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U. S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS
ROYAL MEEKER, Commissioner

BULLETIN OF THE UNITED STATES \
(WHOLE 1 Q A
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS/ # # * ( NUMBER J L O U
W O M E N

IN

I N D U S T R Y

S E R I E S :

NO.

THE BOOT AND SHOE INDUS­
TRY IN MASSACHUSETTS AS
A V O C ATIO N FOR WOMEN




OCTOBER, 1915

WASHINGTON
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
1915

7




CONTENTS.
Page.

Chapter I.—Purpose and methods of the study.............................................. 5-13
Present extent of the industry.................................................................
6
Distribution of Massachusetts shoe towns.................................................
6,7
Beginning and growth of the industry in Massachusetts............................ 7-10
Women in the industry........................................................................... 10,11
Methods of inquiry.................................................................................. 11-13
Chapter II.—The shoe centers and the shoe workers....................................... 14r-31
Lynn and the North Shore shoe towns..................................................... 14-25
Women shoe workers in Lynn........................................................... 17-19
Married women in Lynn shoe factories............................................... 19-22
Living conditions of women shoe workers in Lynn............................. 22-25
Brockton and the Plymouth County shoe towns....................................... 25-29
Women shoe workers in Brockton......................................................26,27
Married women in Brockton shoe factories.........................................27,28
Living conditions of shoe workers in Brockton................................... 28,29
Boston as a shoe center..................................... ...................................... 29,30
Marlboro and the Middlesex County shoe towns..................................... 30,31
Chapter III.—Nature and conditions of women’s work in shoe factories............. 32-57
Technical processes................................................................................. 32-42
Cutting............................................................................................ 33,34
Stitching.......................................................................................... 34-36
Making soles and heels......................................................................36,37
Lasting-room processes......................................................................37-39
Finishing department....................................................................... 39,40
40
Packing department.........................................................................
Division of work between men and women........................................40,41
List of chief technical processes used by women shoe workers............... 41,42
Methods of learning the trade.......................................... 1...................... 42-52
Learning in a trade school.................................................................43-46
Learning in the shoe factory............................................................. 47-52
Hours of labor......................................................................................... 52,53
Working conditions and sanitation.......................................................... 53-57
Chapter IV.—Wages of women shoe workers...................................................58-74
Introduction..................................................................................... .
58
Sources of information........................................ *...................................58,59
Wages and earnings as shown by returns of manufacturers........................... 59-63
Wages as shown by pay rolls....................................................................63,64
Classification of workers and methods of payment.................................... 64,65
Handworkers and their wages.................................................................. 65-67
Machine operators and their wages........................................................... 67-71
Causes for variations in earnings.............................. ; .............................. 71-74




8

4

CONTENTS*
Page.

Chapter V.—Annual earnings of women shoe workers..................................... 75-92
Conditions affecting earnings................................................................... 75-87
Seasonal fluctuation in numbers........................................................ 75-81
Instability of wage earners................................................................ 81-87
Annual earnings of steady workers........................................................... 87-92
Chapter YI.—Special conditions affecting the earnings and efficiency of women
workers in shoe factories......................................................................93-102
Sex as affecting earnings..........................................................................93-95
Nationality as related to industrial success.............................................. 95,96
Employment of minors as related to women’s earnings in shoe factories... 96-98
Relation of women to labor unions......................................................... 98-102
Unions in Brockton and its vicinity...................................................98,99
Unions in Lynn and its vicinity................ ......................................99-102
Chapter VII.—Retrospect and prospect....................................................... 103-105

This report is the result of an investigation made in the year
1911-12 by Miss Ruth Evans, Miss Florence Murphy, and Miss
Abigail Steere, fellows of the department of research of the Women’s
Educational and Industrial Union, Boston, Mass., under the super­
vision of Miss May Allinson, associate director. During the follow­
ing year the material collected was compiled and edited by Miss Lila
Ver Planck North, assistant director. The entire work was carried
on under the direction of Dr. Susan M. Kingsbury, director of the
department of research.




BULLETIN OF THE

U. S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.
WHOLE NO. 180.

WASHINGTON.

OCTOBER, 1915.

THE BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY IN MASSACHUSETTS
AS A VOCATION FOR WOMEN.
CHAPTER I.—PURPOSE AND METHODS OF THE STUDY.
The present investigation of conditions in the Massachusetts shoe
industry was undertaken with the hope of obtaining first-hand knowl­
edge with regard to certain aspects of an occupation long held to be
exceptionally desirable for wage-earning women. The work of
women has been so long an important factor in the evolution of shoemaking that the industry has special interest in connection with in­
quiries as to the advantages a long-established factory trade offers to
women at the present time. The number employed emphasizes the
importance of the study. More women work at shoemaking in Massa­
chusetts than at any other factory trade except the textile industries.
The influence of the shoe-factory work upon women is far-reaching
not only in any special community but throughout the State. To
understand something of this influence it is necessary to make a brief
survey of the industry as a whole. The causes behind certain of its
conditions are often obscure, but as often powerfully influential.
They lie in the general organization of the industry, in its methods
of production, and especially in the variation found in the character,
population, and social ideals of its chief centers. Further, in the
inevitable discussion of hours, work, and wages there must not be
ignored the query as to whether the conditions encountered by women
in this occupation conduce to their moral and social well-being and
tend to promote their fitness for their vocation as home makers for
the State.
5



6

BULLETIN OF THE BUBEAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

PRESENT EXTENT OP THE INDUSTRY.

Shoemaking is an industry of no small or recent growth; from its
bumble beginnings in the first half of the seventeenth century it has
come to employ in the United States, according to the census of
1910, 185,000 people and to show an invested capital of nearly
$200,000,000^ Massachusetts alone employed in the year 1911 an
average number of 80,000 workers, representing nearly half the total
number for the country at large. I f to these figures be added those
for workers employed in the closely allied boot and shoe stock and
shoe findings trades we have a total of nearly 90,000. This first place
as a shoe-producing State has been maintained by Massachusetts for
nearly three hundred years; and throughout two of these centuries
women have been closely connected with the industry.
DISTRIBUTION OF MASSACHUSETTS SHOE TOWNS.

The modem status of shoe manufacturing in Massachusetts acquires
a living interest if the statistics of the industry are for a time neg­
lected and we turn to a map of the State upon which all its shoemaking towns are marked. As the traveler eastward from New York
or Albany crosses, at Springfield, the Connecticut River and follows
through the southern section of Worcester County the sinuous course
of the Boston & Albany Railroad, shoemaking towns are found scat­
tered along the main line or on branches leading to the north or south.
A small cluster is located in the narrowed southern end of Middlesex
County up to within about 15 miles of Boston. In the thickly set­
tled suburban district lying west and southwest of the “ Hub,” shoe
towns are lacking, but within the area inclosed by a five-mile circle
drawn from the statehouse as a center, there are, besides Boston itself,
five other towns in which are one or more shoe factories. The sea­
board counties north and south of Massachusetts Bay constitute, how­
ever, the true shoe-town area. On the north Essex, Suffolk, and the
eastern portion of Middlesex counties are thickly dotted with shoemanufacturing cities and towns as far as the mouth of the Merrimac;
on the south a large irregular cluster straggles from the coast of
Norfolk County down through Plymouth and Bristol counties to
reach its southern limit at New Bedford, more than 50 miles from
Boston. Outside of these distinctly marked areas a few factories are
operated in five or six widely separated towns situated in the northern
section of the State, with North Adams in the Berkshire Hills at the
end of the line. Not a single shoe factory marks the course of the
Connecticut River through the State, while the people living in the
great southwestern section buy but make no shoes.




1 Thirteenth Census, V ol. X , Manufactures, p. 697.

BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.
T able

7

1.—SHOE FACTORIES AS DISTRIBUTED IN MASSACHUSETTS TOWNS AND
COUNTIES IN 1911.
[Based on Trade Directory.)

County.

Number of
towns with Number of
shoe facto­ factories.
ries.

Essex................................... .............
Plymouth..........................................
Middlesex...........................................
Worcester...........................................
Suffolk................................................
Norfolk.......... ....................................
Bristol................................................
Berkshire...........................................
Hampshire.........................................
Franklin.............................................

14
7
14
12
3
9
3
1
1
1

307
56
42
23
22
17
3
2
1
1

Total.........................................

65

474

BEGINNING AND GROWTH OF THE INDUSTRY IN MASSACHUSETTS.

The very large number of towns and factories noted in Table 1 in
the four seaboard counties, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Plymouth, is
directly related to the historical beginning and growth of shoe manu­
facturing in Massachusetts. The industry appears to have begun in
Salem, where Thomas Beard and Isaac Eickerman settled in 1629,
coming on the Mayflower on her second voyage. They were shoe­
makers by trade, and are the earliest shoemakers of record in this
country. Another pioneer shoemaker was Philip Kertland, who set­
tled in Lynn in 1636, and who became so notably successful as a pro­
ducer and instructor in the trade that 15 years later he was largely
supplying Boston’s demand for shoes, employing in his home shop a
number of journeymen “ cordwainers,” as the shoemakers were then
termed. Others instructed by him took up the work in Salem and
adjacent towns. In Boston, meanwhile, James Everell built up a
large business in making shoes to order, employing and teaching jour­
neymen for nearly 50 years. A contemporary in the same trade was
William Copp, in North Boston, for whom is named Copp’s Hill.
The rapid growth in importance of this distinctive New England in­
dustry is shown by the incorporation by the general court as early as
1648 of the M
Boston Company of Shoemakers.”
Shoemaking retained for 100 years after its establishment in the
new land the methods which had been in use for centuries in Europe.
The shoemaker sat on his bench or “ seat,” cut with a knife the upper
and sole leather from the hide, stitched the upper with awl and
waxed end, hammered the sole on a lapstone, and sewed it on by hand)
turning out a complete shoe with few tools other than hammer, awl,
and knife and the wooden shoulder stick with which he finished the
edges.




8

BULLETIN OF TH E BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

The fact that shoemaking was, after its early itinerant period,
carried cn in the home or in a shop closely connected with the home,
made it natural for women to take a share in a process which re­
quired the needle and thread as well as the cutting board and the
knife. In the seaboard towns along the North Shore of Massachusetts
women worked at stitching and binding the shoes while their men
were out on the fishing grounds; and in the long stormy days of
winter the whole family united in finishing the ordered product or
preparing certain patterns as stock.
The latter part of the seventeenth century ushered in the begin­
nings of the factory system. “ Shoes being made by the size, the
constant complaint was that sizes were unfairly marked; no two
shoemakers had the same measure. * ♦ * William Newman, of
Stamford, Conn., had a measuring stick which he had brought from
England, which it was decided by the general court was a fair
measure between buyer and seller, and in 1658 this was made the
standard. Simple as this would seem, it worked a revolution in the
business. Once a standard of sizes was fixed upon individual orders
and measures were no longer depended upon solely, but enterprising
shoemakers began to make up a stock of shoes. By 1700 the more
enterprising had gathered groups of workmen around them and
began what would be fairly called the manufacture of boots and
shoes. The entire shoe was made under one roof, but no longer by
one man.” 1 In Eandolph, Abington, Holbrook, and Quincy, in the
Old Colony; in Lynn, Salem, Topsfield, Georgetown, and Haverhill,
in Essex County; in Stoneham, Heading, and Marlboro, in Middle­
sex County; and in Milford, Brookfield, and Spencer, in Worcester
County, shoemakers hired a few of their fellows and gathered them
into what was tiien called a shop, one cutting the leather, others
fitting or sewing the uppers together, and still others putting the
uppers and soles together, or 4bottoming ’ them, in much the same
fashion as that used when each shoemaker worked individually.
“ The partial division of labor was a success at once, and soon the
uppers were sent out to women and children to be stitched together
and bound. Little 6eight-by-ten’ shops were scattered all through
the 6South Shore,’ as Plymouth County was then termed, as well as
through Essex, Middlesex, and Worcester counties. The shoemaker
with his sons, and perhaps a neighbor, made a 4team’ which took
the fitted uppers and the understock from the manufacturer in a
near-by town and bottomed the shoes or boots. One did the last­
ing, another the pegging (the boys, and sometimes the girls, were
taught this branch), another the trimming, and still another the
edge setting; but all was done by hand. When the shoes were made
they were taken to the factory, which, although considered at that
1 Ethelbert Stewart, Old-Time Shoemakers, in Chicago D aily News, 1902.




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB WOMEN,

9

time a wonder, was little larger than the offices of some of our modern
establishments. Here they were finished, packed in wooden boxes,
and sent to the market.” 1
Lynn soon became the center of this system, and sent out the
cut parts of shoes to small shops throughout Massachusetts to be
made up. In Lynn the cutters and other skilled workmen got 60 to
75 cents a day. The heels were wooden; the soles were sometimes
fastened with copper brads but usually were sewed, the heavier ones
welted, the lighter ones turned. By 1754 the piece price had risen
to 60 cents a pair, and wages by the week were $3.25. This was
probably for the less skilled operatives, however.
In 1795 Lynn had 200 master shoemakers and 600 journeymen
and apprentices. Their combined output was 300,000 pairs of
women’s shoes a year.
In the winter time, on many of the farms surrounding shoe centers,
shoes were bound and stitched by the women at home and lasted
and pegged by the men. All the work was handwork; even the
wooden peg, invented in 1815—the first machine-made part of the
shoe—was driven by hand, the shoe-pegging machine patented a few
years later meeting with little patronage. Many of the shoe centers,
stretching from Boston east through Middlesex and Worcester coun­
ties and south through Plymouth County, date from this period, and
have been making shoes fiom the early part of the eighteenth cen­
tury. An extraordinary census taken in Massachusetts in 1837
showed 15,366 women employed by establishments making boots
and shoes, while but 14,757 women were in the cotton mills. Few
of the women shoe workers were, however, in the factory itself; their
work was done at home.
When in 1846 Elias Howe, of Boston, invented the sewing machine,
he doubtless had in mind relief for the busy housewife, but some
years later his invention was utilized in the shoemaking shops for
the stitching of uppers. The various processes of shoemaking were
now for the first time gathered under one roof, and the “ factory*”
system as applied to this particular manufacture was complete.
The heavy machines worked by foot, sometimes by horsepower,
could be managed only by men. This fact for a time threw women
out of the industry, since the work on uppers, for more than a cen­
tury largely turned over to them, was now done in the factory by
men. Among women long accustomed to depend on this work as a
means of supplementing personal or family income the distress was
acute and was emphasized on the platform and in the pulpit of the
time as among the social disasters consequent on the introduction of
machinery into manufacture. “ Hannah at the window binding
1 Wm. B. Rice, One Hundred Tears o f American Commerce, Vol. II, 1895.




10

BULLETIN OF TH E BUREAU OP LABOR STATISTICS.

shoes” was as shamefully underpaid as was her sister stitching
shirts, but Hannah without shoes to bind was not paid at all. With
the gradual perfection of the single-process system in the factories
through progressive inventions dividing and simplifying each step
in the building of a shoe, women slowly regained a place in the trade.
By the year 1860 the stitching machines were universally attached to
power belts driven by water or steam, and as they no longer required
great strength in manipulation they could be worked by girls or
women, who would take lower wages than men. Numerous supple­
mentary and preparatory processes were evolved demanding little
skill, but nimble motions; these were taken from the well-paid
worker and turned over to girls and untrained women.
WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY.

The increase in the percentage of women employed in shoe fac­
tories throughout the United States can be shown only for recent
decades owing to the unspecialized statistical methods formerly em­
ployed ; but the last 40 years, though showing no phenomenal gain
in the total number of wage earners employed, have been marked by
a steady growth in the proportion of women workers.
T a b l e 2.— NUMBER

AND PER CENT OF WAGE EARNERS OF EACH SEX IN THE SHOE
INDUSTRY IN THE UNITED STATES, 1880 TO 1910.

[Source: Reports of the United States Census Office: 1880, Vol. H; 1890, Vol. X I; 1900, Vol. IX ; 1910,
Vol. X.J
Adult females.

Adult males.
Year.

1880......................
1890.....................
1900......................
1910......................

Total num­
ber.

Ill, 152
133,690
142,922
211,507

Number.
82,547
91,406
91,215
132,411

Per cent.
74.3
68.3
63.8
62.6

Minors (under 16).

Number.

Per cent.

Number.

25,122
39,849
47,186
70,457

22.6
29.8
33.0
33.3

3,483
2,435
4,521
8,639

Per cent.
3.1
1.8
3.2
4.1

The ratios for the same period in Massachusetts do not differ
materially from those for the country at large. In the 40 years suc­
ceeding the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 the gain in numbers
of women shoe workers was rapid. Not only in the Revolution but
in the Civil War the Army shoes were made in Massachusetts;
women compelled to eke out the scanty pay sent home from the Army
stitched at the shoes destined for husbands and brothers in the field.
The habit of working in the shoe factory was not broken by the close
o f the war; in 1870, 20 per cent of the shoe workers in Massachu­
setts were women and girls; in 1900 this had grown to nearly 32
per cent. In the past ten or twelve years, though there has been a
large growth in actual numbers, the proportion of women has shown
little increase. The subjoined table gives recent figures for the
proportion of women wage earners in all branches of the Massachu­



BOOT AJSTD SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION POE W OM EN.

H

setts shoe industry in 1910 and 1911, and illustrates the comparatively
slight changes from year to year.
T able

3.—NUMBER AND PER CENT OF WAGE EARNERS OF EACH SEX IN MASSACHU­
SETTS SHOE INDUSTRY IN 1910 AND 1911.

[Source: Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth Annual Reports on the
Statistics of Manufactures, 1910 and 1911.)
1910
Industry.

Male.

Female.

Num­ Per Num­ Per
ber. cent. ber. cent.
Boots and shoes.................... 50,536 65.6 26,464 34.4
Boot and shoe findings........ 2,931 68.0 1,378 32.0
Boot and shoe cut stock....... 2,754 73.2 1,010 26.8
Total........................... 56,221 66.1

1911

28,852 33.9

Male.
Total

Female.

Num­ Per Num­ Per
ber. cent. ber. cent.

Total.

77,000 51,949 65.3 27,593 34.7
4,309 2,932 66.7 1,461 33.3
3,764 2,813 73.4 1,019 26.6

79,542
4,393
3,832

85,073 57,694 65.7

87,767

30,073 34.3

The above shows the sex division of all shoe workers regardless of
age. Among the minors the boys and girls are nearly equal in num­
ber. An enumeration of wage earners employed December 16, 1911,
showed that of 6,219 under 18 years of age, 3,019 were boys and 3,200
girls.1 The age and sex distribution of the wage earners in boot and
shoe factories was: Men, 61.3 per cent; women, 31.3 per cent; boys
under 18 years of age, 3.6 per cent; girls under 18 years of age, 3.8
per cent. The per cent of minors for Massachusetts is in excess of
that reported for the whole country in Table 2, since the Massachu­
setts State reports class as minors persons under 18, while the Federal
reports count only those under 16. The statistics for several years
back show, in Massachusetts as well as in the country at large, a small
but increasing per cent of “ young people” in the shoe factories.
Shoemakirg still remains, however, as compared with nearly all
other factory trades, preeminently a business for adults.
METHODS OF INQUIRY.

For the present inquiry there were selected for special study rep­
resentative groups of shoe workers. Four shoe centers were chosen
for investigation, each distinct in its physical environment, its social
conditions, and its relation to labor organization. These were Lynn
and its neighbor towns of the North Shore, where the industry is
organized into many separate unions; Brockton and its allied group
of towns on the south, all in the control of one union; Boston, where
the industry is conducted in a large competitive unorganized labor
market; and Marlboro in Worcester County on the west, where, as
1 Massachusetts Bureau o f Statistics, Twenty-sixth Annual Report on the Statistics o f
M anufactures, 1911, p. 86.




12

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

in the adjacent towns, the labor is unorganized, but the shoe factory
is the chief employer of labor. The four localities selected employ
68 per cent of the wage earners of the State and produce 75 per cent
of the annual output of pairs of shoes. One important center in the
northeast, comprising Haverhill, Newburyport, and several other
shoemaking towns, is not included in this study.
In all, 80 factories were visited in the four localities. For certain
of these the weekly pay rolls, giving the wages paid to over 4,400
women shoe operatives, were copied. The majority of the pay-roll
records covered the 12 months from September, 1910, to August,
1911, inclusive, but some statistics were secured the following year,
covering the period September, 1911, to August, 1^12, inclusive.
The number and location of the factories from which pay-roll records
were obtained are shown in the following table:
T able

4.—DISTRIBUTION OF FACTORIES FROM WHICH PAY-ROLL RECORDS WERE
SECURED.

Place.

Number
of fac­
tories.

Number
of indi­
viduals.

Boston and Chelsea........................
Brockton and vicinity.................. .
Marlboro............................................
Lynn and Beverly.............................

6
2
6

4

965
978
642
1,851

Total.......................... .............

18

4,436

In addition to this pay rolls were obtained for 157 boy minors
and 213 adult men workers, the pay rolls for the men being obtained
only where the men were employed at the same tasks as women.
Considerable variation was shown in the percentage of women
wage earners in the several groups, the Lynn center ranking highest,
the Brockton center lowest. The causes of this variation will be
taken up in discussing the special groups, but it is proper to state
here that the ratio for each locality has been fairly constant for a
series of years.
The value of any partial data in connection with an industrial
study is obviously dependent on its representative character. With
this in mind, special care was used to secure in the factories studied a
variety of types, not only as to the kind and amount of product, but
as to other conditions. Among the 18 factories selected for special
inquiry are some employing exclusively union labor; others will have
none of it; others still admit union and nonunion workers alike.
The character of the management ranges from a high type of altru­
ism to greedy commercialism; the systems of manufacture also vary.
The presentation of data is thus believed to represent general con­
ditions fairly.




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB W OM EN.

13

The investigators met the usual difficulty of accurately filling in
the schedules. The editor of certain data obtained for the United
States Census remarks on the unreliability of most statements made
by factory officials as to number of wage earners or amount of
earnings. The present inquiry made it clear that superintendents or
managers as a rule can give only approximate figures on these points,
usually erring in the direction of exaggeration of the numbers em­
ployed and the wages paid. Only from the pay rolls of the concerns
could this uncertain information be checked and accurate information
secured as to seasons, wages, shifting, and other facts.
Neither pay rolls nor managers, however, give much information
about the physical conditions under which a woman works. The size
and sanitary condition of the workroom, the adequacy and character
of the toilets, dressing rooms, and lunch rooms, were learned through
personal inspection. From these three main sources—the statements
of employers and wage earners, the records, and the notes from
personal inspection—was gained a knowledge fairly complete and
accurate, so far as the workers’ direct connection with the factory
is concerned.
In addition, social information in regard to the wage earners was
secured by visits to 300 women workers in their homes, visits made
in part with the hope of finding out the causes of time out of work or
of the unusually high or low pay of certain periods of employment.
Of importance, too, was the knowledge gained of the general char­
acter of women shoe operatives. In some cases the investigator
learned much of these matters and of the real adequacy of the factory
wage as a means of supplying the necessaries and comforts of life, by
living in the same households with the women, by hearing and shar­
ing their casual talk of the shop and its incidents, and by joining in
their recreation and other interests; in short, by being accepted as one
of them. Additional enlightenment was gained from meeting those
who touch closely the lives of these women—their families, priests,
ministers, and doctors. From these varied sources it is possible to
paint in the background of social conditions against which the shoe
operatives play their daily part as producers and wage earners.




CHAPTER n.—THE SHOE CENTERS AND THE SHOE
WORKERS.
LYNN AND THE NORTH SHORE SHOE TOWNS.

In any view of the shoemaking industry the towns of the North
Shore of Massachusetts take the first place in history and in interest.
Two of the shoe towns—Newburyport and Haverhill—which together
employ 12,500 shoe operatives, this study must largely neglect.
In six of the North !*fhore towns—Lynn, Salem, Beverly, Marble­
head, Peabody, and Danvers—shoemaking forms the dominant in­
terest. In 1911 there were 165 factories making the complete product,
with an average of 19,000 operatives; in addition, cut stock and shoe
findings factories employed over 3,000, and tanning and finishing
leather about 5,000 more.
Peabody, a growing town of nearly 16,000 people, has but one shoe
factory, but it has three for cut stock; while in the tanning and finish­
ing of leather it employs more than 4,000 persons. The very small
per cent of women workers in Peabody has not been considered in this
study. Danvers, with a population of about 10,000, has six factories,
with not more than 500 operatives altogether, while Marblehead, with
its dozen or more factories of small output, employs an average num­
ber of 750. These towns also were not included in the special study
of the Lynn group.
O f the three main-line towns, Salem, with its 18 factories, employs
about 2,600 workers—twice as many as Beverly, with its 16 factories
and 1,300 workers. But Beverly, though diligent in making shoes,
has a large rival industry in the United Shoe Machinery Works,
which draws largely for its operatives on the population of 18,600 at
its doors. A few women and girls work for the “ United ” at machine
work. The 1,260 shoe operatives are for the most part in five or six
factories of fair size, one of which was selected for special study.
Of the North Shore towns Lynn is far the largest. Its population
in 1910 was nearly 90,000; within 30 years it had more than doubled,
and within 10 years (1900-1910) there was an addition of nearly
21,000, an increase of 30 per cent. Lynn is a prosperous city, mak­
ing no pretense at beauty, except where it touches the sea and the
long boot-shaped promontory of Nahant. Churches are numerous,
but with the exception of the group of public buildings and some
14



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB W OMEN.

15

business blocks there are few structures of stone or brick. Hasty
and cheap building has been the rule since the great fire of 1889.
In 1911 the 379 manufacturing concerns of Lynn employed a maxi­
mum number of nearly 32,500 operatives. The chief industries are
the making of boots and shoes and of electrical supplies and appa­
ratus, the former being much the older and as yet the more important.
Boot and shoe making and the allied industries, the production of
boot and shoe cut stock and findings, tanning and finishing leather,
making lasts, models and patterns, blacking, etc., claimed 246, or 65
per cent, of the total number of industrial concerns, and more than
20,000, or 62 per cent, of all factory operatives. Lynn is therefore
rightly entitled to be termed a shoe city. The boot and shoe factories
are for the most part in two large groups in the very heart of the city
on the east and west sides of the Boston & Maine Railroad tracks,
with a straggling line of smaller factories between. This grouping
has been long maintained, but the recent tendency is to place factories
on the outskirts of the city in sections where hitherto they have been
unknown. Large new factories are, however, rare in the city. The
majority of shoe concerns are housed in old buildings of red brick,
crowded close together, some occupying a whole block, some a single
floor or part of a floor. Outside of this concentrated area the older
factories are usually two-story wooden buildings with a ground plan
that looks somewhat like an eccentric H. The few new buildings
are of the usual modern five or six story type, the walls high studded
and nearly all window space.
The buildings of the General Electric Co. form a large group on
the southwestern border of the city, where new streets are being
opened up and hundreds of double or single frame dwelling houses
erected for the employees. In 1912 about 10,000 employees were
connected with this industry, of whom 1,800 were women and girls.
Opportunities for indoor recreation under responsible active di­
rection are scanty in Lynn. Few churches are socialized to the
extent of providing relaxation‘for young people who do not want
to sit still all the evening after confining work all day. A visit to
the dance hall for the workers whose energy outlasts 9 or 10 hours of
work or to the moving-picture show for those to whom passive recrea­
tion offers a stronger appeal are the most common amusements of a
legitimate character.
Dancing is as popular in Lynn as elsewhere. Every night several
public dance halls are open and appear to be well patronized. Their
Saturday night dances, at which men under the influence of drink
are often present, have a bad reputation, and self-respecting girls
rarely attend them. Few shoe workers do much reading—indeed,
many claim that the work of the day is too great a strain upon the
eyes to permit reading in the evening, especially by the wretched



16

BULLETIN- OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

light furnished in lodging houses. The librarian of the public
library in Lynn knows a few women workers employed in stitching
rooms who have long been great readers. One has spent much time
on science and social questions; another is an authority on history
and genealogy; but these are exceptional cases.
The strength of the women’s club movement is exemplified in Lynn
by a large number of organizations. Their nominal aims range from
the historical club, with a membership made up from old families
with “ ancestors,” to the inevitable dramatic club, made up of well-todo young people, but few of these clubs influence in any degree the
life of wage-earning women, and fewer still include them in their
membership. Church clubs and societies gather in a few of the
younger factory women, but mainly from families connected with the
churches. The workers themselves have formed a few bowling clubs,
which use bowling alleys under private ownership.
As in all towns near a large port of entry, Lynn’s rapid increase in
numbers means a new diversity in nationality. For 40 years the
main nonnative element has been the Irish. The flood of French
Canadian migration of over 20 years ago made its largest deposits
in the northern textile towns; nevertheless, in 1905, immigrants from
Canada and the British Provinces of America formed 12 per cent of
the total population of Lynn. Canadians now come in fewer num­
bers, but Massachusetts still receives thousands each year from Nova
Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. These, as well
as the diminishing number of foreign-born Irish and the few hun­
dreds from Great Britain, are for the most part of English tongue
and Anglo-Saxon habits.
The non-English-speaking peoples forming the true alien element,
though on the increase, are as yet little more than 10 per cent of the
whole population of Lynn and about 22 per cent of its foreign immi­
gration. The ratios of the factors making up this alien element alter
perceptibly from year to year. At present the proportion of Scan­
dinavians and Canadians is diminishing; the Greeks, Italians, and
Armenians, together with the Kussian and Polish Jews, are on the
increase, and even the Slavs and Lithuanians are no longer so few
as to be counted with the “ various.” This change in the make-up of
the alien element is too well known to need comment. It is brought
forward in connection with Lynn only because of its effect on the
personnel of the shoe workers.
In default of recent official information on the subject, several of
the public schools in different localities were visited and the nativity
of the children in the first three grades and of their parents was
noted. In every case about 25 to 33 per cent of the parents and less
than 10 per cent of the children were foreign bom. In St. Mary’s
Soman Catholic parish school 45 per cent of the parents are foreign



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

17

bom ; the majority of these are Irish, the rest Italians, with a sprink­
ling o f French Canadians. The Greeks show the most rapid increase.
They have now a Greek Catholic church and a school of more than
90 children. Before the Balkan War there were 200 Greek families
and 2,000 Greeks altogether, 300 of whom were bom in Turkey. Of
these, 1,000 were unmarried men and 300 unmarried girls. Of the
latter, 200 were in shoe factories in Lynn and Chelsea. In spite of all
these alien elements, Lynn is as yet, in contrast to many Massachu­
setts towns, distinctly an American city in its population and general
character.
WOMEN SHOE WORKERS IN LYNN.

