View original document

The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.

W. B. WILSON. Secretary


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



February, 1921

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Amc, r/ca will
as stron g


as her wom er\.,

Wol\IEN's BunEAu,
Washing ton, Februar y 1, 1921.
written by Dr. George
Sm: Transmi tted herewith 1s a
,, ebster, member of the Illinois Industri al Survey, apppinte d by the
governo r in 1918, which was read by him before the Illinois \Vomen s
Legislati ve Congress at their meeting, December 28, 1920. It deals
with the physiological basis for the shorter working day for women
in industry and is importa nt from the point of view of fatigue and
studies made on producti on. The Women' s Bureau has secured permission from Dr. Webster to publish this ma~erial.
Respectf ully submitte d.
MARY ANn.l!:nsoN, Dfrector .
Hon. "\V. B. W1LsoN,
-Sec1·etm'y of Labor.
U. S.



3'.:!GSl - 2 1 - 1
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


""'Vomen will be found to be fearfully wetgltted in tlte race for life. The
duty of nrnn i!il to see tbat not n grain is i,iled u1t0n that loud beyontl ·w hat
nutu1·e im1rnses; that i11j1mtice is not added to inequality."

Labor is the foremost domestic problem confronting the American
people to-clay. One of the most important phases of that problem
for both men and women is the question of hours. The importance
of this question to women is shown by the fact that there are about
twelve millions of women employed in the hundred and more leading
industries of the United States to-day.
Ever since the time w·hen "Adam delved and Eve span," cheerfully
and uncomplainingly woman has done a large share of the world's
work. In 1630 it was though that devils went into old women. At
the same time live cats were broiled over a fire, not because of any
ill will toward the cats but to get the best of the devil. Now the
real reform consists in reforming the community thinking about the
In any small town in the Southwest you may sec bron hos standing in the streets, their bridle reins thrmvn over their heads and
touching the ground in front of them. They will not attempt to
run nway. They have been trained to think they are tied. They
are tied by an idea. Men are like these bronchos. Man does not
reason as much as he thinks he does. Thinking has never been
popular; it is too difficult. Looking backward over the 40 years of
conflicts, hopes, opinions, and legislative . enactments we see that
men, confronted by the problem of need for increased production,
have employed what the psychologists call the "trial and error"
method of the unthinking animals, and have assumed that increased
production is best accomplished by increasing the number of \10urs
of labor. They have been tied, fettered by this idea, which has been
-proved so erroneous. Nothin~ in industry ·is now better known than
that lengthening the hours of labor beyond a certain point not only
does not increas3 but actually diminished output. Out of long periods of progress by conscious "trial and error" some truths eventually emerge, and i1ere again the one fundamental achievement has
been the reform in the community thinking about the matter. Having learned this, and admitting its truth, we inquire what is the great
problem, the correct solution of which confronts us~

Industry is at bottom essentially a problem in man power. One
important element in this problem is the question of pooling all this
human power for the good of the industry and of all those engaged
in it, while still securing the maximum production.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




Thus it uppears that one of the lTI.OSt important phases of the laJJor
problem to-clay is the question of hours. "'\Vhat is the minimum number
of hours in which the worker may produce the maximum output, day .
after day, week after week, year after year, and remain well, at least
so far as injury from o_verwork is concerned? This problem affects
all classes, as it inrnlyes ancl concerns national wealth and, national
vitality, and the perpetuity of the race, Of equal importance with
the problem itself is the question of how it shall be solved. It is of
p.1ramom1t importance, that the forward-looking among us go to work
. in a calm, orderly, large·minded, farsighted, constructive manner to
determine and establish a standard of working hours; but it is of
infinitely greater importance that this standard sh~ll be right, and
that it be established on a strictly scientific foundation, a foundation,
a standard, determined by the united efforts of the physiologi t, the
psychologist, the engineer. This standard should be for all "·ho
labor in industry, men and ·women alike.

At the begirmini of any intelligent discnssio:i;i. of any ~opi1~ion in
regard to whether a day should be 8 or 10 hours or longer, --IVe shouhl
know the kind of evidence on which the opinion is bas'ecl; and how
that evidence ,,as obtained. It is absolutely and fundamentally ssential that any opinions in regard to fatigue and output or hours
and output, or any other physiological evidence, should be ba ed on n,
method of procedure outlined and planned by an expert on industrial
physiology. The work done by such men as Frederick S. Lee (10) 1
or P. Sargant Florence (4) is an illustration of the best type of this
kind of work.
The opinion of such organizations as the National Industrial Conference Board (11) should be accepted with caution, and only after
carefully eonsiclering the fact that their m--id nee ,ras obtained by ·
means of the questionnaire and not by the physiological method,
"·hich many believe to be the only correct and reliable one.
· To both the employer and the employee it may come as a distinct
shock, and at least as a new idea, that science can be a service to industry in the proper solution of this question. First there is the
natural hostility of labor toward science in general, been.use it has
often meant only new and more complicated machines, something
often impersonal and cruel. This is an erroneous view, for science
is not a body of beliefs and opinions, but a 1rny, a method of denling
with and solving problems. " Scientific method" is the term employed for the orderly and systematic effort to find out.
The employer regards as impractical the application of scientific
methods to the solution of the problem of hours. To him it is a new
idea, and "there is no pain like the pain of a new idea." Th~ question must be finally settled by the fair cooperation of both employer
and employee in collaboration with the physiologist, the ·PS!fchologist,
.the engineer-after education-and not by any granting ~of favors
by either side as though it were a charity. Both sh9ulq ;coop~tat.e,
because the results are mutually advantageous. Havmg , established


