By HARRIOT STANTON BLATCH
[Illustration: Jeanne d’Arc.–the spirit of the women of the Allies.]
TO THE ABLE AND DEVOTED WOMEN OF GREAT BRITAIN AND FRANCE
Who have stood behind the armies of the Allies through the years of the Great War as an unswerving second line of defense against an onslaught upon the liberty and civilization of the world, I dedicate this volume.
HARRIOT STANTON BLATCH
FOREWORD BY THEODORE ROOSEVELT
I. OUR FOE
II. WINNING THE WAR
III. MOBILIZING WOMEN IN GREAT BRITAIN
IV. MOBILIZING WOMEN IN FRANCE
V. MOBILIZING WOMEN IN GERMANY
VI. WOMEN OVER THE TOP IN AMERICA
VII. EVE’S PAY ENVELOPE
VIII. POOLING BRAINS
IX. “BUSINESS AS USUAL”
X. “AS MOTHER USED TO DO”
XI. A LAND ARMY
XII. WOMAN’S PART IN SAVING CIVILIZATION
Jeanne d’Arc–the spirit of the women of the Allies
They wear the uniforms of the Edinburgh trams and the New York City subway and trolley guards, with pride and purpose.
Then–the offered service of the Women’s Reserve Ambulance Corps in England was spurned. Now–they wear shrapnel helmets while working during the Zeppelin raids.
The French poilu on furlough is put to work harrowing.
Has there ever been anything impossible to French women since the time of Jeanne d’Arc? The fields must be harrowed–they have no horses.
The daily round in the Erie Railroad workshops.
In the well-lighted factory of the Briggs and Stratton Company, Milwaukee, the girls are comfortably and becomingly garbed for work.
The women of the Motor Corps of the National League for Woman’s Service refuting the traditions that women have neither strength nor endurance.
Down the street they come, beginning their pilgrimage of alleviation and succor on the battlefields of France.
How can business be “as usual” when in Paris there are about 1800 of these small workshops where a woman dips Bengal Fire and grenades into a bath of paraffin!
Countess de Berkaim and her canteen in the Gare de St. Lazarre, Paris.
An agricultural unit in the uniform approved by the Woman’s Land Army of America.
A useful blending of Allied women. Miss Kathleen Burke (Scotch) exhibiting the X-ray ambulance equipped by Mrs. Ayrton (English) and Madame Curie (French).
It is a real pleasure to write this foreword to the book which Mrs. Harriot Stanton Blatch dedicates to the women of Great Britain and France; to the women who through the years of the great war have stood as the second line of defense against the German horror which menaces the liberty and civilization of the entire world.
There could be no more timely book. Mrs. Blatch’s aim is to stir the women of this country to the knowledge that this is their war, and also to make all our people feel that we, and especially our government, should welcome the service of women, and make use of it to the utmost. In other words, the appeal of Mrs. Blatch is essentially an appeal for service. No one has more vividly realized that service benefits the one who serves precisely as it benefits the one who is served. I join with her in the appeal that the women shall back the men with service, and that the men in their turn shall frankly and eagerly welcome the rendering of such service _on the basis of service by equals for a common end_.
Mrs. Blatch makes her appeal primarily because of the war needs of the moment. But she has in view no less the great tasks of the future. I welcome her book as an answer to the cry that the admission of women to an equal share in the right of self government will tend to soften the body politic. Most certainly I will ever set my face like flint against any unhealthy softening of our civilization, and as an answer in advance to hyper-criticism I explain that I do not mean softness in the sense of tender-heartedness; I mean the softness which, extends to the head and to the moral fibre, I mean the softness which manifests itself either in unhealthy sentimentality or in a materialism which may be either thoughtless and pleasure-loving or sordid and money-getting. I believe that the best women, when thoroughly aroused, and when the right appeal is made to them, will offer our surest means of resisting this unhealthy softening.
No man who is not blind can fail to see that we have entered a new day in the great epic march of the ages. For good or for evil the old days have passed; and it rests with us, the men and women now alive, to decide whether in the new days the world is to be a better or a worse place to live in, for our descendants.
In this new world women are to stand on an equal footing with men, in ways and to an extent never hitherto dreamed of. In this country they are on the eve of securing, and in much of the country have already secured, their full political rights. It is imperative that they should understand, exactly as it is imperative that men should understand, that such rights are of worse than no avail, unless the will for the performance of duty goes hand in hand with the acquirement of the privilege.
If the women in this country reinforce the elements that tend to a softening of the moral fibre, to a weakening of the will, and unwillingness to look ahead or to face hardship and labor and danger for a high ideal–then all of us alike, men and women, will suffer. But if they show, under the new conditions, the will to develop strength, and the high idealism and the iron resolution which under less favorable circumstances were shown by the women of the Revolution and of the Civil War, then our nation has before it a career of greatness never hitherto equaled. This book is fundamentally an appeal, not that woman shall enjoy any privilege unearned, but that hers shall be the right to do more than she has ever yet done, and to do it on terms of self-respecting partnership with men. Equality of right does not mean identity of function; but it does necessarily imply identity of purpose in the performance of duty.
Mrs. Blatch shows why every woman who inherits the womanly virtues of the past, and who has grasped the ideal of the added womanly virtues of the present and the future, should support this war with all her strength and soul. She testifies from personal knowledge to the hideous brutalities shown toward women and children by the Germany of to-day; and she adds the fine sentence: “Women fight for a place in the sun for those who hold right above might.”
She shows why women must unstintedly give their labor in order to win this war; and why the labor of the women must be used to back up both the labor and the fighting work of the men, for the fighting men leave gaps in the labor world which must be filled by the work of women. She says in another sentence worth remembering, “The man behind the counter should of course be moved to a muscular employment; but we must not interpret his dalliance with tapes and ribbons as a proof of a superfluity of men.”
Particularly valuable is her description of the mobilization of women in Great Britain and France. From these facts she draws the conclusion as to America’s needs along this very line. She paints as vividly as I have ever known painted, the truth as to why it is a merit that women should be forced to work, a merit that _every one_ should be forced to work! It is just as good for women as for men that they should have to use body and mind, that they should not be idlers. As she puts it, “Active mothers insure a virile race. The peaceful nation, if its women fall victims to the luxury which rapidly increasing wealth brings, will decay.” “Man power must give itself unreservedly at the front. Woman power must show not only eagerness but fitness to substitute for man power.”
I commend especially the chapter containing the sentence, “This war may prove to us the wisdom and economy of devoting public funds to mothers rather than to creches and juvenile asylums;” and also the chapter in which the author tells women that if they are merely looking for a soft place in life their collective demand for a fair field and no favor will be wholly ineffective. The doors for service now stand open, and it rests with the women themselves to say whether they will enter in!
The last chapter is itself an unconscious justification of woman’s right to a share in the great governmental decisions which to-day are vital. No statesman or publicist could set forth more clearly than Mrs. Blatch the need of winning this war, in order to prevent either endless and ruinous wars in the future, or else a world despotism which would mean the atrophy of everything that really tends to the elevation of mankind.
Mrs. Blatch has herself rendered a very real service by this appeal that women should serve, and that men should let them serve.
The nations in which women have influenced national aims face the nation that glorifies brute force. America opposes the exaltation of the glittering sword; opposes the determination of one nation to dominate the world; opposes the claim that the head of one ruling family is the direct and only representative of the Creator; and, above all, America opposes the idea that might makes right.
Let us admit the full weight of the paradox that a people in the name of peace turns to force of arms. The tragedy for us lay in there being no choice of ways, since pacific groups had failed to create machinery to adjust vital international differences, and since the Allies each in turn, we the last, had been struck by a foe determined to settle disagreements by force.
Never did a nation make a crusade more just than this of ours. We were patient, too long patient, perhaps, with challenges. We seek no conquest. We fight to protect the freedom of our citizens. On America’s standard is written democracy, on that of Germany autocracy. Without reservation women can give their all to attain our end.
There may be a cleavage between the German people and the ruling class. It may be that our foe is merely the military caste, though I am inclined to believe that we have the entire German nation on our hands. The supremacy of might may be a doctrine merely instilled in the minds of the people by its rulers. Perhaps the weed is not indigenous, but it flourishes, nevertheless. Rabbits did not belong in Australia, nor pondweed in England, but there they are, and dominating the situation. Arrogance of the strong towards the weak, of the better placed towards the less well placed, is part of the government teaching in Germany. The peasant woman harries the dog that strains at the market cart, her husband harries her as she helps the cow drag the plough, the petty officer harries the peasant when he is a raw recruit, and the young lieutenant harries the petty officer, and so it goes up to the highest,–a well-planned system on the part of the superior to bring the inferior to a high point of material efficiency. The propelling spirit is devotion to the Fatherland: each believes himself a cog in the machine chosen of God to achieve His purposes on earth. The world hears of the Kaiser’s “Ich und Gott,” of his mailed fist beating down his enemies, but those who have lived in Germany know that exactly the same spirit reigns in every class. The strong in chastizing his inferior has the conviction that since might makes right he is the direct representative of Deity on the particular occasion.
The overbearing spirit of the Prussian military caste has drilled a race to worship might; men are overbearing towards women, women towards children, and the laws reflect the cruelties of the strong towards the weak.
As the recent petition of German suffragists to the Reichstag states, their country stands “in the lowest rank of nations as regards women’s rights.” It is a platitude just now worth repeating that the civilization of a people is indicated by the position accorded to its women. On that head, then, the Teutonic Kultur stands challenged.
An English friend of mine threw down the gauntlet thirty years ago. She had married a German officer. After living at army posts all over the Empire, she declared, “What we foreigners take as simple childlikeness in the Germans is merely lack of civilization.” This keen analysis came from a woman trained as an investigator, and equipped with perfect command of the language of her adopted country.
“Lack of civilization,”–perhaps that explains my having seen again and again officers striking the soldiers they were drilling, and journeys made torture through witnessing slapping and brow-beating of children by their parents. The memory of a father’s conduct towards his little son will never be wiped out. He twisted the child’s arm, struck him savagely from time to time, and for no reason but that the child did not sit bolt upright and keep absolutely motionless. The witnesses of the brutality smiled approvingly at the man, and scowled at the child. My own protest being met with amazed silence and in no way regarded, I left the compartment. I was near Eisenach, and I wished some good fairy would put in my hand that inkpot which Luther threw at the devil. Severity towards children is the rule. The child for weal or woe is in the complete control of its parents, and corporal punishment is allowed in the schools. The grim saying, “Saure Wochen, frohe Feste,” seems to express the pedagogic philosophy. The only trouble is that nature does not give this attitude her sanction, for Germany reveals to us that figure, the most pathetic in life, the child suicide.