The frequency with which the eye meets the sign “ Rooms to let ”
convinces a visitor that the population of Lynn must be in a state
of constant coming and going. Thpse who come are more than
those who go. Nevertheless, there is constant shifting or the “ Rooms
to let ” sign would not be displayed so persistently. Are women wage
earners among these shifters? What is their race and condition, and
what are their standards of living?
To answer these questions adequately for Lynn or elsewhere would
require long and close study of the workers. The employers know
something, the shopkeepers something else; the churches know a
little, the schools a little more. The census man has gathered a few
facts and has missed a great many. Even the wage earners, who
know much about the wage, hours, and nature of their work, have
scanty knowledge of each other.
The shoe industry of Lynn, including cut stock and shoe findings
shops, employed in 1911 an average number of about 15,500 opera­
tives. Of these 6,000, or nearly 40 per cent, were women. Women
workers form a higher proportion in the North Shore group, as a
whole, than elsewhere. The main reason for this is doubtless the fact
that the product is mainly women’s and children’s shoes. There is
more stitching to be done on women’s than on men’s shoes and
the number of supplementary processes is greater. In other towns
making a similar product the proportion of women is nearly the
same, as it is in certain large isolated factories, like that of the Queen
Quality shoe, in Jamaica Plain. This average number, 6,000, by no
means represents the entire force of women in the factories. The
force continually changes and shifts, so that the average number is
not more than 85 per cent of the total number employed during a
year. It is probable that not less than 7,500 women were connected
with the shoe factories in 1911. With the hope of gaining definite
knowledge as to the nativity and place of training of these women, a
simple questionnaire, with the cooperation of the management, was
put through the women’s rooms in three large factories. Each
3881°—Bull. 180—15----- 2



BULLETIN OF TH E BUREAU OP LABOR STATISTICS.

18

worker stated her birthplace, the number of years she had lived in
Lynn, and her marital condition.
The factories in which these questionnaires were circulated are of
different types. Factory A is one of the largest, and is held to be
the best in Lynn as to wage and management. Factory B is also
large, but its product, management, and therefore personnel of the
working force, are of low grade. Factory C stands midway in con­
ditions. Taken together they form a group fairly representative of
general conditions. The statements obtained as to nativity of the
women are presented in Table 5. The native bom are grouped ac­
cording to birthplace in Lynn, other parts of New England and other
parts of the United States; while the foreign bom are in two groups,
the one of nativity in lands using the English tongue, the other in
lands of foreign speech.
T able

5.—NATIVITY OF 607 WOMEN WAGE EARNERS IN THREE FACTORIES IN LYNN.
[Based on personal statements of the women.]
Number and per cent of workers in specified factories.

Place of birth.

Factory A.

Factory B.

Factory C.

Total.

P«r
Per
Per
Per
Num­ cent of Num­ cent of Num­ cent of Num­
ber.
ber.
ber.
ber. cent of
total
total
total
total
Native bora:
Lynn............................................
Other parts of New England.......
Other parts of the United States..

44
39
46

22.0
19.5
23.0

92
58
18

38.6
24.4
7.6

64
57
14

37.9
33.7
8.3

200
154
78

32.9
25.4
12.9

Total........................................

129

64.5

168

70.6

135

79.9

432

h .2

Foreign bom:
Non-English-speakine lands........
Tjjngliah^pflaMrig Ifixiflfl................

48
23

24.0
11.5

34
36

14.3
15.1

27
7

16.0
4.1

109
66

17.9
10.9

Total.........................................

71

35.5

70

29.4

34

20.1

175

28.8

Grand total..............................

200

100.0

238

m o

169

100.0

607

100.0

A word should be added in connection with those bom in other
parts of New England. The stream of migration on the part of
young men and women from northern New England farms and vil­
lages to the shoe-factory towns has been supposed to be constant and
considerable. As to the men no statistics are available, but among
the women those bom in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are
but a handful. Other parts of Massachusetts claim most of those not
native to Lynn, with the greater number from towns within a radius
of a few miles from the latter.
Analysis of the foreign-born element also disproves some common
opinions. English is the native language of by far the greater num­
ber. The Canadians are largely from Montreal or Quebec, where
English as well as French is spoken. Among the French Canadians



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR WOMEN.

19

traits, and training differ from those marking natives of Great
Britain and Ireland, or even people of the British Provinces of Amer­
ica, nevertheless .English speech and Anglo-Saxon customs have
shaped thought and habit even for the French Canadians. Many of
them have been long resident in the United States. Among the truly
alien women a number of “ Russians ” (Jews) are present in the soleleather and packing rooms of one factory, where also a few Greeks
and “Austrians,” probably Slavs, are found. In the stitching rooms
are a few Italians, while Germans, Scandinavians, and central Eu­
ropeans are conspicuously few. The foreign-born women doing
skilled work are largely natives of Scotland, Ireland, or the British
Provinces; Jewish women are seldom among the skilled workers.
Another point brought out by the questionnaire related to the length
of residence in Lynn. The workers in these three representative fac­
tories, when not Lynn bom, were for the most part Lynn bred. This
applies both to native and foreign bom ; for the greatest number up­
bringing and education have been in Lynn. The proportion whose
residence in Lynn has been five years or less is remarkably small; a
residence of five years or over for more than 75 per cent and of 10
years or over for nearly 60 per cent is shown for those listed in
Table 6.
T a b l e 6.— LENGTH

OF RESIDENCE IN LYNN OF 407 WOMEN NOT BORN IN LYNN WHO
W ERE WORKING IN THREE OF ITS LARGE SHOE FACTORIES.
[Based on personal statements of the women.]
Number of
women.

Per cent
of total.

Less
1 year......................... .
1 year and less than 6 years. . . . . . . . . .
6 years and less than 10 years.. . . . . . .
10 years and less
20 yestrs..........
20 years and Iwp than 30 years..........
30 years and more.............................

10
88
71
114
81
43

2.4
21.6
17.5
28.0
19.9
10.6

Total.........................................

407

100.0

Less thftti 10 years.................
10 years fwd more..............................

160
238

41.5
58.5

Total.........................................

407

100.0

Number of years in Lynn.

SUMMABY.

HARRIED WOMEN IN LYNN SHOE FACTORIES.

When any large group of women over 25 years of age, not vowed
to celibacy, is under consideration, it is a natural assumption that
the majority are married. The customary age of marriage is fre­
quently later in an industrial community than elsewhere, yet women
over 25 are as a class not affected by this. There is a tendency to ac­
count for the many single women aged 25 to 40 in the factories by the
old tradition of the excess of women over men in Massachusetts.



20

BULLETIN OF TH E BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

This excess, beginning with the days of the California gold discovery
and greatly increased by the losses of the Civil War, at one time un­
doubtedly influenced considerably the industrial distribution of
women. The disturbed balance has, however, been largely restored
by foreign immigration which, though in smaller proportion than
seme years ago, still brings yearly more men than women to Massa­
chusetts. Recent statistics of the population prove that so far as
the present proportion of the sexes is concerned there is no reason
why marriage should not be as frequent in Lynn as in any normal
community, and the proportion of married women is, in fact, greater
than in many New England towns.1 The fact that a large proportion
of the shoe workers are unmarried women does not, therefore, mean
that there is an undue proportion of single women in the city; rather
it indicates that the majority of the women shoemakers withdraw
from the industry when they marry.
Concerning the married women in Lynn shoe factories, there are
two commonly accepted beliefs: First, that the proportion of such
workers as compared with other shoe centers is abnormally large;
and, second, that American women are much more inclined than
foreign women to remain in the factories after marriage or to come
back to them after an interval of domesticity. As to the first of these
beliefs, the facts gathered in this investigation tended to confirm it.
In 1905 married women, including in that term widows and
divorced and deserted wives, formed 26.4 per cent of the total female
shoe workers of Massachusetts.2 Among the 720 female workers in
Lynn as to whom this fact was learned, 33.1 per cent were married.
Among the workers themselves the belief in the unusual proportion
of married women in the Lynn factories is general, and women who
have worked in more distant shoe centers, as in Brooklyn, Rochester,
and the towns of the West, where the employment of married women
is said to be unusual, are at a loss to explain the contrary custom in
Lynn.
For the second belief no confirmatory evidence was found. The
proportion of married women among the female shoe workers of the
whole State in 1905 was as follows:
Per cent of native bora who are married---------------------------25.7
Per cent of foreign bom who are married________________ 29.3
Per cent of both classes who are married____________ 26.4
1 Total population o f Lynn, 89,336; number o f males, 44,585, o f females, 44,751.
Thirteenth Census, V ol. II, p. 882. Proportion which unmarried form o f female popula­
tion, 15 years or ov e r: Lynn, 33.5 per cen t; Brockton, 32.5 per ce n t; Fall River, 38.2 per
cen t; Brookline, 53.9 per ce n t; Cambridge, 39.8 per cent. Idem, Vol. I, pp. 663-665.
* See M assachusetts Census o f 1905, Vol. II, pp. 54, 55. O f the fem ale cotton-m ill
operatives in M assachusetts a t the same date 29.3 per cent were married, widowed, or
divorced (V ol. II, p. 6 9 ).
8 Calculated from figures given in M assachusetts Census o f 1905, V ol. II, pp. 54, 55,
and 187.




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

21

The figures gathered in this investigation showed the following
proportions:
T able

7.—MARITAL CONDITION OF 720 WOMEN WORKING IN THREE LARGE SHOE
FACTORIES IN LYNN.
[Based on personal statements of the women.]
Native bom.

Foreign bom.

Total.

Marital condition.
Number. Per cent. Number. Per cent. Number. Per cent.
Married......................................................
Single.........................................................

136
368

27.0
73.0

102
114

47.2
52.8

238
482

33.1
66.9

Total.................................................

504

100.0

216

100.0

720

100.0

In these three factories, it will be observed, the foreign born not
only show a larger proportion than the native bom of married work­
ers, but this relative excess is greater than it was for the State as a
whole in 1905.
Among the English-speaking women visited, Americans lead in the
proportion of married workers. They are followed closely by the
natives of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Provinces of
America.
The married woman with a husband in the factory supplements
his earnings as frequently from choice as from necessity. The rent
for a flat or a half house near the factory is high; the whole house at
a distance is inconvenient. Therefore it is the habit of most young
couples coming to Lynn to hire one room in a lodging or boarding
house. This leaves the young wife without sufficient occupation.
Her husband is away all day; she is perhaps without friends. It
does not take her long to discover that the factory will provide
friends, occupation, and the extra money for those small comforts
and luxuries she desires, but which her husband’s scanty earnings
deny. Again, those women who have been factory workers them­
selves dread housekeeping, with its hours of loneliness and its cares,
to which lack of domestic training may make them as unfitted as
averse.
Two cases taken from the Lynn schedules typify a class of workers
by no means confined to that city. Mrs. G. is a Maine woman, 40
years old. She left school at 17 and was then in the second year of
the high school; at 18 she began work in a shoe factory for her own
support. At her marriage four years later she left the factory and
did not return until her only child outgrew babyhood. She has now
been working several years. Her husband is in the lasting room of
the same factory. They are boarding; do not attend church; they
stay at home evenings to rest and read. Both are members in good




22

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OP LABOR STATISTICS.

standing of a union. She claims that her wages are required to
help support the family of three.
Mrs. K. is a native of New Brunswick, but has been 14 years in
Lynn. Her husband, to whom she has been married 7 years, is a
teamster; they have no children. She left school at 15 years of age,
after completing eight grades, and began shoe work at 18. She is a
vamper, working about 9 months in the year. In summer she and
her husband become photographers among the lakes of Maine. They
pay $4 a week for a room and take their meals out. They do not
attend church, and their recreations are the theater, occasional read­
ing, and the annual dance of the Union Benefit Association.
Not only in their distinctly American training, but in their mature
age the women shoe workers of Lynn differ from almost any other
feminine factory force. There are obvious reasons why the ranks in
the factories should be filled with girls and young unmarried women
rather than with those upon whom depend the conduct of the home
and the bearing and rearing of children. Much of the work in the
shoe factory needs, however, mature judgment, and offers what
seems an unusual reward, and thus attracts a class of women who
stand almost alone among factory workers as regards age. Exact
figures on this point are, however, difficult to obtain. Only in rare
instances does a factory record the age of a worker, except in the
case of minors; no such record was found among the factories visited
in Lynn. Few women, unless highly skilled, would be taken on as
new workers if they appeared over 40, yet there are many women
much beyond that age who have been more or less constantly in the
same factory for 10, 15, or even 20 years. The interviews with more
than 100 women in their homes or lodging places, together with
observation in the factories and the statements obtained from sev­
eral hundred women as to the length of time spent in the United
States or in Lynn, tend to show that women from 30 to 50 years of
age form a large proportion of the working force.
LIVING CONDITIONS OF WOMEN SHOE WORKERS IN LYNN.

Without a more extensive house to house investigation than has
been possible in this inquiry, it is hazardous to venture definite state­
ments in regard to the proportion of women attached to households
or otherwise. Among 87 women interviewed at home 62 per cent
lived in homes of their own or of their parents, 11 per cent boarded
with relatives, while 27 per cent were not attached to families, but
lived in lodging or boarding houses. These figures are far too
scanty for generalization, but data gathered from various other
sources would indicate the number of women shoe workers living in
lodging or boarding houses in Lynn as not far from 1,000. A num­
ber of these are married, husband and wife occupying one room;



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION POE W OM EN.

23

some are widows; a few have children, but the majority are unmar­
ried girls and women without home ties.
In nearly every quarter of Lynn the lodging house is prominent,
but near the railroad station and the larger factories the “ Booms to
let” sign is seen in most of the houses. The prices for rooms are
uniformly high, though the conditions vary greatly. A large fourstory lodging house near the civic center contains 143 rooms let by
the day, week, or month. The majority of these rooms are of fair
size, some have good light and air, but the furniture is shabby, and
both rooms and furnishings sorely need cleaning. Each floor has
two or three bathrooms and separate toilets, fairly clean, but used
with no discrimination as to sex. The rooms are let, as in a hotel,
to any applicant, of either sex, with no references required. No re­
ception room of any kind is provided. Guests, if received at all,
must be taken to the lodgers’ bedrooms, where also any social inter­
course among the lodgers must take place, as there is no dining room.
Prices here varied from $2.35 per week for a small dark back room,
to $3.50 for rooms on the front. Lodging houses near the station,
and therefore convenient to several large factories, showed similar
conditions, though the neighborhood and rooms were inferior. Con­
venience of location, however, keeps up the prices, which ranged from
$2.50 to $3.50 for small rooms shabbily furnished and with wretched
artificial light. In one house, somewhat unfavorably placed near
the railroad, conditions were excellent. The sensible woman who
was mistress here declared that as a moral safeguard no lodging
house should be without a reception room, and she does not permit
her lodgers to take guests of an opposite sex to the bedrooms. In
several houses near two or three of the largest factories grime, dreari­
ness, and discomfort were everywhere evident, and some were filthy
in the extreme. No reception room was provided in any case; women
lodgers receive men visitors in their bedrooms. The rents for these
houses were abnormally high. The mistresses claimed that they
could not afford to reserve a reception room.
Restaurants or. “ mealing houses” are also numerous. The usual
price per week for meals is $3 to $3.50. The former price is often
charged for women, the latter for men. Thus for a fairly decent
room and tolerable food not less than $5 to $7 a week must be paid.
As the price for food can not be cut down, women making $8 a week
or less will try to cut down on the room. This is frequently done by
sharing a room with another worker.
The foreigners of both sexes are usually members of families or
of family households. Greek and Italian unmarried girls are care­
fully guarded. The Greek priest claims that a lodging house for both
sexes would not be tolerated. The 150 unmarried Greek girls working
in Lynn shoe factories live with their own families or with relatives.



24

BULLETIN OF T H E BUREAU OP LABOR STATISTICS.

The customs of the home country are maintained. Here, as there, a
Greek girl separated from her family loses her chance to marry.
The social status of the women in shoe factories in Lynn is
variously estimated. A recent investigator states on one page of a
report that women inevitably lose caste by working in a shoe factory;
on the next that America may well take pride in this class of wage
earners. I f these opposing statements were less inclusive, both would
be true. The American and Irish women who filled the stitching
rooms in the years when women were found in no other part of the
factory were above the ordinary factory force in intelligence, edu­
cation, and standards of living. Few were unattached to families
and fewer still continued to work after marriage, while they mingled
on equal terms with the shopkeeping or clerking classes of their city.
A constantly decreasing number of this type now remains. The
usual view of the social standing of this class of women is shown by
the attitude of a prominent official of the Boot and Shoe Workers’
Union, who, a father himself, after some hesitation declared he
would be willing to put his daughter in a stitching room in Brockton,
but would on no account do so in Lynn.
It is said by social workers in Lynn that an unattached woman
coming to the city to work in a shoe factory has absolutely no hope
of making social connections outside of the factory and lodging house
unless she joins a church. A few do this; more who have been church­
goers in their own home towns shrink from intruding upon a strange
congregation. The Young Women’s Christian Association has no
branch in the city. Its place has been partly filled by a Women’s
Heading and Rest Boom established some years ago by certain philan­
thropic ladies of Lynn. The quarters of this association have recently
been transferred to an ample and artistically furnished house on
Broad Street near the heart of the city. In this home are rooms for
20 girls, rented at very moderate rates. A kitchen and dining room
are also provided, where girls from outside may cook their own
lunch at noon, and may rest, read, or talk in the pleasant hall and
library. There is a large gymnasium, open afternoon and evening
for classes. These unusual advantages are enjoyed by young women
a good deal above the shoe workers in social standing, mainly
stenographers or members of the office force in shops or factories.
A machine operator or two of a superior grade has come in, but the
majority of factory girls would feel out of place in these associations.
The gymnasium could well enlarge its uses to meet the needs of the
lodging-house girls everywhere in the neighborhood, but to do this
different forms of recreation would have to be introduced, and for
this movement the managing ladies are not yet ready.
A similar home designed especially for factory girls has been es­
tablished by the manager of the Sorosis factory. In this “ annex ”



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

25

are rooms for 10 women, a library, evening classes in sewing and
embroidery, and a large dining room where good meals are served at
small cost. These privileges are offered to club members only. There
is no gymnasium or other place of active recreation.
BROCKTON AND THE PLYMOUTH COUNTY SHOE TOWNS.

Brockton lies on a branch of the New York & New Haven Rail­
road, about 20 miles south of Boston and at an equal distance west
of the coast of Massachusetts Bay. It is one of a group of towns in
the northwest corner of Plymouth County, in all of which the mak­
ing of shoes is the chief business. Bridgewater, Randolph, Rockland,
Whitman, and North Abington all lie within a 10-mile distance and
are connected with Brockton and each other either directly by rail or
by a ramification of trolley lines.
Important factories are located in some of the smaller towns, but in
amount and value of product Brockton not only leads in the region
but is a close rival to Lynn, so close that in one or two recent years
the inland city, though now holding second place, has actually run
ahead of the North Shore center in its manufactures. In 1911 the
number of Brockton factories was, however, only 32, against Lynn’s
117.1 Brockton is not the home of small plants; larger buildings,
better equipment, and firmly established business are general charac­
teristics of the shoe industry in Plymouth County.
Of the 60 or more factories in Plymouth County making the com­
plete shoe product 32 are in Brockton. In addition 43 factories pro­
duce shoe and leather findings and cut stock. Foreign labor is largely
employed in these shops; women form 36 per cent of the total num­
ber of employees as against the 27 per cent in the factories making a
complete product. Brockton also occupies chief place in Massachu­
setts in the production of shoe-factory tools and supplies. This in­
dustry grows apace, both in Lynn and Brockton. Work with leather
or for leather products absorbs the whole local industrial energy.
Brockton as a city is as frankly industrial as Lynn, but its aspect
shows civic interest on the part of its people and a degree of general,
if moderate, prosperity. Streets are uncongested, public buildings
well placed, and homes well kept. Fine schools, numerous churches,
and a library housing 15,000 volumes, give to the city a true New
England character. There is little absenteeism on the part of the
factory owners, whose families have in some cases been in the shoe
business for a century. The 30 or more shoe factories are grouped
about the three railroad stations in Brockton proper and in its north
and south sections, Montello and Campello, originally villages but
now a part of the city. Streets in the vicinity of the factories are
1 Massachusetts Bureau o f Statistics, Tw enty-sixth Annual R eport on the Statistics o f
M anufactures, 1911, p. 24.




BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS*

26

closely built, but fairly clean/ The city on the whole is attractive
as a place of residence.
WOMEN SHOE WORKERS IN BROCKTON.

Brockton, according to the Federal census of 1910, is among the
cities of Massachusetts showing large increase in population. In
1910 its people numbered 56,878, an increase of nearly 30 per cent in
10 years. The original American element was, in accordance with the
condition in eastern Massachusetts cities 25 years ago, modified mainly
by the Irish. But if at present a factory superintendent in Brockton
is questioned as to the nationality of his working force, he is apt to
reply, “ We have everything but a Chinaman.” The statement is
scarcely an exaggeration. About 80 years ago French Canadians
began to arrive, shortly followed by Swedes. More recent additions
are the southern European and semioriental people, with some from
central Europe, and the inevitable Russian and Polish Jews. Eng­
lish and Scotch from Canada and the British Provinces are less
numerous than in Lynn. A few Portuguese are found, with faces
almost as dark as those of the Negroes from families who settled in
Plymouth County before the Civil War. Colored women work in
many shoe factories, but are not distinguished in the subjoined table
of nativity. This includes employees of two large factories in Brock­
ton. The Swedes, at first largely employed in shoe findings shops,
have made their way up to the regular factories, where in all the
skilled processes they are valued worksrs. Though their speech is
alien to the American, their habits and standards are not so. In
rapid assimilation of American habits they correspond to the immi­
grants from the British Provinces in Lynn, and like them are distinct
from the later invasion.
T able

8.—NATIVITY OF 344 WOMEN WAGE EARNERS IN TWO FACTORIES IN BROCKTON.
[Based on personal statements of the women.]
Number and per cent of workers in specified factories.
Place of birth.

Factory A.

Factory B.

Total.

Number. Percent Number. Per cent Number. Per cent
of total.
of total.
of total.
Native bom:
Brockton..............................................
Other parts of New England...............
Other parts of the United States.........

25
58
4

22.9
53.2
3.7

44
107
4

18.7
45.5
1.7

69
165
8

20.0
48.0
2.3

Total.................................................

87

79.8

155

65.9

242

70.3

Foreign bom:
English^mflftlrfng lands........................
Nnn-TCngnsh-RpAft.Vir>cr lands................

15
7

13.8
6.4

32
48

13.7
20.4

47
55

13.7
16.0

Total.................................................

22

20.2

80

34.1

102

29.7

Grand total.......................................

109

100.0

235

100.0

344

100.0




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

27

The shoe factory draws the immigrant to Brockton, and if he is
not inefficient, it keeps him; industrial reasons seldom drive the
steady worker from this center. Length of residence for some hun­
dreds of women shoe workers not bom in Brockton is given in Table
9. Were a questionnaire put through the men’s rooms it would give,
doubtless, somewhat different results on this point.
9.—LENGTH OF RESIDENCE IN BROCKTON OF 714 WOMEN NOT BORN IN
BROCKTON WHO WERE WORKING IN THREE OF ITS LARGE SHOE FACTORIES.

table

[Based on personal statements of the women.]
Native bom, but not
bom in Brockton.

Foreign bom.

Number of years in Brockton.
Number.

Per cent.

Number.

Percent.

Less than 1 year..............................................................
1 year and less than 6 years...........................................
6 years and less th^n 10 years........................................
10 years and less th w 20 years.......................................
20 years and less than 30 years......................................
30 years and m ore..........................................................

6
102
83
183
76
33

1.2
21.1
17.2
37.9
15.8
6.8

12
71
38
66
35
9

5.2
30.7
16.5
28.6
15.2
3.8

Total.....................................................................

483

100.0

231

100.0

MARRIED WOMEN IN BROCKTON SHOE FACTORIES.

Special inquiry made among 850 women shoe workers showed that
nearly 40 per cent were married. Frequently husband and wife are
both wage earners, although the work of married women is strongly
disapproved by the better class. A reason for it is the desire to secure
an income upon which both may live and save money. Wages,
though high, are not continuous. That there is much saving is
proved by the line of depositors stretching down the street from the
People’s National Bank every Saturday night. Employees in shoe
factories own 90 per cent of the houses in Brockton. Children to
make these households complete are frequently wanting. Brock­
ton’s birth rate is the lowest in the State, while the divorce rate
is the highest The want of the common bond of children is un­
questionably one reason for the latter fact, but another cause is
probably that a wife’s support so often stands ready for her in the
factory when the husband’s character or conduct does not measure
up to her standards. Of the children brought into the courts 80 per
cent are from homes where both parents are daily out at work, while
in the Brockton day nursery 50 per cent of the babies have mothers
in the shoe factories.




BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS*

28
T able

10.—MARITAL CONDITION OF 853 WOMEN WORKING IN THREE LARGE SHOE
FACTORIES IN BROCKTON.
[Based on personal statements of the women.]
Native bom.

Foreign bom.

Total.

Marital condition.
Number.

Percent.

Number.

Per cent.

Number.

Per cent.

Married...................................
Single......................................

258
433

37.3
62.7

73
89

45.1
54.9

331
522

38.8
61.2

Total..............................

C
01

100.0

162

100.0

853

100.0

LIVING CONDITIONS OF SHOE WORKERS IN BROCKTON.

The homes of Brockton shoe workers are many and, on the whole,
show good standards of comfort. Workers without homes often rent
rooms from resident families, but for the majority of the unattached
the lodging house stands ready. The better type of lodging house is
usually termed a hotel. One of these, where rooms rented for from
$3.50 to $5 per week, showed excellent conditions, among which were
the provision of a reception room and reading room. A few shoe
operators of both sexes roomed here, but not many can afford the
terms. In other houses, where prices were lower and no reception
rooms were provided, lodgers of both sexes received visitors in their
rooms.
The women shoe workers, especially the childless, have the reputa­
tion of extravagance in dress. The high cost of necessaries, the in­
dulgence in luxuries, and the ignorance of economical expenditure
combine to keep many of the wage earners living from hand to mouth.
The Americans and Irish in particular wear much finery, for which
they are often in debt to the credit clothing stores. Prices charged at
these stores are very high, but by paying $1 down a whole suit may be
obtained, which is often worn out before it is paid for. Superin­
tendents of certain factories are greatly annoyed by the frequency
with which assignments of wages are served on their employees.
It is the custom with one large firm to pay wages before pay day,
charging a discount of 5 per cent; sometimes a profit of $75 a week
is made by this practice.
Brockton’s winter recreations are largely limited to the movingpicture show, with its vaudeville features, and to the dance hall. The
“ movies” are carefully censored by public opinion; it is claimed the
pictures are of a good class. There is also one theater, with a stock
company. In singular contrast to the propriety of these diversions
is the character of the young people’s favorite meeting place, the
dance hall, where lack of supervision has greatly lowered the moral
tone. Homeless young girl workers are not so numerous in Brockton
as in Lynn, but they are as little safeguarded from improper asso­
ciations and amusement. The Young Women’s Christian Association
does not attract this special class, nor do the churches make special



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

29

provisions for them. Opportunities for physical and mental devel­
opment are not offered to adults by the public-school system, nor is
there a public recreation organization. Brockton offers many ad­
vantages to the sheltered, home-loving woman, but few to her sister
forced to an isolated life.
BOSTON AS A SHOE CENTER.

In Boston proper, shoemaking is no longer a prominent industry.
The few shops seem either content with a small output or desirous to
move into outlying sections. In South Boston the number of shoe
factories is increasing by removals from Lynn and Brockton, but even
there other industries claim precedence in importance. Jamaica
Plain with its 5,000 operatives in one factory is really a shoemaking
section. Chelsea’s several factories show a large output of low-grade
shoes for women and children. The distribution of population in these
special localities is somewhat different from that of the metropolis.
Americans and Irish in South Boston, East Boston, and Jamaica
Plain, and Jews, Greeks, and Italians in Chelsea, are the chief nation­
alities. In Boston proper the proportion of women workers is small.
In Chelsea, where an average of 6,436 shoe operatives was reported
in 1911, only about 28 per cent are women workers, the stitching-room
forces being largely made up of men. South Boston factories draw
for their partly skilled processes from a mixed and unstable com­
munity, but their best-paid workers are still mainly American and
Irish. A description of the character and habits of these workers
would mean a description of the wage earners of all Boston, and
would not, as in the case of the other centers, provide information
leading to conclusions of value as to the shoe workers as a class.
In Jamaica Plain, partly owing to the policy of the large factory
in employing workers living within easy reach of their work, a class
of stable resident employees has been developed. The nativity of the
women in one stitching room in this factory is shown in Table 11.
T able

11.—NATIVITY OF 160 WOMEN WAGE EARNERS IN A STITCHING ROOM OF A
BOSTON SHOE FACTORY.
[Based on personal statements of the women.]




Number.

Percent
of total.

Native bom:
Boston.........................................
Other parts of New England.......
Other parts of the United States..

93
19
2

58.5
12.0
1.3

Total......................................

114

71.8

21
24

13.2
15.0

Place of birth.

Foreign bom:

~ V glfeh -sipfl^Trfng lands...............
Fn
Non-Engfish-speaking lands........

Total......................................

45

28.2

Grand total............................

159

100.0

80

BULLETIN OP TH E BUREAU OP LABOR STATISTICS.

All the city opportunities for recreation and education are open
to these shoe workers of Boston; this, with other attractions of city
life, makes them reluctant to move away. They are, however, often
pushed out by the high cost of living, which is not balanced, as in
Lynn, by high wages.
MARLBORO AND THE MIDDLESEX COUNTY SHOE TOWNS.