Reference is made by number to "Liternture' c'ited;''
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

v. -~




a standard, it shoulcl then be enacted into law, but in fixing a standard
for "·omen the fact that they· are women should be taken fully into
This standard should be a scientific standard; it should ha Ye a
physiological basis. It is one of th~ most extraordinary facts in
connection with the det rmination of the length of a working day
that so little has beeri done to determine this physiological basis,
and to apply in industry what is already known to science.
It has been abundantly demon truted that the relations between
labor and capital can not be left safely to the unfettered play. of
individual competition. '\Vhat is far more important as a principle
is that the regulation of homs and conditions of work is no longer
a cont€st between labor and capital, especially so for as women are
concerned; the State, society as an organic whole, is also conccmed.
We must see to it that both industry and labor have a correct conception of their relationship to society, but we must look fairly and
impartially at both sides, as the problem is too important, too .vast,
to be looked at from only one side, for "no man understands his own
side. until he is familiar with the other side." Before attaining a
satisfactory solution to the problem of labor and industry a great
part of life will have to be reconstructed. It is of fundamental importance that this reconstruction shall be well revised from the start,
free :from the tl'ial and error method, and based upon scientific rules,
in order to a void the unfortunate errors of the past.
Before attempting to answer the question-solve the problem of
a standard of. w·orking hours-it will be necessary first to make a little
study of the human mach ine and of fatigue; what it is, how it is produced, what it does, and how it may be regulated, and its harmful
effects prevented.
In modern industry the science of machinery is developed to its
highest point of perfection, in its construction nothing is left to
chance, its type is related in accordance with its exact fitness for the
work to be done, it is not overworked 01· o:verlooked, all questjons
relating to it have received careful study, and great care is exercised
to secure and maintain the highest degree of output compatible with
necessary wear and .tear ,or injury to the machine itself. Unfortunately,_the same thought, care, and attention have not been bestowed
upon the human machine. In this connection, Prof. Frederick S.
Lee, of Columbia Unfrersity, who is one of the leading authorities
on the subject, has said (10, pp. 2-3):
It is pertinent to our pre ent purpose to regard this human element, the
combine<l body and min<l of the worker, as itself a machine. There is nothing
derogatory to the worker in this conception; it is the customary conception of
physiological sciencB, which has learned to respect living substance above all
other created things, and yet finds it most helpful to regard eYery living body
as a mechanism working according to the fundamental lmvs of all mechanisms,
but with its own specific ways of acting that characterize living in contrast to
nonliYi'ng substance. No other factory mechanism approaches this human machnB in its intricacy, the perfection of the correlation of its working parts, its
combination of delicacy an<l strength, its adaptability to the work required of it,
None is so essential to industry.
Nevertheless, the present ways of han<11ing the human machine are ernpiriral
and crude. Experience has taught most industrial managers ,vbat they believe to be the proper way of ueali1H~ with tlle workers, and experience is co:.,.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



ceiYed to be the best guide: Th fhonght that th worker i a 11lly::;iolog i al
mecltanism, ancl should be treate<.l ns .-rn.: 11, t 1at the 11roblem of tlte worker i · a
l)h;ysiologi n.l problem, is regarded a: a cnc.1ernic, fit for the laboratory, but not
"practical" enough for the fact ory. T hat word "practical" is one of th' m<.k t
alluring, mo t dangerou , arnl most misu~e<l words in tlle English tongue.
Crimes uunumbereu haY been collllllitted iu its nnmc. It is true tha t the science
of the human machine us emplo)·ecl in indust rial work ha not :yet been <.l Yelopecl so fur a s tllat of nonliYing machinery. ,:, * ~'

The manager in industry gi ,·es his best thought to his machines ,
but to the living machines he has gfren little attention, and he has
yet to be shown. The trouble is not with the experience, but ,Yith
the experiencer. He gets ,,hat he is looking for, and doe not question. Blind " trial and error " is the animal and the racial wa r,
and, unfortunately, it continues to be the chief method of modern
man, for psychology teaches us that man rarely stops to think out
the correct method of procedur nnle~s the difficulty is so great thnt
no plan of action immediately pre ents itself.
The wonderful, amazing adYanc of the natural sciences during
recent years is due to a new plan of campaign. The scientists now
set no definite problems, plan their inYestigations so as to eliminate
error, and put interngence into natures uninterngent method of progre~s. It is this intelligent planning, this looking ahead on the part
of uch men, that is enabling us to e tubli h a scientific, physiologic·al
ba. is for the shorter day in indu try, and the proper handlii1g of the
human machine.
In what essential respects doe. the human machine differ from the
nonliYing machine 1 The answer to the question is one of the keys
that unlock the secrets of the \\hole question.
The human machine is ubject to fatigue, the nonliving machine is
not. Fatigue has been defined as a" diminution of working cap~city,
often accompanied by feelings o:f weariness, caused in the human oro·anism by the length or intensity of some activity." ( 4, p. 15.)
Also: "The sum of the re ults of activity which show themsehes
in a diminished capacity :for doing ,York." (G. p. 3).
This is well explained in Uemorandum No. 7 of the British Health
of Munitions '\¥orkers Committee. ( G, p. 3) :
In the animal body the performance of work depends on tllc nctiYiti es of
parts ,Yhkh arc best considered under tllree grout)s- firs t, the complex n -nous
mechanisms of the brain and , pin al con1 \Yhiell arc concerned in the initiation
and the distl'ibution of impulses to a ction; second, C1e nenes which concluct
tlle impulses to mm,cles; and tllin1, the muscles themselves, which· by contracting perform external work.
Fatigue has been separately -cl in all these parts. In its essential feutures the fatigue of all alike has been found, when it occurs, to depend not
upon the simple using up-exhaustion-of the substances supplying the chemical energy which is liberated dnring work, but upon the accumulation within
tlle living elements of the products of the cbemical changes involved. Fatigue
of the animal machine, that is to sny, is not to be compared with the faihn·e
of fuel in a team engine, or ,vith the nmuing dmYn of a clock weight, but rather
with the clogging of the wlleels in some mechanism by dirt.