The man responding to his stern upbringing is in turn cruel to his inferiors, and full of subterfuge in dealing with equals. He is at home in the intrigues which have startled the world. In such a society the frank and gentle go to the wall, or–get into trouble and emigrate. We have profited–let us not forget it–by the plucky German immigrants who threw off the yoke, and who now have the satisfaction of finding themselves fighting shoulder to shoulder with the men of their adopted country to free the Fatherland of the taskmaster.
The philosophy of might quite naturally reflects itself in the education of girls. Once when I visited a Hoehere Toechter Schule, the principal had a class in geometry recite for my edification. I soon saw that the young girl who had been chosen as the star pupil to wrestle with the pons asinorum was giving an exhibition of memorizing and not of mathematical reasoning. I asked the principal if my surmise were correct. He replied without hesitation, “Yes, it was entirely a feat in memory. Females have only low reasoning power.” I urged that if this were so, it would be well to train the faculty, but he countered with the assertion, “We Germans do not think so. Women are happier and more useful without logic.”
It would be difficult to surpass in its subtle cruelty the etiquette at a military function. The lieutenant and his wife come early,–this is expected of them. For a few moments they play the role of honored guests. The wife is shown by her hostess to the sofa and is seated there as a mark of distinction. Then arrive the captain and his wife. They are immediately the distinguished guests. The wife is shown to the sofa and the lieutenant’s little Frau must get herself out of the way as best she can.
My speculation, often indulged in, as to what would happen if the major’s wife did not move from the sofa when the colonel’s wife appeared, ended in assurance that a severe punishment would be meted out to her, when I heard from an officer the story of the way his regiment dealt with a woman who ignored another bit of military etiquette. A debutant, once honored by being asked to dance with an officer at a ball, must never, it seems, demean herself by accepting a civilian partner. But in a town where my friend’s regiment was stationed a very pretty and popular young girl who had been taken, so to speak, to the bosom of the regiment, danced one night at the Kurhaus early in the summer season with a civilian, distinguished, undeniably, but unmistakably civilian. The officers of the regiment met, weighed the mighty question of the girl’s offense, and solemnly resolved never again to ask the culprit for a dance. I protested at the cruelty of a body of men deliberately turning a pretty young thing into a wall-flower for an entire season. The officer took my protest as an added reason for congratulation upon their conduct. They meant to be cruel. My words proved how well they had succeeded.
Another little straw showing the set of the wind: we were sitting, four Americans, one lovely early summer day, in a restaurant at Swinemuende. We had the window open, looking out over the sea. At the next table were some officers, one of whom with an “Es zieht,” but not with a “by your leave,” came over to our table and shut the window with a bang. The gentleman with us asked if we wanted the window closed, and on being assured we did not, quietly rose and opened it again. No one who does not know Prussia can imagine the threatening atmosphere which filled that cafe.
We met the officers the same night at the Kurhaus dance. They were introduced, and almost immediately one of them brought up the window incident and said most impressively that if ladies had not been at the table, our escort would have been “called out.” We could see they regarded us as unworthy of being even transient participants of Kultur when we opined that no American man would accept a challenge, and if so unwise as to do so, his womenfolk would lock him up until he reached a sounder judgment! The swords rattled in their sabres when the frivolous member of our party said with a tone of finality, “You see we wouldn’t like our men’s faces to look as if they had got into their mothers’ chopping bowls!”
Although I had often lived months on end with all these petty tyrannies of the mailed fist, and although life had taught me later that peoples grow by what they feed upon, yet when I read the Bryce report, German frightfulness seemed too inhuman for belief. While still holding my judgment in reserve, I met an intimate friend, a Prussian officer. He happened to mention letters he had received from his relatives in Berlin and at the front, and when I expressed a wish to hear them, kindly asked whether he should translate them or read them in German as they stood. Laughingly I ventured on the German, saying I would at least find out how much I had forgotten. So I sat and listened with ears pricked up. Some of the letters were from women folk and told of war conditions in the capital. They were interesting at the time but not worth repeating now. Then came a letter from a nephew, a lieutenant. He gave his experience in crossing Belgium, told how in one village his men asked a young woman with her tiny baby on her arm for water, how she answered resentfully, and then, how he shot her–and her baby. I exclaimed, thinking I had lost the thread of the letter, “Not the baby?” And the man I supposed I knew as civilized, replied with a cruel smile, “Yes–discipline!” That was frank, frank as a child would have been, with no realization of the self-revelation of it. The young officer did the deed, wrote of it to his uncle, and the uncle, without vision and understanding, perverted by his training, did not feel shame and bury the secret in his own heart, but treasured the evidence against his own nephew, and laid it open before an American woman.
I believed the Bryce report–every word of it!
And I hate the system that has so bent and crippled a great race. Revenge we must not feel, that would be to innoculate ourselves with the enemy’s virus. But let us be awake to the fact that might making right cuts athwart our ideals. German Kultur, through worship of efficiency, cramps originality and initiative, while our aim–why not be frank about it!–is the protection of inefficiency, which means sympathy with childhood, and opportunity for the spirit of art. German Kultur fixes an inflexible limit to the aspirations of women, while our goal is complete freedom for the mothers of men.
The women of the Allies can fight for all that their men fight for–for national self-respect, for protection of citizens, for the sacredness of international agreements, for the rights of small nations, for the security of democracy, and then our women can be inspired by one thing more–the safety and development of all those things which they have won for human welfare in a long and bloodless battle.
Women fight for a place in the sun for those who hold right above might.
[Footnote 1: Report of the Committee on Alleged German Outrages appointed by his Britannic Majesty’s Government, 1915. Macmillan Company, New York.
Evidence and Documents laid before the Committee on Alleged German Outrages. Ballantyne, Hanson & Co., London. 1915.]
WINNING THE WAR
The group of nations that can make the greatest savings, will be victorious, counsels one; the group that can produce the most food and nourish the populations best, will win the war, urges another; but whatever the prophecy, whatever the advice, all paths to victory lie through labor-power.
Needs are not answered in our day by manna dropping from heaven. Whether it is food or big guns that are wanted, ships or coal, we can only get our heart’s desire by toil. Where are the workers who will win the war?
We are a bit spoiled in the United States. We have been accustomed to rub our Aladdin’s lamp of opportunity and the good genii have sent us workers. But suddenly, no matter how great our efforts, no one answers our appeal. The reservoir of immigrant labor has run dry. We are in sorry plight, for we have suffered from emigration, too. Thousands of alien workers have been called back to serve in the armies of the Allies. In my own little village on Long Island the industrious Italian colony was broken up by the call to return to the colors in Piedmont.
Then, too, while Europe suffers loss of labor, as do we, when men are mobilized, our situation is peculiarly poignant, for when our armies are gone they are gone. At first this was true in Europe. Men entered the army and were employed as soldiers only. After a time it was realized that the war would not be short, that fields must not lie untilled for years, nor men undergo the deteriorating effects of trench warfare continuously. The fallow field and the stale soldier were brought together.
We have all chanced on photographs of European soldiers helping the women plough in springtime, and reap the harvest in the autumn. Perhaps we have regarded the scene as a mere pastoral episode in a happy leave from the battle front, instead of realizing that it is a snapshot illustrating a well organized plan of securing labor. The soldiers are given a furlough and are sent where the agricultural need is pressing. But the American soldier will not be able to lend his skill in giving the home fields a rich seed time and harvest. The two needs, the field for the touch of the human hand, and the soldier for labor under calm skies, cannot in our case be cooerdinated.
Scarcity of labor is not only certain to grow, but the demands upon the United States for service are increasing by leaps and bounds. America must throw man-power into the trenches, must feed herself, must contribute more and ever more food to the hungry populations of Europe, must meet the old industrial obligations, and respond to a whole range of new business requirements. And she is called upon for this effort at a time when national prosperity is already making full use of man-power.
When Europe went to war, the world had been suffering from depression a year and more. Immediately on the outbreak of hostilities whole lines of business shut down. Unemployment became serious. There were idle hands everywhere. Germany, of all the belligerents, rallied most quickly to meet war conditions. Unemployment gave place to a shortage of labor sooner there than elsewhere. Great Britain did not begin to get the pace until the middle of 1915.
The business situation in the United States upon its entrance into the war was the antithesis of this. For over a year, depression had been superseded by increased industry, high wages, and greater demand for labor. The country as measured by the ordinary financial signs, by its commerce, by its labor market, was more prosperous than it had been for years. Tremendous requisitions were being made upon us by Europe, and to the limit of available labor we were answering them. Then into our economic life, with industrial forces already working at high pressure, were injected the new demands arising from changing the United States from a people as unprepared for effective hostilities as a baby in its cradle, into a nation equipped for war. There was no unemployment, but on the contrary, shortage of labor.
The country calls for everything, and all at once, like the spoiled child on suddenly waking. It must have, and without delay, ships, coal, cars, cantonments, uniforms, rules, and food, food, food. How can the needs be supplied and with a million and a half of men dropping work besides? By woman-power or coolie labor. Those are the horns of the dilemma presented to puzzled America. The Senate of the United States directs its Committee of Agriculture to ponder well the coolie problem, for men hesitate to have women put their shoulder to the wheel. Trade unionists are right in urging that a republic has no place for a disfranchised class of imported toilers. Equally true is it that as a nation we have shown no gift for dealing with less developed races. And yet labor we must have. Will American women supply it, will they, loving ease, favor contract labor from the outside, or will they accept the optimistic view that lack of labor is not acute?
The procrastinator queries, “Cannot American man-power meet the demand?” It can, for a time perhaps, if the draft for the army goes as slowly in the future as it has in the past.
However, at any moment a full realization may come to us of the significance of the fact that while the United States is putting only three percent of its workers into the fighting forces, Great Britain has put twenty-five percent, and is now combing its industrial army over to find an additional five hundred thousand men to throw on the French front. It is probable that it will be felt by this country in the near future that such a contrast of fulfillment of obligation cannot continue without serious reflection on our national honor. Roughly speaking, Great Britain has twenty million persons in gainful pursuits. Of these, five million have already been taken for the army. The contribution of France is still greater. Her military force has reached the appalling proportion of one-fifth of her entire population. But we who have thirty-five million in gainful occupations are giving a paltry one million, five hundred thousand in service with our Allies. The situation is not creditable to us, and one of the things which stands in the way of the United States reaching a more worthy position is reluctance to see its women shouldering economic burdens.