Marlboro is 25 miles west of Boston, and though reached by branches
of two railways, is not on the main line of any railway. In the 20
years from 1890 to 1910 it added less than 1,000 persons to its popula­
tion of 18,800, and now numbers less than 15,000, of whom over 4,000
are shoe workers. It is a pleasant, open, well-planned little town,
with a fine public library and town hall, a new and sightly high
school, and several flourishing factory industries, among which the
boot and shoe factories hold, as they have since the days of farm and
village shoemaking, the most conspicuous place. The chief shoe plant
has four large modem factory buildings and employs not far from
2,000 operatives, of whom more than one-third are women. The
three or four other factories produce heavy or low-grade shoes and
boots for men. Their operatives are often drawn from the surround­
ing farms or villages, to which also parts of the work are still
sent out.
The population of Marlboro, until 30 years ago, was almost ex­
clusively of American stock, with a small proportion of Irish. Im­
migration from Canada added hundreds of French Canadians as
workers in the growing factory industries. In 1905 these French
Canadian immigrants numbered nearly 1,200, while the Irish were
900 strong. The British Provinces contributed 500, and Italy and
Greece together about 250. The foreign element at that date was
about 30 per cent of the population. The English-speaking element
was then and is now far less in proportion than it is in Brockton or
Lynn. At present the immigration of French Canadians has largely
ceased; but these alien settlers have become a permanent though
still distinct part of the community.
A more singular element in the Marlboro community is the large
number of Greeks, brought in at the time of a strike in 1895. The
Greeks are now permanently settled in considerable numbers; they
have their families, and are perhaps a little more clannish than the
French Canadians. The population, originally so distinctively
American, is now, therefore, made up of unmixable elements. Amer­
ican and English yet predominate, but the French Canadians on
the “ Hill ” and the Greeks in the “ Hollow ” are likely to remain
as long as shoes and automobile supplies are made in Marlboro. A
large number of the women of both races work in the shoe factories.




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR WOMEN.

31

Exact statistics are not at hand as to the proportion of married
women, but the French Canadian, while governing his family by
strictly patriarchal methods, is accustomed to permit his wife and
daughters to share in its maintenance. Married women from Greek
families do no factory work as a rule.
The town is a place of homes. It has a small number of unat­
tached men, but the problem of the unattached woman scarcely exists.
The factories close down on Saturday afternoons; the factory girls
go home, put on their finery, and walk the strests in couples or take
a trolley to enjoy the gayer but still restricted diversions of South
Framingham or Natick. The relation of the more important fac­
tory employers to their workers is helpful and friendly, and as a
whole Marlboro comes near to meeting the possible ideal of a shoe
center.
The average earnings of shoe workers in Marlboro are much below
those of Lynn, Brockton, or even Haverhill, but this fact is balanced
by the lesser expense of living. Rents, food, even clothing, cost less
than in the more easterly towns. Doubtless the French trait of
thriftiness has its influence on expenditure as a whole. There is
almost no display of wealth and as little sign of real poverty. Agur’s
prayer for a subsistence, neither poverty nor riches, seems answered
for this quiet town.
In view of what would appear its attractive conditions, it is sin­
gular that shoe workers from livelier centers usually reject with
energy the idea of removing to Middlesex County. The reasons
seem to be that, except in its larger number of operatives, Marlboro
labor conditions are typical of other Middlesex County towns in
which shoe factories are placed. The farm as well as the village
population has long been accustomed to finding work in the factory
when farming flags or fails. In all these towns the supply of help
is more abundant than the demand; the effect is lower wages and less
shifting among the workers, who hold their places with tenacious
jealousy against newcomers.




CHAPTER m .—NATURE AND CONDITIONS OP WOMEN’S
WORK IN SHOE FACTORIES.
TECHNICAL PROCESSES.

It has been calculated that about 40 separate pieces, 50 operators,
and from 100 to 150 different processes are required in the construc­
tion of a modern shoe as it passes from the hide in the cutting room
to its tissue-wrapped completion in the packing room. Notwith­
standing this minute division of labor, the three main processes now
involved in the actual manufacture of a shoe are the same that have
been in use since leather was first fitted as a complete covering to the
foot. These are the cutting out of soles and tops, the sewing together
of the pieces of the uppers, and the fastening together of the two
main portions.
With the progress of civilization new standards govern the require­
ments for clothing of every sort. Comfort, convenience, and dura­
bility are prime necessities. Beauty of form and finish are valuable
qualities, as they have always been, but if they spell inutility and dis­
comfort they now attract only a minority of buyers. It is in part the
endeavor to achieve comfort and durability that has multiplied the
pieces in a modern shoe, and it is the effort to reduce cost and gain
time in production that makes the number of processes twice or thrice
that of the pieces. This modem differentiation with its multiplica­
tion of minor operations maintains the demand for women and girls
as workers in the shoe industry. The increase in numbers, both
absolute and relative, of these workers has been shown in Chapter I.
We have now to consider their present part in the making of shoes.
The most convincing proof of the complexity of the present-day
shoe manufacture is given by a visit to one of the factories of the
modem type, where each room or floor is distinguished by the chief
processes there carried on. These processes fall into the following
main divisions: (1) sole-leather cutting, (2) uppers cutting, (3)
stitching, (4) lasting or making, (5) finishing. Sorting and pack­
ing, though demanding both space and workers, are not properly
processes. The cutting of the sole-leather parts, though usually in­
cluded in the work of high-grade factories, is often the business of
special shops from which the soles and heels are bought in assorted
lots as required by the shoe factories. Certain minor parts of the
uppers are also at times cut in special factories.
The first step in the production of a shoe properly begins in the
main office, where the orders from agents or traveling salesmen are
32



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

33

received. In this office tags are made out stating the kind and qual­
ity of shoe to be made and the character of each of its parts; this
collection of tags constitutes an “ order ” and is sent to the top of the
building, where a clerk makes out long two-part tickets, one for the
sole-leather room, the other for the cutting room. Both parts con­
tain detailed specifications of the operations to be done. A “ topticket ” indicating the nature and the amount of the order is de­
livered to the sorter at the leather bins, who carefully selects the
leather needed, attaches to it the “ top-ticket ” and sends it to the
cutting room.
CUTTING.

The cutting room, or upper leather department, is always on the
top floor of a factory, and in Massachusetts the cutters proper are
invariably men. They are usually of three classes—the lining cutters;
the outside cutters, who cut quarters, vamps, tips, tops, etc.; and the
trimming cutters, who cut stays, tongues, and other small parts of
the shoe. Frequently a dozen different pieces of leather must be cut
for the shoe exclusive of the sole and heel. Two methods of cutting
are in use, the hand process and the machine process; each has its
warm advocates among factory managers. In each center of manu­
facture one or the other type will be found prevailing—in Boston,
machine cutting; in Lynn, hand cutting; while Brockton, though
using both, shows a growing preference for hand cutting. The qual­
ity of the shoes is not always indicated by choice of process; Brock­
ton, for instance, produces high and medium grades of men’s shoes,
while Lynn produces all grades of women’s and children’s shoes
in large quantities. In the coarser grades of men’s shoes, however,
machine cutting is exclusively used. Among the reasons governing
choice of method local habit appears prominently, as in Lynn, where
the number of small factories does not favor the introduction of
costly machinery. But elsewhere, not only the cost of machines but
the waste of leather held to accompany their use to many managers
more than offsets the undoubted saving in time.
In machine cutting the hide is spread upon the cutting board of
the machine, and upon it the cutter places a die, namely, a steel form
with a sharp edge; the end of a heavy iron beam arranged to swing
horizontally from left to right is caused to fall heavily upon the
die by the pressure of the cutter’s foot upon a lever or by the pulling
of a handle. Several thicknesses of leather may be cut at one time.
The dies are, however, expensive and liable to injury; moreover, since
in high-grade shoes the shape of the vamp, quarter, etc., is con­
stantly changing, the cost of new forms is a heavy one. Where
fashions, as in low-grade shoes, are more stable the machine cutter
is more largely used.
3881°—Bull. 180—15----- 3



34

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

In the hand-cutting process “ patterns ” take the place of the dies.
They are made of heavy cardboard, edged with steel, and look not
unlike an asbestos table mat. The cutter, placing his various pat­
terns upon the hide with careful regard to the quality and grain of
the leather and to the most economical fitting, takes a short, sharpedged and pointed knife, much like the peeling knife favored in our
kitchens, and cuts rapidly and closely around the edge of the pattern.
The cutters are, as a class, men of mature years and judgment,
familiar with the quality and nature of leather. The most serious
risk of waste is that in the cutting room; leather is increasingly
costly, and only by the strictest economy in its use is the margin of
profit maintained. In some factories the hides given out are charged
against the cutters, who are in turn credited with the number of
pieces they can produce. In the best factories work is paid for on a
time basis, and speeding the cutters is discouraged, as it tends to waste
of leather and inequality in the parts.
Lining cutting is a less skilled process; it is sometimes done by the
die and hammer, but more frequently by the use of patterns. In
either case 20 or more thicknesses are cut through at once.
The cutting-room processes are not yet complete, for at one end of the
long room may be seated a dozen girls at “ skiving ” machines. They
are shaving down on the under side those parts of the uppers which
will show in a finished shoe, so that they may be turned over smoothly.
Why should cutting continue to be so exclusively man’s work?
Long-continued custom is no doubt a weighty reason. I f the retro­
spect of shoemaldng be made to cover centuries instead of decades,
women will appear to be intruders in what has been immemorially a
man’s craft. Yet custom is not all. The material handled in the
cutting room is heavy and clumsy, while the manipulation of ham­
mer or machine requires considerable muscular force, which the op­
erator must exercise while standing. Women brought up in towns
will shun any operation to which these conditions are attached.
There are a few exceptions. In the West some factories during a
strike period installed women cutters, who are said to have been re­
tained under such modifications of conditions as made the work less
taxing. It is unlikely, however, that this custom will spread. The
skiving, though suitable enough for women so far as the work itself
is concerned, is not always done by girls, as in some factories they
are considered out of place in a special men’s room.
STITCHING.

On the floor below the cutters, often the fourth or fifth from the
street, is the women’s particular department—the stitching room. It
is a place of many intricate operations. The floor is closely occupied
by tables and machines, at which the women stand or sit. The cut



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OMEN.

35

pieces have come down from the floor above in three classes of bundles,
each containing several dozen pieces. Before the actual stitching
come several minor processes classed as “ table work.” Girls at dif­
ferent tables black the edges that will show in the finished shoes, at
others rubber cement is rapidly daubed upon the edges of vamps,
qiiarters, etc., and the cemented pieces are passed to a machine, by
which the edge is turned over and firmly pressed. In many locali­
ties old-time hand processes still survive at this stage, the turning
being done by hand and the pressing by the blows of a hammer.
The ornamental holes along the edge of toe pieces are punched out
by a perforating machine.
The materials are now ready for the actual stitching. Each
process has its own group of machines at which the operators do one
sort of stitching and no other. The processes will be given in the
usual order of progress:
1. Toe piece or “ tip ” stitched to vamp.
2. Ornamental tip, if used, stitched on.
3. Vamp joined at the back.
4. Quarters (tops) seamed up.
5. Top seam pressed open and smoothed by machine.
6. Backstay stitched on.
7. Eyelet row—if the shoe is to be laced—stitched up and down, or
button fly stitched on.
8. Vamp and top stitched together.
The linings, meanwhile, at other machines have gone through gen­
erally similar processes, and are ready to be joined or “ closed on”
to the leather parts. The lining quarters already have the inside top
band pasted on and are now stitched to the corresponding piece of
leather with the outside in. The pieces are carried to the turning
machine, where the operator turns the pieces by hand, and consigns
them to the machine which with a metal finger straightens the cor­
ners and, seizing the turned tops, claps them together between heavy
metal plates and presses flat the turned edge, after which a “ top
stitcher” stitches one or two rows along the top. The pieces are
now consigned to the eyeleting or the buttonholing machine, both
intricate inventions. The duplex eyeleting machine will insert eye­
lets in both quarters at the same time; the Reece buttonhole machine
stamps out the buttonhole, lays a cord around it, sews around the
cord and through the leather, and stops automatically. The machine
is a marvel in its speed and accuracy, but it is heavy and noisy,
and its delicate springs are liable to get out of order, in which case
it must be repaired by the operator, who, if working by the piece,
learns to detest the machine.
The final and most difficult stitching operation is “ vamping,” or
joining the tops to the vamp. The awkward bulging top must be



36

BULLETIN OF TH E BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

fitted to the vamp with the nicety used in fitting a collar to a waist,
seams must meet exactly, and fulling be carefully avoided. “ Flat
vamping ” is the general method, but in some factories the uppers
are placed over a cylinder which takes up the bulge of the leather.
This method is more fatiguing to the operator, since it requires sit­
ting erect with elbows raised in a position of some strain. Vamping,
by either method, is a highly skilled process and deserves its position
at the head of the stitching room.
The tops, if for a buttoned shoe, then go through a machine which
sews on the buttons. The worker has only to feed in the top in the
proper place; the machine continually shakes a metal hopper, from
which the buttons pass along a tiny rail, always shank first, the ma­
chine sews them to the shoe and “ finishes ” the space between.
The united parts are now properly termed uppers. They are taken
to tables for tying ends of thread, buttoning, lacing, etc. They are
sorted, tied in bundles, and passed to the floor below.
MAKING SOLES AND HEELS.

While the uppers have been subjected to this series of intricate
operations, the soles and heels, if the factory makes men’s shoes, are
being prepared in the basement of the building. The heavy ma­
chinery is more safely installed on the solid ground, and the dirt and
debris inseparable from sole-leather manipulation are more readily
removed than from the upper floors. Under the best conditions pos­
sible the sole-leather room is an unpleasant place and under careless
management it may be almost unbearable; the suffocating odor of
hides and of glue, the clank and grind of heavy machinery, the lack
of good air, and the scanty light render it a veritable purgatory,
shunned by workers of the better sort.
Soles are cut in the rough out of dampened hides by a heavy
“ dieing-out machine,” and are then passed to a “ rounding machine,”
which works a little knife that darts around the sole and cuts it to
fit exactly the pattern to which it is clamped. A heavy rolling ma­
chine afterwards performs the beating of the sole formerly done by
the shoemaker’s hammer. The sole is next fed into a splitting ma­
chine, which reduces it to an even thickness. Insoles are of the same
thickness as outsoles, but of a lighter leather. I f the shoe is to be a
“ Goodyear welt ” shoe, the channeling of the insole is done in this
department. These heavy machines are all managed by men stand­
ing at their work.
The construction of a heel is also no simple process since it is made
up of a number of parts, often of different materials; the minute dis­
tinction of these parts indicates the important place the heel occu­
pies in shoe evolution. The layers or “ lifts ” forming the heel are



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

37

cut from scraps of leather by a machine and cemented together by
hand. Heavy machine pressure fixes the cement and greatly increases
the wearing quality of the heel. The heels are left in a rough state,
and the top lift or bottom layer is not attached until the shoe is
lasted. Inner and outer soles, counters, toe boxing, and heels are
sorted and marked and conveyed to the lasting room.
LASTING-ROOM PROCESSES.

In this room all parts of the shoes are brought together, uppers
from above, heels, soles, and counters from below, to be sorted with
reference to putting together the parts belonging to the same shoe.
The sorting is done by boys who need only the ability to read the cor­
responding marks on the leather pieces. Girls and women are some­
times employed for this “ unskilled ” or “ table ” work, but all actual
operating in the “ making ” of a shoe is done by men.
In attaching the upper to the sole several distinct methods are em­
ployed, differing largely in accordance with the grade of the shoe or
sometimes with the sex of its future wearer. The Goodyear welt
process is used in the finer grades of men’s and in the medium grades
of women’s shoes; the McKay process chiefly in men’s heavy shoes;
the turned shoe process chiefly in the finest grades of women’s shoes.
The first process in the lasting room is that of “ assembling.” The
assembler places the counter between the lining and the back part of
the vamp, as a stiffening; puts the “ boxing” in the toe, tacks the
insole to a wooden last, places the upper above it, and thrusts the
whole into the clutches of a machine that pulls the back of the upper
down over the heel seat and tacks it securely. A second operator with
his “ pulling over ” machine does a similar service for the toe and the
sides. The shoe is now consigned to the lasting machine. By this
wonderful contrivance a pincer travels around the edge of the sole
drawing the upper into place and driving a tack part way in at each
pull, so that every part of the upper is stretched in all directions
equally. A second machine pays special attention to toes and heels,
bringing the leather smoothly around the toe and fastening it in place
by a tape or wire. By another, surplus leather is trimmed away and
the vamp pounded to make it lie close to the last.
The lasted shoe, when ready for further treatment, is turned over
to the “ tack setter,” who pulls out the tacks, leaving a few only to
hold it in place; the insole is then wet and the shoe is ready for
Goodyear welting.
This process adds greatly both to the comfort and the durability
of the shoe. The insole has been previously prepared by the “ channeler,” a small machine that cuts a half inch slit along the edge of
the insole inward, making a a lip,” which the “ turning machine”



38

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

turns up at right angles from the insole to be out of the path of the
needle. The shoe, with the moistened insole uppermost, is placed in
a machine and a narrow strip of sole leather, called the welt, is fed
from the machine and guided from the “ heel seat ” around the shoe
in such a manner as to project from the upper, while a curved needle
sews through welt, upper, and the “ channel lip ” of the insole with a
stout, waxed linen thread. The portion of the insole standing up
inside of the shoe is later cemented down to cover the stitching.
The addition of the welt has left a hollow space along the ball of
the shoe; this must be filled in. In shoes of good quality the filling
used is a mixture of ground cork and cement, plastered on the sole,
which is passed over a hot roller until perfectly smooth.
It seems incredible that the attaching of the outsole should require
a score of separate machines, but such in a machine-dominated fac­
tory is the case. A “ cementing machine” smears a layer of cement
over the welt, places the wet outsole upon the bottom of the shoe, and
fastens it with a single tack. A “ sole-laying machine” next by
heavy pressure fits the sole closely to the last. An operator with
his “ rough-rounding machine” trims the edges of the outsole and
slits its edge. The “ channel-opening machine ” turns up the lip, and
only now is the outsole ready to be stitched. The “ outsole lock-stitch
machine ” unites the sole and welt with a lock stitch of great strength,
sewing through an inch of leather without the slightest difficulty,
the stitch extending from the channel of the outsole through the
upper side of the welt, where it shows in the finished shoe.
The outsole is now consigned to the “ loose-nailing machine,”
which drives nails at the rate of 350 a minute through the heel seat
and clinches them against the steel plate of the last. The edge of
the outsole around the heel is trimmed by the “ heel-seat pounding
machine ” and the whole sole rolled back and forth from side to side
on the “ automatic sole-leveling machine” to secure the result for­
merly obtained by the shoemaker with his lapstone.
The McKay process of attaching the sole is used in cheaper and
heavier grades of shoes. No welt is used, nor is the insole chan­
neled; the McKay machine sews the outsole, upper, and insole to­
gether at once, through the groove, and the lip of the outer sole is
afterwards firmly cemented over the stitching, leaving no ridge.
In a “ turned shoe ” the lasting process differs materially from the
two preceding; it is used exclusively in making women’s fine shoes
and slippers. There is but one sole, and that of fine, flexible leather.
This is channeled, fastened to the last, the upper, turned inside out,
is placed on the last and is tacked to the sole by a hand laster. The
upper is sewed'to the sole through the channel, leaving the heel part
loose, and the shoe taken from the last and turned inside out by a
singular machine operation. No process so far discovered produces



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB W OMEN.

39

a flexibility comparable to that of the turned shoe. The lightness of
the material and delicacy of the work, now, as in early days of the
industry, demand women workers for many of the operations in a
turned shoe. The lasting proper, however, is in many Lynn shops
done by leather-aproned men in the old fashion with awl and waxed
thread.
The heel to be attached is in a rough state when it arrives in the
lasting room; it is first trimmed by machine, the breast is cut across
to the desired slant, and the edges of the heel scoured. The heel may
now be fastened to the shoe, for which process a variety of ma­
chines are in use. One of the latest both feeds and fastens the nails,
and is operated by a man and a boy. It turns off work with great
speed, leaving the nails slightly protruding above the heel. The
top lift is next pressed into position over these nails, and the heel
goes to the “ universal slugging machine.” This is devised to cut
the “ slugs ” or small ornamental outside nails from a coil of wire and
drive them into the heel where they show in the top lift. The lasting
or making has been, until recently, given over to men as exclusively
as the cutting. Yet in passing through the factories there will occa­
sionally be seen a group of young women doing “ assembling.” It is
a process better done by nimble fingers and too simple to be paid at
men’s rates. Girls do it more accurately than young boys, and as
men will not take the low pay girls are often employed. Assembling,
as is the case with skiving, is unsuitable for girls only because of its
being done in the “ men’s room.”
As to the other work in the lasting room, there is no question of its
unfitness for women. Most of the operations must be done standing;
the foot is frequently used in the manipulation of the machine; the
muscles of arms and back are subjected to constant strain. Even
men of slender build dislike lasting-room work.
The processes described above take place in the lasting rooms of
most large factories and especially those where heavier shoes are
made. Many firms producing women’s shoes, especially in Lynn, by
preference or compulsion still employ hand lasting. The hand
laster, who uses strong pincers to pull the leather down over the
form, must have knowledge of the way leather stretches, must exert
strength in his pull, and exercise care to make his successive pulls
equal in value. All this takes much time and demands high pay,
notwithstanding which facts hand lasting is preferred for fine or
delicate shoes.
FINISHING DEPARTMENT.

To this room are conveyed the shoes, now complete so far as con­
cerns the joining of parts, but demanding various operations before
being absolutely finished. Heel slugs must be ground down, heels
and soles buffed or scoured, stained or blacked, brushed and polished,



40

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

the trade-mark stamped on, and the shoe finally passed to a boy or
girl “ tack feeler ” who examines- its interior for lurking tacks. A
lining is also put inside the shoe, covering in some cases the heel only.
After a final inspection to see that each shoe is properly nailed, the
pairs are sent to the packing department.
PACKING DEPARTMENT.

In the packing room the product has its final handling; various
treatments must be applied before the shoes are actually ready for
packing. The shoe is placed on a “ tree5 or form like the last on
5
which it was made; stain and dirt are removed and repairs made
where certain imperfections are found. Hand operators “ rag” or
wipe clean the edges and heels and lace the shoes having eyelets. An
inspector examines each pair, throws out the imperfect, and makes a
record of them. At the packing tables the shoes are carefully mated,
wrapped, and placed in paper cartons to be sent to the men packers,
who fill and fasten the wooden cases of shoes for shipment. In large
factories treeing, dressing, and packing may be done in different
rooms; in the smaller ones the finishing and packing departments
occupy one room. In both departments the majority of workers are
women.
Such, in general, are the processes used in the production of a shoe.
Some minor operations are omitted in this description and it should
also be said that, in comparing factory with factory, differences in
certain processes as well as in the order of their use will be found,
differences due not only to local custom and to the quality of the
product, but to individual preference or initiative.
DIVISION OF WORK BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN.

A review of the various departments and operations in shoe fac­
tories confirms in general the statements of economists that men and
women do not often work in competition in the same industry. Occu­
pations are apt to be assigned to one sex or the other, and even when
both work nominally at the same occupation there is apt to be a dif­
ference in the kind of work done or the methods employed. But
while in the past this has been generally true in the shoe trade, grad­
ual changes are now making particular exceptions which later may
confirm the principle of noncompetition in a new way. The stitch­
ing room for half a century has been termed the women’s room, but
the high prices now paid for expert work at the machines, together
with the difficulty of obtaining skilled women workers, has brought
men invaders into this department, while a reversal of conditions is
shown by the presence of women and girls in the sole-leather room.
The influx of foreign labor opens the way to these changes. The in­



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

41

troduction of unskilled and disagreeable preparatory processes, for
which the factory desires to pay as little as possible, brings into the
foul-smelling basement of the factory foreign women who will work
for small pay under conditions that repel the native or naturalized
classes. However, the majority of women workers, as has been stated,
are in the stitching room, a smaller number in the finishing and pack­
ing room, while in every room “ table work ” is done by women and
minors. Outside of these occupations men perform all important
operations in the factory, and are the foremen, managers, etc. Massa­
chusetts women have not yet “ broken into ” the cutting rooms except
for skiving, which process is, however, frequently done in the stitch­
ing room. The packing-room work, formerly done by men, is now
almost completely in the hands of women. Women are also found
in the lasting room at “ assembling ” machines, and also doing the
eyeleting, buttonhole making, etc.
In the stitching room, vamping, usually the best-paid process, is
now frequently done by young foreign Jews or youths from South­
ern Europe. The managers claim that they hold out longer than
women on heavy work, especially cylinder vamping. Also, the law
permits them to work longer hours than women, and in a rush season
this is an advantage to the employer.
Shoemaking is peculiarly a matter of individual activity, and the
operations in which a helper is required are so few as to be negligible.
Close supervision of learners, therefore, is impossible, and for this
reason, and because most of the operations are highly skilled, the
number of minors employed is relatively small. Both boys and girls
are used for unskilled handwork at the tables and for “ floor work,”—
that is, carrying materials, running errands, etc. In the stitching
room girls under 18 are occasionally found at the simpler machines,
but only by special brief privilege does a minor work on an important
machine. In the finishing room boys and girls are frequently em­
ployed for small operations, as they are also in the packing room.
It is not uncommon, however, to find factories where no minors are
employed. The nonemployment of minors in the actual processes
surely indicates the fact that shoemaking is a skilled trade and that
at present the machinery in use can not, as in a cotton mill, do away
with dexterity and judgment on the part of the operator.
LIST OF CHIEF TECHNICAL PROCESSES IN SHOE MANUFACTURING IN WHICH
Wo m e n a r e e m p l o y e d .
[H ., Hand process; M., machine process.]

Assembling (H .).—Tacking insole to last, placing box and counter in position,
and putting upper on the last
BacTcstaying (M.).—Stitching narrow leather strips over back seams.
Barring (M .).—Making short rows of stitching across bottom of upper
opening.



42

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS,

Buttonholing (M .).—Making buttonholes by machine.
Buttoning (M.).—Putting buttons on by machine.
Cementing (H .).—Applying cement to the various parts to hold them together
before stitching.
Closing (M.).—Putting two or more parts together.
Closing on (M .).—Stitching lining and outside together.
Crippling (H.).—Repairing imperfections.
Eyeleting (M .).—Putting in the eyelets with machine.
Folding (H. or M.).—Turning edges to be stitched.
Lacing (H .).—Running laces in shoes.
Making linings (M .).—Stitching back seam, sides, and top of linings.
McKay sewing (M .).—Sewing through both soles and upper so that sewing
appears inside of shoe.
Packing (H .).—Placing a pair of shoes in a carton.
Perforating (M .).—Punching ornamental holes in tips.
Pressing (M .).—Using a “ flat press ” on heels and soles to make parts adhere.
Bagging (H .).—Cleaning completed shoes.
Repairing (H .).—Filling cracks in patent leather.
Skiving (M .).—Shaving leather to desired thickness in all parts.
Stamping (H. or M.).—Marking size and width on the inside of the shoe or
marking parts of uppers that are to go together.
Staying (M .).—Putting on heel or other stays.
Table work (H .).—Matching parts, tying threads, trimming, pasting, etc.
Tip flying (H .).—Repairing patent-leather tips.
Tongue stitching (M .).—Sewing tongue in vamps.
Top stitching (M .).—Stitching across the top and side of the shoe.
Turning (M .).—Turning upper right side out, or in fine shoes turning the
whole shoe.
Vamping (M.).—Stitching the vamp to the upper.
METHODS OP LEARNING THE TRADE.

Thirty thousand women are to-day working in various branches of
shoemaking in Massachusetts.1 Where and how do they learn the
processes connected with it, and how long a time is needed to make
them competent wage earners? For the 2,500 women in shoe findings
and cut stock shops the answer is simple—the work is of so elemen­
tary a character as to demand almost no instruction; the illiterate
foreign women who mainly undertake it require for most of the
processes scarcely as much direction as their male relatives receive
from the overseer “ bossing ” a piece of street digging. Monotonous
repetition of mechanical movements is easily acquired. Natural dif­
ferences in mental endowment are manifest not in the degree of skill
but of speed.
For the 27,500 women in factories working on the complete product
the case is very different. All the processes are more technical, and
for those connected with machine manipulation there are requisite
* M assachusetts Bureau o f Statistics, Annual Report on the Statistics o f M anufactures,
1911, p. 2 :
Average num ber:
Shoe findings and cut stock_________________________________________________ 2,480
Boots and sh oes_____________________________________________________________ 27, 593




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR WOMEN.

43

intelligence and dexterity, the first of which must be present in the
learner, while the second must be gained through instruction. The
Commonwealth supplies instruction for certain boys and men,
namely, boys in the reformatory at Concord and men in the Charles­
town prison. Not even in penal institutions, however, may a woman
have free instruction in this means of livelihood. For her there are
but two places where she may learn shoemaking—the factory or the
shoe school. The great majority learn the processes in the former,
yet the shoe school, as the more formal and definite method, deserves
first consideration.
LEARNING IN A TRADE SCHOOL.

