

"If a board which deals with human beings, does not
employ women except to carry out the policy of the
Board, after that policy has been initiated, shaped and
embodied in regulations, it may not infrequently be found
that regulations unsuitable in some respects to be applied
to women have been drafted, or that unnecessary differences
of treatment have been created. Just as in so far
as women look at things from a different angle it is
important that their point of view should be at the service
of a department at as early a stage as possible."

An illustration of this may be found in the draft Order for the
regulation of Poor Law Institutions which is now before the public.
This draft has been drawn up by a departmental committee of the Local
Government Board, composed entirely of men, notwithstanding that it
will regulate the administration of institutions staffed by women
and having large numbers of women and children as inmates. It is not
surprising to find that the draft Order meets with the disapproval of
many women engaged in poor law work.

The Council on Women's Employment also claimed:--

"That women should be made eligible or considered
for appointment--

"As scientific specialists, especially museum assistants
and keepers. The area of choice would thus be enlarged
in cases where there is sometimes a very small number of
suitable candidates. Women have been notably successful
in original work in various departments of botany, and
have done valuable original work in bacteriology and
archaeology. They are already employed as scientific
specialists in certain departments and in temporary work
for the British Museum, though hitherto excluded from
its permanent service.

"As librarians, keepers of records and papers, and
assistants to the holders of these offices, and to positions
requiring qualifications for statistical work and historical
knowledge, such as those in the Public Record Office.

"That appointments in suitable offices should be opened
to women between the ages of 19 and 24, who have either
passed or can pass an examination equivalent to that of
male second division clerks, or clerks of the intermediate
class, according to the practice of the department in
filling its appointments. It seems desirable that the
abilities of women who would otherwise be occupied in
business, teaching, secretarial and clerical, and other work,
much of which is closely comparable with that of second
division and intermediate clerks, should be available for
the work of the Civil Service, especially in the offices
already mentioned in connection with the first division

These claims, pertinent as they are, and strongly as they should be
urged, need to be extended still further.

Women claim to be admitted to share in the administrative work, not
only of those departments directly concerned with women, but also
in those in which the work concerns equally men and women as
citizens--_e.g._, the Treasury, the Foreign Office, the Colonial
Office, the Inland Revenue. No one could argue that the work of these
departments is unsuitable for women, any more than is the work of the
General Post Office, in which they have so conspicuously succeeded.
Even the War Office, with the charge of so many soldiers' wives and
children living in barracks, removed from the jurisdiction of all
civic services, and the control of so large a number of Army Nurses,
needs women amongst its administrators.

The claim must also be made quite clearly, that in throwing open these
posts to women, the same method of recruiting must be employed as
for men, and the remuneration must be at the same rate. In asking for
these opportunities women are simply asking that the sex disability
which at present bars them from the majority of posts in the service,
may be removed. They do not seek admission in some special way, nor do
they wish to undercut men by accepting lower salaries. They ask that
the sex barrier may be removed in the case of both Class I. and Class
II. appointments--in other words, that these appointments may be open
to them on the same conditions as they are or may be open to men.

In the case of the majority of the appointments hitherto held by
women, some care has been taken to put them on a different footing
from those of men; in these instances it is not easy to compare the
work of women with that of men, or to urge the claim of women to
be paid at the same rate as men for work of equal value. There are,
however, some conspicuous instances--_e.g._, of the Factory Inspectors
and Inspectors of Schools--in which no such differentiation is
possible and in which the only reason for paying the women less than
the men seems to be that given by the ex-Permanent Secretary of the
Treasury in his evidence before the Royal Commission on the Civil
Service, "that women ought to be got as cheaply as possible, and that
if they can be got for less, they ought not to be paid the same as

There seems some ground for believing that official opinion in
this matter is undergoing modification, since in the case of later
appointments--_e.g._, in the Labour Exchanges and in the National
Health Insurance Commission--the tendency has been to approximate the
salaries of women much more closely to those of men and even in some
instances to make them identical. It is therefore reasonable to hope
that the principle of equal pay for equal work will, before long, be
extended to appointments of longer standing, in which its application
would be no less just than in the case of new appointments.



So far as the position of its women workers is concerned, the State is
very far from being the model employer it sometimes professes to
be. When one considers the very wide disparity existing between the
salaries for similar work of women and of men, one realises to what
an enormous extent the Exchequer, and, consequently, the taxpayer, has
benefited by the economies practised at the expense of the women Civil
Servants ever since their introduction in the early seventies.
There is not a shadow of doubt that economy was the motive for their
employment, but even economy would not have justified the continued
increase in their numbers, had they not exhibited what has been
called by a high official, "remarkable efficiency," and also the very
desirable qualities of docility, patience, and conscientiousness.

When the Government first took over the telegraphs from the private
companies, it found women in their employ, and decided to retain them
in the service. Women Telegraphists and Counter Clerks are now a very
large body numbering in London about 2,000, and in the Provinces about
5,000,--a total of 7,000 women as compared with 16,000 men. The duties
of men and women telegraphists are more closely comparable than their
respective work in any other class in the Civil Service, practically
the only differentiation being that women are debarred from night
duty. They are also generally exempt from Sunday duty, excessive late
duty, and special duties in connection with race meetings, although
the Hobhouse Committee in 1907 recommended that women should do the
Sunday work if required. (As, however, payment for this is made at a
higher rate, there is usually no lack of volunteers.) Their scale
of salary in the Central Telegraph Office is 18s. a week at eighteen
years of age, rising to a maximum of 40s. The men's scale is 20s.
rising to 65s. When the necessary technical qualifications are
acquired, an allowance of 3s. a week carried beyond the maximum and
pensionable, is now given to both sexes alike. Formerly the technical
allowance for women was 1s. 6d. per week only, and this would appear
to account for the lower proportion of women who have qualified for
the technical increment.

There appears to be a tendency to stereotype certain kinds of work for
men only, in order to justify the differentiation in pay, but in
point of fact, most of the work now exclusively allotted to male
telegraphists was at one time done by women. The work done by men and
women Counter Clerks is identical. The women in the Telegraph Service
have no separate organisation, but combine with the men in the Postal
Telegraph Clerks' Association, which has a large number of branches,
and carries on a very active campaign for improvement in pay and
conditions of service. Equal pay for equal work is one of the planks
in its platform, and formed part of the case put forward before the
Select Committee on Post Office Servants last year.

Women Clerks are employed in the great financial Services of the
General Post Office, the Savings Bank Department, Money Order
Department (including the Postal Order Branch), Accountant-General's
Department, and the Controller's Office of the London Telephone
Service, as well as in the Accountant's Departments of the General
Post Offices in Edinburgh and Dublin. In all, they number nearly
3,000. It may, perhaps, be of interest to go into the history of this

Women Clerks were first introduced into the General Post Office
in 1871 by Mr Scudamore, who considered that as women were more
"fault-finding" than men, they might well be used as "a check on the
somewhat illiterate postmasters of the United Kingdom in the
interests of a somewhat long-suffering public." Entry was at first
by nomination, but in 1881 the appointment of Women Clerks was thrown
open to the public by competitive examination by Mr Fawcett, who was
then Postmaster General. This step met with some opposition, and Queen
Victoria even caused a letter to be written to Mr Fawcett expressing
her strong disapproval of the change. The Postmaster-General, however,
carried his point, and fixed the scale of salary at L65, rising by L3
per annum to L80. When the working day was increased from six to seven
hours, the maximum was raised to L100. The revisions of the Tweedmouth
Inter-Departmental Committee came into force in 1897, involving many
concessions to the male staff, and simultaneously the minimum salary
of the Women Clerks was, without any warning, reduced for new entrants
to L55 per annum, and the increment for the first six years was
reduced to L2, 10s.

Realising the defencelessness of their position, the Women Clerks
formed an Association in 1901, and so strong was the case for
improvement which they were able to bring before the Hobhouse
Parliamentary Committee of 1906, that in spite of considerable
misrepresentation of their work in the evidence given by Heads of
Departments, they were able not only to get back the 1881 minimum of
L65, but were awarded further an increased increment of L5 throughout
the scale and a rise of L10 in the maximum. This was the position
until December 1911, when a tentative scheme was introduced in the
Money Order Department to hand over all the simpler duties to a new
class of Assistant Women Clerks with an eight-hour day and a wage
of 18s. rising to 34s. a week. The Association of Post Office Women
Clerks, the basis of which is "equal pay and opportunities for women
with men in the Civil Service," and which therefore necessarily
stands for simplification of the classes of employment, regarded
the restriction of a fresh grade of women to yet another water-tight
compartment at a low wage as in itself an evil. But apart from this,
they looked upon the scheme as a deliberate evasion of the Hobhouse
Committee's recommendations. So strong was the criticism levelled at
the new scheme, both by Members of Parliament and the Press, that the
Postmaster-General, Mr Herbert Samuel, consented to refer the
matter to the Select Committee on the Post Office (known as the Holt
Committee)[1], which was appointed in the early part of 1912, and
he gave an undertaking that no more appointments to the new grade
should be made in the Money Order Department until the Committee had
reported, The value of this concession was considerably lessened by
its limited application, and the fact that many Assistant Women Clerks
were subsequently appointed to the London Telephone Service, clearly
indicated the intention of the authorities to proceed with the
development of the scheme in a Department which provided an easier
field of operation in the shape of new work and a new staff taken over
from the National Telephone Company.