[Illustration: They wear the uniforms of the Edinburgh trams and the New York City subway and trolley guards, with pride and purpose.]
While it is quite true that shifting of man-power is needed, mere shuffling of the cards, as labor leaders suggest, won’t give a bigger pack. Fifty-two cards it remains, though the Jack may be put into a more suitable position. The man behind the counter should of course be moved to a muscular employment, but we must not interpret his dalliance with tapes and ribbons as proof of a superfluity of men.
The latest reports of the New York State Department of Labor reflect the meagerness of the supply. Here are some dull figures to prove it:–comparing the situation with a year ago, we find in a corresponding month, only one percent more employees this year, with a wage advance of seventeen percent. Drawing the comparison between this year and two years ago, there is an advance of “fifteen percent in employees and fifty-one percent in wages;” and an increase of “thirty percent in employees and eighty-seven percent in wages,” if this year is compared with the conditions when the world was suffering from industrial depression. The State employment offices report eight thousand three hundred and seventy-six requests for workers against seven thousand, six hundred and fifty applicants for employment, and of the latter only seventy-three percent were fitted for the grades of work open to them, and were placed in situations.
The last records of conditions in the Wilkes-Barre coal regions confirm the fact of labor scarcity. There are one hundred and fifty-two thousand men and boys at work today in the anthracite fields, twenty-five thousand less than the number employed in 1916. These miners, owing to the prod of the highest wages ever received–the skilled man earning from forty dollars to seventy-five dollars a week–and to appeals to their patriotism, are individually producing a larger output than ever before. It is considered that production, with the present labor force, is at its maximum, and if a yield of coal commensurate with the world’s need is to be attained, at least seventy percent more men must be supplied.
This is a call for man-power in addition to that suggested by the Fuel Administrator to the effect that lack of coal is partly lack of cars and that “back of the transportation shortage lies labor shortage.” An order was sent out by the Director General of Railways, soon after his appointment, that mechanics from the repair shops of the west were to be shifted to the east to supply the call for help on the Atlantic border.
Suggestive of the cause of all this shortage, float the service flags of the mining and railway companies, the hundreds of glowing stars telling their tale of men gone to the front, and of just so many stars torn from the standards of the industrial army at home.
The Shipping Board recently called for two hundred and fifty thousand men to be gradually recruited as a skilled army for work in shipyards. At the same time the Congress passed an appropriation of fifty million dollars for building houses to accommodate ship labor. Six months ago only fifty thousand men were employed in ship-building, today there are one hundred and forty-five thousand. This rapid drawing of men to new centers creates a housing problem so huge that it must he met by the government; and it need hardly be pointed out, shelter can be built only by human hands.
One state official, prompted no doubt by a wise hostility to coolie labor, and dread of woman labor, has gone so far as to declare publicly that any employer who will pay “adequate wages can get all the labor he requires.” This view suggests that we may soon have to adopt the methods of other belligerents and stop employers by law from stealing a neighbor’s working force. I know of a shipyard with a normal pay-roll of five hundred hands, which in one year engaged and lost to nearby munition factories thirteen thousand laborers. Such “shifting,” hiding as it does shortage of manpower, leads to serious loss in our productive efficiency and should not be allowed to go unchecked.
The manager of one of the New York City street railways met with complete denial the easy optimism that adequate remuneration will command a sufficient supply of men. He told me that he had introduced women at the same wage as male conductors, not because he wanted women, but because he now had only five applications by fit men to thirty or forty formerly. There were men to be had, he said, and at lower wages than his company was paying; but they were “not of the class capable of fulfilling the requirements of the position.”
The Labor Administration announced on its creation that its “policy would be to prevent woman labor in positions for which men are available,” and one of the deputy commissioners of the Industrial Commission of the State of New York declared quite frankly at a labor conference that “if he could, he would exclude women from industry altogether.”
We may try to prevent the oncoming tide of the economic independence of women, but it will not be possible to force the business world to accept permanently the service of the inefficient in place of that of the alert and intelligent. To carry on the economic life of a nation with its labor flotsam and jetsam is loss at any time; in time of storm and stress it is suicide.
Man-power is short, seriously so. The farm is always the best barometer to give warning of scarcity of labor. The land has been drained of its workers. A fair wage would keep them on the farm–this is the philosophy of laissez faire. Without stopping to inquire as to what the munition works would then do, we can still see that it is doubtful whether the farm can act as magnet. Even men, let us venture the suggestion, like change for the mere sake of change. A middle-aged man, who had taken up work at Bridgeport, said to me, “I’ve mulled around on the farm all my days. I grabbed the first chance to get away.” And then there’s a finer spirit prompting the desertion of the hoe. A man of thirty-three gave me the point of view. “My brother is ‘over there,’ and I feel as if I were backing him up by making guns.”
The only thing that can change the idea that farming is “mulling around,” and making a gun “backs up” the man at the front more thoroughly than raising turnips, is to bring to the farm new workers who realize the vital part played by food in the winning of the war. As the modern industrial system has developed with its marvels of specialized machinery, its army of employees gathered and dispersed on the stroke of the clock, and strong organizations created to protect the interests of the worker, the calm and quiet processes of agriculture have in comparison grown colorless. The average farmhand has never found push and drive and group action on the farm, but only individualism to the extreme of isolation. And now in war time, when in addition to its usual life of stirring contacts, the factory takes on an intimate and striking relation to the intense experience of the battle front, the work of the farm seems as flat as it is likely to be unprofitable. The man in the furrow has no idea that he is “backing up” the boy in the trench.
The farmer in his turn does not find himself part of the wider relations that attract and support the manufacturer. Crops are not grown on order. The marketing is as uncertain as the weather. The farmer could by higher wages attract more labor, but as the selling of the harvest remains a haphazard matter, the venture might mean ruin all the more certain and serious were wage outlay large. In response to a call for food and an appeal to his patriotism, the farmer has repeatedly made unusual efforts to bring his land to the maximum fertility, only to find his crops often a dead loss, as he could not secure the labor to harvest them. I saw, one summer, acres of garden truck at its prime ploughed under in Connecticut because of a shortage of labor. I saw fruit left rotting by the bushel in the orchards near Rochester because of scarcity of pickers and a doubt of the reliability of the market. The industry which means more than any other to the well-being of humanity at this crisis, is the sport of methods outgrown and of servants who lack understanding and inspiration. The war may furnish the spark for the needed revolution. Man-power is not available, woman-power is at hand. A new labor force always brings ideas and ideals peculiar to itself. May not women as fresh recruits in a land army stamp their likes and dislikes on farm life? Their enthusiasm may put staleness to rout, and the group system of women land workers, already tested in the crucible of experience, may bring to the farm the needed antidote to isolation.
To win the war we must have man-power in the trenches sufficient to win it with. To win, every soldier, every sailor, must be well fed, well clothed, well equipped. To win, behind the armed forces must stand determined peoples. To win, the people of America and her Allies must be heartened by care and food.
The sun shines on the fertile land, the earth teems with forests, with coal, with every necessary mineral and food, but labor, labor alone can transform all to meet our necessities. Man-power unaided cannot supply the demand. Women in America must shoulder as nobly as have the women of Europe, this duty. They must answer their country’s call. Let them see clearly that the desire of their men to shield them from possible injury exposes the nation and the world to actual danger.
Our winning of the war depends upon the full use of the energy of our entire people. Every muscle, every brain, must be mobilized if the national aim is to be achieved.
MOBILIZING WOMEN IN GREAT BRITAIN 
In no country have women reached a mobilization so complete and systematized as in Great Britain. This mobilization covers the whole field of war service–in industry, business and professional life, and in government administration. Women serve on the Ministry of Food and are included in the membership of twenty-five of the important government committees, not auxiliary or advisory, but administrative committees, such as those on War Pensions, on Disabled Officers and Men, on Education after the War, and the Labor Commission to Deal with Industrial Unrest.
In short, the women of Great Britain are working side by side with men in the initiation and execution of plans to solve the problems which confront the nation.
Four committees, as for instance those making investigations and recommendations on Women’s Wages and Drink Among Women, are entirely composed of women, and great departments, such as the Women’s Land Army, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, are officered throughout by them. Hospitals under the War Office have been placed in complete control of medical women; they take rank with medical men in the army and receive the pay going with their commissions.
When Great Britain recognized that the war could not be won by merely sending splendid fighters to the front and meeting the wastage by steady drafts upon the manhood of the country, she began to build an efficient organization of industry at home.
To the call for labor-power British women gave instant response. In munitions a million are mobilized, in the Land Army there have been drafted and actually placed on the farms over three hundred thousand, and in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps fourteen thousand women are working in direct connection with the fighting force, and an additional ten thousand are being called out for service each month. In the clerical force of the government departments, some of which had never seen women before in their sacred precincts, over one hundred and ninety-eight thousand are now working. And the women civil servants are not only engaged in indoor service, but outside too, most of the carrying of mail being in their hands.
Women are dock-laborers, some seven thousand strong. Four thousand act as patrols and police, forty thousand are in banks and various financial houses. It is said that there are in Great Britain scarce a million women–and they are mostly occupied as housewives–who could render greater service to their country than that which they are now giving.
The wide inclusion of women in government administration is very striking to us in America. But we must not forget that the contrast between the two countries in the participation of women in political life and public service has always been great. The women of the United Kingdom have enjoyed the municipal and county franchise for years. For a long time large numbers of women have been called to administrative positions. They have had thorough training in government as Poor Law Guardians, District and County Councilors, members of School Boards. No women, the whole world over, are equipped as those of Great Britain for service to the state.
In the glamor of the extremely striking government service of British women, we must not overlook their non-official organizations. Perhaps these offer the most valuable suggestions for America. They are near enough to our experience to be quite understandable.
The mother country is not under regimentation. Originality and initiative have full play. Perhaps it was well that the government failed to appreciate what women could do, and neglected them so long. Most of the effective work was started in volunteer societies and had proved a success before there was an official laying on of hands. Anglo-Saxons–it is our strong point–always work from below, up.
A glance at any account of the mobilization of woman-power in Great Britain, Miss Fraser’s admirable “Women and War Work,” for instance, will reveal the printed page dotted thick with the names of volunteer associations. A woman with sympathy sees a need, she gets an idea and calls others about her. Quickly, there being no red tape, the need begins to be met. What more admirable service could have been performed than that inaugurated in the early months of the war under the Queen’s Work for Women Fund, when work was secured for the women in luxury trades which were collapsing under war pressure? A hundred and thirty firms employing women were kept running.