A shoe school has none of the furnishings that give an academic
air to the ordinary schoolroom. Greasy machines replace the desks,
pieces of leather strewn about in disorder, the books. Nor does a
janitor perform even the most perfunctory of tasks between classes;
sanitary regulations are in fact conspicuously lacking. The labor
unions have no connection with shoe schools and are indifferent to
their condition, while the health boards apparently leave them out
of their lists. So far as could be learned there are no shoe schools in
Greater Boston, and none in the shoe section of which Marlboro is
the center. A good deal of training is given, however, in the factories
of these centers.
The six schools found were all in Lynn or Brockton. The devel­
oped organization of the shoe industry in both cities makes them
proper fields for shoe schools. In Lynn, however, the manufacturers
prefer to train workers in their shops, since lack of uniformity and
certainty in union regulations permits this method. Brockton offers
the best conditions for shoe schools, as practically no shop teaching
is given there.
Those who attend the shoe schools are, in growing proportion, of
foreign birth. They range in age from 15 to 60 years, and many of
them are illiterate. Frequently they have been in America only a
few months and are so anxious to learn a trade quickly that in many
cases they have borrowed the necessary tuition fee. The majority are
men between the ages of 18 and 40; only about one-third of them
have worked in shoe factories before entering the schools. The
women are between 15 and 60 years of age; a larger proportion than
among the men, though less than one-half, have had some experience
in factories, usually only in the various kinds of unskilled table
work. Few boys attend the schools, chiefly because the processes
taught male workers require maturity in the learner. The training
given to the two sexes differs not only in the character of the opera­
tions taught but in the degree of proficiency requisite. There is a
distinct gap between the work done by boys and that done by men. A
boy can be an errand or odd-shoe boy or can block out tongues in the



44

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

cutting room for several years without needing much training, but
to get a man’s job he must have special training either in a factory
or school. Not so with the girls, for whom the line between unskilled
and skilled work is less sharp. A chance to work in a factory is all
they need, and, so far as their future economic welfare is concerned,
it matters little whether they begin as table or machine workers.
This explains the reason why a large proportion of the minors in the
shoe schools are girls. They are learning table work or the less
skilled stitching processes, anything that will give them access to a
factory. Once this is gained, the capable girl can advance in time to
the better-paying processes.
Two schools give instruction in stitching-room processes only, a
third teaches all the operations necessary in making a “ turned ”
shoe, while two others teach all processes except cutting and but­
tonhole making. The managers offer instruction only in those op­
erations with which they are themselves familiar. Two schools have
courses in vamping, top stitching, and skiving, because the managers
know these special operations. The two schools teaching nearly all
operations employ several instructors, and are making shoes on their
own account in addition to running a school. Instruction in cutting
is not given, since the cost of the material is high and the process is
one requiring a long apprenticeship, which is permitted by the unions
in factories. Buttonhole-machine operators have not been in much
demand until the recent popularity of button shoes, and as the ma­
chine is complicated the process is not taught in shoe schools.
The majority of the students are naturally eager to learn the
skilled operations. They usually choose one of the following proc­
esses, for which relatively high wages are paid: Goodyear welt­
ing, Goodyear stitching, edge trimming, vamping, pulling over, No.
5 lasting, edge setting, foxing, and tip stitching. Table work, which
attracts many pupils, is an exception; it is chosen either by young
girls or women well along in years; in either case they are not capable
of the swift, sure manipulation necessary to run a power machine.
There is a middle group of operations, which attract few pupils
and require only a fair degree of skill; these are heeling and slug­
ging, McKay stitching, buffing, scouring and breasting, nailing heel
seats, hand lasting, and leather repairing.
Of the 29 processes taught, 8 only are open to women—vamp­
ing, skiving, foxing and tip stitching, top stitching, seaming and
backstaying, stitching linings, patent leather repairing, and table
work. The charge for teaching these processes in no case exceeds,
and in but two, vamping and skiving, approaches $25. The time re­
quired to learn varies greatly; vamping is the most skilled process,
and necessitates, according to the managers, from three to seven
weeks for moderate proficiency, while skiving requires five weeks.



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB W OM EN.

45

Foxing and tip stitching requires from four to six weeks. Stitching
linings and patent leather repairing require but from one to three
weeks, and the tuition is only $5, while the service given in table
work is regarded as sufficient compensation for instruction in the
simple and easily acquired processes.
The processes open to men are more skilled, the necessary machines
more expensive, and the time required to learn longer, hence the
tuition for seven of the most skilled processes ranges from $85 to
$75. Goodyear welting, Goodyear stitching, and rounding require
eight weeks to learn. Edge trimming, also considered very skilled,
takes seven weeks to master. McKay stitching takes from two to
five weeks to learn, while turn stitching and rapid stitching require
from two to four weeks to master. These seven most skilled and re­
munerative processes are open to men only. Vamping, foxing, tip
stitching, and skiving are the only skilled processes practiced by
both women and men.
The amount of tuition charged in the different schools for the
same process varies with the location and with the grade of work
for which the pupils are prepared. When pupils are preparing to
work on a cheap grade of shoe they do not need the skill expected of
workers on a high-grade shoe, nor do they require much supervision;
hence the lower tuition. One school making its own product claims
to teach the less skilled stitching operations free, providing the girls
do table work without pay for several weeks. No tuition is charged
for table work because most of the work is unskilled and does not
take long to learn. The girls can mark, trim, paste, and fold, and
so reduce the cost of labor in producing a shoe. I f later they wish
to learn to stitch linings, to seam or to put in backstays, the firm
promises to give the instruction without charge. The promise is
not always kept.
All instruction in a shoe school is individual. When Harry Bums
went to learn Goodyear, stitching he paid $75 tuition and was put to
work at once on a Goodyear machine. An instructor taught him
to run the machine and started him at stitching on scraps of leather.
Later he was initiated into the mystery of Goodyear stitching. In
about six weeks he had “ got the hang of the job,” but he kept on for
two weeks longer, as he wanted more skill and some speed. To find
work in a shoe factory, although of necessity a nonunion one, was his
next step. Six months in such a factory did wonders for him; in
short, he had mastered Goodyear stitching. Next, friends, union
members, who could vouch for the fact that he had been working at
his trade for six months gained him admission to the union. There­
after he secured work in a “ closed ” shop, where wages were higher.
Lilly Brown went through experiences somewhat different when
she decided to become a vamper. Fortune favored her from the time



46

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

she paid $25 instead of $75 for tuition until she got work in a union
shop immediately after she left the school. She had been taught in
the school to stitch linings and backstays. Later she was advanced
to the more difficult processes, top stitching, closing, foxing, undertrimming, tip stitching, and finally vamping. Harry had spent eight
weeks in the school, and on leaving knew only one skilled process;
Lilly in her six weeks’ time learned several operations in addition to
vamping. Neither was she compelled to work six months at her
newly acquired trade before she could get a job in a unionized fac­
tory, for since the demand for skilled women workers is greater than
the supply her union is not so strict as the unions for men.
Careless and haphazard methods characterize the general conduct
of the shoe schools. The records kept are meager and usually take
the form of a receipt giving the name of the pupil and the process he
has chosen. Addresses of present pupils are seldom kept and those
of former ones are unknown. It is therefore difficult to ascertain how
many pupils have been enrolled in these schools during a given
period, but it is certain that at any given time only a small propor­
tion of those desiring to learn can be accommodated. So far as could
be learned, the shoe schools of the State enroll altogether about 1,000
pupils at a time and teach 6,000 to 10,000 of both sexes during the
year.
T a b l e 12.— PROCESSES

TAUGHT MEN AND WOMEN, TUITION, AND TIME REQUIRED
TO LEARN.

[Based on the statements of managers of five shoemaking schools.]

Process.

Goodyear welting.............
Goodyear stitching..........
Rounding.........................
Turn stitching.................
Rapid stitching................
Edge trimming................
McKay stitching..............
Heeling and slugging.......
Cutting.............................
Lasting on No. 5 machine
Skiving............................
Bottom finishing.............
Vamping..........................
Pulling over.....................
Edge setting.
Foxii
Turn____ __________
Turning ana beating out
Buffing........................
Scouring and breasting
Top stitching.
Seaming ana 1
McKay la stin g
Nailing heel seats................... .
Hand lasting.......................... .
Leveling and stitch separating
Stitching Hnfaga......................
Patent leather repairing..........
Tablework..............................




Sex of pupils.

Male....................
Male....................
Male....................
Male....................
Male....................
M ale..:...............
Male....................
Male....................
Male....................
Male....................
Male and female..
Male....................
Male and female..
Male....................
Male....................
Male and female..
Male....................
Male....................
Male....................
Male....................
Male and female..
Male and female..
Male....................
Male....................
Male....................
Male....................
Male and female..
Male and female..
Female...............

Number
of weeks
required.

Cost of
tuition.
175
75
50
$25 to 40
35
25
25
25
25
25
20 to 25
15 to 25
20

15
15
15
15
15
5 to 15
10
10
10

10
10

5
5

0

8
8
8

2 to4
2 to4
7
2 to5
2 to 6
5
3
5
2

3 to7
3 to4
4
4
2
2

2 to3

2

4to6
3
2
1
3
2
1
3
3

BO O T A N D SH O E IN D U ST R Y AS A VO CATION FO R W O M E N .

47

LEARNING IN THE SHOE FACTORY.

Those who learn shoemaking in the factory may be divided, with
reference to the conditions of their instruction, into three groups,
namely, first, those who “ pick up” knowledge of a process in a
factory where regulations of management or labor unions forbid
instruction; second, those working where self-instruction or casual
teaching from fellow workers or foremen is permitted; third, those
regularly taught by their employer, in the hope of their remaining
with him permanently. The first class is found in some highly
unionized centers, where teaching of new workers is forbidden, with
a view to preventing overcrowding in the best jobs and consequent
reduction of prices. They are found, too, in localities where skilled
help is abundant and a sign on the factory door brings a dozen eager
applicants, from whom the manager may choose at leisure. The ex­
periences of the would-be instructed worker in these localities are
always varied and sometimes sad. Ora, for example, gets a job
as floor girl in the stitching room of a Marlboro factory. Her work
is carrying stock to and from the women at the tables and machines.
As she is alert and anxious to learn, she watches the different opera­
tions, and soon gains a fair idea of the simpler ones. Some time,
when the foreman is scolding a worker at the other end of the room,
she slips to a vacant machine and “ has a try.” Soon after a lining
stitcher leaves or is moved up. Ora declares to the foreman: “ I f you
will let me try linings, I am sure I can make good.” It is as easy
to let her try as to find a worker from outside, so she goes ahead, and,
being intelligent, does “ make good.” It is safe to prophesy that she
will advance steadily and rapidly.
The fortune of another girl of this class is different. Mamie Dunn
obtains a job at sorting the smaller pieces of leather in the cutting
room. Here is no opportunity to “ pick up,” for all the other work
in the room belongs to men. She stays on for six months or per­
haps a year and is still a sorter with a meager wage. She waits a
little longer and then speaks to the foreman, but nothing happens.
Then she begins to look about her and learns that in a neighboring
shop a packer is wanted. She applies for the place and gets it by a
“ bluff ”—that is, by claiming to be a packer. The work is simple
and she does it successfully; it is also clean and pays fairly well, so
Mamie is safely launched. But these are the more fortunate cases.
Eose Ferrino has not the push of these girls. She goes into the shop
and is put on pasting, an unskilled, poorly paid, and very dirty work.
She pastes away patiently and does not try to learn anything else;
not that she does not want to, but she does not know how to go about
it. She is not naturally observant, all her training in school had to
do with books and not things, so she stays where she is and nobody



48

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

pushes her on. Finally she gets “ sick of it ” and leaves. The fore­
man lets her go without demur, for he knows he can get some one
better in a few hours. When she applies for a job at another fac­
tory she is asked what she can do. She replies “ only pasting,” and
she is destined to do only this dull and unremunerative work so long
as she remains in the factory, and that may be for many years.
We now come to the second group, found where union regulations
are less strict and help less plentiful, or where an individual shop
plans, by prospects of promotion, to make its force as stable as pos­
sible. Here the worker is allowed to practice on a machine in her
spare moments. There are many days when there is no work for at
least a half hour, and during that time much learning and teaching
can be carried on among the workers. The foreman comes along
from time to time and offers helpful comment. In the mornings and
afternoons after the power is turned on the learner can sometimes
practice on the machine of a worker who is late. She has chances to
learn several processes and soon discovers the one she likes best or,
more frequently, the one by which she can make most money.
The third is the fortunate group. In their neighborhood is a large
factory which daily displays the notice, “ Girls wanted to learn.”
It is usually an isolated factory—one which, owing to trouble with
unions or desire for cheaper labor, has moved from a shoe center
to a new community. Such a shop must face a double problem—
that of finding workers and of training them when found. The
offer of training serves two purposes—it attracts unskilled workers,
and gradually supplies the shop with skilled help. Training is also
given by a few established firms which realize the advantage of
having their work done by their own methods instead of by those
which each individual finds comfortable for herself. The system of
teaching is practically the same in both classes of factories. Certain
operators who have shown ability are selected for teachers and, as
such, are paid about $20 a week. The learner is usually a child of
14 to 16 years of age who has just left school, and from the moment
she enters the shop is under the care of the teacher. She is first put
on table work, and while learning it is paid from $2 to $3.50 a week.
I f she shows any skill she is pushed on rapidly. When she reaches
the machines she is first put on lining stitching, as it is light work,
and the material, if spoiled, is little loss. From this she passes to
stitching the smaller leather parts. She may not learn vamping, the
most difficult of all the stitching processes, until she can stitch the
several other parts of the shoe successfully.. Few girls, however,
learn a great many processes; the young worker will usually stay
at the first on which she can make a fair wage, even though her
employer urges her to advance. With the exception of vamping,
there are no restrictions as to age in learning the various processes,



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

49

and young girls can master them in a short time. One teacher esti­
mated that a girl beginning at 14 reaches her best and most rapid out­
put at 19 years old. Her impetuosity is a help rather than a hin­
drance. She has no fear of her machine, is naturally swift in her
movements, and less afraid of making mistakes than an older girl.
While the girl who picks up her trade or teaches herself can select
the process which she likes best, the girl who is taught has usually
less choice. Her employer considers himself the best judge of her
capacity, while as a rule he puts her into the place where help is
needed without consideration either for her feelings or her capa­
bilities. This is probably one of the reasons why learners are un­
willing to stay in the shops where they get so much for nothing.
The operations taught beginners in factories are all extremely
simple. Workers in localities, however, where the trade may be
picked up, frequently start on the more difficult processes. This is
especially true of the women between 40 and 50 years old. Out of
214 women visited, who reported in various centers, 3 had begun as
vampers, 12 as closers, 12 as buttonhole operators, 9 as backstayers,
and 8 as top stitchers. One hundred and seven, exactly half the
number, had begun on various machines.
It is evident that the burden of instruction is very unevenly di­
vided among the factories, some assuming much and some very little.
A few are so fortunate as to have a steady supply of skilled opera­
tives trained in the neighboring shops, a condition found chiefly in
small shoe centers where one shop pays better or is “ nicer” than
the others and consequently attracts the best workers. Where the
trade is picked up, or learned at odd moments, the cost to the em­
ployer is very small, as a machine can be used only if it has been
vacated by some one else and the learner can “ try ” only in the free
time for which she is drawing no pay. On the other hand, the
employer who trains all his help does so at heavy cost, made up of
the wear and tear on machines, the power necessary to run them, the
waste of materials, the wages of the teacher, and the wages of the
learner. The value of the learner’s product certainly does not
balance this, while the training is made still more costly by the fact
that a large number of the girl learners leave after they have reached
the point at which they become valuable. A generally alleged reason
for leaving is that they are “ discontented.” More definite explana­
tion discloses various causes: Frequently they can not learn the
process they wish; often the girl claims a high wage when she has
mastered an operation, without realizing that she has not gained
the speed which makes her production valuable; sometimes, too, the
learner is put on piecework almost at the beginning, and as her out­
put is very small she becomes disheartened and leaves.
3881°—Bull. 180—15------4




50

BULLETIN OP TH E BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

The time necessary to learn processes in the factory is difficult to
estimate, varying as it does with every operation and with every
learner. To quote the skilled worker: “ It all depends upon how
smart you are.” Table work, buttoning, and trimming threads take
no time to learn; blacking and cementing can be mastered in from
5 to 15 minutes. The stitching processes naturally take longer,
but each is a help toward the next. Were one to learn vamping at
the start, it would take at least three months, whereas when it is
taken up after several other stitching processes it is said that it can
be mastered in one week.
The following table is based on information given by 214 women
working in shoe factories:
T able

13.—TIME REQUIRED BY 214 WOMEN TO LEARN VARIOUS KINDS OF W ORK IN
THE SHOE TRADE.
[Based on personal statements of the women.]

Less than 1 week.

1 week to 4 weeks.

1 month to 12
months.
Total.

Kind of work.
Number. Percent. Number. Percent. Number. Per cent.
Machine:
Skilled.................................
Medium skilled...................
Hand:
Skilled.................................
Unskilled.............................

17
8

24.0
22.9

6
55

26.1
65.5

Total................................

86

*

29
16

40.0
45.7

26
11

36.0
31.4

72
35

14
27

60.9
32.1

3
2

13.0
2.4

23
84

86

42

214

When one considers the rapidity with which these operations are
learned a trade school seems superfluous. Its main advantage would
be to give the mastery of several processes, especially the skilled ones,
so that the worker would be equipped to fill different positions. This
equipment would double or treble the chances of getting a “ paying
job.” It has been estimated that a bright girl of 16 or 17 could
master in less than two years all the occupations open to women.
The citation of the “ bright g irl” raises a question. Given the
same opportunity, or lack of it, what is it that makes some young
workers succeed and others fail? The foreman will tell you that if a
girl is bright and industrious, particularly the latter, she will soon
become skilled, by “ skilled ” meaning she will possess the sum total
of qualities necessary to make a good wage on piecework. As a
matter of fact, however, nobody acquires skill in a shop. What she
acquires is “ speed”—that is, the power of handling things quickly
though not necessarily correctly. A young assistant forewoman un­
consciously summed up the matter very well when, in speaking of a
sister whom she had trained, she said, “ Anne could make nothing on
linings so I put her on backstays; since then she has done well.”




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB W OM EN.

51

Stitching linings is a simple process paid for at a slender piece rate;
it must therefore be done very rapidly if the worker is to make
even a small wage; in other words, the key to success in this case is
speed. Anne evidently had not and could not acquire this speed,
so she was put on a harder job carrying a higher rate of pay. Here
she succeeded for she had “ skill
that is, she could do a difficult
thing, though she could not do it very quickly. Speed, then, is the
one thing that can be acquired in the shop, and this comes with time
and not with teaching. Speed and skill together make the key to
success; but not all possess both qualifications. Scientific manage­
ment could give skill and the next best gift, speed, to some who can
not develop either unaided, but it would take a trained teacher to do
it, and teachers are rare in the factory. There are few foremen
who can stand over the young worker’s machine and show her what
is wrong in method and movements. The whole teaching of the
operation is customarily summed up in, “ Get up and let me show
you.”
The wage seeker, young or old, American or foreign, who chooses
the shoe factory as his field will naturally balance the merits and
defects of each method of learning. He will ask advice and receive
it in bewildering variety. A foreigner will doubt his ability to win
success without formal instruction in the trade; a young person with
American notions will rely on “ picking it up,” or choose factory
training. The advantages of the schools as at present managed
are dubious. Certainly the pupils learn how to run a power ma­
chine, but the process it represents is seldom thoroughly mastered in
the time they can afford to give. One woman interviewed had learned
vamping in a school, but, in her own words, “ got only a vague idea
of vamping, and had a lot to learn when she began in the factory.”
Hers is no exceptional case. “ They haven’t had experience enough
to work rapidly,” explained one of the school instructors when ac­
counting for the frequent failure of his pupils to hold factory posi­
tions. The hostility of the settled force to new workers is accounted
for by a union official on the ground that the daily work is so corre­
lated in amount as to meet the average output of a fair worker. Any­
one who can not measure up to the average reduces the amount of
work assigned, and therefore the earnings for the whole room.
School-taught workers are so frequently laggards that every effort
is made to shove them out. The fact of school training is seldom an
advantage when an applicant interviews superintendents. The lat­
ter claim that the only advantage conferred by a shoe school is the
acquisition of a certain self-confidence, and they ignore the fact that
to a foreigner this is a very real advantage. Foremen and forewomen
usually prefer the totally unskilled as beginners. Practically no




52

BULLETIN OF TH E BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS*

effort to place their pupils is made by the schools. Occasionally a
bright pupil is helped to a good position, or during a rush season one
or two of the advanced learners may be sent to a factory in response
to a telephone call, but to secure work the rank and file must depend
on their own efforts.
On the other hand, while the rigid limitation of numbers and of
instruction in union centers is less severely felt in the women’s rooms,
it forces many young people to leave their homes and seek other cen­
ters where they may legitimately learn what they can acquire only
surreptitiously at home. They have no attachment to the strange fac­
tory and will leave it for a familiar environment or for higher wages
when they can. The possible establishment of publicly maintained
trade schools equipped to teach shoemaking is viewed with little
apprehension by the managers of private shoe schools, since a course
planned to cover a year or more is not apt to draw pupils from the
short-term courses. A public trade school, to supersede the inefficient
shoe school and the usual haphazard factory teaching, must shorten
the shoemaking course, yet make it possible for the pupil, without
losing his position, to acquire proficiency by means of part-time or
continuation instruction.
HOURS OF LABOR.

Factory people begin work early. The shoe workers pour into
the passage marked “ For employees only ” as the whistles are shriek­
ing 7 o’clock. In their respective workrooms they remain, with an
hour’s interval at noon, until 5. Since the 54 hours-a-week law for
women became effective in January, 1912, the above has been the
usual arrangement in Lynn. It is varied in certain factories by ex­
tending the hours on 5 days and closing at 1 p. m. on Saturday.
This custom is almost universal in summer. Occasionally a factory
begins work at 6.30 a. m. and closes earlier. The hours vary some­
what with the season, but the nominal 10 hours of work for 5 days
with a short day on Saturday is growing in favor.
In Brockton the hours of beginning and ending work vary some­
what. Hundreds of workers come in from outlying towns by long­
distance trolley, and as many more arrive by train. To accommo­
date these outsiders, many Brockton factories cut down the noon spell
to a half hour and close work at 4.30 or 4.45 p. m. to allow their help
to make trains. Saturday afternoon is not so frequently given as in
Lynn, most of the shops running the same hours each day in the
week, even in summer.
Overtime work is uncommon in shoe factories in Lynn and Brockton, and is rare in any well-run factory. On a few nights in the busy
seasons the stitching room gets ahead of the lasting and dressing
rooms and a few workers remain to catch up. In cold weather




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

53

leather cracks, the repair work increases abnormally, and girls are
often requested to remain to finish an order. They are not com­
pelled to do so, but, of course, a request from the manager is seldom
refused. Nor are some women averse to earning the occasional
extra pay.
In Marlboro and the towns of its section 56 hours was the usual
working week before the recent law. At present the 10-hour day
with a free Saturday afternoon is very popular. In some factories
a 9|-hour day is preferred with a short day on Saturday. The prep­
aration for a day’s work and its winding up take as much time on a
half as a whole day, so that any arrangement giving a short Satur­
day is costly to the management. Yet a discontented force is more
costly, even in a nonunionized town. The free Saturday afternoon is
fairly established in this whole region.
A 54-hour week was the custom in Boston even before the passage
of the law. The work begins at 7.15 or 7.30; usually a half hour only
is given at noon, and the factory closes at 5. But no custom is uni­
versal in the various sections included under the name of “ Boston.”
The 54 hours-a-week law went into effect January 1, 1912, and,
when this investigation was made, had been in operation only a short
time. Like a new broom it had swept clean, and evasions were vet un­
common. Nevertheless, there are factories in which the power is put
on and workers voluntarily begin before the end of the noon hour.
WORKING CONDITIONS AND SANITATION.

The factory at which the workers arrive at 7 a. m. may be a sixstory brick building of many windows and ample floor space, or a
three-story wooden structure crowded and ill-lighted throughout.
The better building is more common in Brockton and in Marlboro,
while the largest factories in the outskirts of Boston are buildings of
a model character. In the smaller towns, and conspicuously in the
Lynn district, old frame structures, often forlorn and unsafe, are
still in use.
The workrooms differ in character as widely as do the buildings,
but the position of the stitching room in a factory and the gen­
eral arrangement of the machines varies little. The usual plan is to
provide the shoe with a steady journey of development from the top
floor to the bottom. This gives the stitching room, in which are the
majority of women workers, either a part of the top floor shared by
the cutters, or the floor below the cutters. The women packers, who
are the last to touch the shoe, are on the first floor nearest the offices.
When a factory is small it frequently occupies one floor, high in a
building, the first floor of which is given up to the offices of different
firms. In most cases the main rooms in which women work are on
the top floors. Yet elevators, except for freight, are extremely few.




54

BULLETIN OP THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

Sometimes, but rarely, the women are allowed to use freight ele­
vators between stated hours, a privilege commonly given only to
those who present a doctor’s certificate. The long flights of stairs
to the fourth or fifth floor must be mounted twice a day.
The ordinary stitching room, where the majority of the women are
found, is lighter than other rooms in the factory because higher up,
but it is so crowded that it seldom gives an impression of being well
lighted. Sometimes there are windows on all four sides of the room,
but imder these windows is a close double row of machines. Be­
hind this double row is an aisle; but with racks of shoes standing
about on the floor and floor girls hurrying to and fro, the aisle takes
little from the air of congestion. Behind this aisle, again, in the
center of the room, if machines are placed around all sides, or against
the windowless wall when they are not, are the tables for the hand­
workers. The first row of machines, therefore, has good light and
air, the second a less but still tolerable supply. The table workers
have the worst of the situation in every way; frequently their tables
are placed in a close little space surrounded by high racks of shoes,
where the younger girls work all day, cut off from daylight and
good air.
But they are in no worse situation than the women downstairs in
the packing room. This room, at the back of the first floor, always
has poor light, its windows frequently opening upon some narrow
alley between tall buildings. Since the task of packers and tip fixers
requires close study of the shoe, the half daylight or artificial light
is extremely trying to eyes and head. Further, while the air every­
where in the factory is heavy with the odor of leather, in the packing
room and sometimes near the tables in other rooms, the odors from
pastes and blackings used are particularly sickening. Better air is
possible where there are plenty of windows, but the workers who
spend 9 or 10 hours a day indoors are afraid of the cold, so the
windows are kept closed. Any attempt at artificial ventilation is
unusual.
Cleanliness is carefully maintained in the offices, but very little
regarded in the workrooms. Usually a man is detailed to sweep up
about the machines, but he is apt to sweep up only the scraps of
leather, leaving dust thick in the comers. Even this slight aid is
sometimes denied the workers, and they are forced to hire some one or
to sweep, themselves, if they wish their places clean.
The habit of spitting upon the floor is common in the men’s rooms,
and men introduced into the stitching rooms do not always leave
their habits behind them. The managers, however, often claim that
women are more untidy and more neglectful of sanitary precautions
than men, and that the efforts made in the best factories to secure
better conditions are largely wasted from lack of cooperation in the




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OMEN.

55

working force. The unions, especially in Brockton, have made some
efforts to secure better conditions, but these efforts seem rather aimed
to rouse the management than to give the workers themselves higher
ideals.
The care, of the toilets, legally the employer’s affair, is also some­
times left to the women. In Lynn they are often obliged to hire some
one to keep them decent; and while the money burden is light, the
injustice of the arrangement is keenly felt by some. Toilets, sepa­
rate for men and for women as required by law, usually on each floor,
are always provided, yet they are seldom more than tolerably clean,
and sometimes distinctly insanitary.
Dressing rooms, though necessary for the comfort and decency of
the operatives, are to be found only in the best factories. A woman
careful of her appearance always changes her street clothes for a
costume suited to the conditions of the shop. It is neither convenient
nor decent for her to change her dress in the stitching room itself;
yet often the only dressing convenience she has is a nail driven in the
wall above her machine. Where dressing rooms are found they are
simply dark comers of the room shut off by wooden partitions and so
small that in the rush at noon and at night the girls using them have
scarcely room to turn about.
Lunch rooms in the shoe factories are not found in Lynn. One
large factory, however, provides a clubhouse for its women employees,
a delightful place where good meals are served at cost. But this is
the only lunch room connected with a factory in Lynn. Other fac­
tories sometimes allow an outsider to come in and cook for the work­
ers on a stove in one of the rooms; sometimes the workers cook for
themselves. The women often bring tea or coffee in bottles and heat
the beverage to drink with their cold lunches. But despite the added
cheer, it is a bad practice to use the workroom as a lunch room. It
prevents it from being aired in the absence of the workers and gives
them no change from their surroundings, and therefore no real re­
laxation. Workroom conditions are too frequently detrimental to
health and habits of self-respect.
Lack of proper conveniences is an evil, but in the stitching room it
is not the chief evil. That, to a visitor, is the racking noise. Over the
hum of the power belt and the whir of the stitching machines comes
the rapid jar, clank, clank, clank of the eyeleting machine and the
vicious whir-clank-stop of the Keece buttonhole machine; and
through and above it all the teeth-on-edge shriek of the men’s lasting
machines below, making altogether a noise truly infernal. The work­
ers themselves become used to it, declare that they do not mind it,
and deny that it makes them nervous; they only regret that the
effort to be heard in the workroom makes their voices loud, highpitched, and harsh.



56

BULLETIN OF TH E BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

The physical conditions in the shoe factories of Lynn seem to indi­
cate a center satisfied to be as it always has been—sordid but success­
ful. The “ fads ” of dressing rooms and rest rooms and lunch rooms
are felt to be all very well for other cities, but a waste of valuable
floor space in Lynn. This is partly due to the fact that most firms do
not own the buildings in which they manufacture; the owner, who
builds for some unknown tenant, does not care to risk the loss of floor
space that might prevent him from leasing.
In some of the modem factories variously located, conditions in
the workrooms are as favorable to health and comfort as they can be
made in a factory. One fine factory near Boston claims peculiar ad­
vantages in its workroom arrangements; nevertheless, the women
stitchers are set so close together that each has an irritating con­
sciousness of a neighbor’s proximity. The racking noise from the
buttonholing machines seems redoubled by this crowding.
Dust arising from the material subjected to the machine is not an
injurious result of work in the stitching room as it is in the bottom­
ing room. The actual manipulation of certain machines does, how­
ever, produce some physical injury. Operators on buttonhole and
eyeleting machines are frequently forced to give up the work on
account of “ stomach trouble.” The effect of these special machines
upon the nerves is often disastrous.
The first impression made upon a visitor is the tremendous speed
at which the machines are run. The rate is usually voluntary, yet an
ambitious and practiced worker is under the temptation of using a
speed that strains nerves and eyes. The pauses in the work so fre­
quent in the stitching rooms, though they mean financial loss, are a
relief to the strain and break the wearisome monotony of making the
same number of stitches hour after hour on bits of leather identically
the same.
The monotonous, often nerve-wearing, character of the work is the
real cause of what sometimes appears caprice in throwing up jobs.
“ Tired of it ” is one of the most frequent reasons assigned for the
abrupt relinquishment of work. To get out and hunt for another
kind of operation or to work in different surroundings is a coveted
relief. Change of occupation within the same factory is often de­
sired, especially by handworkers. Once on a fairly good job, there
is sometimes for several years no decided desire for another. Then
comes a day when the monotonous repetition wears through nerve en­
durance. O f 300 women interviewed in their homes, nearly 80 gave
as a reason for leaving a job, “ tired of it.” On the whole, however,
there is as much variety in the shoe work as in the clothing trades,
and far more than in the textile mills or the majority of other factory
trades. At present the machinery in use can not, as in a cotton mill,
do away with dexterity and judgment on the part of the operator.