Explained in another way, a tired person is one who is poisoned
by the waste products formed in his own body. The human machine is of such marvelous and wonderful structure that, as .Miss
Josephine Goldmark ( 5, p. 13) puts it, " like a running 'stream, it
purifies itself, and durmg repose these toxic impurities are normally
burned up by the oxygen brought by the blood, excreted hy the kid-·
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



neys, destroyed in the liver, or eliminated from the body through the
lungs." Income exactly balances expenditure, repair equals waste,
so long as bodily and mental actiYity are balanced by rest and sleep.
Rest is thus seen to be just as much active process as is ,vork. So
long as this equilibrium is maintained health is maintained, but as
soon as it is destroyed there is an accumulation of waste materials;
fatigue, exhaustion; impaired health, follow each other as consequence upon cause, the physiological is replaced by the pathological,
and ultimately death may ensue. Between perfect metabolic balance,
on the one hand, and death, on the other, there are a large number of
sequences and a wide range and variety of injuries with which we
must become acquainted and so be able to recognize and deal with
intelligently by preventive means before irreparable injury or death
Fatigue, like pain, is one of the great safety valves of the human
machine. It is protectiYe. It is a physic defense. Like pain, it
,varns of and protects against that which is ,,orse than itself. It is
a sign that one is going too fast.
In the human engine certain food substances are eaten, digested,
absorbed into the blood stream, assimilated or built up into living
, tissues, and part is transformed into heat and work in accordance
with the laws of the conservation of en~rgy. The building up and
the breaking clown are knmn1 as metabolism, this term including all
those chemical processes the sum of ~hich constitute life. During
this complicated proce..:s oxygen is consumed, and this allo"'\Ys of the
oxidation of foodstuffs at the temperature and under the conditions
existing in the body.
In this process "·here "'\York is done waste products of a chemical
and essentially acid nature and known as fatigue stuffs are produced
and accumulate in the blood and cause the phenomenon of fatigue.
·when one uses np more than the income. of food and oxygen in a unit
of time,. it means overfatiguc and the breaking down of tissue. It
means spending not only all yonr income, but rnme of yonr re erve,
your bank account, and if continued too far, may lead to physiologieal bankrupt y.
Indu trinl fatigue is defined as "diminution of working capacity
caused by the length or intensity of some actiYity at a 'grrinful occupation.'" ( 4, p. 20.)
It is the after effect of work. It is the condition of the worker's
organism after he has expended energy in doing something. It is a
nece sary by-product of actiYity. Exertion not only temporarily
uses up the enero-y of the body, but it also o-encrates substances,
poisonous in their nature; which slows one down. These substances
may be remoYcd by rest. The greater the fatigue the o-reater the
time required to overcome it. Twice the a.mount of fatigue requires
Jl?.Ore than t,Yice as mnch re t, and in exhaustion or excessiYe fatigue
a condition obtains which may require that the rest period be prolonged indefinitely. When this overfatigne sets in efficiency becomes
nil, and js thus an economic "'rnste, and, because of its disastrous
effects, a "·astc of life as "·ell.
Fat1gue is a phy iological state " ·hich enters all human a tivities.
Its normal manifestation constitutes a warning. If this " ·arning is
not heeded, the physiological may become pathological. It follows
~2681°-21- -2
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



ns consequence upon cause that if work is clone rest ultimately becomes imperative. Rest is nature.'s way of rernoYing fatigue.
The element~ of fatigu~ ar~, broa~ly s1?eaking, both phy iological
·a nd p ycholog1cal. Ordmarily fat1g·ue is thought of only as the
necessary resnlt of physical "-ork, Nothing could be further from
p. correct conception than this.
Aside from physical labor, among the chief causes · of :fatigue in
industry is speed. The telephone sen-ice may well be cited as an
example of work requiring great speed. The anrage daily hours
a1 e eight and one-half, but whut with overtime, Sunday ,York,'' working through," loss of relief, or "excess londi1w," these urc of-ten
a_-'ceeded. Two hundred and twenty-fiye cnlls per hour, or three
and one-half per minute, seems an example of real "speed," and
vet the " peak load" often exceeds this .
., In the needle trades a girl tend a se-wing machine carrying 12
needles making 4,000 stitches a minute, or 2,400,000 in 10 hours,
often ·working in a bright. light and with m1Shaded eyes, and amid t
a noise that can only be described ns a <leafening ronr .
.Speed combined with .monotony is also, u. potent faotor in producing fatigue,
.· , , 1

To hold one's self do,Yn to nn uninteresting task by mean::; of snstaine<l vdluntm•y attention results in r~piu fatigue of brain tracts deYeloved only late •in
human histovy and therefore especially. s1ibject to . fatigue. Tilt· 1mnntlll'al sµs.taiuetl effort js p1:esont in nll the yaqous kinds of im1u ·trial work where there
is no immediate interest in tho nnish.ed produGt, ,yherc it i necessary to hokl
one's self down to mere ,vork 'for u. certun number of hours ench day. It is
present in many kinds of clerical and office work, and in routine tasks of all
kinds. The resulting fatigue is both phygic:il and mental. from it is
;sought again in unnatural ways, sometirn s in narcotics or stimulants, such as
alcabo1, tobacco, narcotic dn;gs, tea, co.ffee, sugar; sometimes in such amusements as dancing, maying .p ictures, and ynude,-me sho,Y · requiring no exercise
of volunatry attention: s;ometim s in v:iriou::3 fol'mS of: social outbreak such ns
strilrn ·, anti ocial agitations, rt!VOlntions a ·ainj':t , existing morality and , the
existing socinl order; sometimes merely in ren{1ing jolirnn1s or, mngnzin s of
reyo1t. (12, pp. 136-137.)