What more thrilling example of courage and forethought has been shown than by the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in putting on the western front the first X-ray car to move from point to point near the lines? It but adds to the appeal of the work that those great scientists, Mrs. Ayrton and Madame Curie, selected the equipment.
It was a non-official body, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, which opened before the war was two weeks old the Women’s Service Bureau, and soon placed forty thousand women as paid and volunteer workers. It was this bureau that furnished the government with its supervisors for the arsenals. The Women’s Farm and Garden Union was the fore-runner of the official Land Army, and to it still is left the important work of enrolling those women who, while willing to undertake agricultural work, are disinclined to sign up for service “for the duration of the war.”
Not only have unnumbered voluntary associations achieved miracles in necessary work, but many of them have gained untold discipline in the ridicule they have had to endure from a doubting public. I remember hunting in vain all about Oxford Circus for the tucked-away office of the Women’s Signalling Corps. My inquiries only made the London bobbies grin. Everyone laughed at the idea of women signalling, but to-day the members are recognized officially, one holding an important appointment in the college of wireless telegraphy.
How Scotland Yard smiled, at first, at Miss Damer Dawson and her Women Police Service! But now the metropolitan police are calling for the help of her splendidly trained and reliable force.
And the Women’s Reserve Ambulance Corps–I climbed and climbed to an attic to visit their headquarters! There was the commandant in her khaki, very gracious, but very upstanding, and maintaining the strictest discipline. No member of the corps entered or left her office without clapping heels together and saluting. The ambulance about which the corps revolved, I often met in the streets–empty. But those women had vision. They saw that England would need them some day. They had faith in their ability to serve. So on and on they went, training themselves to higher efficiency in body and mind. And to-day–well, theirs is always the first ambulance on the spot to care for the injured in the air-raids. The scoffers have remained to pray.
If Britain has a lesson for us it is an all-hail to non-official societies, an encouragement to every idea, a blessing on every effort which has behind it honesty of purpose. Great Britain’s activities are as refreshingly diversified as her talents. They are not all under one hat.
In the training for new industrial openings this same spirit of non-official service showed itself. In munitions, for instance, private employers were the first to recognize that they had in women-workers a labor force worth the cost of training. The best of the skilled men in many cases were told off to give the necessary instruction. The will to do was in the learner; she soon mastered even complex processes, and at the end of a few weeks was doing even better than men in the light work, and achieving commendable output in the heavy. The suffrage organizations, whenever a new line of skilled work was opened to women, established well-equipped centers to give the necessary teaching. Not until it became apparent that the new labor-power only needed training to reach a high grade of proficiency, did County Councils establish, at government expense, technical classes for girls and women.
[Illustration: Then–the offered service of the Women’s Reserve Ambulance Corps in England was spurned. Now–they wear shrapnel helmets while working during the Zeppelin raids.]
Equipment of the army was obviously the first and pressing obligation. Fields might lie fallow, for food in the early days could easily be brought from abroad, but men had to be registered, soldiers clothed and equipped. It was natural, then, that the new workers were principally used in registration work and in making military supplies.
But in the second year of the war came the conviction that the contest was not soon to be ended, and that the matter of raising food at home must be met. Women were again appealed to. A Land Army mobilized by women was created. At first this work was carried on under a centralized division of the National Service Department, but there has been decentralization and the Land Army is now a department of the Board of Agriculture. It is headed by Miss M. Talbot as director. Under this central body are Women’s Agricultural Committees in each county, with an organizing secretary whose duty it is to secure full-time recruits.
The part-time workers in a locality are obtained by the wife of the squire or vicar acting as a volunteer registrar. Many of these part-time workers register to do the domestic work of the lusty young village housewife or mother while she is absent from home performing her allotted task on a nearby farm. The full-time recruits are not only secured by the organizers, but through registrations at every post office. Any woman can ask for a registration card and fill it out, and the postmaster then forwards the application to the committee. The next step is that likely applicants are called to the nearest center for examination and presentation of credentials. When finally accepted they are usually sent for six weeks’ or three months’ training to a farm belonging to some large estate. The landlord contributes the training, and the government gives the recruit her uniform and fifteen shillings a week to cover her board and lodging. At the end of her course she receives an armlet signifying her rank in the Land Army and is ready to go wherever the authorities send her.
The farmer in Great Britain no longer needs to be converted to the value of the new workers. He knows they can do every kind of farm work as well as men, and are more reliable and conscientious than boys, and he is ready, therefore, to pay the required minimum wage of eighteen shillings a week, or above that amount if the rate ruling in the district is higher.
Equally well organized is the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, familiarly known as the Waacs. The director is Mrs. Chalmers Watson. A would-be Waac goes to the center in her county for examination, and then is assigned to work at home or “somewhere in France” according to training and capacity. She may be fitted as a cook, a storekeeper, a telephone or telegraph operator, or for signalling or salvage work. Let us not say she will supplant a man, but rather set a man free for fuller service.
My niece, a slip of a girl, felt the call of duty at the beginning of the war. Her brothers were early volunteers in Kitchener’s Army. They were in the trenches and she longed for the sensation of bearing a burden of hard work. She went to Woolwich Arsenal and toiled twelve hours a day. She broke under the strain, recuperated, and took up munition work again. She became expert, and was in time an overseer told off to train other women. But she was never satisfied, and always anxious to be nearer the great struggle. She broke away one day and went to Southampton for a Waac examination, and found herself one of a group of a hundred and fifty gentlewomen all anxious to enter active service and all prepared for some definite work. They stood their tests, and Dolly–that’s the little niece’s pet name, given to her because she is so tiny–is now working as an “engine fitter” just behind the fighting lines. Dainty Dolly, whom we have always treated as a fragile bit of Sevres china, clad in breeches and puttees, under the booming of the great guns, is fitting patiently, part to part, the beating engine which will lift on wings some English boy in his flight through the blue skies of France.
But it must not be supposed that the magnificent service of British women, devoted, efficient and well-organized from top to bottom, realized itself without friction, any more than it will here. There were certainly two wars going on in Great Britain for a long time, and the internal strife was little less bitter than the international conflict. The most active center of this contest of which we have heard so little was in industry, and the combatants were the government, trade unions and women. The unions were doing battle because of fear of unskilled workers, especially when intelligent and easily trained; the government, in sore need of munition hands, was bargaining with the unskilled for long hours and low pay. Finally the government and the unions reluctantly agreed that women must be employed; both wanted them to be skillful, but not too skillful, and above all, to remain amenable. It has been made clear, too, that women enter their new positions “for the war only.” At the end of hostilities–international hostilities–women are to hand over their work and wages to men and go home and be content. Will the program be fulfilled?
The wishes of women themselves may play some part. How do they feel? Obviously, every day the war lasts they get wider experience of the sorrows and pleasures of financial independence. Women are called the practical sex, and I certainly found them in England facing the fact that peace will mean an insufficient number of breadwinners to go around and that a maimed man may have low earning power. The women I met were not dejected at the prospect; they showed, on the contrary, a spirit not far removed from elation in finding new opportunities of service. After I had sat and listened to speech after speech at the annual conference of the National Union of Women Workers, with delegates from all parts of the country, presided over by Mrs. Creighton, widow of the late Bishop of London, there was no doubt in my mind that British women desired to enter paid fields of work, and regarded as permanent the great increase in their employment. No regrets or hesitations were expressed in a single speech, and the solutions of the problems inherent in the new situation all lay in the direction of equality of preparation and equality of pay with men.
The strongest element in the women’s trade unions takes the same stand. The great rise in the employment of women is not regarded as a “war measure,” and all the suggestions made to meet the hardships of readjustment, such as a “minimum wage for all unskilled workers, men as well as women,” are based on the idea of the new workers being permanent factors in the labor market.
The same conclusion was reached in the report presented to the British Association by the committee appointed to investigate the “Replacement of Male by Female Labor.” The committee found itself in entire disagreement with the opinion that the increased employment of women was a passing phase, and made recommendations bearing on such measures as improved technical training for girls as well as for boys, a minimum wage for unskilled men as well as women, equal pay for equal work, and the abolition of “half-timers.” But while it was obvious that the greatest asset of belligerent nations is the labor of women, while learned societies and organizations of women laid down rules for their safe and permanent employment, the British Government showed marked opposition to the new workers. If the Cabinet did not believe the war would be brief, it certainly acted as if Great Britain alone among the belligerents would have no shortage of male industrial hands. At a time when Germany had five hundred thousand women in munition factories, England had but ten thousand.
There is no doubt that the country was at first organized merely for a spurt. Boys and girls were pressed into service, wages were cut down for women, hours lengthened for men. Government reports read like the Shaftesbury attacks on the conditions of early factory days. We hear again of beds that are never cold, the occupant of one shift succeeding the occupant of the next, of the boy sleeping in the same bed with two men, and three girls in a cot in the same room. Labor unrest was met at first by the Munitions War Act prohibiting strikes and lockouts, establishing compulsory arbitration and suspending all trade-union rules which might “hamper production.” Under the law a “voluntary army of workers” signed up as ready to go anywhere their labor was needed, and local munition committees became labor courts endowed with power to change wage rates, to inflict fines on slackers, and on those who broke the agreements of the “voluntary army.”
To meet the threatening rebellion, a Health of Munition Workers Committee under the Ministry of Munitions was appointed to “consider and advise on questions of industrial fatigue, hours of labor and other matters affecting the physical health and physical efficiency of workers in munition factories and workshops.” On this committee there were distinguished medical men, labor experts, members of parliament and two women, Miss R.E. Squire of the Factory Department and Mrs. H.J. Tennant.
The committee was guided by a desire to have immense quantities of munitions turned out, and faced squarely the probability that the war would be of long duration. Its findings, embodied in a series of memoranda, have lessons for us, not only for war times, but for peace times, for all time.
On a seven day week the verdict was that “if the maximum output is to be secured and maintained for any length of time, a weekly period of rest must be allowed.” Overtime was advised against, a double or triple shift being recommended.