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR WOMEN.

57

The selection of material, its adjustment to the machine, the inspec­
tion for perfection and finish, all create in the operator an individual
relationship to his part of the product, even though he may never
deal with a whole shoe. The “ speeding up ” complained of in the
textile or box-making industries is not common; the worker usually
runs the machine at the pace he desires, as it can produce good work
only when guided by a clever hand. This feeling of responsibility is
no doubt a main reason why many of the shoe workers, though but
dimly aware of the cause, are not unsatisfied with their work.




CHAPTER IV.—WAGES OF WOMEN SHOE WORKERS.
INTRODUCTION.

No one statement in relation to conditions in the shoe trade is made
more frequently or with a greater emphasis than that the wage scale
is higher than that of any other factory industry. That this is a
general conviction among wage earners and employers alike, there
can be no doubt, but the causes assigned are as various as the char­
acters of the informants. The owner of a factory quotes the free
competition of an industry as yet unaffected by the trust tendency;
the officials of the larger unions assert that organization of labor has
succeeded in setting a reasonable wage standard, which, maintained
in the larger centers, forces up wages even in unorganized localities;
the practical directing force in the factory explain as a cause of high
wages the skilled nature of the processes, demanding an intelligence
commanding, everywhere its price.
Doubtless these are all real conditions, and taken separately or to­
gether they make the weekly rates of wages relatively high. It re­
mains for us to see, especially in the case of the women workers,
whether they combine to make annual earnings adequate.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION.

To determine the accuracy of the impression generally prevalent
as to the high reward of shoe workers and to measure this reward
against some standard, several sources of information are available,
namely, the reports of the State bureau of statistics, the general
statements of employees and of wage earners, records from the fac­
tory pay rolls, and, lastly, interviews with workers in their homes.
As to the published statistics, valuable as they are for comparing
one industry with another, they are admittedly of doubtful accuracy
in the case of any special industry. The reports are obtained by
sending blank forms to the manufacturers and are filled in by some
member of the firm or of the office force. The desire to magnify the
amount of business and to stand well in the matter of wage scale tends
to exaggeration of numbers and expenditure, while in many cases
factory records are so carelessly kept as to make the reports largely
guesswork. These statements are chiefly useful in giving knowledge
of general conditions and for comparisons among the several indus­
tries or with reports of previous years. The statements, too, of fac­
tory owners, officials, managers, and foremen only in exceptional in­
stances afford reliable data for the details of wages and earnings.
Their estimates may or may not come close to the facts. A source
of information that will naturally first occur to the inquirer is the
58



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB W OM EN.

59

worker himself. It is, however, a common experience in industrial
research to find that where no written record is kept the worker is but
vaguely aware of the exact amount of his earnings for any long period
of timft. The amounts, for reasons that will suggest themselves, are
under or over stated. Real accuracy can be secured only by the
laborious copying of well-kept pay rolls, in which the name and
special occupation of each worker is stated, with the amount of
weekly earnings paid.
WAGES AND EARNINGS AS SHOWN BY RETURNS OP
MANUFACTURERS.

While the pay rolls must be the final criterion in this study, it will
help, nevertheless, in the discussion of earnings in the shoe industry
to make some comparisons and estimates based on the returns made
by manufacturers to the State bureau of statistics. For the purpose
of such a comparison, in Table 14 are given 11 Massachusetts
industries employing over 2,500 adult women, with the number
and per cent of men, women, and minors and the wages they
received. Unfortunately the State bureau does not give the average
weekly and annual wage for the three classes of wage earners sepa­
rately. This was learned for special groups from other sources and
will be quoted later.
T a b l e 14.— COMPARISON

OF CHIEF MASSACHUSETTS INDUSTRIES AS TO NUMBER OF
MEN, WOMEN, AND MINORS EMPLOYED AND THEIR WAGES.
Workers and wages in industry specified.

Industry.

Persons employed, Average
1911.*
wage for
week
ending
Dec. 16,
Number. Percent. 1911.*

1. Cotton goods:
Mftn.....................................
Women................................................
Minors..................................................

53,826
44,386
13,793

48.1
38.6
13.3

Total....... ........................................

112,005
52,980
26,875
6,038

61.7
31.3
7.0

Total.................................................

85,893

100.0

Average annual
earnings for all
workers.

1910.*

1911.*

$9.83
7.91
5.92

100.0

2. Boots and shoes:
Men......................................................
Women................................................
Minors..................................................

Average
wage for
all
workers
for week
ending
Dec. 16,
1911.

$8.59

$412.09

$407.80

13.06

586.64

594.15

15.17
10.39
6.43

i Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, Twenty-sixth Annual Report on the Statistics of Manufactures,
1911. pp. 90-133.
* The average wage was secured from the classified wages for men, women, and children by taking the
mid-value in each class group as the average wage and multiplying it by the number of wage earners in
that group. The sum of the total earnings thus obtained for each class was then divided by the total num­
ber of wage earners in that class, and the result was regarded as the average wage. In the case of the
group “ under $3.” $1 was used as the lower limit, making a mid-value of $2, and in the “ $25 and over ”
group, $25 was taken as the value, the personal statements obtained from the women indicating that
the number in this industry receiving more than $25 was too small to justify the use of a greater value
than $25.
* Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, Twenty-fifth Annual Report on the Statistics of Manufactures
1910, pp. 1-12.
« Idem, 1911, pp. 1-12.




60

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

T a b l e 14.— COMPARISON

OF CHIEF MASSACHUSETTS INDUSTRIES AS TO NUMBER
OF MEN, WOMEN, AND MINORS EMPLOYED AND TH EIR W AGES-Concluded.
Workers and wages in industry specified.
Persons^employed, Average
wage for
week
ending
Dec. 16,
Number. Per cent. 1911.1

Industry.

3. Woolen and worsted goods:
Men......................................................
Women................................................
Minors,..........-.............. -....................

28,689
17,958
6,088

54.2
30.1
15.7 j

52,735

100.0

13,884
2,768
1,872

75.0
14.9
10.1

Total.................................................

18,524

100.0

Women................................................

9,153
4,338
567

65.1
30.9
4.0

5. P^per and wood pulp:

Total................................................

14,058
2,445
5,460
1,433

26.2
58.5
15.3

Total................................................

9,338
4,430
3,173
503

54.6
39.1
6.3

Total...............................................

8,106
1,540
3,412
1,901

22.5
49.8
27.7

Total................................ ...............

6,853
1,254
4,032
359

22.2
71.4
C.4

Total.................... ..........................

5,645
2,461
2,785
154

45.6
51.6
2.8

Total.................................................

5,400
1,239
2,563
92

31.8
65.8
2.4

Total................................................

3,894

605. oa

513.47

519.13

396.20

395.10

11.11

509.99

479.89

7.37

346.07

348.37

10.12

456.09

469.61

11.05

511.12

605.01

12.29

550.06

569.74

8583

$600.20

12.90
9.39
6.19

12.08
6.70
4.73

16.63
8.55
5.01

14.94
7.93
5.31

100.0

11. Hats, straw:
Men......................................................
W om en.....'........................................
M inors................................................

$460.17

8.56

100.0

10. Clothing, men’s:
Men................... ..................................
Women................................................
Minors..................................................

0)

11.54
7.87
6.12

100.0

9. Clothing, women’s:
Men...... ...............................................
Women................................................
M inors...............................................

$9.73

10.59

100.0

8. Confectionery:
M e n ..................................... ............
W om en..................... ........................
Minors..................... ...........................

1911.1

12.48
7.13
6.63

100.0

7. Boots and shoes, rubber:
Men ..........- ____________ _______
Women................................................
Minors..................................................

1910.1

12.75

100.0

6. Hosiery and knit goods:
Mw*. .......................-..........................
Women................................ ...............
Minors. . ................

Average annual
earnings for all
workers.

$11.20
8.57
6.21
1

Total.................................................
4. Electric machinery and supplies:
Men......................................................
Women............. ............. .......... .........
Minors.................................................

Average
wage for
all
workers
for week
ending
Dec. 16,
1911.

100.0

14.07
11.63
6.52

1See p. 59 for notes to these columns.

With due allowance for error in the returns several significant
facts are brought out by this comparison. In average annual
earnings for all wage earners electric machinery and supplies in
1910 ran considerably ahead of the boot and shoe industry, a differ­



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

61

ence lessened in 1911; in average weekly wage for all earners boots
and shoes were also slightly behind. A glance at the proportions of
the three classes of earners makes it clear that the higher average in
the electrical works is due to the small per cent of adult women em­
ployed. Their relatively low wage does not pull down total earn­
ings to the boot and shoe level, since the 75 per cent of adult men
receive a weekly wage almost double that of the women. In the
boot and shoe industry the men’s average wage is over $1 per week
lower than in the electrical works, but the 26,875 adult women mak­
ing boots and shoes receive an average weekly wage about 50 cents
more than their 2,768 sisters dealing with electrical machinery. In
both of these industries the average wage for all wage earners runs
ahead of that in the others listed. In the case of the boot and shoe
workers this is certainly due to the higher wage for women. So far,
then, the statistical statement confirms the common assertion; the
boot, and shoe industry does pay nearly the highest annual as well
as the highest average weekly wage, and this is paid to over 85,000
workers, one-third of whom are women and girls.
Averages for weekly or annual earnings may be misleading, how­
ever, as related to the general body of workers. A few highly paid
workers at the top of the scale may raise the whole average to a
figure which is only arithmetically a truth. Further analysis of
the wage scale is necessary to show what proportion of the earners
receive the specified average amounts.
We take, then, the bureau’s table of classified weekly wages for
the week of employment of greatest number of wage earners in 1910,
for the 11 leading industries, and classify the earnings under speci­
fied amounts, women wage earners 18 years and over alone being
considered.
15.—W EEKLY WAGES OF WOMEN 18 YEARS OF AGE AND OVER IN 11 LEADING
INDUSTRIES IN WEEK OF MAXIMUM EMPLOYMENT, 1910, BY CUMULATIVE
PERCENTAGES.

T able

Source: Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, Twenty-fifth Annual Report on the Statistics of Manufac­
tures, 1910, pp. 90-137.]
Per cent of women 18 years of age and over earning specified
wages.
inausuy.
Under
$6
Cotton goods..............................................
Boots and shoes, leather...........................
Woolen and worsted goods1 .....................
Hosiery and knit goods..............................
Clothing, women’s.....................................
Paper and wood pulp................................
Confectionery.............................................
Boots and shoes, rubber...........................
Clothing, men’s..........................................
Boxes, paper..............................................
Electric machinery and supplies...............




17.6
12.3
12.8
27.8
19.8
18.6
47.2
5.4
21.1
25.0
19.6

Under
18

Under
19

56.1
31.2
54.0
62.8
48.5
76.8
82.8
23.6
56.7
56.0
50.6

75.2
42.9
69.1
76.6
63.2
92.2
91.7
40.4
71.6
70.5
73.9

Under
$10
88.8
56.9
77.5
87.3
76.1
96.6
94.5
77.0
83.3
83.4
87.1

1 Given in the State report for 1910 as separate industries.

$10 or
over.
11.2
43.1
22.5
12.7
23.9
3.4
5.5
23.0
16.7
16.6
12.9

$12 or
over.
1.8
25.8
9.2
3.4
10.7
.9
1.5
5.5
5.6
6.9
2.7

62

BULLETIN OP THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

According to Table 15, 43 per cent of the women in shoe factories
earned less than $9 for the busiest week, while in all other indus­
tries, except the rubber boots and shoes, the number earning under
$9 varies from 63 to 92 per cent. When the wage reaches $9 and over,
the other industries are far behind boots and shoes; only 57 per cent
of its women workers earned under $10, while 43 per cent earned $10
or over. In other words, about 11,500 women, or 2 in every 5, earned
$10 or over in the shoe factories, while of the women in the
cotton mills only about 5,200, or 1 in 10 or 11, earned $10 or over.
When the last group is reached, those earning $12 and over, the
shoemaking women have shot far ahead in the race. In the woolen
and worsted factories an average of 1 worker in 10 made $12 or1
over in the best-paid week, while the shoe factories paid that amount
to 1 woman in every 4. Further, if all adult women earning $15
or over for the busy week are grouped we find among shoe workers
I in every 10 in this class, in woolen and worsted goods and in
rubber shoes about 1 in every 100, while in the cotton, paper, and
electrical supplies factories only 1 woman in 500 made $15 and
over in the busiest week.
Again, as concerns a proposed “ minimum wage” of $9 a week,
we take the average wages for 1911 as given and group them for
II selected industries, as in Table 16, in order to show the proportion
in each industry earning $9 and over as well as $10 and over.
T able

16.—EARNINGS IN THE THIRD WEEK OF DECEMBER, 1911, OF WOMEN 18 YEARS
OF AGE AND OVER.

[Source: Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, Twenty-sixth Annual Report on the Statistics of Manufac­
tures, 1911.]
Per cent of women 18
and over earning—
Industry.
$9 and
over.
Cotton goods.......................................
Boots and shoes, leather....................
Woolen and worsted goods................
Electrical machinery and supplies...
Paper and wood pulp........................
Hosiery and knit goods......................
Boots and shoes, rubber.....................
Confectionery.....................................
Clothing, women’s.............................
Clothing, men’s..................................
Hats, straw........................................

27.4
61.4
33.4
31.4
5.5
29.3
62.4
7.9
27.4
27.5
67.8

$10 and
over.
12.8
46.7
24.8
19.3
2.5
15.8
42.9
4.6
15.3
15.7
54.9

Here the two shoe industries—leather and rubber—stand as leaders
of the group in the proportion of workers receiving the minimum
wage of $9; the workers in the rubber shoes do, indeed, run slightly
ahead. In the latter trade, however, the number earning $10 per
week and over represents a proportion far below that in the leather




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

63

shoe industries. Comment on the significant facts made clear by
this table need not here be amplified. The adult woman who can
exercise free choice as to the industry she will enter will on this
showing, if a wage of at least $9 be her main object, choose, above
all others, the industry making rubber shoes. I f she aim at $10 and
over, she will make a vigorous effort to get into the shoe factory and
be one of the 11,000 or more women whose skilled work commands
this wage.
This study of the published statistics furnished by the heads of
various industries confirms the general statement so far as it relates
to the wage attainable at special periods. When work is plenty and
the factories full and women for the most part working on full time,
the shoe factory pays not only the highest wage to women, but pays
this wage to the highest number of workers.
WAGES AS SHOWN BY PAY ROLLS.

The real value of the results obtained by study of published sta­
tistics must, however, be judged by comparing them with those ob­
tained by other methods of investigation. The State statistics give
the total number of adult women in shoe factories making the com­
plete product in 1911 as 27,593. The pay rolls copied for this inves­
tigation from factories in the chosen centers include records for
4,400 women, or 16 per cent of the total number employed in the
State. The wages from these pay rolls have been classified for three
centers and are, in Table 17, compared with those for the whole
State.
TABLE

17.—ACTUAL W EEKLY WAOES OF WOMEN 18 YEARS OF AGE AND OVER FOR
WEEK OF EMPLOYMENT OF GREATEST NUMBER.
[Based on pay rolls.]
LYNN.
Number and per cent eaming-

Number and per cent

Under Under Under Under
$8
19
*10
$6

Over
$10

Over

Over
$15

Establishment.

The State i...............
Factory No. 1:
Number...........
Percent............
Factory No. 2:
Number............
Percent............
Factory No. 3:
Number............
Percent............
Factory No. 4:
Number............
Percent............
The 4 factories:
Number...
Percent...

Total.

$12

12.3

31.2

42.9

56.9

43.1

25.8

10.3

91
.22.9

153
38.6

187
47.2

56.3

173
43.7

124
31.3

11.1

32.9

133
51.6

153
59.3

190
73.6

26.4

15.1

12
4.6

258

30
17.9

5.1

84
50.0

58.3

70
4L7

38
22.6

13
7.7

168

10
23.8

14
33.3

18
42.9

20
47.6

52.4

22

10
23.8

5
11.9

42

216
25.0

359
41.5

442
51.1

531
61.5

74

864

68

211

24.4

44

396

8.6

1 Figures for the State are based on Twenty-fifth Annual Report on the Statistics of Manufactures,
Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, 1910, p. 94.




BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

64
T able

17.—ACTUAL W EEKLY WAGES OF WOMEN 18 YEARS OF AGE AND OVER FOR
WEEK OF EMPLOYMENT OF GREATEST NUMBER—Concluded.
BROCKTON.
Number and per cent earning—

Number and per cent
earning—

Under Under Under Under
$9
110
$8
$6

Over
$10

Establishment.

Factory No. 1:
Number.................. ....................
Per cent.......................................
Factory No. 2:
Number........................................
Percent.......................................
Factory No. 3:
Number.......................................
Per cent.......................................
The 3 factories:
Number..............................
Per cent.............................

Total.
Over
$12

Ova:
$15

27
10.9

74
29.9

86
34.8

120
48.6

127
51.4

78
31.6

38
15.3

9
5.4

32
19.2

55
32.9

79
47.3

88
52.7

53
31.7

19
11.4

19
10.3

38
20.6

51
27.9

74
40.2

110
59.8

57
30.8

21
11.4

184

55
9.2

144
24.1

192
32.1

273
45.7

325
54.3

188
31.4

78
13.0

598

247
167
• •••

MARLBORO.
Factory No. 1:
Number.......................................
Per cent.......................................
Factory No. 2:
Number.......................................
Per cent.......................................
Factory No. 3:
Number.......................................
Per cent......................................
* The 3 factories:
Number........: ....................
Per cent.............................

28
25.7

60
55.0

76
69.7

88
80.7

21
19.3

6
5.5

2
1.8

109

25
8.1

82
26.5

109
35.2

171
55.2

139
44.8

68
21.9

16
5.2

310

40
21.9

92
50.5

114
62.6

139
76.4

43
23.6

8
4.4

1
0.5

182

93
15.5

234
38.9

299
49.7

398
66.2

203
33.8

82
13.6

29
4.8

601

The records show for the several localities a wide difference in the
distribution of wage groups, a difference to be discussed later. Our
present interest is in the fact that the proportions earning small
wages, namely, less than $6 or $8 or $9 per week, are in Lynn and
Marlboro larger than those given in the statistics for the State.
The pay rolls for Brockton represent nearly 18 per cent of the total
number of female employees in that town, those for Lynn over 15
per cent, and those for Marlboro 27 per cent. The wages paid in the
scattered inland towns are lower than those of the four centers in­
vestigated, as well as of all the larger towns with the exception of
Haverhill. It is possible that the actual weekly earnings for the
maximum week are overstated in the reports made to the State.
CLASSIFICATION OP WORKERS AND METHODS OF PAYMENT.

In any shoe factory where the work is really organized there are
found two classes of workers concerned in the actual product. These
are the handworkers and the machine operators. “ Day workers ” or
“ floor workers” as they are variously called, a few of whom are in each
department of large factories, are boys and girls usually under 16
years old. They do a variety of odd jobs, as carrying orders or car­
rying stock to and from the machines, and though usually classed



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OMEN.

65

with the handworkers they really have no more to do with the mak­
ing of a shoe than the bootblack on the corner. Outside of these
classes are the usual wage or salary earning employees, such as
drivers, sweepers, and machinists among the men, and the office and
superintending force made up of both men and women. Their duties
and earnings differ little from those prevailing in any organized in­
dustry and will not here be considered.
As there are two classes of workers in the making of a shoe, so
there are two methods of paying for the work, namely, by time and
by piece. Were each used for one class of workers only, considera­
tion of the wage question would be greatly simplified. As a fact,
piece payment for both classes is the general method, the excep­
tions to which are due to special conditions relating to the work.
Beginners on table work or on cementing and blacking processes are
usually put on payment by the hour, as otherwise their scanty earn­
ings would be too discouraging. If, however, the beginner is seen
loitering, she is promptly put on a piece-rate basis. Time payment
is also made in cases where quality rather than quantity is of prime
import. The men cutters in the best-managed shops work on time, as
the hurried placing of patterns would mean great waste. In the stitch­
ing room the operator making sample shoes is paid by time, so in the
packing room is the woman who gives the shoe a final inspection. In
both cases mistakes due to haste would be fatal to the reputation of
the firm. Among the handworkers the proportion paid by time, as
learned from the pay rolls copied for this investigation, is usually less
than 20 per cent, but in two or three factories it runs as high as 30 to
40 per cent and over. This variance is due less to local custom than
to the quality or character of the product.
HANDWORKERS AND THEIR WAGES.

The work of the majority of handworkers does not differ in its
nature from the strictly manual work done in other industries.
Marking, matching pieces, tying or cutting threads, pasting, labeling,
cleaning, etc., are also done in factories making boxes, paper goods,
corsets, and many other kinds of products. In the actual move­
ments and the amount of intelligence required, the work in these
other factories is not dissimilar to that done in shoe shops, nor is the
term “ unskilled,” usually applied to handwork, correct, except in a
limited sense. In the shoe factory, as elsewhere, manual operations
require accuracy of eye and touch, precision and dexterity of han­
dling, together with the acquirement of a certain rate of speed which
practice must render uniform. These qualities where really devel­
oped make the worker “ skilled ” in as true a sense if not to the same
degree as the wood carver or the stonemason.
3881°—Bull. 180—15----- 5



66

BULLETIN OP THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

Among the handworkers in the shoe factories, the least skilled
are those found in the sole-leather department, if there is one. Their
■work, described in Chapter III, requires little judgment and less dex­
terity, while the pieces of leather they handle are of less value than
those in the workroom above. This kind of handwork is paid for,
therefore, at rates lower than those prevailing in the packing or
stitching room. The foreign women introduced into the sole-leather
department of late years will work for this lower wage until they
are partly “Americanized.” They are constantly leaving for better
work or to enter other factories, but others more newly-“ over” are
ready to take their places. Heel builders are paid by the piece and
earn the highest wage given in the sole-leather department; among
the steady and continuous workers $10 or $12 per week is a common
wage.
In the packing department the handworkers earn higher wages,
equal in many cases to those of machine operators. It is the expe­
rienced handworkers in the packing and stitching rooms who help
to make up the 9 or 10 per cent earning $9 or $10, and the smaller
proportion earning as high as $15 a week. They deal with the
product in its most valuable stage of practical completion, and upon
their care depends its final quality.
In general, the average wage of the handworkers runs below that
of the machine operator, though this difference varies with locality
and type of product. As compared with wages paid for handwork
in other industries, the scale in the shoe factories is much higher.
This fact seems to be related to certain conditions peculiar to the
industry. Among these is the value of the individual parts handled
by the operator. In some industries spoiling a certain proportion of
the material is not a serious loss; in the shoe industry it is, and, there­
fore, to handle the pieces, better skill and brains must be hired.
These command their price. Again, the handwork is closely related
to the machine work, so that in the stitching room especially, the two
classes of workers are in constant cooperation. The general scale
of stitching-room prices comprehends piece operations, whether done
by machine or hand.
Two facts of importance in relation to women handworkers in
shoe factories should be noted: First, the work is not for the most
part unskilled, but demands the qualities essential in the machine
operator; second, the wage for steady adult handworkers, while
below that of the machine operators, is, on the whole, higher than
that earned for work of a similar kind in other industries.
Comparison between average wages of the two classes of workers
for one large factory in each of the several localities is given in
Table 18.




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.
T able

67

18.—AVERAGE W EEKLY WAGES OP ADULT HANDWORKERS AND MACHINE
OPERATORS WORKING 46 WEEKS OR MORE IN THE YEAR.
(Based on pay rolls of 4 factories.]
Machine operators.

Handworkers.

Number and per cent
earning—

Number and per cent
earning—
One large factory in -

Num­ Aver­ $9 and over. $10 and over. Num­ Aver­ $9 and over. $10 and over.
age
age
ber. wage.
ber. wage.
dum­ Per Num­ Per
ber. cent. ber. cent*

dum­ Per Num­ Per
ber. cent. ber. cent.
Brockton......................
Lynn............................
Marlboro.......................
Chelsea.........................

24
93
60
62

$9.70
8.00
7.92
7.82

13
40
19
16

54.2
43.0
31.7
25.8

9
37
11
10

37.5
39.7
18.3
16.1

63 $10.48
147
9.60
131
8.76
8.62
100

52
98
66
47

82.5
66.7
50.4
47.0

35
79
43
27

55.5
53.7
32.8
27.0

The steadiness with which the women dealt with in this table are
at work is fair evidence that they are responsible workers whom the
employers desire to retain even through the slack times. It is reason­
able, therefore, to suppose that their wages show what the better
grade of workers in each class may receive. The handworkers in
every case earn less than the machine operators, but the difference
ranges from 78 cents in Brockton to $1.50 in Lynn. The figures for
Lynn are exceptional; in the other three towns the difference ranges
only from 78 to 84 cents, the smallest difference being shown in
Brockton, where both hand and machine workers have the highest
earnings.
With regard to the suggestion of a minimum wage of $9 a week,
it is noticeable that the proportion of handworkers who earn as
much or more than $9 is strikingly small, being only a little over
half in Brockton and running down to about one-fourth in Chelsea.
The machine operators make a better showing in this respect, but
even among them the proportion falling below $9 ranges from nearly
one-fifth to over one-half.
MACHINE OPERATORS AND THEIR WAGES.

I f the processes among handworkers in the shoe factory do not
differ essentially from hand processes elsewhere, the contrary is true
of the chief work in the stitching room. Only so far as it is stitching
does it resemble any other factory work. Otherwise not only in the
material and the machinery but in the great variety of “ pieces,” the
stitching of shoes involves processes not only peculiar but so ex­
tremely various that each has its separate valuation on the price list.
Consideration of conditions affecting the make-up of the wage must
first take into account the great variety in operations and prices, re­
sulting from the modern organization of shoemaking, for it is chiefly



68

BULLETIN OP THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

this that makes the method of piece payment universal in the indus­
try and inclusive of almost its entire working force.
The piece prices have certain relative ratios for different opera­
tions, but in each special case they are subject to a constant variation
dependent on the nature and value of the product. A vamper, for
instance, may work one week to complete an order demanding vamps
paid for at the rate of 16 cents per dozen pairs; the next week the
order may call for vamps worth 11 cents a dozen pairs. Various
methods are used to fix the new rate demanded by a new cut or shape,
among which the following is common: A skilled or “ sample”
stitcher, who can stitch all parts of the shoe, is given the vamping
in a new style of shoe to stitch for a 10-honr day. She is paid the
maximum rate, say, 25 cents an hour. She is found able to stitch
200 pairs in 10 hours, or 20 pairs in one hour. It is clear that if 20
pairs are worth 25 cents, 12 pairs are worth 15 cents, and the latter
is fixed as the rate. The piece rate is, then, at bottom, a payment for
so much time. Though some of the operators will stitch the 20 pairs
of vamps, or even more, in an hour, it is evident that the majority
will not attain the speed of the expert stitcher. This is especially
true of operations done by the less experienced. Were the piece price
translated into a time rate, it would seldom, indeed, reach 25 cents
an hour. The piece rate is usually per dozen pairs of shoes, except
for making buttonholes and putting on buttons, which are paid for
by the hundred. The variety of operations and of piece prices are
illustrated below by sample schedules taken from factory pay rolls.
In cases where the product shows great variety, the diversity in the
scale of piece prices becomes bewildering. It reaches the extreme
point in some of the Lynn factories, where men’s, women’s, youths’,
misses’, children’s, and infants’ shoes of various materials and styles
are all made under one roof. The result is a complex schedule of
payment for each operation.
T able

19.—NUMBER OF PRICES PREVAILING IN SHOEMAKING OPERATIONS PAID BY
THE PIECE.
Operations.

Hand operations:
Blacking...........
Button sewing..
Cementing........
Counting...........
Finishing..........
Marking............
Packing.............
Pressing............
Rubbing...........
Trimming.........
Tracing.............
Tying ends.......
Machine operations:
Barring.............
Backstaying . . .
Binding.______
Button machine.




Number
of prices.

Operations.
Machine operations—Concluded
Buttonholing.....................
Closing................................
Eyeleting..........................
Perforating.........................
Pressing..............................
Skiving...............................
Staying...............................
Toe closing.........................
Fancy stitching..................
Stay stitching.....................
Strap stitching...................
Tip stitching.......................
Tongue stitching................
Top stitching......................
Vamping............................
Zigzagging.........................

Number
of prices.

4
5
3
6
3
5
6

2
2
6

3

6
6
8

11

3

BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR WOMEN.
T able

69

20.—PIECE PRICES PAID FOR OPERATIONS ON DIFFERENT GRADES OF SHOES
IN THE SAME FACTORY.

Operation.
Closing seams:
1 seam, leather...............
2 seams, leather.............
2 seams, cloth................
2 seams, velvet..............
“ Ooze” batten shoes...
Top stitching:
Button shoes.................
Polish shoes...................
Button oxfords.........
Button oxfords, 2 straps
Button oxfords, 3 straps
Pumps...........................

Price
per dozen
pairs.
10.07
.14
.18
.25
.40
.50
.40
.50
.60
.90

1.20

Price
per dozen
pairs.

Operation.
Staying:
Button shoes............................
2-strap velvet............................
2-strap satin..............................
2-strap plain..............................
2-strap velvet............................
Vamping:
Button oxfords.........................
Flat circular vamp....................
Flat bluclior..........................
Flat blueher, with barrings----Cylinder button with close row
Cylinder button with overlap. .