In the pea-oanning industry a girl inspe.cts brn ans of peas per
second, or 72,000 per day. The cappers place the cap. on tlrn cans a.t
the rate of 60 to 80 per minute.
I11 the shoe industry a work:n::uin revolyes the shoe in such mnnner
as to trim off the crimped surplus leather :from the "upper." His
tnsk is 5 200 shoes a day.
In the eyeletting department of the shoe industry an expert ,,orker
cnn finish ~,000 pairs of women's shoes in one day. Y\ hen it is remembered that each of these shoes ha s as many as 12 holes irregnlnrly spaced, making 48,000 eyelets per day, a new idea of" speed" in
inchJstry is obtained.
These are merely a few examples of the monotonous and rapid work
whi his required of so many wo:rnen in the industries of the country,
and which by its very nature increases their burden of fatigue.
T oh,e is another element in fatigue, as are the rhythm and speed
of the machine. The surrender of the ,vorker to the time and rhythm
of the machine becomes a source of fatigue because the nrncbine ·is set
for n constant uniform speed, while the worker becomes tired, and
fatigne tends to slow him down, requiring a constantly increasing
effort to maintain the Sflme speed as the machine. He supplement-s
the defects of the machine, becomes its eyes, legs, a:rms, anything· it
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


need·, discards what is unnecessary for its ·requirem,.ents as Yalneless,
stifles his creative impulses; and this leads to fatigue.
Other \i"ell-recognized conditions influencing the occurrence o.:f
. fatigue are shop conditions, such as Yentilation, temperature> humidity, lighting, rest periods,' etc.
And just here the advocate of shorter· working hours " ·ill be met.
by one of the plausible but fallacious of arguments 011 the part
o:f the employer. He argues that he has carefully te ted it out on
repeated occasions and finds that where he compares the output o:f
a 10 and an 11 hour day the output of the latter is ahrnys correspondingly greater, and therefore he is su:r e that the contention· for a
. horter day are wrong. He has often tried it out in his own
factory, and he knows. He do.e · not tell that the speed of the machine sometimes detm'mines the output. He take: no account o:f
fotign e, of increased cost of labor turnoyer, spoiled work, accidents,
illness, and the ultimate injury to the worker's health. He, too, i.
no,t only" tied by an idea " ,but tainted with the motiYe of indu try.
It lrn.s eyer been difficult to 'acce,pt a new idea wlien th mind is filled
with· ideas which have be~h so. 1ong belieyed and accepted that they
ha ,e · become " institutional.,.,
' ·
There are many hitherto unrecognized causes of fatigue. Prof.
Ir,ing Fisher points out that any sncc~ssfn.l life must satisf_ · :ix or
se,en of the great ,fund~:µie.ntal i.µ~tincts-self.1neserntion, self-ex:pxession. the instinct of workm:;wship, self-sacr.ifice, the home-making
rnstinct, loyalty, and the instinct of worship. He says: "In order
thfl:t the laboring man may. live his life he must satisfy something
more than the instinct of self-presenation * * *. Their sonl.
are lrnno-r:v and thir -ty to satisfy these great instincts. ,:, ,:, *,.,
(3 pp. H-15) while their employers assume- that they are irttere ted
o.uly .in \\"ages. " To use the worki;ngman,.s ann and leg and to
iJ,;11,0re that he has a brain is to ruin him as .a craft man and to
dei2:rude him as ·a, m::1;n.'>.
Mr. Louis D. Brandeis, in discussing this ,same, problem (13, p.
7659), says:
l:-n.1:e~t, in my m)n<.1, never can be remoYecl. and fortnnntcly neyh· can be
rernoYe(} by me1,' ,impro,'ement of the physical and materia l coudition of the
workingm:111. I1' it y,ere, we should run great risk of improYing their ma terial
condition anc1 reducing their manhood. \Ve must bear in ntiNcl all the tiI11°
that howen'r much ,_.e may desire material improvement'., and 11.rns.t tlesire it
:for the comfort of the individual, that we are a demoe1;ac~; an<l tliat Y,e must
haYe, aboYe n.11 things, men; aml it is the cleYelopment- of rnaul.100<1 to whic11
an indu strial and s.ocia: system must be directed.

The point to be emphasized is that when these great fun ltlmental
instincts are not satisfied,. or at least morn than one of the\n, the
re illt is an atmosphere of discontent tha.t is a potent, :Fruitful source
of fatigue. It ·was not the size of the salary alone that sent our boys
to Europe or "over the top.".
'\YhichsYer man is right-Prof. Irving Fisher; or Dr.· Cabot, who
E]ays (2) that life consists of four things: work, play, hre, and \i"OXshjp; OT Edward L. Thorndike; or Carleton H. Parker; @li' '\Yatson.
f Johns Hopkins-two facts remain, namely, that these instincts,
e>r ap,p etences, are primal tendencies, and that repre si011 of them
re ult in increased irritability, "balked dispositi.on,." and hecomes a
source of fatigue and thus of lessened efficiency. On the other hand,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



where the worker is permitted to exercise his natural instincts, especially of creatiYe workmanship, and of exploration and invention,
we see the human machine at its best, functioning with the minimum
of strain, and therefore the minimum of overfatigue, and incidentally ·
with increased happiness, if \ristotle was right when he said that
happiness con ·istec.l in the exercise or normal £u!1ction.
These in tincts can not be abolished by any human power, and
snppre ion of them with consequent "balked di. position" ma.y lead
to unpleasant or even disastrous consequences nnd arc a fruitful
source of unrest and fatigue .
Fatigue puts the ·worker in an abnormal frame of mind. The first
striking effect of fatigue, whether of a muscle or of a man, is increased irritability. This leads him to attempt to deaden his fatigue
by excesses of various kinds, such as tobacco, alcohol, exciting amusements; these again, in turn, leading to increased susceptibility to infection of all kinds, because his powers of resistance are diminished.
One of the pmverful, importa:µt factors making directly for fatigue
is the "sense of economic ins curity." This- haunting fear is especially noticeable in the seasonal trades. What the worker needs is
the stabilizing of employment rather than charity, and the shorter
day is a step in this direction. ,