In 1897 the class of Girl Clerks was created, to undertake some of the
simpler duties in the Savings Bank Department, hitherto performed by
Women Clerks. They were subsequently introduced into the Money
Order Department and the Controller's Office of the London Telephone
Service, and there are approximately 250 now employed. They take
the same examination as Women Clerks, but at a lower age--sixteen
to eighteen--and are grouped apart for the purpose of marking. Their
hours of duty are seven daily, and their salary L42, raising by L3 per
annum, to L48. They are in reality a probationary class, and become
Women Clerks automatically after two years' service. The introduction
of this class was not considered by the Department to be an
administrative success, as the obligation to make them Women Clerks in
two years prevented their being employed in sufficiently large numbers
to effect any appreciable economy. The scheme for the introduction of
the grade of Assistant Woman Clerk involved the abolition of the Girl

The Women Clerks are an analogous grade to the Male Clerks of the
Second Division who are common to the whole Civil Service, and they
do practically the same class of work. The examinations for the
two classes are somewhat severe in character and are roughly
comparable.[2] There is, however, a wide disparity in the salaries
paid, as will be seen from the following comparison:--


L70 by L7, 10s. per an. to L130
thence by L10 per an. to L200
thence by L10 per an. to L300
(Efficiency Bar at L130 and

Above the salary of L300 advancement
to higher posts by promotion.


_Second Class_--
L65 by L5 per an. to L100
(No Efficiency Bar)

_First Class _(by promotion)--
L115 by L5 to L140

Above the rank of First Class
Clerk there are certain higher
posts which constitute a percentage
of 4.6 of the total
number of First and Second
Class Clerks.

The existence of this double standard of payment for the same kind
of work is not only an injustice to the women concerned, but is a
standing menace to the men, who rightly consider that the presence
of women as a blackleg class keeps down their wages and reduces their
prospect of promotion. A sense of irritation and dissatisfaction is
thus engendered between the two sexes. The maintenance of separate
staffs of similar status but with different rates of remuneration,
enables the department to play off one against the other, for the
existence of a lower paid class makes it increasingly difficult for
the Men Clerks to substantiate a claim for better pay themselves. The
standard of their work is raised by the "moving-down" or "degrading"
of duties, without any improvement in pay such as they would probably
be able to obtain if women were not involuntarily undercutting them.
Women fully sympathise with their male colleagues, whose prospects
are injured in this way, but they insist that the only solution of
the difficulty is equal treatment and fair and open competition.
The Association of Clerks of the Second Division supported the Women
Clerks' claim for equal pay for equal work in their evidence before
the Royal Commission on the Civil Service, and it is gratifying that,
in spite of the determined policy of the department to adhere as far
as possible to the absurd segregation of the sexes, the two organised
bodies of Men and Women Clerks are on excellent terms.

In 1883 the class of Women Sorters was instituted, its original scale
of pay ranging from 12s. per week, increasing by annual increments of
1s. to 20s. per week. In 1885 a first class was created with a maximum
of 30s. per week. The Tweedmouth Committee of 1897 abolished the
classification, and substituted therefor an efficiency bar at 21s.,
so that, unless incompetent, all the Women Sorters have a right to
proceed to the maximum of 30s. Since the salary was fixed at that
figure, the work of the Sorters has greatly improved in character.
Originally introduced for the purpose of sorting, arranging, and
filing the multitudinous kinds of official documents and papers,
they have by degrees taken over more and more of the simpler duties
formerly performed by the Women Clerks, until, at the present day,
it is no exaggeration to say that nearly one-half of their duties
consists of elementary clerical work. The Women Sorters are recruited
from an examination of the same standard as that hitherto applied
to Telegraphists, and the Women Sorters' Association claims that the
principle of equality between Sorters and Telegraphists, which was
recommended to the department by the Tweedmouth Committee in 1897,
should be applied to the Women Sorters. Prior to 1900, vacancies
occurring in the female staff at the Returned Letter Office were
filled by transferred Women Telegraphists, but since that date,
vacancies have been filled by successful candidates at the Women
Sorters' examinations, who are awarded the Women Telegraphists' scale
of pay. There is, therefore, the anomaly of two different scales
of pay being given to successful candidates in the Women Sorters'
examinations. The Women Sorters also claim some outlet, or prospect of
advancement, other than that provided by the "Senior Sorterships,"
of which there are a few in each department, carrying a supervising
allowance of 3s. a week; this claim has been partly met by the
apportionment of the new posts of Assistant Women Clerks previously

Women Telephone Operators are a large and rapidly growing class,
recruited entirely by nomination followed by a qualifying examination.
They number at the present time about 4,000, including Supervisors.
The growing use of the telephone is replacing the telegraph, and
is likely to make of this class a serious rival to the grade of
Telegraphist. In this connection, it is important to recognise that
the change is likely to entail an enormous increase in the use of
cheap labour. The maximum salary of the Telephonist in London is only
28s. per week. The work is extremely exacting and exhausting to the
nervous system, so much so, that it is an absolute necessity for the
maintenance of health that proper and adequate rest-room accommodation
should be provided, and that the operators should be equipped with
apparatus of the proper type.

The classes already mentioned have, until the present year (1913),
been recruited solely for the Post Office, but the class of Women
Typists, numbering about 600, are a Treasury Class, and are common to
the whole Civil Service, the conditions of entry varying according
to the Department. In the Post Office alone, are Typists recruited
by open competitive examination. The scale of salary is 20s. a week,
rising in three years to 26s.: they then have the option of qualifying
in shorthand, after which they can rise to 31s. per week. In the Post
Office, however, the number allowed to qualify in this way is
limited to 50 per cent. of the staff. The supervising posts are:
Superintendent, 35s. a week, and Chief Superintendent, 40s. a week.
No higher positions are open to Typists anywhere, no matter how good
their qualifications and educational equipment. The Association of
Civil Service Typists claim some avenue of promotion to clerical work
in the Departments in which they serve.

There are also about 650 women employed by the Board of Trade in the
Labour Exchange Service. With the exception of about 180, who were
transferred from the Post Office for Unemployment Insurance Work under
Part II. of the National Insurance Act, these women were admitted
by the new method of recruitment adopted by the Civil Service
Commissioner under Clause VII. of the Order in Council of January
1910. Under this system, applications are invited, and a certain
number of apparently suitable candidates are interviewed by a
committee of selection, and those chosen for appointment are
subsequently required to pass a qualifying examination. The
educational standard of this examination, for both men and women,
is so low that it appears to be designed, not for the purpose
of selecting candidates of good general education, but merely to
eliminate the illiterate.

The scale of salary for these posts is the same for women as for men,
and is as follows:--

Lower Grade L60, rising by increments of L5
per annum to L105.
Higher Grade L110, rising by increments of
L5 per annum to L150.

There are also a few higher appointments. Women are, however, under
a particular disability in that they must wait for a vacancy in the
Higher Grade before passing on beyond L105, whilst in the case of
the Men Clerks there is no such stoppage, officers being allowed to
proceed straight on, if certified efficient.

It will, no doubt, have been observed that the post of Women Clerk is
the highest in the Service open to women by competitive examination,
and with the exception of some sixteen or eighteen appointments in the
Board of Education, Women Clerks have hitherto been recruited for the
Post Office alone. They are now being recruited from this examination
for the National Health Insurance Commissions. The exclusion of Women
Clerks from the numerous State Departments such as the Home Office,
Local Government Board, Inland Revenue, etc., is mainly traditional,
as they are not excluded by the wording of the Order in Council of
10th January 1910 (paragraph 5, Part I.) which states that

"all appointments ... shall be made by means of competitive
examinations according to regulations framed, or
to be from time to time framed by the Commissioners,
and approved by the Treasury, _open to all persons_(of the
requisite age, health, character, and other qualifications
prescribed in the said regulations) who may be desirous
of attending the same...."

In this passage the word "persons" is interpreted to mean men only,
but as other professions are yielding to the pressure of modern
economic conditions and are opening their doors to women, it is
time that the State considered the advisability of profiting by the
services of women eminently fitted to perform clerical, organising,
and administrative duties, many of whom may possess the special
qualifications needed for the work in various Government Departments.

The present limitation of the employment of women, and their lack of
prospects of advancement constitutes a serious grievance. Whilst many
avenues are open to men to improve their condition in the early years
of service, if they possess the necessary ability and enterprise,
women have no such opportunities, and have practically no chance of
advancement except by way of supervision in their own grade. Moreover,
if we look at this question from the point of view of advantage to the
community, we find that the present mode of staffing the higher posts
of the service from the male sex narrows the field of selection. It is
in the interests of the public that the best type of officer should be
secured, and not merely the best male available, and the unrestricted
admission of women to the higher classes in the Civil Service, and
their payment on the same terms as men would make for the greater
efficiency of the Department, by securing the services of highly
qualified women, who at present are not attracted by the small
salaries and the meagre prospects offered. It must also be realised by
heads of families that they have a right to expect that the service of
the State--a dignified, secure, and independent profession--should be
open to their daughters as well as to their sons. Furthermore, as
the revenue, out of which the salaries of Civil Servants are paid, is
collected from women as well as from men, women should have an equal
right to earn those salaries.

Economy in working and simplification of administration would be
attained by abolishing the separate examinations, and allowing men and
women to enter for the same examinations on equal terms.

There are certain advantages attached to service under the State,
which are taken into account when salaries are fixed, but the value
of these privileges to the staff is frequently over-estimated by
the outsider. For instance, security of tenure and the prospect of
a pension at retirement, often act as a deterrent to clever and
enterprising officers who, but for the sacrifice involved, would
throw up their appointment and seek more remunerative and promising
employment outside. Again, the medical attendance provided by the
Post Office is, in the case of the women employed in the Headquarters
Departments, only available in practice when they are well enough to
attend at the office to wait on the Medical Officer there. In theory,
every employee is entitled to the services of a Medical Officer at her
own home in case of serious illness, but, in fact, the Women Medical
Officers are too few to be able to give the necessary individual
attention. As an instance of this, it may be stated that to one
Department, numbering 1,800 women, the part time of one doctor only,
is allotted.