$0.08
.15
.18
.20

.25
.50
.75
.90
.20

1.20

2.10

At first sight it would seem that the stitcher doing the tops of
pumps at $1.20 per dozen pairs would make a much higher wage
than her neighbor sewing the tops of button shoes at 50 cents per
dozen pairs. She probably does make and deserve more, as the finest
work is given to the expert stitcher who will not spoil it. Neverthe­
less the difference in rate represents pretty closely a difference in
the amount of time required, and the two variations tend to create
a balance in the main satisfactory to each worker. Unusual skill has
value always difficult to estimate; it is not easy to decide whether this
is really rewarded by the piece method of payment.
Not only is there great variance in the scale of prices for the dif­
ferent varieties of each process, but the occurrence of a change is
usually impossible to foresee. The stitcher seldom knows what va­
riety of her, special operation she will be given in a succeeding month
or even week. Hence, she can not know her rate of payment. The
finer her work and the better the grade of shoe, the more pronounced
is this uncertainty. Yet this uncertain piece price is the most im­
portant factor at the basis of her wage. How much must be done at
a specified rate in selected operations in order to make $10 a week
is shown from the pay-roll records of a large factory, as given in
Table 21.
T a b l e 21.— PIECE

RATES IN A LYNN FACTORY WITH NUMBER OF PIECES HANDLED
TO MAKE $10 PER WEEK.
Number pieces handled
at—

Rate.
Operation.

High rate. Low rate. High rate.
Backstaying......................................
Barring..............................................
Beading.............................................
Closing on.......................................... ........................ d o ....
Foxing stitching................................
Lining stitching................................ ........................ d o ....
Perforating........................................
Second-ro*.v stitching..................................................do—
Tip stitching.....................................
Tongue stitching............................... .........................d o ....
Vamping............. ............................. .
Buttonholing..................................... . .per hundred pairs..
Eyeleting........................................... .




$0.10
.02
.04
.03|
.14
.06
.07
.07
.03
.05
.17
* .04
.03

$0.04$
.01
.02
.03
.08
.02
.03*
.02
.03
.03
.10
.04
.01

2,400
12,000
6,000
6,840
1,704
4,000
3.420
3.420
7,992
4,800
1,392
25,000
66,666

Low rate.
5,328
24.000
12.000
7.992
3,000
12,000
6,840
12,000
7.992
7.992
2,400
25,000
100,000

70

BULLETIN OP THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

Piece prices show bewildering variety not only for operations in
the same factory, but for work, apparently of a similar sort, done
in different factories. The similarity is usually apparent only;
a slight difference of cut in the shoe means a few stitches more
or less, and where stitches are literally counted, the count affects
the price. Comparison between factories is, therefore, futile unless
both turn out practically the same product made by precisely the
same processes. Such an identity we have not found.
A second uncertain element in the wage is the behavior of the
machine which, however wonderfully adapted to the business in
hand, has a soulless insensibility to the exigencies of the work or
the economic need of the worker. The Singer sewing machine used
is heavy and strong in its framework, but necessarily delicate in the
parts that do the stitching; the Reece buttonhole machine has a com­
plicated mechanism liable to disarrangement. Care and manage­
ment of the machine are part of the daily task, but the time taken
for repairs is not paid for. Occasionally a serious breakdown occurs;
if, then, there is no similar machine in the room for her to use, the
operator’s work is stopped for the day, possibly for two or three
days. It is to the interest of the factory that such loss of time should
be minimized, but all the machines can not be kept in perpetual
running order, even under the best management. The cessation of
payment on the stoppage of the machine is essentially a penalty
which the operator pays, sometimes justly for carelessness, but as
frequently quite undeserved. The loss it entails falls less frequently
on the expert operator, yet no operator is exempt.
A third factor influencing the amount of wage for both hand and
machine workers is the dependence of one department upon another.
The lasters depend upon the stitchers, the stitchers upon the cutters,
the cutters upon the stock room, and the stock room waits to get out
its leather in accordance with the order tickets from the office.
However methodical may be the management, there are days when
one department must wait upon another, or one lot of material be
finished before another is on hand. No worker is sure she will have
work for all the hours in any one day; in fact, women are not seldom
seen reading or sewing while they wait for material to be supplied.
There is, fourth, the deduction of fines on account of spoiled or im­
perfect work. The skilled worker will be less affected by loss of this
sort, nevertheless she will occasionally suffer from it. Just the amount
per week or month nibbled from the wages by fines is difficult to de­
termine for any special worker. In most factories the simple calcu­
lation of amount due, less the fines, is recorded on the pay roll, so
that the actual wage is uncertain. Women privately interrogated
as to their wage will seldom mention fines, unless to complain of




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB W OM EN.

71

some special grievance. In the case of time workers payment is made
by the hour or fraction thereof, so that fines for tardiness are not
noted as such. In all factories fines are imposed for imperfect work,
and these probably more than meet the wages of the fixers and
repairers in the packing room.
CAUSES FOR VARIATION IN EARNINGS.

Among the conditions of the work itself the foregoing most
strongly affect the wage. The amount of work on hand at different
seasons, although it also affects the weekly wage, is more justly
classed with the conditions upon which the annual earnings depend.
It is evident from the data given that wages per week, even in the
months of maximum employment, fluctuate to a surprising extent.
Skilled, steady, and regular though the operator may be, the actual
payment per week seldom touches the amount that, given all condi­
tions favorable, is the potential wage. The tables below are illus­
trative of wage variation. They were chosen for a period of indus­
trial activity and the workers were among the steadiest found on the
pay roll.
TABLE

22.—VARIATIONS IN WAGES OP HANDWORKERS.
[Based on pay rolls.]

1, Three months* earnings for two women In the same factory, doing

**

turning/'

Earnings i n Period.
August.

September.

October.

A’s earnings:
First week................................................ .
Second week...........................................................
Third week.............. .............................................
Fourth week..........................................................
Fifth week.................................................... .

$6.23
6.65
6.65
7.39
5.32

$5.88
6.93
6.65
4.13

$3.15
4.76
7.21
5.37

Average weekly earnings........................... .

6.45

5.90

5.12

13.44
8.19
.14

11.13
12.11
10.71
6.16

7.21
6.65
12.67
9.10

10.03

8.91

B’s earnings:
First week................................. ...........................
Second week......................... ........... ....................
Third week............................................................
Fourth week................. 1..............................
Fifth week............................................................
Average weekly <wrnfaga.....................................




9.52
6.26

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

72
T able

22.— VARIATIONS IN WAGES OF HANDWORKERS— Concluded.

2. Three months* earnings for two women in the same factory, doing 4 crippling.”
4
January.
Period.

C’s earnings:
First waaIt____ ____ ________
Second week...........................................................
Third week.............................................................
Fourth week...........................................................
Fifth Wfiftlc___ _____________________________

AvftraffA Wfiftklv ftamines___
Average daily earnings........................................

March.

Num­
Num­
Num­
ber of Earn­ ber of Earn­ ber of Earn­
days
ings.
days
days
ings.
ings.
worked.
worked.
worked.

6
6
6
6
6

$6.29
6.02
7.55
7.57
6.56

6
6
6
5

6
6
6
6
6

9.85
9.59
9.59
9.59
9.59
9.64
1.61

$6.56
7.43
7.47
5.90

0
6
6
6

6.84
1.16

6.79
1.13

AvftracrA dailv ramines______________ ______
D*s earnings:
First weak______ ___________
Second week...........................................................
Third week.............................................................
Fourth week...........................................................
Fifth weak. _ . _________ ______________ ____

February.

6 !
6
6
6

9.59
9.59
9.50
6.33
8.75
1.46

$6.88
7.50
7.50
7.50
7.35
1.22

6

?
6

8.71
8.43
9.23
9.50
8.97
1.53

A, B, C, and D were handworkers employed in the same factory.
For C and D the earnings are shown for the period of high activ­
ity, from January through March; for A and B, from August, usually
the month of recovery after a dull season, through October. The
number of days worked by A and B each week was not stated on
the pay roll. Two legal holidays, however, made A’s earnings low in
the first weeks of September and October. B, on the contrary, earned
$11.13, a wage above her average, in the holiday week of September.
Irrespective of holidays, it will be seen that the fourth week of
September was a low week for both; there was not full work to be
had. The earnings of C and D show far more regularity, though
even here the difference of nearly $1 between D’s average earnings
per week for January and February is a serious matter to one whose
expenses must be closely fitted to.earnings. Nor did D’s average
wage for March make up the loss in February. The pay roll does
not show whether the loss of half a day in March was due to the
worker’s choice or to lack of work.




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB WOMEN.
T able

73

23.—VARIATIONS IN WAGES OP MACHINE OPERATORS WORKING EVERY WEEK
FOR THREE MONTHS.
January.
Period.

E ’s earnings (a vamper, 42 years old):
First week...............................................................
...........................................................
Second week
Third week.................................. ............... ..........
Fourth week......................................................
Filth week..............................................................

6
5
6
5
6

Average weekly earnings....................................
Average daily earnings.......................................

$14.50
11.87
16.00
9.50
15.00

6
6
5
6

?

6
6

5.56
7.56
8.12
7.27
7.53

6
6

14.53
10.88
9.93
16.01
12.84
2.14

6
6
6
6

7.84
7.67
1.45
5.21

6
6
6
6

15.06
14.12
11.45
11.65
13.07
2.17

$13.11
16.66
18.04
15.88
15.92
2.65

6
6
6
6

6.52
7.63
8.39
6.84
7.35
1.23

5.54
1.20

7.21
1.24
6
0
6
6

$14.15
14.78
12.36
15.96
14.31
2.48

13.38
2.39

Average weekly earnings...................................
Average daily earnings.......................................
G’s earnings (a buttonhole operator):
First week..............................................................
Second week...........................................................
Third week.............................................................
Fourth week...........................................................

March.

Num­
Num­
Num­
ber of Earn­ ber of Earn­ ber of Earn­
ings.
days
days
days
ings.
ings.
worked.
worked.
worked.

Average weekly earnings............................... .
Average daily earnings
................................... .
F’s earnings (a tip stitcher, 24 years old):
First week..............................................................
Second week...........................................................
Third week........................................... .............
Fourth week...........................................................
Fifth week..............................................................

February.

6
6
6
6

9.71
15.77
18.10
20.00
15.90
2.65

In Table 23 E and F were workers in the same factory; G was from
a different locality. The period chosen was again one of high activity
in both factories, a public holiday occurred but once in the three
months, and the three operators were at work every week. The
average weekly wage for E was about $2.50 more in March than in
January. This was not merely because she lost two days in January
and none in March, but because the two weeks in March showing
highest earnings were weeks of most favorable industrial conditions.
What wage should E reasonably have expected if all her weeks
showed similar conditions? Since in three weeks of the period she
earned about $16, it is not unfair to take that as representing the
wage she might reasonably have expected, since in a week of unusual
exertion in March it was exceeded by $2. For January, then, her
average weekly wage was more than $2.50 below her earning
capacity; in February $1.70 below, and in March nearly approached
it. E was a steady, experienced worker. It will not escape notice
that she worked but five days in the week twice in January; but it
was not absence that made her wage below her earning capacity in
5 other weeks out of the 13.
F ’s wage shows much more variability, but this is not wholly due
to her absences. She worked all the working days of March, yet
showed a difference of $1.87 between her lowest and highest weekly



74

BULLETIN OF TH E BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

wage for that month. G, who worked the Reece buttonhole machine,
earned $10 more in her best week than in her worst, and both oc­
curred in the same month. Her wage of $18 is considerably below
her highest, but how seldom she earned this is clear at a glance. What
may be called her losses per week range from $2 to nearly $9.
Enough has been said to show that even among the steadiest work­
ers the factors forming the basis of the wage vary so greatly from
week to week as to make certainty about earnings impossible. F
knows she will earn about half the money G does, and that is prac­
tically all she knows. G knows that when work is abundant and
conditions favorable she may earn as much as $20 a week, but that
under conditions which she is powerless to prevent her earnings may
sink to less than half that sum. It is apparent both that it is very
difficult for the worker to adjust her expenditures to her earnings,
and that it is practically impossible for her to form a reliable esti­
mate of what her yearly income is. As was said at the beginning
of the chapter, estimates of average earnings, whether made by em­
ployer or employee, are apt to be wide of the mark in an industry
where the weekly earnings show such variation.




CHAPTER V.—ANNUAL EARNINGS OF WOMEN SHOE
WORKERS.
CONDITIONS AFFECTING EARNINGS.

With definite data on hand as to the weekly wage of individuals or
of groups, it might seem logical to proceed at once to multiply this
wage by the number of working weeks in the year and so obtain the
annual earnings. For the office force in the shoe factory this can
be done. We can ascertain the weekly rate of pay for clerk or ste­
nographer, find that it is not cut down by a two weeks’ vacation,
and on the basis of 52 weeks of work we can readily calculate the
yearly income. But as concerns earners in the workrooms, such a
calculation is impossible. Two constant conditions forbid this sim­
ple arithmetical process—the seasonal fluctuation in the numbers
employed, and the instability in factory workers as a class. Seasonal
fluctuation in numbers is indicated by the difference between the
numbers employed in times of maximum and minimum industrial
activity, while the degree of instability in a working force is shown
by the relation of the maximum number in any one week or month
to the total number employed in any one year. As a result of both
factors, few women work at shoemaking all the year round and few
earn for the year the full amount indicated by a specified weekly
wage.
SEASONAL FLUCTUATION IN NUMBERS.

Seasonal fluctuation, to take up the first condition, though always
a feature of industrial production, has become in recent times so
marked as radically to affect the whole life scheme of the factory
classes. In most shoe factories it is now a recognized condition. It
is not, it is true, in this industry subject to the extremes found in
several other trades, yet the rise and fall in numbers employed is
pronounced in the whole State, and the difference between maximum
and minimum activity is considerable in any locality and very great
in some. According to the State statistics for 1911, seasonal fluctua­
tion in shoe factories is greater than that in any other leading in­
dustry except the confectionery and women’s clothing industries.
These similarities and differences for 11 leading industries of the
State are shown in Table 24.
75



76

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

T able 24.—MAXIMUM AND MINIMUM NUMBERS OF ALL WAGE EARNERS EMPLOYED
IN 11 LEADING MASSACHUSETTS INDUSTRIES IN 1911.
[Source: Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, Twenty-sixth Annual Report on the Statistics of Manu­
factures, 1911, pp. 2-12.J
Maximum Minimum Per cent
number
number minimum
of maxi­
employed. employed. is mum.

Industry.

Cotton goods.......................................................................................
Boots and shoes, leather....................................................................
Woolen and worsted goods.................................................................
Electric supplies.................................................................................
Paper and wood pulp.........................................................................
Hosiery and knit goods......................................................................
Boots and shoes, rubber.....................................................................
Confectionery......................................................................................
Clothing, women’s..............................................................................
Clothing, men’s.....................................*...........................................
Boxes, paper......................................................................................

118,366
92,639
65,979
19,622
14,722
10,826
8,581
7,533
7,014
5,841
4,784

94,701
65,182
40,562
16,268
12,716
8,476
7,602
4,880
4,113
4,494
3,557

80.0
70.4
72.5
82.9
86.4
78.3
38.6
64.8
58.6
76.8
74.4

Though the shoe industry may be classed with several of those
listed above in the fact and in the amount of its general fluctuation,
it is peculiar in the shifting from year to year of its seasons of high
and low activity. It may be generally stated that the late fall or early
winter months show the high tide of employment, with some stability
through the winter, a rapid ebb in the early spring, partial recovery
in the late summer, and irregularity in the early fall. However,
the figures in Table 25, taken from the State statistics for a period of
five years, show the danger of making even this general statement
unreservedly.
26.—FLUCTUATION IN NUMBERS IN MASSACHUSETTS SHOE FACTORIES IN
MONTHS OF MAXIMUM AND MINIMUM EMPLOYMENT FOR A PERIOD OF FIVE
YEARS.

T able

[Based on reports of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics.]

Maximum employment.

Minimum employment.

Year.
Month.
l i l i i

February....................
September..................
December................
February....................
December...................

Number
employed.

Month.

74,937 December...................
71,780
79,073
82,707 October.......................
83,234 May............................

Difference in number
employed in months
of m axim u m and
minimum employ­
ment.

Number
employed.

Number.

69,949.
62,075
70,316
67,489
74,639

4,988
9,705
8,757
15,218
8,595

Per cent.
6.7
13.5
11.1
1&4
10.3

It will be noted that the decrease in the number of workers in the
minimum month of 1907 was comparatively small; in the two suc­
ceeding years this per cent was about doubled, while in 1910 it was
nearly three times that of 1907. In the latest report the difference in
numbers between the months of maximum and minimum employment




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OMEN.

77

is about 10 per cent of the maximum number. The increasing fluctua­
tion for some years was apparently due to the rapid increase in
manufacture; for the more recent reduction, better business organi­
zation is perhaps partly responsible, as well as the increase in prod­
uct of certain large concerns doing business on a stock basis. The
numbers here given for the whole State show smaller differences
WAGE EARNERS EMPLOYED IN SHOE FACTORIES IN MASSACHUSETTS EACH
MONTH, 1910, TO SEPTEMBER, 1911, IN PER CENT OF AVERAGE FOR THE
YEAR.

than may be found in various localities, in some of which the ups and
downs are far more abrupt. Table 26 does, however, clearly illustrate
the fact that between nine and ten thousand workers drop out of the
industry at certain seasons, and shows also the dull and busy months.
The table and the accompanying graphic chart show the fluctuations
in numbers employed in the industry in the State each month, from
October, 1910, to September, 1911.




78

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS,

T able 26.—NUMBER OF WAGE EARNERS EMPLOYED IN SHOE FACTORIES IN MAS­
SACHUSETTS EACH MONTH, OCTOBER, 1910, TO SEPTEMBER, 1911.
(Source: Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth Annual Reports on the
Statistics of Manufactures, 1910 and 1911, p. 66.]

Month.

Number
Percent
of wage
of the
earners average for
employed. the year.

1910.
October...................................
November..........................................
December...........................................

67,489
76,185
78,052

87.1
97.0
100.7

1911.
January..............................................
February............................................
March.................................................
April...................................................
May....................................................
June...................................................
July.................................................
August................................................
September..........................................

80,438
81,134
80,482
77,345
74,639
75,650
77,555
80,648
81,260

103.8
104.7
103.9
99.8
96.3
97.6
100.1
104.1
104.9

Average.....................................

77,490

100.0

The phenomenon of seasonal fluctuation in the shoe trade can
not be explained by any single cause, but the most effective seems to
be the system of manufacture. Two systems are in general use in
the shoe trade. By the stock system the factory manufactures a
certain amount of product each month and sells it to the buyer who
comes to the factory. By the order system lots of shoes are made
only to fill orders sent in by the traveling salesmen representing the
firm and taking samples of its special products to the retailers.
Many large factories maintain their own retail shops, placed in
many towns and cities, thus creating, as well as filling, the demand
for special shoes. The stock system prevails in many factories mak­
ing a cheaper grade of shoe bought by consumers who dislike change
in style or material. This is especially true for men’s and boys’ shoes
sold in agricultural districts in all parts of the country. Some fac­
tories in the inland Massachusetts counties have made practically the
same kind of shoe for workers in the field, or the same heavy boots for
the lumbermen in the forest, for half a century. Their amount of
work is about the same the year round, the working force shows
little change in numbers, and they usually run every week in the
year. The stability of the work is taken into account by the owner
who puts his piece prices below those of factories run on the order
system. He can do this the more safely, as stock work is ordinarily
done in towns where no other industries are serious competitors and
where the cost of living is less than in centers near the seaboard.
Seasonal fluctuation reaches its extreme in shoe factories using the
order system. There is not, it is true, the dreaded short term of
nerve-racking activity, as in the millinery trade in early spring and
fall, or the rush time of the confectionery factories, with December’s



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OM EN.

79

number of girl workers showing a 54 per cent increase over July.
The period of high employment for the shoe trade usually extends
over the eight months from the first of August to the end of March.
In the latter part of March a decided drop usually occurs, reaching
its lowest point in the end of April, when many factories close alto­
gether for stock taking. Through May and June there is a steady
increase in the ranks of workers, and in the month of August more
people are making shoes than in the month of January. At the end
of September there is again another though far less decided drop for
stock taking; but in the first week of December most shoe factories
are at their busiest.
Under the order system, at present the prevailing method, marked
seasonal fluctuation seems inevitable. The retailer before he
orders must know what is likely to be the best seller; the manu­
facturer must wait for the orders from his traveling men. Between
the rush of orders for winter boots and for summer shoes there is a
period when both the retail shop and the factory are feeling their way.
Orders come in slowly and the working force is reduced. Roughly
speaking, then, the between seasons are early summer and mid­
winter ; specifically, they may be any month for a factory worked on
the order system. Factories making slippers or infants’ shoes have
their busiest season in the three months preceding Christmas, their
dullest directly after. This is somewhat out of line with the ordinary
shoe-factory season. The main cause of the recent general adoption
of the order system is undoubtedly the rapid changes of fashion and
the uncertainty in regard to the styles that will be used. In the cen­
ters manufacturing women’s shoes, while it is known that high shoes
will be worn more in winter and low shoes more in summer, the pres­
ent demands as to material and cut vary surprisingly each season.
Whether the ladies will favor, for the coming season, low shoes with
two or three straps or a strapless pump is a vital question which
must be settled by the retailer before he places his order with the
factory. The uncertainty as to what will be the “ taking” style
for the coming season of sale operates to keep many factories idle
or with a force greatly reduced until the orders come in all at once
and a rush season begins. These changes affect most the high-grade
shoes, yet even in the cheaper shoe some taking quality must balance
the inferior material and finish. Even in men’s shoes fashions vary,
though to a less extent. The cut of the vamp changes, the buttoned
and the laced shoe are favored alternately by “ the younger set ” to
whose choice the high-grade factories must defer.
Not only does fluctuation in fashion create changes in the factory
force as a whole, but it affects the individual operator, especially
among the women. When the mode prescribes buttoned shoes for
men or women, buttonhole operators and button operators are in



80

BULLETIN OF THE BtJBEAU OF LABOE STATISTICS.

great demand, their payment per piece goes up, and hundreds strive
to learn these special operations by the haphazard methods cus­
tomary. The next season fashion chooses laced shoes, and the button
and buttonhole operatives, thrown out of work, are dispiritedly
seeking handwork or trying to learn the stitching processes.
The records of any factory of considerable output show two
months, far apart in the calendar, which have a larger number of
operatives than their neighbors on either side. These two periods of
activity are characteristic, but it is quite as impossible to fix their
occurrence for the individual factory from season to season as it is
for the locality as a whole. All that can be predicted under the order
system is that the busy season will begin when the orders arrive.
Every important factory installs machines sufficient in number to meet
the demand of the busiest weeks, and the expense of rental for idle
machines must be reckoned in as cost in fixing the price of the product.
Work on winter shoes usually begins in July and runs through the
early fall; while the shoes for summer are largely made in the first
three months of the year. Some of the larger firms do the bulk of
their work in a few months and run slack the rest of the year. With
their ample equipment, however, if they pick up large orders they
can at any time call in their old hands and speedily finish a quantity
of work. As a rule, fluctuation in numbers is sharpest in the large
factories where big orders come in to be completed in a few weeks.
There are in Massachusetts eight legal holidays; these, together
with the 52 Sundays, if deducted from the 365 days of the year, give
305 working days for the factory. Under the order system the power
in most factories is running for 290 of these days, or for 50 working
weeks, though not 50 full weeks. A common though not universal
practice is to shut down factories altogether for stock taking during
one week in April and another in November. The general situation
is, however, made up of almost as many variations as there are fac­
tories. The system of manufacture, the kind of product, the special
variety of that kind in an individual factory, even the character of
the working force, shift the months and weeks of maximum activity
in any one center around the calendar.
While the active seasons in no two localities are strictly contem­
poraneous, and while in any large center differences of product pre­
vent corresponding periods of activity in the factories, yet a few
local tendencies may be discovered. Lynn, for instance, shows the
greatest seasonal fluctuation, and the finer the grade of shoe made
the more the number of workers varies from month to month. This
is because Lynn makes shoes for women, whose buying is dictated
by the change in fashion. The busiest months vary greatly among
the factories, while dull months generally coincide closely. For the
Lynn industry as a whole, then, the busy times are indeterminate,



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB WOMEN.

81

the dull season well marked. This condition, wherever it occurs,
has an important bearing on both possible and actual annual earn­
ings. Table 27 below shows typical variation in numbers employed
for 13 factories in six localities.
T a b le 27.—MONTHS OF MAXIMUM AND MINIMUM EMPLOYMENT AND NUMBER OF

WOMEN EMPLOYED IN 13 SHOE FACTORIES.
[Based on pay rolls.]
Maximum employment.
Locality.
Month.
Brockton:
Factory A .........
Factory B .........
Factory C..........
Lynn:
Factory A .........
Factory B .........
Factory C..........
Factory D .........
Beverly: Factory A..
Marlboro:
Factory A . . . . . .
Factory B .........
Chelsea: Factory A ..
Boston:
Factory A ......... .
Factory B .........

Minimum employment.

Number
employed.

Month.

Number
employed.

August__
February.
October...

183 April........
246 September
171 May.........

March........
September.
January—
December..
October—

416
39
254
160
65

July.........
May.........
July.........
May.........
February..

221

September.
December..
January....

November.
108 September
409 May.........

258
94

----- d o .......
February..

April........
September

14
16

2,487

Total.

111

189
137
361
22
65
50

1,841

INSTABILITY OF WAGE EARNERS.

Seasonal changes in the amount of work available in shoe fac­
tories, as in many others, augment instability in the working force.
Nor is this instability in numbers merely; it means a shifting in the
personnel of the wage earners connected with any one factory. This
is most pronounced where the order system is most in use. In Lynn,
for instance, the center of women’s footwear, it was found that ap­
parently but 18 per cent of the women listed worked the full number
of weeks during which the factories were run. Whenever the months
during which work will be maintained with some regularity in the
factories of a group are not identical there is a natural endeavor on
the part of the wage earners to prevent loss by shifting from one
factory to another. It is usually an unprofitable expedient. Tem­
porary relationship to any kind of work may increase experience and
perhaps general ability, but general ability is at a discount in a
closely differentiated trade; the quality desired is special expertness.
In the new connection differences in method and product mean at
least a temporary decrease in speed and therefore, for the piece­
worker, decrease in wage. Again, though at a given time work in
one factory may be scanty and in another abundant, a few weeks or
even a week may reverse the situation. To make every week in the
3881°—Bull. 180—15----- 6



82

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

year a wage-earning week is a baffling puzzle, and in the unsuccess­
ful attempts to solve it restlessness, discouragement, and indifference
to the quality of work naturally result. Nevertheless the effort is
constantly made and there is in consequence a high degree of shift­
ing from factory to factory. The varying amounts of instability are
indicated in Table 28.
T a b le 28.— INSTABILITY OF WOMEN WORKERS BY RELATION OF MAXIMUM TO TOTAL

NUMBERS EMPLOYED IN 1910 AND 1911 (MINORS INCLUDED).
[Based on pay rolls of 13 factories.]
Number of women em­
ployed—
Locsdity.
During the In maxi­
year.
mum week.
Brockton:
Factory A ..................................................................................
Factory B....................................................................................
Factory C....................................................................................

324
341
265

198
255
184

Total........................................................................................

930
767
69
637
301

442
43
291
168

61.1
74.7
69.4

637

Lynn:
Factory A.................................................................................. .
Factory B............................................................. .......................
Factory C...................................................................................
Factory D........... ........................................................................

Percent
maximum
number is
of total.

Total............................................................................... ........

1.774

944

Marlboro:
Factory A ....................................................................................
Factory B ....................................................................................

523
111

386
109

57.6
62.3
45.7
55.8

73.8
98.2

Total.........................................................................................

634

495

Beverly: Factory A ...........................................................................
Chelsea: Factory A ................................................... ........................

73
773

66
421

90.4
54.5

Boston:
Factory A ....................................................................................
Factory B ............................................................................ .......

71
20

33
20

46.5
100.0

Total.........................................................................................

91

53

,
Grand total....................... .........T - . , , ....... ............................

4,275

2,616

61.2

There is also migration from one shoe town to another in the same
group, especially where train or trolley service makes transit easy.
Lynn draws workers from Salem, Beverly, Peabody, Danvers, and
even from Chelsea and Boston, and these towns in turn draw help
for their factories from' Lynn. In the Plymouth County group,
Brockton is closely connected by the “ electrics” with Whitman,
Abington, and many outlying towns, most of which have shoe fac­
tories of their own. Marlboro, Hudson, and Framingham are more
remote from cosmopolitan influence, and yet even here shifting in
the working force is found as between town and village factories.
Instability, since it is for the most part characteristic of an unat­
tached younger group of workers, is naturally less prominent among
the women. It is the younger men and girls for the most part who



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION POE WOMEN.

