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'

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
W. N. DOAK, Secretary

WOMEN’S BUREAU
MARY ANDERSON, Director

BULLETIN OF THE WOMEN’S BUREAU, NO. 97

THE EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN
IN THE SEWING TRADES
OF CONNECTICUT
PRELIMINARY REPORT

f

f

1

UNITED STATES
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1932

Ml* by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D. C.




-

Price 5 cents

r
\

[Public—No.

259—66th

Congress]

[H. R. 13229]
An Act To establish in the Department of Labor a bureau to be known as the
Women’s Bureau

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United
States of America in Congress assembled, That there shall be est ablished
in the Department of Labor a bureau to be known as the Women’s
Bureau.
Sec. 2. That the said bureau shall be in charge of a director, a
woman, to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice
and consent of the Senate, who shall receive an annual compensation
of $5,000 It shall be the duty of said bureau to formulate standards
and policies which shall promote the welfare of wage-earning women,
improve their working conditions, increase their efficiency, and ad­
vance their opportunities for profitable employment. The said
bureau shall have authority to investigate and report to the said
department upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of women in
industry. The director of said bureau may from time to time
publish the results of these investigations in such a manner and to
such extent as the Secretary of Labor may prescribe.
Sec. 3. That there shall be in said bureau an assistant director, to
be appointed by the Secretary of Labor, who shall receive an annual
compensation of $3,500 and shall perform such duties as shall be
prescribed by the director and approved by the Secretary of Labor.
Sec. 4. That there is hereby authorized to be employed by said
bureau a chief clerk and such special agents, assistants, clerks, and
other employees at such rates of compensation and in such numbers
as Congress may from time to time provide by appropriations.
Sec. 5. That the Secretary of Labor is hereby directed to furnish
sufficient quarters, office furniture, and equipment, for the work of
this bureau.
Sec. 6. That this act shall take effect and be in force from and
after its passage.
Approved, June 5, 1920.
u




THE EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN IN THE SEWING
TRADES OF CONNECTICUT1
PRELIMINARY REPORT
INTRODUCTION

At the request of Governor Cross, a study of the economic status
of women engaged in the manufacture of wearing apparel in the
State of Connecticut was made in the fall of 1931 by the Women’s
Bureau of the United States Department of Labor. Local organiza­
tions, manufacturers, and other individuals were most helpful in
planning the field work for the survey and in making this study
possible.
According to the United States Census of Manufactures in 1927,
Connecticut is not one of the leading States in the manufacture of
garments. In that year it was outranked by several States in num­
bers employed in making men’s shirts and women’s garments, and
it ranked even lower in the manufacture of men’s clothing. How­
ever, it surpassed all other States in the number of wage earners
employed in felt-hat factories and ranked second in the making of
corsets. Advance figures from the census of 1929 indicate that while
in most branches of the wearing-apparel industry there was a decline
in employment between 1927 and 1929, there was an increase in the
number of wage earners making women’s clothing.
SCOPE

A total of 106 firms furnished the pay-roll data for hours and
wages that form the basis of this report. Two-thirds of the factories
visited were in cities on Long Island Sound, in Stamford, Norwalk,
Bridgeport, Milford, New Haven, and New London, and almost
three-fourths of the employees worked in these cities.
The 10,009 employees of the 106 establishments comprised between
60 and 65 per cent of the State’s wage earners in the clothing indus­
tries—about 60 per cent if based on the 1929 figures of the United
States Census of Manufactures and 64 per cent if based on the 1930
Census of Occupations. The representation of women is especially
good, those employed in the factories surveyed constituting more
than 80 per cent of the State’s total as reported by the Census of
Occupations.
The depression had hit all these plants, some harder than others,
but the consensus of opinion in the garment factories seemed to be
that in the very early fall of 1931 the plants had operated fairly well
for a few weeks although the season had been very much shorter than
usual. In rare cases had there been any overtime, and some persons
1 In this preliminary report only some of the outstanding facts, relating mainly to hours of work, week’s
earnings, and ages of the women, have been covered. A more detailed analysis of these findings, as well
as the other phases of the survey—such as year’s earnings, the seasonal character of the industry, the prev­
alence of home work, the physical conditions of the factories, and personal information other than age—
will be discussed in the final report.
110960—32




1

2

WOMEN IN THE SEWING TRADES OF CONNECTICUT

stated that even their best weeks had been on an undertime basis,
with numbers employed also far below normal. With these conditions
in mind, an especial effort was made by the agents of the Women’s
Bureau to select as representative data as possible, and the pay-roll
records taken were for the week recommended by the firm as having
been normal or as nearly full time as any. The date of the week thus
selected varied slightly from firm to firm, but the great majority were
in September and a few in October.
Table

1.—Number of establishments visited and number of men and women they

employed, by branch of industry
Number and sex of employees
Number
of estab-

Branch of industry

ments

Total................ ....... ...
Tailored garments
Children’s apparel_________

- .