Other advantages are a steadily progressing scale of salary,
provided that efficient service is rendered; annual leave with pay;
a reasonable working day--seven hours for the clerical force and the
typists, and eight hours for the other classes; in most Departments
payment is made for overtime; a pension on compulsory retirement after
ten years' service, except in the case of women retired on marriage,
when a gratuity is given after six years' service, amounting to
one month's salary for every year of service up to twelve years.
A compassionate allowance is also given on the same basis for both
sexes, in cases where an officer is compelled to retire through
ill-health before completing ten years' service. Sick pay is granted
up to a maximum of six months on full pay and six months on half
pay. The full period of leave is not, however, always allowed before
retirement. It is given only at the discretion of the Department,
if there is a chance of complete recovery; officers have no definite
claim to it. Although these are distinct advantages to the staff, it
must not be overlooked that it is essential for the State to offer
some inducements of this kind, in order to obtain a staff more or less
permanent who will regard their employment as a career. It is most
important for the proper conduct of a Government office that the
officials should have a lasting interest in their work, and a share in
the successful administration of the Department.

Women Civil Servants are under the Superannuation Act of 1859 as
regards their pensions, and receive an amount equal to one-sixtieth
of their annual salary at retirement, for every year of service. Under
the Courtney Scheme of 1909, the basis of calculation is one-eightieth
instead of one-sixtieth, and the reduction in the pension is
compensated by a cash payment at retirement, or, in the event of
death occurring whilst in harness, a cash payment is made to the
next-of-kin. Women secured their exclusion from the provisions of the
latter scheme at their own request, as it was felt that the larger
pension was of more value to them than the cash payment at death or
retirement; moreover their pensions were already too small to admit of
further diminution.

It is a general rule throughout the Service that a woman must retire
on marriage; as already mentioned, a compensating-bonus is granted in
respect of the loss of pension thereby sustained. A married woman has
no definite claim to return to her employment, should she again desire
to earn her own living, and only if widowed is she allowed, in certain
circumstances, to return to the Service. Should any other misfortune
overtake her, or should she for any other reason wish to become
economically independent, she is not allowed to earn her living by
means of her own profession of Civil Servant. This rule of the Service
undoubtedly acts as a deterrent to marriage for, according to the
statistics published, only about 3 per cent. of the whole female staff
annually leave to be married. It need hardly be pointed out that
in the present state of the law of the land, when no portion of a
husband's income is secured to his wife as a right, a woman will not
lightly throw up her means of livelihood with no prospect of returning
to it should she so desire, in order to take her chance of happiness
with a man whom the law permits to hold her in subjection body and
soul. There is another aspect of the question: Women Civil Servants
have to pass a strict medical examination before entering the Service;
they have to furnish satisfactory evidence of respectability, of the
health of their antecedents, and of a certain standard of education.
They are therefore what is known as "selected lives": if these women
are forced to remain celibate as a condition of their employment,
it is a distinct loss to the nation of a specially selected class
of potential mothers. In these days, when the declining birthrate is
causing some concern to our statesmen, it would surely be worth their
while to consider how far they are themselves contributing to the
condition of affairs which they deplore, by maintaining this rigid
regulation for the sake of a worn-out sentiment. The compulsory
resignation on marriage is a definite wrong both to the women
concerned and to the community at large, for women of selected health
and intellect are discouraged from marriage by this regulation.
Pending the final settlement of this question which is likely to be a
very controversial one, the difficulty might be met by a modification
of the existing rule allowing married women who have been Civil
Servants to return to their employment should they again desire to
earn their own living by means of the only profession for which they
have qualified.

Women in the Civil Service are in a peculiar position with regard
to their rights as citizens. They are handicapped by all the rules
governing the political action of men, while they are without the
means of maintaining their status as wage-earners. Although they
are prohibited by reason of their sex, from taking part in any
Parliamentary election as voters, they are nevertheless bound by the
rules of the Civil Service which were drawn up when Civil Servants
were first enfranchised. These rules state that "now officers have
been relieved of the electoral disabilities to which they were
formerly subject, they are eligible to be placed on the Parliamentary
Register and to vote at a parliamentary election. Nevertheless, it
is expected of them as Public Servants that they should maintain a
certain reserve in political matters and not put themselves forward
on one side or the other." This rule has been interpreted by the
Department to mean that no Woman Civil Servant may take an active part
in any Suffrage Society which interferes in party politics. Thus women
are forced to accept a subservient position, and are also prevented
from taking direct steps to raise their status. The principle of equal
pay for equal work, if conceded without equal opportunities, is liable
to be evaded, and must be safeguarded by statute, and there is no
guarantee that any improvement gained will be permanent until women
have political power to enforce their demands, for the masculine
point of view dominates every Government Department and colours all

Moreover, it should be borne in mind that women are handicapped by
being, to a large degree, dependent on reports of their work emanating
from male Heads of Departments who are in many cases prejudiced,
sometimes unconsciously, against their employment. Heads of
Departments do not as a rule take the same amount of personal interest
as a private employer in the women under their control, and so these
are frequently the victims of caprice. If the person in authority at
a particular office happens to object to employing women, he actually
opposes their appointment in that office, and deprives them of the
chance of displaying their ability. Whilst they have more than their
fair share of routine work, and are excluded from practically all the
higher posts, they are on that account actually accused of possessing
less initiative, less administrative ability, and less power of acting
in sudden emergencies than men. It is indeed a vicious circle. They
are prevented by their sex from acquiring these qualities in the
ordinary course of their duties and excluded from the examinations for
admission to those posts in which such qualities would be of use. It
is then seriously urged by responsible officials of the Civil Service
as an argument against their admittance to superior appointments, that
they are lacking in the necessary qualifications.

Such unreasonable and unfair criticism creates bitterness in the minds
of the women, who find themselves, in a large number of cases, saddled
with domestic responsibilities as great or greater than those of the
officials who would seek to drive them back into the home, and who
endeavour to prevent them from rising to any decent positions in their
profession. An encouraging sign, however, is the enlightened attitude
shown by some of the members of the Royal Commission on the Civil
Service; the pertinent enquiries made of the Heads of Departments
regarding the position of women tend to show that the question will,
at least, receive consideration, and that the evidence placed before
the Commission by the women's organisations will not be without its
effect on the administration of the Civil Service in the future.

The recognition by the male staff in the Civil Service of the
importance of the principle of equal pay for equal work is a sign of
advance which should be welcomed by all who have the cause of women
at heart. This increased enlightenment was evidenced at the Annual
Conference of the Civil Service Federation held at the Guildhall
on the 11th October last. Delegates were present, representing
approximately 100,000 Civil Servants, and the following resolution,
which is important enough to be quoted in full, was passed by a
majority of 31 votes to 10.

"That this Council expresses its conviction that equal
pay for equal work is the only solution of the problem
of male and female labour in the Civil Service, and
considers that the establishment of this principle is the
only alternative to the competition of cheapness which
is the result of the existing double standard of payment,
and is affecting so injuriously the conditions of service
of both men and women. It therefore pledges itself to
endeavour to obtain the abolition of the sex disability."

Women in the Service are realising more and more that their strength
lies in effective combination. A new organisation has recently sprung
into being as a result of the introduction of Women Clerks into
the Board of Trade and the National Health Insurance Service, the
Federation of Civil Service Women Clerks having been formed for
the purpose of working for the larger interests of the women in the
various clerical departments of the Civil Service. The general policy
of the Federation will be to afford a ready means of communication
between various sections of the Service for the purpose of taking
joint action when necessary in the interests of the whole body of
Women Clerks, and to enable them to concentrate more effectively on
the larger issues connected with the claim for equality of opportunity
for women with men in the Civil Service.

* * * * *

This article will not be complete without some reference to the
Report of the Holt Committee which is engaging the attention of the
Postmaster General at the present time.

When the Report was published in August last, it was generally agreed
that the women had been badly treated. The demand for equality of
remuneration with the male staff which was put forward by the Women
Telegraphists and the Women Clerks has been completely ignored. The
Women Sorters are awarded an increase of 2s. a week in the maximum
salary, and, as a set off, it is proposed that they shall undertake
a larger portion of the minor clerical duties now performed by Women
Clerks. The immediate supervision of the Women Sorters is to be met
by the establishment of the Senior Sorters (who at present receive a
supervising allowance of 3s. a week) as a regular supervising class
with a fixed scale of salary, viz., 32s. per week rising by 1s. 6d.
to 38s. The ultimate supervision remains in the hands of the Women
Clerks. The Committee recommended the abandonment of the tentative new
grade of Female Assistant Clerks on the ground that there is no need
for a class intermediate between the Women Sorters and the Girl
and Women Clerks. A further recommendation, causing widespread
dissatisfaction, is that the hours of duty shall be increased by three
and a half hours per week. The eight-hour day for manipulative
work and the seven-hour day for clerical work has hitherto been the
standard working day in the Post Office, and the suggested increase
with no compensating rise in salary apart from an immediate increment,
not to be carried above the maximum of the scale, has been rejected by
all classes with indignation.[3] The Women Telegraphists get nothing,
the Women Telephonists nothing, the Women Clerks of the First
and Second classes, L10 and L5 increase in the maximum salary
respectively. The Women Counter Clerks and Telegraphists in the
provinces get nothing, although the men of the same class get 2s. a
week increase in the maximum.