83

shift from factory to factory and from town to town. “ Family”
men and women reluctantly break industrial connection or change
from one locality to another.
The best firms so clearly recognize the industrial disadvantage of
a shifting personnel in their factory force that they take various
means to lessen it as much as possible. In the outskirts of Boston a
firm employing 5,000 operatives in the course of a year will not en­
gage workers outside of an area within a few minutes walk or ride
of the factory. This firm makes a good deal of stock product; it does
not, however, give employment to the majority of its workers for th®
greater part of the year. Labor men claim that the smaller factory
is better for a community. The fact that its smaller output must be
more or less continuous in order to make a profit tends, they say, to
steady the work, while the closer connection of interests between
employer and employees tends to steady the workers.
Local differences in the shifting of women workers and in the
degree of their unemployment are marked. For the purpose of
ready comparison the total numbers of women in each of the four
important centers studied have been divided into five classes accord­
ing to the duration of their employment for the year. Class 1 com­
prises those who work every week in the year; class 2, the “ steady
workers,” or those who are employed for 46 weeks or more; class 8,
the “ seasonal workers,” who continue through or partly beyond the
season of greatest activity, namely, 36 to 45 weeks, inclusive; class 4,
the “ extra force,” working from 13 to 35 weeks during the active
season; and class 5, the “ temporary workers,” who are connected
with the factory 12 weeks or less.
In Marlboro, where the factories run continuously for 52 weeks
in the year, the first two classes really merge into one. Since a large
proportion of women work the whole 52 weeks, it has seemed more
exact to put these into a separate class, which is represented by a very
small per cent in Lynn, and in Brockton is not represented at all.
The large proportion in the first two classes in Marlboro illustrates
the fact that not only the system of work but also the character of
the community affects the stability of the working force. Figures
for Boston and Chelsea have not been given, because the factories
studied in this locality differ so widely in size, in the systems of
work, and in the conditions of their surrounding sections that they
can not be considered as belonging to a class, however interesting
they may be when studied separately. For the same reason Beverly
is omitted from the statements for Lynn.
The proportion of “ temporary workers,” in class 5, differs widely in
the three localities, its maximum being found in Lynn. This class is
by no means made up o f one element. The “ temporary workers”
are, in fact, broadly divided into the occasional and the unstable



84

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

classes. The former are skilled women, who go into the same factory
season after season, work a few months at high wages, and retire
into private life for the rest of the year. Their term of service,
usually sought by the management, is voluntarily brief. The un­
stable class, on the other hand, form much the larger proportion, and
is made up of various elements. Many, after a week or two of trial
work, leave the factory in discontent; some continue longer on a low
time wage, yet are of too little value to be retained. Many are
“ learners,” who, convinced they are not getting on fast enough in
one factory, carry their short experience as a supposed asset to an­
other place. In all these cases the personal point of view shortens
the time of employment. For the short term of service of the large
remainder, the order system, with its varying demands as to numbers,
is responsible.
Class 4, the “ extra force,” varies, according to locality, from over
one-fifth to nearly two-fifths of the total number. Their period of
employment varies from three to eight months and covers one or
both of the two yearly periods of active production. These “ extra ”
workers are often found in the factory from December or January
through March, when many drop out for a few weeks, to come on
again in August for the second busy period. In Lynn one-half of the
“ extra force,” in Brockton, one-third, and in Marlboro, nearly the
same proportion, work less than six months in the year.
For the “ high season ” workers in class 3 the proportion again is
similar for the three centers, Marlboro taking the lead. The women
in this class are largely skilled workers; in contrast to the class
below, their relative numbers increase with the number of weeks, and
more are employed over 40 weeks than under. In dull times, during
stock-taking week or between orders, these valuable workers are often
dismissed by relays, one stitching or packing room at a time, so that
they may not drop connection with the factory.
There remains the group of “ steady workers ” made up of classes
1 and 2. In Marlboro these together make nearly 50 per cent of all
the women workers; in Brockton, 40 per cent; and in Lynn, 27 per
cent. The earnings of these two classes, and of these alone, may be
taken to represent the actual annual income for women as shoe work­
ers, for the other classes may, and sometimes do, work in other fac­
tories or at secondary occupations to fill up the idle weeks. Their
supplementary earnings, whatever their source, can not be included
in the income derived from shoemaking. A number of the young
women, for instance, take a summer vacation as waitresses in seashore
or mountain hotels.
In conclusion, the degree of instability characteristic of the shoe
workers does not seem in any noticeable measure affected by labor
organization, by the nature of the product, or by the proportion of



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB W OM EN.

85

either sex among the wage earners. It is influenced to a certain ex­
tent by the size of a factory, by the economic status and the character
of its workers, and by the local habits of a community. Strongest of
all influences is undoubtedly the system of manufacture.
A fair presentation, then, of what women workers in the shoe in­
dustry may earn will include only the annual earnings of the “ steady
workers.” The proportion of such workers in different factories
grouped by special localities is given in Table 29.
Table 29.—PBOPOBTION OP ADULT WOMEN WOBKING 46 WEEKS OB MOBE IN THE
YEAB IN 12 MASSACHUSETTS SHOE FACTORIES, AND THE CHIEF PRQDUCT IN EACH
FACTOBY, CLASSIFIED BY LOCALITY.

Locality.

Chief product.

Brockton:
Factory A ............................. Men’s shoes.................................
Factory B .............................. .......do.........................................
Factory C...............................
Total...................................
Lynn:
Factory A . . . : ....................... Women’s shoes...........................
Factory B ..............................
Factory C............................... .......do .......................................
Factory D ............................ .......do.........................................
Total.................................
Beverly: Factory A..................... Men’s and women's shoes..........
Marlboro:

Men’s shoes................... .................
Factorv B .............................. Men’s, women's, and children's
shoes.

Factory A ................................

Total
number of
women
employed
in each
factory.

Women working 46
weeks or more during
the year at each fac­
tory.
Number.

Per cent.

299
292
265

87
151
100

856

338

722
69
637
301

240
16
131
92

1,729

479

73

43

58.9

430
109

193
93

44.9
85.3

29.1
51.7
37.7

33.2
23.2
20.6
30.6

539

286

Chelsea: Factory A ..................... Men’s, women’s, and children’s

710

162

22.8

Boston: Factory A ...................... Misses’,*children’s, and infants'
shoes.

130

5

3.8

4,037

1,313

31.7

1,729
856
539

479
338
286

27.7
39.4
53.1

Total...................................

Grand total.........................
SUMMARY OP TABLE FOR THREE
IMPORTANT CENTERS.

Lynn...........................................
Brockton......................................
Marlboro......................................

The percentages of steady workers in the four Lynn factories
studied are at once lower and more uniform than those of the other
localities for which more than one factory is included in the table.
In Lynn the average is about 28 per cent, and the highest percentage
shown is 33.2 per cent. In Brockton the average is 39.4 per cent, in
Marlboro 53.1 per cent, and the highest percentages found are, re­
spectively, 51.7 per cent and 85.3 per cent. The prevalence of the
order system in Lynn must be emphasized as a chief reason for its
showing in this respect. Of the 30 factories visited in Lynn, two


86

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

thirds use the order system, one-third both stock and order, though
largely the former. Factory A, for instance, in the Lynn group
shown in Table 29, maintains its own retail stores in many cities, and
is therefore safe in making, as it does, a large quantity of stock prod­
uct. Its per cent of steady workers is the highest for Lynn. Fac­
tories B, C, and D produce on the order system entirely.
The records for 24 Brockton concerns visited show 70 per cent
using the order system. Factory A in Table 29 uses the order system
altogether, the others both order and stock. Notwithstanding the
fact that the management and conditions of Factory A in the Brock­
ton group make work within its walls eagerly sought, its per cent of
steady workers is lower than the average for Brockton. The product
of Factory B in the Brockton group is made largely by the order
system, 25 per cent only by stock. The majority of firms, however,
using both systems divide the product fairly between the two, as is
the case in Factory C. The two factories given for Marlboro together
control nine-tenths of the industry of that town, where at present
there are only two or three other small concerns. Factory A makes
a cheap stock shoe in constant demand by workingmen, and sells
by the job system to wholesale dealers. Factory B makes a better
grade of shoe for men and women on the order system. Of the fac­
tories in Beverly, Chelsea, and Boston, the first works on the stock
system and produces a cheap grade of shoe, the second by the order
system altogether, as does also the Boston factory. Extreme insta­
bility in the working force was found in this Boston factory. A
special product made by the order system must be held largely re­
sponsible for this.
Several facts of the first importance to women shoe workers are
learned from Table 29. First, the average of steady workers for the
12 factories is about 32 per cent. While two or three towns where
high fluctuation occurs, as Haverhill, Newburyport, and Worcester,
are not here represented, their weight is balanced by a number of
interior small towns producing goods on the stock basis and showing
little variation in the numbers employed. On the whole, it is believed
this proportion represents average conditions for the State. The
total number of women working in Massachusetts shoe factories1 (not
including cut stock and shoe findings factories) in 1911 was 27,593.
According to the findings of this study, about one-third, or 9,197,
of these work 46 weeks or more in the year. Minors, forming less
than one-half of 1 per cent of these steady workers, may be excluded
from this discussion. As our records for those working 46 weeks or
more include 1,300 adult women, we are in a position to quote earn­
ings for a trifle over 14 per cent of the total number. Two-thirds of
1 M assachusetts Bureau o f Statistics, Tw enty-sixth Annual Report on the Statistics o f
M anufactures, 1911, p. 2.




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR WOMEN*

87

these 1,300 women work in Lynn and Brockton, where the highest
wages in the State in this industry are paid. The figures for earn­
ings, then, make a favorable, though not an exaggerated, showing in
comparison with the average for the State.
ANNUAL EARNINGS OP STEADY WORKERS*

It has been shown that the factories chosen for special study show
so great a variety in management, product, and numbers as to make
statistics drawn from their pay rolls a fair and reliable representa­
tion of women’s earnings. The classified earnings presented in
Table 30 may then be taken as a basis for discussion.
T a b u s 30.—ANNUAL EARNINGS OP ADULT WOMEN WORKING 46 WEEKS OR MORE IN

THE YEAR 1910-11, CLASSIFIED ACCORDING TO KIND OF W ORK.
[Based on pay rolls of 12 factories.)
Workers receiving classified earnings.
Earnings.

Machine operators.

Handworkers.

Number. Percent. Number. Percent.

Total
number.

Percent.

Classified annual earnings.

$150 and under $200................... ........
$200 and under $250.............................
$250 and under $300.............................
$300 and under $350.............................
$350 and under $400............................
$400 and under $450............................
$450 and under $500. ............. ..........
$500 and under $550.............................
$550 and under $800.............................
$600 and under $650.............................
$650 and under $700.............................
$700 and under $750.............................
$750 and under $800.............................
$800 and under $850.............................
$850 and under $900.............................
$000 and under $950.............................

5
16
42
66
96
141
127
117
107
60
37
23
23
14
12
5

0.6
1.8
4.7
7.4
10.8
15.8
14.2
13.1
12.0
6.7
4.1
2.6
2.6
1.6
1.3
.6

$1,000 and over....................................

1
892

100.0

1.4
2.9
7.4
10.9
18.1
16.6
15.6
8.5
6.7
5.0
2.1
2.6
1.2
.5
.5

11
28
73
112
172
211
193
153
135
81
46
34
28
16
14
5
1

.1

421

100.0

1,313

100.0

.1

Total..........................................

6
12
31
46
76
70
66
36
28
21
9
11
5
2
2

0.8
2.1
5.6
8.5
13.1
16.1
14.7
11.6
10.3
6.2
3.5
2.6
2.1
1.2
1.1
.4

Cumulative annual earnings for all
workers.

1. Under $500.......................................
$300 or under................................
$400 or under................................
$450 or under................................
2. $500 and over...................................
$550 and over................................
$600 and over................................
$700 and over................................
$800 and over................................

800

Total..........................................

1,313

513

112
396
607
360
225
98
36

60.9

39.1

8.5
30.2
46.2
27.4
17.1
7.5
2.7

100.0

Table 30 shows that 576, or 44 per cent, of the women earn $350
to $499 per annum. The earnings of this predominant midway
group, if distributed throughout a year of 50 weeks, would make an
average wage of $7 to $10 per week. It will here occur to the reader




88

BULLETIN OF TH E BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

that among those whose earnings are lower than this there must be
a large number of women who work only 46 or 47 weeks in the year.
This is so far from the case that the number working 50 to 52 weeks
in the year forms by far the largest per cent, as shown by the follow­
ing table:
t a b l e 31.—ADULT WOMEN WORKING 46 WEEKS OR MORE IN THE YEAR DISTRIBUTED

AS TO LOCALITY AND NUMBER OF WEEKS WORKED.
[Based on pay rolls.]
Women working specified number of weeks.
Number of weeks
worked.

Brockton.

Lynn.

Marlboro.

Total.

Number. Percent. Number. Percent. Number. Per cent. Number. Percent.
52...............................
51...............................
50...............................
49...............................
48...............................
47...............................
4^...........................

94
56
34
22

26.6
12.4
27.8
16.6
10.1
6.5

9
250
91
55
37
21
15

1.9
52.3
19.1
11.5
7.7
4.4
3.1

161
34
27
10
13
12
8

60.7
12.9
10.2
3.8
4.9
4.5
3.0

170
374
160
159
106
67
45

15.7
34.6
14.8
14.7
9.8
6.2
4.2

Total................

338

100.0

478

100.0

265

100.0

1,081

100.0

46 and under 50.........
50 and over...............

206
132

60.9
39.1

128
350

26.8
73.2

43
222

15.2
83.8

377
704

34.9
Co. 1

Total...............

338

100.0

478

100.0

265

100.0

1,081

100.0

90
42

SUMMARY.

O f the 65 per cent working 50 weeks or over a large number are the
all-the-year-round workers in Marlboro. Excluding these there still
remains a group of nearly 50 per cent who work 50 or 51 weeks in
the year, a group scattered throughout all the centers studied, with
local differences as to proportion. In Brockton no factory runs 52
weeks in the year, but its group of women working 50 weeks or over
make up about 40 per cent of the steady workers; those working 48
or 49 weeks, 44 per cent. In Lynn the number working 50 weeks or
more make 73 per cent, while in Marlboro the per cent rises above 80.
In some of the scattered factories which can not be placed in a unified
group the proportion working 50 weeks or more is very high, as in
Chelsea, where in one large factory nearly 80 per cent* of the steady
workers work 50 weeks or more in the year.
It is apparent, then, that the small amount of the annual income
can seldom be laid to loss occasioned by two to five weeks’ absence from
the factory during the time it is in operation. The average wage
of the predominant group among the steady workers, namely, $7 to
$10 for each of 50 weeks, as deduced from Table 30, should be com­
pared with that of the predominant groups in Table 15, showing the
average wage for all adult women in the week of maximum employ­




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OMEN.

89

ment, where all five classes of workers are included. Here we find
that 43 per cent of those working in the maximum week earned $10 or
over, while 26 per cent earned $12 or over. This wage, if multiplied
by the 50 weeks worked by the majority of steady workers, gives
$500 to $600 or over per annum, as opposed to the $350 to $500
actually earned by the predominant group, according to the pay rolls.
The lack of correspondence between wage and annual income be­
comes still more apparent when it is considered that the wage for
“ steady workers ” in the week of maximum employment runs much
above the average. In full weeks many of the “ steadies ” earn from
$12 to $15, while a higher wage is by no means uncommon, yet the
annual earnings of $600 to $750, which such weekly wages would
imply, are gained by only a small proportion of these workers. There
is a grave discrepancy here between potential and actual earnings.
This puzzling fact is explained by examination of certain factory
pay rolls. In a few cases a record is kept not only of the number of
weeks each earner worked, but also of her number of days or even
half days in each week. In the case of time workers the management
needs such a record to determine the wages each week; in the case
of pieceworkers it is a device to increase the regularity both of
work and workers. As a result of study of such records and of
interviews with managers and workers alike it is found that even
among steady workers there is a large amount of what may be
called factory unemployment. Though a woman work every day of
every week, she will not work full time each week nor earn her full
potential income. On some days there will be no work at all, on
others work for a morning only, and on still others so great an
irregularity that during no part of the day is the worker fully busy
or fully free. The employees may be personally responsible for a
full week lost, but they are rarely so for the part weeks or part days
of idleness. Under time and piece payment alike wages are cut
down by a condition characteristic of a well-managed factory as
well as of one poorly run.
Some typical examples of the time lost through want of continu­
ous work are given in Tables 32 and 33. Table 32 relates to hand­
workers paid on a time basis in a factory running 51 weeks in the
year. As a class these workers are economically more dependent
than women in the stitching room who work at higher rates and may
voluntarily leave off work at times.




90

BULLETIN OF TH E BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

T a b lb 32.—UNEMPLOYMENT BY NUMBER OF WEEKS, DAYS, AND PART DAYS LOST

FOR 23 TIME WORKERS IN LYNN.
[Based on pay roll.]

Occupation.

Packers:
A .......................................
B .......................................
C.......................................
D ......................................
E .......................................
F .......................................
G ..........................
H........ .............................
I ...........................
Tack feelers:
A .......................................
B .......................................
C.......................................
D ........ .............................
Blackers:
A .......................................
B ........ .............................
C............ ..........................
Patent-leather repairers:
A .......................................
B .......................................
C.......................................
D ................................... .
E .......................................
F .......................................
G.......................................

Nominal
weekly
wage.

Number of days lost.

Number of weeks worked.
Total.

Full.

Part.

Whole.

Part.

$10.30
10.50
10.50
10.50
10.50
10.50
10.50
10.50
10.50

51
51
51
50
50
50
49
48
47

22
36
27
25
29
22
27
27
23

29
15
24
25
21
28
22
21
24

23
8
17
13
20
12
14
15
12

24
9
22
26
20
32
19
20
23

7.50
7.50
7.50
7.50

51
51
51
51

13
11
13
6

38
40
38
46

33
29
27
30

39
45
46
54

10.50
10.50
10.50

51
51
48

24
21
20

27
30
28

13
13
20

35
44
35

10.50
9.00
10.50
10.50
9.00
10.50
9.00

51
51
51
51
50
50
47

9
22
31
37
19
28
23

42
29
20
24
31
22
24

30
16
13
15
16
30
49

33
26
16
10
28
18
16

The packers have a nominal wage of $10.50 a week, or $1.75 a
day. For those working 50 weeks, the great majority, this should
amount to $525 for the year. Packer E, however, has lost 20 full
days and 20 half days, making 30 full days or 5 weeks in the
year. Fifty-two dollars and fifty cents must then be deducted from
her nominal annual earnings of $525. Packer I, whose 47 weeks
of work should yield $493.50 for the year, has lost about 24 days,
and must deduct $42 from her annual earnings, leaving $451.50 per
year, or $9.60 per week. The tack feelers, who earn less, are in a
worse case. They work every possible week, but seldom a full week.
Tack feeler D, whose nominal wage is $7.50, has worked but 5 full
weeks and has lost 57 days, the earnings for which must be deducted
from her nominal annual earnings of about $382. Some of these
days are public holidays. Were she a janitress, a waitress, or a book­
keeper, holidays would mean no loss of wage. Her actual loss, how­
ever, is about $71, leaving her $311 for the year, or $6.09 for each of
her 51 weeks of work.
The same uncertainty as to the difference between actual and
potential earnings prevails among the higher classes of workers in
the stitching rooms. Table 33 shows unemployment for certain
skilled machine operators in a large, well-organized factory drawing
help from a stable population. The six months selected are those
in which work was most active. The days lost in no instance oc­
curred at the beginning or end of a term of service.



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB W OMEN.

91

T a b le 33.—UNEMPLOYMENT BY NUMBER OF DAYS AND PART DAYS LOST FOR

SKILLED MACHINE OPERATORS WORKING 6 CONSECUTIVE MONTHS OR 28 WEEKS
IN THE MOST ACTIVE SEASON IN 1911.
[Based on pay roll.]
Number of weeks worked.

Number of days lout.

Occupation.
Total.
Vampers:
A .........................................................
B...................... ...................................
c ...........................................................
D ..........................................................
E...........................................................
F...........................................................
G...........................................................
H ..........................................................
I ............................................................
J...........................................................
Top stitchers:
A...........................................................
B...........................................................
c ...........................................................
I)..........................................................
E...........................................................
F...........................................................
G........ ..................................................

Whole
days.

Part.

Full.

Half days.

26
26
26
26
26
26
26
26
26
26

20
18
18
18
17
17
16
16
16
9

6
8
8
8
9
9
10
10
10
17

3
4
4
4
5
5
5
5
5
8

4
5
5
5
5
5
6
6
6
10

26
26
26
26
26
26
26

21
21
20
19
19
17
12

5
5
6
7
7
9
14

2
2
3
4
4
5
7

4
4
4
4
4
5
5

Skilled stitchers not infrequently earn $18 to $20 in full weeks or
$3 and over a day. The losses from this potential wage, due to fac­
tory unemployment, are serious enough even in the busiest season;
in the slack season they mean in many cases serious deprivation.
The high-water mark of earnings is probably reached by the
Brockton stitchers grouped in Table 34. They are under favorable
circumstances as to factory management, labor organization, and
rates of pay; yet when their annual earnings are distributed through­
out the year it is found that a surprisingly large proportion earn
less than the $9 a week which has been estimated as essential to a
working woman’s maintenance in Massachusetts.
T a b lic 34.—CLASSIFIED EARNINGS FOR STITCHERS WORKING 46 WEEKS OR MORE

IN THE YEAR IN BROCKTON.
[Based on pay roll.]

Annual earnings.

Average weekly wage for 52 weeks.

Under $9.60:
1. Under $600:
$6.50 or under................................
$350 or under...................................
$400 or under...................................
$7.50 or under................................
$8.50 or under................................
$450 or under...................................
$9.60 or under................................
$500 or under...................................
$9.60 and over:
2. $500 and over:
$9.60 and over........................
$500 and over...................................
$550 and over...................................
$10.50 and over...............................
$600 ivnri over...................................
$11.50 and over...............................
$650 and over................................... \
$12.50 and over...............................
Total.............................................




Number
earning
specified
amount.

19
27

46

2
4
13

18
11
2

Per cent.

41.3
5a 7

100.0

4.3
8.6
28.3

39.1
23.9
4.3

92

BULLETIN OF TIIE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

The earnings of this group are not reached by the ordinary skilled
worker. The pay rolls show that the women’s annual earnings mean
less than $9 a week for 40 per cent of the “ steadies ” in Brockton, for
62 per cent in Lynn, and for 75 per cent in Marlboro.
That the hours and days of unemployment are seldom due to volun­
tary absence is shown by comparing the pay-roll cards for a group
of workers in the same factory. The shortage usually occurs either
for the whole group or for so large a part of it as to make it evident
that the cause was lack of work. Each pieceworker learns pretty
accurately the number of pieces she can handle at a comfortable
speed, but she does not know how many pieces she will be assigned
on a given day, while she is equally uncertain as to the number of
days or the number of weeks she will have normal work. It must
be kept in mind that this is a fact in connection with steady workers,
who can not supplement their earnings, yet who are as a class eco­
nomically dependent upon them.
In summing up the results of this study of annual earnings, three
points stand out prominently: The fluctuations in the industry,
which debar many of the workers from steady employment; factory
unemployment, or temporary lack of work for those who nominally
are steadily employed; and, partly as a consequence of these periods
of involuntary idleness, the low weekly wage, when earnings are dis­
tributed over the year, even of steady and experienced workers. The
1,813 women whose annual earnings are shown in Table 30 were
adult, experienced, and steady workers, yet three-fifths of them
earned less than $500 a year and not far from half (46.2 per cent)
earned only $450 or less, and $450 a year means less than $9 a week.
And what of the 2,903, or more than two-thirds of the women, em­
ployed in shoemaking who are not steady workers? Such are the
significant findings of this investigation as to women’s earnings.
That these earnings exceed on the whole those of any other large
body of factory workers is unquestioned. It is no less a fact that
not even in the least expensive locality can they support a majority
of the steady workers properly and healthfully.




CHAPTER VI.— SPECIAL CONDITIONS AFFECTING THE
EARNINGS AND EFFICIENCY OF WOMEN WORKERS IN
SHOE FACTORIES.
Among the matters that make up the complex whole of an indus­
trial life are many arising from social and economic tendencies
always unfixed and obscure. These must be left untouched in this
incomplete study, nor, in fact, can any impartial investigator fail to
admit that there is much underlying any industrial fact that no
inquirer from the outside can hope to capture and analyze. Yet
certain factors are too obviously related to women’s status as wage
earners to be ignored, although the data in connection with them are
limited. These are the questions of sex, nationality, schooling, the
employment of minors, and the organization of labor. The present
study has realized the import of these factors, though unable to
measure and weigh them except in a limited degree.
SEX AS AFFECTING EARNINGS.

The question of equal rewards for equal work for men and women
has already been settled in the shoe factories by the method o f piece
payment. Where men and women are doing the same work they are
paid at the same rate. But it is only in exceptional cases that they
are doing the same work. It has been clearly pointed out by social
economists that men and women, even when working under the same
factory roof, are usually not competitors in a true sense. Women
get lower pay than men for various reasons, but mainly because they
are doing work of a lower grade. In the shoe industry the general
rule is curried out, butit has conspicuous exceptions. Women’s work
is mainly in the stitching and packing room. It requires as much
manual dexterity as that of the men, but less physical strength, and
on the whole less mental ability. Therefore the whole scale of wages
for women is lower than that for men. This is clearly shown in the
following table:




93

94

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

T a b l e 35.— NUMBER

AND PER CENT OF MALE AND FEMALE BOOT AND SHOE
WORKERS, AGED 18 OR OVER, EARNING CLASSIFIED AMOUNTS IN WEEK ENDING
DECEMBER 16, 1911.
(Source: Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, Twenty-sixth Annual Report on the Statistics of Manu­
factures, 1911, p. 93.]
Males.

Females.

Classified weekly earnings.
Number.

Per cent.

Number.

Percent.

Under $10...........................................................................................
$10 but under $12............................................................................
$12 but under $15............................................................................
$15 but under $20............................................................................
$20 but under $25............................................................................
$25 and over....................................................................

10,326
6,305
10,853
15,248
6,821
3,427

19.5
11.9
20.5
28.8
12.9
6 .5

14,277
5,159
4,645
2,386
370
38

53.1
19.2
17.3
8 .9
1.4
.1

Total.....................................................................

52,980

100.0

26,875

100.0

More than half the women earned under $10; very nearly half the
men (48.1 per cent) earned over $15. The largest single group of
women in the detailed table from which the above is condensed con­
sists of those earning $10 but under $12; the largest single group of
men consists of those earning $15 but under $20. Relatively this
single group of men is larger than the combined groups of women
earning $12 or over.
It has been seen in Chapter III that the division of the work
between the sexes is in some processes a matter of habit and tradi­
tion, now beginning to be disregarded locally. The difficulty of
obtaining enough women for the stitching room, together with the
recent availability of foreign male help eager to do work that re­
quires little physical activity, is gradually putting men at the sewing
machines. This movement has made less headway in Massachusetts
than in other States. In New York and Brooklyn large numbers of
foreign-born Jews go into the clothing factories to learn machine
stitching and then, as experienced stitchers, readily find places in
shoe shops. American-born or Americanized men dislike working
in the “ women’s rooms,” while the American women as much dislike
working in the men’s rooms. Where both sexes are doing the actual
processes in the same rooms one sex is generally of alien origin. In
Massachusetts factories men in the stitching room are usually Jews,
Greeks, Italians, or Armenians, all slender and agile races. The
managers do not always introduce them willingly, but once they are
in, defend their presence with much warmth. Men, they claim, can
be placed closer together with less inconvenience, will do more work
in a given time, and may be legally worked more than 54 hours a
week at rush periods. These undoubted advantages will naturally
give most of the better-paid places to men. Whatever the degree of
skill and speed a woman in shoe factories may gain, she can not hope
for earnings that measure up to those of the men workers of the
same caliber.



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOB W OMEN.

95

The character of a local population, such as that of Chelsea, made
up largely of foreign families, almost forces the employment of men
stitchers. The more mature Jewish and Italian women are, as a
rule, incompetent for stitching-room work, even if willing.
T a b l e 36.— WAGES

OF

82

MEN IN A STITCHING ROOM FOR WEEK OF MAXIMUM
EMPLOYMENT.
[Based on pay roll.]
Workers earning specified wage.

Number and per cent of
workers.

Number................................
Per cent................................

Under Under Under Under
$8
$6
19
$10
1
1.2

5
6.1

10
12.2

Over
$10

Over
$12

Over
$15

72
87.8

58
70.7

Total
number
of
Over work­
$20
ers.

30
36.6

10
12.2

7
8.5

82

The factory from which these data were taken has no labor union
and pays comparatively low rates. The weekly wage for women is
among the lowest noted. The proportion of men, however, earning
$10 and over in the maximum week is almost half as large again
as that of any group of women wage earners in the districts studied.
A comparison of average wages for groups of skilled machine op­
erators of both sexes in this factory is given in Table 37.
T a b le 37.—COMPARATIVE WAGES FOR MEN AND WOMEN WORKING 45 WEEKS AND

UNDER ON PIECEWORK IN A STITCHING ROOM IN CHELSEA.
[Based on pay roll.]
Number.

Average weekly wage.

Occupation.
Men.
Backstayers....................................................................
Foxing stitchers.............................................................
Top stitchers......................... ........................................
Vampers.........................................................................

9
37
6
20

Women.
8
12
5
61

Men.

Women.

$8.64
10.17
9.38
10.87

$8.13
6.16
8.61
9.02

NATIONALITY AS RELATED TO INDUSTRIAL SUCCESS.

At first view it appears that nationality has a direct relationship
to the amount of earnings, since the more highly paid ocesses are
so largely done by native women. This relationship is only apparent.
It is not a racial want of ability that keeps foreign women out. In
the first place they are relatively few in number in Massachusetts
shoemaking towns. Again, some factory managers claim the for­
eign woman immigrant can not understand or read the directions
given to the stitchers. Others, but these are in low-grade factories,
claim that reading directions is not a necessity. In some cases where
foreign women have had school or industrial training they have
proved skillful shoe workers. In Lynn a number of Italian women



96

BULLETIN OP THE BUBEAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

are earning high .wages in stitching rooms. In Brockton Swedish
women are highly valued as stitchers and packers. In Marlboro
French Canadians form a large proportion of the best-paid workers.
Foreign-born women and girls in large number’s now perform the
simple low-paid processes in the factories, not because of a natural
unfitness for skilled work, but because they come to America under
the pressure of an economic need. They are untrained and they
must take what they can get without waiting for training. The for­
eigners now in the shoe factories probably will gain skilled positions
as they gain education. In fact the organs of various factory trades
point with warning to the fact that foreign girls and women are
usurping the place of Americans in the more skilled factory opera­
tions. As yet this tendency, as we have seen, has not greatly affected
the shoe factory stitching room. It still remains true that the unAmericanized foreign woman is seldom successful in the skilled
processes.
EMPLOYMENT OP MINORS AS RELATED TO WOMEN’S EARNINGS
IN SHOE FACTORIES.

In the preceding chapters the fact that the shoe industry depends
very slightly on the labor of minors has been repeatedly emphasized.
The State report for 19111 gives 7 per cent as the proportion of
“ young persons under 18” employed in shoe factories making the
complete product. It is probable that this is too low a figure. The
returns made by employers and based on the statements or misstate­
ments of the children themselves often err, though not always by in­
tention, in regal’d to the number of minor employees. In this inquiry
it was found that the. proportion of minors varied greatly with
locality and with the nature of the product. The restrictions laid
on the employment of minors by the labor unions in Brockton partly
account for the large number who do not go to work until they are
15 or 16 years old. Whether the additional year or two of schooling
makes the young people of Brockton more efficient as workers is a
vital but unanswered question. In some factories no minors are
employed; in others girls only; in a few boys only. Where both boys
and girls work the numbers are pretty evenly divided between the
sexes. Local differences in the proportion of minors are shown in
the case of two large factories. In one, situated in the Brockton
region, the proportion of minors reported in the month of maximum
employment in 1910 was 3.3 per cent; the other, in Marlboro, a non­
union center, reported over 10 per cent.
Special study of the status of minors was made in the course of
this investigation in five large factories where girls are employed.
Their proportion and ages are shown in Table 38.
1 M assachusetts Bureau o f Statistics, Twenty-sixth Annual Report on the Statistics o f
Manufactures, 1911, p. 93.