—
-------

Women’s underwear___ - ------------- ------Garters------------------ ---------------------------Men’s shirts----------- ----------------------------Neckties and cravats----------------------------Men’s furnishings---------------------------------1

W omen
Total

Men

V nder
16 years

16 years
and over

i 106

10, 009

2,234

7,775

144

7,631

12
12
30
9
6
5
8
5
6
14

721
820
1, 760
1,083
1,415
259
1.252
581
1,584
534

200
43
232
103
269
38
89
55
1, 137
68

521
777
1,528
980
1,146
221
1,163
526
447
466

4
29
26
24
2
5
32

517
748
1, 502
956
1,14'4
216
1,131
526
447
444

22

Details exceed total, as 1 firm had both a hat and a necktie department.

The firms included in the report have been classified along rather
broad lines according to the type of products manufactured. Num­
bers employed in men’s suits and trousers and in women’s coats were
so small and scattering that for discussion these have been combined
and called “tailored garments.” Furthermore, to have a representa­
tive number, workers on children’s dresses, play suits, and underwear
form another group. Included in “women’s dresses ” are silk and wool
dresses and silk blouses, and “women’s undenvear” covers one or two
firms manufacturing cotton house dresses and aprons. In the last
group, men’s furnishings, are several smaller establishments making
men’s overalls, pyjamas, athletic underwear, bathrobes, collars, and
handkerchiefs. With garters are grouped other types of elastic
supporters and with corsets are classed other allied garments. The
manufacture of hats covers both felt and straw products, but felt hats
predominate.
From Table 1 it is apparent that with the exception of the hat
factories these were chiefly woman-employing plants, more than
three-fourths of the wage earners being women. In hat factories men
were employed in large numbers in making the felts and shaping the
hats, while women were engaged chiefly in trimming. Women
predominated even in the tailoring establishments, where men are
often in the majority, but their numbers bulked most heavily in
dress, underwear, corset, and shirt factories. More than three-fifths
of the women were in these four groups. Less than 10 per cent in
each case were in establishments making garters, hats, neckties,
men’s furnishings, or tailored garments.



WOMEN IN THE SEWING TRADES OF CONNECTICUT

3

There was a great range in the size of plants; in some there were no
more than 20 employees and in others there were several hundred.
While the average size of the factories was about 95 employees for the
group as a whole, this figure varied widely with the different branches
of the industry. In the dress factories the average was just below 60
but in the corset factories it was well over 200 and in the hat factories
it was over 250.
STANDARD HOURS

In normal busy times only 16 of these firms had a standard work­
day as short as 8 hours. The customary full-time standard for over
half the firms was 9 hours or more, two firms reporting a 10-hour
day. The standard for the working week also was long. Over 60
firms, or about three-fifths, reported the normal week as more than
48 hours, and 10 had a standard of more than 50 hours.
During the week studied, almost two-fifths of the women whose
hours worked were reported had been employed 48 hours or more.
That these standards for work hours in Connecticut were longer
than those prevailing in the same industry elsewhere may be seen bv
reference to reports by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In a bulletin Trade Agreements in 1927 this authority makes the
statement that the 44-hour week is practically the rule in several
trades, and clothing is noted specially.2 * In the 1931 Handbook of
Labor Statistics the average full-time hours in 212 representative
firms making men’s clothing are shown to have been 44.3 in 1930J
These firms represented 12 large cities and two groups of smaller
cities, one group in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey. Further­
more, the 1929 report of the Statistics of Labor for Massachusetts
shows that the 42-hour and 44-hour week prevailed in the men’s
clothing and ladies’ garment factories in that State as a result of
verbal or written agreements.4 In tailoring establishments in
western Massachusetts the standard was 48 hours.
HOURS WORKED

For more than one-third of the women for whom records of earn­
ings were available in the survey, there was no record of the number
of hours worked during the week for which the pay roll was copied.
In many plants there was no record of hours for those paid on a piece­
work basis, the only time record available being for those paid by the
hour. Not only did the completeness of pay-roll records vary from
plant to plant, but some branches of the industry had better office
records than others. In corset, garter, hat, and necktie factories
hours were reported more generally than in the other types of plants.
For example, a correlation of hours and earnings could be made for
less than one-fourth of the employees in the shirt factories, for less than
two-fifths of those in men’s furnishings, and for only about one-half
of those in children’s apparel and women’s underwear.
However, records of time worked were available for nearly 5,000
women, almost half of whom worked 44 and less than 52 hours. At
the two extremes below and above these points are found many
hundred women who had worked unmistakably undertime periods
2 U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Trade Agreements in 1927. Bui. 468, pp 3-4
! Ibid. Handbook of Labor Statistics, 1931 edition. Bui. 541, p. 789.
' Massachusetts Department of Labor and Industries. Time Rates of Wages and Hours of Labor in
Massachusetts, 1929, pp. 4, 20-21. (Pt. II of the annual report on the statistics of labor for the year ending
Nov. 30, 1929.)