It is understood from a reliable source that the higher officials of
the Post Office admit that the women on the whole have been scurvily
treated, and it is confidently expected that the Postmaster General
will modify and improve some of the proposals when the final revision
of the Report is undertaken. Apart from the various class interests,
the only recommendation that can be regarded as in any way
satisfactory to women is the abolition of the grade of Assistant Women
Clerks as at present constituted. The only form in which the new grade
could be at all acceptable would be in substitution for the grades of
Girl Clerk and Women Sorter with a scale of salary comparable to the
Male Assistant Clerk, in accordance with the claim placed before the
Holt Commission and before the Royal Commission on the Civil Service.
The insertion of a new water-tight compartment such as the Department
proposed, between the Women Sorters and Women Clerks would be
dangerous to the interests, and detrimental to the expansion of
both, while the present restriction of women to rank and file work
continues. It would press the Sorters still further down in the scale
by depriving them of all opportunity of succeeding to clerical work,
as the recruitment of the Assistant Clerks from their ranks would
inevitably be very small; and it would also injure the prospects
of promotion of the Women Clerks by decreasing their numbers and by
depriving them of higher posts due to growth of work and increase of
staff. This latter result was clearly foreseen by the Department when
the scheme was first promulgated. Moreover, it would be a blow to the
general status of women in the Post Office by depreciating the value
of their work and lowering the standard of their employment. It is a
matter for congratulation, therefore, that the Select Committee have
advised the abolition of the new grade, and the Postmaster General,
having agreed in the House of Commons to refer the matter to the
arbitrament of the Parliamentary Committee, can hardly repudiate their

[Footnote 1: See the end of the article for the Report of the Holt

[Footnote 2: The women are pressing for identical examinations.

[Footnote 3: The Postmaster General has recently (December 1913),
conceded the point, and has promised that there shall be no increase
in the hours of duty in the Post Office Service; concessions about pay
have been refused. [EDITOR.]]



The salary of the woman secretary of the best class, whether working
privately or for a firm, seems to be L100 to L150 a year. Generally
speaking, this is exactly what it was twenty years ago. It would seem
that the highest salaries are those given by City men to confidential
clerks (sometimes relatives), who are either good accountants or good
linguists. The head of an influential typing office and registry in
London informed me that the highly paid posts of translators to City
firms are usually filled by German girls. The woman receiving L200 to
L250 is a very rare person. I know only of one who receives L5 a
week, and that is from an American firm in London. She does
private secretarial work, but has no book-keeping and no foreign
correspondence. Some years ago I knew of another woman, private
secretary to the head of a large publishing firm, who had L200 a year.
She was an efficient French correspondent, an able, all-round woman,
and had been with the firm for twenty years. There are now two clerks
in her place at much lower salaries. There seems to be a tendency to
employ two cheap clerks in place of one expensive one.

People unacquainted with the facts, seldom realise how small is the
remuneration of capable secretaries. I am acquainted with the work of
a woman who has the following qualifications: verbatim shorthand, neat
typing and sound knowledge of secretarial and business work, including
book-keeping; she is methodical and conscientious in her work, has had
some years' City Experience, three years in the shorthand and typing
offices in the Houses of Parliament and with peers and members. She is
asking 45s. a week, and would take 40s. "with prospects."

Well-paid posts seem to be exceptional. A woman with an intimate
knowledge of City conditions, who was chief accountant to an important
firm for sixteen years, informs me that L175 is the highest salary she
has ever known a woman clerk to receive. The lowest on record seems
to be 5s. a week. There is a woman running a typing office in the City
who hires out shorthand typists at this figure to business firms.
She employs a staff of from fifteen to twenty girls. Similarly, an
industrial insurance company, nine months ago, opened a new department
to deal with the work of the new Act. They engaged fifty girl clerks
at 10s. with a superintendent, also a woman, at 30s. a week.

There is sometimes difficulty in getting accurate information with
regard to payments. The heads of typing schools and colleges are apt
to give too rosy a picture, and the individual clerk has usually a
somewhat narrow experience and is inclined to be pessimistic. A man
whom I interviewed (in place of the manager, who was engaged), at
one of the biggest schools for training clerks, informed me that
everything depended on the clerk. He said the girls who were getting
10s. a week were not worth more, and that there were "many" women
clerks getting from L300 to L350. I said I was delighted to hear this
as I had had difficulty in running to earth the woman clerk with
L200, and had not before heard of the higher salaries. I took out my
notebook and begged for particulars. He then said he knew of "one" of
their diplomees working for a firm of florists, who had a salary
of L300: she was able to correspond in English, French, German, and
Spanish. I asked if he would kindly give me her name and address that
I might interview her, but he said he could not possibly do that, as
any woman clerk who allowed herself to be interviewed would be certain
to lose her post.

The manager of a business in Manchester, who employs five shorthand
typists, pays them from 15s. to 30s. He admits that it is impossible
for the girls to live on their salaries unless they are at home with
their parents, as is the case with all of them. But he says that it
is unreasonable to expect him to give more than the market rates, and
that for 30s. he gets excellent service. He suggests that the only way
to raise wages is for the clerks to organise.

The principal of a high class typing office in the City, a woman of
experience, who trains only a select number of educated girls, never
allows a pupil from her school to begin at less than 25s. a week with
a prospect of speedy increase. She pays her own translator L3, 5s.
a week, and four members of her staff are paid at the rate of L160 a

Mr Elvin, Secretary of the Union of Clerks, tries to enforce a minimum
wage of 35s. a week as the beginning salary for an expert shorthand
typist, and this may be regarded as the present Trade Union rate. Mr
Elvin's difficulty is chiefly with the girls themselves. They are so
accustomed to the idea of women being paid less than men that it is
not easy to get them to insist on equal pay. In one case he was asked
to supply a woman secretary for a certain post. He agreed to find a
suitable person if the firm would guarantee a commencing salary of
35s. a week. After some demur this was conceded, and he sent to a
well-known school for three competent clerks that he might examine
them and recommend the best of the three. After the test he asked
them, in turn, what salary they expected. They were all over
twenty-one years of age and all competent. One mentioned 25s., the
second 23s., and the third L1 a week. On being asked, they said they
knew they were worth more, but they thought that, as they were women,
they would not get it.

Where there is no one to safeguard the interests of the clerk, an
employer, on the look-out for cheap labour, finds it easily enough.
The head of a big firm offered a French girl, an expert shorthand
writer in three languages, 15s. a week, with a possible rise after
three months. She finally accepted a post at 30s. a week as she could
get nothing better through registries or by advertisement.

Unless a girl has a claim on a school where she has trained, or has
influential friends, it is very difficult for her to get a post suited
to her needs in London. The whole profession seems to be in a chaotic
condition, and the chances through advertisement are haphazard and
unsatisfactory. Employment bureaux maintain that there are more good
posts than there are qualified women to fill them, but individual
secretaries are timid about giving up unsatisfactory posts as they do
not know how to get better.

Take the case of a private secretary to a Member of Parliament.
He loses his seat, retires to the country, and gives up his London
secretary. He gives her a number of introductions. These lead to
nothing, and she is forced into the competition of the City. Her
particular training is of no use in a commercial office, and her value
falls to 30s. a week.

A woman with an intimate knowledge of women clerks and secretaries
in the City for the past twenty years, says that it is difficult to
overestimate the poverty of a vast number of girls. Many of them are
the chief breadwinners of the family. She knows of half a dozen cases
of men of forty and a little older who are living on the earnings of
their daughters; there may be two girls in the family, one getting
12s. and the other 25s. a week.

The private secretary who lives in, has usually excellent food and
pleasant surroundings, but in some cases the life is a solitary
one. Unless there is a governess or other educated employee in the
household, she has no companionship. The salary varies from L30 to
L120 and sometimes more. There is apparently no fixed rate. One lady

"For two years I lived in the house of Sir----, the most hopelessly
isolated and uninteresting existence, within the four walls of his
study. A secretary should certainly stick out for a free week-end once
a month when living in. Isolation is horribly bad for one."

The secretary living in with congenial literary or medical people,
where she is made one of the family circle, has a happier time, but
the payment is not high.

Apart from salary, the conditions in which the woman clerk works are
by no means ideal.

Twenty years ago, in a far northern city, there was a flourishing new
school where over thirty girls of from fifteen to twenty were being
taught shorthand, typewriting, book-keeping, and all that goes to the
making of a fully-equipped clerk. This school was the first experiment
of the kind in an enterprising community. As the pupils qualified,
with Pitman certificates of varying degrees of speed, at the end of
six months or longer, the way in which old-fashioned lawyers accepted
the innovation of attractive young women on their clerical staff,
seemed almost magical. Decorum relegated the young women to separate
rooms from the rest of the employees, and the formality in the bearing
of heads of departments towards these pioneer females must have been
gratifying to Mrs Grundy. So superior to human exigencies seemed these
dignified men, that the subject of lavatory accommodation for young
women, mewed up from 9 to 1 and from 2 to 5.30, was not mentioned.
Woman's modesty, if it were to reach the high standard made for her by
man, had to come before her health or comfort. Although typists of
all grades have multiplied by thousands[1] during the past twenty
years--in London alone there are over 25,000 women clerks and
secretaries--there is still need for adequate inspection of sanitary
accommodation for women workers of this class. Apart altogether from
sanitary accommodation, common sense would seem to suggest that,
in the case of any one who has to turn out decent typing, a regular
supply of hot water is a necessity for washing hands that may have to
change a ribbon or do the many little messy jobs that typing involves.

In a lecture before the Fabian Women's Group in February 1912, Miss
Florence, of the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries, said:

"With regard to the sanitary conditions--these as a rule are bad,
especially where there is only one woman. The difficulty has been
shirked by the women themselves in a great many cases.... I do not see
how these can be altered except by improving the status and position
of women, so that they may become strong enough to say they will not
have it if it is too bad."

Who is to dictate what is "too bad"? Surely the only remedy is to
have a proper standard of decency enforced by law. Women as a rule are
fools on this subject, and will endure almost any discomfort, rather
than complain.