In July, 1916, the committee published a most interesting memorandum on experiments in the relation of output to hours. In one case the output was increased eight percent by reducing the weekly hours from sixty-eight to fifty-nine, and it was found that a decrease to fifty-six hours per week gave the same output as fifty-nine. It need hardly be said that there was no change in machinery, tools, raw material or workers. All elements except hours of work were identical. Twenty-seven workers doing very heavy work increased their output ten percent by cutting weekly hours from sixty-one to fifty-five. In a munition plant employing thirty-six thousand hands it was found that the sick rate ranged from five to eight percent when the employees were working overtime, and was only three percent when they were on a double shift.
The war has forced Great Britain to carry out the findings of this committee and to consider more seriously than ever before, and for both men and women, the problem of industrial fatigue, the relation of accidents to hours of labor, industrial diseases, housing, transit, and industrial canteens. The munition worker is as important as the soldier and must have the best of care.
While the friction in the ranks of industrial women workers was still far from being adjusted, the government met its Waterloo in the contest with medical women. The service which they freely offered their country was at first sternly refused. Undaunted, they sought recognition outside the mother country. They knew their skill and they knew the soldiers’ need. They turned to hospitable France, and received official recognition. On December 14, 1914, the first hospital at the front under British medical women was opened in Abbaye Royaumont, near Creil. It carries the official designation, “Hopital Auxiliaire 301.” The doctors, the nurses, the cooks, are all women. One of the capable chauffeurs I saw running the ambulance when I was in Creil. She was getting the wounded as they came down from the front. The French Government appreciated what the women were doing and urged them to give more help. At Troyes another unit gave the French army its first experience of nursing under canvas.
After France had been profiting by the skill of British women for months, Sir Alfred Keogh, Medical Director General, wisely insisted that the War Office yield and place a hospital in the hands of women. The War Hospital in Endell Street, London, is now under Dr. Flora Murray, and every office, except that of gateman, is filled by women. From the doctors, who rank as majors, down to the cooks, who rank as non-commissioned officers, every one connected with Endell Street has military standing. It indicated the long, hard road these women had traveled to secure official recognition that the doctor who showed me over the hospital told me, as a matter for congratulation, that at night the police brought in drunken soldiers to be sobered. “Every war hospital must receive them,” she explained, “and we are glad we are not passed over, for that gives the stamp to our official standing.”
It was a beautiful autumn day when I visited Endell Street. The great court was full of convalescents, and the orderlies in khaki, with veils floating back from their close-fitting toques, were carefully and skillfully lifting the wounded from an ambulance. I spoke to one of the soldier boys about the absence of men doctors and orderlies, and his quick query was, “And what should we want men for?” It seems that they always take that stand after a day or two. At first the patient is puzzled; he calls the doctor “sister” and the orderly “nurse,” but ends by being an enthusiastic champion of the new order. Not a misogynist did I find. One poor fellow who had been wounded again and again and had been in many hospitals, declared, “I don’t mean no flattery, but this place leaves nothink wanting.”
The first woman I met on my last visit to England upset my expectation of finding that war pushed women back into primitive conditions of toil, crushed them under the idea that physical force rules the world, and made them subservient. I chanced upon her as she was acting as ticket-puncher at the Yarmouth station. She was well set-up, alert, efficient, helpful in giving information, and, above all, cheerful. There were two capable young women at the bookstall, too. One had lost a brother at the front, the other her lover. I felt that they regarded their loss as one item in the big national accounting. They were heroically cheerful in “doing their bit.”
Throughout my stay in England I searched for, but could not find, the self-effacing spinster of former days. In her place was a capable woman, bright-eyed, happy. She was occupied and bustled at her work. She jumped on and off moving vehicles with the alertness, if not the unconsciousness, of the expert male. She never let me stand in omnibus or subway, but quickly gave me her seat, as indeed she insisted upon doing for elderly gentlemen as well. The British woman had found herself and her muscles. England was a world of women–women in uniforms; there was the army of nurses, and then the messengers, porters, elevator hands, tram conductors, bank clerks, bookkeepers, shop attendants. They each seemed to challenge the humble stranger, “Superfluous? Not I, I’m a recruit for national service!” Even a woman doing time-honored womanly work moved with an air of distinction; she dusted a room for the good of her country. Just one glimpse was I given of the old-time daughter of Eve, when a ticket-collector at Reading said: “I can’t punch your ticket. Don’t you see I’m eating an apple!”
One of the reactions of the wider functioning of brain and muscle which struck me most forcibly was the increased joyfulness of women. They were happy in their work, happy in the thought of rendering service, so happy that the poignancy of individual loss was carried more easily.
This cheerfulness is somewhat gruesomely voiced in a cartoon in _Punch_ touching on the allowance given to the soldier’s wife. She remarks, “This war is ‘eaven–twenty-five shillings a week and no ‘usband bothering about!” We have always credited _Punch_ with knowing England. Truth stands revealed by a thrust, however cynical, when softened by challenging humor.
There was no discipline in the pension system. No work was required. The case of a girl I met in a country town was common. She was working in a factory earning eleven shillings a week. A day or two later I saw her, and she told me she had stopped work, as she had “married a soldier, and ‘e’s gone to France, and I get twelve and six separation allowance a week.” Never did the strange English name, “separation allowance,” seem more appropriate for the wife’s pension than in this girl’s story. Little wonder was it that in the early months of the war there was some riotous living among soldiers’ wives!
And the comments of women of influence on the drunkenness and waste of money on foolish finery were as striking to me as the sordid condition itself. The woman chairman of a Board of Poor Law Guardians in the north of England told me that when her fellow-members suggested that Parliament ought to appoint committees to disburse the separation allowances, she opposed them with the heroic philosophy that women can be trained in wisdom only by freedom to err, that a sense of responsibility had never been cultivated in them, and the country would have to bear the consequences. In reply to my inquiry as to how the Guardians received these theories, I learned that “they knew she was right and dropped their plan.”
The faith of leading women that experience would be the best teacher for the soldier’s wife has been justified. A labor leader in the Midlands told me that an investigation by his trade union showed that only one hundred women in the ten thousand cases inquired into were mis-spending their allowances. And when I was visiting a board school in a poor district of London, and remarked to the head teacher that the children looked well cared for, she told me that never had they been so well fed and clothed. There seemed no doubt in her mind that it was best to have the family budget in the hands of the mother. In the sordid surroundings of the mean streets of great cities, there is developing in women practical wisdom and a fine sense of individual responsibility.
Perhaps of greater significance than just how separation allowances are being spent is the fact that women have discovered that their work as housewives and mothers has a value recognized by governments in hard cash. It makes one speculate as to whether wives in the warring nations will step back without a murmur into the old-time dependence on one man, or whether these simple women may contribute valuable ideas towards the working out of sound schemes of motherhood pensions.
The women of Great Britain are experiencing economic independence, they are living in an atmosphere of recognition of the value of their work as housewives and mothers. Women leaders in all classes give no indication of regarding pensions or remuneration in gainful pursuits as other than permanent factors in social development, and much of the best thought of men as well as women is centered on group experiments in domestic cooeperation, in factory canteens, in municipal kitchens, which are a natural concomitant to the wider functioning of women.
Great Britain is not talking about feminism, it is living it. Perhaps nothing better illustrates the national acceptance of the fact than the widespread amusement touched with derision caused by the story of the choleric gentlemen who, on being asked at the time of one of the government registrations whether his wife was dependent upon him or not, roared in rage, “Well, if my wife isn’t dependent on me, I’d like to know what man she is dependent on!”
Only second to Britain’s lesson for us in the self-reliance of its women, and the thorough mobilization of their labor-power and executive ability, is its lesson in protection for all industrial workers. It stands as one people against the present enemy, and in its effort does not fail to give thought to race conservation for the future.
[Footnote 2: Through the courtesy of the Editors of _The Outlook_, I am at liberty to use in this and the following chapter, some of the material published in an article by me in _The Outlook_ of June 28, 1916.]
MOBILIZING WOMEN IN FRANCE
Compared with the friction in the mobilization of woman-power in Great Britain, the readjustment in the lives of women in France was like the opening out of some harmonious pageant in full accord with popular sympathy. But who has not said, “France is different!”
It is different, and in nothing more so than in its attitude toward its women. Without discussion with organizations of men, without hindrance from the government, women filled the gaps in the industrial army. It was obvious that the new workers, being unskilled, would need training; the government threw open the technical schools to them. A spirit of hospitality, of helpfulness, of common sense, reigned.
[Illustration: The French poilu on furlough is put to work harrowing.]
And it was not only in industry that France showed herself wise. I found that the government had cooeperated unreservedly with all the philanthropic work of women and had given them a wide sphere in which they could rise above amateurish effort and carry out plans calling for administrative ability.
When the Conseil National des Femmes Francaises inaugurated its work to bring together the scattered families of Belgium and northern France, and when the Association pour l’Aide Fraternelle aux Evacues Alsaciens-Lorrains began its work for the dispersed peoples of the provinces, an order was issued by the government to every prefect to furnish lists of all refugees in his district to the headquarters of the women’s societies in Paris. It was through this good will on the part of the central government that these societies were able to bring together forty thousand Belgian families, and to clothe and place in school, or at work, the entire dispersed population of the reconquered districts of Alsace-Lorraine.
Nor did these societies cease work with the completion of their initial effort. They turned themselves into employment bureaus and with the aid and sanction of the government found work for the thousands of women who were thrown out of employment. They had the machinery to accomplish their object, the Council being an old established society organized throughout the country, and the Association to Aid the Refugees from Alsace-Lorraine (a nonpartisan name adopted, by the way, at the request of the Minister of the Interior to cover for the moment the patriotic work of the leading suffrage society) had active units in every prefecture.
One of the admirable private philanthropies was the canteen at the St. Lazarre station in Paris. I am tempted to single it out because its organizer, Countess de Berkaim, told me that in all the months she had been running it–and it was open twenty-four hours of the day–not a single volunteer had been five minutes late. The canteen was opened in February, 1915, with a reading and rest room. Six hundred soldiers a day have been fed. The two big rooms donated by the railway for the work were charming with their blue and white checked curtains, dividing kitchen from restaurant and rest room from reading room. The work is no small monument to the reliability and organizing faculty of French women.
It was in France, too, that I found the group of women who realized that the permanent change which the war was making in the relation of women to society needed fundamental handling. Mlle. Valentine Thomson, founder of La Vie Feminine, held that not only was the war an economic struggle and not only must the financial power of the combatants rest on the labor of women, but the future of the nations will largely depend upon the attitude which women take toward their new obligations. Realizing that business education would be a determining factor in that attitude, Mlle. Thomson persuaded her father, who was then Minister of Commerce, to send out an official recommendation to the Chambers of Commerce to open the commercial schools to girls. The advice was very generally followed, but as Paris refused, a group of women, backed by the Ministry, founded a school in which were given courses of instruction in the usual business subjects, and lectures on finance, commercial law and international trade.