4

WOMEN IN THE SEWING TRADES OF CONNECTICUT

and a few hundred who had worked longer than normal. Over 1,000
women, but less than a fourth of the total, worked less than 40 hours
during the week, many of them much less than 40 hours, and this
group undoubtedly is representative of the undertime unusual for
this season of the year and due in large part to the depression. Every
branch of the industry had a group of undertime workers. It is sur­
prising to find at the other extreme that 665 women worked as long
as 52 hours or more, in some cases excessively long hours, and in a
few cases work had continued even through seven days of the week.
The dress factories were outstandingly responsible for such long hours.
As stated before, an effort was made to select for pay-roll study
what had been a busy week in the early fall, a season that year after
year shows peak employment. By this uniform policy of selecting
for each firm a week showing good production, conditions as nearly
normal as possible are described here.
EARNINGS

Owing largely to the method of payment, piecework prevailing and
hourly rates being common, there appears in Table 2 a consistent rise
in earnings as the number of hours worked during the week increases.
This is true not only for the total group but in each industry group
where a comparison is possible. For example, the median for those
employed in women’s dress factories increases steadily from $4.70
for women working less than 36 hours to $16.70 for those working
more than 55, most of the employees being paid by the hour. For
the largest groups of women in the three classes that together cover
40 and less than 52 hours, the medians of the week’s earnings ranged
from $13.60 to $14.10—not high, to say the least, for although half
the women in each group were earning more than the specified
median, the other half were earning less. And these three hour
groups may in all fairness be regarded as representative of the best
conditions prevailing in the wearing-apparel industries in Connecti­
cut in the fall season of 1931.
Table 2.—Median of week’s earnings, by hours worked and branch of industry
Median of week’s earnings of 7,631 women
Hours worked
Branch of industry
Total
*

Total
re­
port­
ed

Total:
7, 631 4,812
Women
Median___________ $12. 35 $12. 95
Tailored garments:
Women
Median

Less
than
36

36
and
less
than
40

40
and
less
than
44

52 to
55

Over
55

2,819
$11.30
188
$13. 05

17

353
$12. 55

308
168
91
192
157
42
«■ $13. 55 $15. 15 $15. 75 $16.40 $16.90

404
$15. 50

0)

(0

748
395
$11. 15 $10. 05

44
o

12
w

30
o

1,502 1,098
Median -______ __________ $14. 50 $14.15
i Medians not shown for less than 50 cases.

140
$4. 70

Women’s dresses:

Hours
not
re­
port­
ed

18

11

19

32
w




48
and
less
than
52

450
215
697 1,120 1,184
830
316
$8. 45 $11.45 $13. 60 $13. 80 $14.10 $15. 00 $10. 35

329
517
$13. 20 $13. 30

Children’s apparel:

44
and
less
than
48

47

CO

109
93
$8. 20 $15. 40

93
160
$9. 70 $12.30

39

0)

(0

0)

5

WOMEN IN THE SEWING TRADES OF CONNECTICUT

Table 2.—Median of week’s earnings, by hours worked and branch of industry—

Continued
Median of week’s earnings of 7,631 women
Hours worked
Branch of industry
Total
re­
port­
ed

Less
than
36

36
and
less
than
40

Women’s underwear:
Women________
956
498
Median________ ________ $9. 76 $10. 85

86
$4.75

26
(‘i

Corsets:
Women___
Median

151
100
370
181
$9. 60 $11.85 $14. 55 $15. 70 $15. 85

Total

Garters:
Women. ......

J, 144 1,046
$13. 90 $14.10
.................

Men’s shirts:
Women
Median_________

216
203
$13. 65 $13. 65

1,131
_____ $9. 65

257
$9. 50

40
and
less
than
44

44
and
less
than
48

289
22
65
(>) $10.30 $12. 50

29
(■)

18
o)

(■)

37
(>)

24
w

40
116
m $10. 75

0)

0)

Neckties and cravats:
Women_________ __
526
443
109
Median________________ $16.15 $15. 60 $12. 85

48
and
less
than
52

$14. 40

(>>
21

52 to
55

8
(0

w

14
0)

$11.65

0)

5

$14.10 $20. 20

Men’s furnishings:
Women_____ ___ _
444
Median____ ..
____ $10. 05

20
o)

44
73
C1) $11.10

(0

8

874
$9. 75

$18. 70

19
0)

3

458
$8.65

(>>

31
78
o $20. 35

25
(>)

2

C)1

Hats:
Women__________ ______
447
369
177
53
Median
$14. 76 $13. 85 $11.60 $14. 50
174
$7. 35

Hours
not
re­
Over port­
55
ed

<>)

7
w

0)