In giving evidence before the Royal Commission, in May last year,
concerning the conditions of employment and their effect on the
health of Civil Service female typists and shorthand writers, Miss
Charlesworth, Honorary Secretary of the Civil Service Typists'
Association, said:

"The statistics as regards sickness relating to our class are almost
too small to be of very much use.... I may say from experience that
they are greatly influenced by the conditions under which the work
is done. In my own department (Local Government Board) our average
absence from sickness in the old office, where we were much
overcrowded, varied between ten and fourteen days a year, while in
our new office the average has steadily gone down from twelve to a
fraction over six last year.... It is very striking that there has
been that reduction in the average number of days' absence per year
from sickness, from twelve to six in four years while we have been
working under better conditions ... that means a less number of typing
machines in one room, more light to work by and more air--better rooms
to work in."

This evidence is interesting, as the worst conditions that could
possibly exist in the lofty rooms of a Government office, where
everything is on a big scale and there is a certain standard of
comfort, must be superior to the majority of commercial offices,
especially in London, where space is so expensive. Think of four girls
taking shorthand notes by telephone in a room with thirty typewriting
machines working at once!

There are no figures available with regard to the health of women
clerks generally. The common ailments are neuritis, anaemia, and
nervous breakdown. Typing is also a strain on the eyesight and
hearing. Miss Charlesworth says that in her experience it is the girls
who are not suited for the work who suffer most from ill-health.

One typing office and school, of high repute for excellence of work,
had rooms so dark that electric light was always used in one or other
of them during part of the day. No sun ever entered the work-rooms.
The salaries were good, but overtime was paid at only 6d. an hour.
There was a sort of compulsion, too, to work overtime; some of the
best typists, occasionally even stayed all night during excessive
rushes of work. No holidays were paid for, and it was regarded as
disloyalty on the part of a clerk to stay away for sickness. There
was an instance of a girl being dismissed because she stayed away a
fortnight owing to influenza. This particular firm recently moved into
bigger, brighter rooms, not out of humanity to its staff, but because
the lease had run out.

Where competition is as keen as in the typing business, it is often
the case that the comfort of employees is considered as little as is
compatible with running the place at a profit. There seems to be no
inspection, and there is no law to say how many typists may be worked
together, or what limit of noise shall be endured by them. Everything
is ruled by the individual standard of decency of the employer. Many
well-educated girls enter typing offices for the excellent practical
training to be had, and for the short time they remain they are
willing to put up with severe discipline and some personal discomfort.
There are, of course, typing offices with as high a level of comfort
and decency as the most exacting law would prescribe. Many of the
big engineering firms and City houses have most comfortable and even
luxurious quarters for their women clerks.

In old days in the above-mentioned northern school, it was possible
to get complete teaching as a clerk--excellent teaching, too--for a
guinea a term. There were some shorthand typists whose training cost
them only that initial guinea and the fees of the supplementary course
of evening classes, 5s. and 10s. according to the number of subjects.
In London at that time a year's course in the same subjects cost
as much as 60 guineas at some of the chief typing schools. The fee
nowadays, at one of the foremost London schools for a secretarial
course for six months only, is 60 guineas; a year's course is L100.[2]
This includes book-keeping and shorthand correspondence in one foreign
language, besides shorthand and typing, etc.

The best testimony shows that a year is altogether too long for
an intelligent well-educated girl of eighteen or more to spend on
technical training.[3] Mr James Oliphant, writing in _The School
World_ for July 1913 on the subject of secretarial training for girls,

".... It is to be noted that the curriculum in girls' schools is of
a much more reasonable character than that which is commonly provided
for boys, and that the more completely it is fitted to supply a good
general education, the better it would be adapted to the special
needs of those who wish to become clerks or secretaries. It would
seem eminently desirable that such aspirants should continue at the
secondary school between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, being
provided with a specialised course of study ... but whenever it is
possible it would be well to insist that no subject should be included
which is not generally educative in the widest sense. The acquisition
of such mechanical arts as stenography and typewriting should be
relegated to technical colleges where, according to general testimony,
proficiency can be gained by well-educated girls in a period
varying from six to nine months. 'Commercial correspondence' is
an abomination; a sufficient knowledge of the ordinary forms
of letter-writing should be imparted in every course of English
composition ... while the special jargon of each business or office
can be readily acquired by any intelligent girl when it becomes

There is every variety of price at the various technical training
schools all over the country, from a guinea to L100. With regard to
the training given in non-technical schools, the capable head of a
well-equipped West End typing office writes:

"It is a pity the ordinary schools are taking it up. I know of at
least one so-called secondary school which makes a speciality of
'Commercial Training.' The girls who take up the subject are quite
the wrong kind, with absolutely no real education,... and are ready
to accept anything in the way of salary. The really good schools where
the girls remain till they are 18 or 19 give a better training, of
course.... But I do not think the schools have any right to undertake
a specialised vocational training; it must lower the standard.
Every other profession has its special training after a good general
education has been acquired."

The best-known societies for protecting the interests of women clerks
and secretaries are, the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries
at 12 Buckingham Street, Strand, and the National Union of Clerks
at 186-188 Bishopsgate Street. These are the only approved societies
under the National Insurance Act.

The Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries has been in existence
for eight years, and during the last year has more than trebled its
members, the clerks' attitude towards combination having recently
changed somewhat, in London at any rate. The Association has a devoted
secretary and does excellent work. Its aims are:

(1) To raise the status of women clerks and secretaries,
and to encourage a higher standard of
practical training.

(2) To secure a just remuneration for all grades.

(3) To render legal aid and give advice to members,
and to benefit generally the clerical and secretarial
profession for women.

(4) To maintain a registry for women clerks and secretaries,
and to watch for openings for members of
the Association.

(5) To establish and maintain an Approved Society
under the National Insurance Act, 1911, for the
benefit of Women Clerks and Secretaries.

The Association is not yet, however, strong enough to form a
recognised union able to fix a minimum education qualification for
membership. An important conference was held by this Association in
May last at the University of London. Every speaker emphasised the
need for better and wider education before taking up the profession,
and there was unanimity of opinion that no girl should be allowed to
start the technical part until she was at least sixteen. A remark of
Mrs W.L. Courtney, who was one of the speakers, is well worth quoting:
"One of the cleverest women I ever knew, who was an amateur indexer,
said to me one day, 'It does not matter in doing this work about being
clever; what matters is to have lived.'" There is not much chance then
for the school-girl of sixteen.[4]

The National Union of Clerks is conducted with energy and
enlightenment. It has increased its membership by nearly 8,000 in the
last twelve months, and one of the best reasons it offers women clerks
for joining, is that it is the only National Society for Clerks that
has always accepted women as members on equal terms as men. There are
1,000 women in a membership of 10,000. Notwithstanding the hard work
these two societies are doing, there is nothing like the response
there should be from women clerks. It is only the exceptional woman
clerk who has yet developed anything like a corporate conscience. The
reason is partly that she is often an isolated being. Where there is a
large number of clerks together, as in the Civil Service, there is no
lack of the right spirit.

Here are a few of the causes of the overstocking of the clerical
market by women. Almost any one can be a clerk of a kind. The training
is cheap and easily obtainable. Many parents want their children to
bring in money early, and this seems an easy way. A large percentage
of young girls (in 1907-1909, 87 per cent.) who fail to pass Civil
Service examinations, try to become clerks. Some time ago there was
an article in a daily newspaper entitled "The Passing of the
15s.-a-week-Girl." She is with us in larger numbers than ever,
however, and she has added to her numbers a 10s.-a-week-girl and even
a cheaper girl, as we have seen. We meet her daily in Tube and 'bus,
looking remarkably attractive, in spite of foolish shoes and a bad
habit of eating four-penny lunches. The chief charge some of her
fellow clerks have against her, apart from her inferior work, is that
she only makes use of typing as a road to marriage. The other class of
offender is the daughter of well-to-do parents. Typing is regarded
as a ladylike employment, and parents, who would never expect their
daughters to be self-supporting, are glad for them to earn pocket
money or just enough for dress.

According to Mr Elvin of the National Union of Clerks, even in
prosperous times there are always 3 per cent. of unemployed clerks. In
bad times the percentage must be greater. Whether the times are good
or bad, young girls with the most elementary education are being
turned out by hundreds from typing schools.

The only remedy is that the output of clerks should be restricted; no
one should be allowed to become a clerk who has not reached a certain
standard of efficiency. The parents are the chief offenders. Many of
them do not seem to have the necessary energy or intelligence to find
out for what their daughters are best fitted. Advisory Committees are
wanted in connection with all elementary and secondary schools. Of the
girl typists and shorthand writers who resigned from the Civil Service
from 1894 to 1906 for various causes, 17 per cent. left to take up
other work. The lady superintendent in one of the Civil Service typing
rooms pointed out a girl and said: "That girl would have made an
excellent milliner or a kindergarten teacher, but she is not at all
suited for this work."

The chief grievance of the really efficient woman clerk and secretary
is that she has not enough scope. One woman writes:

"If the various firms and professions who employ girls as typists were
to give them an insight into the business, whatever it might be, it
would add enormously to the enthusiasm of the worker. In America
they do this very often. The wonderful Miss Alice Duckin, the lady
skyscraper builder, was once a typist. When she entered the firm they
allowed her full scope to develop, and she mastered the building trade
and is now the chief partner of Messrs Duckin and Lass. There is one
firm of lawyers in London who allow their typists to attend the Law
Courts, and give them work to do which is usually reserved for men.
Only under such conditions can the profession expand."

There is often a chance for a secretary in a newspaper office to
develop into a journalist. But there are instances when the private
secretary, who begins writing for the paper on which she is employed,
is told that she was engaged not as a contributor but as an efficient

One girl who had been for ten years private secretary to a literary
man in London, horrified her relatives, and gave her employer a shock,
by suddenly throwing up her much-envied post and entering herself at
a hospital for a particularly strenuous kind of nursing. Her salary
as secretary was 35s. a week; she had a comfortable room of her own
to work in, a good annual holiday, and other blessings. Her chief said
"good morning" and "good evening" to her, but she saw no one else, and
frequently she had technical German translations in the evenings,
for which she got nothing extra. Her chief did not know German, and
thought she did the translations as easily as she wrote shorthand. Her
whole work was moderately interesting, but the dullness of her life
became insupportable. Another private secretary at the end of fifteen
years in an excellent post, opened a tea-shop.