Mlle. Thomson herself turned her business gifts to good use in a successful effort to build up for the immediate benefit of artists and workers the doll trade of which France was once supreme mistress. Exhibitions of the art, old and new, were held in many cities in the United States, in South America and in England. The dolls went to the hearts of lovers of beauty, and what promised surer financial return, to the hearts of the children.
To do something for France–that stood first in the minds of the initiators of this commercial project. They knew her people must be employed. And next, the desire to bring back charm to an old art prompted their effort. Mlle. Thomson fully realizes just what “Made in Germany” signifies. The peoples of the world have had their taste corrupted by floods of the cheap and tawdry. Germany has been steadily educating us to demand quantity, quantity mountains high. There is promise that the doll at least will be rescued by France and made worth the child’s devotion.
In industry, as well as in all else, one feels that in France there has not been so much a revolution as an orderly development. Women were in munition factories even before the war, the number has merely swelled. The women of the upper and lower bourgeois class always knew their husband’s business, the one could manage the shop, the other could bargain with the best of them as to contracts and output. Women were trained as bookkeepers and clerks under Napoleon I; he wanted men as soldiers, and so decreed women should go into business. And the woman of the aristocratic class has merely slipped out of her seclusion as if putting aside an old-fashioned garment, and now carries on her philanthropies in more serious and cooerdinated manner. We know the practical business experience possessed by French women, and so are prepared to learn that many a big commercial enterprise, the owner having gone to the front, is now directed by his capable wife. That is but a development, too, is it not? For we had all heard long ago of Mme. Duval, even if we had not eaten at her restaurants, and though we had never bought a ribbon or a carpet at the Bon Marche, we had heard of the woman who helped break through old merchant habits and gave the world the department store.
But nothing has been more significant in its growth during the war than the small enterprises in which the husband and wife in the domestic munition shop, laboring side by side with a little group of assistants, have been turning out marvels of skill. The man is now in the trenches fighting for France, and the woman takes command and leads the industrial battalion to victory. She knows she fights for France.
A word more about her business, for she is playing an economic part that brings us up at attention. She may be solving the problem of adjustment of home and work so puzzling to women. There are just such domestic shops dotted all over the map of France; in the Paris district alone there are over eighteen hundred of them. The conditions are so excellent and the ruling wages so high, that the minimum wage law passed in 1915 applied only to the sweated home workers in the clothing trade, and not to the domestic munition shops.
A commission which included in its membership a trade unionist, sent by the British government in the darkest days to find why it was that France could produce so much more ammunition than England, found these tiny workshops, with their primitive equipment, performing miracles. The output was huge and of the best. The woman, when at the head, seemed to turn out more than the man, she worked with such undying energy. The commission said it was the “spirit of France” that drove the workers forward and renewed the flagging energies. But even the trade unionist referred to the absence of all opposition to women on the part of organizations of men. Perhaps the spirit of France is undying because in it is a spirit of unity and harmony.
It seemed to me there was one very practical explanation of the unmistakable energy of the French worker, both man and woman. The whole nation has the wise custom of taking meal time with due seriousness. The break at noon in the great manufactories, as well as in the family workshop, is long, averaging one hour and a half, and reaching often to two hours. The French never gobble. Because food is necessary to animal life, they do not on that account take a puritanical view of it. They dare enjoy it, in spite of its physiological bearing. They sit down to it, dwell upon it, get its flavor, and after the meal they sit still and as a nation permit themselves unabashed to enjoy the sensation of hunger appeased. That’s the common sense spirit of France.
Of course the worker is renewed, hurls herself on the work again with ardor, and losing no time through fatigue, throws off an enormous output.
Wages perform their material share in spurring the worker. Louis Barthou says that the woman’s average is eight francs a day. Long ago–it seems long ago–she could earn at best five francs in the Paris district. She works on piece work now, getting the same rate as men. And think of it!–this must indeed be because of the spirit of France–this woman does better than men on the light munition work, and equals, yes, equals her menfolk on the heavy shells. I do not say this, a commission of men says it, a commission with a trade union member to boot. The coming of the woman-worker with the spirit of win-the-war in her heart is the same in France as elsewhere, only here her coming is more gracious. Twelve hundred easily take up work on the Paris subway. They are the wives of mobilized employees. The offices of the Post, the Telegraph and Telephone bristle with women, of course, for eleven thousand have taken the places of men. Some seven thousand fill up the empty positions on the railways, serving even as conductors on through trains. Their number has swollen to a half million in munitions, and to over half that number in powder mills and marine workshops; in civil establishments over three hundred thousand render service; and even the conservative banking world welcomes the help of some three thousand women.
[Illustration: Has there ever been anything impossible to French women since the time of Jeanne d’Arc? The fields must be harrowed–they have no horses.]
Out on the land the tally is greatest of all. Every woman from the village bends over the bosom of France, urging fertility. The government called them in the first hours of the conflict. Viviani spoke the word:–
“The departure for the army of all those who can carry arms, leaves the work in the fields undone; the harvest is not yet gathered in; the vintage season is near. In the name of the entire nation united behind it, I make an appeal to your courage, and to that of your children, whose age alone and not their valour, keeps them from the war.
“I ask you to keep on the work in the fields, to finish gathering in the year’s harvest, to prepare that of the coming year. You cannot render your country a greater service.
“It is not for you, but for her, that I appeal to your hearts.
“You must safeguard your own living, the feeding of the urban populations and especially the feeding of those who are defending the frontier, as well as the independence of the country, civilization and justice.
“Up, then, French women, young children, daughters and sons of the country! Replace on the field of work those who are on the field of battle. Strive to show them to-morrow the cultivated soil, the harvests all gathered in, the fields sown.
“In hours of stress like the present, there is no ignoble work. Everything that helps the country is great. Up! Act! To work! To-morrow there will be glory for everyone.
“Long live the Republic! Long live France!”
Women instantly responded to the proclamation. Only the old men were left to help, only decrepit horses, rejected by the military requisition. More than once I journeyed far into the country, but I never saw an able-bodied man. What a gap to be filled!–but the French peasant woman filled it. She harvested that first year, she has sowed and garnered season by season ever since. Men, horses, machinery were lacking, the debit yawned, but she piled up a credit to meet it by unflagging toil.
With equal devotion and with initiative and power of organization the woman of leisure has “carried on.” The three great societies corresponding with our Red Cross, the Societe de Secours aux Blesses, the Union des Femmes de France, and the Association des Dames Francaises, have established fifteen hundred hospitals with one hundred and fifteen thousand beds, and put forty-three thousand nurses in active service. Efficiency has kept pace with this superb effort, as is testified to by many a war cross, many a medal, and the cross of the Legion of Honor.
Up to the level of her means France sets examples in works of human salvage worthy the imitation of all nations. The mairie in each arrondissement has become no less than a community center. The XIV arrondissement in Paris is but the pattern for many. Here the wife of the mayor, Mme. Brunot, has made the stiff old building a human place. The card catalogue carrying information about every soldier from the district, gives its overwhelming news each day gently to wife or mother, through the lips of Mme. Brunot or her women assistants. The work of Les Amis des Orphelins de Guerre centers here, the “adopted” child receiving from the good maire the gifts in money and presents sent by the Americans who are generously filling the role of parent. The widows of the soldiers gather here for comfort and advice.
And the mairie holds a spirit of experiment. It houses not only courage and sympathy, but progress. The “XIV” has ventured on a Cuisine Populaire under Mme. Brunot’s wholesome guidance. And so many other arrondissements have followed suit that Paris may be regarded as making a great experiment in the municipal feeding of her people. It is not charity, the food is paid for. In the “XIV” fifteen hundred persons eat a meal or two at the mairie each day. The charge is seventy-five centimes–fifteen cents, and one gets a soup, meat and a vegetable, and fruit.
The world seems to be counselling us that if we wish to be well and cheaply fed we must go where there are experts to cook, where buying is done in quantity, and where the manager knows about nutritive values.
If a word of praise is extended to the maire of the XIV arrondissement for his very splendid work, an example to all France, he quickly urges, “Ah, but Mme. Brunot!” And so it is always, if you exclaim, “Oh, the spirit of the men of France!” and a Frenchman’s ears catch your words, he will correct, “Ah, but the women!”
And the women do stand above all other women, they have had such opportunity for heroism. Whose heart does not beat the faster when the names Soisson and Mme. Macherez are spoken! The mayor and the council gone, she assumes the office and keeps order while German shells fall thick on the town. And then the enemy enters, and asks for the mayor, and she replies, “Le maire, c’est moi.” And then do we women not like to think of Mlle. Deletete staying at her post in the telegraph office in Houplines in spite of German bombardments, and calmly facing tormentors, when they smashed her instruments and threatened her with death. One-tenth of France in the enemy’s hands, and in each village and town some woman staying behind to nurse the sick and wounded, to calm the population when panic threatens, to stand invincible between the people and their conquerors!
It is very splendid!–the French man holding steady at the front, the French woman an unyielding second line of defense. But what of France? Words of praise must not swallow our sense of obligation. Let us with our hundred millions of people face the figures. The death rate in France, not counting the military loss, is twenty per thousand, with a birth rate of eight per thousand. In Paris for the year ending August, 1914, there were forty-eight thousand nine hundred and seventeen births; in the year ending in the same month, 1916, the births dropped to twenty-six thousand one hundred and seventy-nine. The total deaths for that year in all France were one million, one hundred thousand, and the births three hundred and twelve thousand.
France is profoundly, infinitely sad. She has cause. I shall never forget looking into the very depths of her sorrow when I was at Creil. A great drive was in progress, the wounded were being brought down from the front, troops hurried forward. Four different regiments passed as I sat at dejeuner. The restaurant, full of its noonday patrons, was a typical French cafe giving on the street. We could have reached out and touched the soldiers. They marched without music, without song or word, marched in silence. Some of the men were from this very town; their little sons, with set faces, too, walked beside them and had brought them bunches of flowers. The people in the restaurant never spoke above a whisper, and when the troops passed were as silent as death. There was no cheer, but just a long, wistful gaze, the soldiers looking into their eyes, they into the soldiers’.