The measure of industrial fatigue.
HaYing formed something of ' a mental picture of what fatigue is,
the next practical question for solution is how shall we measure it.
It has been shown that in the production of industrial fatigue there
are many elements, that it is a complex problem, and yet it is possible
to measure it with a considerable degree of accuracy.
The first and most important means of measuring fatigue is by
estimating output. Estimating output not only enables the mensurement 0£ -f atigue, it also enables the determination and establishment
of a physiological standard for a dafs ··work. In other words, it
"ill determine just ho,v many hours arc required to produce the
maximum of output without overfatigue·. .
Space forbids reference to much of the large amount of rapidly
accumulating evidence supplied by mos t trnstworthy authorities in
this field, but a brief account of the ·work of the Illinois Industrial
Survey (7) will indicate the trend of the findings ,Yhich are being
generally secured ·on the subject of output and honrs.
In 1918 the Illinois Industrial Survey Commission ,ns appointed
by Gov. Frank 0. Lowden in accordance with an act of the legisla.
ture, directing the commiEsion to "make a complete survey of all
those industries in Illinois in which women are engaged as workers,
"·ith special reference to the hours of labor for women in such industries" and "the effect of such hours of labor upon the health of
the women workers."
One of the studies in this survey (7, p. 71- 80) consis::ed in making
a comparison of output in the 8½-hour day with the ontput in the
10-hour day, in three establishments where all the shop conditions
remained the same, the only change being from a 10 to an 8} hour day.
One of the establishments investigated was a soap-making plant
"hich l:iad changed its standard hours per clay from 10 to 8} and its
standard "·eek from. 55 to 48 hours. This change. was made early in
the summer of HHS.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



A group of 2·1 workers was selected for study. These 24 were all
workers ·who had been employe<l by the company at the same ocroupation, wrapping and packing a standard brand of soap, for at lea t
three years previous to the period of which study was made. This
group of workers was stu lied 10 weeks under the long-hour nncl 1
weeks under the short-hour schedule. At both of these times the clcpfl,rtment was running to capacit~1 , so that no shortage of materi'-J·
would decrease production. In :fact, the pressure of ,,ork ,ms so
great that a night shift vrns stablished during the first period and
was kept at TI"ork during the second period.
The " . ork consisted of wrapping cakes of soap and packino- them.
in cases for sealing and shipment. · Firn cases an hour has always
· been considered a good aYerage rate of production, a rate which
woukl. lead to a production of 50 cases under a 10-hour clay, and -12
to 43 cases under an 8½-hour clay. The girls in the special group
studied, being the best of the operators, woulp. produce up to the
maximum rate per hour.
Facts disclosed in the report of the surrny by an analysis of production under the long and short working days were:
1. The group studied packecl an ayerage of 5.1 ca es per llour under the 10llour day; under the 8½-hour day the same girl packecl an average of 5.7 cases
per hour, an increase of oyer half a case per hour, or 11.8 per cent.
2. This increase is not due to tll.e neces ity for producing more in orcle1· to
earn tile same ,Yages, as piece rates ,,ere increased 33} per cent at the same
time that the hours were decrea.·ed.
3. The nY rage production per clay under the 55-hour week was 42.8 case .
Ull(ler the 48-hour week the averao-e 11rocluction per day vvas 45.5 ca es.
4. Production under the shorter work clay am1 week held a great deal steadier
than production under the longer hour checlnle. During the first 10-week
period studied the production rate fln ctunt d fi'om 4.1 cases per hour to G.5
cases per hour. During the second 10-week period stuuied this fluctuation ,,ns
from 5.3 to 6.2 cases per hour. This steadiness of producti-011 is probably irn.1icative of a greater resene of energy on the part of the worker, and so of 1 ss
That the output per hour is higher under the short-hour system controverts
the statements made by the compirny ofilcial who a ·serted that employees
limited their production to fiye cases per hour, and that the limit held. ,vhether
the working <lay was 10 houl's or 8½ hour in length. No indications ,,ere
found t.hat the \\' Orkers in this depnrtm nt limit their mvn production. \YHh
the increase in energy en.used hy lessened wor·k time, p1•ocluction tends to find
its o,vn maximum len~l and holds steady at a higher point.


Graphic illustrations of increased output under a shortened "odring day were found in a large corset factory, employing women
almost exclusively, which ,ms also included in the Illinois survev.
On October 1, rn1i the hours in this :factory were reduced from
54 to 48 per week. ..t'iece rates remained the same. The report of
the survey states that some of the results of the change in hours
1. The average output of the entire factory per employee per ·aay incren. <.l
from 0.831 <lozen in 191(; to 0. 3 dozen in 1918, an increase per hour of o,er
19 per .ce1 t.
2. Within a group o! 36 stead~T, experienced workers the weekly output<l 13.4 per cent and. the 110.urly output 31.6 per cent !ollo"·ing the
<lec1·ease in hours.
3. Tbis increase in production was not spasmodic, but was maintained over
the entire year follo,ving the l'e<:luction in hours. No change in machinery or
, working conditions was made dnriJ)g tile period covered by the study.
4. In July, 1918, nine months after the deer a e in hours, a 10 per cent ,,age
bonus wtts instituted. P1;odu<::tion during the two months following incre::1. (1
2.5 per hour, a practi~ally negligible amount.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




The 36 individual 1rnrkers studied had been employed in · this
factory for .over a year previous to the change in hours.
They came from yarious departments, as follows: Strippers 6, eyeletter 1,
steel stitcbers 2. Sfamers 7. folder 1, paste machine 1, binders 4, clasp seamer 1,
boner 1, garters 5, finisher 1, lace binders 2, baster 1, shaper 1, tackers 2;
total 3G.
Iu this factory wage is an nccurate gauge of output in any one de11artment.
In the 36 experienced. workers, therefore, the Wctge records were taken
as output records.
During the la ·t fiye weeks under the 54-hour '\Yeck the average "·eekly wage
per girl was $10.25, or U) cents per hour. During the eight weeks follo\ving
the change it wa $11.29. During the year following the change it was $11.62.
In other vrnrds, the shortening of tlle week me-ant an immediate increase in
output "·ithin this group of 10.1 per cent and an ayerage increase for the
ensuing year of 13.4 per cent.
It might be claimed tlrnt the fact lhat the piece rates remai.ned · the same
before as after the cha11ge in hours might be responsible for "speeding" on
the part of the cm11loyees and that this "speeding" might account for the
increase in the output, If this rate of production could be kept up by the
same peop le throughout the periou of a year untler the shorter hours, it may
safely be conclude(.] that the increased speed was not "speeding" in the sense
of an acceleration of production beyond a rate normally possible to the worker.