An Edinburgh woman sends the following interesting statement:--

"Secretarial work seems to me one of the most congenial for educated
women. In Edinburgh the prospects are excellent. The headmasters and
mistresses of all the large schools, medical men, dentists, university
professors, managing editors of our great printing and publishing
houses, several of whom are editing encylopaedias, need a fair number
of women secretaries. And there is not a sufficient supply for the law
offices of which Edinburgh has such a large number.

"The conditions are in need of some kind of organised supervision,
particularly where everything depends on an individual employer. In my
first post with a medical specialist, for instance, my time was never
my own; my work began at 9 and often did not end at midnight. Sunday
work was quite common; there were no Saturday afternoons off, but I
had free hours here and there which it was impossible to utilise.

"Another post I had was ideal. I worked for two men, for one of whom I
spent the morning in a pathological laboratory. Here I did nothing
but research work and writing. In the afternoon I did general
correspondence and assistant editing of one of the medical journals. I
had free evenings and Saturday afternoons. It is an excellent plan
to work for two men, as it gives variety and may often be more
remunerative, although for myself I never had more than L100 a year.
There is lack of organisation in this profession, and posts are
difficult to get by registry or advertisement. I have never found a
Women's Employment Bureau of any use whatever. I have got everything
by personal recommendation."

A common grievance seems to be the amount of overtime imposed on many
clerks, sometimes paid for, but often obligatory whether paid for
or not. There is a naive arrangement in the Civil Service Typing
Department. It seems that the typists are allowed 9d. or 10d. an hour
for overtime up to a limit of fifteen hours a month, but any overtime
beyond that is not paid for. In the Minutes of Evidence before the
Royal Commission we read:--

"_Commissioner_. Is any other time beyond that (15 hours a month) ever

"_Superintendent_. Yes.

"_Commissioner_. Are they ever required to work longer than that?

"_Superintendent_. Yes.

"_Commissioner_. And are they not paid for it?

"_Superintendent_. No.

"_Commissioner_. What is the reason for that?

"_Superintendent_. The Treasury laid it down in their minute.

"_Commissioner_. Have you questioned it?

"_Superintendent_. Yes, we have many times asked the Treasury to allow
the department to pay for more, but so far as I know, in no case has
it been allowed, and at this present time (May 1912), in the
London Telephone Service all shorthand-typists and typists and
superintendents are doing a great deal of overtime, but only 15 hours
in a month of 4 weeks is paid for. Superintendents are not paid at all
for overtime. The only reason, apparently, for the limitation is that
the salaries are so close that if shorthand-typists were paid for
more overtime than 15 hours they would be earning more than the

It seems impossible to tell as yet how the working of the National
Insurance Act will affect women clerks. The secretary of the
Information Bureau of the Woman's Institute says that, as far as she
knows, good offices continue to pay their clerks their salaries in
cases of illness, only making a deduction of the 7s. 6d. paid as
insurance money.

To sum up, there is urgent need for better organisation among clerks
and secretaries. They should be graded in some way, so that the
efficient who are out of work may easily be brought in touch with
employers. The societies reach only a small proportion of the
workers, many of whom do not even know of their existence. It must
be remembered that a difficulty in the way of men and women clerks
combining, is that women of good education, sometimes in possession of
degrees, find themselves in competition with men of an inferior social
class. A large proportion of the best secretaries are the daughters
of professional men. The average woman clerk is invariably a person of
better education and manners than the male clerk at the same salary.

In the next place, better sanitation and better working conditions
must be secured. Only last year, a firm employing hundreds of men and
a dozen women, had no separate lavatory for the women. It is to the
interest of the employer of women clerks to look after their health
and to provide rest rooms. Anti-feminists are positive as to women's
"inferior physique," but their practice as employers is too often
inconsistent with their opinions.

Most important of all, women clerks and secretaries want more scope.
After ten years of clerking and secretarying they find that they are
up against a dead wall. There is no prospect of advancement, and no
call on their initiative. In private secretarial work this is not
always the fault of the employer; it is often inherent in the nature
of the work. Unless the secretary has, say, literary or journalistic
ability and develops in that way, she is worth little more to her
chief, if he is a literary man, after fifteen years than she was at
the end of ten. There may be progress from a less desirable to a more
desirable post, but there can be no advancement in the work itself.
As a training, however, a private post is incomparable. With the woman
who works for a commercial firm, it is a different matter. Women of
the best type who do this work, have a right to complain when they are
without chance of promotion. They feel that they should be given the
same opportunity of rising in the business, whatever it may be, as is
open to any intelligent office boy. The reply of the employer is, that
while the office boy, if promoted and given increasing pay, may be
expected to stay with the firm for a lifetime, there is not the same
certainty of continuity of service from women clerks, who may at any
time leave to get married. There are cases, however, where women have
stayed on after marriage when it has been made worth their while.
One woman who entered a firm as a young girl, continued with the
firm after marriage, and is now, as a widow, working for the same
employers. There is no reason why such cases should be exceptional.

The calling, the conditions of which we have been considering, suffers
from its accessibility to the half trained and undisciplined of
various social grades. When, however, the righteous complaint of the
employer against the incompetent and scatter-brained has been heard,
the fact remains that among women clerks and secretaries there is an
exceptionally large proportion who give, for a moderate return and
limited prospects of advancement, conscientious, loyal, and skilful

[Footnote 1: See Appendix II., p. 317.]

[Footnote 2: Satisfactory secretarial training may be obtained in
London from reliable teachers for a fee of 25 guineas for a year's
course. It is, however, necessary to make searching enquiries before
arranging to enter any school, as some of these neither give a sound
training, nor obtain posts for their pupils as their advertisements
promise. [EDITOR.]]

[Footnote 3: First rate secretarial preparation includes more than
merely technical instruction. It gives a sound business training as
well, and, in addition, insists on one or more foreign languages. A
girl who hopes to become something more than a shorthand-typist ought
not to scamp her professional training: this should, of course,
follow her school-course--_i.e._, not begin until she is seventeen or
eighteen. Graduates, who have specialised in foreign languages,
may also advantageously prepare for the better secretarial posts.

[Footnote 4: Apart from monetary prospects altogether, no girl should
be allowed to enter the profession until she is old enough and wise
enough to protect herself, should need arise, from the undesirable
employer, who may insult her with unwelcome attentions. The
possibility of such annoyance is an additional reason for all clerks
to join a Trade Union, which helps individuals to insist on proper
conditions of work. [EDITOR.]]



I do not know that the first actress who ever faced the public told
her friends that _the_ profession was not all paint and glitter,
because being a pioneer, and so treading on the corns of custom, she
was held as an unwomanly creature, and had unpleasant things thrown at
her, as well as words. So her impressions are not recorded. But when
women had settled down into the work, and were allowed to represent
themselves in the theatre (a privilege not as yet accorded to them
elsewhere), they announced practically and forcibly that all that
glittered was not gold, and that a successful, much-loved heroine
did not invariably tread the rosy path without finding the proverbial

The word "hardship" often repeated by successful artists, is accepted
by the public as a truism, which affects their attitude towards the
stage as a career about as much as the statement that the world is
round, when in their eyes it appears disappointingly flat. Yet the
word "hardship" has a meaning which most hurts those who have most
capacity for pain, and who are specially sensitive to humiliations,
disappointments, and discomforts--artists.

But there are compensations, urges the outsider: good pay, congenial
work, and fame. If there are hardships what a glittering prize
compensates for the suffering!

Let us at once grant the compensations which the few achieve. The few
make world-wide reputations, large salaries, and many devoted friends:
their life is full of interesting and successful work. But the average
individual is in the great majority, and the many spend all and obtain
nothing, trying to obtain a bargain which is no bargain: a bargain in
which there is something to sell and no one to buy--even our average
actress has something to sell, something worth buying--composed of
talent, ambition, long study, and application. There are, of course,
many more successful women in the theatre than there used to be, owing
to the tremendous opening up of this means of livelihood; but though
the successful are more abundant, there is, alas! no doubt a growing
number of unsuccessful workers in this very much over-crowded market.
In fact, it is becoming a profession in which it is only possible
to survive if the worker has some private means, or a supplementary

I believe that this question of a supplementary trade requires
consideration, and am, myself, at present working on the subject, in
the hope that a scheme may be evolved to ensure those willing to
work an opportunity of gaining a livelihood during the long "resting"
periods. This waiting for work is almost universally the largest part
of an actress's life; and any satisfaction in the magnitude of the
wages which may be obtained must always be balanced by the knowledge
that an enormous number of weeks must be taken into consideration,
when work is quite unattainable.

Here is one of the gravest disabilities of the profession. Only
continuous work can develop the powers of any artist, and this
is particularly true of the art of the theatre. Under the present
conditions an artist is, with an entire want of reason, raised to a
pinnacle of importance when playing a good part in a successful play;
but she may with equal suddenness be dashed into a gulf of failure and
non-productiveness, also without reason.

There have been many artists, who at the end of a brilliant run of
a successful play, to the success of which they have largely
contributed, have found themselves forgotten by the powers that be,
and have discovered with bitter disappointment that a successful run
may result in being left utterly ignored, without a single offer of

The Christmas pantomime and the summer season cut down the actor's
year to forty weeks. From information which I was able to obtain from
the Actor's Association, the average yearly income of an actor is L70.
From this, L37 may be deducted for travelling and other expenses. For
though the actual railway fare is usually paid, no allowance is made
for conveyance of luggage from station to lodgings, and the constant
change of quarters naturally makes the weekly expenditure on a higher
scale. On these figures the average weekly earnings of an actor would
be 12s. 6d., or 1s. 9d. per day.