4

78
$16. 85

1

270
$11. 15

1 Medians not shown for less than 50 cases.

The amounts of the medians vary with the different branches of
the trade. In tailored garments and women’s dresses—each, and
especially the latter, with outstandingly long hours—the highest
medians fall in the groups working 52 hours or more, but the highest
niedians in these groups are much less than the $20.35 for employees
in hat factories working 44 and less than 48 hours or the $20.20 for
necktie employees working 48 and less than 52 hours. And, when
the difference in time worked is taken into consideration, the median
$16.90 for over 55 hours in dresses is not enough in excess of the
$15.85 for the corset group with the highest hours (48 and less than
52) to compensate for the difference in hour standards.
These two lines of employment—dresses and corsets—afford an
interesting example of differences in hour standards. In corsets the
largest group of women worked 40 and under 44 hours and had median
earnings of $14.55. In dresses the largest number were in the group
8 hours longer than this, yet their median was only $1.20 higher.
Each of the longer-hour groups shows this striking difference.
The medians for the most representative groups, working 44 and
less than 52 hours, were decidedly lower in other branches than in
the two just discussed: Garters, $14.40 for the 44-48 hour group;
women’s underwear, $12.50 for the 48-52 hour group; children’s
apparel, $12.30 for the 48-52 hour group; and men’s shirts, $10.75
for the 44-48 hour group.
Table 2 shows also the median of the earnings of all the women
involved in the study, regardless of how long they worked during the



6

WOMEN IN THE SEWING TRADES OF CONNECTICUT

week. Of the total number, almost 8,000 women, half had earned
less and half had earned more than $12.35. Dividing the group
into those for whom hours worked during the week were reported and
those for whom they were not reported, the medians are respectively
$12.95 and $11.30. At first glance, the lower median in hours not
reported is surprising, as in six of the nine branches of industry with
medians in both columns the figure for hours not reported is larger
than that for hours reported. The total is, of course, overweighted
by the largest groups—shirts and women’s underwear—where the
wages are low.
In two branches of the sewing trades listed—men’s shirts and
furnishings—the median for the total reporting hours worked was
below $10 and in children’s apparel it barely exceeded $10. The
median for the necktie workers was highest ($15.60) and there was
only about $1.50 difference between this and the medians next highest,
that is, in women’s dresses ($14.15) and in corsets ($14.10).
Table 3 correlates the hours worked and the median earnings by
the occupations of the women instead of the products on which they
were employed.
Table 3.—-Median of week’s earnings, by hours worked and occupation
Median of week’s earnings of 7,631 women
Hours worked
Occupation
Total Total
re­
ported
Total:
Women____ ____________
Median..____ __________
Power sewing-machine opera­
tor:
Women____________ ____
Median
Other power-machine operator:
Women__
_ ... ___
Hand sewer:
Women.______ _

Other:2
Women___________ _____

36 and 40 and 44 and 48 and
less
less
less
less
than than than than
48
52
40
44

Hours
not
Over
re­
ported
55

450
215
697 1,120 1,184
830
316
$8.45 $11.45 $13. 00 $13. 80 $14.10 $15.00 $16. 3.5

2,819
$11.30

4.735 2,677
$13. 00 $13.90

435
51
451
142
511
831
256
$9. 00 $11. 60 $14. 35 $15. 05 $14.60 $15.95 $17. 70

2,058
$11. 80

61
63
$13. 55 $13. 45

327
$7. 70

196
$7. 95

3

(>>

29
(•)
39

0

239
320
$11. 30 $12. 50

w

440
214
$11. 65 $13. 30

(>)

176
147
$11. 65 $11. 95

0)

54
57
$17. 50 $17. 65

0

223
$9. 70

6

w

11

0

29

0

0

5

(‘)

5

2

0

91
192
70
95
67
204
99
$8. 80 $11.10 $12. 90 $15.35 $12. 95 $14. 30 $16.90

183
210
$11. 55 $11.50

Occupation not reported:
247
Women................... ...............
Median____________ ____ $9.45

19

35

0

0

56
$12. 45

(0

67
$12. 45

0

53
$14.10

0

70
15
(>) $12. 40

0

28

0

11

0

1

6

0
39

24

0

31

56
$10. 70

22

18

C)
5

49

0

0

0

14

38

0

25

0

28

15

0

«

34

0

3

(•)

0

1 Medians not shown for less than 50 cases.
2 Includes foreladv, instructor, stock clerk, sample maker, etc.




52 to
55

7,631 4,812
$12.35 $12. 95

818
____ 1,056
$12. 65 $12. 60

Cleaner:
Women... ... ...
Median...... ............................
Miscellaneous hand worker:
Women ________________
Median___________ _____
Examiner:
W omen____ ____________
Median
Presser:
Women.
Median____ ________
Packer:
Women .

Less
than
36

35

19

0

33

49
24

3

0

105
$10. 85

(0

0

5

16

131
$7. 20
27

0
81
$7.15

22

226
$10.15

0
0

0

238
$12. 80

8

20

13

29

0

13

0

31

0

2

(0

0
4

6

0

18

1

1

0

3

0

0
0

24

0

WOMEN IN THE SEWING TRADES OF CONNECTICUT

7

Power sewing-machine operators rank first in point of numbers,
constituting more than three-fiftlis of all the workers. Hand sewers
rank next, with over a thousand women. Hand sewing includes an
occasional baster but is chiefly the finishing operations, such as
tailoring, embroidery, and sewing on buttons. Trimming in hat
factories and slip stitching in necktie establishments are distinctive
and important hand-sewing jobs. Pressers or ironers also are numeri­
cally important. In most cases they used hand irons, but occasionally
on heavy garments and wool dresses they were operating power presses.
The few colored women found during the survey were practically all
employed in the pressing departments.
The term cleaners, as used in the garment trades, refers to the
workers who clip the threads, trim uneven edges, and give the final
touches after sewing is finished, preparatory to pressing and packing.
Floor girls sort and match stock—they are called stock chasers in one
or two plants— and make themselves generally useful in keeping the
work moving. So frequently did the work of cleaners and floor girls
overlap that they have been put in the same category here. The term
packers covers the usual types of jobs found in the packing depart­
ments, such as pin and fold, stamp, wrap and box. The group other
machine operators covers a small number of women usually running
power pinking machines or small presses for eyeleting or cutting or
shaping operations. The minor jobs classified as other hand work
comprise turning collars and belts, ripping, stringing buckles, hand
pinking, marking, cutting lace—what might well be called odd jobs.
In the last occupational group, numerically unimportant and called
“other,” are supervisors, foreladies, instructors, sample makers, fitters,
and stock clerks.
The line of demarcation is not always clearly defined among the
more unskilled jobs; inspectors, examiners, or sorters may perform
some of the work done by cleaners, and cleaners may assist in minor
packing operations, but in the classification for this table an effort was
made to follow the grouping in practice in each plant and in case of
very general workers to allocate them according to their major type
of work.
Regarding 40 and less than 52 hours as the most normal and repre­
sentative, the highest median here is found to be the $15.35 for hand
sewers, followed by $15.05 for power-machine sewers, and $14.10 for
pressers, all working 44 and under 48 hours. The high ranking of
these hand sewers probably is influenced by the rates paid trimmers
in hat factories and slip stitchers in necktie factories as well as those
employed on dresses.
It is evident from the table that the largest groups of women with
long hours were sewers, either power-machine operators or hand sewers.
Proportionately, the final operations of hand sewing, cleaning, and
pressing show extensive overtime, many women working as much as 60
or 65 hours. Two women had worked more than 70 hours in the week
recorded. And such overtime was practiced in spite of the fact that
the maximum hours allowed by law are 10 daily and 55 weekly.
Connecticut has a considerably lower standard than those of Massa­
chusetts, where a 9-hour day and a 48-hour week have been estab­
lished by law, and New York, which has an 8-hour day and a 48 or
49y2 hour week. That higher medians do not always accompany the
longer hours is shown by comparing the 44-and-under-48-hour group




8

WOMEN IN THE SEWING TRADES OF CONNECTICUT

with the one next higher in power-machine sewing and hand sewing.
In the latter the difference in the medians in favor of those working
the shorter hours is as much as $2.40. The median of the pressers
also shows a decline. Unpublished figures give a median of $12.85
for those working 48 and under 52 hours, considerably lower than the
$14.10 for those working 44 and under 48 hours.
AGES OF WOMEN

Almost 4,800 women reported their ages on the personal informa­
tion cards distributed in the factory at the time of the inspection.5
On the whole they were a very young group, more than one-half
being not yet 25 and more than one-third being less than 20. Prac­
tically 1 in 5 were not yet 18, and as many as 155 (3.2 per cent) were
less than 16. The women under 18 considerably outnumbered those
who were 40 or more.
Table 4.—-Age distribution, by occupation
4,793 women who reported age
Occupation

Total reporting
Num­
ber

Total
Power sewing-machine operator,__

Other1________ _

Per
cent

4, 793
4,774

100.0

2,929
51
702
165
190
259
276
136
66

100.0
100. 0
100. 0
100.0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100. 0
100.0

19

U nder 16 and 18 and 20 and 25 and 40 years
under under under under
and
16 years 18 years 20 years 25 years 40 years
over

155
3.2

793
16.6

708
14.7

945
19.7

1,324
27.6

868
18.2

2.0

16.2
7.8
11.3
35.8
22.1
21. 6
13.0
27. 9
4.5

15.8
25. 5
9.3
9.1
19. 5
12. 0
13.0
25. 7
12.1

21.6
25. 5
18.7
9.7
15.8
14.3
14.9
16. 2
25.8

28.6
15.7
30.6
11.5
14.2
19.3
40. 2
14.0
45.5

15. 7
25. 5
27. 2
16.4
23. 7
25.1
17. 0
8.1
12. 1

3.0
17.6
4.7
7.7
1.8
8.1

(’)

1 Includes forelady, instructor, stock clerk, sample maker, etc.
2 Per cent not computed; base less than 50.

The youngest group were the cleaners (a most unskilled job),
more than half of whom were under 18. Among the examiners or
inspectors nearly three-tenths were not yet 18. Most of the girls
engaged in packing operations also were young, three-fifths being
under 20 years. It is surprising to find these young girls in the more
skilled jobs also; yet 100 (14.2 per cent) of the hand sewers and 533
(18.2 per cent) of the sewing-machine operators were under 18, as
many as 58 of the latter being less than 16.
However, a large proportion of the sewing-machine operators (44
per cent) were at least 25, as were more than half (58 per cent) of the
hand-sewing group, another skilled operation. Naturally, the
majority of those in supervisory positions were in these older groups.
Irrespective of the number of hours worked during the week,
wages increased consistently as the ages of the women increased up
to 40 years.
5 Other data obtained in this way will appear in the complete report.




WOMEN IN THE SEWING TRADES OF CONNECTICUT

Age

Under 16 years
16 and under 18 years
18 and under 20 years

Number
of women Median
with age
of the
and
week’s
earnings earnings
reported
112
663
613

$6.15
9. 40
12. 35

Age

20 and under 25 years...............
25 and under 40 years. ..............
40 years and over

9

Number
of women Median
with age
of the
and
week’s
earnings earnings
reported
830
1,145
758

$14.55
14.75
13. 65

Although, as a whole, women 25 and under 40 years of age had
somewhat the highest median, in some of the industry subdivisions
the median for women not yet 25 was higher than that of the older
women, and in garters the highest median was for the oldest group,
followed closely by the figure for the group 20 and under 25. In
men’s shirts the peak median ($11.75) was that of women of 18 and
under 20 years, though that for 25 and under 40 was only 5 cents
less; in three other branches of the industry, namely, children’s
apparel, women’s underwear, and neckties, the peaks were reached
by the group 20 and under 25 years of age. However, women who
were employed on the products paying the higher wage scale did not
reach the peak until the 25-and-under-40-year group, the only excep­
tion being those in neckties, whose medians for 20 and under 25 years
and 25 and under 40 years were alike.
Minors under 16.—It is customary for the Women’s Bureau to
confine its surveys to women at least 16 years of age, and in the first
establishments visited in Connecticut this policy of omitting data on
minors was followed. Later, however, when considerable local inter­
est was evinced in the problems of this youngest group of employees,
records were taken for them wherever available. As a consequence of
this change in method, the number under 16 years in the tables re­
porting age probably gives an incomplete picture of the employment
of minors in the plants visited.
Altogether 155 girls reported their ages as under 16 years. More
than nine-tenths of these were in factories making women’s dresses
and underwear, children’s apparel, and men’s shirts and furnishings.
In hat and necktie factories none under 16 years of age were reported.
Approximately one-third of these girls were in New Haven establish­
ments, one-fourth were in Bridgeport or Milford, and one-fifth were
in Stamford, the rest being scattered in various other localities.
Records of the State board of education showed that more work
certificates were issued to children 14 and 15 years of age in the New
Haven area than in any other district in the State. In 1931, 354
such permits were issued for factory work in New Haven, exclusive
of messenger and clerical jobs in manufacturing establishments. In
spite of the increasing number of adults out of work in 1931, the num­
ber of certificates issued was almost as large as in 1930. It was
officially stated that New Haven had the heaviest certification of
girls in the State, due to their employment in the local shirt factories.
Official inspection records emphasized this statement, for almost onefifth of the several hundred employees in some of the leading shirt
factories in New Haven had been found in recent inspections to be
not yet 16 years of age.




10

WOMEN IN THE SEWING TRADES OF CONNECTICUT

MIGRATION OF INDUSTRY

Everywhere there was considerable interest expressed in the move­
ment of factories from other districts into Connecticut. Quoting
from a pamphlet issued by the Connecticut Chamber of Commerce
in 1929 on the migration of industry:6 “The most frequently occur­
ring reason for plant location in this region was advantageous labor
conditions. Available factory building was second in rank and was
the most important factor affecting relocation to this area. Prac­
tically 86 per cent of the movement to this region was from the
Middle Atlantic States. The principal trend was from New York
State to Connecticut.” However, this relocation of factories had
about ceased during the depression of 1931, according to officials of
the New Haven Chamber of Commerce, who said migration was
practically at a standstill.
In this connection it was stated by one manager that the labor cost
in the Connecticut city in which he was operating was 20 per cent
below the cost in New York City. Even allowing for the expense of
shipping and of premises and overhead, the advantage still was 10 or
12 per cent.
Few of the firms supplying records for this survey were recent
arrivals in Connecticut, and a tabulation has been made of three that
had located in the State in 1931. These are concerns too small for
the drawing of general conclusions, and they are not typical of the
average plant visited during the survey, but they are described here
as illustrating a tendency in so-called “runaway shops” to exploit the
very young to the disadvantage of the mature woman wage earner
dependent for a living on the same type of job. In these factories,
only 2 of the 105 employees reporting age were as much as 20 years
old; one-sixth were not yet 16 and the majority were 16 and under
18, altogether a very youthful group of wage earners, to say the least.
More than three-fourths of the 102 for whom the hours worked were
reported had worked at least 40 hours, half had worked as long as
50 hours. The majority were operating power-sewing machines, by
no means a child’s job. The median of the week’s earnings fell be­
tween $4 and $5 for the total group for whom hours worked were
reported, and for those who had worked more than 48 hours it fell
between 85 and 86, shockingly low wages even when allowance is
made for the youth and inexperience of the workers.
The manager of one of these firms was somewhat apologetic for his
low wage scale and stated that, when business warranted, it was bis
purpose to work up to a $10 to $12 wage for girls.
CONTRACT SHOPS

Half of the factories included in this survey were described as
contract shops, that is, the materials were not owned by the manager
of the plant in which they were being made into garments. Almost
invariably the materials were cut by the owner in New York and sent
to the Connecticut contractor for making up, the latter shipping back
the finished articles and having no responsibility for their sale.
Most of the contract shops were operating on a hand-to-mouth
scale. Frequently one of the partners spent his time hustling for
6 Connecticut Chamber of Commerce. The Migration of Industry. An address by William J. Barrett
delivered at thirtieth annual meeting at Hartford, May 23, 1929.




11

WOMEN IN THE SEWING TRADES OF CONNECTICUT

contracts among the New York firms while the other partner pushed
production in the factory. One day they might be making up one
style, and the next day a style quite different. Many dress factories
were making daily shipments to meet the exacting demands of New
York jobbers. The contracts, especially in dresses, were limited in
number and invariably were rush orders. One week there might be
so many orders that the entire plant worked overtime, and the next
week there might be no orders and the shop would be practically closed.
The firms were evenly divided as to contract shops and regular
factories. No contract shops were making corsets, neckties, or hats,
but, in contrast to these, 26 of the 30 dress factories were contract
shops, as were a majority of the tailoring and shirt establishments.
There were about 1,000 more women employed in regular factories
than in contract shops. Hours worked during the week were re­
ported in more cases of regular factories than of contract shops, though
in both types of plants the hours of a large proportion of the workers
were nok obtained. That the trend of wages was higher in regular
factories than in contract shops is indicated by the following:
Worked 40 hours or Hours not reported
more

Worked less than
40 hours
Number
of firms

Type of plant

Number of Median Number of Median Number of Median
earnings women earnings
earrings
women
women

‘ 106

Regular factory
Contract shop___________

1,146

$9.65

3, 666

$14.05

2,819

$11.30

63
i 63

All firms

870
276

10.85
6.00

2,172
1,494

14. 65
12.90

1,307
1,512

10.80
11.70

1 1 establishment did not report hours.

Only for the women whose hours worked were not reported were the
median earnings in contract shops comparable with those in regular
factories. Where the hours were less than 40, the median for regular
factories was nearly $5 higher than that for contract shops, and where
the hours were as much as 40, the difference was $1.75.
Table 5.—Median of week’s earnings of women who worked
hours and longer in
contract shops and in regular factories, by branch of industry
Total

Total..

------------------

Tailored garments
Children's apparel..............
Women’s underwear...

.

Men’s furnishings...................

Regular factories

Num­
ber of Num­ Medi­
estab­ ber of an earn­
lish­ women ings
ments

Branch of industry

Contract shops
Num­
ber of Num­ Medi­
estab­ ber of an earn­
lish­ women ings
ments

Num­
ber of Num­ Medi­
estab­ ber of an earn­
lish­ women ings
ments

i 105

3, 666

$14. 05

252

1,494

$12. 90

3 53

2,172

$14. 65

12
12
30
9
6
24
8
5
6
14

286
339
916
386
795
156
196
307
139
146

13. 75
10. 85
15. 60
12.00
15.25
14.15
10. 20
16. 80
19.65
8. 65

8
5
26
2

194
237
835
25

12.00
10. 65
15. 55
w

92

15.70

6

194

10.15

5

9

4
7
4
7
6
4
2
5
6
9

81
361
795
156
2
30/
139
137

16.15
12.05
15. 25
14. 15
»
16.80
19. 65
8.80

(2)

w

1 Details exceed total, as 1 firm had both a hat and a necktie department. Tor 1 contract shop making
garters, hours were not reported.
2 Excludes 1 firm, hours not reported.
3 Details exceed total, as 1 firm had both a hat and a necktie department.
< Medians not shown for less than 50 cases.




12

WOMEN IN THE SEWING TRADES OF CONNECTICUT

An analysis of Table 5, showing the earnings of women who worked
as much as 40 hours in the various branches of the sewing trades, makes
it clear that in the three branches in which comparisons are possible
the medians in the regular factories are higher than those in the con­
tract shops. Tailoring paid very much better in the regular factories
than in the shops, but in children’s apparel and women’s dresses the
advantage was not great. While 3 of the 4 medians computed for
contract shops were far below $15, 5 of the 9 computed for regular
factories were between $15 and $20. Here, as in earlier tables, medi­
ans were highest in hat and necktie factories and lowest in men’s
furnishings, shirts, children’s apparel, and women’s underwear.
Not only was the general trend of wages better in the regular factories
than in the contract shops, but there was a better standard of hours in
the regular factories. More than two-thirds of the women who worked
52 hours or longer were employed in making tailored garments and
women’s dresses, where shops predominated. Furthermore, of the
450 women who worked from 52 to 55 hours during the week, 287, or
63.8 per cent, were employed in contract shops; and of the 215 who
worked more than 55 hours, practically three-fourths (74.4 per cent)
were in such shops.
METHOD OF PAYMENT

In all branches of the industry but dresses and garters the majority
of the employees, varying from 60 to 95 per cent, were paid on a
piecework basis, and even in garters the timework and piecework
systems were in vogue in practically a 50-50 ratio.
The average dress shop was a small affair, usually occupying an
obscure loft in a business block. Over three-fifths of the women
employed in these shops were paid on a time-rate basis, largely by the
hour. In no other branch of the industry was there anything like so
high a percentage of time workers. The contractors said it was
almost necessary to pay on a time basis, as styles changed so often
that it would take all one person’s time to adjust rates. The managers
themselves were too busy rushing the work through to be botheredwith
piece rates, and they felt that it would be a waste of time and money to
attempt to keep such rates adjusted fairly. On the whole, they
thought hourly rates satisfactory; the girls were satisfied and the
quality of the work was better than where the piecework method of
payment was used.
In greatest contrast to the prevalence of time rates in the dress shops
was the piece-rate system in shirt factories, where the pay of 95 per
cent of the women depended solely on their output. In the latter
case the greater standardization of the product made it possible to
establish a scale of prices for the various operations and qualities
that could be maintained for months at a time. Furthermore, in the
shirt factories, as in some other clothing plants, each operator per­
formed only one operation; one girl did nothing but close the side seams,
another set in sleeves, and so on until the garment was completed.
The division of labor just described, called “section work,” was not
the practice throughout the women’s dress factories. In some of these
it was customary for many of the most skilled operators to stitch the
entire dress. Copying the pattern dress, these women made the com­
plete garment, from the first closing seam to the finishing stitching.
During the faff a 2-piece woolen dress, jacket and skirt, was a common




WOMEN IN THE SEWING TRADES OF CONNECTICUT

13

style in several of the shops, and an experienced operator was re­
ported to have stitched up seven such garments a day. The rate
for stitching was 40 to 45 cents a dress. Such garments were whole­
saling at $6.75 apiece and the retail price was frequently $10.75.
Exclusive of cutting, the labor cost of making this style garment was
from 54 to 59 cents: 40 to 45 cents—depending on style—for stitch­
ing, 8 cents for finishing, and 6 cents for pressing.
In a shop making cheap dresses for children—a model that retailed
at about a dollar—the rate for sewing was just over 11 cents and that
for pressing was less than 2 cents.
NATIVITY OF DRESS-SHOP WORKERS

Since almost half of the more than 600 women in the dress shops
who reported nativity were born in the old country, the great majority
in Italy, tabulations have been made contrasting the jobs, the earn­
ings, and the ages of the native American with the foreign-born women.
The foreign born were for the most part carrying the double burden
of home making and wage earning, for almost four-fifths were married
or widowed. In contrast to these were the native American employ­
ees, only about one-fourth of whom were married or widowed. But
this difference is what might be expected when their ages are taken
into consideration; the Americans were a much younger group, almost
half of them not yet 20, whereas over three-fourths of the foreign
women were 25 or more and almost a fourth were as much as 40.
Only two foreign-born women were engaged in such unskilled johs
as cleaners and floor girls in the dress shops. For the most part they
were operating power-sewing machines or were sewing by hand.
Machine operating was the job of women mainly in the prime of life,
20 and under 40 years old. And above 40 years the proportion of
hand sewers was greater than that of machine operators.
A different situation prevailed among the American hand sewers.
About two-thirds of them were less than 20 years old, while only
one-eiglith of the foreign-born hand sewers were so young. On the
whole, in both hand and machine jobs the foreign women were older
than the American women.
Earnings differed decidedly with the two types of job. The median
of the foreign-born machine operators for the week was $17.25,
and this was about $4 higher than the median of the hand sewers.
The much younger native women, whether machine or hand sewers,
averaged less than the foreign women. For machine operating their
median was more than a dollar below that of the foreign born, and in
hand sewing the difference was $3.