But France can bear her burden, can solve her problem if we lift our full share from her bent shoulders. Her women can save the children if the older men, relieved by our young soldiers, come back from the trenches, setting women free for the work of child saving. France can rebuild her villages if her supreme architects, her skilled workers are replaced in the trenches by our armies. France can renew her spirit and save her body if her experts in science, if her poets and artists are sent back to her, and our less great bare their breasts to the Huns.
MOBILIZING WOMEN IN GERMANY
The military mobilization of Germany was no more immediate and effective than the call to arms for women. On August 1, 1914, the summons went out, and German women were at once part of the smooth running machine of efficiency.
The world says the Kaiser has been preparing for war for forty years. The world means that he has been preparing the fighting force. The sword and guns were to be ready. But the military arm of the nation, the German government believes, is but the first line of attack; the people are the second line, and so they, too, in all their life activities, were not forgotten. The military aristocracy has never neglected the function of women in the state. The definition of their function may differ from ours, but that there is a function is recognized, and it is related to the other vital social organs.
Slowly, through the last half of the nineteenth century, there had grown up clubs among German women focusing on a definite bit of work, or crystallizing about an idea. Germany even had suffrage societies. Politics, however, were forbidden by the government; women were not allowed to hang on the fringe of a meeting held to discuss men’s politics. But the women of the Fatherland were free to pool their ideas in philanthropic and hygienic corners, and venture out at times on educational highways. The Froebel societies had many a contest with the government, for to the military mind, the gentle pedagogue’s theories seemed subversive of discipline as enforced by spurs and bayonets.
These clubs, covering every trade and profession, every duty and every aspiration of women, were dotted over the German Empire. At last they drew together in a federation. The government looked on. It saw a machine created, and believing in thorough organization, no doubt gave thought to the possibilities of the Bund deutscher, Frauenvereine. At the outbreak of war, Dr. Gertrud Baumer was president of the Bund. She was a leader of great ability, marshalling half a million of women. No other organization was so widespread and well-knit, except perhaps Der Vaterlandische Frauenverein with its two thousand one hundred and fifty branches. It was evangelical and military. The Empress was its patron. Its popular name is the “Armee der Kaiserin.”
There the two great national societies stood–one aristocratic, the other democratic, one appealing to the ruling class, the other holding in bonds of fellowship the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural, the professional and the industrial woman.
Every belligerent president or premier has faced exactly the same perplexity. What woman, what society, is to be recognized as leader? The question has brought beads of perspiration to the foreheads of statesmen.
France solved the difficulty urbanely. It said “yes” to each and all. It promised cooeperation and kept the promise. By affably–always affably and hospitably–accepting this service from one society, and suggesting another pressing need to its competitor, it sorted out capabilities, and warded off duplication. Perhaps this did not bring the fullest efficiency, but the loss was more than made up, no doubt, by a free field for initiative. Britain ignored all existing organizations of women, and after a year and a half of puzzlement created a separate government department for their mobilization. America struck out still another course. It took the heads of several national societies, bound them in one committee, to which it gave, perhaps with the idea of avoiding any danger of friction, neither power nor funds.
Germany faced the same critical moment for decision. The government wanted efficient use of woman-power on the land, in the factory, in the home, and that quickly. It made use of the best existing machinery. Dr. Gertrud Baumer visited the Ministerium des Innern, and on August 1 she issued a call for the mobilization of women for service to the Fatherland in the Nationale Frauendienst. Under the aegis of the government, with the national treasury behind her, Dr. Baumer summoned the women of the Empire. By order, every woman and every organization of women was to fall in line under the Frauendienst in each village and city for “the duration of the war.” 
In each army district, the government appointed a woman as directress, and by order to town and provincial authorities made the Frauendienst part of local executive affairs.
Among the immediate duties laid upon the Frauendienst by the authorities was the task of registering all needy persons, of providing cheap eating places, opening workrooms, and setting up nurseries for children, especially for those who were motherless and those whose fathers had fallen at the front and whose mothers were in some gainful pursuit. With these duties went the administrative service of cooeperating with the government in “keeping up an even supply of foodstuffs, and controlling the buying and selling of food.”
Germany anticipated as did no other belligerent the unemployment which would follow a declaration of war, and prepared to meet the condition. A great deal of army work, such as tent sewing, belts for cartridges, bread sacks, and sheets for hospitals, was made immediately available for the women thrown out of luxury trades. In the first month of the war the Frauendienst opened work-rooms in all great centers; machinery was installed by magic and through the six work-rooms in Berlin alone twenty-three thousand women were given paid employment in one week.
Such efforts could not, of course, absorb the surplus labor, for unemployment was very great. Eighty percent of the women’s hat-makers and milliners were out of work, seventy-two percent of the workers in glass and fifty-eight percent in china. The Frauendienst investigated two hundred and fifty-five thousand needy cases, and in Berlin alone found sixty thousand women who had lost their employment. Charity had to render help. Here, again, it is an example of the alertness of the organization and its close connection with the government that the Berlin magistracy deputed to twenty-three Hilfscommissionen from the Frauendienst the work of giving advice and charity relief to the unemployed. Knitting rooms were opened, clothing depots, mending rooms, where donated clothing was repaired, and in one month fifty-six thousand orders for milk, five hundred thousand for bread, and three hundred thousand for meals were distributed for the city authorities.
The adjustment to war requirements went on more quickly in Germany than in any other country. Before a year had passed the surplus hands had been absorbed, and a shortage of labor power was beginning to be felt.
And now opens the war drama set with the same scene everywhere. Women hurry forward to take up the burden laid down by men, and to assume the new occupations made necessary by the organization of the world for military conflict. To tell of Germany is merely to speak in bigger numbers. Women in munitions? Of course, well over the million mark. Trolley conductors? Of course, six hundred in Berlin alone before the first Christmas. Women are making the fuses, fashioning the big shells, and at the same heavy machines used by the men. That speaks volumes–the same heavy machines. Great Britain and France have in every case introduced lighter machinery for their women. But, whatever the conditions, in Germany the women are handling high explosives, sewing heavy saddlery, operating the heaviest drill machines. Women have been put on the “hardest jobs hitherto filled by men.” In the German-Luxemburg Mining and Furnace Company at Differdingen, they are found doing work at the slag and blast furnaces which had always required men of great endurance. They work on the same shifts as the men, receive the same pay, but are not worked overtime “because they must go home and perform their domestic duties.”
One feels the weight of the German system. Patient women shoulder double burdens. They always did.
In the Post and Telegraph department there is an army of fifty thousand women. The telephone service is entirely in their hands, and running more smoothly than formerly. Dr. Kaethe Schirmacher declares comfortingly in the _Kriegsfrau_ that “one must not forget that these women know many important bits of information–and keep silent.” Women have learned to keep a secret!
One hundred and eighty nurses, experts with the X-ray, were in the front line dressing stations in the early days of the war, and before a week of conflict had passed women were in the Field Post, and Frau Reimer, organizer of official chauffeurs, was on the western line of attack.
Agriculture claims more women than any occupation in Germany. They were always on the farm, perhaps they are happier there now since they themselves are in command. It is said that “the peasants work in the boots and trousers of their husbands and ride in the saddle.” War has liberated German women from the collar and put them on horseback!
But strangest and most unexpected of all is the professional and administrative use of women. The government has sent women architects and interior decorators to East Prussia to plan and carry through reconstruction work. Over a hundred–to be exact, one hundred and sixteen at last accounts–have taken the places of men in administrative departments connected with the railways. Many widows who have shown capacity have been put in government positions of importance formerly held by their husbands. Women have become farm managers, superintendents of dairy industries, and representatives of landed proprietors.
The disseminating of all instruction and information for women on war economies was delegated to the League of Women’s Domestic Science Clubs. The Berlin course was held in no less a place than the Abgeordnetenhaus, and the Herrenhaus opened its doors wide on Rural Women’s Day when Agricultural Week was held at the capital.
When the full history of the war comes to be written, no doubt one reason for Germany’s marvelous power to stand so long against the world will be found in her use of every brain and muscle of the nation. This has been for her no exclusive war. Her entire people to their last ounce of energy have been engaged.
And this supreme service on the part of German women seeks democratic expression. From them comes the clearest, bravest word that has reached us across the border. The most hopeful sign is this manifesto from the suffrage organizations to the government: “Up to the present Germany has stood in the lowest rank of nations as regards women’s rights. In most civilized lands women already have been given a large share in public affairs. German women have been granted nothing except within the most insignificant limits. In New Zealand, Australia and most American States, and even before the war in Finland and Norway, they had been given political rights; to-day, Sweden, Russia and many other countries give them a full or limited franchise. The war has brought a full victory to the women of England, Canada, Russia and Denmark, and large concessions are within sight in France, Holland and Hungary.
“Among us Germans not only the national but even the commercial franchise is denied, and even a share in the industrial and commercial courts. In the demand for the democratization of German public life our legislators do not seem even to admit the existence of women.
“But during the war the cooperation of women in public life has unostentatiously grown from year to year until to-day the number of women engaged in various callings in Germany exceeds the number of men.
“The work they are doing includes all spheres of male activity; without them it would no longer be possible to support the economic life of the people. Women have done their full share in the work of the community.
“Does not this performance of duty involve the right to share in the building up and extension of the social order?
“The women protest against this lack of political rights, in virtue both of their work for the community and of their work as human beings. They demand political equality with men. They demand the direct, equal and secret franchise for all legislative bodies, full equality in the communes and in legal representation of their interests.
“This first joint pronouncement on women’s demands will be followed by others until the victory of our cause is won.”
[Footnote 3: “Die Frauenvereine jeder Stadt verbinden sich fuer die Dauer des Krieges zur Organization Nationaler Frauendienst die zu Berlin am 1ten August begruendet wurde.”]
WOMEN OVER THE TOP IN AMERICA
American women have begun to go over the top. They are going up the scaling-ladder and out into All Man’s Land. Perhaps love of adventure tempts them, perhaps love of money, or a fine spirit of service, but whatever the propelling motive, we are seeing them make the venture.
There is nothing new in our day in a woman’s being paid for her work–some of it. But she has never before been seen in America employed, for instance, as a section hand on a railway. The gangs are few and small as yet, but there the women are big and strong specimens of foreign birth. They “trim” the ballast and wield the heavy “tamping” tool with zest. They certainly have muscles, and are tempted to use them vigorously at three dollars a day.