This is the average income of an actor when working, but under present
conditions, the average day for an average actress is one in which she
looks for work. So let us take the average day of the average actress,
and see how she spends it.

After leaving her tiny, grubby back room in Bloomsbury (time and fares
prohibit a bigger, better room in the suburbs), where she has cleaned
her own shoes, ironed her blouse and sewn in frilling before starting,
she walks down to an agent. The waiting-room there has a couple
of forms, which are already filled, and groups of girls have been
standing for some time. They have all had insufficient breakfasts,
badly served and ill-cooked; they all wear cheap and uncomfortable
shoes, too thin for wet pavements; they are all obliged to put on a
desperately photographic pose and expression, in case the agent's eyes
light on them. One or two, better dressed and more self-possessed,
secure interviews and pass out by another door. No information about
the part is to be procured, they are all there "on the chance." At
half past one the agent comes out for lunch, saying, as he passes
through the room, "No use waiting, ladies; no one else wanted to-day."
Our average friend has stayed for three hours, knowing no one to speak
to, and leaves no nearer her goal for her morning's congenial work.
She lunches on sandwiches and tea, re-arranges her hat and veil, and
starts out with fresh hope to use her one letter of introduction to
the manager of a West End theatre.

She hands it to a door-keeper, who may possibly be considerate, but
cannot offer her a chair. There is no waiting-room; she waits in a
draughty, tiny passage, stage hands constantly squeezing by her. There
is a rehearsal; she must wait, or come back in an hour's time. She
walks round and looks into the shops in Leicester Square, and returns
thoroughly fatigued and a little pale, at four o'clock. She is shown
into an office, and by virtue of her letter of introduction is asked
to sit down. A few questions are put to her about her past work: she
does not know what part the manager has in mind, and puts forward
inept qualifications. In two or three minutes the important man has
formed his opinion of her face, carriage, expression, and has decided
if he will remember her or not. Her name being average, the odds are
that he will not; but he murmurs, "If anything turns up, I will let
you know," and her big chance is over. There is nothing approaching an
audition, such as a singer gets. It is the only opportunity afforded
her, this poor and hopeless method of proving her capacity as an
actress. It leaves her poorer for the day's outlay in food. She walks
back to the little room, her foothold in London--the great art market.

This is a "congenial" day's work, which may be repeated for weeks,
and it occurs on an average in every three months. The adventure of it
stales very quickly.

Let there be no mistake in the mind of the reader. This is not only
the experience of a would-be actress, a well-trained, medal-laden
aspirant from one of the good dramatic schools, but is one of the
bitter and frequent experiences of the thoroughly capable, trained,
and occasionally well-salaried actress, who has failed to arrive,
during her eighteen to twenty years of experience, at the much
coveted, and supposedly safe position at the top of the theatrical

Suppose our average actress is lucky, and her letter of introduction
gains her a small part in the London production. Into her three lines
she tries to crowd all she can of what she has learned from teachers
and experience. It is her opportunity. She has stepped forward amongst
those fortunate ones whose names are mentioned in the programme.
She starts for rehearsal happily enough from the little room in
Bloomsbury, passes the door-keeper without question, and takes up her
stand in the wings. There she stays three hours. She has companionship
in hushed whispers, and the right to exist. At two o'clock her act has
not yet been reached, and the artists are allowed to leave the theatre
for half an hour to get lunch. As she is not paid for rehearsals,
she cannot afford more than sixpence for a meal; so her repast is
necessarily a light one. At five, rehearsal is dismissed, and she
has gone through her part twice. Five minutes would cover her actual
acting for the day; and having stood about for nearly six hours she
walks back home to her room.

As the play nears production, the rehearsal hours lengthen, and the
lunch times shorten. Her own hoard of savings offer her less and less
to spend on food, and when finally the play is produced--let us face
the worst--it not infrequently occurs that the run of the piece may
end in three weeks. She has rehearsed for four weeks, has been glad
to accept L2 for her tiny part, and out of that short run, which
represents L6, she must save enough to tide her over the next few
weeks, or perhaps months, until she gets her next engagement, more
unpaid rehearsals, and perhaps another short run. There is always
wearing anxiety, and the unpleasing, thankless, humiliating searching
for work, under the most distasteful conditions possible.

There is now an effort being made by a few of the London managers to
pay a percentage on salaries for rehearsing. The movement, I think, is
partially due to the Insurance Act, which, of course, touches all
the low paid labour in the theatre. This effort, though obviously of
importance, can hardly as yet be considered as quite satisfactory. The
payments for five weeks' rehearsals are 6s. on the L1, 1s. salaries,
which include dancers, walkers-on, etc.: and 12s. 6d. a week on
salaries of L3. In each case, of course, the threepence insurance has
to be deducted, and it must be quite clear that no woman can live on
5s. 9d., much less make a good appearance, unless she has other means
of support.

She may get an engagement to tour for a limited number of weeks. If
so, she gazes in despair at her small wardrobe, trying to puzzle out
three costumes to be used in the play, for actresses going on tour
have usually to provide their own dresses.

A friend of mine played the leading part on the tour of a West
End production. She had to find all her own dresses, hats,
shoes, stockings, etc., and her salary was L3, 10s. a week. In a
"boiled-down" version she played twice nightly for L5 a week, and
found four dresses, two hats, an evening cloak, besides the shoes,
stockings, gloves, etc., incidental to a well dressed part. Another
soubrette on a salary of L2, 5s. paid her fare both on joining and
leaving the company, and was obliged to provide two dresses, one
evening dress and cloak, shoes, stockings, etc.

The average salaries in melodrama are L4 a week, out of which must
be provided many dresses. The "heavy lead" or "adventuress" type,
generally magnificently attired, gets about L3 a week. In London, of
course, in the West End productions, dresses are provided, but the
engagement is not for a definite period as it would be on a tour,
and a curious difficulty arises through this arrangement, since the
actress who has once been beautifully dressed has a natural and
very comprehensible predilection thenceforward to continue to be so
delightfully gowned. Her own opinion as to what a dress should cost
almost invariably, after a London engagement, ceases to be on a level
with what her yearly income should permit. Clothes assume a horrible
importance not known in other trades, since her appearance may mean
her livelihood as a worker; for do we not know of engagements which
have been made when the angle of a hat has exactly coincided with the
mood of the manager who is engaging his company?

So our little average actress, starting off on tour, patches and
manoeuvres to have a satisfactory appearance, and is painfully
self-conscious of deficiencies when the eyes of the manager, or the
more well-to-do sharers of the dressing-room, appear to enquire too
closely into details. One of my first successes was a triumphant one
for my sister; since an evening blouse, ingeniously concocted from a
table-centre, received some long notices in the Press.

Theatrical lodgings, when one's salary is 25s. a week, are not always
the most pleasing in the town. Rheumatic fever and other unpleasant
illnesses have been contracted from damp beds, when the landlady, in
her desire to live up to the degree of cleanliness expected of her,
returns the sheets too quickly to the so-lately vacated bed; because,
with one company leaving in the morning, and another arriving at
tea-time, there are not many hours to clean out a room, and wash and
iron the only pair.

The lodgings are usually extremely bad and dirty, and generally in the
least attractive and most unsavoury quarters of the town. The food is
generally unappetising and cooked with very little intelligence.
There have been many cases of women finding themselves in disreputable
houses; and even recommended lodgings have been found empty on
arrival, the police having raided them. I feel very strongly that the
only comfortable and dignified way to meet this difficulty is to have
a regular chain of clubs, on the principle of the Three Arts Club.

Recently, in the correspondence of a leading "Daily," I read a letter
in which a man wrote that actresses on tour were able to perfect
themselves as wives and housekeepers. This throws a curious side-light
on the ignorance of people in general with regard to the theatre.
Actresses may, and do, become admirable workers, wives, and
housekeepers; but this is rather from the hardships of their lives
than from any possibility of developing a natural aptitude for
housekeeping whilst travelling week after week from town to town,
and living in rooms where the cleaning and cooking are done by the
landlady. As all domestic work is undertaken by the people who let the
rooms, the days go slowly, and there is absolutely nothing of
interest to do. If our average actress is with a successful play, her
engagement may be a long one; and she lives through the discomforts,
buoyed up by the hope of further opportunities, and a swelling account
at the Post Office.

The happiest of all existences, for an actress, despite hard work and
much study, is in a repertory theatre. The opportunities are great;
ambition is not thwarted at every step; the day is filled with hard
study, but the nights result in greater or smaller achievement.
Everybody with whom she comes in contact is working as hard and
earnestly as she is. Life invigorating, progressive, uplifting, is
hers. To-night she is conscious she was not quite her best, but next
week, when the play is done again, she will work to make that point
real, she will laugh more naturally, cry more movingly, progress a
little further on the way to realise her dream of perfect expression,
free from worry and anxiety, free to work.