Another group of '\\orkers selected for an intensive study during
this survey consisted of the buttonhole makers in a large garment
factory. The report states that the facts which made a study of this
department valuable are :
1. No conditions of 11er sonnel, lubol' turnoyer, character of ,vork, or sanitation have changed dur:ng the fo ur-yenr veriod coYcre<l by the study.
2. Hours haYe been r eduec._1 from G4 to 49 wec~ly in the -p eriod from 1913
to 1917.
3. \Vages have increase-cl at earh t1ccterrne in hours. If th·s ln1d not been
th:) case, it might IJe supposed thnt cm111o;re.cs would "speed up" in order to
ea rn as much after as uefore the clrnn ge in hours.
4. Buttonhole making is piecework, aml rccon1s on hours and output are
therefore comvlete :rnll aYnilnlJle for study. All work studied was done by

With this background the findings of the study are particularly
significant. The report states :
The p iece rates in Jnnuarj•, 191S, "·ere 29.S per cent higher than in January,
According to the cost of li ring series of the United States Bureau of
Labor Statistics (11. 17, No. G, whole No. 228), the cost of food increased during
the same period about 30 per cent. It is, tllerefore, seen that better stan<.lanls
of Jiving did not bring about incrensed r>roductivity, since the increase in the
cost of living during the fonr-;year period froru 1913 to 1917 was fully sufficient
to absorb the increase in wages.
The number of buttonhole makers Yaries from 50 to 100 in this factory. The
turnover is about 200 per cent annually. The women ,Yho do this work are
of a good grade of intelligence. The character of the working force has not
changed during the years studied. The average age of these women is about
27 years, and th:s has not changeu materially in the last five years.
In this work the months of January .and July are at the height of the busy
season. The slack season months sometimes show a low production, because
of an oyer su::)ply of workers for the amount of material. The month of
January was chosen for study because of the fact that production would be
almost eYen at that t;me.
The buttonhole on which rates are based is a standard buttonhole, and
variations are r eferred to this standard •_to determine the rate of corhpensation.
Thus, if a buttonhole requires half as much time and labor on the employee's
part as the stanuard buttonhole, it is paiu for at half the rate. Production
figures in this study refer to the number of standard buttonholes. The quality
of the material and tbe difficulty of the work lmYe not changed in the, fom•
years from 1913 to 1917 to any perceptible degree. As. no inachinery whatever
is used in the operation of making buttonholes, there could be no change· in
thii:: resneC't.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


,Hours in tllc factory studieLl ha Ye ~lccreased as,·fonow:::.: •
Hours wcek?y.

1\fay 1, 1915 _____________________________________________________ __ G4 to G2

i~~7==================·~=================================== ~; ~~ 1~
coYers the month of January in
The rate
1913, 1914,


change.s clurino- 1.hi period ,Yere:
l\lay 1, 1913, a 10. per cent increa. e.
l\lay 1, 191G, an increase of oyer 18 per cent.

In the four-year period from January, 1913, to J~nuary, 1917, the
rnte of buttonhole making for the group of workers studied, all of
whom put in full time during the entire month of January, increased •
from 6.9 to 7.4 per hour per worker, and tlie increase was more than
sufficient to make production for the entire month in 1917 equal to
that in January, 1913, in spite of the decrease in working hours of five
hours per -n-e k.
These figures conclnsiYely show 1.llat the production rate in this department
lrns increa:-,e(l ·o much that total output under a time schet.lnle fiye hours less
i equal to and eYeu greater tbau production. un ler the longer hours.
The investigator vrn told that the- same conditions hold in other departments
in the factory, so that fewer ,Yorkers are required for an equal ,olmne of pro<luc~iou at pre. ent than .w as the case five years ago.
"Hen.1th. conditions lrnYc considerably improYed jn this factory during the
past 'fi:ve years. The reduced hours haYe, in the opinion o.f: the factory health
officer, been u cousi(lerable facto1· in promoting hearth, in inc-reusing content
n.mo11g the workers, and so i11 ntisiug tl1e i:ate of production.
The comrois ion has reache<l its concl-usions-we to make tbis point
clear-almo t entirely on the basis of its belief that its investigations show
that longer hours than 8 per day ·or 48 per week tend to produce harmful physiologic, 01· perha11, it ,roukl be better to say pathologic, fatigue in women workers.
They further recognize--they can not do otherwise-that women as a class are not
as strong as men, that many of them are of necessity more or less occupied out1'-ide their ,vorking hours witl1 e:xacting home (luties, and that many of them are
to be the mothers of the f.utnre. For all tllese reasons the State should throw
legal saf guards about them." (7, p. 10.)

The relation between hours and output is not, however, the only
,vay of determining the effect of long hours on fatigue. A second
means of measuring fatigue is by noting the number and time of
occurrence of accidents.
Statistics from all countries 1'hich haYe recorded the hours in
which industrial accidents occur, show that the number of accidents
tends to inc1·ease with the incidence of fatigue, due to the fact that
when the brain is fatigued the attention may flag and" reaction time"
is retarded. (Reaction time is the name given to the interval of time
between the occurrence of some external phenomenon and the signal
of its having l;>een perceived.)
The result of this * * * is that accidents connectecl with work must be
naore nuwerous as the day adnmces, more numerous, too, in. the correspor cling
hours at the enll tban at the beginning of the weeli'., if wo-rk i pressed too far.
The statistics· of the distribution of accidents connection ,vith labor therefern
constitute UJ.l indi ation of the degree of fatigue of tbe humuu motor. (D, p. 24.)

A similar situation is also exemplified in those industries and
h~ades Wil1ere errors and mistakes occur instead of accidents. Imbert and Mestre charted over 2,700 accidents among ove1· 60i000
wodrme:µ·n various
trades and constructed a curve o::f them.