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OMEN.

97

T abus 38.—PROPORTION OP GIRL MINORS EMPLOYED IN FIVE LARGE SHOE FAC­
TORIES IN MASSACHUSETTS IN 1911.
Female employees.
Locality.

Girl minors.
Total
number.

Brockton (2 factories)_
_
Lynn (2 factories)..........
Marlboro (1 factory).......

669
1,404
523

Number.

Per cent.

74
71
93

11.1
5.1
17.7

These figures refer to the total number at work during the year.
The proportion found at any one time is much smaller, since instabil­
ity is a marked characteristic of the younger workers. In the Marl­
boro factory 169 girls and boys were at work in the month of maxi­
mum employment in 1910-11, and but 54 in the minimum month. The
minors are the first to be discharged when work is slack, and the
readiest to be dissatisfied when it is pressing. They stream in a
continuous current in and out of the factories.
Girls hold their positions somewhat longer than boys, but few
minors of either sex work 46 weeks or more in the year. In the
factory in Marlboro, where labor is abundant and tenacious of its
place, 23 per cent of the boys and 26 per cent of the girls were
“ steady ” workers, as against 41 per cent of the adult women. In the
Brockton factory, the “ steadies” made 20 per cent of the girls
against 28 per cent of the women; in the Whitman factory 22 per
cent of the girls and but 9 per cent of the boys worked 46 weeks in
the year, while 52 per cent of the adult women were “ steady.” In
Lynn, out of 35 boys and 45 girls in a factory employing nearly
2,000 hands, only one girl and not a single boy worked more than 44
weeks, and few more than 30 weeks.
As to age, the large majority of the girls and boys in the shoe fac­
tories are from 16 to 18 years of age. Child labor is practically non­
existent in this industry.
The work done by both boys and girls is almost exclusively hand­
work, or what may be termed footwork. The unskilled, unpleasant
and dirty work at tables and the innumerable odds and ends and
errands are assigned to the minors. Older girls in the packing or
stitching room often work side by side with adults at elementary
tasks.
As the industry is now organized, the employment of minors has
little effect upon the number or earnings of skilled women working
at piece rates. Doubtess it does displace a small proportion of
needy but unskilled adult women. Superintendents in the shoe fac­
tories usually affirm that capable minors have a good chance for ad88810
—Bull. 180—15----- 7



98

BULLETIN OP TH E BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

vancement. This seems too optimistic a statement, certainly so far
as boys are concerned. According to the onion officials there is now
a surplus of skilled men workers, and admission to their ranks is
jealously guarded. Moreover, in the rush season, foremen and fore­
women dislike to be bothered with awkward workers, while in a dull
season the experienced hands can scarcely be kept busy, so that the
would-be learner has little chance at either season. A minor deter­
mined to remain in the shoe industry is peculiarly dependent on per­
sistent effort for advancement.
RELATION OF WOMEN TO LABOR UNIONS.

Labor organization among shoe workers in Massachusetts, though
even now far from complete, is a time-honored movement. Its his­
tory belongs to other branches of social study; we are concerned
with its movements only in. the direction in which they affect the
status of women. The four localities chosen for study differ widely
in respect to unionized labor. Brockton and Lynn, though very
different in their methods of organization, are strictly union centers;
Boston and its outlying suburbs are unorganized, but do not refuse
members of unions; Marlboro will employ no union labor whatever.
Lynn and Brockton union officials, on whatever points they dis­
agree, unite in lamenting the difficulty of holding women to a reali­
zation of the importance of organization for their own protection
and the general good of the workers. The younger or low-paid
workers especially grudge the weekly dues, while the mature steady
women resent the expenditure of union money for the occasional
association recreation. Few women comprehend the value of unions
in standardizing wage or seek to utilize them in securing physical
or moral sanitation in the shops. A reason frequently assigned by
men for the indifference of women to the unions is that they do not
look upon shoemaking as a life work. A more reluctantly stated
cause is the social degradation assumed to follow membership in a
union. This reason is strong in Brockton, possibly because women
workers there are as a class socially superior to the men. The en­
trance of foreign men, mainly Jews, into the stitching rooms, and
their compulsory membership in stitchers’ unions has increased this
feeling which prevails especially among Americans.
UNIONS IN BROCKTON AND ITS VICINITY.

In the southeastern towns of Massachusetts nearly all the shoe
workers are members of the Boot and Shoe Workers’ Union, an asso­
ciation affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. In no
factory in Brockton and in few situated in surrounding towns can a
nonunion man be employed. The various classes of operators are
further organized into groups, as the Lasters’ Union, the Yampers’,
the Cutters’ Union, etc. All of these have delegates to the joint coun­



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OMEN.

99

cil of the Boot and Shoe Workers’ Union, which has a contractual
relation with the manufacturers maintained in most instances for
the past 10 or 15 years. The unions guarantee that there will be no
strikes, the manufacturers, that they will maintain a price list fixed
after joint conference. In Brockton the higher wage, good factory
equipment, and permanence of business concerns are no doubt largely
due to the intelligent and moderate management of the unions. The
fact that the unions have to deal with a superior class of manufac­
turers, who reside among and respect their working force, must be
given a large place in the accomplishment of these results. One or
twr factories have stood conspicuously apart in their refusal to em­
o
ploy union labor. The old town of Bridgewater had one of these—
now discontinued; in it 90 per cent of the working force was foreign
born. As the managers made a point of teaching processes, many
workers went there for a time to learn, but left as soon as the proc­
esses were acquired to find work under better conditions.
Women are less completely organized than men, though in Brock­
ton the Stitchers’ Union No. 154 numbers 2,700 women. Some women
belong to the Dressers’ and Packers’ Union and others to the Vampers’ or Skivers’ Unions. Altogether about four-fifths of the women
in the Brockton district belong to unions. Dues for all members are
25 cents a week. Those who have been members for 6 months are
entitled to a sick benefit of $5 a week for 13 weeks, and for mem­
bers in good standing for 2 years there is a death benefit of $100.
The officials of the chief women’s unions complain of the lack of
interest on the part of their membership and the difficulty of securing
quorums for the fortnightly business meetings. The women’s unions
do nothing in the way of social recreation.
UNIONS IN LYNN AND ITS VICINITY.

In strong contrast to the unified labor in Brockton and its stable
relation to the employers are the chaotic conditions in Lynn. The
multiplication of labor organizations, their discordant views, their un­
concerted action and their too frequent demands for alteration in labor
conditions are assigned by many of the employers as causes of their
opposition to unions. Within a dozen years several large firms
have removed their plants to nonunion centers, where they rigidly
maintain an open shop. Such a removal means great expense to the
business, not only in the cost of a new plant, but in the loss incurred
by settling amid a population untrained to shoemaking. It has been
said that three generations are needed to make a shoe worker. This
dictum bids fair to be disproved in its limited sense, but what may
not be true of the individual may be generally true of a community.
Among the Lynn shoe workers there are 18 labor unions, 9 under
the United Shoe Workers of America, 2 under the Knights of Labor,
5 locals of the Boot ajid Shoe Workers’ Union, and 4 strong inde­



100

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

pendent unions. The two larger unions are the United Shoe Workers
of America, including about 3,500 members, and the Boot and Shoe
Workers’ Union, including the entire force of three factories, amount­
ing to between 500 and 600 workers. The agent of the Boot and Shoe
Workers’ Union estimates that there are, in the stitching rooms at
Lynn, about 3,000 women, one-third of whom belong to some union.
The Boot and Shoe Workers’ Union has about 150 women members.
This does not include the workers who work only during the rush
time; they do not have to join the union even in a closed shop, but if
they remain longer they are usually approached by the agent or
forewoman and asked to join. It is claimed by the agent that the
women do not take very much interest in, the unions. At most of
the meetings there are not more than 7 to 20 women present out of
150 members.
The agent of the Boot and Shoe Workers’ Union claims that fourfifths of all the men employed in the shoe factories in Lynn are or­
ganized in unions and about one-third to one-half of all the women.
Over 2,000 women are members of the United Shoe Workers of
America, which controls eight factories in which the whole force are
members and three others in which 90 per cent, including the women,
are members. In two other large factories most of the men are
organized, but only a few of the women. As a reason the secretary
stated that in one of these factories the conditions have always been
better than the average, and therefore the workers have not banded
together for protection.
The secretary of the women’s branch of the Boot and Shoe Work­
ers’ Union states that this union was established in March, 1903, and
includes all the women workers in three factories. She asserts that
the women are interested in the union; that the Americans and Irish
take the most interest, and that few of the foreign women come to the
meetings. The dues are 25 cents a 'vyeek, and for members in good
standing there is a sick benefit of $5 a week for 13 weeks and a
death benefit of $100. Workers over 60 years of age are not admitted
to the union. The rush help does not have to join, nor do the fore­
women. The regular business meeting is held once a month, and
there are no social meetings. The women in the towns surrounding
Lynn are not organized, but a number of the men belong to unions
as individuals.
Local Union No. 38 of the United Shoe Workers includes buttonhole
operators, finishers, eyeleters, and buttoners. The first meeting was
called December, 1907. The secretary states that 24 women workers
met and organized, receiving hearty support from the Lasters’ Union.
The union was at first independent, but it has been affiliated with the
United Shoe Workers of America for the past three years. The rea­
son for organizing was the reduction in the price paid the wdmeii



BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OMEN.

101

working on tlie buttonhole machines, a change due to the displace­
ment of the old Singer machine by the Keese buttonhole machine,
now universally installed. The increase in the amount of work done
per day in connection with the new machines caused manufacturers
to cut prices repeatedly, until the women were forced to a protest.
Under the rates now fixed by agreement with the unions, as much can
be made per day as when the Singer machines were used, and often
more. About 350 women and 24 men are members of this local union;
only 20 workers eligible are not members. The secretary states that
organization has done more for buttonhole operators than for any
other class of workers in the whole shoe industry, and for this reason
the union members are very enthusiastic. She asserts that the manu­
facturers have been square in their dealings and have cooperated with
imion officials in raising rates, which both sides realized were too low.
So far as she knows the price list now in use on this special operation
is the only graded price list of any shoe workers’ union. The usual
meetings of this union have from 10 to 30 members present; a meet­
ing has never been dismissed for lack of a quorum. The United Shoe
Workers pays $100 death benefit to the members of any of the local
unions under its organization who have been in good standing for
the year. There is, however, no sick benefit in their union, though
whenever a member is sick fruit is sent every week. I f a member
needs financial help, a whist party or something of the kind is held
to raise funds. There is a good deal of social activity in the union.
About once a month they have a dance at which refreshments are
served free. Members of the union and their escorts attend, and the
executive members of other unions are invited. Two or three times
a year the union has a public dance to which the admission charged
is 25 cents. At these they frequently clear over $100.
An independent women’s organization is the Buttonhole Opera­
tors’ Union, formed a few years ago. Impetus to its formation was
given by the fact that there are in Lynn many contract rooms in
which only the buttonhole and eyeleting work is done, and their
cheap contracts keep down the prices in the regular shops. The sec­
retary stated that before the union was formed workers could not
make more than $7 or $8 a week, since the prices paid were only 3
cents to 3J cents per 100 holes. When the union was organized it
raised the price to 5 cents per 100.
In Marlboro, as well as in some of the surrounding small shoe
towns, the organization of labor was fairly complete before the year
1898. At that time an occasion of disagreement arose between em­
ployers and employees on a question of no very material interest, as
is now conceded. The result, however, was a universal strike on the
part of the local working force, finally broken by the importation
of outside workers, many o f whom were Greeks. The shoe factories



102

BULLETIN OF THE BUBEAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

in Marlboro have been open shops since that date. The women work­
ers struck with the men at that time, and have always, in Marlboro,
been largely dependent on the action of the masculine element in the
shoe-working force. In Boston, Jamaica Plain, Chelsea, and other
shoe sections near Boston there are no union shops, and little effec­
tively organized labor. Individuals may be members of unions, but
the factory owners recognize and treat with no labor organization.
Table 39, which follows, gives the condition as to the labor organi­
zation in the industry in the chief localities studied. Labor men will
point to the fact that the strongly organized centers, such as Lynn
and Brockton, show the highest average wage. While the two con­
ditions have doubtless a true relation, there are other factors which
enter into the making up of the annual earnings; among them are
the quality of the product, the proportion of women workers, and
the fact that in fixing wages in any locality the cost of living must
be considered. This cost in Lynn is far higher, for instance, than
in Salem or Beverly, while it is much lower in Marlboro than in
any of the seaboard shoe towns. The low wages in Boston and
Chelsea are partly due to the character of the product, and the
standards of living among the unskilled workers largely employed
in its manufacture.
T a b le 39.—AVERAGE ANNUAL EARNINGS OF ALL WORKERS IN FOUR CENTERS IN

MASSACHUSETTS, AND PER CENT jOF WOMEN WAGE EARNERS, CHIEF PRODUCT,
AND CONDITION AS TO LABOR UNIONS, 1910.
(Source: Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics, Twenty-fifth Annual Report on the Statistics of Manu­
factures, 1910, pp. 13-33, 42-49.]

Locality.

Group I:
Brockton...............
Weymouth
............
Rockland...............

Average Per cent
of
annual
earnings. women.1

1691
679
668

Group average...

601
527
496
476
451

Condition as to labor
organization in the in­
dustry.

26.7 Men’s shoes................................ Strong central union.
28.9 .......do.........................................
Do.
28.1 .......do........................................
Do.

687

Group II:
Lynn.....................
Danvers.................
Salem.....................
Beverly..................
Marblehead............

Chief product.

Group average...

532
497

Women’s shoes........................... Many separate unions.
Children’s and infants’ shoes.......
Women's and children’s shoes.. Partly organized.
Women’s shoes and slippers........ Several local unions.
Children’s and infants’ snoes.......

40.5
38.1

Women’s and children’s shoes... No organized labor.
Children’s shoes.......................... A fewlocal unions.

566

Group III:
Boston....................
Chelsea.............

41.6
40.7
38.1
38.9
40.0

Group average__

521

Group IV:
Milford...................
Worcester...............
Natick...................
Marlboro................
Hudson..................

578
575
518
514
511

Group average...

529




32.2 Men’s and boys’ shoes................. Recently organized.
41.0 Men’s and women’s shoes............ Practically unorganized.
18.1 Men’s and boys’ shoes................. No unions.
34.1 .......do......... ...............................
Do.
Do.
33.1 Men’s, women’s and children’s
shoes.

* Computed.

CHAPTER m —RETROSPECT AND PROSPECT.
Among the features most prominent in connection with the class of
women with which we have been dealing is their hitherto clearly
defined and continuous relation to the industry. Whether this longestablished connection will continue permanent is now a question.
Shoes in all probability will be stitched so long as shoes are made,
and women will, if they choose, be the stitchers. But will they
choose? A few years ago the sewing machine was supposed no more
essential in the factory than a woman to run it. But the increasing
immigration to New England of Jewish men accustomed for genera­
tions to the sewing trades, and the more recent arrival of slender and
light-handed races from the western edges of Asia, have brought new
elements into the factory. The invasion has not been rapid, and the
more skilled and remunerative processes still remain largely in the
hands of American or Americanized workers. Still the employment
of foreign men stitchers, who, when they displace the women, are
found usurping the best paying occupations, is a menace to women’s
historic employment as shoe stitchers. Women of the better sort dis­
like the forced association with foreign men, and should the latter
increase in the stitching rooms, the difficulty of inducing capable
women to enter the factory will be greatly increased. As a result,
manufacturers will be forced to discard them as dependable help.
Some factory owners anticipate no rapid development in this direc­
tion ; others look upon it as near and inevitable. Their diverse views
are doubtless influenced by differing local conditions. But whether
the progress of innovation be slow or rapid, it is certain that women
no longer have exclusive control of an essential part of shoemaking
and are, in consequence, less than formerly in a position to maintain
or improve its conditions.
More important, perhaps, to those who consider the question of
wages and hours the most significant in the study of an industrial
class, will be the review of the facts presented with regard to the
rewards of women’s labor. Thirty thousand women in the month of
high activity and from forty to fifty thousand during the year look
to the shoe factory for a support, either partial or entire. Whatever
may be the needs or motives of the temporary or occasional workers,
103



104

BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS.

it is a logical conclusion, confirmed in numerous individual instances
by the assertions of the women themselves, that the ten to twelve
thousand who work the year round do so because of pressing neces­
sity. The facts disclosed by this investigation in regard to the
annual income of this class can not fail to cause grave concern when
it is considered that it represents the high-water mark of earnings
for factory women. Measured by a scale of expenditure frugally
correspondent to their standards, the income of those wholly de­
pendent on the factory varies from an amount barely sufficient to one
so inadequate that the earnings must be considered supplementary,
not sustaining. Many of these women belong to family groups or
have husbands who are also wage earners. In such instances a
woman’s earnings will usually cover only her share of the joint
family expenditure.
Is there any prospect of a change in the present status resulting
in removal of the conditions chiefly responsible for the uncertainty
and inadequacy of earnings? Radical alteration of the general
situation seems unlikely, but important modifications of some of its
phases have been suggested as possible by representatives both of
capital and labor. Among the modifications suggested is the estab­
lishment of small plants, a movement which the freedom of the shoo
industry from trust combinations renders especially practicable. The
small concern has not the equipment necessary to execute large orders,
and as its product is largely made on the stock system there is far less
fluctuation in the numbers employed. As to large factories, it is
claimed that better judgment on the part of traveling salesmen who
obtain the orders and more intelligent management in the workrooms
might secure a less uneven distribution throughout the year of the
amount of work anticipated, and thus make it possible to increase the
total output. I f by these and other means seasonal fluctuation were
largely modified, there would be marked reduction in the total num­
ber employed in the year, while the proportion of steady workers
would be somewhat increased. The great benefit to the better class
would be the lessening of the variation in weeldy wage due to factory
unemployment and a resulting augmentation of the total earnings for
the year; but even were there little or no increase for the individual
worker, the removal of a pronounced difference in the amount earned
in months of maximum and minimum employment would be an in­
calculable advantage. To discount the future is a universal human
tendency, and the woman who makes $12 or $15 a week in January
finds one of the problems of her life so to calculate her expenditure
as to provide for the scanty earnings of May. The failure to make
this adjustment is a main cause of the debt-harassed condition of
many of the skilled workers.




BOOT AND SHOE INDUSTRY AS A VOCATION FOR W OMEN.

105

Another result of the reduction of seasonal fluctuation would be
the lessening in the number of seasonal and occasional workers.
This must undoubtedly work hardship to women whose husbands’
earnings fail to meet legitimate family demands, and will mean dis­
tinct deprivation to the young girls who work a few weeks or months
for the clothes their fathers can not afford to buy. The men of the
family, its natural breadwinners, will feel more directly the burden
of its support, and the younger women, if that support is not suffi­
ciently ample, will desert the shoe factory for employments offering
a lower but more continuous wage.
Seen in the broader survey, the women of the shoe factories,
wherever they are centered, show characteristics which mark
no other large industrial class so distinctively. Whatever may be
their status as earners or their social position in their com­
munities, that status and position are affected by no age-long heritage
of ignorance or grinding toil, by no limitations of opportunity or
restrictions placed upon freedom of choice in locality or occupation.
The great stream of immigration from central and southern Europe
(though for years flowing inward from the port of Boston) has as
yet little affected the character of the shoe-working women, and the
nonnative additions to their numbers have been, on the whole, in race
and tradition kindred to the New England stock. In their ability
and intelligence, in their relatively high earnings, in the permanence
of their relation to the communities of which they form a part, in the
uniformity of their social ideals and training, the Massachusetts shoe
worker is the best that the twentieth century has produced of her
type.







INDEX.
Beverly shoe factories:
Page.
Chief product, women employed, and proportion of adult women working 46 weeks or more..
85
81
Maximum and minimum employment, month of, and women employed in............................
82
Women workers, instability of..................................................................................................
Boston as a shoe center.....................................................................................................................
29,30
Boston shoe factories:
Chief product, women employed, and proportion of adult women working 46 weeks or m ore..
85
Labor unions, relation of women to ........................................................................................... 98-102
Maximum ana minimum employment, month of, and women employed in ............................
81
Pay-roll data, factories and workers for which secured................................................. ............
12
Stitchers, women, nativity of.....................................................................................................
29
82
Women workers, instability of.................. ................................................................................
25-29
Brockton and Plymouth County shoe towns........................................................................ .
Brockton and vicinity, labor unions in.................................................................................... .......
98,99
Brockton shoe factories:
Chief product, women employed, and proportion of adult women working 46 weeks or more..
85
Conjugal condition of women workers........................................................................................
28
Hand workers and machine operators, average weekly wages of...............................................
07
Labor unions, relation of women to .......................................................................................... 98-102
Maximum and minimum employment, months of, and women employed...............................
81
Minors, girl, proportion o f..........................................................................................................
97
Nativity of women workers.......................................................................................................
26
12
Pay-roll data, factories and workers for which secured.............................................. .— ..
Residence in town, length of, of women workers................................. ....................................
27
Stitchers working 46 weeks or more, classified earnings o f.........................................................
91
Wages, actual weekly, of women 18 years of age and over................... .....................................
64
Women, adult, working specified number of weeks..................................................................
88
Women workers, instability of.................................................................................................
82
Chelsea shoe factories:
Chief products, women employed, and proportion of adult women working 46 weeks or more.
85
Hand workers and machine operators, average weekly wages o f,.............................................
67
Maximum and minimum employment, months of, and women employed...............................
81
Stitching room, comparative wages of men and women in........................................................
95
Women workers, instability of...................................................................................................
82
Conjugal condition of women shoe workers, Brockton.....................................................................
28
Conjugal condition of women shoe workers, Lynn..........................................................................
21
Crippling, operation of, variation in wages.......................................................................................
72
Cutting, process of, in shoemaking...................................................................................................
33,34
Division of work between men and women, shoe factories..............................................................
40,41
Earnings:
Annual, average, of all shoe workers, four centers......................................................................
102
87
Annual, classified, of adult women working 46 weeks or more..................................................
Annual, of steady workers..........................................................................................................
87-92
Annual, of women shoe workers.................................................................................................
75-92
Boot and shoe workers, weekly, by sex........................................................... „.........................
94
Conditions affecting....................................................................................................................
75-87
Handworkers....................................................................................................................... 67,71,72,87
Machine operators.......................................................................... ................. .................... 67-71,73,87
59-63
Manufactures, statistics of, as showing wages and earnings.................................................. .
Minors, employment of, as related to womens earnings.................................................. ........
96-98
Sex, as affecting..........................................................................................................................
93-95
Stitchers, Brockton....................................................................................................................
91
Variation of, causes of.................................................................................................................
71-74
Women 18 years of age and over, third week of December, 1911......................................... .
62
Earnings. (See also Wages.)
Efficiency and earnings of women workers in shoe factories, special conditions affecting............... 93-102
Employment, maximum and minimum:
Fluctuations in numbers, shoe factories.....................................................................................
76
Massachusetts industries, 11 leading, 1911..................................................................................
7fc
Months of, and women employed, shoe factories, by locality.....................................................
81
Stitching room, wages of 82 men in, week of maximum employment................. .....................
95
Finishing department, shoe factories...............................................................................................
39,40
Handworkers:
Earnings, classified annual.........................................................................................................
87
Earnings, variation of, in same factory......................................................................................
71,72
Wages.........................................................................................................................................
65-67
Heels and soles, making of................................................... ...........................................................
36,37
History, early, of shoe industry, Massachusetts..............................................................................
7-10
Hours of labor............................................................................. .....................................................
52,53
Instability of wage earners...............................................................................................................
81-87
Labor unions, relation of women shoe workers to............................................................................ 98-102
Lasting-room processes............................................................................ .................. .....................
37-39
Living conditions of women shoe workers, Lynn..........................................„ ................................
22-25
Lynn and the North Shore shoe towns............................................................................................
14-25




107

108

INDEX.

Lynnshoe factories:
Page.
Chief product, women employed, and proportion of adnlt women working 46 weeks or more. .
85
67
Handworkers, and machine operators, weekly wages of...........................................................
Labor unions, relation of women to........................................................................................... 98-102
Living conditions of women workers in.....................................................................................
22-25
Married women in......................................................................................................................
19-22
Maximum and minimum employment, months of, and women employed...............................
81
Minors, girl proportion of...........................................................................................................
97
Nativity of women wage earners in...........................................: ...............................................
18
Pay-roll data, factories and workers for which secured..............................................................
12
Piece rates and pieces handled to make $10 per week................................................................
69
Residence in town, length of, of women workers............................................................... .......
19
Unemployment of 23 time workers, days lost by, by occupation..............................................
90
Women, adult, working specified number of weeks...................................................................
88
63
Women 18 years of age and over, actual weekly wages of.......................................... ...............
Women workers in.....................................................................................................................
17-19
Women workers, instability of...................................................................................................
82
Machine operators:
Earnings, classified annual.........................................................................................................
87
Earnings, variations of...............................................................................................................
73
Unemployment, days lost b y.....................................................................................................
91
Wages.............................................................................................................................. ..........
67-71
Manufactures, statistics of, as showing wages and earnings..............................................................
59-63
Marlboro and Middlesex County shoe towns....................................................................................
30,31
Marlboro shoe factories:
Chief product, women employed, and proportion of adult women working 46 weeks or more. .
85
Handworkers and machine operators, weekly wages of.............................................................
67
Labor unions, relation of women to........................................................................................... 98-102
Maximum and minimum employment, months of, and women employed...............................
81
Minors, girl, proportion o f..........................................................................................................
97
Pay-roll data, factories and workers for which secured..............................................................
12
Women, adult, working specified number of weeks...................................................................
88
Women 18 years of age and over, actual weekly wages of..........................................................
64
Women workers, instability of...................................................................................................
82
Martial condition. (See Conjugal condition.)
Massachusetts industries, chief, comparison of, as to persons employed and wages.........................
59,60
Massachusetts industries, 11 leading, maximum and minimum number of wage earners...............
76
Methods employed in»present inquiry..............................................................................................
5-13
42-52
Methods of learning the shoemaking trade............- ..........................................................................
Methods of payment, classification of, and of shoe workers.............................................................
64,65
96-98
Minors, employment of, as related to women's earnings..................................................................
Minors, girl, proportion of, in five large shoe factories......................................................................
97
Minors, men, ana women employed and wages in chief industries, Massachusetts, comparison ot .
59,60
Nationality as related to industrial success......................................................................................
95,95
Nativity of women shoe stitchers, Boston......................................................................................
29
Nativity o f women shoe workers, Brockton....................................................................................
26
Nativity of women wage earners, three factories, Lynn...................................................................
18
Occupations. (See Processes, in shoemaking.)
Packing department, shoe factories..................................................................................................
40
Pay-roll data, factories and workers for which secured........................................................ ; ...........
12
Pay rolls, wages as shown b y ...........................................................................................................
63,64
Piece prices paid on different grades of shoes, same factory.............................................................
69
Piece rates, and pieces handled to make $10 per week, Lynn..........................................................
69
Piece rates, prevailing......................................................................................................................
68
Processes, in shoemaking:
List of, in which women are employed.......................................................................................
41,42
Prices paid for each of specified..................................................................................................
68,69
Technical, description of.............................................................................................................
32-42
Time required to learn, by women.............................................................................................
50
Trade-school instruction, fees, e tc.............................................................................................
46
Purpose and methods of present study.............................................................................................
5-13
Residence in town, length of, of women shoe workers.....................................................................
19,27
Sanitation and working conditions...................................................................................................
53-57
Seasonal fluctuation in numbers employed......................................................................................
75-81
Sex, as affecting earnings..................................................................................................................
93-95
Shoe factories. Massachusetts:
Chief product, women employed, and proportion working 46 weeks or more............................
85
Division of work in, between men and;women............................................................. ............
40,41
Learning the trade in .................................................................................................................
47-52
Maximum and minimum employment, fluctuation in numbers...............................................
76
Processes or operations followed.................................................................................................
32-42
Wage earners, employed each month, October, 1910, to September, 1911..................................
78
Women in ........................................................... . . . : ................................................................
10,11
Women in, wages of............................................................................................. .....................
58-74
Women workers, earnings and efficiency of, special conditions affecting.................................. 93-102
Women’s work in, nature and condition of...............................................................................
32-57
Shoemaking industry:
Beginning and growth of, Massachusetts...................................................................................
7-10
Extent o f...................................................................................................................................
6
Shoe centers and the shoe workers, Massachusetts......................................................................
14-31
Shoe towns, distribution of, Massachusetts................................................................................
6,7
Trade, methods of learning........................................................................................................
42-52
10,11
Wage earners of each sex in ..............: ........................................................................................
Soles and heels, making of................................................................................................................
36,37
Steady workers, annual earnings of..................................................................................................
87-92
9
Stitchers, classified earnings of, Brockton.......................................................................................
Stitchers, men, wages of, for week of maximum employment.........................................................
95
Stitching, process of, in shoemaking................................................................................................. 34-36
Stitching room, comparative wages of men and women in, Chelsea shoe factories..........................
95




INDEX.

Technical processes, description of.......................................................................................
Trade school, learning shoemaking trade in ........................................................................
Turning, operation of, variation in wages of hand workers....................................... ........
Unemployment, days lost by, skilled machine operators..................................... .............
Unemployment, days lost by, 23 time workers, by occupation. Lynn................................
Wages and number of persons employed, comparison of, chief industries, Massachusetts.
Wages of women 18 years of age and over, 11 leading industries, 1910...........................................
Wages of women shoe workers...........................................................................................
Actual weekly, week of greatest employment...............................................................
Handworkers................................................... *..........................................................
Machine operators..........................................................................................................
Sources ofInformation...................................................................................................
Variations, causes of.......................................................................................................
Wages, as shown by pay rolls........................................................................................
Wages, as shown by returns of manufacturers..................... ........................................
Workers and methods of payment, classification o f....................................................
Wages. (See also Earnings.)
Work in shoe factories, division of, between men and women..............................................
Working conditions and sanitation.............................................................................. .





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