In the machine shops where more skill than strength is called for, the American element with its quick wits and deft fingers predominates. Young women are working at the lathe with so much precision and accuracy that solicitude as to what would become of the world if all its men marched off to war is in a measure assuaged. In the push and drive of the industrial world, women are handling dangerous chemicals in making flash lights, and T.N.T. for high explosive shells. The American college girl is not as yet transmuting her prowess of the athletic field into work on the anvil, as is the university woman in England, but she has demonstrated her manual strength and skill on the farm with plough and harrow.
Women and girls answer our call for messenger service, and their intelligence and courtesy are an improvement upon the manners of the young barbarians of the race. Women operate elevators, lifting us with safety to the seventh heaven, or plunging us with precision to the depths. There were those at first who refused to entrust their lives to such frail hands, and there are still some who look concerned when they see a woman at the lever; but on the whole the elevator “girl” has gained the confidence of her public, and has gained it by skill, not by feminine wiles, for even men won’t shoot into space with a woman at the helm whose sole equipment is charm. With need of less skill than the elevator operator, but more patience and tact in managing human nature, the woman conductor is getting her patrons into line. We are still a little embarrassed in her presence. We try not to stare at the well-set-up woman in her sensible uniform, while she on her part tries to look unconscious, and with much dignity accomplishes the common aim much more successfully than do we. She is so attentive to her duties, so courteous, and, withal, so calm and serious that I hope she will abide with us longer than the “duration of the war.”
In short, America is witnessing the beginning of a great industrial and social change, and even those who regard the situation as temporary cannot doubt that the experience will have important reactions. The development is more advanced than it was in Great Britain at a corresponding time, for even before the United States entered the conflict women were being recruited in war industries. They have opened up every line of service. There is not an occupation in which a woman is not found.
When men go a-warring, women go to work.
A distinguished general at the end of the Cuban War, enlarging upon the poet’s idea of woman’s weeping role in wartime, said in a public speech: “When the country called, women put guns in the hands of their soldier boys and bravely sent them away. After the good-byes were said there was nothing for these women to do but to go back and wait, wait, wait. The excitement of battle was not for them. It was simply a season of anxiety and heartrending inactivity.” Now the fact is, when a great call to arms is sounded for the men of a nation, women enlist in the industrial army. If women did indeed sit at home and weep, the enemy would soon conquer.
The dull census tells the thrilling story. Before our Civil War women were found in less than a hundred trades, at its close in over four hundred. The census of 1860 gives two hundred and eighty-five thousand women in gainful pursuits; that of 1870, one million, eight hundred and thirty-six thousand. Of the Transvaal at war, this story was told to me by an English officer. He led a small band of soldiers down into the Boer country, on the north from Rhodesia, as far as he dared. He “did not see a man,” even boys as young as fifteen had joined the army. But at the post of economic duty stood the Boer woman; she was tending the herds and carrying on all the work of the farm. She was the base of supplies. That was why the British finally put her in a concentration camp. Her man could not be beaten with her at his back.
War compels women to work. That is one of its merits. Women are forced to use body and mind, they are not, cannot be idlers. Perhaps that is the reason military nations hold sway so long; their reign continues, not because they draw strength from the conquered nation, but because their women are roused to exertion. Active mothers ensure a virile race.
The peaceful nation, if its women fall victims to the luxury which rapidly increasing wealth brings, will decay. If there come no spiritual awakening, no sense of responsibility of service, then perhaps war alone can save it. The routing of idleness and ease by compulsory labor is the good counterbalancing some of the evil.
The rapidly increasing employment of women to-day, then, is the usual, and happy, accompaniment of war. But the development has its opponents, and that is nothing new, either. Let us look them over one by one. The most mischievous objector is the person, oftenest a woman, who says the war will be short, and fundamental changes, therefore, should not be made. This agreeable prophecy does not spring from a heartening belief in victory, but only from the procrastinating attitude, “Why get ready?” To prepare for anything less certain than death seems folly to many of the sex, over-trained in patient waiting.
Then there is the official who constantly sees the seamy side of industrial life and who concludes–we can scarcely blame him–that “it would be well if women were excluded entirely from factory life.” The bad condition of industrial surroundings bulks large in his mind, and the value of organized work to us mortals bulks small. We are all too inclined to forget that the need for work cannot be eliminated, but the unhealthy process in a dangerous trade can. Clean up the factory, rather than clean out the women, is a sound slogan.
And then comes the objector who is exercised as to the effect of paid work upon woman’s charm. Solicitude on this score is often buried in a woman’s heart. It was a woman, the owner of a large estate, who when proposing to employ women asked how many men she would have to hire in addition, “to dig, plough and do all the hard work.” On learning that the college units do everything on a farm, she queried anxiously, “But how about their corsets?” To the explanation, “They don’t wear any,” came the regret, “What a pity to make themselves so unattractive!”
I have heard fear expressed, too, lest sex attraction be lost through work on army hats, the machinery being noisy and the operative, if she talk, running the danger of acquiring a sharp, high voice. One could but wonder if most American women work on army hats.
Among the women actually employed, I have found without exception a fine spirit of service. So many of them have a friend or brother “over there,” that backing up the boys makes a strong personal appeal. But some of the women who have left factory life behind are adopting an attitude towards the present industrial situation as lacking in vision as in patriotism. Throughout a long discussion in which some of these women participated I was able to follow and get their point of view. To them a woman acting as a messenger, an elevator operator, or a trolley conductor, was anathema, and the tempting of women into these employments seemed but the latest vicious trick of the capitalist. The conductor in her becoming uniform was most reprehensible, and her evident satisfaction in her job suggested to her critics that she merely was trying to play a melodramatic part “as a war hero.” In any case, the conductor’s occupation was one no woman should be in, “crowded and pushed about as she is.” It was puzzling to know why it was regarded as right for a woman to pay five cents and be pushed, and unbecoming for another woman to be paid eighteen dollars and ninety cents a week and run the risk of a jolt when stepping outside her barrier.
But the ideals of yesterday fail to make their appeal. It is not the psychological moment to urge, on the ground of comfort, the woman’s right to protection. The contrast between the trenches and the street car or factory is too striking. But it is, however, the exact moment to plead for better care of workers, both women and men, because their health and skill are as necessary in attaining the national aim as the soldiers’ prowess and well-being. It is the time to advocate the protection of the worker from long hours, because the experience of Europe has proved that a greater and better output is achieved when a short day is strictly adhered to, when the weekly half-holiday is enjoyed, and Sunday rest respected. The United States is behind other great industrial countries in legal protection for the workers. War requirements may force us to see in the health of the worker the greatest of national assets. Meantime, whether approved or not, the American woman is going over the top. Four hundred and more are busy on aeroplanes at the Curtiss works. The manager of a munition shop where to-day but fifty women are employed, is putting up a dormitory to accommodate five hundred. An index of expectation! Five thousand are employed by the Remington Arms Company at Bridgeport. At the International Arms and Fuse Company at Bloomfield, New Jersey, two thousand, eight hundred are employed. The day I visited the place, in one of the largest shops women had only just been put on the work, but it was expected that in less than a month they would be found handling all of the twelve hundred machines under that one roof alone.
The skill of the women staggers one. After a week or two they master the operations on the “turret,” gauging and routing machines. The best worker on the “facing” machine is a woman. She is a piece worker, as many of the women are, and is paid at the same rate as men. This woman earned, the day I saw her, five dollars and forty cents. She tossed about the fuse parts, and played with that machine, as I would with a baby. Perhaps it was in somewhat the same spirit–she seemed to love her toy.
Most of the testers and inspectors are women. They measure the parts step by step, and weigh the completed fuse, carrying off the palm for reliability. The manager put it, “for inspection the women are more conscientious than men. They don’t measure or weigh just one piece, shoving along a half-dozen untouched and let it go at that. They test each.” That did not surprise me, but I was not prepared to hear that the women do not have so many accidents as men, or break the machines so often. In explanation, the manager threw over an imaginary lever with vigor sufficient to shake the factory, “Men put their whole strength on, women are more gentle and patient.”
Nor are the railways neglecting to fill up gaps in their working force with women. The Pennsylvania road, it is said, has recruited some seven hundred of them. In the Erie Railroad women are not only engaged as “work classifiers” in the locomotive clerical department, but hardy Polish women are employed in the car repair shops. They move great wheels as if possessed of the strength of Hercules. And in the locomotive shops I found women working on drill-press machines with ease and skill. Just as I came up to one operator, she lifted an engine truck-box to the table and started drilling out the studs. She had been at the work only a month, and explained her skill by the information that she was Swedish, and had always worked with her husband in their auto-repair shop. All the other drill-press hands and the “shapers,” too, were Americans whose husbands, old employees, were now “over there.” Not one seemed to have any sense of the unusual; even the little blond check-clerk seated in her booth at the gates of the works with her brass discs about her had in a few months’ time changed a revolution into an established custom. She and the discs seemed old friends. Women are adaptable.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood and Underwood_ The daily round in the Erie Railroad workshops.]
But everywhere I gathered the impression that the men are a bit uneasy. A foreman in one factory pointed out a man who “would not have voted for suffrage” had he guessed that women were “to rush in and gobble everything up.” I tried to make him see that it wasn’t the vote that gave the voracious appetite, but necessity or desire to serve. And in any case, women do not push men out, they push them up. In not a single instance did I hear of a man being turned off to make a place for a woman. He had left his job to go into the army, or was advanced to heavier or more skilled work.
As to how many women have supplanted men, or poured into the new war industries, no figures are available. One guess has put it at a million. But that is merely a guess. I have seen them by the tens, the hundreds, the thousands. The number is large and rapidly increasing. We may know that something important is happening when even the government takes note. The United States Labor Department has recognized the new-comers by establishing a Division of Women’s Work with branches in every State. It looks as if these bureaus of employment would not be idle, with a showing of one thousand, five hundred applicants the first week the New York office was opened. It is to be hoped that this government effort will save the round pegs from getting into the square holes.
But even the round peg in the round hole brings difficulties. When Adam Smith asserted that of all sorts of luggage man was the most difficult to move, he forgot woman! The instant women are carried into a new industry, they bring with them puzzling problems. Where shall we put their coats and picture hats, how shall we cover up their hair, what shall we feed them with? They must have lockers and rest rooms, caps and overalls, and above all, canteens. The munition workers, the conductors, in fact, all women in active work, get prodigiously hungry. They have made a regiment of dietitians think about calories. Here is what one of the street railways in New York City offered them on a given day:–
Tomato soup 10c. or with an order 5c. Roast leg of veal 16c.
Lamb fricassee 16c.
Ham steak 16c.
Liver and onions 16c.