The treslTlts · may be grouped us foHows: (1)- The numbe:i· of accidents incr~ases ..progressively· f1·0111 hour ·, to }'.lo:i.u~ , el'nring the first half-day ; ( 2) after
the fairly long midday 11est~ in '. 4:lle early .'hours of the second half-day, the
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




number of accidents is not::ibly less than during the Inst hour of the morning;
( 3) in the course of the second half of the dny the accidents again become
progressively more frpquent from honr to hour; ( 4) the number of a ccidents
per hour toward the end of the secoml half-day is notably hi gher than the
corresponding maximum of the morning. (0, p. 40--41.)

Not only does fatigue decrease output and incr ease accidents, but
its effect upon health is so marked that a third plan of measuring
:fatigue is by noting these effects upon the health of the average
Overfatigue not only increases the s1::-,::eptibility of workers to general and infectious diseases but also to many forms of nervous diseases as well, especially in those forms of work in which there are
the elements of physical work and of nervous tension and psychological effects as well.
Mosso's work has been confirmed by Ioteyko, who has shown (9,
p. 23-24) that "the exhaustion of our bodies does not increase in
direct ratio with the work accomplished * * * a given task performed by a fatigued muscle has a :m uch more injurious effect upon
that muscle, and results in the production of greater fatigue than
would be the case if the same task were performed under normal
, conditions. * * * When the body is tired a small 'amount of
labor produces disastrous results."
Scientific laboratory experiments made both at home and abroad
amply demonstrate that fatigue markedly diminishes the power of
the blood to destroy bacteria and neutralize their toxic products.
Even immunity may be destroyed for the time being by fatigue.
Here comes in the problem in public health since the overfatigued
individual not only early acquires, but also spreads disease.
Workers in dangerous trades who are overfatigued are more readily
attacked by occupational diseases. Overfatigue and exhaustion are
permanent factors in predisposing to disease ·or premature death in
all industries. A. high labor turnoYer caused by sickness or discon•
tent and an increase in the amount of spoiled work can also be
charged to overfatigued workers.
Physical debility follo'TT's fatigue. Laxity of moral fiber follows
physical debility. Long hours and overwork lead to intemperance.
Legal aspects of the problem.
In any discussion of the laws which limit an adult's hours of labor,
we must constantly bear in mind the fact that no law is final in the
United States until it has passed the review of the courts, and that
it is the function of the courts to determine whether the legislature
had any reasonable grounds for its action; not whether the laws as
enacted are in themselves inherently good or bad, but whether the
legislature was justified in its conclusions as embodied in the laws.
In 1908 the United States Supreme Court unequivocally upheld the
constitutionality of the 10-hour law for women as a health measure,
saying (14, p. 421-422), "as healthy mothers are essential to vigorous
offspring, the physical well-being of woman becomes an object of
public interest and care in order to presene the strength and vigor
of the race."
"The limitations which this statute places upon her contractual
powers, upon her right to agree with her employer as to the . time
when she shall labor, are not imposed solely for her benefit, but also
largely for the benefit o:£ all."

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



•This ,rn the mo t ~nveeping decision en~•r· rcnclered by the Federal
Supreme Court in relation to ·w orking hours. It was not confined to
a consi lerntion of the 10-hour day oi' to a workino- clay of any length.
It left to the inclfriclual States the liberty, under their police power,
to determine ,,hat is wholesome and reasonable, rejecting the fiction
of the freedom of contract as regards the working woman, declaring
that " her physical structure ·a nd a proper discharge of her maternal
functions-ha-ring in Yiew not merely her own health, but the wellbeing of the race-justify legislation to protect h~r from the greed
as ,vell as the passion of man." (14, p. 422.)
In 1010 the constitutionality of the 10-hour law for women in Illinois was upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court, following the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the Oregon case, in
which it did find a clear connection between the measure and the protection of public health, not being deterred by a fictional theoretical
" freedom of contract" idea as a previous supreme court had been
14 years preYiously, saying," what we know as men we can not profess to be.-ignorant of as jt1dges." (8, p. 520.)
The constitutionality of a 10-hour worki~g day was now establishe 1, but the rea onableness of further restriction was in doubt.
In 1015 the nitecl tates Supreme Court uphelcl the constitutionality
of the Californ~a law which fixed an 8-hour day as the maximum for
women work rs, saying that "this is not to imply that a limitation of
the hours of labor of \rnmen might not be pushed to a wholly indefensible extreme, but there js no ground for the conclusion here that the
limit of the reasonable exertion of protective authority has been oyerstcpped." (15, p . 382.)
The establishment of standards of working hours lies chiefly with
the individual States as a legitimate exercise of their police pmrer,
and to this fie}cl of stat~smanship, we have seen, the fourteenth amendment to the Constitutio11 offers no bari·iers. .
The need of this legislation is shown by the fact that in 9 States
women 1nay "'Ork 70 honrn hours or more per week; in 20 States 55
to .70 how:s. In si~- Stutes there is no limitation whatever of the
hotirs women may work, and in only five is the 48-hour week recognized by law.
The Congress of the United States has established the 8-hour
day a the standard in the Government service for workers in private
employment engaged on Gonrnment contracts and for certain specified groups of emplo) ees exclusive of clerical and professional
In 1919 the Paris Peace Conference adopted the principle which
had been recommended by the Commission on International Labor
Legislation: "The adoption of an 8-hour clay or a 48-hour week as
the standard to be aimed at where it has not already been attained."
·(1, art. 427, p. 1 6.)
It has been ~micl that "there is no wiser statesmanship than that
·which concerns itself with the care of the child." No one woulcl
minimize foe importance of any phase of child welfare work; but it
would seetn that if the highest type is to be Fealized the wisest statesmanshipAs that which concerns itself with the welfare of the young
women ,11ho nre-the pr.ospective mothers of the future race.


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis












I:f individuals and firms and even States are so lacking in their
social development that they are willing to sacrifice these women to
industrial advantage, and especially where the States fail, as five
of them have utterly failed to provide any form- of protective labor
legislation for women, and where, as in Illinois, the legislation is unsatisfactory and inadequate, then organized society must take action.
Not only must organized society protect women as workers, at
least as much as men, in their inalienable right to the joy of labor,
but it must protect itself from any of the evil or sinister effects connected with their labor as women. This is not, and can not be,
purely a personal matter between employer and employee, as the
former would try to make us believe.
· The increasing impairment of racial integrity shows that we must
think for the future and of racial as well as social stability. Conservation must be applied to our heritage of health, not to the end
that women may become like men or more masculine, but that they
may become more feminine, to the end that happiness may be found
in fulfillment of function.
Owing to the complexity and variation in the character 0£ industry
and the strains in it, it is apparent that it is impossible to, make a
standard of hours for each industry, based on fatigue, but it is possible to have two or three levels or standards of hours dependent
upon the physical and psychological strains of the industry. How. ever, a maximum would be a splendid start, and it would soon be
possible to demonstrate the economic and social value of ' a physiological standard, once it is- given a fair trial.
._Science must be applied not only to immediate economic needs, but
also to greater individual and racial resistance to disease, for the
quality of our citizens will determine the character of our civilization.
Surely it is not enough that a woman is able to endure the hardship and fatigue of a 10-hour day and not di&! Life for a woman
should mean more than wage earning, and women should, and do,
e should see to
mean more to our country than mere machines.
it that while engaged in the industries her hours of labor are short
enough to enable her to develop into a normal, healthy, valuable
member of society.
To secure such an amendment to thE. V~deral Constitution as will
permit the Federal Government to take direct charge of this matter,
the 12,000,000 women in industry in this country should unite with
the oth~I' miliions of women voters. The probable attitude of the ·
Congress has already been indicated in having established the 8hour day for certain groups of its employees, the Federal Government being the largest employer of labor in the United States.
The sciences of physiology and psychology, the law, the decisions
of the courts, the police power of the 8tates, the example of the Congress, the peace conference, the joint interests of both employer and
employee, the rights of society expressed in the voice of an enlightened social conscience, all unite in favoring the establ~s9ment of
the 8-hour d~y as the maximum which should be reqi;tire<l of
women in indu_stry. For upon the women depe~ds the vi'gq,r. of the
race, and the vigor of the race must not be exploited for pi;~sent-day
· purposes instead of for racial conservation .


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




Trenty of vcnce ,-rith Germany. \,ashin?"ton, GoYernment Printing
Oftice, mm. 19.f p., incl. tables. ( U. S. Congre::,s, 66th, 1. ·t se. ·::,ion,
· Senate tlocumeur 4D.)
(2) C.rnoT, IlI 'II.A.RD.
Y\'lrnt men liye by: ,York-play-loYe--worship. Houghton l\Iiffiin Co:--, ..
pany, ~oston and ::\'ew York, 19H. 341 p .

Health antl \Tar.
p. 9-17.

Amer. Labor Legisl. ReY., Y. 8, no. 1, l\far. 191 .


· The use of facton· statistics in the inYestigation of inclu.-,trial fatigue.
A manual for field research. Longmans, Green & Co., agei1ts, :\"ew
•' ·
York; P. S. King & Sons, Ltd., London, 1018, lG3 p . ( Studies in
history, economics, and- public law .. . Columbia UniYersitJ·, Y. 81,
no. 3 ("·hole no. 190.)
( 5) GOLD.UA,:rtK, .J OSEPHIX;E.

Fatigue and effici,ency; a study in industry . . . Containing nlso the
substance of four briefs in defense of women's labor laws by Louis
D. Brnndei. and .Josei,lline Goldwark. Kew York, Charities Publication Committee, 1912. xYii, 302 p., 691 p. incl. illus., charts. Ilus~en
Sage Foundation [publication].
Memoramlmn no. 7. Inc.lustria.l fatigue antl its causes. London, HllG.
11 p.


Hou r!; ,md llcnlth of women "·ol'kers. Report of 1hc Illinois i111..l u.trial
sm;niy. December, 1918. [ pringtieltl, 1010.] 1~0 p .
\\r. 0. Hitd1ie & Co. N al., am)ellee , 1"8. •John E . W. Wnyman, stntes
nttorney, et al., nppellants. Opinion fil c <l ~\vril D, 1910. Ill. Hpt;-;.,



244, 1910.


p. 50D-G31.

'EFA .

The science of labor and its orgnnbrntion. George Rutledge & Sons,
Limited, London; E. P . Dutton & Co., Ne,y York, JDlD. 198 p.
~['he human machine aml its industrial efficiency. Longrnans, Green
& Co., New York, London, 1018. 118 p.
The hours of work problem in fiYe major inc.lustriBs.

Nat. Indus. Conf.
Bel. Re. ·earch Rpt. 27, ~far., 1920. 91 p.
A summary of inYestigations in fiye manufacturing industries,
namely, cotton, boot and shoe, wool, s ilk, and metals. Detailed acco~uts of the inYestigntion in each of these imlw-;tries are publi ·hed
as,_;n-,Research Reports -!, 7, 12, 16, and 18.
Tbe'<'j)sychology of social reconstruction . .
Houghton 1'Iiffiin Comp'&i1y, Boston arnl Xew York, 1020. 273 p.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





Industrial relations. Final rep ort and testimony submitted to Congress
by the commi~sion on industrial relations, created b1"' the act of
Augu::;t .23, 1912. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1916. v. 8,
p. C991-8013. (U. S. Congres, , 64th, 1st session. Senate docl1ment
Muller, plaintiff in error, v . the state of Oregon . . . Argued January
15, 1io8. Decided February 24, 1D08. U. S. Hpts., v. 208 (1907) ,
1908. p. 412-423.
l\filler v. Wilson, sheriff of Ili versicle county, S'tate of California .. .•
Argued January 12, 1915. Deeic1et1 Febrnary 23, 1D15. U. S. Upts.,
Y. 236 (1914), 1915. p. 379- 389.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis