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U. S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

WOMEN’S BUREAU
MARY ANDERSON, Director

BULLETIN OF THE WOMEN’S BUREAU, NO. 10

HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK
FOR WOMEN IN INDUSTRY
IN VIRGINIA




MARCH, 1920

WASHINGTON
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
1920

U. S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

WOMEN’S BUREAU
MARY ANDERSON, Director

BULLETIN OF THE WOMEN’S BUREAU, NO. 10

HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK
FOR WOMEN IN INDUSTRY
IN VIRGINIA




MARCH, 1920

WASHINGTON
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
1920




CONTENTS.
Page.

letter of transmittal—
Letter of request from the governor of Virginia------------------------------------Introduction---------------- -----Summary of facts-----------------Recommendations
12
Hours—Working conditions—Administration of labor laws.
Hours-------------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------Daily—Weekly—Saturday half holiday — Lunch period — Night
work—Posting of hours.
Working conditions---------------------------------------------------------------------------Toilets—Washing facilities—Drinking facilities—Cloakrooms—
Lunch and rest rooms—Seats—Cleaning—Lighting—Ventila­
tion—Health service—Employment policy.
The workers___________________________—----------------------------------------Home responsibilities—Wages—Reasons for high labor turn­
over—Hours.
The administration of labor laws--------------------------------------------------------Appendix—The need for newlegislation----------------------------------------------3




5
6
7
12

14

20

27

30
31




LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL.
U.

S.

Department or Labor,
Women’s Bureau,

Washington, March 1, 1920.
Submitted herewith is a report giving the results of an in­
vestigation of women in industry in the State of Virginia. This
survey was undertaken at the request of the governor of that State,
a copy of whose letter follows, and in cooperation with the Bureau of
Labor and Industrial Statistics of Virginia. Valuable assistance
and advice were given by Mr. Howard T. Colvin and Miss Mary J.
Schaill, of that bureau.
_
The survey was started October 7 and continued until December
15, 1919, when it was temporarily suspended because of coal shortage.
A preliminary report of this survey was then submitted to the gov­
ernor before January 1. After January 1 the towns which had not
been visited were surveyed and return visits made to several localities
from which additional information was desired.
The investigation was directed by Miss Agnes L. Peterson, assisted
by Mrs. Ethel L. Best, Miss Helen Bryan, and Miss Agnes H.
Campbell. The report was prepared by Miss Mary N. Winslow.
Respectfully submitted.
Sir:

Mary Anderson,

Director.
Hon.

W.

B. Wilson,
Secretary of Labor.




5

LETTER FROM THE. GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA.
Commonwealth

of

Virginia,

Governor’s Office,

Richmond, October 10, 1919.
Hon. William B. Wilson,
Secretary of Labor*, Washington, D. C.
Dear Sir : I am informed that the Women’s Bureau of the Depart­
ment of Labor has from time to time made surveys covering women
engaged in industry in the various States. I am of the opinion that
such an investigation in Virginia would supply valuable information
concerning the industrial activities of this State, and would be of
especial value as a basis for any legislation that might be enacted in
the interest of women engaged in industry.
I ask, theiefoie, that a similar investigation be made in \ irginia
by the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor in cooperation
with the bureau of labor and industrial statistics of this State.
Yours, very truly,
(Signed)
Westmoreland Davis,
Governor.
6




HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN IN INDUSTRY
IN VIRGINIA.
INTRODUCTION.
In October, 1919. Gov. Westmoreland Davis, of Virginia, sent a
request to the Secretary of the United States Department of Labor
that the Women’s Bureau in that department should make a survey
of hours and conditions of work for women in industry in Virginia,
in order to secure a foundation of facts upon which legislation to
better conditions might be based. The survey was started in the
latter part of October and continued until December 15, 1919, when
it was temporarily suspended because of the coal shortage which oc­
curred toward the end of that period. This shortage caused many
plants to shut down and several towns were necessarily omitted at
that time. Realizing the need for immediate use of the facts dis­
closed by the survey, the Women’s Bureau submitted a preliminary
report before January 1, giving an outline of the prevailing condi­
tions and recommending definite subjects for legislation. After
January 1, the towns which had not been visited in December be­
cause of the coal shortage were surveyed and return visits made to
several localities from which additional information was desired.
The conditions found in the new localities did not alter any of the
recommendations which were made in the preliminary report, but
only added greater force to the underlying reasons for them.
The work of the survey was done in cooperation with the Bureau
of Labor and Industrial Statistics of Virginia, and valuable assist­
ance and advice were given by Mr. Howard T. Colvin and Miss
Mary J. Schaill of that bureau. Miss Schaill was especially helpful
not only because of her thorough knowledge of conditions through­
out the State but also because of her willing cooperation in making
actual investigations.
As the period in which the survey was to be made was brief, it was
thought wiser to sample a large field than to attempt to make a com­
prehensive study of any special locality or industry. Inspections
were made, therefore, in Richmond, Petersburg, Danville, South
Boston, Lynchburg, Bedford, Charlottesville, Staunton, Alexandria,
Norfolk, Roanoke, Buena Vista, Culpeper, Salem, Martinsville, and
Fielddale.




7

8

HOUKS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

For each locality visited a list of all the establishments employing
women was secured from the bureau of labor and industrial sta­
tistics. The investigators visited as many of these plants as time
permitted. In places where it was obviously impossible to cover the
whole field, industries were selected which employed a large number
of women or in which the employment of women was known to pre­
sent special problems. One hundred and forty-six establishments
were visited, which employed 34.913 persons, of whom 18,781, or 53.8
per cent, were women.
The following table shows the number of establishments visited,
the total number of employees, and the number and per cent of women
employed, by industries:
Table I.—Number

of establishments investigated, total number of employees,
and number and per cent of women employed, by industries.

Industry.

Textiles.............................................
Clothing..................................................
Hosiery and knit goods.......................
Bakeries and other food products.......
Boots and shoes..................................
Paper and paper products...............................
Printing and publishing...........................
Miscellaneous........................................
Total...................................

Per cent
Number of
Total
Number of of women
establish­ number of
in each
women
ments.
employees. employed. specified
industry.
43
16
16
5
19
4
13
5
9
16

16,699
7,522
2,423
1,230
1,227
1,319
1,128
347
706
2,312

10,344
2,860
2, 206
782
547
485
517
231
297
512

61*. 9
38.0
91.0
63.6
44.6
36.8
45.8
66.7
42.1
22.1

146

34,913

18,781

53.8

There are no reliable figures to show the total number of women
gainfully employed at present in Virginia, but estimating from the
number of women gainfully employed in the State in 1910, according
to the census of 1910, and the percentage of increase in the decade
from 1900 to 1910, there are probably not less than 226,000 wage­
earning women in the State. If the same percentage (15.4 per cent)
of women is employed at present in manufacturing and mechanical
pursuits as was so employed in 1910, the total number of women in
these occupations would amount to 34,917. According to this esti­
mate probably a conservative one, as the field of employment for
women in industrial work has increased considerably in the last 10
years—over one-half of the total number of women in industrial
establishments in the State were included in this survey.
The facts obtained during the survey are limited chiefly to hours
and working conditions. Although the question of wages is recog­
nized as being of supreme importance to any group of workers, the
time at the disposal of the investigators did not permit of a wage




HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

9

study in addition to securing the other information that was desired
for immediate use. Many reports were obtained, however, through
interviews with working women and also from the superintendents
of plants which seemed to indicate that a very low wage rate prevails
throughout the State.
The important position which women have achieved in industry
throughout the country is reflected in the figures of Table I. Women
constituted 53.8 per cent of all workers included in the survey, 61.9
per cent of all workers in the tobacco industry, 38 per cent of the tex­
tile workers, and 91 per cent of the employees in the clothing in­
dustry.
A scarcity of labor was reported to the investigators by many
superintendents, and, according to their reports, seems to exist
throughout the State. This would indicate a need for the further
recruiting of women as well as men to meet the needs of the increas­
ing industrial development of the State. Shorter hours, better wages,
and good working conditions can not fail to stimulate the enlistment
of new workers as well as to stabilize those who are already em­
ployed. Women are indispensable to the industries of Virginia and
the conditions under which they work must be recognized as a
definite asset or menace, as the case may be, to the well-being of the
State from an industrial as well as from a social point of view.
The benefit to industry resulting from a general improvement in
working conditions is secondary, however, in the case of the employ­
ment of women, to the effect on the community itself. Many studies
'have shown the extreme danger to health accompanying fatigue and
the lessened output and increase in the amount of sickness and number
of accidents which accompany long hours. In the last analysis it is
the community or State which bears the cost of industry’s failure to
care for its human machinery. The double burden of family re­
sponsibility and work in the factory which is carried by so many
women is a tax on their strength which renders them more sus­
ceptible than men to the dangers of many existing industrial condi­
tions.
A steady increase in legislation for safeguarding women in in­
dustry is taking place year by year throughout the United States.
The power of the State to regulate hours for its women workers was
recognized many years ago by the courts as coming within the police
power of the State for regulating conditions affecting the public
health.1 This principle has already been recognized in Virginia by
the passage of legislation limiting to 10 the daily hours of work
for women in any factory, workshop, laundry, or in any mercantile
11909, Muller u. Oregon, 208 U. S., 412 ; 1915, Miller v. Wilson, 236 U. S., 373; Bosley
«. McLaughlin, 236 U. S., 385.

169312°—20---- 2




10

HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

or manufacturing establishment. The Virginia law also limits
weekly hours of work to 60, but more than 60 hours is permitted in
tobacco rehandling plants when a permit is secured. The 10-hour
day, however, is no longer a standard to be proud of. Already an
8-hour limit to the working day for women has been established for
certain occupations in seven States—Arizona, California, Colorado,
Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Washington—and the District of Co­
lumbia and Porto Rico, and the 48-hour week for women has been
established for certain occupations in California, Utah, North Da­
kota, Massachusetts, Oregon, the District of Columbia, and Porto
Rico. By trade-union agreement the 8-hour day has been estab­
lished in other localities for thousands of workers in the textile and
garment trades, two of the leading industries of Virginia. Adopted
as a principle by the International Labor Conference and by the
First International Congress of Working Women, followed as a
practice by thousands of modern and efficient employers, sanctioned
by governments, employers, and workers, the 8-hour day would not
seem to be too high a standard for a State as important industrially
as Virginia.
.
Except for the limitation of hours there has been very little atten­
tion given to the regulation of working conditions for women by
the laws of Virginia. While the laws of many States have gone into
great detail to provide such regulations, and while in many other
States industrial commissions are empowered to establish the neces­
sary standards and have done so with the utmost care and stringency,
the Virginia Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics has very few
laws to enforce and no power to make regulations. The few pro­
visions in the Virginia statutes which do attempt to regulate condi­
tions of work for women are so indefinitely drawn or so restricted in
their scope as to render them of little value. For instance, the law
relating to the provision of seats requires that they shall be provided
for every three women in mercantile establishments, but no require­
ment is made for seats for the thousands of women in industrial es­
tablishments, although in the experience of many manufacturers in
Virginia, as well as in other States, such a requirement has proved
practicable.
The sanitary law of Virginia provides that toilets in establish­
ments where women are employed shall be “ sufficient ” and separate
from those provided for the men. No definition is given as to the
exact meaning of “sufficient,” so it is not possible to require that a
certain number shall be supplied in proportion to the number of
women employed. The wording of the law is so vague that to en­
force sanitary conditions the labor officials are often obliged to turn
for authority to the local board of health where city ordinances are




HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

11

more specific than the State regulations. Except for the provisions
that where women are employed stairs must be properly screened at
the sides and bottom, no further legal consideration of special work­
ing conditions for women is given in Virginia, and the bureau of
labor and industrial statistics is not given power to make special
rulings.
*
Under the general laws regulating the employment of both men
and women there is a provision which prohibits the placing of a
common towTel for use in any factory, workshop, or mercantile es­
tablishment, but there is no provision which requires that individual
towels or any other washing facilities be provided, nor does the law
require sanitary drinking facilities. Protection against dust is pro­
vided for in the use of grinding, polishing, or buffing wheels by the
requirement of hooding and an exhaust system, but no such protec­
tion is given workers in other dusty trades, such as the tobacco in­
dustry. The Virginia law also requires that dangerous machinery
shall be guarded, and that there shall be adequate fire escapes, and
that doors leading in or to any factory employing over 25 persons
shall open out. Even these provisions were found not to be uni­
versally enforced, owing principally to the very limited number of
inspectors who are provided to administer the law.
The facts which are included in the body of this report emphasize,
naturally, the conditions existing throughout the State which are
in need of improvement or regulation. There are, of course, many
manufacturers in the State who are conforming to the highest
standards and the conditions found in their plants have led to the
firm conviction on the part of those responsible for this survey that
their example can be emulated by the less progressive employers
with benefit to the entire community. Particular stress has been
laid on the less commendable conditions found, as it is felt that these
conditions are allowed to exist largely because of an uninformed
public which has not known the real facts and therefore has not felt
the need of regulation.
It is-obvious from a study of the increasing amount and scope
of industrial legislation in the various States, from the action taken
by progressive employers throughout the country and in Virginia,
and from the attitude of the workers themselves that certain in­
dustrial standards eventually will have to be met. A number of the
plants visited in Virginia are branches of firms which are operating
successfully in other States where the standards of employment are
much higher, and the State of Virginia can ill afford to permit these
manufacturers to operate under conditions which would not be
tolerated in their home States. It will be easier to establish high




12

HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

standards in a young and comparatively small industry tlian to
readjust conditions later on. Some of the industries of Virginia are
of very long standing and employ large numbers of people, others
are small and are just beginning. Conditions seem to show that all
are growing, and the plans for a considerable extension of business
which were reported to the inspectors by the superintendents of many
plants would indicate that now is the time for Virginia to establish
standards for the protection of its wage-earning women which will
equal those of other progressive industrial communities.
SUMMARY OF FACTS OBTAINED THROUGH THE SURVEY.

1. Forty-six per cent of the women were working 10 hours a day.
Forty per cent of them worked over 54 hours a week.
2. Eleven per cent of the women worked 8 hours or less and over
19 per cent woi’ked 48 hours a week or less. Every industry except
the peanut industry was represented in the group working 48 hours
a week or less.
3. Three and two-tenths per cent of the women were working at
night.
4. Equipment, cleanliness, and other conditions of the buildings
and workrooms in the majority of the establishments were very un­
satisfactory from the viewpoint of comfort, sanitation, and efficient
management.
5. Provision for the comfort and health of the workers was most
inadequate.
6. Superintendents of many plants requested advice and assistance
in raising the standards of working conditions.
RECOMMENDATIONS.

As a result of this survey, which included many conferences with
employers, workers, and others interested in the subject, the Women’s
Bureau recommends that the following standards be established
either through specific laws of through legislation empowering the
State bureau of labor and industrial statistics to regulate conditions
of employment.
Hours.
1. Women should not be required or permitted to work more than eight
hours in any one day.
2. Women should not be required to work more than one-half day <m
Saturday.
3. Not less than 30 minutes should be allowed for a meal in each work­
ing day.
4. No woman should be employed between the hours of 12 midnight
and 6 a. m.




HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

13

5. The time when the work of women employees shall begin and end
and the time allowed for meals should be posted in a conspicuous place in
each workroom, and a record should be kept of the overtime for each
woman worker.
Working conditions.
1. Where women are employed theTe should be provided one toilet for
every 20 women and one toilet for every additional 15 women or fraction
thereof. These toilets should be properly screened, should have outside
ventilation, and should be kept in a clean and sanitary condition.
2. Washing facilities with hot and cold water, soap, and individual
towels should be provided.
3. Drinking water should be cool and accessible, with individual drink­
ing cups or sanitary bubble fountain provided.
4. Cloakroom facilities should be pfovided, and provision made outside
of the workroom for eating lunch and resting.
5. Adjustable seats with backs should be supplied for all women
workers.
6. The dust protection law in Virginia should be extended to include
protection in all processes involving exposure to dust and fumes.
Administration of labor laws.
1. One or more women should be appointed in the bureau of labor and
industrial statistics with full authority to investigate conditions and en­
force the laws.
2. There should be an adequate number of inspectors to enforce the laws
regulating conditions in industrial establishments.
From experience in other States it has been found that labor legis­
lation to be effective must contain certain provisions in order to
make enforcement possible. In the appendix to this report the spe­
cial needs for new legislation are outlined.




HOURS.
In spite of tlie general tendency throughout the country toward a
reduction in working hours, Virginia is still backward in joining
this movement. According to the Census of Manufactures1 29.6 per
cent of all workers in the country worked 54 hours a week or less
in 1909. In 1914, 51 per cent of all workers had a working week
of 54 hours or less, an increase of over 20 per cent in five years. In
Virginia, however, the same report shows that in 1914 only 25.5
per cent of the workers worked 54 hours or less. This situation was
emphasized in the schedules of hours which were secured from the
146 factories visited.
Daily hours.
I able II shows the daily hours worked by the women employed in
the different industries.
Table II.—Number

of women working each classified number of daily hours
in lJtJt plants in Virginia in December, 1919. by industries.11
Number of plants and number of women employed where
daily hours of work were—

Plants.

Women.

Plants.

Women.

Plants.

Women.

Plants.

Women.

fi
1
4

t, 239
61
299

3

186

1

' 67
420

16

2,206

1
4

4

97

10

366

1

29

18

534

2

110

2
2

36
97

4
?

134
106

13

485

5

219

9
16

512

2 1,188

5
1
2

6

1

65

a

[

- a>
a
o
is

Plants.

Women.

4 2,454
2
454
1
46
1
132

Women.

420
230

co
d
<s

Plants.

Total.

1

Over 8
Over 9
10 hours
8 hours. and under 9 hours. and under
and
9 hours.
10 hours.
over
I

Industry.

Under 8
hours.

Textile....................................
Clothing.................................
Bakeries and other food
products..............................
Paper and paper products...
Printing and publishing.......
Miscellaneous.........................

1

41

1
1

48
3

Total.............................
Per cent of women employed
in each hour group............

3 1,229

10

772

6.8

4.3

4

36
4S5
140

7
6

208
96

29 4,051
22.5

2

150

19 1,956
10.9

3

44

29 1,681
9.3

782

56 8,322 144 18,011
46.2

100

a In two plants employing 41 women the daily hours of work were not reported. The hours of 729 women
employed on night shifts in six plants are not included in this table.
b Two plants, employing 405 women, in the tobacco industry worked over 10 hours.

It is extremely significant to note in this table that 2,001 women
employed in 13 plants were found to have a working day of eight
hours or less. The fact that their employment for such hours in so
many instances was successful is an indication of the possibilities
1 Abstract o£ the Census of Manufactures, 1914, p. 482, Table 212.

14




15

HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

which may be attained through the good will and intelligent efforts
of managements which are awake to the needs of their workers and
the importance of maintaining high standards in the industry.
The largest number of women (8,322) were employed 10 hours or
over. Of this number only 405 worked over 10 hours, the remaining
7,917 working a straight 10-hour day. This group constitutes over
46 per cent of the entire number of women included in the survey.
The next largest number of women were employed between eight and
nine hours a day, 4,051, or 22.5 per cent of the total number of women
coming within this group. The distribution of this number among
the various industries is particularly interesting. The tobacco in­
dustry, which employs over 5,000 women 10 hours a day, employs
nearly 2.500 over eight and less than nine hours a day. The textile
industry does not make such a good showing, with only 454 in the
shorter-hour group, against 2,299 in the 10-hour group.
Weekly hours.
No less important than the length of the working day is the length
of the working week, and Table III gives the weekly hours of work
by industries.
Table III.—Number

of women working each classified number of weekly hours
in 1T,S plants in Virginia in December, T919, by industries.a
Number of plants and number of women employed where
weekly hours of work were—

Bakeries and other food

2

362

71

4
2

485
100

89
26

7
1

208
5

42

2
2
2

Paper and paper products...

3

Total............................ 19 2,300
Per cent of women in each
12.8
hour group..........................

405

W omen.

2

Plants.

W omen.

W omen.

1

6=

Plants.

Plants.

h

d
©

Plants.

1
2
416
1
8 1,654

1
P

W omen.

is

m

Total.

|

a

o

Women.

d
©

Plants.

Plants.

Industry.

Over 54
Over 48
Under 48 48 hours. and under 54 hours. and under Over 60
hours.
hours.
60 hours.
54 hours.

16 4,597
3 1,229
466
6
10

336

5
2

127

48 7,134

6.5

39.7

4

127
0.7

29
134
106

6

229

16 1,160

4

1
4
2

180
97

6

26 4,643
12 1 215
2 ' 86
420
3

222

56 6,855
38.1

43 9,647
16 2,860
16 2,206
5
782
18
4
13
4
9
15

2

534
485
485
203
297
482

405 143 17,981
2.2

100

a In three plants employing 71 women the weekly hours were not reported. The hours of 729 women
employed on night shifts in six plants are not included in this table.

Nearly 3,500 women were found to be working 48 hours a week or
less, and these women were employed in every industry covered by
the investigation with the exception of the peanut industry.
The weekly hours of work for the majority of women included
in the survey fell into two groups, 39.7 per cent being employed over




16

HOUBS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOE WOMEN.

48 hours but under 54 hours, and 38.1 per cent working over 54 hours
and under 60. In many of the industries there was very nearly an
equal number of women whose hours of work fell within each of
these two groups. Four thousand five hundred and ninety-seven
women in tobacco plants worked over 48 but under 54 hours, and
4,643 worked over 54 but under 60 hours. Four hundred and five
women were employed over 60 hours a week in two tobacco re­
handling plants. These hours were not contrary to the Virginia
law, as this law permits rehandling plants to employ women more
than 10 hours if a permit is secured from the State bureau of labor
and industrial statistics. One thousand two hundred and twentynine women in the textile industry worked between 48 and 54 hours,
and 1,215 worked between 54 and 60 hours. In the manufacture of
hosiery and knit goods three plants employing 420 women ran over
54 hours a week, while two plants employing 362 women worked 48
hours.
From the foregoing figures it would seem that the arrangement
of both daily and weekly hours is dependent not on the special needs
of different industries, as examples of all hours are found in almost
every industry, but on local standards in individual plants, although
certain industries, notably the clothing and printing trades, have ad­
vanced' far ahead of the others in the matter of providing a working
day of reasonable length.
What does it mean to the well-being of the State that 46 per cent
of its women are working 10 hours a day and 40 per cent over 54
hours a week ? There is nothing more vital to any community than
that the strength and health of its industrial workers should be
maintained and guarded. Especially is this true of a group of
women on whom depends not only so large and important a part of
the industrial work of the State, but also in many instances the
maintenance of a family and the rearing of future citizens.
A typical story of the life of a working woman whose hours are
from 7.30 a. m. to 6 p. m. was told to one of the investigators by the
woman herself. Deserted by her husband and with two little chil­
dren to support, she went to work in a tobacco factory. To be at the
factory at 7.30 she had to get up at 5.30, cook breakfast, dress the
children and take them to a day nursery, leaving home at 6.30. As
the factory did not close until 6 in the evening, and she had to stop
for the children on the way home, she did not get home until 7
o’clock. Then the housework must be done, and the' children’s
clothes made, with the result that bedtime did not come much before
midnight. This is not a story of an isolated case. Fifty-nine women
were interviewed by the investigators and 37 of them supported
others than themselves, 21 being responsible for the care and main­
tenance of children. The women who were interviewed were se-




HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

17

lected entirely by chance, as they were met in the factory, in the
Y. W. C. A., at the day nurseries, or in their homes, so they can be
considered to be fairly representative of the entire group of working
women who were included in the survey.
It is not only the married women, or those who must help at home,
who feel the strain of the long hours. One girl, a- weaver in a silk
mill, working from 7 a. m. to 6 p. m., said that Saturday afternoons
and Sundays she almost always spent at home, too tired to go out.
She said she did not do anything special at home—“ just sat.” She
had found she could not even go to the “ movies,” as her eyes became
so tired she did not dare use them for anything except work. In
the tobacco industry a condition was found illustrating the evil
effects of long hours spent in doing monotonous repetitive work.
Many of the girls who place the container on the wrapped cigarettes,
who fit on the box, or who paste the stamps are afflicted with a con­
stant shaking motion of the entire body. This affliction is like a
mild form of shaking palsy. The superintendent of one plant laid
it to temperament. “ Some girls are more nervous than others, and
just hurry more.” However, as the output of these girls was no
higher than that of many not afflicted, that explanation was not
satisfactory. One girl said “ It’s all in the way you begin; some peo­
ple teach you to do it and some don’t.” Another girl said: “You
do the work as fast as you can; you reach for the cigarettes, for
the tin foil, for the box, and, if you get a little behind, your body
keeps right on making all the motions even if your hands don’t keep
up. Sometimes I’m so tired at night I would give anything in the
world to be able to stop doing it.”
Frequently women in Virginia start work at 7 o’clock in the
morning and do not leave the factory until 5 or 6 o’clock at night.
On the other hand, women in the same industries, at the same occu­
pations but in different plants, are working hours which leave them
time for rest and recreation, and enable them to take an intelligent
part in the life of the community. From an industrial viewpoint
the shorter hours do not appear to have been a drawback. The
group of plants running the shorter hours were competing success­
fully with many other plants in the same industries which were
running 10 hours a day and over 54 hours a week.
One fact, however, which stood out through the entire survey
was the universal observance of the existing law limiting the daily
hours of work to 10. It speaks well for the enforcing authorities
that they have been able to insure to its fullest extent whatever legal
protection along these lines already has been given to the women of
the State. No examples of illegal overtime were found in the 146
plants surveyed. The two plants which did report a working day




18

HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

of more than 10 hours were tobacco-rehandling plants, where the
longer hours were not against the law.
Saturday half holiday.
The Saturday half holiday was found to be observed almost uni­
versally throughout the State. Of only 31 plants, employing 1,159
women, was it reported that the Saturday closing hour was later
than 1 p. m. Thus experience and custom in Virginia have already
given sanction to the half holiday on Saturday, which now only needs
legislative indorsement to secure universal application.
Lunch period.
At least one-half hour was allowed for lunch in every one of the
146 plants visited by the investigators. Whether a 30-minute lunch
period is adequate depends very largely on the local conditions, both
in the plant and in the neighborhood surrounding the plant. It was
found in many localities that it was the custom for the employees to
go home for lunch, and occasionally complaint was made that it was
difficult to get back in time. In many other cases, however, the girls
felt they would rather have a shorter lunch period and get off earlier
in the evening. In plants where no provision is made for a lunch
room, and where the employees live at too great a distance to enable
them to go home for lunch, it can be easily understood that it might
be unnecessary and even unpleasant to spend more than half an hour
in eating sandwiches while sitting in a dusty workroom with no lunch
table except the machine and no chair except a makeshift stool or
box. Some processes of work clearly demand a rest and lunch period
longer than 30 minutes, and 30 minutes for lunch should be consid­
ered a minimum in all industries. The determination of a satisfac­
tory lunch period is dependent upon the locality, the industry, and
the desires of the workers themselves. It would seem that the general
practice in the State has conformed to such a policy, and the only
adjustment necessary could be met by intelligent cooperation between
management and workers, with a law to establish a minimum
standard.
Night work.
Very little work was foimd being done at night, but the fact that
six establishments, employing 729 women, were operating night
shifts would indicate that there is a need for the establishment of
a definite prohibition of this condition, which has been shown in
so many ways to be such a serious menace to health and efficiency.
Four of the establishments which were running night shifts were
making cigarettes and two were manufacturing paper products. In
neither of these industries is there any inherent reason for night
work, as the process of manufacturing is not necessarily continuous,
nor is the product perishable nor the industry seasonal. The abo­




HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

19

lition of night work in Virginia, therefore, would not require a
fundamental alteration in process, but merely a local readjustment
in a few plants. The particular hardship to women of employment
during the night hours, which has been emphasized many times in
different reports and investigations, was brought out again by the
stories of several women who worked at night in a tobacco factory
in one city in the State.
Mrs.---------was waiting at 7 p. m. to see if she could get a job on the night
shift. Her husband was living and working, but she had been sick ever since
her baby came, about three months ago, and they had gotten in debt. She
•couldn’t leave the baby daytimes, but her husband could look out for him at
night. She had worked in the factory before the baby came, almost up to
the time he was born, but had “ pleurisy and fever ” ever since. Doctor didn’t
want her to go to work, but she felt she must.
Mrs.---------did daywork through the summer, but did not like it because it
kept her away from the children. She has two children, one 5 and one 4 years
old, and another coming in a couple of months. Her husband works in an­
other State and sends money home, but not enough. By working at night
she can be with the children and do the housework in the daytime. She
sleeps a couple of hours in the morning and a couple in the afternoon. Her
sister-in-law stays with the children at night.

Surely it is in the interest of the State to see that such sacrifices as
these shall not be required or permitted. Under the strain of this
double work women are unable to give to either family or industry
the attention and interest which are needed by both. By the prohi­
bition of their employment at night these double tasks can be
prevented.
Posting of hours.
All of the figures which have been given in the foregoing tables
as to hours of work in different establishments are based upon the
oral reports made by superintendents or their representatives to the
investigators. In a number of instances there was considerable
divergence of opinion among different authorities as to the exact
opening and closing hours. The following quotation from the report
on one plant will illustrate the difficulties facing anyone who is in­
terested in securing exact figures as to hours of work. The manage­
ment of one plant had stated that the hours were from 8 a. m. to
5.15 p. m., with a lunch period of 30 minutes, and the closing hour
. on Saturday 12.30, making a working day of 8 hours and 45 minutes
and a working week of 48 hours and 15 minutes. The investigator’s
report, however, said:
On questioning the superintendent admitted that the factory opened at 7.30
a. m. and employees can come in and begin work at any time before 8 a. in.
The factory is supposed to close at 5.15 p. m„ but sometimes workers stay on
until 5.30. Interviews with employees have brought out the fact that they
can go in and begin work at any time after 7 a. m. Several work from 7.15
a. m. to 5.30 p. m., which, with 5 hours and 15 minutes’ work on Saturday,




20

HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

makes a 54-hour week. Several others claimed they worked until 6 p. m. All
of the workers Interviewed stated that if anyone arrived after 7.45 a. m. they
were not allowed to work that day, which disagrees with the statement of the
management that work began at 8 a. m.

In many States the law requires that a record of hours shall be
posted in each factory, and frequently, even when the law does not
require it, up-to-date managers have found it advisable to follow
this system. In the course of this survey, of the 146 plants visited
only 13 plants, employing 2,737 of the 18,781 women, were found to
have posted a record of hours. The work of factory inspectors
would be materially aided if such a provision were enacted in the
law, and a clear-cut statement of the working hours in force in a
plant could not fail to better relations with employees, who would
then have no reason for uncertainty as to what was expected of them,
and could not feel that they were being exploited without the knowl­
edge of the authorities.
WORKING CONDITIONS.
The general standard of working conditions in the factories em­
ploying women was found to be very low. Of course there were
many instances in which efficient employers had installed modern
sanitary facilities and arrangements for the comfort and health of
their employees, but on the whole there was evidence of very scant
appreciation on the part of employers of the importance of this phase
of factory management. Matters of sanitation, comfort, and clean­
liness were often left to the direction of superintendents or foremen,
with the result that in some large plants a most amazing variety of
conditions was found.
Toilets.
The most serious condition from the point of view not only of the
comfort of the employees but also of the general public health was
the insufficiency and insanitary condition of toilets. There is natu­
rally a great diversity of conditions in the various plants, depending
either upon the point of view of the management, the age and con­
struction of the building, or the efficiency of the cleaning force, but
seldom upon the most important consideration of all—the needs of
the workers. It was found that there were an insufficient number of
toilets in 52 plants, employing 7,877 women. It was a usual thing to
find only one toilet provided for 25 or 30 women, and in many
instances the number ran much higher, the worst case being 89 women
to one toilet. Screening, ventilation, or cleaning of toilets was con­
sidered necessary by the investigators in 61 establishments employing
9,000 women, more than 47 per cent of all those included in the in­
vestigation.




HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

21

Washing facilities.
It would seem to be a moderate requirement that workers should
have facilities for washing in preparation for the midday meal or
for their return home, and yet in 128 factories, employing 14,730
women, or 78 per cent of all the women employed in 140 plants
studied, these facilities were found to be entirely lacking or quite
inadequate. The 'significance of the lack of provision for washing
appliances is emphasized by the fact that 62 per cent, or nearly twothirds, of these women were working in the tobacco or food indus­
tries where contamination of the product might react on the public
health. Especially in the tobacco industry is the lack of washing
facilities a great hardship. Women working with tobacco neces­
sarily get it on their hands, and in the dusty processes they are cov­
ered with tobacco dust. Not to be able to wash off this accumulation
before eating and before going home, or to be able to wash only in
■cold water without soap or towels is a condition which might cause
real discomfort to any group of women. Often the only possible
place to wash was a sink in one corner of the workroom, sometimes
for the use of both men and women, usually with only cold water,
and no soap or towels. In one plant the girls who were pasting
boxes had pails of water on a stool by their work table which they
used for moistening their pasting brushes. These pails of water were
also the only washing facilities provided. Several plants have in­
stalled modern washrooms, which are equal to those in the most
up-to-date establishments in other States, but such provision was
the exception rather than the rule. One plant, which manufactures
food products, has a washroom separate from the cloakroom. In this
room are four white-enameled basins with hot and cold running water
for each, and liquid soap. The room was clean and well kept and had
an outside window. One clean towel a day was supplied for each
girl. Such a standard as this will surely make for better health con­
ditions in any industry, without causing an excessive increase in
overhead expense. Aside from the right of the worker to the com­
fort and protection of adequate and sanitary washing facilities, the
public should demand protection in special industries such as those
in which food products are manufactured.
Drinking facilities.
More serious than the scant washing facilities was the evidence
of insufficient or insanitary drinking facilities. Nothing can be
more important than that people who work all day, sometimes in
dusty, hot rooms, shall have a constant and easily accessible supply
of clean, cool drinking water, and yet in 106 plants, employing 9,673
women, it was found that the drinking facilities were insufficient or
insanitary.




22

HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

The common drinking cup was often found. It was frequently
stated by the employers that the girls were expected to bring their
own glasses, but these glasses were seldom in evidence, and there
was apt to be one mug, or sometimes only a tin can, conspicuously
placed near the water. One tobacco plant supplied “ two tin mugs
attached by a chain to the tank of water on each floor.” Another
tobacco plant had a “ barrel of ice water at the side of the room with
one glass on top. The girls are told to bring their own.” In another
plant 62 women were employed sorting peanuts, a very dusty
process. Drinking facilities for them consisted of “ one faucet in
the workroom and a common drinking cup.”
Cloakrooms.
Provision for cloakrooms, lunch rooms, and rest rooms varied in
the different plants from the few establishments that provided cloak­
rooms with individual lockers, rest rooms with couches and com­
fortable chairs, and lunch rooms where a hot lunch was served, to
the many where none of these facilities was found. Coats hanging
on nails around the walls of the workroom, exposed to dust and dirt,
are a common sight in Virginia factories. In a number of other
plants the girls work with their hats and coats on, whether because
of lack of place to put them or because of insufficient heat it was
impossible to determine, as the two conditions were apt to appear
simultaneously. Even when there wTas a cloakroom provided it was
apt to be one more in name than in fact. The following quotation
from a report describes a typical condition:
A cloakroom was partitioned off from the workroom on each floor. No lock­
ers were provided; the women hung their coats from nails in the walls and
partitions. No seats of any kind were in the room. The floors were littered
with papers and dirt.

Lunch rooms and rest rooms.
Rest rooms and lunch rooms were as few and far between and as
inadequate as were the cloakrooms. Because of the varying de­
mands of different industries dependent upon the product manufac­
tured and the numbers employed, specific regulations covering such
provisions can not be made for industry as a whole. In a small plant
employing only a few women it would be quite possible to arrange one
room so that it would meet the requirements for both lunch and rest
room, while in another plant employing a large number of women or
where the processes on which women are working may be especially
trying, it would be advisable to have the rest room separate from the
lunch room. There is no excuse in any plant, however, for a condi­
tion such as was found in one establishment where a sick girl was
discovered lying on the floor in the toilet, as there was no other place
for her to rest. This occurred in one of the many buildings of a
large plant whose management had shown much personal interest in




HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

23

the employees, but had evidently overlooked the need for a rest room.
When this girl was discovered she said: “ I wish Mr. —” (a member
of the firm) “ had been with you and seen this. He’d build a hospital
to-morrow if he had.” In another plant the women made a pile of
their coats in the corner of the workroom to serve as a couch if any
of their group was taken sick. Such conditions are clearly detri­
mental to the workers’ health, and experience has shown elsewhere
that a cloakroom and a place to rest outside of the workroom should
be provided.
Seats.
Continuous standing or sitting on improperly adjusted chairs are
both recognized as having a decidedly injurious effect on the health
of women. The provision of a sufficient number of chairs so that all
women who are working in a standing position may have an oppor­
tunity to sit occasionally, the adjustment of chairs and worktables
so that work may be done either sitting or standing, and the pro­
vision of scientifically constructed chairs so that workers when
seated shall have the best support, are all practical measures which
have been adopted to lessen this strain on the vitality and health of
working women. The manufacturers of Virginia do not seem, howTever, to have appreciated the importance of this matter, as in 130
plants, employing 17,040 women, or 90 per cent of all the women
covered by this survey, seats were found to be either too few in
number or of such a makeshift type as to be quite unsatisfactory.
Many operations were found where women were standing con­
tinuously, sometimes for as long as 10 hours a day, wThen a properly
adjusted worktable and chair would have enabled them either to sit
or stand at their work.
In many tobacco factories women who were hanging the leaves of
tobacco onto frames preparatory to sending them to the drier stood
at work, and it was said that they could not do this work while
seated. In several plants, however, they were found sitting while
working at this process, and apparently the work was being per­
formed in a satisfactory manner. In another tobacco plant where
the women were standing at moving belts, taking off the good tobacco
leaves, the superintendent said he could not allow the women to sit
down as he was afraid they would go to sleep if they did.
Occasionally in the textile mills there were a few chairs or stools
provided for the operators to use in spare moments, but the super­
intendent of one cotton mill was satisfied with providing a leather
strap about three inches wide which the operator could hang be­
tween two looms to make a seat when she needed a rest. Other seats
in use in some of the plants were wooden boxes, homemade stools,
broken kitchen chairs, stools with straight boards nailed onto them
to serve as backs, seats too low for the worktable, and high seats




24

HOUES AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOE WOMEN.

without foot rests so that the operators must sit all day with swing­
ing feet.
Although these examples would seem to indicate a lack of interest
on the part of the employers in comfortable seating for their work­
ing force, the superintendents of many plants expressed the inten­
tion of bettering conditions when their attention was called to them,
and asked for information as to the best type of factory chair.
Cleaning.
Aside from the specific matters pertaining to comfort and sanita­
tion which have already been described in this report, the general
standards of cleanliness, lighting, and ventilation were not found to
be very high. One hundred and one of the plants were in need of
cleaning, sometimes in only part of the building, such as the stairs,
toilets, or cloakrooms, but more often a general scrubbing of the
entire building was necessary. It seemed often to be most surpris­
ing to a superintendent that anything more than a casual sweeping
once a week or month should be considered advisable. The naive
astonishment of one superintendent who was asked how many years
had elapsed since his building had been scrubbed and his reply,
“Why, you couldn’t scrub this floor, the water would run right
through,” indicating a point of view as well as a condition of the
building. Frequently it was found that there was no regular clean­
ing force, and this duty devolved upon the employees whenever they
had any spare time. In one factory in which candy was being made
and where absolute cleanliness is particularly important, the investi­
gator reported:
Stairs are caked with candy. Floors need scrubbing; also tables where candy
is worked. Cleaning is done by the men in shipping department when they are
not busy. This is a very busy season.

In some plants there seems to have been a definite idea that a clean­
ing force should be supplied for this work and that it should be done
regularly, but the real meaning of cleanliness in the factory did not
seem to be appreciated. One superintendent said that the man he
hired to do the cleaning swept the whole building every morning.
When he went into detail, however, he admitted that “ the man sort
of brushes up every morning and sweeps it good every Saturday.”
The investigator of this factory reported:
It was obvious that the floors were never scrubbed, and the windows were
covered with dirt. The toilet and coat room were filthy.

And yet in this building the foreman said the cleaning man was
given some light factory work to do to “ keep him busy ” and that
sometimes rather than let him be idle they had him move boxes from
one end of the room to the other. Several employers who had not
been able to stimulate their cleaning force to sufficient efforts en-




HOURS AND CONDITIONS OR WORK FOR WOMEN.

25

listed the aid of the investigators in impressing a higher standard of
cleanliness in the minds of those who were responsible for this work.
In strong contrast to such conditions, which were the more general
ones, was the standard maintained in one factory where the whole
building was swept thoroughly every afternoon after work and
cleaning was also done during the day if needed. The cloakroom,
toilets, and office were scrubbed once a week and the floors throughout
the building were flushed every two or three months. Aside from
every other consideration the depreciation of both building and ma­
terial in a plant which is not kept clean and in good repair should be
sufficient reason to stimulate employers to a better standard. The
great advertising value of a clean, well-kept plant, and the possi­
bility of securing better grade and more satisfied employees, should be
added inducements. In the course of over 50 interviews with work­
ing women employed in these plants many complaints wTere heard
about the conditions in the various industries. Frequently the in­
vestigators were asked if they could not do something to get a fac­
tory “ cleaned up.” And once or twice the women remarked that if
they could get a broom or a scrubbing brush they would be willing
to do the cleaning themselves rather than work under such condi­
tions.
Lighting.
The adequacy of lighting wTas often dependent upon methods of
cleaning in the factory. It was not infrequently reported that there
was sufficient window space, but that the windows were so covered
with dust and dirt that the light was dim. The question of lighting
is one which is well worth attention by any manufacturer who de­
sires to keep up a maximum production, for it has been found that
it has a very definite bearing on production. In experiments made
during the war to determine the extent of the effect of lighting on
production it was found in one factory that when the intensity of
light was tripled production increased 7 per cent on some operations
and as much as 27 per cent on others. Proper shading of lights in­
creased their intensity 25 per cent, and increased production from 30
to 100 per cent.1 But in many plants in Virginia girls are working
all day facing the light, sometimes obliged to hang strips of cloth or
aprons on strings across the windows to protect them from the glare.
Artificial lighting also was apt to be very haphazard. Sometimes
electric-light bulbs hung high, without shades, and without relation
to the position of the worker. In other cases bulbs were hung low
but without shades, so that the light glared in the eyes and the
workers had to endure this additional discomfort. In a few cases
1 Durfin, W. E.
1918.

Bulletin of Society of Illuminating Engineers, New York, December.




26

HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

they had improvised shades of paper, but proper shading was found
very infrequently.
Ventilation.
Ventilation is so technical a subject that a discussion of it would
not come within the scope of this survey, and yet it would seem
significant to quote from reports on three different tobacco factories:
1. In the steaming and drying room the air was so heavy with fumes that it
was impossible for the inspector to remain more than a few minutes in the room.
The superintendent said that the workers got used to it, although at first they
had difficulty in keeping their food down.
2. No exhaust on the screener and tobacco dust was so thick the workers
could barely be distinguished from the machines and piles of tobacco. They
could not have worked at all if they had not tied handkerchiefs over nose and
mouth.
8. Air was unusually good. In steaming and ordering room large exhaust
pipes with electric fans took off much of the dust. The blending room hud 11
humidifiers which kept the dust from flying and gave freshness to the air.
Other workrooms were well ventilated by a system of washed air.

In many plants there were elaborate arrangements for humidifying
air where special conditions were necessary to the product, but a
similar attention to the needs of proper air for the workers employed
in manufacturing the product was seldom observed.
In 20 plants employing 3,638 women it was felt by the investi­
gators that immediate steps should be taken to remove the dust inci­
dent to the industry. The dust-protection law in Virginia requires
that grinding, polishing, or buffing wheels shall be protected by
hoods and an exhaust system for removing dust, but this law does
not cover any other occupations. Eleven of the 20 plants where some
special exhaust system was considered necessary were in the tobacco
industry where the need of relief from the fumes and dust of tobacco
was particularly urgent.
Health service.
Minor accidents and illnesses are likely to occur occasionally in
any plant, and yet in 89 establishments employing over 6,000 women
no proper equipment was found for the treatment of injuries or ill­
ness. A bottle of turpentine for remedies and old rags for bandages
in a plant where girls were running power sewing machines; a bottle
of “ colic cure,” to be administered indiscriminately by the foreman
in another factory, should surely be replaced by up-to-date first-aid
equipment in charge of some one who is trained to administer it.
There was also an almost total absence of any health or accident
records in the plants surveyed. Such records would be of great sig­
nificance to the manager of a plant who wished to reduce losses in
labor caused by preventable accidents or illnesses, and would also
be a very clear indication to State inspectors of certain conditions in
plants which should be remedied.




HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

27

Employment policy.
Frequent complaints were made to the investigators of the scarcity
of labor and the high labor turnover, and yet in only a few cases had
a definite employment policy been instituted by the management.
“Who hires?” “The foreman.” “Who fires?” “The foreman.”
“ Who transfers? ” “ No one.” This series of questions and answers
occurs so frequently in the reports on the various plants as to be­
come monotonous. Employers seem to have given very little atten­
tion to the possibility of conserving the labor supply by intelligent
and careful placing of the new worker, and by arranging a system
by which a worker unsuccessful in one process may be transferred to
another and not discharged at the whim of her immediate boss. One
superintendent said he did not recognize his employees when he saw
them because they never stayed long enough to get acquainted.
Frequently the securing of new workers is done by the employees
themselves, who receive a small payment for each recruit. In a large
tobacco factory it was reported:
Each foreman hires for his own department When help is needed a notice
is posted in the dressing room and any girl who brings a worker who is ac­
cepted gets $2. If the new girl stays a month the girl who brought her receives
$5. The new girl is placed next to her friend, who shows her how the work
should be done.

In another factory, a peanut plant, the head woman at each endless
belt on which the women are employed sorting peanuts is charged
with keeping enough employees at her table to keep the work going.
If she fails she is removed as head woman. She gets slightly better
pay than the other workers, but receives nothing additional for each
individual employee she brings in. Another plant employing over
150 women reported that there was the greatest difficulty in getting
and keeping workers. Out of 26 girls employed at one time only
nine remained at the end of five weeks. Half of the machines in one
room were idle because of the lack of workers. This plant paid a
bonus for attendance but had not installed an employment depart­
ment.
The modern employer, and there are many examples of this type
in Virginia, will- conserve his labor supply not only by providing
short hours, adequate wages, and good working conditions but also
by the intelligent placing of his employees and a careful supervision
of their records in the factory, so that all unnecessary discharges may
be eliminated.
THE WORKERS.
More important than the report of any investigator on industrial
conditions is the report of those who are most interested in the sub­
ject—the women themselves. No suitable program for the improve­
ment of conditions can be outlined or inaugurated without the ad-




28

HOURS AND CONDITIONS OR WORK FOR WOMEN.

vice and assistance of the workers. Fifty-nine women were inter­
viewed during the course of this survey. They were seen at work,
at home, and at evening meetings, and they can be assumed to be
fairly representative of the working women of the State. The
greater number of these women worked in cigarette factories and
textile mills, though there were a few of them in the other industries.
Home responsibilities.
Thirty-seven of the 59 women were responsible for the entire
support of other members of their families, or were contributing to
their partial support. The wages which were being earned by this
group were very low, particularly when their responsibilities were
taken into consideration. Two sisters, almost children, 15 and 18
years old, were making $7.50 and $11 a week in a silk mill. Thenwages were the sole support of their mother and four younger
brothers and sisters. To earn this amount one is working 10 hours a
day as a weaver, while the younger one works eight hours a day,
giving out quills. The next oldest member of the family is a boy
of 12 so it will be several years before these girls have anyone to
share their responsibilities. Four women who were supporting from
two to five dependents were making only $10 or $11 a week. Of the
others who were supporting dependents, seven were making between
$10 and $12 a week; 10 between $12 and $14 a week; five from $16 to
$18; one from $18 to $20, and only four were making over $20 a
week.
Wages.
Several women who worked as weavers in a silk mill reported a
situation with regard to wages which was particularly difficult for
them. It is usually the custom in mills to pay the weaver a weekly
wage, based on the average amount of her earnings, when because
of poor warp, stoppage of machinery, or other causes she has not
been able to complete a “ cut,” for which she is usually paid by the
yard. This system guarantees a regular income, a very important
matter when a woman has not only her own expenses to meet but
often those of her children or younger brothers and sisters. Three
women, one of whom gives all of her wages to her mother to help
support her and two small brothers, and one of whom, with her
mother, cares for five younger sisters, reported that they were paid
for only the completed “ cut.” Thus sometimes, when they had had
bad luck with their machine or when the warp had been particularly
poor, they got no wage at all, and often received as little as $2.50
or $3.50 a week. As the causes for not getting out the work were
entirely beyond the control of the weaver herself, it would seem to be
a great injustice to penalize her in this manner.




HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

29

The median wage for the entire group of women was $15.07, and
the wage earned by the largest number of women (nine) was $12
or less than $13. Although, except for these interviews, the ques­
tion of wages was not included in the survey, these figures indicate
that the women of Virginia have more to contend with, in these days
of the high cost of living, than poor working conditions and long
hours. Their responsibilities and the struggle to make two ends
meet are an additional drain on their vitality. One woman who
sewed about 3 dozen middy blouses a day on a power sewing machine
was paid at the rate of 70 cents a dozen. She said that she worked
just as hard as she could and only once had made as much as $15
a week. She lives in a boarding home which is supported partly
by charitable contributions, and she helps her sister support the
children of another sister who is dead. Another women has been a
widow for 18 years and has supported her son since he was a baby.
She has had only her work to depend upon, and said she must
work very fast as, now that her boy has come back from the war and
is in the hospital, she is the sole support of her father who is ill
with heart trouble. The old man should not be left alone, but “ what
else can you do? Last week I had to pay $5 for his medicine.”
She works from 7 a. m. to 5.30 p. m., takes just enough time off for
lunch, and always stays until one of the last, so that she can earn
as much as possible. Saturday she works till 3 or 4 o’clock and
then goes home to do her weekly house cleaning. She makes from
$26 to $29 a week, but “ you have to work like mad to do that.” She
is afraid, too, that she may not be able to keep it up, as she is not
as strong as she used to be. This last sentence bears a warning
which must be heeded if the welfare of women in industry is to
be preserved.
Reasons for high labor turnover.
Reasons for the high labor turnover which was complained of by
so many employers were brought out in the remarks of several of
the girls. They showed a very human tendency to go from one
plant to another in search of better pay, shorter hours, and better
working conditions. One woman, who was responsible for the par­
tial support of one child and three adults, was working in a cigarette
factory. She had worked in another tobacco factory before, but had
left because “ the dust got in her lungs and the doctor said she
must.” Then she went into another industry, where she liked the
work, but she had to stand all day, and that made her sick. Al­
though she liked the work she was doing in the cigarette factory,
she said she thought she would leave soon, as it was “ a poor place
to work. Low pay, and sanitary conditions bad. No ventilation in
one toilet; not enough toilets, and those there are are not kept clean.




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HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

CJirls don’t stay long in that place.” She added to these remarks a
fervent wish that there might be a law “ to make the bosses keep
places clean.”
Another woman reported that she had worked at the same process
in three different tobacco factories. She liked her present place of
work best, although it was the dirtiest of the three, because she could
work at her own pace, sometimes on a day rate and sometimes on
piece rate, according to the job. At one of the other places the work
had been all piecework and it was “ an awful rush,” and at the other
she had to do a certain amount of work or she was not kept at all.
In her present position she was making $2.70 a day on day work
and could earn as much as $4.50 a day on piecework. Another woman
had worked for 18 months running a power sewing machine, but had
left that job because she found 8 hours of such work more fatiguing
than 10 hours of matching and packing cigars, her present occu­
pation.
Hours.
Many of the women reported that they found the long hours a
great strain, and some felt that they could turn out as much work
in shorter hours. Others feared that shorter hours might reduce
their pay, which was already so low they could barely manage to get
along. One girl when asked if she ever worked overtime replied:
“How could I, working from 7 to 6? I spend about 12 hours each
day going to and from work and at work. I couldn’t stand much
more.” She said she found very little time to read, and that although
she thought the Y. W. C. A. and other clubs must be “ great ” and
just the kind of thing she would like, “they would not do me much
good because I am so tired at night I can’t do anything.”
THE ADMINISTRATION OF LABOR LAWS.
Some of the problems which surround the employment of women
in industry in the State of Virginia have been outlined in the fore­
going pages. The conditions under which more than 18,000 women
are working have been described. With increased numbers of
women in industry additional problems will present themselves and
constant care and attention will be necessary to guarantee that ade­
quate protection is given and that unnecessary restrictions are re­
moved.
The creation of a special division in the bureau of labor and in­
dustrial statistics to deal with the problems of women in industry
and the appointment of a woman as chief of this division are two
steps which must be taken if the more than 226,000 wage-earning
women of the State are to have the benefit of a continuous and con­
structive policy for the advancement of their interests.




APPENDIX.
THE NEED FOR NEW LEGISLATION.
From “ Labor Laws for Women in Industry in Indiana.” Women's Bureau, United States
Department of Labor, Bulletin No. 2, 1919.

The facts revealed even in this brief inquiry show that without
State action women workers are subjected to the fatigue of long
hours, which is clearly detrimental to their health and efficiency.
Without clearer definitions of standards of comfort, safety, and
sanitation in the workrooms, working conditions are often allowed
to exist which are below a wholesome or decent minimum. Most
important of all is the need for an adequate inspection force and for
a plan of administration which shall give recognition to the urgent
problems of women in industry. It is for the people of the State to
determine the form and content of legislation to accomplish these
purposes. It may be appropriate, however, to outline the tests of
adequacy in such laws which experience has revealed.
1. A clear definition of occupations covered is essential as a means
of enforcement, unless it is deemed wise to include all gainful em­
ployment under the law.
2. Regulation of hours of work requires a statement of (a) the
length of the maximum working day permitted, (6) the. length of
the working week, and (<?) limitation of employment to six days in
a week. Without a clear limitation on the length of the day, the
total weekly hours permitted might be required in so brief a portion
of the week as to result in exceedingly long daily hours. Without a
limitation on the total weekly hours, and on the number of days of
employment in a week, a day of rest is not assured and weekly hours
may be therefore excessive. Moreover, all three restrictions are
necessary for effective enforcement.
3. A period of rest at night should be assured both to prevent em­
ployment at night, and to make more possible the enforcement of the
daily limitation of hours, by naming a closing hour after which
presence in the establishment is a violation of law regardless of the
length of employment.
4. A definite requirement should be made for a sufficiently long
recess at noon and for a limitation on the maximum hours of continu­
ous employment, as otherwise the strain and speed of modern in­
dustry may result in continuous work, without the necessary provi­
sion of time for food and rest before fatigue results in exhaustion
from which recovery is difficult.
5. Provision for comfort and sanitation should be so definite as to
leave no doubt in the minds of employers, workers, and inspectors as
to their application in any plant.
6. Because of the complexity of industrial conditions, and especially
the differences between different industries, the administrative au­
thorities should have authority to build up codes of regulations for




31

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HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF WORK FOR WOMEN.

these different occupations, basing them always upon the minimum
standards of health and safety which are found to be common to all
occupations.
7. It has been found that enforcement of the laws limiting hours
of labor is greatly facilitated by the requirement that in each work­
room a printed notice be posted stating the exact hours of work
required of the women employed there. Employment of any woman
at a time other than that stated in the notice is deemed a violation
of law. In addition to the posted notice, it is also desirable to
require the keeping of a time book with records of the actual daily
hours of each woman employed, since the hours of individuals often
differ from those of the department as a whole. These two forms
of records provide a means of enforcement depending upon inspec­
tion and not upon the testimony of workers. Fear of losing a posi­
tion makes workers always unwilling to testify in court against their
employers, and this lias resulted in difficulties out of which have
come the suggestions for requiring records to be available as evidence.
8. An effective labor law must contain also a clause defining penal­
ties for violation.
9. Public opinion should demand that employers be prosecuted
for violations of law, and that appropriate sentences be imposed
upon those who are convicted in court. Vigilance in requiring
compliance with the laws on the statute books is essential if the
labor legislation of the State is to be an effective agency for estab­
lishing proper conditions of employment.
10. It should be said, however, that prosecution is only one means
of insuring compliance with the law. It is only when employers
have become so enlightened and progressive as to accept the stand­
ards imposed by the State as the basis for efficiency in industry
to be adopted willingly and not through the compulsion of threat­
ened punishment that a satisfactory condition can be said to pre­
vail. When this is achieved the inspectors of the State department
of labor become advisers in the application of standards rather
than policemen. The test of achievement in this respect, however, is
to be found not in the absence of prosecutions, but in the actual
conditions existing in the industries of a State. It is fair to assume
always that the effectiveness of the laws enacted and of their admin­
istration is to be found in the actual hours and working conditions
found in the industries.
11. With the growing complexity of the problems of women’s
employment and with the increase in their numbers in industry
it becomes important that State departments of labor should be
equipped not merely to enforce laws regulating their employment,
but to study their needs and to observe new conditions. To accom­
plish this task it is necessary that women should be in responsible
positions, as members of industrial boards or as chiefs of divisions
directly responsible to the boards or to the labor commissioner.
This is important not merely to represent the interests of women
workers, but to add the wisdom of new points of view to the labor
department in dealing with all the problems of labor affecting, as
they do, both men and women.




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