Having achieved a certain amount of experience on tour and in London,
and being more or less proficient in her profession, does not,
however, ensure an increase in the actor's value. A domestic servant
receives a character, which is, if satisfactory, a sure means of
employment; a teacher, inspector, etc., has a certificate which is a
pronouncement of efficiency; but however great the achievement of
the theatre there is no lasting sign of your work, and the want of
definite aim is mentally demoralising. I have heard men say, and I
think not unjustly, that as many of these women are practically "on
the rocks," they will do anything for money; and this brings one to
a question which looms largely when considering unskilled trades. The
unskilled, pleasure-loving, short-sighted but ambitious girl, is apt
to lose her sense of values, and to be an easy and sometimes very
willing victim. If she be attractive, the eye of a powerful person may
alight upon her, and several shades of temptations are placed before
her. Not only money, and the advantages which an outward show of
prosperity may bring with it; not only amusements and luxuries; but a
much more dangerous and difficult temptation, which is not possible
in other trades, is placed before the worker--the offer of greater
opportunities in her work, the opportunities which an "understudy" may
bring in its train; the opportunity of a small part; the gratification
of ambition. There is no more immorality than in other trades, but
there is an amount of humiliating and degrading philandering, a
mauling sensuality which is more degrading than any violent abduction.
To be immoral a certain amount of courage is required; but the curse
of modern theatrical conditions is this corrupt debauchery. Many girls
have come to me explaining their difficulties, and many in asking my
advice ended up with the persistent cry of the modern woman, "I do so
want to get on!" This is a transitional stage in the world, as well as
in the theatre. When women are more intelligent and independent, there
will not be the same amount of selling themselves for the necessities
of existence. They will be able to secure the necessities, and a large
number of the luxuries, for themselves--one of the reasons, doubtless,
why the reactionaries cry out so loudly against the woman's movement.

People love power over others; they love to control their destinies;
and there is a very large number of men who drift towards the theatre,
and like to consider the poor little butterflies as creatures of a
different species from their wives and daughters--a species provided
by a material Providence, who supplies their other appetites. The
poor little butterflies are glad, for a short time, to put up with
stupidity and egoism for the sake of a temporary relief from sordid
discomfort and gloom. Of course, I am not speaking of the women who,
without economic pressure, lead an illicit life. There are a few
of these women who are more than able to protect themselves, and
occasionally avenge their sisters.

Of course, there are also theatres which are obviously dependent
for their great success upon this "oldest profession in the world":
theatres where a fairly good salary is offered with the suggestion
that it is as well to sup at some well-known restaurant, at least
three times a week; to drive to the theatre in a motor car, and to be
dressed by one of the famous dressmakers, whose names are given with
the salary. There are theatres where an eye is kept on the number of
stalls which are filled by the employed. But on the tours of these
successes, the managers are often very strict in their regulations,
and do everything to prevent those employed from supplementing their
incomes in this manner.

There are, unfortunately, too many women who still believe in
dependence, so the supply is quite as great as the demand. To the real
artist who is deeply centred in her work, this particular evil is
of practically little importance. A great belief in her own powers
enables her to push aside opportunities which are not genuine. Men are
also human, and if met frankly and straightforwardly in work, or
for that matter, out of it, are as capable of honest, helpful good
fellowship as any woman. In fact, the work of the theatre, which
employs men and women, on more or less equal terms, is a splendid
place to find out that humanity is not limited to sexual problems, and
that the spirit of work removes these limitations, and gives place
to a healthy, invigorating atmosphere of _camaraderie_. It is quite a
false idea that a move in the wrong direction is in any way necessary
to success.

Something must be said with regard to the sanitation and ventilation
of the theatre. Though there has been latterly a great effort to
improve the dressing-rooms in the new buildings, there is still a
great deal to be remedied. Here is a description of a dressing-room
used by a young artist in a modern West End theatre.

"We were seven in a room which just held seven small toilet tables on
a shelf running round the wall, and a narrow walking space from the
door to the window in between. This dressing-room was two floors
below the level of the street, and the one window opened on a passage
covered with thick glass, so that there was no direct air channel.
Next door was a man's urinal used by about forty men--actors, stage
hands, and scene shifters. A pipe from this place came through
the dressing-room; the smell sometimes, even in the winter, was
overpowering; and we ourselves bought Sanitas and kept sprinkling it
on the floor of the room and the passage. Added to this was the fact
that the stairs from the stage led straight down facing the entrance
of this men's urinal, and not infrequently the door would be open and
shut as we came down, and it was altogether very objectionable."

The report of a young artist who toured for some time with a comedy
sketch in the music halls shows equally bad conditions. This sketch
was sent out by a first rate London management, and the halls visited
were on the first-class tours. She told me that in one of the largest
towns in England the Music Hall had only one ladies' lavatory, which
was on the stage exactly behind the back-drop. A horse was necessary
for an Indian sketch on the same bill in which the comedy sketch was
played, and the recess by the lavatory was found to be the only
safe place to stable the horse. The door of the ladies' lavatory was
therefore nailed up for the week. Should anyone wish, she could, on
explaining to the ushers in the front of the house, receive a pass
of admission to the ladies' cloakroom, but to reach the front of the
house meant a walk of four minutes round a complete block, and,
even if it had not been winter time, it is almost impossible for any
actress, when once dressed for her part, to go into the street without
attracting a great deal of notice, and also very likely entirely
spoiling her appearance, as theatrical "make-up" is only meant for the
dry atmosphere of the theatre.

On this same tour, in a famous south coast resort, this lady had to
dress in an underground dressing-room with twelve others, and the only
lavatory for women's use was opposite the stage-door box, where all
letters were called for, and the stage hands lounged about the whole
evening. In the most important town on this tour the dressing-room
in which she was directed to dress had, for its sole ventilation, the
door by which one entered, exactly facing the one general lavatory.
The aperture, high up in the wall, opened into another room where,
during this week, fifty cocks and hens, used in an animal turn, were
kept. It would be quite impossible to describe the sickening smell
which all this meant. The only thoroughly clean, sanitary hall which
she visited, was in Scotland.

In almost all the theatres, even where the conditions are considered
above criticism, the lavatories reserved for the ladies are, by a
curious arrangement, generally on the floor where most of the actors
dress. They are almost invariably difficult to use, for as the
dressing-rooms are usually allotted by men, there is little
consideration of women's comfort in this matter. It is a curious
side-light on the intelligence of men that they almost universally
seem to think that women, by a special Providence, are exempt from
these natural laws; and almost all women are still too Early Victorian
to insist upon some change. Many of the old theatres in London and the
provinces suffer from want of proper ventilation; and many of them
are appallingly, incredibly dirty. In the provinces dressing-rooms are
sometimes dripping with damp; and it is not an uncommon experience to
share the room with mice and other vermin.

It is only possible for me to touch very lightly on employment by the
cinematograph firms; but from the enquiries I have made, the usual
payment seems to be roughly from 5s. to 7s. 6d. a day, the workers
finding their own clothes: 10s. 6d. if the workers can ride and swim:
3s. a day for walking on, when light meals are provided. There is
a form of application to be filled in, which demands the following

Bust measurement.
Waist measurement.
Skirt length.
Line of work.
Ride horseback. Cycle. Swim.

The pictures take about ten days to prepare, and as a supplementary
trade, undoubtedly this work is of value to the actress.

An evil which attacks the theatre of the present day is the horrible
mantle of respectability which has settled on the profession.
Respectability in Art is a blight which undermines, and the moment
any worker or profession of workers is accepted on equal terms by
the non-workers of the community, misery invariably ensues. It is
impossible for a non-worker to comprehend the life of a worker, or
to make any margin for the work, which, if we judge by the example of
their own lives, they evidently despise. The restrictions which all
honest work brings, along with its compensations, are annoying to
ornamental parasites; and the contempt for restrictions is apt subtly
to undermine the mind of the worker.

There is no doubt that for the average actress, when such an enormous
number of people are rushing into the theatrical profession, there is
little security. The life of a successful actress is undoubtedly one
of the very best, so far, open to women. It is not a fact that the
best and greatest actresses are always the successful ones: but it is
a truth that all the successful ones have some natural qualifications
which have enabled them to gain that position.

Then what is the matter with the theatre? and why has it become such
a miserable life for the average worker? It is an unskilled trade,
and the people who have control of the trade have a contempt for the
average worker. They believe they can teach in a few weeks, what they
have not, in years, succeeded in mastering themselves. The unfortunate
worker is taught like a parrot, used for a short time, and then thrown
on the scrap-heap of the unfit for the theatre, when the theatre has
unfitted them for more honourable work.

The employer is at the present moment a man, and a man will offer a
salary of 30s. a week to a woman, because she will take 30s.: but he
will not offer that sum to an actor. There is a subtle assumption that
because women will take less, they are not entirely dependent on their
work; and a manager will sometimes offer a large salary to a woman who
drives up in a motor car, magnificently dressed, most obviously not
dependent on her earnings; whilst the accomplished actress, without
these powerful assets, and obviously dependent on her work, is paid
practically a third of that salary.

Let us sincerely hope that this transitional stage from the days when
each town had its own theatre, and engagements were always for the
season, to the waste and despair of the present conditions of the mass
of the workers in the theatre of this country, may give place to
some system which will select the fit from the unfit, and give them
a permanent engagement with a proper clause of notice on either side,
such as that to which workers in other trades are entitled. More care
in selection; more belief that an actress, if she be of any use, can
represent a diversity of types; a shutting of the doors on those who
are obviously unfitted, however cheap their labour may be, would
be salvation to the women who are trying to earn their bread in the
theatre. For it is time we ceased to grovel before this misused word
"Art," which covers the wasteful cruelty the present conditions in the
theatre permit.



The Group was formed by some women members of the Fabian Society
in 1908, chiefly with the object of studying the problem of women's
economic independence in relation to socialism. The work was mapped
out on the following lines, to which the Group has adhered:--

_Part I.--Differences in Ability for Productive Work Involved in
Difference of Sex Function._

Division 1.--Natural disabilities of women when not actively engaged
in childbearing.

Division 2.--Natural disabilities of women when actively so engaged.

_Part II.--Women's Economic Independence in Relation to Social

Division 1.--Women as productive workers and as consumers in the past.

Division 2.--Women as productive workers and as consumers in the

_Part III.--Practical Steps towards such Modification of Social
Conditions as will enable Women:_

(_a_) Freely to use and develop their physical and mental capacities

Book of the day: