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U33 • 74
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UN1TED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BULLETIN OF THE WOMEN’S BUREAU, No. 74

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN




AND HER JOB

Owr- • •

ikwrn&w,

[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 Mouse of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled, That there shall be
established 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 compensa­
tion 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 advance their opportunities for profitable employ­
ment. 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.




UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
James j. DAVIS, Secretary

WOMEN’S BUREAU
MARY ANDERSON, Director

BULLETIN

OF THE WOMEN’S

BUREAU, NO. 74

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN
AND HER JOB
CAROLINE MANNING

UNITED STATES
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1930

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents,. Washington, D. C.,




Price 30 cents




.

'

l

»

CONTENTS
Letter of transmittal_________________
Introduction
Scope!_________________________________________________________
Geographic location
Industrial development
Importance of foreign-born women in industries in the Lehigh
Valley
Method________________________________________________________
Data based on interviews
Selection of neighborhoods in Philadelphia____________________
House-to-house canvass___________________________ _________
Neighborhoods outside of Philadelphia
12
Questionnaires in evening schools
12
Plan of report
13
Summaries of interviews
13
Personal data
18
Race and country of birth
18
Year of arrival in the United States
20
Reason for coming to the United States
21
Coming alone and age at arrival
22
Time in the United States before beginning work__________________
Marital status
22
Age_____________
Citizenship:_____________________________________________________
Schooling in the old country
26
Schooling in the United States
26
Ability to speak English
27
Ability to read English
29
Inability to read any language
30
Illiteracy
31
Employment of illiterates and those ignorant of English__________
Conclusion____________________________
Why so few attend evening school
32
Women who do attend evening classes
32
Failure of classes to fit individual needs
33
The family__________________
Summary
35
Size of family
36
Wage earners and non wage earners
36
Rela tionship of wage-earning woman in the family________________
Children
38
Number_____________________________________________ ______
Age and status
39
Care during mother’s absence
40
Care by fathers or others in the home
41
Care by neighbors or others outside the home_________________
Inadequate arrangements
42
No caretaker_________
Husbands and fathers
45
Steadiness of employment
46
Earnings of chief male bread-winner
46
Federal Reserve figures________
Cost of living
Economic responsibilities
Married women
Team-work—double responsibility
Unemployment;____________________________________________
Illness
54
Buying a home
54




hi

Page.

ix
1
3
3
4

6
9
9
10
12

22
24
24

31
32

35

37
38

42
43

48
48
50
50
52
53

IV

CONTENTS

Economic responsibilities—Continued.
Married women—Continued.
Brides continuing to work
55
Savings and old age
56
No absolute necessity for work
57
Sole support___________________________________________________
Single women
Women living independently
Other motives for working
Home duties__________ _____________________________________________
Extent60
Washing
61
Assistance in housework
61
Boarders; day work
61
Housing_______________ ____________________________________________
Multiple dwellings in the Lehigh Valley
64
Size of dwelling
66
Persons per room
66
Rents____
Sanitary equipment of houses in Bethlehem
Industrial experience
Summary______________
Work in old country
71
Industry in old country compared with work in United States______
First work in the United States
74
Various industries in which employed
75
Major and minor industry
78
No change in occupation
79
Time spent as wage earners
83
Aggregate years worked before and after marriage_________________
Continuous employment
Causes of unemployed time
Employment of mothers and daughters
Conditions in present job
Earnings
Earnings by industry or occupation
Effect of experience on wages
Wage reports from other sources or agencies__________________
Hours of work
95
Source of data
95
Daily hours
96
Weekly hours
96
Long hours and overtime
97
Irregularity of employment
100
Finding a job
103
Making a choice_
_
Importance of chance
Influence of friends and language
Definite choice_______________
Other agencies
* Difficulties of experienced workers
Age a drawback
Adjustment in the job
Industrial reasons for dissatisfaction
No work__________
Low wages;________________________________________________
Pay while learning,
Changes in method of pay
117
Difficulty in collecting wages________________________________
Personalities; language difficulties
119
Managerial policies
121
Physical strain
126
Insanitary conditions1______________________________________
Illness reported by cigar workers
128
Personal reasons for leaving job
129
Unsatisfactory conditions not resulting in change of job____________




Page

57
58
58
58
60

64

68
60
71
71
72

83
85
85
87
90
90
91
92
94

103
105
106
108
109
109
111
112
114
115
115
116
118

127
130

CONTENTS

Accidents
Immigration since the World War
Race----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Housing-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Education
135
Age and marital status
135
Reason for coming
135
Age at entering present industry
135
Finding work
137
Industrial work in the home:
Introduction
Race and present occupation
Work in the old country
Reason for coming to the United States
Personal data
Age and marital status
Ability to use English
Citizenship___________________________________________ _____
Dwellings
The family____________________________________
Number and ages of children
Husbands---------------------------------------------------------------------------Industrial experience
146
Reasons for working
146
Reasons for selecting home work
146
First work in the United States
147
Time spent in employment other than home work_____________
Experience in home work
Operations in home work andthe rates of pay_________________
Proximity of plants and difficulties of getting the work________
Help of children
153
Time devoted to home work
154
Earnings_________________________ _____________________________
Source of data
155
Week’s earnings
156
Individual versus family-group work
156
Dissatisfaction with earnings
157
Foreign-born women attending Philadelphia public evening schools:
Introduction_______________________________________
Summary:
Scope
Personal data
Race and country of birth
Age______________________________________
Marital statusi_____________
Time in the United States
162
Citizenship
163
Education
163
Schooling in the old country
163
Time in school in the United States
164
Industrial experience
166
Length of time working in the United States
166
Present employment
166
Employment in the old country compared with present em­
ployment
167
Effect on industry of time in the United States_______________
Number of jobs
169
Wages
170
First wages
170
Raises in wages
170
Wages in relation to experience
171
Wages and race
172
Wages in domestic and personal service
172
Summary of principal facts
173
Appendix.—Schedule forms
177




V
Page

133
134
134
134

138
139
140
140
141
141
141
143
143
144
144
144

148
149
150
152
155

159
160
161
161
161
162
162

169

VI

CONTENTS

TEXT TABLES
Table 1. Number of women interviewed, by race or people and

locality
2. Age distribution of women 10 years of age and over in
woman-employing manufacturing and mechanical in­
dustries, 1900, 1910, and 1920—Lehigh Valley, by com­
munity
3. Number and per cent of married women 10 years of age and
over in woman-employing manufacturing and mechanical
industries, 1900, 1910, and 1920—Lehigh Valley, lay com­
munityi
4. Number and per cent of foreign-born women 10 years of
age and over in woman-employing manufacturing and
mechanical industries, 1900, 1910, and 1920—Lehigh
Valley, by community
5. Country of birth, by race or people_____________________
6. Year of arrival in the United States, by race or people___
7. Marital status, by race or people
23
8. Age, by race or people
24
9. Citizenship, by race or people
25
10. Extent of schooling in the United States of women 14 years
of age or over at time of arrival, by locality___________
11. Inability to speak English of women 14 years of age or over
at time of arrival, by race or people and locality_______
12. Inability to speak English, by years in the United States- 13. Inability to read English, by years in the United States-_
14. Inability to read English of women 14 years of age or over
at time of arrival, by race or people and locality______
15. Inability to read any language, by race or people________
16. Total illiteracy and inability to read and write English, by
present industry or occupation
31
17. Wage earners and non wage earners according to the rela­
tionship in family of the woman interviewed__________
18. Women in families having two wage earners, by relation­
ship of woman and size of family_____________________
19. Number of children in the home, by race or people of
mother
38
20. Mothers having children of specified age groups at home, in
school, or at work, by age group of children___________
21. Mothers with children at work, by race or people of mother.
22. Number of children, by age of youngest child___________
23. Care of young children during mother’s absence at work,
by age..----------------------------------------------------------------24. Industry or occupation of husband, by locality__________
25. Median of a week’s earnings of the chief male wage earners,
by industry or occupation and by locality_____________
26. Reason for return to work after marriage, by time elapsed
before such return
51
27. Extent to which married women and widows had boarders
and lodgers, by race or people of woman______________
28. Extent of cooperative housekeeping or living as “ boarders,”
by race or people of woman interviewed—Lehigh Valley. _
29. Size of dwelling and number of persons in the household,
by locality
67
30. Average number of persons to a room, households of recent
arrivals compared with all households—Lehigh Valley __
31. Amount of monthly rental, by size of dwelling and locality. _
32. Employment in old country of women who were 16 years of
age and over at time of coming to United States, by
present employment
72
33. Extent to which employment in United States had differed
from that in old country—504 women who were wage
earners in old country
73
34. First employment in the United States, by locality______




Page

3

7

7

8
19
21

26
28
29
29
30
30

36
37

39
39
40
41
45
47

62
65

68
69

74

CONTENTS

•

Table 35. Experience in various industries, by present industry—

Philadelphia
77
36. Experience in various industries, by present industry—
Lehigh Valley
78
37. Present employment major or minor, by locality_________
38. Women reporting no change of occupation in entire indus­
trial experience in United States—Lehigh Valley______
39. Women reporting no change of occupation in entire indus­
trial experience in United States—Philadelphia________
40. Experience in one occupation, by time worked and locality.
41. Experience in one or more occupations, by race or people
and locality
82
42. Percentage of years employed and unemployed during
time spent in United States, by marital status and
locality____________________________________________
43. Extent of unbroken employment in the United States, by
marital status and locality
85
44. Time not employed through domestic causes, by over-all
working period in the United States__________________
45. Industry of daughter, by industry of mother____________
46. Median of the week’s earnings, by present industry and by
locality
91
47. Median of the week’s earnings according to whether present
employment major or minor, by locality______________
48. Median of the week’s earnings, by actual time worked in
present industry
93
49. Daily and weekly hours of work in manufacturing indus­
tries, by locality
96
50. Reason for choice of first job, by industry_______________
51. Condition in the industry reported as reason for leaving
job, by industry
115
52. Distribution by industry or occupation of women who had
arrived in the United States in 1919 or later, according
to first employment in the United States, according to
present employment, and showing number who had
remained in one industry or occupation, by locality____
Industrial work in the home:
53. Kind of home work done, by race of woman____________
54. Inability to use English and general illiteracy, by race or
people
142
55. Number of children in all families and number where young­
est child was under 5 years of age
144
56. Employment outside the home, by industry or occupation
and duration of job
148
57. Extent of individual and group work, by kind of work
done
157
Foreign-born women attending Philadelphia public evening schools:
58. Race or people, by country of birth
161
59. Age, by race or people
162
60. Time in school in the United States, by age at time of
arrival_______
61. Distribution of women according to length of residence in
the United States and time attending school__________
62. Attendance at school during approximately entire residence
in the United States
165
63. Employment during approximately entire residence in the
United States
166
64. Present industry or occupation, by race or people________
65. Present employment, by occupation in old country______
66. Women having had only one job in the United States, by
time at work
170
67. Earnings in the first and the present job, by industry___
68. Median of the full-time weekly wage, by time worked in the
United States
171




VII

Pass

78
80
80
82

84

87
88

93

103

136
139

164
165

167
168
171

VIII

CONTENTS

ILLUSTRATIONS
Page

Portrait of immigrant womanFrontispiece
Map of central Europe showing countries in which most of the women
interviewed were born
6
Map of Philadelphia showing location of foreign neighborhoods in which
canvass was made________________________________________________
11




LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
United States Department of Labor,
Women’s Bureau,

Washington, July 1,1929.
Sir: I am submitting herewith a report on the immigrant woman

and her job, designed to show how and to what extent these women
are fitting into American industrial life, how necessary such em­
ployment is for the women and what it means to them and to their
families, and how much of their time and strength is given to
American industry.
Grateful acknowledgment is made of the generous assistance lent
by individuals and organizations—the women themselves, their em­
ployers, the Young Women’s Christian Association, the Philadelphia
Chamber of Commerce, the Philadelphia Board of Education, and
the United States Bureau of the Census.
The survey was conducted by and under the direction of Caroline
Manning, industrial supervisor of this bureau, and Miss Manning
has written the report.
Respectfully submitted.
Mart Anderson, Director.
Hon. James J. Davis,
Secretary of Labor.




IX

/tk'MBi




THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB
INTRODUCTION
This report is descriptive of women who, born on the other side of
the Atmntic, have adopted America as their home. The study was
made in order to ascertain how and to what extent these women are
fitting into American industrial life, how necessary such employ­
ment is for the women and what it means to them and to their
families, and how much of their time and strength is given to
American industries.
•
\°n 0f*aiiyi>art ^le immigration problem was attempted
in tins study. An effort was made merely to get from the foreignborn woman herself her reactions to conditions as she finds them toda\ in a very small section of the United States. To accomplish this
the interview method was used, the women being visited in their
homes, frequently with the assistance of an interpreter. Too much
can not be said in praise of the young women who acted as in­
terpreters. Some of them were themselves in industry, others were
m offices or were teachers or social workers. Several, having grown
up in the neighborhood, had experienced the difficulties of adjust­
ment in America and thus were better able to present the purpose of
the survey in the homes of their fellow countrymen, winning the con­
fidence of strangers, many of whom otherwise might have been
reticent and reluctant to discuss personal matters.
One purpose of the survey was to discover where and why the
women were employed, topics that guided the conversation into a
discussion of the everyday affairs in which the woman interviewed
was most keenly interested—her job and her home.
In view of the method used, the results are not wholly statistical
tabulations of recorded facts, but the report is offered in the belief
that errors in individual statements have been lost in the laro-e num­
ber of cases interviewed or that errors on the one side have been
balanced by errors on the other. Some of the comments may have
been influenced by a natural bias, but the statements gave expression
to predominant attitudes of mind strikingly suggestive of the
forces that control the lives and characters of the vast immigrant
population.
6
Not all the problems that the. women discussed were peculiarly
those of the immigrant, but their handicaps undoubtedly served to
emphasize their difficulties. .Nor are the conditions complained of
new. Always known to exist, they were surveyed 20 years ago by
the Immigration Commission, and in a number of respects the re­
ports of that commission describe the situation as it was found in
the present inquiry.




1

2

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Employers, like the women visited in their homes, exhibited a
spirit of friendliness toward the study. In many cases they fur­
nished lists of the names and addresses of their foreign-born em­
ployees. Furthermore, a few supplied representative pay-roll data
showing the actual earnings of the immigrant women employed in
their plants. Some discussed their labor problems with amazing
frankness. A foreman of an office-cleaning gang expressed a pref­
erence for married Slavic women, saying, “ They work hard, and
don’t object to scrubbing tiled floors on their knees.” “ They still
like brooms and are afraid of vacuum cleaners.” An employment
manager in a large mill, who preferred Polish women, said: “ They
are hard workers, stolid, and equal to heavy jobs. We have no
Italians or Jews here. We do not like the excitable Italian type
for work, and the Jew can not satisfy his ambitions in this plant,
as there is no chance for progress in skill or wages. One reason we
moved here was to be near a cheap labor supply.” And in Bethle­
hem the labor situation was described as “ unique ” and “ easy ” be­
cause not under trade-union domination.
American neighbors are likely to be critical of the foreigner,
whether a success or a failure, so many of the women not only were
conscious of the barrier created by a strange language but felt the
race prejudice that in some places amounted practically to ostra­
cism, to-day’s expression of the discrimination that has been the lot
of the race most recently arrived from colonial days to the present
time.
Many of the foreign born remain complete strangers to the lan­
guage and customs of the land in which they make their home years
after their arrival. Of the more than 2,000 women reporting only
about three-fifths were able to speak English, and some of these used
the language with great difficulty; less than one-third could read
English and fewer still could write it.
As remains true of the vast majority of women, and perhaps of
men, it was a matter of place of residence and not one of deliberate
choice of occupation that decided whether these women should be
cigar rollers in the Lehigh Valley or woolen weavers in Philadelphia.
In many cases the women interviewed had elected to live in a
certain place to be near friends, but they had gone to work in the
new environment blindly, with no enthusiasm for making cigars or
with little aptitude for operating a power sewing machine. All work
was alike to them, merely a means to earning a livelihood. In his
book, Adjusting Immigrant and Industry, William M. Leiserson
has said:
When the immigrant’s work and the place in which it is done are as strange
to him as the language and customs of the people among whom he has come
to live, faith in a promised land is indeed a necessity to give hope that he will
survive in the new environment. And if a proper adjustment of immigrant
and industry is to be made, so that he'may become an integral part of the
American industrial population, something more than faith is needed. Ade­
quate assistance in finding his place in American industry is also necessary.1

And after talking with women who for years have done some of
the heaviest and most disagreeable tasks in our factories and mills,
1 Leiserson, William M.
p. 48.




Adjusting Immigrant and Industry.

Harper & Bros.

1924,

3

INTRODUCTION

but whose hearts and minds still dwell in the Carpathian Mountains,
Americanization seems little more than a strange word and a vague
ideal as yet far from attainment.
SCOPE

Geographic location.
The table following shows the number of women interviewed, ac­
cording to race or people and locality:
Table 1.—'Number of women interviewed, by race or people and locality
Number

Per cent

Race or people
Total
Total..................... .............

Philadel­ Lehigh
phia
Valley

Total

Philadel­
phia

Lehigh
Valley

.............

2,146

1,120

1,026

100.0

100.0

100.0

Irish......................................................
Scotch...................................................

57
37
34
2

57
35
31
2

2
3

2. 7
1.7
1.6
.l

5.1
3.1
2.8
.2

.2
.3

7
451
214
223
274
7
5

7
101
173
221
47

350
41
2
227
7
5

.3
21.0
10.0
10.4
12.8
.3
.2

.6
9.0
15.4
19.7
4.2

11
27
330
34
7
12
115
184
104
11

6
26
295
28
2
4
31

5
1
35
6
5
8
84
184
57
4

.5
1.3
15.4
1.6
.3
.6
5.4
8.6
4.8
.5

.5
2.3
26.3
2.5
.2
.4
2.8

English-speaking:

Non-English-speaking:
French............ ................... ...................
German..... ..............................................
Italian .................................................. .
Jewish.....................................................
Magyar...................................................
Spanish and Portuguese l........ ......... .
Slavic—
Czech,....................................... .
Lithuanian and Lettish 2___ ____
Polish.............................................
Russian...................... ................... .
Ruthenian___________________
Serbo-Croatian 3._....................... .
Slovak.............................................
Ukrainian
Other 4_______________ ___________

1 Includes 4 Spanish and 1 Portuguese.
2 Includes 25 Lithuanian and 2 Lettish.
3 Includes 10 Croatian and 2 Serbian.
4 Includes 3 Armenian, 1 Finnish, 4 Flemish, 3 Greek.

47
7

4.2
.6

34.1
4.0
.2
22.1
.7
.5
.5
.1
3.4
.6
.5
.8
8.2
17.9
5.6
.4

.

In selecting the field for the survey an effort was" made to include
both a community with a foreign population typical of the United
States as a whole and a more intensely foreign community with lim­
ited opportunities for the wage-earning woman.
The latest occupational census of the United States, taken in 1920,
shows that, of 1,930,341 women employed in manufacturing and me­
chanical industries, more than one in every five was foreign born
and almost one-half of the foreign born were in the clothing and
textile trades.2
It is apparent from the same report of the census that in Phila­
delphia about one-sixth of the women in industry were foreign born
and the industries employing them in greatest numbers were clothing
with about 4,000 foreign women and textiles with about 5,000.3
There were large cities with percentages of- foreign-born women in
2 U. S. Bureau of the Census.
tions, pp. 342-350.

3 Ibid., pp, 204 and 1196,




Fourteenth Census: 1920, vol. 4, Population, Occupa­

4

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

industry much higher than that of Philadelphia : For New York City
as a whole the figure was 46.3 per cent, and for the Borough of Man­
hattan it was 53.5 per cent; for Chicago it was 34.3 per cent. Some
smaller industrial cities also had percentages much higher than that
of Philadelphia: Fall Iiiver, with 44.7 per cent; Lowell, with 45.5
per cent; New Bedford, with 60.3 per cent; and Passaic, with 67.5
per cent.4
Philadelphia was selected for the present survey as fairly repre­
sentative of the country as a whole in numbers of foreign women
employed, being a large clothing and textile center and offering op­
portunities for work in a great variety of other industries and
occupations. It is not a 1-industry center as are so man}7 of the
cities with unusually high proportions of foreign workers. '
In sharp contrast to Philadelphia with its normal population and
diversified industries is an important industrial district in the Lehigh
River Valley. About 50 miles north of Philadelphia and 80 miles
west from New York are Bethlehem, famous for its steel works, and
Allentown, with its more diversified manufacturing interests; a little
farther up the river is the famous cement belt centering about the
towns of Northampton, Coplay, and Cementon, and still farther up
is Palmerton, unknown to the outside world until the New Jersey
Zinc Co. acquired farms here in 1898 and began building the town
along with its mills. These characteristic industries have been a
magnet that has attracted thousands of foreign born to the district
and has revolutionized it in the last quarter of a century.
In this influx of the new immigration into the Lehigh Valley have
been men of many races and many creeds. They have come chiefly
from what was, before the World War, Austria-Hungary—from
Galicia, Carpathia, Bohemia, Hungary, Burgenland; and here they
have established their churches—Greek, Roman Catholic, and Lu­
theran and the foreign-language schools in connection with their
churches. Here also the press is publishing newspapers in foreign
languages that have a circulation far beyond the Lehigh Valley.
As early as 1880 the first few Slovaks and Hungarians were reach­
ing Bethlehem, but not for 15 years did the Slovenes (Winds) come
in noticeable numbers. With them have come their women folk, and
they have established their homes in segregated communities close
to the places of the men’s employment. In the earlier years there
was little for the women to do outside their homes, but in about 1900
some lar-sighted men saw this idle labor supply and had visions of
utilizing it.
Industrial development.
The mention of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley brings to mind a
picture of steel and cement and the foreign labor that has been
attracted by the opportunities of work offered by these big industr|es- Being a steel and cement center, the less important industries
where the women have found work have been overshadowed.
Before 1905 the cigar factories in the district were small shops
employing perhaps half a dozen or so, but in that year a large and
completely equipped cigar factory was established in the midst of
the homes of the foreign-born families in Allentown. In less than
4 Ibid., pp. 1049-1257 and unpublished data,




5

INTRODUCTION

three years another large cigar factory was operating in the foreign
section in South Bethlehem, and in another two years one was opened
in Northampton. Others followed rapidly, so that within a few
years about 10 large cigar factories were employing hundreds of
women living in these neighborhoods. They were popular with the
workers, and some women who lived in South Bethlehem went back
and forth daily to the factory in Allentown before one opened in
their own city. The reputation of these large establishments soon
spread to Europe, so that numbers of unattached women came to
the valley, confident of obtaining work upon their arrival.
The history of the silk industry in the district dates back con­
siderably farther than that of the cigar industry. In 1880 a silk
firm in New Jersey was persuaded that among other considerations
the abundant labor supply and cheap living made Allentown a favor­
able location for a mill. The next few years saw several silk mills
opened in Bethlehem, as well as in Allentown, so that by 1890 the
industry was well established and began reaching out into adjoining
communities. Coplay had been a cement center for many years, but
not until 1895 was there any foreign population to speak orf and not
until 1901 did it boast of a silk mill or a cigar factory. About that
time the zinc company in Palmerton was making rapid strides, and
to house the incoming labor it was found necessary to begin the
construction of company houses. A silk mill was opened, but it was
not until 1914 that the cigar industry started here.
The men and women who have settled in Philadelphia and the
Lehigh Valley have come from practically every country in Europe.
According to the United States Census of 1920,5 the six ranking
countries of origin represented in Philadelphia, Allentown, and
Bethlehem are as follows:
Philadelphia
Total population___1,
Number of
foreign
born_____
Per cent of
foreign
born
Six ranking
countries
of origin:
1. Russia. _
2. Ireland _
3. Italy___
4. G e r many.
5. Poland..
6. E n g land . .

Allentown

823, 779
397, 927
21. 8

95, 744
64, 590
63, 723

Total popula­
tion 73,502
Number of for­
eign born_____
Per cent of for­
eign born_____
Six ranking coun­
tries of ori­
gin:
1. Hungary_
_
2. Austria____
3. Russia____
4. Italy______
5. Germany__
6. Poland____

39, 766
31, 112

Bethlehem

8, 612
11. 7

1, 644
1,563
1, 012
988
813
706

Total popula­
tion 50, 358
Number of for­
eign born_____10,943
Per cent of for­
eign born_____
21. 7
Six ranking coun­
tries of ori­
gin:
1. Hungary_
_ 4, 269
2. Austria____ 1, 351
3. Italy______
848
4. Czechoslo­
vakia___
606
5. Germany__
584
538
6. Russia_____

30, 844

The difference in source of immigrant population between Phila­
delphia and the two Lehigh Valley towns is apparent, for although
Hungary and Austria lead in Allentown and Bethlehem they do not
5 U. S. Bureau of the Census.
889, and 897.




Fourteenth Census: 1920. vol. 3, Population, pp. 887,

6

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

occur among the six countries most largely represented in Philadel­
phia. Russia has much the lead in Philadelphia, and included m
the number who had come from Russia were many Jews.
MAP OF CENTRAL EUROPE SHOWING COUNTRIES
IN WHICH MOST OF THE WOMEN INTERVIEWED
WERE BORN

land

Importance of foreign-born women in industries in the Lehigh
Valley.
,
Through the courtesy of the Bureau of the Census special compila­
tions have been made of data heretofore unpublished. These show
certain personal information and employment of the wage-earning
women in the five locations in the Lehigh Valley where women were
interviewed during the survey. The three tables next presented trace
the changes through the first two decades of the century in (1) the
age, (2) the marital status, and (3) the nativity of women in the
industries employing them in most representative numbers,




INTRODUCTION

i

Table 2.—Age distribution of women 10 years of age and over in woman-

employing manufacturing and mechanical industries, 1900, 1910, and 1920—
Lehigh Valley, by community1
Allentown

South Bethlehem2

Northamp­ Pal­
merton 3
ton4

Coplay

Age
190C

1910

1920

All women.............. 1,797 3,101 3,450
Under 18 years_________
18 and 19 years.................
20 to 24 years__________
25 to 44 years__________
45 years and over........ ...

37.2
18.5
26.8
16.5
.9

27.8
19.7
26.8
23.4
2.4

18.2
10.3
24.1
41.2
6.2

1900

1910

464 1,262
45.3
17.7
23.3
13.4
.4

36.6
19.3
23.7
19. 1
1.3

1920

1900

1910

1920

1910

1920

1920

993

12

160

174

378

493

90

22.3
13.4
25.8
34.9
3.6

91.7
8.3

24.4
22.5
40.6
12.5

20.7
7.5
23.0
47.1
1.7

32.5
18.8
31.5
16.9
.3

21.9
9.9
26.2
40.2
1.8

38.9
14.4
17.8
27.8
1.1

1 From unpublished data of Bureau of the Census. For industries included, see footnote 2 of Table i.
2 Incorporated with Bethlehem in 1917. The data in this table from the 1920 census are comparable
with the boundaries of South Bethlehem in 1900 and 1910.
3 Incorporated as Alliance Borough in 1902 and name changed to Northampton in 1909.
4 Incorporated in 1912.

_ Girls not yet 18 predominated in industry in each of the communi­
ties reported in 1900. In Allentown and South Bethlehem in that year
there were two or three times as many girls under 18 as there were
women of 25 or more, but in some of the communities in 1920 the
number of older women was more than twice as large as the number
of girls under 18. The year 1920 shows also a noticeable increase
in women 45 years or older in industry. How much of this ap­
parent increase in the employment of older women is due to the
girls of 1900 having remained in the industry it is not possible to
say.
Table 3.—Number and per cent of married women 10 years of age and over in

woman-employing manufacturing and mechanical industries, 1900, 1910, and
1920-^Lehigh Valley, by community1
Allentown

South Bethlehem2

Total Married
Total Married
Cen­ num­ women
num­ women
sus ber of
ber of
year wagewageearn­
earn­
ing Num­ Per
ing Num­ Per
wom­ ber cent wom­ ber cent
en
en
1900-. 1,797
109
1910.. 3,101
420
1920.. 3,450 1,112

6.1
464
13.5 1,362
32.2
993

7
303
330

1.5
24.0
33.2

Coplay

Northampton 3

Palmerton 4

Total Married
num­ women
ber of
wageearn­
ing Num­ Per
wom­ ber cent
en

Total Married
num­ women
ber of
wageearn­
ing Num­ Per
wom­ ber cent
en

Total Married
num­ women
ber of
wageearn­
ing Num­ Per
wom­ ber cent
en

12
160
174

56
92

35.0
52.9

378
493

120
230

31.7
46.7

90

29

32.2

1 From unpublished data of Bureau of the Census. For industries included, see footnote 2 of Table 4.
2 Incorporated with Bethlehem in 1917. The data in this table from the 1920 census are comparable with
the boundaries of South Bethlehem in 1900 and 1910.
3 Incorporated as Alliance Borough in 1902 and name changed to Northampton in 1909.
4 Incorporated in 1912.

Just as the employment of older women increased in the Lehigh
Valley between 1900 and 1920, so the employment of married wage
earners, in these communities increased in a striking degree, and,
again, it is not possible to separate from the others the girls who
married and remained at work. The percentage of married women
65661°—30----- 2




8

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

increased in Allentown from 6.1 to 32.2 and in South Bethlehem
from 1.5 to 33.2 in the 20 years. In these two cities in 1920 about
one in three of the wage-earning women was married, and in Coplay
and Northampton about one in two was married. Furthermore, in
South Bethlehem, Coplay, Northampton, and Palmerton 87 percent
of all the married wage-earning women were foreign born.6
The employment of women in manufacturing and mechanical in­
dustries increased by leaps and bounds in the decade 1900 to 1910,
the period that marlis the gain in the numbers of foreign-born women.
In South Bethlehem manufacturing and mechanical plants employed
464 women in 1900 and by 1910 the number had nearly trebled. Of
the 464 in 1900 approximately one-seventh were immigrant women,
but by 1910 almost two-thirds of the women employed in these
industries in South Bethlehem were foreign born.
Table 4.—Number and per cent of foreign-bom women 10 years of age and over

in woman-employing manufacturing and mechanical industries, 1900, 1910,
and 1920—Lehigh Valley, by community1
ALL INDUSTRIES ’
Allentown
Total Foreign
Cen­ num­
born
sus ber of
year wageearn­
ing Num­ Per
wom­ ber cent
en
1900._ 1,797
1910.. 3,101
1920-. 3,450

192
955
953

South Bethlehem3

Coplay

Northampton 4

Total Foreign
Total Foreign
Total Foreign
bom
bom
born
num­
num­
num­
ber of
ber of
ber of
wagewagewageearn­
earn­
earn­
ing Num­ Per
ing Num­ Per
ing Num­ Per
wom­ ber cent wom­ ber cent wom­ ber cent
en
en
en

10.7
464
30.8 1, 262
27.6
993

63
817
551

13.6
64.7
55.5

12
160
174

Palmerton 6
Total
num-

Foreign
born

wageearn­
ing Num­ Per
wom­ ber cent
en

(6)
66.3
56.9

378
493

275
281

72.8
57.0

90

44

48.9

1 100.0
59 92.2
50 89.3

145
152

139
126

95.9
82.9

58

42

72.4

46
49

182
319

98
146

53.8
45.8

29

2

1
106
99

CIGARS
1900.. 182
1910.. 804
1920_. 1,052

72
642
741

39.6
79.9
70.4

3
702
528

1
659
428

(6)
93.9
81.1

1
64
56
SILK

1900.. 1, 268
1910._ 1, 610
1920.. 1,934

106
123
172

8.4
7.6
8.9

301
299
325

45
117
102

15.0
39.1
31.4

7
86
116

53.5,|
42.2

m

1 From unpublished data of Bureau of the Census.
2 Includes manufacture of cigars, silk, hosiery, jute and other textile products, clothing, and cement, and
laundry work.
3 Incorporated with Bethlehem in 1917. The data in the table from the 1920 census are comparable with
the boundaries of South Bethlehem in 1900 and 1910.
4 Incorporated as Alliance Borough in 1902 and name changed to Northampton in 1909.
6 Incorporated in 1912.
8 Not computed, owing to small number involved,

For each census period the figures show that the proportion of
foreign-born women in industry was less in Allentown than in the
other localities reporting. In 1920 about one in every four wage­
earning women in Allentown was foreign born, but in the other com­
munities the proportion was as high as one in every two.
a Similar data not tabulated for Allentown.




INTRODUCTION

9

The enumeration of the last census shows that only 61 of the
1,504 foreign-born women wage earners in Allentown and South
Bethlehem were not in the cigar or silk plants. Since such over­
whelming numbers of the immigrant women were employed in the
manufacture of cigars and silk, subdivisions for these two industries
are included in the table.
The marked growth in the cigar industry came between 1900 and
1910. In 1900 only 186 women were engaged in the trade, but by
1910 there were 1,715 employed in this part of the Lehigh Valley,
and 87.4 per cent of these were born in the old country. At this time
(1910) well over 90 per cent of the women working in this industry
in South Bethlehem, Coplay, and Northampton were foreign born.
The proportion of foreign-born women employed has always been
strikingly higher in the cigar factories of the valley than in the
silk mills and in 1920 there were almost three times as many in the
cigar plants as in the silk mills.
By 1900 the silk industry was well established in this section,
particularly in Allentown, and the table shows that, except in Coplay
and Northampton in 1910, it has employed native women much more
extensively than the foreign-born.
To sum up: This section of the country in southeastern Pennsyl­
vania was selected for study because it includes a large city with con­
ditions representative of the country as a whole, both industrially and
in respect to the proportion of native and foreign-born in the popula­
tion, and an important area devoted to specialized industries and
with a concentrated foreign group.
METHOD

Data based on interviews.
To get the viewpoint of the foreign-born women toward their
jobs they were visited in their homes by agents of the Women’s Bu­
reau. In these interviews, which form the basis of this report, effort
was made to learn the peculiar difficulties the women had experienced
in adjusting themselves to routine jobs, with special emphasis upon
finding work, changing jobs, causes of unemployment, and present
earning ability. Other inquiries were of a personal nature, in regard
to age, race, marital status, length of residence in the United States,
and schooling. Questions were asked about the family, the number
of wage earners and non wage earners, as also about the house occu­
pied—its size, rental, etc. Furthermore, the endeavor was made to
get an expression from the women of their economic responsibility
to family and home, coupled with a statement of their reasons for
working.
Comparatively few women were not cordially cooperative. _ Some
who were hesitant at first were soon talking freely about their jobs
and their hopes and plans for their families. Others had little to
say—perhaps because of the emptiness of their lives, for they seemed
interested in the topics discussed.
.
These interviews with foreign-born women in many cases required
the help of interpreters, chosen because they had a sympathetic
understanding of the neighborhood and its problems or because
they were trained case workers.




10

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

In 1908 and 1909 the Immigration Commission made a very ex­
tensive study, covering much of the United States, and as some of
the original schedules still were accessible it was hoped that the
Philadelphia schedules might be used as a basis for comparison in
the present study. In the survey by the Immigration Commission,
however, the emphasis was placed upon the chief male wage earner
and data concerning the females employed were incidental. In the
933 foreign households visited in Philadelphia only 235 foreign-born
females 16 years of age or over were reported as wage earners.7 Not
only was the number insignificant but the districts in which the
households were located had undergone a great change in the years
since the survey. Some were no longer residential districts and were
entirely given over to business and in other locations the negro had
taken the place of the foreigner. For these reasons, the present
study being concerned chiefly with foreign-born women who were
wage earners, the earlier report could be used only in making rather
general comparisons.
Selection of neighborhoods in Philadelphia.
To find the home of the foreign-born wage earner was a laborious
task in Philadelphia. In the first place the selection of sample
neighborhoods where there was a segregation of different foreign
races, some convenient to industrial plants and others more remote,
was made only after consultation with numerous social agencies,
settlements, day nurseries, charity-organization societies, district
nurses, the International Institute of the Young Women’s Christian
Association, the Traveler’s Aid, the Americanization committee of
the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, representatives of the for­
eign press and of foreign churches, employers, real-estate agents, and
those in the public schools who had charge of the evening schools
and vocational guidance.
Neighborhoods were selected in widely scattered parts of the city
in order to get a sample of the different racial groups reported by
the census as numerically important. Care was taken also to select
whenever possible the sections in which the immigrant groups lived
in segregated communities.
The accompanying map indicates roughly the location of the blocks
selected for study in Philadelphia and the prevailing race in each
neighborhood. The English-speaking groups were in Kensington;
the Italian and Jewish communities both north and south of Market
Street were selected; Slavic neighborhoods were scattered northeast
in Bridesburg and Frankford, northwest in Manayunk and in Nicetown, and in the central part of the city; a few Magyars were found
north of Girard Avenue, toward the Delaware, and living in the
same neighborhood were some Germans, but they were Germans of
a decidedly peasant type who for several generations had lived in
Hungary, yet clung tenaciously to their German dialect. The loca­
tion of a district where the true German immigrant lived in any
concentration of numbers was difficult to find, although probably
the nearest approach to this was a little community to the north of
Kensington.
7 United States Immigration Commission. Reports, vol. 27.
S. Doc. No. 338, 61st Cong., 2d seas., pp. 335, 362.




Immigrants in Cities.

11

INTRODUCTION

MAP OF PHILADELPHIA SHOWING LOCATION OF FOREIGN
NEIGHBORHOODS IN WHICH CANVASS WAS MADE

V

IARKET




WINGOHOGKING

ST

SOUTH

£= ENGLISH SPEAKING
g=GERMAN
I = ITALIAN
J= JEWISH
M= MAGYAR

S=

SLAVIC

12

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

House-to-house canvass.
The neighborhoods having been selected, the next step was to find
the homes of the foreign-born women who were at work, and this
called for a house-to-house canvass. All told, a foreign-born working
woman was found in one of every eight of the 9,000 houses canvassed.
The ratio varied in different districts. For example, in the Jewish
district north of Market Street there was a foreign worker in every
3 houses, but in Kensington, where the English-speaking immigrants
were living, there was only 1 in every 10 houses. In many of the
houses the foreign-born women were not employed, and in others the
women who worked were native born, often the daughters of foreign
parents.
Neighborhoods outside of Philadelphia.
Neighborhoods in Clifton Heights, a suburb of Philadelphia, and
in Norristown also were recommended, but no extensive canvass was
made in these localities. Throughout the report the interviews in
Clifton Heights and Norristown have been included with Philadel­
phia except where otherwise specified, because the women belonged
to the races that predominated in Philadelphia and the chief indus­
tries in which they worked were the same as industries listed in
the city.
In the Lehigh Yalley interviews were made in the towns extending
along the river north of Allentown and Bethlehem as well as in these
two cities. But the selection of blocks suitable for the canvass was
no problem here. The foreign settlements were clearly defined, and
instead of making a house-to-house canvass lists of the names and
addresses of foreign-born working women were furnished by em­
ployers and church and nationality organizations. One employer
turned to the book containing names of his' employees, saying: “ Take
all the names; they are all greenhorns; they don’t know a word of
English.” Another employer said, “ Go to all the houses around
here; the women all work.”
Questionnaires in evening schools.
As the survey progressed in Philadelphia it was very evident that
the German immigrant women, an important group, were not being
located by means of the house-to-house canvass, and that they were
not living in distinctly German neighborhoods but were scattered
throughout the city.8 Records of the department of evening schools
of the Philadelphia Board of Education showed that a representative
group of German women attended the evening classes from year to
8 In 1923 the names of over 1,000 women, third-class passengers from Germany, were
referred to the International Institute of the Young Women’s Christian Association of
Philadelphia. This organization was especially interested in establishing a friendly rela­
tionship with the newcomers through clubs and classes, but some information was
obtained quite incidentally about the first employment of 383 of these German women.
Almost four-fifths of them went immediately into various kinds of domestic service.
This was quite natural, since social custom in Germany favored this kind of work for
girls, and they did not lose caste by doing it. Additional inducements for entering this
kind of work were the opportunity it gave for acquiring English and of saving part of
the wage. A smaller yet characteristic group found work in little corner bakeries, where
their jobs combined duties in the store with those in the bakery of the German pro­
prietor. These were all young women (almost none were over 30) and a few of them
had been teachers, stenographers, and nurses in Germany. Four German churches in
Philadelphia conducted classes in English for newcomers, and in this group, which in
some years was over a hundred, about four-fifths were household employees. Since these
recent German immigrants were so largely employed in homes scattered all over the city
it is no wonder they were not found in the house-to-house canvass in the most foreign
sections of the city which formed the basis of the main part of this report.




INTKODUCTION

13

year, though very few of the women interviewed in their homes were
found to be attending such classes, notwithstanding the ample pro­
vision made for them by the board of education. In order, there­
fore, that information might be obtained about the German women
and also something of the industrial background of other foreign
women wage earners who were taking advantage of these educational
opportunities, the Philadelphia Board of Education consented to the
distribution of a simple questionnaire among the wage-earning
women attending the English classes in the public evening schools1,
This supplementary school study is of a picked group of unusually
ambitious girls, whereas the women visited in their homes were a
miscellaneous group and therefore more representative of the foreign
women as a whole.
Plan of report.
The report is divided into three sections. The first deals with the
problems of the women in industrial employment, the second with
the much smaller group occupied more casually in industrial home
work, and the third with the women attending the beginners’ Eng­
lish classes in the Philadelphia Public Evening Schools. The soilrce
of information in the first two sections was a personal interview
with the woman and in the third section it was a questionnaire cir­
culated in the evening schools. The field work was done from Janu­
ary to September, 1925.
For both Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley in the home visits,
and in the use of the school questionnaire, the sampling method has
been used in the collection of material for this study of foreign-born
women in industry. Altogether 1,120 women were interviewed in
Philadelphia and Norristown and 1,026 in the Lehigh Valley, and
the Philadelphia Board of Education returned 732 questionnaires.
These numbers are sufficiently large to justify the hope that the
results may be accepted as a contribution to the literature on the sub­
ject of the economic and social status of the foreign-born woman in
American industry.
Summaries of interviews.
The stories of many of the women revealed lives of unusual accom­
plishment, but trouble, if not tragedy, had cast its shadow over most
of them. To give an idea of the various phases of the interviews a
few of the stories, typical of the group as a whole, are summarized
here:
Interview No. 1.—The story of Tessie M. shows how chance and friends
guided her to her first .iobs and how this fact determined the whole course of
her industrial career. She was a Ukrainian peasant girl, who had come alone
from her father’s farm in Poland with only the address of a stranger in Phila­
delphia. The stranger was working in a meat-packing plant, and she took
Tessie, the second day after her arrival, to the same plant, where the foreman
gave the newcomer a job casing sausages at $5 a week. As she told of the con­
ditions surrounding this first job Tessie’s face expressed disgust—“ too wet,
too cold,” but after two months a new friend took her to a laundry, where she
was put to work on mangle feed. Here she remained for five years, although
the most she ever earned was $6 a week. A friend again helped her to find
her next job, also in a laundry, and here she worked for 10 years. But a
new manager, whom she described as too rough, made conditions unbearable,
and Tessie quit. During the following two years she worked in three laundries.
“ I find them out myself,” she said proudly.




14

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

When in 1924 Tessie heard that the boss in the laundry where she had
worked for 10 years bad been fired, she returned, and at the time of the survey
she was back again at her old place, as a starcher earning $14 a week, content
with her job and her trade. Of her 18 years in this country, over 17 had been
spent as a laundry worker. She had been entirely self-supporting throughout
these years and had sent some money home to the old country but had not
been able to save anything for emergencies or old age except small payments
on a life-insurance policy. For $5 a month she rents a room with light-house­
keeping privileges. Her sole ambition is to be able to continue to be self­
supporting.
■
Interview No. 2.—An early marriage did not give Anna T. the leisure and
economic security she expected. Instead her burdens increased, and now she
is glad it she has food and clothing for her family. In 1912, shortly after her
father died in Hungary, Alina at the age of 16 came alone to the United States
With neither friends nor relatives to help her find work she followed womm
on their way to work and on her own initiative found a job in a c-igar factory
where she began as a bunch maker and earned $2.50 the first week Within a
year she married a laborer, but he was often ill, his job was too heavy, and he
lost much time, so they could not count on a full week’s pay. In the 10 years
"1 ker manied life she had given birth to six children, four of whom were living
at the time of the interview. But childbirth never interfered long with her
status as a wage earner; she worked within a week or so of confinement and
always returned when the babies were very little. Sometimes her baby was
brought to the factory for her to nurse during working hours.
Since 1912 Anna has worked 9 hours, 10 hours, day after day, and now one
week s pay barely covers the monthly rental of $15. She lives in a dingy house
with no gas and no sewer connection, but she is thankful that, having lived in
communities where bunch makers are in demand, she has always been able to
find work. Realizing how close they are to the poverty dead line, she addedSo much baby: if I no work, I no eat.”
Interview No. 3.—In 1905 Agnes D., aged 17, accompanied by a friend, left
her farm home in Galicia bound for America, thinking she would make more
money and have an easier time in the land of opportunity. Her sister, who had
come to Philadelphia some time before, secured the first job for Agnes as a
d£m
5Y°rITTr at.l4 a week’ but she found
so hard that after two months
she iett it. Her sister then took Agnes to an agency and for a fee of $1
Agnes was placed as a kitchen maid in a restaurant. Plere her working day
was from 5 a. m. to 11 p. in. Much of the time her hands were in hot water and
the continuous standing made her feet tired and sore, but she hesitated to give
up the job, since her sister had paid a fee to secure it for her, and she kept
hoping that she would mind it less if she gave it a good trial. In about a
year, having secured another job through the help of a friend, she quit the
restaurant and began work “painting leather” (seasoning) in a tannery, at
- 1T Sbe c?ntlnued at this place for about eight years, until she married
inAt , Her husband proved to be no good and worked very irregularly, so in
1921, when the eldest boy was 7 years old and the children could shift for
themselves, she returned to her old job in the tannery, where she is still em­
ployed. When she has a full week she can earn as much as $17, but lately
business has been too bad and she has forgotten what a full pay envelope
looks like. She takes pride in her work and regrets that she can never do
measuring, as she does not know her “ numbers.” Measuring is one of the
most desirable jobs in a leather plant, as the skins are measured automatically
by a machine, which records their surface in square inches. The operator
merely feeds the hides into the machine and copies the measurement but
Agnes can neither read nor write the numbers, for she has never attended
school.
F,’r three years this worker has been the chief support of the family, although
the husband helps intermittently. She is concentrating all her energy to make
ends meet, working by day in the tannery and by night at home, where, in
addition to the housework for her own family, she washes for a lodger.
’

In contrast to the young women who come to this country and enter
industry while thev are girls are a few older women who, forced
into industry in middle age, find the adjustment doubly difficult. Mrs.
S. is typical of these.




INTRODUCTION

15

Interview No. //..—Mrs. S.’s life had been spent in Poland, working on her own
little plot of ground or those of her neighbors, and one by one her family had
died or had emigrated to the United States until she was left alone. After
the war a son-in-law, a coal miner in Pennsylvania, sent her a ticket to join
them, and Mrs. S. came to this country expecting to spend the rest of her days
happily with her daughter. Within a few months, however, she realized that
she was an added burden, and since there was nothing for a woman of her
years to do in the coal regions, she left her family and went to Allentown,
where she had heard women could get work. There a stranger, a fellow
countrywoman, took her in and helped her to find a job; not a very good one,
for Mrs. S. was illiterate, inexperienced in all but farm work, and 58 years
old. By working steadily and pegging away from 6.30 or 7 in the morning
until late in the afternoon she has occasionally been able to earn $10 or $11 a
week as a tobacco stripper, though at first her earnings were only $4, then $5,
and then $6. All that Mrs. S. asks is to be able to earn her daily bread. Her
good friend the landlady, herself a wage earner, acted as interpreter, and in
an aside assured the visitor that Mrs. S. barely makes -a living; she was ill once
for two months and had nothing except what the neighbors gave her—she
“ can’t even afford insurance.”
Interview No. 5.—Mrs. E. told a most unusual story of a long life spent as
a cigar maker. She is still rolling cigars, with a background of about 40
years of cigar making in the United States and years of work in the same trade
in Germany. Mrs. E.’s brother in this country kept writing to her, and “ some­
thing did drive me like to come. I don’t know if it was lucky or not, but
anyway in 1885 had we come to America.” Since her husband was a slow
■worker, it was necessary for Mrs. E. to go to work in the new country, and
she has worked ever since except for interruptions clue to slack times, strikes,
or occasional change of job when shop conditions did not suit her, always
sharing the support of the family with her husband.
Widowed, and 81 years old, she still cares for her little home and works in
the shop daily from 9 to 5—shorter hours than formerly. “ If I can’t make a
living from 9 to 5, some one else can do it.” She earns only $8 or $9 a week
but feels quite independent though her children see to it that she does not need
anything.
Interview No. 6.—Thirteen years ago Angelina, then a girl of only 16, anxious
to see the world, came with some neighbors to her cousin’s in New York. She
thought she knew what life in America would be like and only in a vague sort
of way did she expect to work, but she supposed her money would buy beautiful
clothes and that, her life would be like that of the women in restaurant scenes
in the movies. When, the day after she arrived, her cousin spoke quite emphati­
cally about her going to work, she was surprised, but it was an even greater
surprise when she found that she could not get the kind of work she wanted.
She had started to learn dressmaking in Italy, but her cousin told her it was
altogether different here, where each person makes but one special part of
the dress and work is so scarce one has to take whatever can be found. So
her cousin took her that day—her second in the United States—to an under­
wear shop and she was given pressing of corset covers, at 3 cents a dozen. Her
first pay was $3.15. Adjustment to her work and her new life was difficult
and she did not always succeed in keeping back the tears. She, who had come
to this country to make and wear pretty clothes, never had a shirt waist that
cost over $1 in the five years before she was married. “ Why, if I had a dollar
waist on, I thought I was somebody.” She went on to say that she wore
three or four fresh waists a week and succeeded at least in her desire to keep
clean, but the family of cousins laughed at her because she was always washing
and ironing.
During the five years she was in the shop she had not lost a day except for
holidays and lay offs of a week or so each summer. She was proud of the
money she earned, for she had advanced to $10 and then to $12. and after
three years she was made forelady of the pressing department at $13 a week.
That extra dollar meant much. Her fiancS was then earning $14 a week and
the girls whispered about it with awe. It was a hard struggle to deny herself
everything she wanted, but she was sending money to Italy. “ They called me
stingy.”
Then she had five happy years in her own home and forgot about work in the
shop. But tragedy overtook the family and since 1922 her husband has been
in a sanitarium and she is back again at her old job, the sole support of herself
and two little children. There is no tone of complaint in her voice as she




16

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

describes the routine of her day’s work—preparing the breakfast, dressing the
children and taking them to the neighbor’s, and starting for the shop by 7 in
the morning; then, after a long day at the machine, home again to prepare
more food and care for the children.
Interview No. 7.—Another case of disillusionment was that of a young Jewish
girl who had been induced to come to the United States by her sister. Unlike
Angelina, who succeeded in taking care of herself and her children, Minnie
has failed often to be even self-supporting. She arrived in August, 1921, and
was immediately put to work in her brother-in-law’s small store. She had had
six years’ experience in a store in Warsaw, but this was different. “ I slaved
here seven days a week. I was always in the store, early and late—sometimes
more than 12 hours a day.” For 10 months she endured it, grateful to her sister
for work. Then the bottom dropped out and she became ill—first a patient in a
hospital ward, then in a free convalescent home, and now in a boarding home for
working girls. During much of the past two years she has been “ on the city,”
as she expresses it, and she kept repeating “ I must cover my expense.” At
the time of the interview-slie was making an effort in spite of homesickness and
“ many worriments ” to be self-supporting by making lamp shades at $10 a
week. Most of the girls in the shop were pieceworkers, but Minnie was not
strong enough to hurry, so the boss gave her a “ particular job ” and paid her
“ straight,” which she regards as a great advantage, as “ piecework would
kill me.”
Once Minnie managed to go to idght school for three weeks. She is sensitive
about her lack of English: “ Not very good language, so I can’t hope for nice
store job,” although she feels she could do the work in a store better than
anything else.
Interview No. 8.—“ Everybody else was going,” so Louise M., a child of 14,
left her poor home in Poland in 1905 to come with an uncle to the United
States. For two years she tried her fortune in several housework jobs, but
she was never satisfied, and as soon as she was 16 she went to a clothing factory
and secured work as a sewing-machine operator. For six years she experienced
the ups and downs in this industry—sometimes she waited in the shop for
work and sometimes she waited at home; sometimes her pocketbook was empty,
some weeks the pay envelope had $3, other weeks, $12. Probably her best job
was pressing shirt waists, “ folding and pinning them just as you buy them in
the store,” and for this she was paid at the rate of 15 cents a dozen. She
was glad enough to give up this struggle for marriage and never expected to be
a wage earner again.
But in the depression after the war the little fruit stand in which they had
invested all their savings failed, and she returned to work—any kind of work,
in a laundry on the mangle feed, in a restaurant kitchen, office cleaning. This
last she. particularly disliked. Her comments about it were: “ Four car fares
a day; that’s too much. Marble floors. Just so much to scrub, and if you
stopped five minutes you couldn’t finish on time.” She vowed she would not go
back to that for $20 a week. At the time of the interview she was operating a
drill press—a job that paid her $16 to $21 a week. She was delighted with
the work and did not plan to give it up. “ You feel different—you feel that
you are just like everybody else. You ain’t got to be ashamed. You feel like a
different woman; you aren’t near so tired.” The joy in her job almost over­
shadowed the fact that this house was the first in which she had ever lived
where there was no sink and no water, and she was happy that her earnings
could provide the necessities. “You have to have, plenty milk for the children.
From week to week you just keep going.”
Interview No. 9.—For 20 years Mary had been struggling “to live like folks ”
and “ to have a nice home.” As a girl of 17 she came alone to this country,
and for some time struggled to eke out a living on the $3 a week that she
earned in the cigar factory. To make both ends meet she was one of six
girls who shared a room in a friend's house, but in spite of her economies it
took her a long time to pay the debt she owed for her “ ship card.” She has
prospered in her job, for now after 20 years with one firm she is a forelady
earning $25 a week. She speaks English brokenly and can read it a little with
difficulty. She and her husband, a laborer in the steel mill, have worked steadily
day in and day out, year after year, and at the time of the interview both were
beaming happily, for at last they had moved into “ the nice home ” that was
their own. During the visit the wife continued with her washing, stopping
long enough to display her new parlor curtains; the husband, also busy, con­




INTRODUCTION

17

tinued to dig the ditch for the sewer, as he meant to have an American bath­
room at once, never having had such a luxury in the houses they had rented.
Interview No. 10.—Although Teresa M. was only 12 years old when she came
to America, she can not read English; however, she speaks it better than do
most of her neighbors. In Hungary there were cigar factories near her home
and she was glad to find them here and eager to get to work; so her father
helped her to find a job as a roller in a cigar factory and there, except for the
interruptions of childbearing, she has been during the last 20 years. Altogether,
she estimates that she has lost about 4 years from work during her 14 years of
married life. “ My man made me stay home for babies,” and there had been
five, although only three are living.
In spite of the 20 years, most of which had been spent in only two shops, she
still was keen about working and was contented with her job. “ I can always
have my place. If I do not feel so good and stay home a day, I phone the
boss and he says, ‘ All right, I’ll get another roller in your place to-day but be
sure you come back.’ If we work, then the boss he likes.”
Her husband also is thrifty and has one of the few steady jobs in a wire mill.
There is an air of prosperity about their home and garden. Her husband could
support the family, Teresa says, hut they couldn’t have things “ nice ” unless
she worked; and she took the visitor to see the cellar, that had been cemented
recently and paid for with her earnings—$200. There is electricity in the
house, a washing machine, and modern plumbing.
The fact that her husband helps her with the housework, with the washings,
and “ sometimes he cook ” makes it possible for Teresa to do two jobs. She
says she could not do it “ without my man, in everything he help,” nor could
the husband have such an attractive home if Teresa had not helped as a wage
earner also.
She intends to continue working, hoping to be ready to meet adversity when
it comes, for “ everybody sick or old some day.” She also hopes some day “ to
sit and rock on the porch like other ladies. I’ll be old lady then,”




PERSONAL DATA
Race and country of birth.
The table next presented shows what countries in Europe were the
homes of these 2,000 and more women before they came here and
what a heterogeneous mass of foreigners they were.
Well under 200 of these women were from the sections in northern
and western Europe that furnished what has been called the old
immigration. The great majority had come from that section of
Europe south and east of Germany, including only the most western
section of Russia and exclusive of southern Yugoslavia, Bulgaria,
and Greece. Over a fifth of the 2,142 reporting on this had come
from Poland. Austria and Hungary had furnished the next largest
numbers, and Italy, Yugoslavia, Russia, and Czechoslovakia were
well represented. While more women were from Poland than from
any other country, racially the most important in numbers were the
Germans, two-thirds of whom had come from Austria; few of the
Germans had come from Germany proper, and in spite of the fact
that they gave a dozen different lands as country of birth they still
considered themselves Germans and still spoke the German language
or dialects. In the same way, though the majority of the Jews were
from Russia, the rest of them had come from about as many countries
in Europe as had the Germans.
In order not to lose the significance of racial characteristics em­
phasis has been placed in this report on race rather than on country
of birth. For example, it seems more important to consider as a
unit the group of 450 women who claimed to be Germans rather
than the group of 46 born within the present boundaries of Germany.
From Hungary came not only Magyars but Slovenes (Winds) and
Germans, and from Poland also came women of diverse races—
women who called themselves Poles, Germans, Russians, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Jews. From Yugoslavia came Slovenes (Winds),
Germans, and Magyars.
For the most part the women came from countries-that have had
many boundary changes, so it is not surprising that four of the
number interviewed were unable to give definite information about
their early homes and their country of birth.
Many women said they were from Galicia; some claimed Carpathia, and others claimed Burgenland as their native country.
18




r

w

<

*

Table 5.—Country of birth, by race or people
Number of women whose country of birth was—
Race or people
Num­ Per
ber
cent

Per cent distribution. ___________

Ire­
land

Scot­
land

Can­
ada

100.0

2.9

1.7

1.5

0.3

57
37
34
2

2.7
1.7
1.6
.1

55

7
450
214
223
272
7
5

.3
21.0
10.0
10.4
12.7
.3
.2

11
27
330
33
7
12
115
184
104
11

.5
1.3
15.4
1.5
.3
.6
5.4
8.6
4.9
.5

2,142

1

37

15.2

6.6

0.3

300

8

10

5
9

4
1
1

2.1

15.0

9.8

0.4
■ |

Ru­
Yugo­ Other
coun­
mania Russia slavia tries 1

1.5

22.6

3.0

10

28

8

32

21
7
6

7.6

8.2

1.3

2
33
3

6

Aus­ Czech­ France Ger­ Hun­
Po­
oslo­
Italy Latvia Lithu­ land
tria vakia
ania
many gary

1
1

1
2
1
2
1
9

32
1

1
219

209

4

7
1
1
2
107
1
1

2
2
3
63
1

23

2
1
325
23
4
3
84
1

20
143
1

1

5

1

6
1
1

4

PERSONAL DATA

English-speaking:
English_______ __
Irish........ ....................................
Scotch___ __________________
Welsh
Non-English-speaking:
French.. ......................................
German____________________
Italian. __________________
Jewish ........................... ............
Magyar. _______ ___________
Rumanian
. ._ ________
Spanish and Portuguese 2............
Slavic—
Czech. .................................
Lithuanian and Lettish 3_
_
Polish.
.
Russian..................... .............
Ruthenian. _ ___ ______
Serbo-Croatian4..___
.
Slovak. ____ ______ ____ _
Slovenian (Windish)
Ukrainian ®.._ .
Other races 6.. ______ _______

Eng­
land

1
7

8

120
10

3 Other countries or regions include Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Brazil, East Indies, Estonia, Free State of Fiume, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukrainia,
and Wales.
2 Includes 4 Spanish and 1 Portuguese.
3 Following the classification of the Immigration Commission, the Lithuanians and Letts are grouped together with the Slavs. Includes 25 Lithuanian and 2 Lettish.
4 Includes 10 Croatian and 2 Serbian.
6 A geographical term applied to Little Russians of the Ukraine region.
6 Includes 3 Armenian, 1 Finnish, 4 Flemish, 3 Greek.




CO

20

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Confusing statements were given about race as well as country of
birth. A Ruthenian 1 woman insisted that she was a “ Greek, Greek
Catholic.” Another said she had been Ukrainian but had “ turned ”
and was now Polish, undoubtedly referring to a change from the
Greek to the Roman church. A Slovak said, “ You can put it down
Hungarian or Slovak. The people talked Hungarian so I talked
Hungarian. The priest talked Hungarian one Sunday and Slovak
the next Sunday.”
Many others called themselves “Winds”—really Slovenes. The
Windish women interviewed lived almost exclusively in Bethlehem,
one of the most important of the few settlements of Winds in the
United States. In the entire community they are known as Winds
and not Slovenes, and the Windish churches, the Windish papers,
and the Windish schools are familiar to all. In Europe this race
lives chiefly within a limited district in the northwest corner of
Yugoslavia that borders on Hungary and Austria.
These Winds, together with the Germans and the Magyars, had
come for the most part from a restricted area not much over a hun­
dred miles square in the borderland of Austria, Hungary, and Yugo­
slavia, and had settled in the Lehigh Valley. On the other hand,
the Poles, Jews, Italians, and English-speaking races had congre­
gated in Philadelphia.
Year of arrival in the United States.
Prom the table following it is apparent that three-fifths of these
women came to the United States in the decade between 1905 and
1915. During the next few years immigration practically ceased,
and the numbers arriving since the war have never reached the
peak of the 1905-1915 period. This decline is due, in part at least,
1 Ruthenian (synonyms—Little Russian, Malo-Russian, South Russian, Yugo-Russlan,*
in Austria, Russniak, Russine, Red Russian, Galician; in Russia, also Ukrainian, Cherkasi ; in addition, some call themselves simply “ Russian ” (Rusy) and sometimes, in
America, even “Greek”). The name Little Russian would seem most available of all
this list at present for a clear and scientific definition. The Little Russian “ race ” or
linguistic subdivision is that branch of the Russian, * * * which is found native
throughout southwestern Russia and in Galicia (Austria). * * * The Little Russians
(Ruthenians) furnish more immigrants than any other true Russian stock coming to
America.

*******
For * * * political reasons Austria has found it convenient to name her Little
Russian subjects “ Ruthenians,” and this word is now commonly but loosely applied, even
in scientific usage, to all Little Russians, including those of Ukrainia, in Russia. * * *
Upon immigrating to America some refuse to acknowledge that they are Ruthenians, a
name fastened upon them as a subject people. In some communities they are known here
as “ Greeks ’’when they are of the United “ Greek ” Church, and thusi distinguished from
the Roman Catholic Poles and Slovaks of the community. Of course, there is not a true
Greek among them. Some American districts confer still other names upon them, lump­
ing them together with Magyars and perhaps with all Slavs under the picturesque but
stupid title “Huns” or “ Hunkies.” The “ Ruthenian (Russniak)” column of our immi­
gration tables apparently includes all Little Russians, although but few are reported as
coming from Russia. It is to be understood that all who bear the foregoing names are
of one “ race.” They read one and the same language, which differs both from the
White Russian and from the Great or true Russian. The Ruthenian alphabet itself is an
earlier form of the Russian.
*******

A large section of them have broken away from the Greek or Russian Church and
have united with the Roman Catholic under a particular dispensation which allows them
peculiar features of the Greek service and a married clergy. Hence the name “ United
Greek Church.”
Although the Little Russians stand much closer to the Great Russians than do the
Polish, Hebrew, Lithuanian, and German elements in Russia’s population, nevertheless the
use of their language has been discouraged and in a very remote sense they are a subject
people in Russia as well as in Austria.—From Dictionary of Races or Peoples, vol. 5,
Reports of the Immigration Commission to the 61st Cong. U. 8. Government Printing
Office, 1611, pp. 116, 117.




21

PERSONAL DATA

to the added restrictions placed upon immigration by the quota
law.
Table 6.

Year of arrival

Tear of arrival in the United States, by race or people
Number and per cent of women who reported their race or people as—
Num­
ber of
Slavic
women Eng­
report­ lish- Ger­ Ital­
Other
ing speak­ man ian ish
yar Pol­ Rus­ Slo­ Slovenian Other races
ing
ish sian vak (Wind- Slavic
ish)1

Total........... 2,142
Before 1905
1905-1909
1910-1914
1915-1919___ _____
1920 and through
part ol 1925 *........

129

450

212

223

274

115

184

3 50

316
587
730
58

28.7
16.3
26.4
3.1

15.8
24.4
23.1
.7

16.5
23.6
34.9
10.4

8.1
20.6
24.2
3.1

10.2
32.5
39.4
.7

19.4
34.5
39.1
2.4

13.1
33.1
49.7
2.1

20.0
32.2
31.3
1.7

6. 5
27.2
50.5
1.6

16. 0
26. 0
36.0

451

25.6

36.0

14.6

43.9

17.2

4.5

2.1

14.8

14.1

22.0

330 2 145

4.30
3.3
26. 7
13.3
26. 7

1 Immigration statistics include Slovenes (Winds) in the group Croatian and Slovenian, since in the
total immigration they are not an important racial group.
2 Includes Russian, Ruthenian, and Ukrainian.
3 Includes Lithuanian and Lettish, Serbo-Croatian, and Czech
* Includes Armenian, Finnish, Flemish, Greek, French, Rumanian, and Spanish and Portuguese
a * ield work was concluded m October, 1925.

The rate at which these 2,100 women arrived in the United States
follows the same general curve as that for total immigration. It
ascends m a marked degree previous to 1915, then falls suddenly,
and since 1919 rises only gradually, few races reaching the 1914 peak.
Among the interviewed women arriving before 1905 the propor­
tion from English-speaking races was largest. In the decade 1905­
1914 came the great influx of Slavic, German, Magyar, and Italian
women, and since 1920 the Jews and Germans have predominated.
Only 62 of the women came before 1895; in other words, less than
3 per cent of the number reporting had been here as long as 30
years. None of the Slovenes (Winds) and only six of the Russians
were here before 1900. The table shows for most races that a greater
proportion have come since the outbreak of war in Europe than came
before 1905.
Reason for coming to the United States.
In the interviews reference was made occasionally to the condi­
tions in the old country that forced many to seek new' homes. “ Poor
in Galicia.” “My father had eight children and no land.” “Tn
America there is land and work.” “ Times very bad.” “ So much
work in old country; there only work and no eat.” “ Come to Amer­
ica for poor. Not even a penny in the old country.” “ In the United
States, look for living for myself.” “ Farming too hard in old
country. u Big family; no work at home.”
Racial hatred resulting in persecution had driven some to America.
^PeoiaUy the Jews had come seeking relief from massacre and blood­
shed but Ukrainian women also referred to the Polish exploitation
ol their country: “The poor people all Ukrainian and the rich
people all 1 olish in the old country.” “ The Polish people have con­
trolled the laws and the land. We work three days every week for
our landlord. The Polish people smart. We Ukrainians dumb.”




22

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

The hope of a “better life,” “more freedom,” and “less militar­
ism,” coupled with youthful enthusiasm and the spirit of adventure,
drew many to this side of the water. They were “crazy to come”;
“ everybody come, I come too ”; “ chance for girls to work and to
marry in this country.”
Exaggerated tales of gold in the streets lured a few. One girl was
so disappointed that she would have gone back if she could have
earned money enough for her “ ship card.” But most of the women
realized that, in spite of their failure to find riches and their struggles
in this country, they are better off than they would have been had
they remained in Europe.
Coming alone and age at arrival.
Nearly three-fifths of the women reporting age at arrival were
not more than 18 when they came, and only about a sixth were as
much as 25 years old. Not only were they young, but two-fifths of
them made the voyage alone, half of this number not having passed
their eighteenth birthday at the time.
There were differences racially in age at time of coming. As a
whole the Germans were not quite so youthful as were the Jews,
Russians, or Slovenes (Winds). Also, few of the Jewish, Italian,
or English-speaking women came alone, while a large proportion of
the Slovenes, Russians, and Poles were unaccompanied on the voyage
to America.
Time in the United States before beginning work.
The speed with which some of these immigrant girls got to work
was astonishing. In many cases they came to friends who, before
the immigrants landed, were promised jobs for the new arrivals, and
the day after joining their friends in America many of the girls
started to work in factory or mill. It was only natural that they
should get to work as quickly as possible, since many of them were
dependent solely upon their own earnings. Not to do so was such
an unusual occurrence that the women commented upon it, as in the
case of the girl who was in this country six weeks before going to
work: “ You know it sounds funny here when the girls don’t go to
work.” Another woman referred appreciatively to the opportunity
she had to rest before beginning life as a wage earner here, “ because
I was new in the United States I stayed at home three weeks.”
But the more quickly they found work the better they were satisfied.
When asked the questions, “ How old were you when you came to
the United States?” and “How old were you when you began
work? ”70 per cent of the women made the same reply to each, so it
is apparent that these 1,500 women were at work before the passing
of a birthday.
.
The tendency to begin work shortly after arriving is particularly
marked between the ages of 15 and 25. Older women were inclined
to put off longer the role of wage earner.
Marital status.
The distribution by marital status brings out the striking fact that
the great majority—about three-fourths—of the women were or had
been married.




23

PERSONAL DATA

Table 7.—Marital status, by race or people
Women who were—

Race or people

Number
of women
reporting

Single

Widowed, sepa­
rated, or
divorced

Married

Number Per cent Number Per cent Number Per cent
Total-

2,146

555

25.9

1,227

57.2

364

17.0

130

62

47.7

41

31.5

27

20.8

461
214
223
274

97
75
163
54

21.5
35.0
73.1
19.7

279
107
15
182

61.9
60.0
6.7
66.4

75
32
45
38

16.6
15.0
20.2
13.9

Slavic. ___ ____
Polish.............................
Slovak
Slovenian (Windish) ...
Other Slavic1

824
330
115
184
195

95
32
19
29
15

11.5
9.7
16.5
15.8
7.7

589
226
71
137
155

71.5
68.5
61.7
74.5
79.5

140
72
25
18
25

Other races2................... ......

30

9

English-speaking..................... .
N on-English-speaking:
German, __________ ____
Italian........ ..........................
Jewish___
Magyar ................................

«

14

p>

7

•

17.0
21.8
21.7
9.8
12.8
p)

Russian, Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Lettish, Serbo-Croatian, and Czech.
Armenian, Finnish, Flemish, French, Greek, Rumanian, and Spanish and Portuguese.
3 Not computed, owing to small number involved.

The Jewish race is radically different in marital grouping from
the other races, for of the 223 Jewish women only 6.7 per cent
were married and 73.1 per cent were single. Next to the Jewish
women the English-speaking nnd Italian groups had the largest
proportions of single women, while the Germans, Slavs, and Magyars
had outstandingly high percentages of married women. The pro­
portion of widows was fairly similar for all the races. As might
be expected, the single women were for the most part the younger
ones, only a sixth of them being more than 25 years of age.
That the proportion of married women varied with locality is
evident from the following:
Women living in—
Marital status
Philadel­
phia
Total______________________
Single............ .........................
Married__________ ___
Widowed, separated, or divorced.___ _______

Lehigh
Valley

1,120

1,026

31.6
49.2
19.2

19.6
65.9
14.5

Two-thirds of the women in the Lehigh Valley were married, and
among the single women the Germans predominated, a race that is
furnishing much of the most recent immigration in this district.
The higher percentage of single women in Philadelphia may be
accounted for partly by the fact that the younger Italian and Jewish
women had settled there.
65661°—30---- 3




24

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Age.
These women were not the “ young-working-girl ” type, for com­
paratively few were under 20; practically three-fifths were 30 or
more, and 6 per cent were at least 50 years of age.
The Italians and Jews were for the most part younger women,
while one-half of the German and the English-speaking groups, about
three-fifths of the Magyars, and over two-thirds of the Slavs were
past 30. The women who were as much as 40 were largely Germans
and Poles.
Table 8.—Ago, by race or people
Number of women whose age was—
Race or people

Number
of
women
reporting

Under
20
years

20 and
25 and
40 and
30 and
under 25 under 30 under 40 under 50
years
years
years
years

50 years
and
over

325
15.2

1 133
6.2

32

21

17

138
49
29
123

69
35
16
40

29
22
5
7

136
40
18
45
20
13

381
156
38
96
60
31

138
60
24
12
15
27

52
29
10
5
1
7

4

9

6

1

Total.-............... -.............
Per cent distribution-------------

2,143
100. 0

279
13.0

331
15.4

314
14.7

761
35.5

English-speaking-----------N on-E nglish-speaking:
German------------ ------------Italian------------- -------------Jewish--------------------------Magyar--............................ .

127

22

20

15

451
214
223
274

46
53
59
36

90
38
90
29

79
17
24
39

Slavic
Polish----------------------Slovak
Slovenian (Windish)__
Ukrainian. ................ .
Other Slavic2-------------

824
330
115
184
104
91

57
25
15
9
3
5

60
20
10
17
5
8

Other races3--------------------

30

6

4

1 Of these women, 38 were 60 years or over.
2 Russian, Ruthenian, Lithuanian and Lettish, Serbo-Croation, and Czech.
3 Armenian, Finnish, Flemish, French, Greek, Rumanian, and Spanish and Portuguese.

Citizenship.
Generally by the initiative of male members of their families, 428
women, or one-fifth of the 2,092 reporting on this, were citizens of
the United States. The proportion is lower for this limited group
than that shown by the census for three of the localities included in
this survey. According to 1920 census figures,2 half the total foreignborn white females 21 years of age and over in Philadelphia were
citizens, almost one-third of those in Allentown, and about one-fourth
of those in Bethlehem. The census shows further that the rate of
all naturalized foreigners (men and women) is lower for Bethlehem
than for any other city in Pennsylvania with a population of 25,000
or over.
From the table following it is clear that the proportion of Ameri­
can citizens was largest among the English-speaking group and
next largest among the Jewish women.
2 U. S. Bureau of the Census.
884.




Fourteenth Census: 1920, vol. 2, Population, pp. 850—

RERSOSTAL DATA

25

Table 9.—Citizenship, ~by race or people

Race or people

Total.................
English-speaking____
Non-English-speaking:
German_________
Italian....................
Jewish__________
Magyar........ ..........
Slavic................................
Polish____________
Slovak____________
Slovenian (Windish)
Other Slavic L.........
Other races 2.

Women who were United
Number of
States citizens
women ____________________
reporting
Number
Per cent
2,092

428

20.5

128

64

50.0

443
207
217
268

82
47
74
38

18.5
22. 7
34.1
14.2

799
318

115
58
16
14
27

14.4
18.2
14.3
7.7
14.4

112

181
188
30

8

(3)

1 Russian, Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Lettish, Serbo-Croatian, and Czech.
2 Armenian, Finnish, Flemish, French, Greek, Rumanian, and Spanish and Portuguese.
3 Not computed, owing to small number involved.

It is a mistake to think of these women as being actively interested
in civic affairs, for only 18 had themselves become naturalized
citizens and they were women who had lived here for the most part
at least 10 years. These few women who were ambitious enough
to become Americans were very alert. A silk weaver of 48 years
who had recently received her citizenship papers had attended the
English classes with her husband, and was “ the first lady to get them
in Berks County; it was in the papers about me.”
Another woman was very proud of her framed “ citizen papers ”
that hung on the wall. She said that she always voted and that
during a slack period of two months in the factory she had served
nine days on the jury, at $4 a day. “ That a good thing for me,” she
added.
The other 410 women had automatically become citizens of the
United States when their fathers or husbands obtained citizenship;
to them it had come without effort and accidentally. Most of the
Jewish women gained this right when their fathers were natural­
ized, but most of the German and Slavic women when their husbands
were naturalized.
In many homes there was very intelligent discussion of the require­
ments for naturalization, but invariably the families were taking
for granted that the wives would automatically become citizens with
their husbands, not realizing the effect of the stricter regulations
of the Cable Act passed in 1921. However, there was little enthusi­
asm on the part of the women about becoming citizens of their
adopted country.
Bertha was a striking exception to this, though not until recently
had she heard of the Cable Act. Her friends and neighbors had be­
come citizens when their husbands received their papers, and she had
expected to do the same. She described her husband’s graduating
exercises from the English classes and the presentation of the
diploma and the flag as well as the “American papers.” There was
great excitement to read the documents upon their arrival home.




THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

26

“ There it stand to study: My man, an American; Josie, American;
Lena, American; Willie, American; Rosie, American; even Teresa,
the baby, American; but nichts me—Mary not there. They are all
American, and I a greenhorn still. I cried in my heart three days,
and then I went over to the teacher, and now I read, I write, and
pretty soon I be American, too. In old country I know more than
my man, and here I am going to know, too.”
Schooling in the old country.
For most of these women childhood and school days were over
when they arrived in America. They had had a fair amount of
training, for three-fourths of the 1,278 women reporting definite
data had spent six years or more in school in their native lands; a
hundred of these had been in school seven years, another hundred
eight years, and about another hundred even longer.
In many cases attending school in the old country was fraught
with difficulties and danger, and there seemed to be ample reason
why several of the women reported little or no such schooling. Some
had gone so short a time that they had forgotten all they had ever
learned and could not even read, while others had never been to
school. Some had lived miles from the school, and others explained
how the police broke up the schools and how the authorities in Russia
arrested Polish and Lithuanian subjects who sent their children to
other than Russian schools. The case of a Lithuanian woman is
like that of several others. She was an adult (23) when she came to
America, yet could neither read nor write her native language, and
though she had been in the United States 11 years she was not able
to read one word of English. “ I can’t count anything,” she said,
“ I can’t count months. I was raised just like a chicken. When I
am at home in the evening I am walking around. If I could read I
could do that.”
Schooling in the United States.
Under such circumstances it is no wonder that 324 of the women
had never attended school in the Old World or in the New. The
surprising fact is that almost one-sixth of the 454 who came to this
country before they were 14 had never attended school here.
The extent to which the group who had passed the usual school age
when they arrived in the United States had attended American
schools is shown in the table following:
Table 10.—Extent of schooling in the United States of women Ilf pears of

age or over at time of arrival, by locality
Lehigh Valley

Philadelphia 1
Extent of schooling
Number

Number

Per cent

700

Women reporting......... ........... .................. ...........
Had attended day school---------------- --------------- -----Had attended evening sessions-------------------------------

Per cent

2

100.0

850

100.0

566
17
128

80.9
2.4
18.3

807
8
3 38

94.9
.9
4. 5

> The women interviewed in Norristown and Clifton Heights are not included in this discussion. In
these two communities 1 of the 96 women had been in evening school and none had attended day classes.
* Includes 11 who had also attended regular day-school sessions.
* Includes 3 who had also attended regular day-school sessions.




PERSONAL DATA

27

In contrast to the 1,373 women who had never attended school in
the United States is the almost negligible number who, although past
school age, had taken advantage of the opportunity to enroll in the
regular day sessions and the 166 who had attended the part-time
evening sessions. A consideration of the sacrifices required of a
working woman after a long day in the shop in order to go to night
school emphasizes the fact that special credit is due these women in
their efforts to learn the language of their adopted land.
There was a striking difference in the two geographic centers in
the numbers of women who, 14 years of age or over at time of arrival
in the United States, had taken advantage of night school. There
were 38 such women in the Lehigh Valley and 128 in Philadelphia,
and unpublished data show that race was a factor here, since seventenths of the group going to night school in Philadelphia were Jews.
Exclusive of this race, of whom almost none lived in the Lehigh
Valley, the numbers and proportions attending evening school were
not radically different—39, or 7 per cent of the total in Philadelphia,
and 37, or 4.4 per cent of the total in the Lehigh Valley.
Although these women went to school they did not remain long in
attendance, for only five had persevered in going for as much as three
years, while the majority had left before completing the first year.
Gradually they had given up, as, for example, the girl who attended
regularly during the 6-month session of her first year in the United
States, went only intermittently for two months during the second
year, and quit altogether after one month of the third year.
Ability to speak English.3
Learning the English language depended much upon the environ­
ment in the new country. If the newcomer settled among friends
who could speak English or if she found work where some of the
employees, and especially the foreman, spoke English, it was easier
to venture using the new tongue. However, if she settled in a commumty where her fellow countrymen were still unacquainted with
English, where the children attended schools in which much of the
teaching was in their native tongue, where the advantages of classes
ror foreign women had not been emphasized, and where even in the
factory she rarely heard a word of English, from either fellow work­
ers or the “ boss,” her acquaintance with the language would be a
slow process.
The inability to speak English of women who had passed the usual
compulsory school age when they arrived here and who for the most
part had been deprived of the advantage of schooling in this country
appears in the table next presented.
tionrwiUebretonfjLaToa^E2k™SSrtk?ng%a?eS!dUCati0a ^ discusslons and ^bula-




28

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Table 11.—Inability to speak English of women 14 years of age or over at time

of arrival, by race or people and locality
Philadelphia i
Race or people

Number
of women
reporting

Lehigh Valley

Women unable to
speak English
Number Per cent

Number
of women
reporting

Women unable to
speak English
Number Per cent

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

625

217

34.7

846

511

German______ _____________ _ ...
Italian. . ___
_____ .
Jewish______________ ... ..
Magyar..._____ __________________

71
59
140
33

16
34
14
9

22.5
57.6
10.0

303
24

195
6

180

101

56.1

Slavic................... .......................
Polish_______ _______
Russian a..........................
Slovak_______________
Slovenian (Windish)_____________
Other Slavic 4. _____ _____

311
208
60
1c

143
108
19
5

46.0
51.9
31.7

206
15
43
43

63.2

(2)

326
20
61
63

28

11

«

13

7

»

1

0

12

3

0

Other races 6...............................

11

«

60.4
(2)

(a)

64.4

70.5

1 Exclusive of Norristown and Clifton Heights. In these localities two-thirds of the
women reporting could not speak English.
2 Not computed, owing to small number involved.
3 Russian, Ruthenian, Ukrainian.
4 Serbo-Croatian, Lithuanian and Lettish, and Czech.
‘ French, Rumanian, Spanish, Portuguese, Armenian, Finnish, Flemish, and Greek.

A striking difference exists in the two geographic districts in the
proportion of women unable to speak the language of their adopted
country—34.7 per cent of those reporting in Philadelphia and 60.4
per cent of those in the Lehigh Valley. The Federal census of 1920
also shows a variance, though not in so marked a degree, probably
due to the fact that the census figures are based upon all foreignborn white females 10 years of age or over and include English­
speaking as well as non-English-speaking races. In the more inclu­
sive group of the census there were in Philadelphia only 9.7 per cent
who could not speak English, but in Allentown the proportion rose
to 19.4 per cent and in Bethlehem to 26.9 per cent.4 *
The table shows striking racial differences in Philadelphia, where
the Jews led with the smallest proportion unable to speak English.
In the Lehigh Valley there is no marked variation among the most
representative races; in three-fifths of the interviews in this section
it was necessary to use an interpreter. In Philadelphia the Jews
become adept in English so quickly that interpreters were almost
unnecessary in their homes.
The next summary, covering a much larger number of women and
based upon time in the United States but without regard to age at
arrival, reiterates the fact that many of the women interviewed
were not able to speak English and shows furthermore that close
upon 40 per cent of the women who had been as much as 10 years
in the United States had not learned the language.
4 L\ S. Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census : 1920 , vol. 2, Population, pp. 1258
and 1260, and vol. 3, Population, pp. 854 and 857.




29

PERSONAL DATA
Table]2.—Inability

to speak English, by years in the United States

Years in the United States

Number of
women re­
porting

Women unable to speak
English
Number

Per cent

2,006
5 and under 10 years____________ __________________ _____
10 and under 15 years_________ ___________ ________________
15 and under 20 years............................................................................
20 years and over____ ... ... _________ _________ _______

809

40.3

388
57
582
573
406

208
20
227
214
140

53.6
35.1
39.0
37.3
34.5

Typical of the group unable to speak English is the German who
came from Czechoslovakia when she was 23, eager “to get rich.”
Before marriage her knowledge of America was limited, chiefly on
account of her confining work as a domestic. Then for years she
was busy in her own home, until it became necessary for her to assume
some of the wage-earning responsibilities. Although she is now 50
and has been in America 27 years she can not express herself in
English. She is, as she says, an “ignorant” unskilled worker in a
jute mill, “ too old ” and “too green ” to find a “nice place.”
Ability to read English.
Next in importance to being able to speak and to understand a
common language is the ability to read, but if two-fifths of the women
could not speak English it is not surprising to find that over twothirds could not read it.
Table 13.—Inability to read English, by years in the United States

Years in the United States

Number of
women reporting

Women unable to read
English
Number

Per cent

2,002

1, 386

69. 2

387
57
1, 558

268
33
1,085

69.3
69.6

It is apparent that length of residence in the United States had
little or no effect on the ability to read English, since the proportion
of women unable to read was somewhat higher even among those
who had been here as much as 10 years than among those who had
arrived within the past 5 years.
According to the table next presented, the Jews living in Phila­
delphia had the smallest proportion of women unable to read Eng­
lish, yet even theirs was an astonishingly high percentage—47.1. In
both Philadelphia and the Lehigh V a I ley the other races showed
from 63 to 100 per cent of their numbers unable to read the language.
The Italians had a better record in the Lehigh Valley than in Phila­
delphia but their number was too small for definite conclusions,




30

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

although undoubtedly several silk weavers from northern Italy had
a decided influence on the group in the valley, where there is little
incentive for the women to “ trouble about English.”
Table 14.—Inability to read English of women H years of age or over at time

of arrival, by race or people and locality
Philadelphia 1
Race or people
Number
of women
reporting

Lehigh Valley

Women unable to
read English
Number Per cent

Number
of women
reporting

Women unable to
read English
Number Per cent

Total2___ ________________ ____

624

480

76.9

844

753

89.2

German.. ----- ------ ------------------------Italian----- ------------ ----------------------

47
58
66
21

67.1
98.3
47.1
«

302
24
1
180

263
21

87.1
(?)

...............................................

70
69
140
33

160

88.9

Slavic......... ........ ............. ................... ........
Polish____________ _____ _
Russian_________________ ______
Slovak.................... ............. ..................

495
208
60
15

375
189
57
11

75.8
90.9
95.0
0

Other Slavic______ ______ ______

28

28

100.0

518
20
61
63
168
13

469
20
60
57
154
9

90.5
100.0
98.4
90.5
91.7
09

Other races........................................... ........

11

3

12

9

Magyar. .

09

09

1 Exclusive of Norristown and Clifton Heights. In these localities 91 of the 95 women
reporting could not read English.
2 For races included in Russian, “ Other Slavic,” and “ Other races,” see footnotes 3,
4, and 5 of Table 11.
3 Not computed, owing to small number involved.

Inability to read any language.
Although less than a third of the women interviewed could read
English, as many as six-sevenths were able to read their native
language. But 285 women, almost two-thirds of them Slavic, could
not read any language.
Table 15.—Inability to read any language, by race or people

Race or people

Number of
women
reporting

Women unable to read
any language
Number

Per cent

2,002

285

14.2

449
214
220
274

11
60
17
8

2.4
28.0
7.7
2.9

815
325
143
114
183
50

183
71
62
18
13
19

22.5
21.8
43.4
15.8
7.1
58.0

30

6

o

1 Includes Lithuanian and Lettish, Serbo-Croatian, and Czech.
2 Includes Rumanian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Armenian, Finnish, Flemish, and
* Not computed, owing to small number involved.




PERSONAL DATA

31

Illiteracy.
Of the group interviewed, 348 (17.5 per cent) were illiterate, the
word being used here to apply to those who can not read por write
in any language.
Although the Federal census bases illiteracy figures upon foreignborn white females 21 years of age or over and the present inquiry
is concerned with foreign-born white wage-earning females 16 years
of age or over of non-English-speaking races, the rate of illiteracy
shown by the. census of 1920 for Philadelphia is 15.8 per cent, for
Allentown 15.4 per cent, and for Bethlehem 14 per cent3—rates
comparable to the per cent computed for the picked group in this
study.
Employment of illiterates and those ignorant of English.
Since illiteracy or ignorance of English may have had some bear­
ing on the industrial adjustment of the foreign-born women, a tabu­
lation by industry is of interest. The following shows in what
industries the wholly illiterate women, as well as the larger number
who could not read and write English, were employed at the time
the study was made.
Table 16.—Total illiteracy and inability to read and write English, by present

industry or occupation

Present industry or occupation

Number
of women
reporting

Women unable to
read and write
English
Number

Total______________

Women unable to
read and write
any language

Per cent Number Per cent

1,992

Manufacturing:
Cigars_________ ___
Clothing___ ___________
Food products___ ______
Leather products (including tanning)__
Rag sorting________________
Textiles—
Hosiery, sweaters, and bathing suits_
_
Other textiles 2_____
Miscellaneous manufacturing_
_
Clerical_____ _______
Domestic and personal service____
Trade______ ___
Other___ ________

1,468

73.7

348

17.5

711
207
57
18
35

629
115
44
15
34

88.5
55.6
77.2
0
0

98
29
13
9
29

13.8
14.0
22.8
0
0

99
623
85
44
103
8
2

33
461
40

33.3
74.0
47.1

6
115
13

6.1
18.5
15.3

97

94.2

36

35.0

—_____________ _________
* Not computed, owing to small number involved.
2 Chiefly silk and woolen and worsted.

--

Although three-fourths of the women unable to read and -write
English were employed in the cigar factories (chiefly in the Lehi<di
Valley) and in the group “other textiles” (chiefly woolen and
worsted mills in Philadelphia) the highest percentages in any one
industry were found among the rag sorters and in domestic and
personal service. The knitting mills had a smaller percentage of
illiterate women than had any other manufacturing line specified.
riUi 99RBureau of the Census-




Fourteenth Census : 1920, yol. 2, Population, pp. 1202

32

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Naturally this discussion of the ability of women to use English
has been confined to the non-English-speaking races, but mention
should be made of the one illiterate English woman, a forlorn rag
sorter well past middle age, who had lived many years in America.
CONCLUSION

The outstanding facts in regard to the women of non-Englishspeaking races are that IT.5 per cent were illiterate 'that ,ls; could
not read and write in any language; that in Philadelphia thieefourths could not read English, and one-third could not speak it;
and that in the Lehigh Valley nearly nine-tenths could not read
English, and as many as three-fifths could not speak it.
Why so few attend evening school.
However, the women were not ignorant from choice. Woman
after woman spoke regretfully of the opportunities missed m not
(roing to school. One worker, feeling keenly her lack of English,
commented: “ I been 17 years in this country and can t talk. Am t
that funny? I come from old country dumb like anything, and
nobody tell me go to school or anything.” Others said: “A green­
horn, and I ’shamed to go to school.”
“ I liked night school, but I have to make the suppers now. 1 went
about twenty times when I lived in Allentown, and I liked it, but
didn’t have time.” Like this last worker, the majority of the women
had two jobs, one in the factory for 8 to 10 hours a day and the
other in their own homes, where for several hours of the day and of
the night they toiled to keep the family clothed and clean and ted.
The girls who had been employed at housework also had found dilficulty in getting through their evening tasks in time to go to school.
As one girl explained: “Always fight with my missus to go. 1
always late to school and late getting home. Soon I give it up.
Women who do attend evening classes.
The small minority who had attended English classes m America
and were learning to use the language made up m interest what they
lacked in numbers. To accomplish anything m night school the
girls had to be eager, alert, and persistent. One who had been a
governess in Europe remarked: “ I’m so glad I live here [referring
to the fact that she was a boarder, without home duties] for 1 m not
so busy as home girls. I can study evenings, and not work, work,
work like all the other girls.”
. .
A forelady in a cigar factory, recognizing the handicap ot Her
ignorance of English after several years in the United States, had
a private teacher. She described her job in the factory: I take
care of machines. I take care of other girls, and learn them how
to do everything. I need English for American girls.
One girl was' grateful to her mother for making it possible for ■
her to get off to school. She said: “ Some girls have it hard. When
they get home nothing is done for them. When we get home our
mother has done everything, and supper is ready. I appreciate it
very much what my mother does, for now I am in schooi three times
every week.”




EEBS02STAL DATA

33

None was more ambitious than Anna, who came alone to America
in 1922 and, like scores of other girls, began to support herself by­
work in the cigar factory. But, unlike most of the others, she was
spending her evenings in school. She spoke English well enough to
get along during the interview without an interpreter, but it was a
struggle, and when she became especially interested she lapsed into
the tongue of her native Hungary. She was disappointed in the
factory, for “everybody not talk English in factory. Never hear
English only by the school ”; and when the visit was over she ex­
pressed great pleasure because the call had been one of her first little
ventures in English with a stranger. “ You the only person talk
English to me, you and Miss Z.”—referring to the teacher.
Some who were unable to go to school were trying to pick up
English; one was “learning herself from the children’s books.”
Another was learning from the English newspaper; “ The letters are
just like in Slovak words; if I know a word [if in her vocabulary]
I can read it.” A Polish woman said she had learned to decipher
English in much the same way, sometimes with the help of the chil­
dren. “ I learned because I know how to read Polish and the letters
are the same.” The desire to read the captions in the moving pic­
tures stimulated one busy mother to take a serious interest in English,
and the movies have been her chief teacher.
Failure of classes to fit individual needs.
After making the effort to go to school it must have been doubly
disappointing not to be satisfied with the class work. Not in any
spirit of criticism but almost as an apology for not having continued
in school, several women explained most intelligently how the class
did not fit their needs. The work was too elementary or too ad­
vanced, or the class was too large and heterogeneous and progressed
too slowly.
Julia had lived here much of her life and could speak English
fluently, but as a child she did not attend school, for she was needed
at home while her mother “ tended store.” Later, realizing her
handicap in not knowing how to read and write, she went to the
evening school, only to leave after two nights, for though she asked
to be taught to read and write she was enrolled in a class of “greenies ” who could not speak even a word of English, and there seemed
little prospect that her classmates would ever advance to the stage
of reading. She thought it was no use to waste her time in school
and so gave it up. On the other hand, Yetta stopped because
she was put in a class for people who knew more English than she
did.
Comments of various women reveal the difficulties encountered:
“ The teacher did not explain so good.” “ There were 30 persons in
the class and some of them not educated in any language.” Aftertrying evening school for a year one girl decided that she “ wasn’t
learning a thing.”
A few had not confined their school work to the English classes.
Concetta had been taught fine sewing by her mother at home and was
eager to learn dressmaking, so she went to the evening school where
it was taught, but to her utter disgust she found herself in an ele-




34

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

mentary class of girls who couldn’t handle a needle. Then she tried
English, but that, too, was a, disappointment, for it was just a repe­
tition of what she had had in the short time she had attended day
school.
Several educated Jewish girls, becoming discouraged with the
public-school evening classes, had joined private English classes
where they advanced much faster.
Repeated comments similar to these merely suggest the tremendous
task yet to be accomplished in adapting English classes to the real
needs of such large and mixed groups of foreigners.




THE FAMILY
Summary.
This chapter discusses the size of the family, the number, age, and
care of the children, the number of wage earners, and the employ­
ment of the chief male wage earner.
Some outstanding facts developed in this discussion of the family
are these:
Only 139 women were living independently of their families or near
relatives.
The families were not small, as two-fifths of them consisted of five or
more members and one-fourth had six or more members.
The number of wage earners was slightly higher than the number of
non wage earners.
Two-thirds of the families had 2 wage earners, most frequently the hus­
band and the wife, and the families with 2 wage earners consisted
usually of from 2 to 5 persons.

The married women in these families are classified according to
whether or not there were husband and children in the family. A
“ wife ” is a married woman with no children, a “ wife and mother ”
is a married woman with children as well as a husband, and a
“ mother ” is a woman with children but no husband. The group
“ wife and mother ” was as large as the groups of wives, mothers,
daughters, and others combined; that is, the married woman with
a husband and children was found as often as were all the others
together.
In three-fourths of the families there were children under 16 years of
age. In more than two-fifths of the families there were three or more
children. In as many as 500 homes the youngest child was less than
6 years old.
For many small children the care provided during the mother’s absence
was inadequate. Children of school age shifted pretty much for them­
selves.

Since all but 139 of these foreign-born women were living with
relatives as members of a family it is with families that the present
chapter is concerned. Facts regarding the composition of these
families, the number of wage earners and the number and ages of
the children, become of vital significance in understanding the back­
ground of the foreign-born woman in industry. It is not until
something is known of the woman’s family and her responsibilities
in the home that it is possible to know the woman herself and to
realize the importance of the place she fills in American life.
In this section of the report a “family” applies to a group of
closely related individuals living together under one roof as an eco­
nomic unit. This excludes children left in the old country and
husbands who have not joined their families though expecting ulti­
mately to come to this country. Four wives were doing the pioneer
work in America, while their husbands still remained in Europe.
These broken families were recent immigrants who had settled in the
Lehigh Valley.




35

36

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

A widow of 31 left her two children, aged 12 and 13, in the old
country and came to America because she could earn the support of
herself and children better here than there. “Very .hard in old
country. Like you go sweep for somebody; they give you something
to eat; no money.”
The wife in one of these broken families preceded her husband to
America because after the war they had only enough money for one
“ ship card,” and as it was her relatives, and not the husband’s, who
were welcoming them to America it seemed advisable for her to come
first. She had expected to be able to send for him shortly, but the
wages earned in the cigar factory where her relatives guided her have
been a disappointment and not yet has she been able to save enough
for his passage, although she has supported herself and the baby
that came a few months after her arrival.
Size of family.
The 1,792 families included in this study were composed of closely
related individuals and in about three-fourths of them there were
children under 16 years of age. Most of the families consisted of
2, 3, or 4 persons, but about two-fifths of them had at least 5 members
and about one-fourth had 6 or more.
Number

Per cent

346
334
371

Size of family

19.3
18.6
20.7

Number Per cent

Size of family

6 persons..................................

272
192
277

15.2
10.7
15.5

Wage earners and non wage earners.
In the case of some of the families there was but one wage earner,
but in most of them there were two, normally the woman interviewed
and her husband. The following table shows that, collectively, the
number of wage earners was slightly higher than the number of non
wage earners, and that the average size of the family is 4.5 persons
and the average number of wage earners in a family is 2.4.
Table 17.—Wage earners and, non wage earners according to the relationship

in family of the woman interviewed
Composition of family

Relationship

Total. ..........................
Wife..............................................
Wife and mother..................... .
Mother___________________ _
Daughter
Other___________ __________




Number
Total
of
number
women of persons Number Number Average
inter­
of non
size of
viewed (includes of wage
wage
family
women earners earners
inter­
viewed)

Average Average
number number
of wage of persons
to each
earners
wage
per
family
earner

1,921

8,637

4,536

4,101

4.5

2.4

1.90

261
960
273
388
39

595
4,559
1,106
2, 238
139

540
2,213
523
1,169
91

55
2,346
583
1,069
48

2.3
4.7
4.1
5.8
3.6

2.1
2.3
1.9
3.0
2.3

1.10
2.06
2.11
1.91
1.53

37

THE FAMILY

Relationship of wage-earning woman in the family.
The word “ wife ” in the foregoing table refers to those married
women wTho had no children; the term “ wife and mother ” to those
married women who had children; and the term “ mother ” to widows
with children. “ Other ” includes those women—only 39 in all—
whose relationship in the home was that of sister, niece, aunt, or
grandchild.
Almost every member was at work in those families where the
woman interviewed was a wife, but in the other groups showing
specific relationship there is a strikingly even division between wage
earners and non wage earners.
This table also shows that the group “wife and mother” is as
large as all the other groups combined.
It is natural that the families with daughters grown to working
age should be the largest and should average more wage earners per
family and fewer persons per wage earner. It is noticeable, how­
ever, that the average family of the mother—that is, the widow—is
almost as large as the family of the wife and mother, where the
woman has husband and children, and naturally the responsibilities
of the wage earners in her family would be greater than those of
women with husband or father.
Another compilation (not published) shows that the woman inter­
viewed was the sole wage earner in 156 families, one of two wage
earners in 1,175 families (or about two-thirds of the total number
of families), one of three wage earners in 391 families, one of four
wage earners in 145 families, and one of five or six or seven wage
earners in 54 families. Women who were the sole wage earners in
their families were chiefly widows; the majority of the women who
were one of two wage earners wrere married women with husbands
and children; and the daughters predominated in families with four
or more wage earners. For that decidedly predominant group of
1,175 women whose families had two wage earners, an analysis of the
relationship of the woman and the number of persons in the family
is of interest.
Table 18.—Women in families haring two wage earners, by relationship of
woman and size of family

Relationship of
woman

Number
of women
in fami­
lies hav­
ing two
wage
earners

Total, ............
Wife.
Daughter.......................

Number of persons in family

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

1,175

290

251

254

163

106

58

27

16

6

234
716
85
119
13
8

224
i 23
24
6
7
6

6
191
13
38
1
2

3
211
15
22
3

86
6
14

1
45
3
9

23
2
2

8
1
6
1

2

127
20
15
1

10

11

4

13
3

1

1
2

1

1 These 23 women had children in Europe, for the purpose of this report not considered part of family.

In the group selected for discussion in this table only a fifth of
the women are classed as wife and less than a tenth (only 7.2 per
cent) as mothers, the outstanding number, three-fifths, being wife



38

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

and mother, that is a member of a normal family, with husband and
children. Of the 716 families where the woman was wife and mother,
more than a fifth (22.9 per cent) consisted of at least 6 persons, in
some instances as many as 8, 9, or 10 persons. In the majority of
cases, however, the family numbered only 3, 4, or 5 persons—the
woman herself and her husband, both of whom were working, and
1 to 3 children.
Children.
Thus far in this report the term “ family ” has included more than
parents and children, for when other relatives, such as sisters or
nephews, were living under the same roof they were regarded as
members of the economic group. In this section, however, emphasis
is placed on the children in natural families, their number, their
ages, and their care.
Table 19.—Number of children in the home, by race or people of mother

Race or people of
mother

Total number
Number of women having—
of—
Average
number
of chil­
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
Moth­ Chil­ dren per 1
mother child chil­ chil­ chil­ chil­ chil­ chil­ chil­ chil­
dren
ers
dren dren dren dren dren dren dren dren

Total--.............. i 1,186

3,083

2.6

343

323

225

153

75

44

18

3

English-speaking
42
N on-English-spoaking. 1,144

85
2,998

2.0
2.6

17
326

13
310

8
217

2
151

2
73

44

18

3

237
84
52
167

588
251
108
416

2.5
3.0
2.1
2.5

92
24
20
46

45
16
16
49

41
12
9
34

34
13
6
22

13
9
1
14

6
8

4
2

2

247
114
75

724
341
191

2.9
3.0
2.5

45
21
23

73
36
20

48
17
17

42
21
6

18
9
3

17
3
4

3
6
2

1
1

122
34
12

278
81
20

2.3
2.4
1.7

38
10
7

44
9
2

26
10
3

5
2

3
3

4

1

1

German___ ____ Italian
Jewish........... ........
Magyar------------Slavic:
Polish..............
Russian 1
2
Slovak
Slovenian
(Windish)—
Other Slavic 3_4
Other races *.........

2
2
2

1 Excludes 41 mothers all of whose 87 children had remained in Europe or were living elsewhere in the
United States.
2 Includes Ruthenian and Ukrainian.
3 Includes Czech, Lithuanian and Lettish, and Serbo-Croatian.
4 Includes French, Rumanian, Armenian, Greek, and Flemish.

Number.—There were 1,588 women who were or had been married,
and 1,186 of this number were the mothers of 3,083 children still
living at home at the time of the interview. More mothers had one
child than had two children, and more had two children than had
three, yet over two-fifths (43.8 per cent) of these wage-earning
women had three or more children in the home.
This correlation of number of children by the race of the mother
is given with hesitancy. Ordinarily the age and the race of the
mother are important factors in considering the number of children,
but where young children have been left in Europe or older children
are no longer at home, the situation is not clear. This table, then,
merely presents the facts found in a select group, including young
and old married women, among whom the average number of chil­
dren at home ranges from two to three for all races. None of the
English-speaking nor of the Jewish mothers had more than five




THE FAMILY

39

children at home. A marked number of the German mothers had
but one child and a marked number of the Polish mothers had two,
while about as many Polish and Russian mothers had four children
as had one child.
Age and status.—To the mother who is a breadwinner the ages of
the children are as important as their number; the young child
requires constant care, while the older child may be very helpful.
Table 20.—Mothers having children of specified age groups at home, in school,

or at work, by age group of children
Age group of children

Number of mothers with children
in specified age groups 1 2
At home

Under 5 years_________
5 and under 7 years________
7 and under 14 years....... . _
14 and under 18 years _____
18 years and over...............................

In school

28
13

201
2

At work

217
154

1 There is a duplication of mothers. Naturally, many mothers had children in more than one age group
and many had children both at home and in school.

In comparatively few homes were there mature children, at least
18 years of age, but in 600 or more cases there were little tots of
under 7 years. The banking of numbers falls in the group having
children of compulsory school age (7 and under 14 years) in school.
The next largest group is that having children under 5 years at home.
A fairly even balance between school and employment appears in
the status of children of 14 and under 18 years.
The extent to which the employed children could help varied, of
course, with their ages and the nature of their work, for while an
errand boy of 15 or 16 might not be self-supporting an experienced
weaver of 18 years might make a substantial contribution to the
family.
In the table following only two races, the German and the Polish,
had children at work in enough cases to be considered significant,
although in several other races the proportion of mothers having
children at work is larger than in the German and Polish groups.
Table 21.—Mothers with children at work, by race or people of mother

Race or people
Total.
English-speaking, ......... ........
Non-English-speaking:
German___ __________
Italian_____ __________
Jewish...............................
Magyar______________
Slavic—
Polish____________
Russian.__________
Slovak____________
Slovenian (Windish)
Other Slavic_______
Other races___________
1 Children at work and living away from home are not included.
2 Not computed, owing to small number involved.

65661°—30----- 1




Number of
mothers
reporting

Mothers with children
at work 1
Number

Per cent

1,186

371

42

19

237
84
52
167

93
34
21
44

39.2
40.5
40.4
26.3

247
114
75
122
34
12

73
30
37
5
12
3

29.6
26.3
49.3
4. 1

31.3

40

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Care during mother’s absence.—Tlie families were large, the chil­
dren young, and life was especially strenuous for the 500 employed
mothers whose youngest child was less than 6. It was not customary
for children to begin school before they were 6, and in more than
half of the families with five, six, and seven or more children the
youngest child was not yet 4 years old.
Table 22.—Number of children, by age of youngest child

Age of youngest child

Total.........................
Under 6 months.
6 months and under 1 year__
1 and under 2 years____
2 and under 3 years. .
3 and under 4 years____
4 and under 5 years___
5 and under 6 years....... .
6 and under 7 years___
7 and under 8 years___
8 and under 9 years___
9 and under 10 years...
10 and under 11 years___
11 and under 12 years.

Number
of moth­
ers report­
ing

1951
25
21
58
80
113
97
110
96
84
90
70
61
46

Number of mothers with youngest child
as specified who had in all —
Total
number
of chil­
dren of
7 or
mothers
1 2 chil­ 3 chil­ 4 chil­ 5 chil­ 6 chil­
reporting child dren dren dren dren dren more
chil­
dren
2,672

215

262

192

145

72

64
174
257
386
294
281

9
22
16
13
16
29

2
4
16
24
23
15

2
6
12
16
17
17

211
242
184
150
101

20

2
10
16
29
26
37
34
26

21

12

19
16

13
13

10

43

22

10
16
5
8

7
9
7
3

3
1

3

1

1

1
3

1

i Excludes 231 mothers all of whose 389 children were at least 12 years of age and 4 mothers who did not
report the ages of their 22 children.

The opinion was general among the families visited that children
of 7 who were in school part of the time certainly knew enough to
get something to eat at noon and to take care of themselves when
not in school, and that children as old as 12 were quite able to care
not only for themselves but for younger children; in fact, the care
of a 12-year-old presented few problems.
The arrangements made by more than 700 mothers for the care
of their 1,900 children (all under 12 years of age) when they them­
selves left home for work have been grouped under a few general
headings in the next table. These arrangements varied from paid
service to the most casual and inadequate care. Occasionally the
condition was temporary, and a few mothers worked only during
vacations, when the older children were at home and could look after
the little ones. Many office cleaners selected that job because their
hours permitted them to be at home most of the day.




41

THE FAMILY

Tarlb 23.—Care of young children during mother's absence at work, by age
Care outside the home

Care in the home

Age

Child left
daily—
Num­
Child
Other
ber of
board­
rela­
vision ed out
Older tives
chil­
With
in
dren i Father chil­ or oth­ None rela­
dren
tives At day school
er per­
nurs­ only
or
sons
neigh­ ery
bors

Total............................................ 1,929
Per cent distribution............................ 100.0

271
14.0

184
9.5

352
18.2

10
18
59
83
132
139
198
188
196
227
225
242
212

2
3
10
9
29
29
33
28
36
24
22
25
21

1
1
7
9

4
7
21
23
38
30
41
40
34
39
22
31
22

and under 6 years....... .......................
and under 7 years........................... .
and under 8 years......... ..................
and under 9 years......... ........ ............
9 and under 10 years. ............................
6
6
7
8

11 and under 12 years............................

11

11
21
22
18
27
19
25
12

13
0.7

1
1
3
3
1
1
1
1

1

550
28.5

51
2.6

3
7
19
36
45
60
87
55
56
54
54
46
28

1
4
5
8
5
6
5
5
4
4
4

493
25.6

15

0.8

I
1
3

1
4
32
45
75
102
110
124

4

2
1
2
1

1 Number of mothers, 737.

Few children as young as 6 months were left in the care of others,
nor were there many under 3 years; but from 3 years the numbers
left increased in a marked degree, so that about one-third of the
children whose mothers went daily to work were not yet 6 years old
and therefore were not in school.
Care by fathers or others in the home.—For only half of the chil­
dren under 12 had an effort been made to provide adequate care
during the mother’s absence. In 102 families the fathers had assumed
the burden of caring for the children while their wives were at work.
A few who had a little cobbler shop or tailoring establishment in
the front room of the dwelling could keep an eye on the children
while they plied their trade. The parents’ working hours sometimes
dovetailed, but in families where the mother was on a day shift and
the father on a night shift the children at home had little or no
supervision while fathers rested during part of the day. Not infre­
quently also there was time in the morning and late afternoon when
neither father nor mother could be at home, and the children were
accustomed to prepare their own breakfasts and get themselves olf
to school, coming home in the afternoons to an empty house.
In other families the father was at home because of illness or
unemployment, and the mother had become the chief breadwinner
while the father cared for the children. This was the case with Anna.
During four months in 1924 her husband had only one day’s work a
week, and finally he was laid off; at the time, women could get work
in the cigar factory, so Anna got a job as a stripper and she and
her husband exchanged positions, she becoming the wage earner and
he the housekeeper. When the father assumed the care of the family
they had six children, the eldest a girl of 12 and the youngest an
infant of only a few weeks.




42

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Other relatives or persons in the home, especially grandmothers,
had the burden of slightly more than one-sixth of these young chil­
dren while the mothers worked.
There was only one case where a wage-earning mother was em­
ploying a maid, a 15-year-old girl, whom she paid $28 a month. This
maid did the housework and while the mother was away had the
responsibility of the three children, aged 4, 5, and 13 years.
Care by neighbors or others outside the home.—In many cases
there was no one in the home with whom these children might be left
during the mother’s absence, so about one-third of the children were
left with relatives or neighbors or were cared for at day nurseries,
and every morning before beginning work in the factory the mother
must take the children there for the day. An expression current
among the women was, “I bring my children by my sister’s. She
watch her children and my children.” Mothers, sisters, or other rel­
atives who were not working in the factories “ could just as well look
after a few more kids as not.”
Most fortunate were the women with kind neighbors1 who, usually
for a small consideration, would “ mind ” the children while the
mothers were away from home. While such an arrangement might
be all right for younger children it frequently was rather casual for
those who were in school part of the day, for only in extreme situa­
tions did the neighbor exercise her authority over children “ as old ”
as 8, 9, or 10 years'.
_
One woman, in commenting on the generosity of a neighbor who
“ watches ” her children of 8 and 12 years, said: “ We don’t fight too
much and she good to my children.” In another house the landlady
was spoken of as “ watching a little the children.” One widow who
worked in the mill all day repaid a neighbor for her child’s dinner
by doing the neighbor’s mending; another gave a few cents a day to
a “ neighbor lady ” who “ made the soup ” for the children.
Amounts paid for the care of children either in a neighbor’s home
or in a day nursery were not standardized and were determined prob­
ably by the mother’s ability to pay as well as by the bonds of friend­
ship. One woman paid a neighbor $12 a month for the care of two
children, aged 6 and 9 years, including their noon meal. Another
paid the landlady $2 a week for watching a child of 2 years, although
the mother prepared the food for lunch and her 12-year-old boy took
care of the baby at noon and when he was not in school. The mother
felt, however, that by paying the landlady a little she insured more
interest in both children.
Inadequate arrangements.—In too many families the arrangements
made for the children were inadequate. For one-fourth of the
children not 12 years old the time they spent at school was the only
period during which they were supervised, and although the school
session lasted only 5 or at most 6 hours and the mother’s workday
in the factory lasted sometimes 10 hours, most of the mothers
showed great relief that their children were in such good hands for
even part of the day, and they trusted to luck and neighbors for the
rest of the time.
An office cleaner with children aged 4 months and 4, 8, and 13
years left them alone “ only ” from 4.30 to 11 p. m. and while she
was away from home the girl of 13 “ watched out ” for the family.




THE FAMILY

43

No caretaker.—In only a very few cases did the mothers feel that
no one at all was giving attention to the children. Many of the
women with families of small children worked in factories near
enough to their homes to enable them to return at noon to prepare the
lunch for the smaller children, but except for this help in the prepa­
ration of the noon lunch many of the children shifted for themselves.
One mother whose children were 8, 11, and 12 years old exclaimed
with relief: “ Oh, my children old enough to care for themselves! ”
Another said: “ He 7 years old, he feed himself now! ” and it went
without saying that he shifted for himself during the 10 hours that
his mother was at the factory.
The mother of four children—5, 8, 11, and 13 years old—was
frankly worried about the children she left at home during her long
workday; three were in school part of the day, but the one who was
too young to go to school was at home alone or on the streets.
Very rarely did women speak of locking children alone in the
house for safety. One woman felt that she had chosen her jobs wisely
when the children wTere little, for she had always done office clean­
ing at night. She would put the children to bed and lock them in
the house, hoping to find them all right when she returned about
midnight. Another described in detail how carefully she closed the
house before she went to her job in the hosiery mill: " I give them
their breakfast, put the meal on the table for them, hide the matches,
knives, and everything that could hurt them, lock the front door and
the gate in the back yard, and go away.”
Another mother explained that, on starting to work three years
before, she had solved the problem of the children’s care by locking
the child of 6 in the house and leaving the child of 8, who was in
school, to play out of doors until she came home with the key.
There were 184 children—approximately one-tenth of all those
under 12 years of age—left to the care of older brothers or sisters,
the majority of whom were themselves school children under 16. Of
the little caretakers one was 9 and her charge was 6, and three be­
tween 10 and 11 had the care of children of 2, 4, and 8 years, respec­
tively, two of them having other charges also.
A child of 13 took care of an infant of a few months, and in other
families children of 11,12, and 13 were responsible for babies between
1 and 2. In families where the oldest brother or sister of only 11,
12, or 13 years had charge of four or five younger children there
probably was but little “ looking after ” and no order or discipline.
The usefulness of the older children in their families is illustrated
in the following:
Although Mary has been in America 15 years she does not speak a
word of English, the interpreter commenting that she has been “ too
busy to think of English.” She had never worked in this country
until her husband’s death, six years before, left her with four little
children, aged 10 months, and 3, 6, and 7 years, dependent on her
for support. Since that time she has worked almost steadily, and
when she became a wage earner the 6-year-old girl was the only one
to look after the baby. The mother often has come home to find
the house cold and the children huddled together on the bed to
keep warm, but only once during the six years have they been sick.
The mother had to give up one job, sorting leather in a tannery, as




44

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

the factory was too far from home, and in other jobs she has hot
had much success. She worked a year in a second tannery, but the
firm became bankrupt, and after two years in a yarn mill she was lai d
off because of slack work. In other places the work was too hard.
At the time of the interview she was engaged in the unskilled job
of opening ropes in a curled-hair factory. The 6-year-old girl
meantime has grown to a little woman of 12, who has all a mother’s
solicitude for the other children and takes much responsibility about
the house.
The fact that Theresa has a 16-year-old daughter crippled by in­
fantile paralysis makes it possible for Theresa to go to work in the
morning with a mind at ease, knowing that this crippled daughter
will take care of the five younger children, the youngest of whom is
not quite 2. After her marriage Theresa did not work for several
years, but when they started to buy a home it became necessary for
her to return to work, as her husband was a laborer earning only
$3.50 a day. “ He saves his wages to pay for the house. I work to
feed the family. We have lots children. We pay for house when we
can.” This woman expects all her children to begin work as soon
as they are 14. She regrets that her oldest is physically so handi­
capped that she can never go out to earn anything and rejoices that a
13-year-old girl will soon be able to help the family.
Arriving in this country at the age of 18, Sophie began work
immediately as a cigar roller and, although married within a year,
she continued to work until shortly before her first child was born.
Since then she has worked only in the two emergencies of the house­
hold—in 1921 when her husband’s unemployment lasted throughout
most of the year, and in 1924 when she returned to her old job be­
cause of the heavy debts contracted by the long-continued illness and
the death of a child. During most of her 15 years’ married life
she has been busy in her own borne, for she has had eight children,
two of whom died. At the time of the interview the 13-year-old
daughter, who was in school, had the responsibility of the five
younger children while Sophie was at work. This daughter washed
the dishes, made the beds, swept, and did all the usual daily chores
about the house; at noon prepared lunch for the children, and after
school started the supper; and after supper frequently helped her
mother with the ironing and scrubbing. No wonder she was stunted
and appeared worried and careworn. She had recently been pro­
moted in school and her mother was troubled, because this meant
that the girl would be transferred to a distant building and it
would no longer be possible for her to do the household chores.
The mother was fearful lest she herself would be obliged to give up
work. The family, like many others in the neighborhood, was feeling
the hard times and the effects of unemployment, and, as the mother
said, “Money always gone.” The house in which they lived had
but four rooms and had no conveniences, not even running water.
The family shared a hydrant as well as a privy with a family in
the adjoining house, and for such accommodations paid a rent of $12
a month. The father was industrious, and up to 1921 had had a
steady job. Sophie had come to this country 16 years ago because
her mother was a poor widow in Hungary. She herself commented,




45

THE FAMILY

“ Me poor in this country too,” and from appearances the hard-work­
ing child of 13 looks forward to little more.
It was reassuring to learn from the juvenile probation officer of
Bethlehem, who went over the list of names of 369 women furnish­
ing information in the present survey, that of the almost 1,000 cases
(mostly preventive) handled by her office in the past live years only 3
had been in the families of these women.
Husbands and fathers.
How impossible it would have been for the men to carry the bur­
den of supporting their families (41.4 per cent of the families con­
sisted of five or more persons) had not the women been wage earners
also can be only partly realized even when it is known that many
of these men were unskilled laborers and were earning the lowest
scale of wages.
For many of the husbands the actual work varied so from day to
day that the wives were at a loss to know how to describe their
husbands’ jobs; and it was easier for many to answer simply by
mentioning the name of the firm where he was employed, or the
product of the plant. Others dismissed the question with the one
word “ laborer.” Undoubtedly many for whom the industry was
specified were laborers within the industry,1 but only those have been
classified as laborers whose occupation was definitely given as. such.
Of the 503 women in Philadelphia with husbands who worked, all
but 9 gave some idea of the kind of work in which their husbands
engaged, and all but 33 of the 676 women in the Lehigh Valley
reported something of the nature of their husbands’ jobs.
Table 24.—Industry or occupation of husband, by locality
Husbands of women in the Lehigh Valley

Husbands of women in Philadelphia
Industry or occupation
Total
Manufacturing:

Miscellaneous occupations or industriesOwn business_________________

Number
reported
494
142
67
32
29
42
38
18
74
28
24

Industry or occupation
Total
Manufacturing:

Miscellaneous occupations or industries.

Number
reported
643
270
143
42
26
48
42
35
19
18

In Philadelphia the men were employed chiefly in the metal trades
and the textile mills and as laborers.
In the Lehigh Valley the occupations of the men were centered
in the distinctive man-employing industry in each district—steel in
Bethlehem, cement in Northampton and the adjoining towns, and
1 Census figures show as many as three-fourths of the males in the iron and steel
industries of Bethlehem and Allentown as laborers. U. S. Bureau of the Census. Four­
teenth Census : 1920, vol. 4, Population, Occupations, pp. 240, 242, 246, and 248.




46

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

zinc in Palmerton, these three industries combined employing almost
two-thirds of the husbands whose jobs were reported. The cigar
industry, which employs a vast majority of the women in this sec­
tion, furnished employment for only five of the husbands. A greater
number of men were working in the silk mills where their wives were
employed but, as was the case with the cigar industry, the number
was much smaller than was the number or women.
In both districts the male textile workers were in the same branch
of the industry as the women, chiefly woolen and worsted in Phila­
delphia and silk in the Lehigh Valley.
.
In the metal trades in Philadelphia were 28 men, and in the
Lehigh V alley 22, whose jobs were in automobile factories. In
Philadelphia the miscellaneous-manufacturing group includes tan­
neries and leather products, clothing, and furniture, but in the
Lehigh Valley it includes such diverse manufacturing lines as fur­
niture, shoes, cigars, clothing, meat packing, and tiles. The group
of laborers in Philadelphia includes 15 street laborers and steve­
dores or longshoremen. The group called miscellaneous occupations
or industries includes in Philadelphia drivers, firemen, a printer,
and some clerical workers, and in the Lehigh Valley barbers, jani­
tors, watchmen, bartenders, musicians, a dishwasher, an elevator
operator, and a clerical worker.
The .group conducting their own business in Philadelphia had no
counterpart in the Lehigh Valley. Their business enterprises did not
represent any investment, as they were for the most part street
venders, dealing in ice cream, vegetables, newspapers, or rags. One
conducted a cobbler shop, another a barber shop, another a shoeshine stand, another a fruit stand, still another made baskets at home.
There were also a paper hanger, a stonemason, an upholsterer, and
an electrician who worked independently.
Steadiness of employment.—At the time of the interview as many
as 120 husbands were not contributing to the family support. Some
of these men were ill, others were temporarily out of work on account
of lay offs or other industrial reasons, and a few were, according to
the informants, “just no good.” In approximately one-tenth of the
families reported the wife had assumed the role of chief wage earner
in place of the husband who under ordinary circumstances would
have been the support of the family.
Furthermore, not all the men who had jobs were working full
time; the complaint of “ work not too much ” was heard again and
again in the home visits. Some of these breadwinners were employed
in admittedly seasonal work; bricklayers, carpenters, cement work­
ers, stevedores, and longshoremen worked only intermittently; some
street laborers and track repairers were out of work because of
bad weather.. In addition to these, men in other lines of employ­
ment complained of work being slack, and underemployment was
prevalent at the time of the interview.
Earnings of chief male breadwinner.—Definite and reliable infor­
mation on the actual week’s earnings of the chief male wage earner
was obtained in 456 of the families—298 in the Lehigh Valley and
158 in Philadelphia. In most instances the chief male wage earner
was the husband, but in a very few cases he was the father or son
of the woman interviewed.




47

THE FAMILY

About one-tenth of the 456 men for whom current earnings were
reported, chiefly unskilled and receiving the wages commonly paid
for this kind of work, earned less than $20 a week; one-third were
earning $20 and under $25 and slightly more than one-fourtli earned
as much as $30.
The following presents in descending scale the medians of a
week’s earnings of these groups of men:
Table

25.—Median of a week's earnings of the chief male wage earners, by
industry or occupation and by locality
Philadelphia

Industry or occupation

Lehigh Valley

Number Median
of a
of men
week’s
reported earnings
158

Manufacturing:

Textiles

Paper and paper products.
Miscellaneous manufacturing.
Labor and miscellaneous oc­
cupations.

Industry or occupation

$24.25

20
52
15
17
24

27.00
26.65
24. 60
23.60
23.20

30

22. 35

Number Median
of a
of men
week’s
reported earnings
298

$26.80

63
51

28.65
28. 60

26
15
118
25

27. 85
27. 80
24. 90
24.65

Manufacturing:
Miscellaneous
facturing.

manufac-

Steel_______________
Miscellaneous industries and
occupations.

For the chief male wage earners for whom this information was
obtainable the table shows that the median of the figures reported as
a week’s earnings was less than $27 for the Lehigh Valley and less
than $25 for Philadelphia. In other words, one-half the 158 men
in Philadelphia and one-half the 298 men in the Lehigh Valley
earned less than $25 and less than $27, respectively.
In Philadelphia the largest group numerically is that classified
as in the metal trades. It includes 52 men working in locomotive
and automobile works and in machine shops, and for these the
median earnings were $26.65 for the week. The highest median is
$27, the figure for the 20 textile workers. At the other end of the
scale are the 30 chief male wage earners classified as laborers, and
for these the median of a week’s earnings was $22.35.
In the Lehigh Valley the most representative group, comprising
two-fifths of the men reported, was working in the steel industry,
and the median of their earnings was $24.90, decidedly less than the
median for any other industry reported specifically in this locality.
Workers in the cement mills in this district, with median earnings
of $28.65, fared better in this respect than did men in any of the
other groups in either locality. It is interesting to note that, as far
as these small groups are concerned, the median for men in the metal
trades in Philadelphia is higher than the median for men in the
steel mills in the Lehigh Valley.
Unpublished data show that the median of a week’s earnings of
23 men employed in the building trades, the two localities combined,
is $26.50, an amount that compares favorably with the better-paid
workers in Philadelphia, though it is slightly less than the median
in the Lehigh Valley.




48

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

For a somewhat limited group of families—172 in Philadelphia
and 286 in the Lehigh Valley—definite data were obtained relative
to the current earnings of husbands and of wives in the same families.
The earnings of the wives were lower than the earnings of the hus­
bands, and wages averaged lower in Philadelphia than in the Lehigh
Valley.
Philadelphia.

Number of families reporting
172
Median of a week’s earnings of wives$15. 50
Median of a week’s earnings of husbands$22. 90

Lehigh
Valley.

286
$18.15
$26. 45

Unpublished data show that in Philadelphia about three-eighths
(38.4 per cent) of the husbands had earnings between $20 and $25;
in the Lehigh Valley almost one-third (32.5 per cent) received be­
tween $25 and $30. Earnings of $15 and under $20 were reported
for 40.1 per cent of the wives in Philadelphia and 37.4 per cent of
those in the Lehigh Valley. Earlier in the report it was stated that
two-thirds of all the families interviewed had two wage earners
(p. 36), so the combined earnings of husbands and wives would
seem to be fairly indicative of family earnings. It was indeed for­
tunate that the wife was able to supplement the husband’s earnings,
as even the combined medians amounted to only $38.40 in Philadel­
phia and to $44.60 in the Lehigh Valley.
Federal Reserve figures.
Information obtained during the interviews regarding the earnings
of male wage earners corresponds closely with data on wages pub­
lished by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. According to
a report by this authority wage earners employed in the State of
Pennsylvania in the manufacture of metal products averaged $26.19
for one week in September, 1925. The manufacture of metal prod­
ucts covers the employment of two-fifths of the male wage earners
in the present study—the men making automobiles and engines, those
in foundries and blast furnaces, and those in steel work in general.
Cost of living.
It is pertinent to consider the cost of living in relation to the
amount of wages earned. The standard budget used by the Bethle­
hem Family Welfare Association in giving relief to needy families
provides an annual allowance for a family of five—man, wife, and
three children (a boy of 11, a girl of 7, and an infant)—as follows:
Food^
Clothing
167. 60
Rent__________________
Fuel
84. 00

$678.00
180'. 00

Total1,109.60

This is a mere subsistence budget at the poverty level, covering the
bare essentials of shelter, food, and clothing and making no allowance
for other things almost as necessary and provision for the emer­
gencies bound to arise in practically all families.
Hourly rates not uncommonly received by labor in the Lehigh
Valley were 37 to 39 cents. At such rates a man would have to
work 10 hours a day for 300 days a year—a steadiness of employ­
ment not generally found—for his year’s earnings to exceed the




THE FAMILY

49

allowance made by the charity organization referred to in aiding
families dependent upon the community for support.
The hardships most common and most dreaded were unemploy­
ment and sickness, and it was these emergencies that drove the
women to work and the fear of them that kept wives and mothers
at their jobs. The staff of a hospital in the Lehigh Valley had
just completed a study (unpublished) of the cost of being sick in a
wage-earning community. About half the patients were charity
cases, and it was ascertained that for one or more short illnesses
only the man earning as much as $125 a month and having not
more than one dependent could manage to pay a hospital bill lim­
ited to actual costs. Even in such a case the doctor’s bill, as likely
as not, was never paid. In order to meet a small hospital bill a
single man with no family responsibilities required a wage of at
least $25 a week.
In Philadelphia the cost of living and the cost of being ill are no
less than in the Lehigh Valley. While the budget already quoted
for Bethlehem is based on the lowest standards of living, a civic
organization of Philadelphia drew up a budget based on the “ require­
ments and cost, at March, 1923, prices, of a minimum health and
decency standard of living for a family of five, consisting of parents,
boy of 13, girl of 10, and boy of 6.” 2 This calls for an annual ex­
penditure of $1,854.28, or an income in excess of $35 for each of the
52 weeks of the year. In addition to the essentials it provides an
allowance for medical care, replacement of household equipment,
insurance and taxes, and for some education, amusement, and recrea­
tion. This allowance for a minimum standard of health and decency
shows a marked increase in the item of rent since 1918 and even
since 1921. The standard of the Philadelphia budget is a 6-room
house facing a street; it provides a bathroom, laundry tubs, furnace,
and facilities for cooking and lighting with gas. Such an equipment
was considered to cost $37 a month in 1923, and very few women
interviewed in Philadelphia could afford such an outlay.
_ A recent study based on wage-earning mothers3 in Philadelphia
includes this statement in its analysis of the wages of 328 husbands
reported upon: “Almost three in every five of these men earn less
than $25 a week. Half of the group earning less than $25, however,
earn $20 or more.” In comparing this with the standard of living
recommended by the Philadelphia Bureau of Municipal Research
the report goes on to say: “ These wages do not provide the usual
minimum standard of decency for the family of husband, wife, and
three children, which requires from $25 to $30 a week.”
When husbands and fathers earn no more than $25 there is little
choice left to the women except to become wage earners themselves,
for these families did not come to America to continue living at the
poverty line, but to seek a “ better living ” and to enjoy the higher
standards that they expected would be possible of attainment in the
United States.
2 Bureau of Municipal Research, Philadelphia. The Cost of a Workingmen’s Standard
of Living in Philadelphia at March, 1923, Prices. Citizens’ Business, Apr. 5, 1923. No.
567. 11 pp.
3 Hughes, Gwendolyn S. Mothers in Industry New York, New Republic (Inc.), 1925,

p. 66.




ECONOMIC RESPONSIBILITIES
Married women.
Information so pertinent as the employment and the earnings of
the husbands of these foreign-born women and the number of chil­
dren in the families would seem to make superfluous any inquiry
regarding the reasons and purposes of the women themselves in
securing and holding jobs.
To the question as to why the women had returned to work after
marriage there was repetition in the answers: “ Times weren’t so
good.” “ Expenses so high.” “ We were getting behind in every­
thing.” “ The men were laid off and we needed a slice of bread.”
“ Never know when sickness comes how much it cost.” “ To pay for
my home some day.” All “needed to help a little out”—husbands
ill, husbands out of work or on part time, rent to pay, and children
to feed were indeed common to all.
When the answers given referred quite definitely to the status of
the husband they were tabulated in the rather inclusive class “ in­
sufficient support from husband.” This covers the few men reported
worthless, those ill or out of work—non wage earners, in other
words—as well as the larger number who, due to business conditions,
were working irregularly or part time and the many others working
full time but not earning enough to support the family. In not one
of these cases was the husband contributing an amount sufficient for
the family’s needs.
The second classification, “ to help maintain home and support
family,” is closely related to the first group, as it depends largely
upon the wages earned by the husband whether or not the wife works
“ to help with the large family ” or “ to pay the bills at the store.”
Practically the only difference in the two groups is in the manner in
which the question was answered, as in each the lack of adequate
support from the husband was the primary cause for the woman’s
working. The first group includes all those answers that mention
conditions of the husband’s employment; the second includes answers
in which definite mention was made of the responsibilities that the
woman had to assume. For most purposes the two groups may be
combined.
Of the women reporting reasons and a specific number of years
elapsing before their return to work after marriage, two-thirds gave
reasons that fell in the first two of the groups, and except for the
women working to buy a home or furniture the other groups are
numerically unimportant.
The 556 women who continued to work with no loss of time after
marrying naturally are omitted from the tabulation of reasons for
returning to work. Widows, too, are not included in this presen­
tation. The 314 women who reported that they did not return imme­
diately to industry but gradually drifted back as they realized that
50




51

ECONOMIC RESPONSIBILITIES

their pay envelopes were needed to keep up the homes they had estab­
lished are shown in the table following. A majority of these women
were living in Philadelphia.
Table 26.-—Reason for return to work after marriage, by time elapsed before

such return1
Married
women
reporting

Number of married women who returned to
work after a lapse of—

Num­ Per
ber
cent

1 and 3 and 5 and 10 and 15
Under under under under under years
and
10
15
3
5
1 year
years years years years over

Reason for return to work

314
Total ................ ........... ................... .
Per cent distribution________ _______ ____ 100.0

100.0

18
5.7

44
14.0

29
9.2

99
31.5

82
26.1

42
13.4

148
65
66

47.1
20.7
21.0

8
2
4

26
8
6

17
5
5

44
9
30

33
28
14

20
13
7

19
6
10

6.1
1.9
3.2

3

2

1

2

1

7
5
4

4
1
2

2

1

Insufficient support from husband-----------To help maintain home and support family
To buy home or furniture
To save for old age and to raise family standard

i Includes only women who worked in the United States both before and after marriage.

The table shows that while a few of the women found it necessary
to return to their wage-earning jobs before they had been married a
year, almost a third were at home 5 and under 10 years before they
went back, and two-fifths were at home for 10 years or more.
An unpublished tabulation relating to the employment of married
women includes a number of women who, having married in the old
country, naturally had no work history as single girls in this country,
and, further, returned to work in 1918 or later after a lapse of at
least five years spent in their own homes. The unpublished figures
show that more than half the number in this more comprehensive
group of married women had been out of industry from 10 to 20
years, and a few even longer, before reentering industry, and, as
stated above, none had returned to work before a lapse of 5 years.
The majority of this group had not reentered industry until 1920 or
later, which seems to indicate that the high wages caused by the con­
dition of Avar did not tempt the women to enter industry as much
as did the financial difficulties caused by the business depression of
1920-21.
From another unpublished tabulation, based upon married women
who did not enter industry until 1918 or later, although they had
lived here previously to that time, it would seem that they had not
come to this country Avith the expectation of being breadAvinners,
for they were well past the age when it is easy to fit. into industry.
Of those reporting age at beginning work in this country only a
tenth were less than 30 years of age and almost two-fifths had reached
40 when they obtained employment here. And like the other mar­
ried women in industry they, too, were working chiefly because of
the inadequacy of the husband’s wage and the necessity of supple­
menting the family income.
The foregoing discussion relates only to such material as lent
itself to tabulation, but more telling than figures are the comments




52

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

that the women made. The remainder of this chapter, therefore, con­
sists mainly of illustrative material selected at random from the
interviews. It includes comments on continued employment as well
as on the need of returning to work after a lapse of years. The
statements were made by old women and young women of different
races and employed in various industries, for neither age, race, nor
industry made a difference in the extent to which the women were
assuming the burdens of family support.
What were the motives that had driven these married women to
seek employment ? In most cases it was definite economic want, such
as family support, in whole or in part; the supplementing of a hus­
band’s earnings to pay for special expenditures such as doctor’s bills,
or the extra responsibility of aged parents, or for unforeseen emer­
gencies of all sorts; establishing a home or buying the furniture;
paying for a home; the acquiring of a surplus for old age and future
uncertainties. There were very few who were working without the
urge of a definite economic need or motive.
The outlook of the older woman was limited generally to satis­
faction of immediate economic needs and family responsibilities, and
conditions described in such phrases as these were reasons enough
for working: “ Big pile of debts at store and house to pay.” “ Now
like the winter comes—coal you need and the children shoes.” Only
occasionally was the question of the woman’s responsibility met by
such replies as “ Husband no good.” “ Husband does not like to
work.” “Husband no help; drinks and spends his own money.”
Much more commonly the answer was, “A good man, but job no
good.”
Teamwork—Double responsibility.—Naturally, since only em­
ployed women were included in the study, in none of these families
was the husband supporting the wife and children without help; in
all the support fell jointly upon the man and his wife working
together.
The wife’s double job of contributing to the family maintenance
and keeping house was accepted as a matter of course, as if it were
only natural that husbands could not make enough to support their
families. In some cases, if the wife had not supplemented the family
earnings it would have been impossible to meet even current ex­
penses, much less to cover special expenditures such as payments for
insurance or the buying of furniture or of a home. Husbands taking
part in the interviews often volunteered such statements as “ She
works so we can live ” or “ I pay rent, pay bills at the grocery store,
buy shoes, and have not 1 penny left. She must work.” Another
husband said, “ She is helping me, I’m helping her.” Additional
extracts from schedules along the same line are these:
Husband and wife emphasized the necessity of teamwork, both earning and
contributing to support. They could not live without the help of each other.
They had not expected to find living so expensive in America. When illness
overtakes them, they spend all they can save.
“ Necessary to help. Short money all the time.”
The husband in one case seemed especially thrifty (said he had saved $2,500
in war times when wages were high) and six months before had purchased a
home for $4,700. At the time of the interview he was spending his evenings
digging a basement, adding a back kitchen, and getting ready to install a bath­
room and electric lights. Besides the financial obligation of paying for a home,




ECONOMIC RESPONSIBILITIES

53

money was sent to the husband’s father and the wife’s mother in Hungary.
The man said, “A family can’t get ahead unless the wife works.”
One husband, speaking of his wife, said, “ She is a good woman. If woman
does not help, bad for man.”
Six children and a mother-in-law to support. Husband has a fairly steady
job at $23 a week, but sick sometimes and “ getting old ” (40 years of age) so.
can not support family alone.
Husband gets only 37 cents an hour—three children.
Plenty to do to earn a living, and man can’t do it alone. Wife longed for
children left in Galicia and if husband only had worked they never would have
been able to send for them. They were also buying a house, the wife’s earnings
paying the. current expenses while the husband’s went largely to pay for the
house.
A husband employed in a wire mill said, “Greenhorns need their wives to
help them."
“ Six children. One man can not feed them all.”
Takes all both can earn to support five children. Husband, a laborer, earns
$3.90 a day; the rent is $12 a month; the wife contributes $10 to $14 a week.

A German woman who had been in this country only a few years
was living in a gloomy alley house with a roof that leaked. A few
months before she had taken a regular job again as presser, so she
was turning into the family purse $11 to $18 a week, though her
husband, who had been a salesman in Germany, was doing well,
learning English, and earning over $27 a week at general labor. Both
had realized the fact that they would never get out of the alley house
nor prosper in other ways unless the wife worked too. The husband’s
comment was, “ Best thing would be for married man to earn enough
to keep his woman home.”
Unemployment.—The following comments indicate the necessity
of the women finding work when their husbands were laid off:
We saved a little, but when he was out of work we ate it all up in two
months.
Once when he was out of work for 11 weeks we had money in the bank, but,
we had to take it all out. Soon it was all gone and we have not been able to
get ahead for two years.
Steel mills laid off lots of men in 1919. Women must work.
Husband out of work. Bills just the same.

In one case a woman reported that it had been her practice to stop
work whenever her husband’s employment warranted it. Shortly
before the interview he had been out of work for about four months,
through the winter, and they had had to borrow to get along. The
wife said that she meant to keep a steady job herself from that time
on, as it did not pay for her to spend so much time hunting work
every time her husband was laid off. She said: “ I felt a stone roll off
my heart when he got his job. All over slack—not much work.”
Another woman whose husband, a blacksmith, had been out of
work four months, and whose son, an errand boy, had been laid off
one month, replied: “ I work now to eat.”
A man who had had only four places in 20 years had been laid off
for the first time in his life. He had been out of work a few weeks,
but in the emergency his wife had found a job and was substituting
as the chief wage earner. The husband appeared greatly embarrassed
at the situation, which he seemed powerless to remedy. He hoped it
would be only a temporary arrangement, and one of the reasons he
gave was that his wife “ scolds all the time; all the time so tired; she
so tired by 7 o’clock she goes to sleep.”




54

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Illness.—Few of these families had escaped illness, with its doc­
tors’ or hospital bills. One mother, in speaking of a frail child, said:
“ I think she cost as much money as she weigh herself.”
A woman who was a weaver before her marriage returned to work
after 10 years, when her husband’s health and strength began to fail.
At different times he had lost 6, Sy2, and 2% months. Besides these
illnesses of the chief breadwinner, three children had been ill and
died, so the family had had a “ sickness bill ” haunting them for
years. The little daughter interpreting for her mother added, “ She
never can take a rest.”
Some years ago one family managed by hard work and great
economy to put $800 in the bank, but “ so much sick ” in recent years
had eaten up these savings and financially the family wTas back where
it had started.
An Italian woman was the chief support of her family because her
“ husband was laid off three years ago when his arm got a cold in it
and the hospital can’t help him.”
A tobacco stripper of 50 was the sole support of herself and her
husband, the latter having been an invalid nine years. At first they
had had some money “ put by the bank,” but theirs has been the same
experience as that found in many other homes and they had nothing
at the time of the study. They seemed reconciled to their two little
rooms and had given up all expectation of having “ nice things.”
Cases illustrating tragedies caused by illness could be quoted by
the score, but there is a depressing similarity in all of them—compen­
sation inadequate to support the family, the savings of years vanish­
ing, and an accumulation of debts that must be paid. “ Husband
work—I’m stay home. Husband sick; nobody give me eat, I work.”
Buying a home.—When business was good and wages were high
many families invested in the most coveted possession—their own
homes—purchasing on the contract-for-deed plan; but when work
grew slack it was a struggle to keep up these payments and many
wives had been forced back to work to avoid losing their homes.
Repeated references were made during the interviews to the
“ nice ” homes the women wanted above anything else. “ To have
right my own home.” “A home a little nice, that’s all I want.”
“ This like an alley house where we live—I get better home on better
street, bathroom and everything nice.” “ It is in my mind I buy a
house and garden.”
A house with plumbing and drainage was the goal of many who
were willing to slave day and night in the hope that some day such
a home would be theirs. One woman spoke feelingly when she said,
“ If you want a nice home you have to work like the devil for it,”
and in order to help to get a home she had done sewing in the even­
ings in addition to her job in the shop and all her own housework:
“ I always work. Didn’t have so much money; we have a mortgage
yet, that’s why I work.” Another woman said, “ I am not going to
be steady on rent, I buy a home some day. Husband can not buy it
alone.” By working and supplementing the family earnings they
hope to see an end of the payments, although one woman whose home
was not half paid for after 10 years added, “ I may die first.”
Many families had been forced to buy during a real-estate boom
in order to keep a roof over their heads. For six years an Italian
laborer had paid nothing on the principal but was keeping up the



ECONOMIC RESPONSIBILITIES

55

interest. He had bought in self-protection, and to meet the first
payment he had borrowed $200 from friends—$10 from one, $10
from another, wherever he could get a small amount. He said he
could not really afford to buy: “ Too much mortgage, no bread.”
The story of a winder in a silk mill whose home had been sold over
her head is worth relating. She could not find another suitable
house because the owners objected to her five small boys, so they
undertook to buy a large house, though realizing at the time that the
husband’s wages did not warrant the investment. The husband
was an unskilled laborer in the steel mill; for his pay envelope to
yiold $44 for two weeks was not unusual though sometimes he earned
more. He was worn out and getting old (47) for heavy labor. The
wife, therefore, accepted the house as her responsibility and went
back to the mill after an absence of several years. Rental from part
of the house was helping with the installment payments, but she
herself had paid for many improvements in the last five years—
water and sewer connections, plumbing fixtures, painting, and
sidewalks.
A few additional descriptions of home buying taken from the
schedules follow:
Upkeep of the home in addition to the purchase payments was a
heavy drain on family income and occasionally was the immediate
reason for the wife’s seeking work. Much expense on houses they
were buying; “paint, $210”; “cement porch, $150”; and so on.
“ Sometimes the rooms are empty; sometimes husband’s pay envelope
is $7 to $15 short,” was one woman’s reason for returning to the silk
mill to work. “A new roof on house ” was that of another.
Mrs. H. had six children, the oldest 12 and the youngest 2. She
had worked as a weaver whenever she had been able to leave home.
Her husband was a carpenter and in bad weather likely to be without
work. They had always had a hard time to get along. “Plenty chil­
dren, always ready to eat.” Yet wTith her help they had managed
to buy their home of three rooms. Often she had had to leave very
small children at home, but the 12-year-old boy now was taking care
of the 2-year-old baby during vacation.
Brides continuing to work.—More than one bride pointed with
delight to her enamel stove or linoleum floor covering that she was
buying on the installment plan with her own earnings. “We could
never have a home on his wages,” one said, and another explained:
“We didn’t have furniture and we had to live in a boarding house
and that cost too much.”
One young woman, commenting on her work after marriage, said:
“Married on Thursday and on next day, Friday, went to work in
the factory. I didn’t have a cent and my husband not $5 when we
married.”
A bride of three months said that she had been at home only a
short time when she realized that she must work again if the monthly
bills were to be met. They had furnished three rooms on the install­
ment plan with an insured value of $1,000.
Another young wife told of having saved $75 before she married.
The husband had $150. When asked, “Why do you work?” she ex­
claimed, “ Oh, these Hungarian men, one week married, the next
65661°—30--- 5.




56

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

week the woman go to work.” She hastened to add that her husband
was a good man; that he never drank and was always at home. She
was glad to help while she could.
A few were not accepting their lot as wage earners after marriage
with entire resignation and acquiescence. For example, one woman
who had found her responsibilities increased by marriage said: “ I
wish my husband make enough so I don’t have to go to work. It is
hard to sit there all day and then come home, cook, and work, but
what can we do? We can’t live on $20 a week.”
The husbands voiced similar sentiments. One wished that “ things
were so that men could earn enough to support a family, then women
would not have to slave at two jobs.”
Sayings and old age.—During the survey little information was
obtained that showed that the families had put away much in the way
of savings. Some few women referred to bank accounts; many more
were carrying insurance.
One woman thought the family might be able to exist on her hus­
band’s $22 a week; “but,” she said, “bad for the children. They
never be Americans, and where I go when old ? ”
_ A young Hungarian clothing operator, one of the main supports
in her family, said: “Wouldn’t care if I had a steady job; no one
would be happier. Then every day something to eat and every day
something to save.”
On the whole, the women were thrifty; some were keen for money,
some may have been penurious; but, as one remarked, they were sav­
ing money only for their own economic security. They were looking
ahead, and felt it was good to save. One man said, “ Every man
hopes to save for better life.” “ Better living ” was a common phrase
that covered their ideas of economic and social advancement together
wTith leisure for some culture and enjoyment of life. There was no
evidence of extravagant expenditure. These men and women desired
sayings laid up against sickness and old age, a home to live in, and
children educated according to American standards.
For many of the women interviewed the motivating force was
found in the insecurity of the future and the desire to have enough
to tide over unforeseen emergencies—illness, accidents, or unemploy­
ment—or to provide for old age. “A little bit of money good if some­
thing happen in the family.” “Just as well to work—never know
when sickness comes.” These are typical of statements made again
and again.
The specter of a dependent old age haunted many of these women,
so that the hope of declining years free from poverty and dependence
kept them at work; and they worked under such a strain while young
that they were prematurely old at 40. One couple of 42 and 40 years
finally had achieved success in that they owned their home, but it
had been at the cost of their health. They had nothing but the house
and were worrying about sickness and fast-approaching age. The
husband was “ plenty sick ” and the wife looked very frail. For
years she had “ all the time hurry,” at home and in the shop, else she
would “ make nothing.”
Another woman voiced the same fear when she said: “ When old
we don’t want to be on the city. Plenty widows that have no
money. It is in my mind, then, to work so long I can. I have not




ECONOMIC RESPONSIBILITIES

57

enough yet, but when too much, then I stop work.” The speaker,
although only 30, looked like an old woman.
Another felt that wives must work while they are young. “We
folks are like that. We work while we are young, and help while
we are healthy so when we are old we will have something.” She
was a young bride, but she, too, was worrying about the possible
tragedy of old age.
No absolute necessity for work.—Once in a while a woman was
working not so much because of absolute economic pressure as with
the rather hazy desire to raise the family standard and to have a few
of the little niceties of life. One woman was very proud of her hus­
band’s ability to support the family. He was a bricklayer, but they
were thrifty and desired to rise in the social scale, so the wife was
helping. “ Why sit around and not have any money? ” she said.
A few admitted that at the time of the survey no economic need
forced them to work, although at an earlier time there may have been
such need. The reasons for working given by this group are illus­
trated by the following: “ I’d gotten my hand in and the children
were older, so I kept on.” “ Nothing especially to keep me at home.
No baby. I like to work.” “ I’m happiest while working.” “ Could
I sit and watch my man do it all ? ”
Instances such as these were rare, however, and even the more
prosperous wives were working because they felt a definite want.
All the women realized the uncertainty of their financial status de­
scribed by one woman as “ Now we go forward ”—referring to the
fact that all was well with the family—“ but sometimes we go
backward.”
Sole support.
In this report much emphasis has been placed on the wife whose
husband also was a wage earner, but there were 156 cases where
the woman interviewed was the sole support of the family. Twentysix of these women had husbands, but by far the larger number, 116,
were widows and a few were daughters carrying the responsibility
of their parents.
A few excerpts from the individual schedules indicate the extent
of the women’s responsibilities as chief wage earners of family
groups:
Widowed seven years, the worker interviewed was the sole support of self
and two children. She was calm and philosophical. “ Sometimes good—some­
times bad. Must work—no work, no eat.”
A worker very proud of having met her economic obligations reported that
for at least 17 years she had been the sole support of herself and others and
for a considerably longer period the chief wage earner of the family.
One woman had been the chief support of her husband, ill eight years
before his death ; he needed “ gentle eats ” and there were always doctors’
bills. During his illness he had been able to work only irregularly, and for
some years she had been the sole support.

The case of the women who were widowed or otherwise without
a husband’s support deserves especial mention, for unpublished fig­
ures show that, although the median of a week’s wage for the group
of about 100 women reporting actual earnings was nearly $16, onefourth of them earned less than $12 and a few earned less than
$10 and were making an effort to support their families under such
conditions.




58

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Single women.—Since the great majority of the women interviewed
were or had been married, it is easy to overlook the single girls, but
they, too, had their responsibilities. They had grown up with the
idea that as soon as possible they must become self-supporting. One
girl said: “ Everybody works; that’s why we came here.” Another
said: “ If I had come to America to sit in a house, I might as well
have stayed in Europe.” As previously stated in this report, many
of the girls had begun work on the day following their arrival in
America.
In addition to supporting themselves many were contributing to
the family fund, and if parents or other near relatives needed assist­
ance the wage-earning daughter assumed the burden of their sup­
port without question. A girl whose father, aged 65, was crippled
and unable to work, said: “ What can I do with $25 a week ? I must
take care of my father and mother. It takes four weeks’ pay to buy
our coal. Last week I paid our taxes and my envelope was empty.”
One intelligent girl reckoned that she was contributing one-third
of the total income in a family of 10 people—mainly younger brothers
and sisters.
The case of a young woman who for 12 years had been the sole
support of her blind father was an outstanding one. She was proud
to have been able “ to spare him the disgrace of going to an
institution.”
Sending money to relatives in the old country was a constant drain
upon earnings. “ My mother is very, very poor. I send her every
month all I can. I’m very disappointed with my life, so much
trouble.” A better job seems to be the chief aim in life of this type
of girl. While the married women’s lives centered in their families
and their homes, more than 100 single girls were particularly eager
for more education and improved conditions in industry. Almost
half the single girls who expressed dissatisfaction with industrial
conditions—long hours or meager pay—and wished “ to have not so
hard a job ” were Jewish or English-speaking girls, and it was the
Jewish and Magyar girls who most often expressed ambition for
more education and “ to be American.” Some girls were looking for­
ward to marriage and having their own homes—■“ to have it better,
so as not to go to the mill.”
Women living independently'.—'Them was a group of about 120—
some widows, some single women—who were not living with their
families and, unlike the vast majority of the women interviewed,
had no one dependent upon them for support. The median of the
earnings for one week as reported by this group was found to be
about $16, almost the same as the amount shown for those who W'ere
widows, discussed on page 57. Similarly to that group, about a
fourth of these women earned less than $12 a week and a few had
received anywhere from $5 to $10 as their pay in the week preceding
the interview.
Other motives for working.
Satisfaction of daily needs and solution of present problems of
existence kept most of the women at work. “ Thankful to make a
living,” “As long as I have my everyday bread, I’m satisfied this
way,” “ Came to America to work and satisfied if I can get work,”
and “ Just to keep the family together ” were some of their replies




ECONOMIC RESPONSIBILITIES

59

to the question as to motive in going to work. Yet the conversa­
tion often drifted into channels that revealed deeper hopes and am­
bitions. Though the women did not give such desires as their defi­
nite reasons for working, they constituted perhaps the impelling force
that directed the lives of these wage earners. At least 700 mothers
referred to the plans they had for their children and the problems
arising in regard to their education and the kinds of wTork in which
they should be trained. Their comments speak for themselves:
“ I am still a greenhorn. My little girl must be smart.” “ She
must not do stripping like me.” “ My boys must go to high school
if they have good heads.” “ He must not work in the mill but be
an American.” The children of an ambitious woman who was
spending her days at the polishing wheel took music lessons. An­
other mother, recalling her days of “ slavery ” in the mill, was help­
ing her daughter through, a business college.
Women feeling the pinch of hard times were ready to make sac­
rifices: “ We do by our children in school what we can afford.” The
goal of a widow who worked 10 hours a day was to see her daughter
a graduate of the normal school: “I no care how Iona- I w8rk if
she can teach in a school.”
Some mothers confessed to keen disappointment when, after the
struggle to educate them, the children could not or would not bene­
fit by it.
One woman, aged 46, speaking of her son said: “ He went to col­
lege. I lost all my strength giving him an education, and the girl
went to business college. My life pretty hard, but I’m glad I gave
him a good education. Now he can not get work; so I work—maybe
you know somebody who needs an accountant? ”
In contrast to the hundreds who were ambitious to educate their
children were a few whose comment was like this: “Let them go
to work the same as I had to. It is good for them. School till they
are 14 would be enough.” An Italian expressed real disappointment
because her children had left home when very young, because she
said, “ they old enough to work now, and they should be feeding
me. For what good they been to me? Too mucha trouble, too
mucha cost. Bad in America.”




HOME DUTIES
Extent.
It must be apparent that work for the wage-earning woman who
is mother of a family does not end with the day in the factory.
Most of the women had another job awaiting them at home. Many
of the interviews were made with the women while they peeled the
potatoes, scrubbed the floors and steps, or bent over the washtub.
As they worked they talked about their jobs, their children, and
their homes. Only 28 of the women had no household cares or
duties, and it was exceptional to find a couple boarding or a wage­
earning wife who was not also a housekeeper. In the case of a
woman silk weaver the family was boarding, and the husband com­
mented : “ She works 7 to 5, then done. A woman keeping house
works uintil 8 or 9 at night, and never done.” As usual, the brunt
of the housework fell upon the wives and mothers, about a thousand
of whom had practically no assistance with the housekeeping chores,
for families, whether large or small, had to be fed, clothed, and kept
clean.
Everything I do—wash, iron, cook, clean, sew, work in the garden, make
bread if time. Get up at 4.30, feed the chickens, make the breakfast, get ready
the lunches, and it is time to start to work; 6 o’clock come home, make
eats for children; washing at nighttime, and make clothes for children.

A cigar roller had begun the week’s washing at 2.30 in the morning
on the Saturday before the interview, as it was summer and she felt
that it was too hot to wash in the afternoon. She had ironed on Sun­
day and was finishing this task Monday night. She customarily
worked at home almost every evening and much of Sunday, making
her child’s clothes and most of her own.
Another described her Sunday: “ Yesterday I scrubbed the shanty,
washed the porch, mopped and wiped the windows. I felt just like
work, but to-day I can’t drag to work. Work is never done—never
stay clean.”
A cigar worker who was employed long hours and did all her regu­
lar housework and sewing, said: “ If I clean downstairs I must leave
upstairs dirty.” Her boys were working during the summer vaca­
tion and she regretted that “Now when they come home tired and
dirty, nobody is there to get them hot water or clean clothes. It’s
too bad.”
“ I do all my work—wash Saturday morning. You see how dirty.
I can’t keep clean with four dirty, naughty children.”
A widow of 56 expressed surprise that there should be even a ques­
tion about her doing all her own work. “All housework, sure! What
you think ? I am always to be independent.”
A cigar worker who took pride in her family’s high standard of
living said, in speaking of her extensive household duties; “We live
right, we eat, we ain’t like some people,” explaining also that they
did not eat “ out of tin cans.” A woman who did buy canned foods
considered that it was more expensive, but stated that in her case it
60




HOME DUTIES

61

was possible to work longer and earn more if she did not spend time
in preparing food for the table; so she bought canned vegetables
rather than lose the time from the shop to prepare them. She had
reckoned that it cost her $3 a day to feed her family of five when she
bought some foods already prepared.
Washing.
The family washing seemed to be the bugbear of the women, for
it was the home duty most frequently mentioned and the one most
in evidence. It was unusual for an agent to have an evening of
visiting without at least one of her interviews being made beside
the washtub or the ironing board. Some comments on washing
were these:
Friday night, I wash. Saturday, iron.
I’m washing to-night.
Get up at 4 in the morning to wash.
Washed three tubs of clothes last night.
Sunday is my wash day. Glad when Monday comes—Sunday’s work is done.
Baby two and a half makes lots of wash.

Assistance in housework.
In many families the sharing of houshold tasks was accepted as
a matter of course. At the time of one visit the woman interviewed
was washing the clothes while her husband was wringing them and
her brother-in-law was washing dishes.
The wife in an Italian family was washing greens when the agent
entered, and the husband took her place at the sink while she sat
down to receive the visitor. By way of apology he said, “ Oh, my
wife needs a rest,” and her comment was, “ He learned in the Army
how to help me.”
A Windish woman also was very proud of her husband’s accom­
plishments. “ Man, he help in everything. Tuesday every night
we wash till 10 o’clock. Wednesday we iron, and if much to do we
get up at 4 in the morning to finish. Friday night we sweep, wipe
floors, windows, front rooms, and bedrooms. Saturday afternoon
we go to market, scrub, bake, and everything.” This woman said
she could not do her work without her husband’s help: “ My man
everything he help.” Another said: “ What’s my trouble is his
trouble, too.”
A husband who was doing the washing volunteered this comment:
“ She help me, so I help her.”
One husband, objecting to his wife’s employment, said: “Plenty
job in the house. My woman work all the time. By and by, me stay
home. Maybe baby no die if woman stay home.”
Another husband said: “ It will be best if men earn so much the
women they can stay home all time.”
Children were very helpful in dish washing and tending babies,
and now and then comments such as the following would be made:
Mary [aged 10], she’s just like a woman in the house.
Annie [aged 12] often does the washing. She stands on a bos to reach.

Boarders; day work.
It seems almost incredible that in addition to their wage-earning
jobs and ordinary housekeeping duties any of these women could




62

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

have had the courage to take boarders. Yet 166 women, belonging
chiefly to the German or the Slavic races in the Lehigh Valley, had
this extra responsibility.
Table 27.—Extent to which married women and icidotcs had hoarders and

lodgers, by race or people of woman

Race or people

Total
Non-Engiish-speaking:
German........... .................. ..........................................................

Slavic—

Other races______________

Number
of women
reporting

1,374

Women having board­
ers and lodgers
Number

Per cent

166

12.1

307
128
34
193

51
13
4
14

16.6
10.2
(')
7.3

258
128
80
137
39
17

27
18
4
28
4
3

10.5
14.1
5.0
20. 4
«
(0

53

1 Not computed, owing to small number involved.

Undoubtedly, economic pressure was the reason why these women
assumed extra burdens. They were for the most part recent ar­
rivals, and therefore the more eager to do all in their power to get
a good start in their new environment.
A sentiment against taking boarders was revealed occasionally, as
in the case of one Italian, the mother of a young daughter, who, when
faced with the necessity of supplementing her husband’s earnings,
preferred to humble herself by going out to work in a factory, which
was contrary to all conventions, rather than take in boarders. In
the case of Italians, however, lodgers usually are men, while among
the German and Windish families visited many of the lodgers were
young single women.
Again and again the married women referred in a casual way to
the time when they had kept boarders or had done cleaning by the
day or had taken in washings. No estimate could be made of the
time spent in these nonindustrial jobs, for usually it was intermit­
tent work in times of special stress when family cares made it im­
possible for a housewife to add to the income in any other way.
The period of such nonindustrial jobs often was reckoned according
to the babies. “ I did washings some when John was a baby, but
when he was two months old I went back to work. Then Mary
came and was a sickly baby, so I was kept home a long time with her,
but I had boarders then.”
The women were disinclined to regard these irregular or part­
time jobs as anything that had counted much. They were simply
a part of the accepted household routine that had to be done, and
comments made by the women clearly indicate how thoroughly they
disliked these makeshift jobs:
A young German housewife had done house cleaning and day
work three or four days a week when first she came; her cousin




HOME DUTIES

63

found the places for her and housework was the conventional thing
to do, but she grew “ skinny ” so she decided she would get work in
a factory, although the cousin disapproved of the change. “All
heavy work, always to clean; on my knees half the time; too hard.”
A silk picker whose husband had been more of a drag than a help
took in washings for four years while the children were little, but
she said, “It only ruined my health. I guess you can read the
story in my looks/’ At 38 she was indeed thin, stooped, and worn.




HOUSING
To the question, “ In what kind of homes were these families
living?” the answer in all probability would be, “Clean, although
occasionally disorderly and frequently crowded.” Some had sepa­
rate living rooms, with upholstered furniture and victrolas, or in a
few cases a piano; but on the other hand, there were homes located
in blind alleys that bore the marks of poverty, where the kitchen
answered also for dining room, living room, and bedroom.
Multiple dwellings in the Lehigh Valley.
In the Lehigh Valley, where practically three-tenths of the dwell­
ings furnished shelter for economic household groups consisting of
more than a natural family unit, an unusual situation was found.
Houses built for a single family were occupied by two or three and
occasionally more family units, although the houses had not been
altered for such use. The one kitchen was a community room, where
each woman cooked and baked for her own family on the one stove
and where the men and the children of the respective families con­
gregated. These “ cooperative households ” cooperated in the item
of rent and in the use of the kitchen but not in other living expenses,
for each family in a house rented one sleeping room, rarely two, with
the privilege of using the kitchen, w7here the family life of the com­
plex household centered. The housewives shared in cleaning the parts
of the house used in common—kitchen, stairs, doorsteps—but it was
customary for each housewife to prepare her own meals, wash her
own dishes, do her own washing. In one cellar a row of locked
bread boxes bore witness to the number of housewives in the dwelling.
The descriptions of households of multiple family units run as
follows:
House crowded, with 16 people in 8 rooms, 1 of which was a kitchen serving
for 3 distinct family units, consisting of parents with 1 child, with 2 children,
and with 3 children, respectively. There were also 2 single girls living co­
operatively and one of the families had 2 men boarders.
Crowded house, though having only 2 family units, consisting of parents
with 3 children in one case and with 2 children in the other. These 9 persons
were occupying 5 rooms, 1 of which they used in common as kitchen and
living room.
Exclusive of kitchen, house averaged 3 persons per room, 4 housekeeping
groups, totaling 9 adults and 6 children, having only 6 rooms in all.
A 6-room building housed 3 family units—the landlord’s family, of 2 adults
and 4 children, and the tenants, whose families consisted of 2 adults and 1
child and of 3 adults, respectively.

There was more or less confusion in the use of the term “ boarder.”
Some families in cooperative households called themselves boarders,
although they were lodgers with housekeeping privileges. One
woman said: “ Board is how much we eat, sometimes $60, sometimes
$70, a month for two of us.” Upon further questioning it developed
that she was a “ cooperator,” but in her case the landlady did much
64




65

HOUSING

of her marketing and charged her only what the food cost; sometimes
the landlady prepared the food, sometimes the boarder. In many
cases a distinction between cooperative groups and boarders could
not be made, so in this report all those who called themselves boarders
have been classed as such although many undoubtedly belonged to
the larger group of cooperating housewives.
This manner of living, in mixed household groups, was more com­
mon in Northampton and Coplay than in the other centers in the
Lehigh Valley, in spite of the fact that they are small towns without
any need of crowded dwellings. Yet tenements—that is, houses
equipped to accommodate three or more families independently of
each other—were not found in these two towns.
Women in Northampton and Coplay:
Number sharing kitchen equipment with other housekeeping units___ 123
Number in families with “ boarders ”
39
Number living independently of other families 97
Total reporting259

About one-half of the women interviewed in this limited area were
sharing the stove, the sink, the kitchen table, and the washtubs with
other women who also had families to feed and washings to do.
More women reported keeping house under these conditions than
were living in a natural family unit, free to use the kitchen as they
pleased without being inconvenienced by other women in the house.
The next table shows that racially also there was a difference in
the extent to which the women lived in cooperative households.
More than one-third of the Germans and Winds were living in co­
operative groups, and the Germans more than the other races called
themselves “ boarders.” On the other hand, the great majority of
the Slovaks and Magyars lived in exclusive natural family units.
Table 28.—-Extent of cooperative housekeeping or living as “ hoarders,” 6y race

or people of icoman interviewed—Lehigh Valley

Race or people

German...........................................................
Magyar __________________________
Slavic:
Russian________________________
Slovak
Slovenian (Windish) _____________

Number of
women re­
porting

Women in cooperative Women who called
households
themselves “boarders”
Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

344
223

120
28

34.9
12.6

73
15

21.2
6.7

68
81
182

17
11
65

25.0
13.6
35.7

4
9
20

5.9
11.1
11.0

It is significant that one-half of the women living in cooperative
households in the Lehigh Valley had arrived here since the World
War, and that it is chiefly the races that had contributed most largely
to the recent migration into the district whose members were living
in cooperative households. Such families, so recently near the pov­
erty level in Europe, grasp at this means of reducing rents until
they can afford something better. Not choice but necessity forces
them to economize so that they can get a start in this country.




66

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Size of dwelling.
The Bureau of Municipal Research in Philadelphia has recom­
mended as a standard for the housing of the wage-earner’s family
in health and decency a dwelling of six rooms. Even when several
families living cooperatively in a house of six or more rooms are
considered as one household instead of being classed as separate
families living each in one or two rooms, one-half of the dwellings
visited in the Lehigh Valley fell below the standard of six rooms to
a dwelling. In Philadelphia more than three-fifths of the dwellings
had less than six rooms. On the whole, the homes in Philadelphia
were smaller than those in the Lehigh Valley, for in Philadelphia
dwellings of three rooms or less, found chiefly in apartments and in
alleys or courts, were most common, although the 6-room house, the
typical “ workingman’s home,” was almost as prevalent. In the
Lehigh Valley the 6-room house prevailed and there were compara­
tively few 3-room dwellings. (For the multiple dwellings as found
in the Lehigh Valley, see p. 64.)
.
Number of homes having—
Locality

Philadelphia________________
Lehigh Valley.......
....... ..................

Number
of homes
visited 3 rooms
or less
907
843

268
147

4 and
under 6
rooms

6 rooms

296
279

246
267

7 and
under 10 10 rooms
or more
rooms
91
136

6
14

When a distinction is made between rented dwellings and those
that the occupants owned or were buying, it is apparent that the
houses owned or being purchased more nearly approximated the
6-room standard. About two-thirds of the houses owned by the oc­
cupants had at least six rooms, but the rented properties were much
smaller. In Philadelphia and in the Lehigh Valley the prevailing
size of the rented house was three or four rooms, although in the
Lehigh Valley a representative number of 6-room houses also were
rented.
Persons per room.
More important than the size of the dwelling is the number of
persons that occupy it. An investigation of industrial housing was
conducted by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1918-19
in 20 cities, the households being selected at random from among
families primarily American.1 No schedules were taken from nonEnglish-speaking families who had been in the United States less
than five years. In this survey it was found that the majority of
workingmen’s families of average size and average income lived in
houses that furnished approximately one room per person. This did
not seem to be an unreasonable standard and the report recommended
one room per person as a minimum requirement for health and
decency.2 Although the basis of selection of families for the Bureau
n’L®Sf T'abor Statistics. Monthly Labor Review, .Tune, 1920. Minimum
Decency pB if^ Neceesary t0 Maintain a Worker’s Family of Five in Health and
•J imS.re^haLl°rLftaPdaLd-S?e
one-half persons to a room—was recommended
OoiinrTl of wSmS's ln f£e Washington (D. C.) housing budget submitted to the
Council or Social Agencies.
Journal of Home Economics, August, 1927, p. 448.




67

HOUSING

of Labor Statistics survey was decidedly different from that of the
present study, the earlier report furnishes an American standard of
housing that should be available for all wage earners’ families re­
gardless of where they were born.
The table following shows that the families in Philadelphia and in
the Lehigh Valley reached this standard in the majority of cases, but
the figures below the underscores in the table indicate to what extent
they failed to reach the standard of one room per person. Little
imagination is needed to picture the cases of extreme overcrowd­
ing as revealed in the table, as, for example, 4, 5, or 7 persons living
in two rooms; 7, 8, or 9 persons living in three rooms; or 8, 9, and 10
or more persons in four rooms. It is clear, also, as has been re­
marked, that Philadelphia has the small dwellings and the Lehigh
Valley the large ones. The 43 cases of 10 or more persons in a
6-rooin house in the Lehigh Valley are striking.
Table 29.—Size of dwelling anti, number of persons in the household, by locality
PHILADELPHIA
Number of dwellings having—
Num­
Number of persons in ber of
groups
10 or
household
7
8
9
6
4
5
2
3
report­ 1
more
ing room rooms rooms rooms rooms rooms rooms rooms rooms rooms
Total___ ______

4 persons.....................

10 persons or more___

907

11

94

163

17
124
138
181
153
104
82
57
24
27

4
6

7
41
20
17
8

2
33
31
43
24
18
5
6
1

1

1

191
1
26*
32
44
41
18
15
7
3
4

14

6

2
2
3
3
4
6
2
4

1
2
2
3
4
1

1
2
1
1

r

1

49

61

25

14

3
8
3
5
6
6

3
5
7
7
10
9
6
7
7

1
1
6
6
7
2
1
1
“

2
4
4

105

246

6
19
19
20
19
10
7
4
1

2
12
33
48
43
32
32
18
12
14

50

1
5
10
11
11
9
1
2

27
1

LEHIGH VALLEY
Total

840
9
85
117
165
128
101
70
49
45
71

20
2
12
2
1
3

127

151

127

266

1
31
27
41
15
4
3
4
1

3
18
20
37
22
20
14
6
7
4

2
7
28
20
25
16

1
10
26
50
43
34
23
20
16
43

9

10
5
5

2

6
10

2
2

i Householders living alone.

A summary of this table follows. It shows that in 137 dwellings
the average was as high as two persons or more to a room and that
in almost a third of the dwellings the average was between one and
two persons to a room.




68

THE IMMIGEANT WOMAN AND TIE It JOB

Households with specified number of persons to a room

Average number of persons to a room

Philadelphia-All
households

Lehigh Valley—All Lehigh ValleyMixed cooperative
households
households

Number Per cent Number Per cent Number Per cent
Total._________________ _______

907

100.0

840

100.0

247

100.0

1 person or less__..........................................
Between 1 and 2 persons_____ _________
2 persons or more.......... ................................

533
291
83

58.8
32.1
9.2

512
274
54

61.0
32.6
6.4

99
121
27

40.1
49.0
10.9

The summary further shows a very different situation when the
condition in the mixed cooperative households is considered apart
from that of all households in the Lehigh Valley. In decidedly less
than half of these multiple dwellings is the standard met of one
person to a room and in about a ninth of them the ratio is two or
more persons to a room.
In the group last mentioned are extreme cases of congestion. Most
of the mixed households occupied dwellings of six rooms, but there
were 2 houses with 9 people in four rooms, 1 house with 13 people
in four rooms, 11 houses with 12, 13, or 15 people in six rooms. It is
small wonder that, living in such quarters—two or more persons
to a room and two or more families occupying a 1-family house—
these women are willing and eager to work day and night in order
to get a start and have homes of their own.
That much of the overcrowding in the Lehigh Valley was found
in households of women who had arrived since the World War is
apparent from the table following. In this district 12 per cent
more of the households of recent immigrants than of the households
of all the women without regard to time of arrival in the United
States had more than one person to a room. In Philadelphia there
was practically no such difference.
Table 30.—Average number of persons to a room, households of recent arrivals

compared with all households—Lehigh Valley
Per cent of households
with specified num­
ber of persons to a
room
Average number of persons to a room
Households
All house­ of immi­
grants
holds
arrived in
1918 or later
1 person or less_____________
Between 1 and 2 persons.
_______
2 persons or more____________

61.0
32.6
6.4

49.1
38.3
12.6

Rents.
The increasing rents were discussed in excited terms by more than
one family, for this item loomed large. Not infrequently it took a
fourth of the chief bread-winner’s wages to meet the monthly pay­




69

HOUSING

ments. Some women had assumed the responsibility of paying the
rent with their own earnings, explaining that the husband’s wages
could barely meet the “ store bills.”
Table 31.—Amount of monthly rental, hy size of dwelling and locality
Houses or separate apartments of specified
size in—
Size of dwelling

Philadelphia 1
Number

Median of
the rentals

Lehigh Valley
Number

Median of
the rentals

452

5 rooms_______ _________
- ---------------r rooms___________________________ _________ -y rooms or more______ ______ ___________ ______

$16.85

422

$15. 70

101
145
107
38
47
14

11.40
15.20
23.75
24.00
30. 35
42.50

17
114
114
56
104
17

10. 70
13.10
15.15
15.75
20.20
27.50

i Exclusive of Norristown and Clifton Heights.

Kents were lower in the Lehigh Valley than in Philadelphia; in
houses of .all sizes the renter in the valley had the advantage. A
6-room house in the Lehigh Valley could be had for less than a
4-room house in Philadelphia, and for a house that answered the
standard of six rooms the median rental value was a third less in
the Lehigh Valley than in Philadelphia. The schedules show that
in Philadelphia $12 or $15 a month insured only a shelter, incon­
venient and in bad repair and in many cases in an alley.
Obviously the item of rent is one of the largest and most inescap­
able in the workingman’s budget. Naturally the laborers’ families
were complaining of the increasing rents. The following cases may
be cited:
Ten years ago a cigar roller paid $10 rent for a little house that
did not fulfill even the minimum requirements of good housing.
About a year before the study was made it was increased to $12
and later to $15. In this decade no improvements had been made
and the only plumbing was a sink in the kitchen.
A family in a little 3-rooin dwelling had seen the rent increase
from $7 to $15 in two years. They had occupied the house 12 years,
and in that time it had been papered twice and a kitchen sink had
been installed.
Because the landlord was papering the house, a hosiery topper liv­
ing in a better-grade house had just had her rent raised from $24 to
$28 a month.
Six years before, a jute worker had paid $5 a month for a poor
little 2-room house. Gradually, however, the rent was raised, some­
times 50 cents a month, sometimes $1, until it reached $10. The house
was wired for electricity, but the tenant burned kerosene as she could
not afford to pay for the current.
Sanitary equipment of houses in Bethlehem.
To the woman who does the housework, quite as important as the
number of rooms that the rental covers is the equipment of the
house for the accomplishment of household tasks.



70

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

A supplementary survey of the sanitary equipment of the houses
where the women lived was made in the three most foreign wards of
Bethlehem, because so often during the home visits in that city ref­
erence was made to the lack of modern conveniences and the difhculty
of keeping house without them. Comments such as “ When I own
a house it will have a bathroom ” were frequent.
In over three-fourths of the 276 houses in the supplementary sur­
vey there were no bathtubs, and in two-thirds there wTere no inside
toilets. In 70 houses the toilets were on the back porch, either a
long hopper or an antifreezing type of plumbing that in many places
was out of order. The tenants in one house said that the flush had
been out of repair for over a year. They felt that it would be futile
to complain, so they carried pails of water from the yard hydrant
when it was necessary to flush the toilet. In 30 other dwellings this
same type of antifreezing toilet was installed in the yard, where it
was found to be even more unsatisfactory than when on the porch.
Over a fourth of the dwellings had only privy wells in the yard.
Some of these were in disgusting condition and their stench pene­
trated the houses. The toilet arrangements for a congested row of
eight 2-family brick houses consisted of a long row of privy com­
partments that occupied almost all the yard space behind the houses.
For seven buildings that housed 17 families there were no inside
water fixtures, the most extreme case being that of six families that,
used one yard hydrant in common. In a few instances where city
water was piped into the house there was only a faucet, with neither
sink nor drain connection and only a pail placed under the faucet to
catch the drippings.
In other sections of the Lehigh Valley similar conditions of inade­
quate water supply were found. For a row of 21 substantially built
1-family houses there was no sewer connection, only surface drainage
and privies. Three yard hydrants supplied all the water for the 21
houses. The tenants were enduring these inconveniences because they
feared that the rent would be increased beyond their means if even
running water were installed, for already they were paying $16 to $20
for shelter that lacked the very essentials of sanitation. In another
case a pump in the street was used as a water supply by several
families.
For houses of families with small incomes Miss Dinwiddie8 recom­
mends a sanitary equipment that provides, for each family, running
water and a separate sewer-connected toilet in good condition, located
inside the house. In the way of modern sanitary equipment this
standard insures only essentials, yet many women interviewed in
Bethlehem and in other parts of the Lehigh Valley lived in homes
without even these minimum requirements.
a Dinwiddie, Emily W.




In Journal of Home Economics, August, 1927, p. 449.

INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE
Summary.
This chapter traces the industrial experience of the women in both
the old country and the new, the kinds of work they had done, and
the length of time they had been employed.
Outstanding facts in the chapter may be summarized as follows :
About half of the women who reported working in the old country had done
farm work; others had been in domestic service and only about 200 had had
real industrial jobs.
The women who had worked on farms and as servants in the old country
were employed here almost exclusively in manufacturing industries, and none
were farm hands. Those who had had experience in manufacturing in Europe
had fitted into similar lines in this country.
For about 350 women the first employment after their arrival had been some
kind of domestic or personal service, work in which very few were engaged at
the time of the interview.
In the Lehigh Valley two-thirds of the women who reported the present
industry as the major industry were in cigar manufacturing and two-sevenths
were in silk manufacturing. In Philadelphia there was no such concentration
of numbers, the nearest approach being woolen and worsted goods and the
clothing industry, which together include less than one-half of the women
reporting such facts in that locality.
Almost two-fifths of the women in Philadelphia who reported their entire
industrial history and two-thirds of those so reporting in the Lehigh Valley
had made no change since coming to the United States in the kind of work
done. In Philadelphia twro-thirds of these women had worked less than five
years but in the Lehigh Valley over three-fifths of them had worked five years
or more.
In the Lehigh Valley the Winds showed less inclination to change than did
the other races; in Philadelphia the Italians and Jews had made the fewest
changes.
In Philadelphia the women who had changed most from industry to industry
were employed in textiles and clothing trades and as office cleaners. Except
for housework, the former working experiences of the women were too scatter­
ing to show any definite trend. This is true also in the Lehigh Valley, where,
except for previous experience in housework, there is nothing strikingly differ­
ent, for in this section the choice of industries is so limited that any change
would almost necessarily have to be from silk to cigars or from cigars to silk.
The collective experience of 865 women who had worked both before and after
marriage shows that they had worked more years than they had been at home.
Those in the Lehigh Valley had worked a larger proportion of the time since
coming to the United States than had the women in Philadelphia.
Before marriage the women had worked practically continuously, losing
almost no time. After marriage the women in the Lehigh Valley had been wage
earners almost as many years as they had been non wage earners, but in Phila­
delphia the women had worked less than a third of their married life. The
widows worked almost as steadily as did the single girls.
Nine-tenths of 919 women lost no time from work before marriage; in the
Lehigh Valley one-fourth, and in Philadelphia one-eighth, lost no time from
work after marriage.
For the 1,371 women reporting cause of lost time, most of the years in which
they were not wage earners were devoted to domestic affairs. Compared with
this the time lost from work on account of conditions in the industry is almost
negligible.

Work in old country.
In the old country the women had learned what it means to work.
One had been employed in a brickyard with her husband, forming
bricks by hand with a wooden mold and wheeling them to the kiln
in a barrow. Very many had worked on farms: “In the spring I
65661°—30-----6




71

72

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

took the cows out.” “ I chopped wood in the bushes.” “ I dig
potatoes every year.” One woman added: “ I worked lots harder
on my father’s farm than I ever do in this country.” A farm
laborer worked for a few cents a day until she had “ made a ticket ”
to this country. “ Everybody gone to America,” she said, “ I come
myself, too.”
Considerable numbers had been servants and others had been em­
ployed in textile mills and cigar factories. In fact, a vast majority
of the women who had passed the age of childhood before they
emigrated had been workers before coming to the United States.
The women who had worked for wages were somewhat fewer than
those who, although regularly employed, had not been wage earners.
Of the wage earners more than half had had no experience in manu­
facturing industries.
Industry in old country compared with work in United States.
The great majority of the women who reported having worked in
the old country were peasants who had come from work on the farm
or in the home to find employment in the manufacturing plants of
America.
Tabm

'

32.—Employment in old country of women who were 16 years of age and
over at time of coming to United States, by present employment
Number of women in specified industry in old country whose
present industry was—
Manufacturing

NumIndustry and occupation in ber of
women
old country
reporting

Cleri­ Domes­
cal,
Miscel- profes­ tic and
per­
lane- sional, sonal
Food
ous
Knit
serv­
prod­ goods, Other manu­ and
ice
ucts includ­ tex­ factur­ sales
ing
tiles
ing
hosiery
Textiles

Cigars Cloth­
ing

1,348

499

136

42

51

415

1106

5

94

2 504

2172

2 45

18

234

2159

240

1

235

58
10

50

8

1
1

1

34
102

3
5

16
5

3

2
16

6
72

4

20

4

2

1

3

5

5

22
141
133
9

2
58
55
2

3
6
5
2

2
5
5

4
7
2
2

4
31
42
2

5
13
14
1

1

2
20
10

2 669

2 279

251

14

10

2 221

2 51

1

2 42

540
116
8
20
2

253
30

12
25
3
15
1

10
2

2
6
2

199
23
1

35
17
1
1

1

29
12
1
2

175

48

40

10

15

3

17

Wage earners in old
Manufacturing:
Dressmaking, tailoring,
Miscellaneous manufacClerical, professional, and

Non wage earners in
old country—total.

No work in old coun-

2

7

1
7

35

4

1 Includes women in the manufacture of bags, buttons, cement, electrical supplies, furniture, lamp
shades, leather products, metal products, medicines, millinery, paper products, polish, printing, quilts,
rag rugs, rag sorting, tassels and tinsel, and upholstery work.
2 Details aggregate more than total, because some women reported more than one occupation in the old
country.




73

INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE

Such a correlation of the present employment of the women with
that in the old country is of special interest, since it shows how ex­
tensively the women whose only working experience in the old
country had been in farming or housework were engaged in various
manufacturing lines here, largely in cigar factories and silk and
woolen mills. Only 32 who were engaged in housework in the old
country, either as wage earners or as non wage earners, were engaged
in similar work here in laundries or restaurants or as office cleaners,
and not one of the 673 who had done farm work was in agricultural
pursuits in this country.
The following summarizes the changes experienced by the women
who were wage earners in the old country since beginning work in
the United States.
Table 33.—Extent to which employment in United States had differed from

that in old country—SOJf women who were wage earners in old country

Status in United States

Number of Number of women whose occupation in old
country1 was—
women
who were
wage earn­
ers in old Manufac­ Domestic
Farm
Other
work
turing
service
country
504

223

132

184

164

20

53

14

38

10

2

8

257

43

66

120

29

Present employment same as in old counFirst but not present employment was
Employment other than first or present
All lines of employment different from

1

120

28

1 Women reporting more than 1 occupation in the old country are classed according to major employment.

In the first place, more than half of these women had never engaged
in the United States in work similar to what they had done in the
old country, the great majority having been farm hands or in service.
In the second place, one-eighth of the women had at some time in
the United States found work of the kind done in the old country,
but they had later changed; the majority in this group had been in
service. In the third place, practically three-eighths of the women
had consistently followed the same line of work here as in the old
country, and almost all these were in manufacturing industries.
The group who had been in service in the old country experienced
the most varied changes. Of the 132 so employed in Europe, half
(66) had never been in domestic service here, about a third had been
in domestic service at some time but had changed to other kinds of
work, and only 20 were found to be in domestic service, such as
laundries or restaurants, at the time of the survey.
Unpublished data show some racial differences in the kinds of
work done in Europe. The English-speaking people had been largely
textile hands; the Slavs had been almost exclusively farm laborers
and domestic servants; while the Germans and Magyars had been
employed about as much on farms and in service as in manufacturing
plants, the last named chiefly cigar and textile factories. A. hundred




74

THE IMMIGRANT

woman and her job

women with experience in the old country in cigar and textile fac­
tories reported how long they had worked in their trades before com­
ing here. Half of them had worked less than 5 years, but one-fifth
had worked at least 10 years before coming to the United States.
First work in the United States.
From the preceding section, which correlates work in the old coun­
try with work in the United States, it is evident that most of the
women had come from work on the farm or in domestic service to fit
without any preparation into organized industries in American
cities. Of the 2,130 women whose first employment in the United
States was reported, 1,700 had their first wage-earning experience in
the United States in the manufacturing trades, though only 200 had
been wage earners in factories in the old country.
Table 34.—First employment in the United, States, by locality
Women interviewed
in—
First employment in the United States
Philadel­
phia

Lehigh
Valley

All women reporting.................
Manufacturing:
Cigars_________________
Clothing _____________
Food products_____

42

Textiles.__ _________
Knit goods.___________ ...
Silk goods (Lehigh Valiev)...
Silk, cotton, lace goods (Philadelphia)..
Woolen and worsted goods.
Other textiles........... .
...
Miscellaneous manufacturing ...
Agriculture__________
C lerical and professional occupations..
Domestic and personal service__
Trade___
...
Other industries__________

.

101
218

39
22

From the foregoing it is seen that more than one-third of the
1,108 women in Philadelphia and one-fourth of the 1,022 in the
Lehigh Valley had their first industrial experience in America in
textile mills. More than a fifth of the women interviewed in Philaclelphia and about a tenth of those in the Lehigh Valley first sought
employment in domestic service or the kinds of work akin to^it.
Different branches of the manufacturing industry dominate in the
two districts, for in Philadelphia the women had found work in
woolen and worsted mills and clothing factories while in the Lehigh
Valley they had flocked to the cigar factories and, to a much less
extent, to the silk mills.
In the Lehigh Valley about two-thirds of the silk workers started
as weavers, but in Philadelphia there were only 26 women in the
entire textile group whose first job was weaving. Among those who
started in the clothing industry in Philadelphia almost two-thirds
were engaged on handwork occupations. As many as 30 women
made their first wages as rag sorters.




INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE

75

Contrasted with the hundreds of factory workers are the very few
who were able to begin work as saleswomen or in clerical and pro­
fessional occupations. The clerical group is not large and it com­
prises for the most part young Jewish women who had received a
business training in this country.
It was surprising how completely the women remembered the
many details that related to their work, a job of a few months in
one place, then several years in another. Although a few of the
women did not at once respond cheerfully to the questions, usually
even the more reticent evinced enthusiasm as the interview pro­
gressed, welcoming the opportunity to talk about things as near
to them as families and jobs. They seemed seriously interested to
give an account of all the periods of their employment and unem­
ployment. One woman stopped the agent on the street a week or
so after her interview and with profuse apologies explained that
she had forgotten to mention the fact that several years before she
had stayed at home a few days because of minor illness.
A conference of the entire family, including father and children,
sometimes was necessary to fix dates. Even the neighbors sometimes
were called in. For example, one woman remembered that she re­
turned to work when her neighbor’s daughter was married, and to
be sure of the date she dashed off to the neighbor’s for its verifica­
tion. The ages of the children and the unemployment of the chief
wage earners aided greatly in determining the periods of employ­
ment of the women.
“When John was born I was home six months, but Annie was a
sickly baby so I was home that time just about two years, and now
again this time I was home all summer.” Upon further question­
ing “ all summer ” proved to be four months.
Frequently the wife’s employment corresponded closely to the
husband’s unemployment. For one wife the long-continued illness
of her husband in 1918 made it necessary for her to go to work.
Debts accumulated and she kept on working until “ the next Christ­
mas” (1919). Then, turning to his wife, the husband said, “And
you mo go factory any more. Then January, 1922, I was laid off
and you work again—work, work all the time, never stop.”
Various industries in which employed.
Perhaps nothing emphasizes more the diversity of industries in
Philadelphia than does the accompanying table, including only those
women who reported upon the whole of their industrial experience.
It shows a great scattering through a score or more of industries and
occupations in numbers too small to indicate any definite trend from
one industry to another. An attempt to indicate the various changes
from occupation to occupation would have resulted in a meaningless
mass of figures.




76

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Table 35.—Experience in various
Number of women with present job as specified who had also
worked in—

9

22

1

1

2
1

3
2

1

11

24

13

1

2
1
3
1

14

21

14

4

2

5
1

1

84

Rag sorting

44

Paper products

568

Metal products' and
electrical supplies

Manufacturing:
Cigars................................. .
Clothing...............................
Pood products—
Candy_____________
Meat packing
Other (includes bak­
eries).......... ..............
Leather products (includes
tanning). ____ ______
Metal products and elec­
trical supplies
Rag sorting
Sewing operations not
elsewhere specified
Textiles—
Cotton and lace goods.
Haircloth and curled
hair and jute______
Hosiery..........................
Silk goods. ...................
Sweaters and other
knit goods
Woolen and worsted
goods....... ........... ......
Miscellaneous manufactur­
ing «............................... .
Clerical and telephone operat­
ing........ ....................................
Domestic and personal service:
Hotels and restaurants___
Laundries
Office cleaning
Sales........ ........... .................. .
Other occupations 1 2 3 4

Leather products (in­
cludes tanning)

£
Total.............. ......... ........

Other (includes
bakeries)

0

1

Meat packing

a

I

Food products

Candy

fl

<x>

'

a
s

Clothing

Present industry or occupation

Cigars and cigarettes

The manufacture of—

5

1

4
5

2

1

4
4
1

2
5

1

5

1

1

1

3
1
1

2

4
1

2

2

2

3

1
1

1

3

8

3

3

1

1

2

5

1

4
1

4
1
1
2

1

2

1

12

7

2

1
1

13

2

2

2

4
3
2

I

g
1
2
1
1

4

1

4
4

2
1
2

1
2
2

3

1
1

1

1

1 Throughout this column totals are much less than details because many women had worked in more
than 1 industry.
2 See also “Other manufacturing.”
.
.
.
.
3 Includes 3 women in textiles, kind not reported, and 49 in miscellaneous industries.
4 See also “ Other occupations."

The industries in which the women had worked most generally
before entering their present trades were housework, clothing, woolen
and worsted mills, hotels and restaurants, and cigars. Women who
had previously done housework were employed at the time of the
study in every industry reported, many in textile mills, others as
office cleaners, some in clothing or in cigar factories, and so on
through the list.
_
The women with these various trade experiences were at work in
Philadelphia in largest numbers in clothing, in woolen and worsted
goods, and as office cleaners, the last named having more than seven
times as many women at the time of the interview as had been so
employed in earlier years. The 58 women listed as office cleaners




77

INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE

industries, by present industry—Philadelphia

and telephone
operating

Number of women with present job as specified who had also worked in—Continued
The manufacture of—Continued

Hotels and res­
taurants

34

25

20

83

52

64

35

8

208

11

31

13

2
4

1
1

2

1
5

11

4
3

2

4
7

8

1
1

1

15
22

1
4

2
7

6

2

1

5
8

1

1

1
3

1

1

1
1

5
1

2
1

1

3

1
2

4

1
1
3
1

3
2

1

5

1
1
1

1

7

1

1

5
4

2

1

7

1

3

4

2

1

1

4

3

1
1
1

5
1

3

1
1
1

1

14

2
7

2

1

2

5

1

3
1
12

3
3
1

2

3
2

1

35

1

1

10

2

6
1

2

1

1

6

1

10

2

7
9
6

1

3

2
2

Other occupations

Sales

2

8

3
1

1

6
14
10

7

4

4
4

2

2
4
1

Clerical

Housework

Office cleaning

3

1

Laundries

Sweaters and
other
knit
goods

Hosiery

goods

Haircloth, and
curled h air
and jute

Cotton and lace

1

4

Other manufacturing3

18

|

Woolen
and
worsted goods

34

Sewing operations not
elsewhere specified

Silk goods

Domestic and personal
service4

21

Textiles1

2
16

3
12

2

9
7
27
1

1

1
1

4 Includes 6 women in printing and publishing, 4 in agriculture, 1 in professional service, and 2 in domestic
and personal service, kind not reported.
6 Includes 1 woman manufacturing beaded bags, 7 buttons, 3 medicine, 2 paper and paper products, 2
printing and publishing, 1 stove polish, and 3 rag rugs.

had had various experiences; 55 had had jobs in housework, hotels and
restaurants, and laundries, work similar in some respects to office
cleaning. They had had textile and other factory jobs also, but none
had ever worked in sales or clerical lines. Those employed in the
woolen mills and in clothing factories had had experience in almost
every industry specified. There was considerable shifting from one
branch of the textile industry to another. For example, some women
employed in the hosiery mills had had jobs in woolen and worsted
goods, in silk, or in the other kinds of textile plants as well as their
present work in the hosiery trade.
The Lehigh Valley offered little in the way of employment except
in cigar factories, silk mills, and domestic or personal service. The




78

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

previous trade experience of the women employed in the cigar fac­
tories had been limited practically to housework and to the silk mills,
and conversely the previous trade experience of those now in the
silk mills had been limited almost exclusively to housework and
cigar factories.
Table 36.—Experience in various industries, by present industry—Lehigh Valley
Number of women with present job as specified who had also
worked in—
Present industry

Number of
women
reportmg i

The manufacture of—

Domes­
tic and
Sales
per­
sonal
Other service

Miscel­
laneous
occupa­
tions

Cigars

Cloth­
ing

i 311

106

20

17

50

20

147

26

129
2

2

7

10

44

11

83
1

12

2
26 '
146

1
16
85

2
11

7

9

47

10

4

1

2

3

1

2

1

1

Jute

Silk
goods

Manufacturing:
Clothing_________ ____
Textiles—
Hosiery.... .................
Silk goods
Miscellaneous manufac­
turing......... .................
Domestic and personal serv­
ice .

3

1 Most of those totals are less than the details, because some 'women had worked in
more than 1 industry.

Only 2 women were in domestic and personal service at the time
of the survey, but 147 had previously been so employed. A total
of 106 women had had jobs in cigar factories. It is interesting to
note that the number shifting from cigars to silk is greater than the
number shifting from silk to cigars. Unpublished data show that of
the 308 women whose present industry was silk, 189 had found in
that industry their first employment in America and more than
one-half of the remainder had begun work in cigar establishments.
Major and minor industry.
As interesting as the kinds of work the women found to do and
the changes they made from job to job is the industry in which each
had had most experience.
Table 37.—Present employment major1 or minor, by locality

Number of women
reporting

Number of women
reporting their
present employ­
ment as major 1

Number of women
reporting
their
present employ­
ment as minor

Philadel­
phia

Lehigh
Valley

Philadel­
phia

Philadel­
phia

1,076

1,022

Present industry or occupation

Total _______ ______ ___________

859

Manufacturing:
Cigars_______ ____ ________
64
657
57
Clothing......... ...... ........... ..................
197
5
179
Food products. ______________
58
37
Leather products (includes tanning)...
19
12
Rag sorting______________________
35
27
Sewing operations not elsewhere specilied
31
19
1 The industry occupying the woman for the greatest number of years.




Lehigh
Valley
943
635
4

217
7•
18
21
7
8
12

Lehigh
Valley
79
22
1

79

INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE
Table

37.—Present employment major or minor, by locality—Continued
Number of women
reporting

Number of women
reporting their
present employ­
ment as major

Number of women
reporting their
present employ­
ment as minor

Philadel­ Lehigh
phia
Valley

Philadel­ Lehigh
phia
Valley

Philadel­ Lehigh
phia
Valley

Present industry or occupation

Manufacturing—Continued.
Textiles—
Haircloth and curled hair............
Hosiery _________ _____ _ ...
Jute. ................................. ........
Silk, cotton, and lace goods (Philadelphia)_________ _________
Silk goods (Lehigh Valley)______
Sweaters and other knit goods
Woolen and worsted goods... . .
Miscellaneous manufacturing........... .
Domestic and personal service:
Hair dressing_________ _________
Hospital maids________________
Hotels and restaurants__________
Laundries............. ................ .........
Office cleaning............................ .
Clerical______________ _________
Sales_______ _______ __________
Other occupations_____ ______

15
93
22

3
44

37
28
228
68
2
2
31
18
63
55
8
2

306
3

2
2

10
17
28
20
207
41
1
20
9
36
51
7
1

5
33
264

11
9

1

8
21
27

]

9

42
2

1
1

1

Of the 943 women in the Lehigh Valley who reported their greatest
experience in the industry in which they were engaged at the time
of the study, two-thirds were in cigar plants and two-sevenths in
silk mills. Jute manufacturing is the only other industry that
showed a number in any way significant. “The predominance of
these industries in this locality explains the fact that they constitute
the minor employment also. '
In Philadelphia there was no such concentration of numbers in
any two or three industries, the only situation approaching that in
the Lehigh Valley being the 207 women for whom woolen and
worsted goods was the major industry. Next in importance were
the manufacture of clothing, hosiery, and cigars and clerical work.
As in the Lehigh Valley, no large number of women reported their
present industry as minor.
Not much significance can be attached to the racial distribution
in various industries, but in the Lehigh Valley, though great num­
bers of Germans, Magyars, and Winds were employed in the cigar
factories, the Germans outnumbered any other people in the silk mills.
In Philadelphia the most noticeable trend was the employment of the
English-speaking women and the Poles in textiles, the latter largely
in woolen and worsted goods. The Jews predominated in the clothing
trades, in sales, and in clerical work.
No change in occupation.
Not only had a large proportion of the women kept consistently to
one industry since beginning work in the United States but a marked
number had not even changed occupation within the industry, and
for these it was a case of once a power-machine operator in a dress
factory always a power-machine operator, or once a spinner or
weaver in a woolen mill always a spinner or a weaver in a woolen mill.
The tables following, one for the Lehigh Valley and one for
Philadelphia, indicate to what extent the women had worked con­
stantly at the same job, day after day and year after year. As



80

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

would be expected, the proportion who had not changed occupation
is much greater in the Lehigh Valley than in Philadelphia.
Table 38.—Women reporting no change of occupation in entire industrial

experience in United States—Lehigh Valley
Women
Number of who had
women
had only 1
reporting occupation

Present industry or occupation

1,026
Manufacturing:
Cigars.....................................................................................................................
Clothing-------- -------------------- ----------------------------------- -------------------Jute------ ------------------ -------------------------------- --------- -------- ---------Silk goods ---------------- ----------------------------------------- -------- -------Domestic and personal service------- ---------------------------------- ... . ---------

654

658
5
44
308
7
4

500
3
13
137
1

Limited industrial opportunity, rather than choice in the matter,
undoubtedly was the reason why about two-thirds of the women in
this district had never shifted from one occupation to another. Over
three-fourths of the cigar workers had never varied their work, and
unpublished data show that 295 had always been rollers, 121 had
always been bunchers, and 71 had always been on the poorly paid
job of stripping. Among the silk workers, less than one-half (44.5
per cent) had done only one kind of work, most of these (116) having
always been weavers.
Table 39.—Women reporting no change of occupation in entire industrial ex,

perience in United States—Philadelphia

Present industry or occupa­
tion

Total
Manufacturing:
Cigars
Bunching and rolling.
Stripping---------------Other

Women
Number who had
of women had only
reporting 1 occupa­
tion
1,007

382

61

28

31
12
18

17
6
5

Clothing...... .....................

172

78

Handwork
Machine operating._.

81
91

37
41

58

18

14
20

3
6

24

9

34

15

Textiles...... .......................

394

159

Haircloth and curled
hair and jute
Knit goods
Silk, cotton, and lace
goods................. .

35
120

5
45

36

8

Food products ...
Candy___________
Meat packing
Other
(includes
bakeries)..................
Rag sorting___ _______




Women
Number who had
Present industry or occupa­ of women had only
tion
reporting 1 occupa­
tion
Manufacturing-Continued.
Textiles—Continued.
Woolen and worsted
goods.......................

203

101

Miscellaneous manufacturing__........................

112

30

19
16

5
7

29
48

7
11

Leather products (ineludes tanning)
Metal products
Sewing operations not
elsewhere specified.
Other
Clerical............................... .

56

34

Domestic and personal service

115

19

Hotels and restaurants. _.
Laundries________
Office cleaning..................
Other________________

30
17
64
4

6
0
6
1

Sales_________________ ___

3

1

Other (telephone, professional)

2

INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE

81

In spite of the great diversity of industries in Philadelphia, 382
women, or three-eighths of the number giving complete information
on their industrial experiences, reported no change in occupation
since beginning work in the United States.
The outstanding instances of women having followed but one
occupation are the clothing trade, where not quite one-half had made
no change in occupation; the woolen and worsted mills, where half
had remained at the same work; and the knitting mills, where onethird had not shifted from their first job. Although the group of
rag sorters is small numerically, almost half of them had never ven­
tured to try anything but rag sorting, and 34 of the 56 clerical
workers had worked only at that occupation.
In the clothing trade the division is about even between handwork
and machine operations. The occupations of the textile group and
the number of women having only one occupation throughout their
industrial career may be summarized as follows:
Number of women re­
porting—
Present occupation

Total.

...

..................

.......

Card and draw_____________
Spin, spool, wind, etc_____________
Weave______________
Machine operating in knit goods______
Handwork and general____________

Only 1
Industrial occupation
experience in entire
experience
394

159

82
130
35
61
86

46
44
13
19
37

More than one-half of these textile workers were employed in the
card room or in spinning, spooling, and winding jobs. The smallest
occupational group consists of 35 weavers, only 13 of whom had
always been in this occupation. The number who had always been
knitters likewise is small. It is in the more unskilled jobs and in
the heavier and more disagreeable kinds of work that many of the
foreign-born women had toiled, never shifting from one department
to another in the mills. Over half of those employed in the card
room had not worked outside of it and one-third of the spinners,
spoolers, and winders had never changed occupation.
In addition to these thousand and more women in the two districts
who had continued in the work in which they started, there are less
than 200 women who, although changing their occupation, had re­
mained in the same industry; as, for example, doffers in a woolen
mill who became spinners, or winders in a hosiery mill who became
loopers, or floor girls in a clothing factory who became machine
operators.
The number of women who had kept steadily at one job during
their working years is more significant when correlated with the
time they had actually worked. The table following shows that
while about two-thirds of the women in Philadelphia who had made
no change in occupation had been employed less than 5 years, in the
Lehigh Valley over half had worked from 5 to 15 years. Espe­




82

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

cially interesting are the 17 women in Philadelphia and the 49 in
the Lehigh Valley who, through 15 or more years, had made no
change in the kind of work done. Thirteen of these women had
been in one occupation 20 years or more.
Table 40.—Experience in one occupation, by time worked and locality
Lehigh Valley

Philadelphia

Number of Number Number of Number
with 1
with 1
women
women
reporting occupation reporting occupation
only
only

Time worked

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

904

371

969

624

Under 5 years....... ................ ........ ........................-........
5 and under 10 years------- ------------------------------------10 and under 15 years
15 and under 20 years............................ _...........................
20 years and over-------------------------------------------------

498
235
117
41
13

236
76
42
12
5

374
296
219
62
18

239
179
157
41
8

Even where industrial opportunities were the same the women of
some races changed jobs less often than did those of other races.
The table following shows a marked degree of stability in the Lehigh
Valley, especially among the Sloveness (Winds), 87 per cent of
whom had never worked at more than one occupation. Of these
women, 148 had always worked in cigar factories; 10 of these had
always stripped tobacco, 38 had bunched cigars, 98 had rolled them,
and 2 had packed them. The other Windish women with but one
occupation had always done silk weaving. In this district the great­
est shifting was among the Slovaks.
Table 41.—Experience in one or more occupations, by race or people and locality
Number of
women re­
porting

Per cent of women 1 who had worked in—

1 occupation

Race or people
Phila­ Lehigh
delphia Valley

21,014

38.9

116
89
157
196
42
263
72
30

5
349
41
2
225
34
67
82
179

37.1
27.0
.54.8
51.0

Russian_____ __________________ _

3 or more occu­
pations

Phila­ Lehigh Phila­ Lehigh Phila­ Lehigh
delphia Valley delphia Valley delphia Valley

Total_______________ _____- 2 1,010
German.!- _ ____________ _______

2 occupations

30.4
23.6

64.3

33.9

64.2

39.7
41.6
27.4
28.6

62.2
55.2
46.3
86.6

33.5
41.7

26.4

27.2

9.3

30.1

23.3
31.5
17.8
20.4

5.7

29.8
20.9
35.4
11.2

36.1
34.7

8.0
23.9
18.3
2.2

1 Per cent not computed where base is less than 50.
2 Details aggregate less than total, because 2 groups—other Slavic and other races—are not shown.

In Philadelphia, with its variety of opportunities, the Italian and
Jewish women had changed the least—54.8 per cent and 51 per
cent, respectively, having done the same kind of work throughout




83

industrial experience

their industrial experience in the United States. This bulking may
be due in part to the fact that many women of these two races had
been at work less than five years, while many of the Russians and
Poles, who showed a greater tendency to change, had worked 10
years or longer.
Time spent as wage earners.
In each of the districts almost 1,000 women were able to approxi­
mate very closely the number of years they had been wage earners
in the United States, but in spite of the similarity in numbers re­
porting the two districts showed quite a different distribution. The
summary shows that more than half of the women reporting in
Philadelphia had worked less than 5 years, but that in the Lehigh
Valley more than one-half had worked 5 and under 15 years.

Time worked in the United States

Women in Phila­
delphia

Women in Lehigh
Valley

Number Per cent Number Per cent
Total______ ____
Under 5 years................
5 and under 10 years_____
10 and under 15 years_______
15 years and over__________

966

100.0

980

100.0

512
256
136
62

53.0
26.5
14.1
6.4

376
299
224
81

30. 5
22. 9
8.3

Aggregate years worked before and after marriage.
The preceding summary shows the extent of employment only in
a general way, but Table 42, which is based on the very complete
work histories of 328 women in Philadelphia and 537 in the Lehigh
Valley, shows what proportion of the years spent in the United
States had been years of employment. All these women had worked
in this country as single girls and as married women. A few in
each district had become widows, so their work histories include
also the time worked during widowhood. The table presents the
collective experience of these women—instead of a computation of
“ man hours ” it is one of “ man years ”—as wage earners and as non
wage earners. From the fairly definite statements given, a close
approximation of the years each woman had worked or had been at
home was possible.
Undoubtedly the data furnished by the women were more accurate
for recent years than for periods 10 or 20 years before, yet during
the course of each interview there were many opportunities of check­
ing and rechecking those statements that involved definite periods of
time. Facts dating from the woman’s arrival in this country were
very definitely placed, and such discrepancies as were apparent at
the time of the interview were corrected by the woman herself.
Occasionally there was an unavoidable vagueness in some of the
replies, as in the case of a woman who said, “ I worked there about
3 years at that time, and then I was home about a year before I
went back.” There may be an error of a few weeks in crediting this
woman with three years as a wage earner as against one as a non
wage earner. In no case did the time employed plus the time unem­
ployed exceed the total time in the United States. The probability




84

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

of underestimates exists in each case of aggregate years. It should
be understood that the table is presented not as a record of exact
figures but as an approximation showing for 865 women the trend or
habit of work when single and when married.
Table 42.—Percentage of years employed and unemployed1 during time spent

in United States, by marital status and locality
PHILADELPHIA

Total
Number of women reporting_______ _____ _________
Aggregate years spent in United States2
Per cent years employed in United States
Per cent years unemployed in United States

328
4, 871
46.7
52.4

Before
marriage

During
marriage

During
widowhood

328
1,066
96.9
2.6

328
3,611
29.7
69.5

36
136
91.9
7.4

537
1,468
96.5
2.9

537
5, 428
46.4
51.6

68
292
82.2
13.0

LEHIGH VALLEY
Number of women reporting
Aggregate years spent in United States 2.......... ..............
Per cent years employed in United States.___ ______
Per cent years unemployed in United States______ __

537
7, 263
58.2
39.9

1 The sura of the years employed and unemployed does not equal the aggregate number of years spent
in the United States, because in some cases definite information regarding time employed and unemployed
was not available and fractional parts of these years were on this account lost in the tabulation.
2 Probably an underestimate in each case.

Unpublished data show that in the two districts the total number of
years worked by these women amounted to more than 6,000 as com­
pared with between 5,000 and 6,000 during which they had not been
wage earners; in other words, collectively they had been wage earners
longer than they had been non wage earners.
From the table it appears that more than a fifth of the aggregate
years in the United States were while the women were single, that
for about three-fourths of the time the women were married, and that
for only a few years some of them had been widowed. In Philadel­
phia the number of years employed was not very different from the
number unemployed, but in the Lehigh Valley the work years were
more numerous by almost one-half.
In both districts the women were employed very steadily before
marriage, having lost from work a little less than 3 per cent of the
time, or together less than 100 years. After marriage the story
naturally is very different, although the married women had spent
about 3,500 years at their jobs. In Philadelphia the married women
had worked about three-tenths of their married life and in the Lehigh
Valley they had worked almost half the time. That the married
women in the Lehigh Valley should have worked for so large a part
of the time is one of the most striking facts brought out by the sur­
vey. The table shows a tendency for the 104 women who were wage
earners after widowhood to work almost as steadily when widowed
as they had done while single.
An unpublished table giving average years for this same group
shows that, though the woman in Philadelphia had been in this
country longer than the woman in the Lehigh Valley, the average
years worked was higher for the woman in the Lehigh Valley.




INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE

85

Continuous employment.
A surprising number of these women claimed to have worked stead­
ily except for a day or a week now and then. The selected group
next considered includes, in addition to the women just discussed, 7
women in the Lehigh Valley and 47 in Philadelphia who had not
worked both before and after marriage, and the presentation follow­
ing shows to what extent the entire group had worked continuously
at their jobs.
Table 43.—Extent of unbroken employment in the United States, by marital

status and locality
MARRIED WOMEN
Philadelphia

Lehigh Valley

Marital and employment status
Number Per cent Number Per cent
Total reporting_____________

375

100.0

544

100.0

Had worked approximately all the time—
Before marriage______ ____
During marriage____ ____

340
50

90.7
13.3

504
137

92.6
25.2

76

100.0

72

100.0

54

71.1

48

66.7

WIDOWED WOMEN
Total reporting___________________
Had worked approximately all the time during widowhood_
_

In each district over nine-tenths of the women had worked all the
time before marriage, but after marriage there appears a marked
decrease in the number of workers with unbroken employment, only
one-fourth of the women in the Lehigh Valley group and about
one-eighth of those in Philadelphia having worked continuously.
The two districts had fairly similar per cents as concerns the single
and the widowed, but it is interesting to note a proportion almost
twice as large in the Lehigh Valley as in Philadelphia for the women
who had worked continuously while married.
Unpublished material shows that the great majority of the women
who had worked practically all the time since coming to the United
States (375 in Philadelphia and 544 in the Lehigh Valley) had
been single for less than three years after their arrival. Most of the
women reporting had been married 10 and under 15 years. The
number of widows was comparatively small, and the majority of
these had been widowed less than five years.
Causes of unemployed time.
The reasons given by 1,371 women for the interruptions to their
employment in the United States are the basis of this section. Col­
lectively the women accounted for unemployed time amounting to
more than 6,700 years.
Events that seriously interrupted life as a home worker and again
as a wage earner, such as the husband’s lay off or an infant’s illness,
are not readily forgotten, but instances of failure to mention a few




86

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

days’ illness or a 2-week shutdown must have occurred. On the
whole, however, the women outlined with painstaking care, though
in terms of years rather than weeks and of months rather than days,
their experiences as wage earners and non wage earners.
The causes and the approximate duration of the various periods
of unemployment were reported, and it has been possible to make a
rough tabulation of the statements, although such table does not
pretend to be strictly accurate.
Because interviews and interviews only formed the basis of these
particular facts the liability of error becomes a little higher, since
there may have been time unemployed in addition to that reported.
The following is to be regarded, therefore, as the approximate rather
than the exact number of years lost from work.
Domestic
causes

Industrial
causes

1,371

944

507

435

6,720
4.9

6,890
6.2

186
0.4

644
1.5

Total
Number of women reporting----- --------------------- -----Approximate years not employed:
Aggregate------------------------------ ------ ---------------Average------------------ ------ ---------- --------------------

Other
causes

The reasons given for the time lost from employment have been
grouped under three inclusive headings: Domestic, industrial, and
causes other than these two. The average for the total of all causes
is heavily weighted by the large numbers included in domestic causes.
Under domestic causes are included the usual routine home duties,
as well as illness of other persons, the care of children, and pregnancy
and confinement. It was necessary to make this rather inclusive
subdivision because in many cases it was impossible to divide under
more specific causes a period at home extending over several months
or years. “ Mary was a baby; so much to do and Johnnie sick some ”
was a common story of what happened when it was necessary to
give up wage earning.
Industrial causes were very definitely on account of shutdowns, lay
offs, or discharges. Strikes are included here.
Included in the third group, other causes, are time spent in school,
vacations, visiting the old country, and illness of the worker herself,
exclusive of confinements.
Since the group interviewed consisted so largely of married women
it is not surprising to find that the great bulk of the years in which
they were not wage earners was due to domestic causes (5,890).
This is an average of more than six years for each woman who lost
time on this account.
The following analysis of this most important group shows a
normal increase in unemployed time as the period increases since the
women began to work; that is, for the women who had worked less
than 5 years the average time unemployed is only a few months, but
it gradually increases to approximately 12 years for those whose
working experience covered 25 years or more.




INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE

87

Table 44.—Time not employed through domestic causes, hy over-all working

period in the United States

Over-all working period in the United States

Number of
women
reporting

Approximate years not
employed through
domestic causes
Aggregate

Average

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

944

5, 890

6.2

Under 5 years......................... ......
5 and under 10 years. . ________
10 and under 15 years...................... .
15 and under 20 years_______ __ _
20 and under 25 years_________
25 years and over___ ___________

78
59
336
276
149
46

50
113
1,637
2,059
1,486
545

.6
1.9
4.9
7.5
10.0
11.8

The aggregate time not employed because of conditions in industry
was little, although almost two-fifths of the women reported having
lost some time on this account. The average per woman is low, being
roughly five months.
The fact that there is no uniform increase in the average amount
of time not employed through industrial causes as the women’s work­
ing periods increase, such as is seen in the case of time lost by domestic
causes, may be due to the fact that employment was steadier for
these women 10,. 15, or 20 years ago than in the more recent period
of business readjustment.
Fewer women reported time not employed through reasons other
than domestic or industrial, but the amount of such lost time aggre­
gated about 644 years, or an average of 1 y2 years per woman. Un­
employment because of their own illnesses (exclusive of childbirth)
accounted for a third of the time in this classification, or an average
of slightly less than a year per woman. Twenty-one women had
stopped work to attend school and 174 women had taken short vaca­
tion periods or made extended visits to their native lands.
In contrast to this large group who reported definite details about
time lost from employment, 421 women claimed that they had
lost no time except a day or two now and then. This seems quite
plausible, since three-fourths of the number had been at work less
than five years and more than one-half were still unmarried at the
time of the study.
Employment of mothers and daughters.
In 209 families information was obtained regarding the employ­
ment of mothers and their daughters. About three-eighths of the
daughters were in the same industries as the mothers; the underlined
figures in the following table show that this occurred chiefly in tex­
tiles and cigars.
65661°—30------7




THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

88

Table 45.—Industry of daughter,
Number of daughters employed in—
jNumDer reporting
The manufacture of—
Industry of mother
Leather
Food
products
Clothing products (includes Printing
tanning)

Mothers

209

Textiles—

Woolen and worsted
Miscellaneous

manufac-

Domestic and personal service:

44

20

81
18
6

36

6
6
2

1

3

3

7
16
22

Leather products (includes

240

72
13
6

Manufacturing:

Daugh­
ters

7
18
26

2
1

1

22
10

26
11

1

2
1

18

20

1

1

3
9
8

4
11
9

2

1

Cigars

4
2

1
1

7

4

1

1
i

1
1

1

The groups showing the greatest numbers employed were cigars,
silk goods, and woolen and worsted goods—the three predominating
industries employing the foreign-born women of these sections. Half
the daughters and more than half the mothers were in these three
groups. The largest number of mothers in any one industry—more
than a third—were in the cigar factories; the largest nuinber of
daughters—almost a fourth—were in the silk mills, an industry
giving employment to only about 1 in 10 of their mothers. Thirty
of the girls in silk mills and 36 of those in cigar factories had mothers
working in the latter industry. Three times as many daughters as
mothers were employed in the hosiery mills. None of the mothers
were employed in printing, sales, clerical work, or telephone operat­
ing, and more detailed figures show that no daughter was employed
as a rag sorter, nor in the tanneries, curled-hair plants, or laundries.
Comparison of the occupations within an industry is impossible
because of lack of sufficient data, but statements made by managers
of the plants imply that the daughters in cigar factories were em­
ployed chiefly as packers or as machine operators, rarely as hand
strippers; in woolen and jute mills the older women were in the card
room, while the girls were employed in spinning, spooling, or
winding.
. _
On the -whole, the daughters had found employment in industries
where working conditions were pleasanter than those in plants where
their mothers worked, yet in the group classified as miscellaneous
manufacturing were several girls who had drifted into industries
having a tendency to seasonal work or into dead-end jobs with un-




INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE

89

7>y industry of mother
Number of daughters employed in—Continued
The manufacture of--Continued
Textiles

Hosiery

22

Other
knit
goods
2

Woolen
and wor­ Other
sted goods textiles

Silk
goods

Jute

55

21

1

3

3

30
1

1

12

24

16

Domes­
tic and
personal
service

6

Sales

3

3
1
1

1

Clerical
work and
telephone
Miscel­
laneous operat­
ing
manu­
facturing

1
3

4
5
1

3
2

2
1
3

1

1
1

1
I

4
15

1

14
1

2
1
1

2
5

4
1

1

1

3

1

1
1

1

1

2

1

i

certain if not low wages—the manufacture of brushes, of buttons, of
pins, paper boxes, pencils, lamp shades, and millinery being some of
the industries reported.
In this connection it is interesting to refer to the report of the
Immigration Commission that deals with the occupations of wage­
earning women born abroad and the occupations of the daughters of
immigrants born in this country. The figures presented for the two
generations of female wage earners in 1900 in the State of Penn­
sylvania show that daughters predominated as silk-mill operatives
and saleswomen and in clerical positions, while mothers outnumbered
daughters in the various lines of domestic and personal service.1
1 United States Immigration Commission.
Reports, vol. 28, Occupations of the
First and Second Generations of Immigrants in the United States. S. Doc. No. 282, 61st
tong. — u sess., pp, oo*-~o91.




CONDITIONS IN PRESENT JOB
EARNINGS1

When a girl tells how she left one factory for another because she
could earn 2 cents more per hundred for the cigars she rolled, the
importance of the pay envelope in the lives of these wage-earning
women is realized. Explanations of how they tried to exist on
their meager wages, of how they had gone weeks without any pay,
were as detailed as though these events had occurred only yesterday.
The difficulty of collecting wages was a topic of conversation with
many women, and cuts in wages had been frequent—in fact, more
misunderstanding and hard feeling seemed to have arisen over the
wage question than over any other factor in industry.
_
Dissatisfaction with wages had driven girl after girl from one job
to another: “Pay too small.” “Work too cheap.” “ Prices [re­
ferring to wage rates] weren’t so good.” “ Couldn’t make a living.”
“ The boss reduced the price.” “ The cut was $3. When he gave
raises they were 30 cents to 75 cents a week, but the cut was $1 a
week.”
.
_
As wages are of such vital importance to the worker it was natural
that all but about 300 of the women interviewed should give very
definite information about their current earnings. In their eager­
ness to give exact information many of the women showed an ac­
cumulation of pay envelopes, but only earnings for the week preced­
ing the interview form the basis of the tabulations and the accom­
panying discussion.
...
Since the interview method was used in collecting this informa­
tion, allowance should be made for at least a slight margin of error.
Undoubtedly there were some exaggerated statements of earnings,
due perhaps to a natural desire to report as good a record as a
neighbor. On the other hand, some women may have made under­
statements, in order to arouse sympathy. As the number of records
is large, however, it may be assumed that the misstatements balance
one another, so that the result, while not claiming exactness, may be
said to approach a fairly accurate record of the women’s earnings.
Earnings have been tabulated separately for the two districts, and
the following shows that the trend of wages is found to be higher in
the Lehigh Valley than in Philadelphia. This may be due partly
to the fact that the woman-employing industries in the Lehigh Valley
were operating full time while many industries in Philadelphia were
running low and there was much underemployment.

Locality

Lehigh Valley........ ........... .................
1 See also pp. 115 to 119.

90




Per cent of women whose week’s earnings were—
Num­
ber of
women
$10 and $12 and $15 and $17 and $20 and
report­ Under under under under under under $25 and
$10
over
ing
$25
$20
$15
$17
$12
988
836

11.0
10.3

13.8
8.6

21.7
14.7

19.4
17.8

16.4
19.4

11.4
19.7

6.3
9.4

91

CONDITIONS IN PRESENT JOB

In each section about 1 in every 10 women earned less than $10
in the week reported. In Philadelphia almost half the women re­
ceived less than $15, but in the Lehigh Valley two-thirds had earned
$15 or more. This difference in the districts is especially marked
in the proportion earning $20 or more, since 29 per cent of the women
in the Lehigh Valley, in contrast to 18 per cent of those in Philadel­
phia, had earned as much as this.
Earnings by industry or occupation.
Wages varied not only with the district but with the industry and,
more especially, with the occupation. The list following gives the
medians of the earnings for specified industries and, where the occu­
pations were reported in numbers large enough to be significant, for
occupations within the industry.
Table 46.—Median of the weelc’s earnings, by present industry and by locality
Number of women
reporting
Present industry or occupation

Median of the
week’s earnings

Phila­
delphia

Lehigh
Valley

Phila­
delphia

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

988

836

$15. 35

$16. 75

Manufacturing:
Cigars............... .................................. ........ .............. ...............

16. 95

Lehigh
Valley

59

545

15.70

Bunching and rolling.............................. ........................

31

15.65

18.35

Other (in Philadelphia includes stripping)

28

414
104
27

15.75

15.80

175

4

15.05

0)

80
95
2 57

1
3

13.80
15.85
14.40

(0
0

Clothing___

_____ _______ _____

Handwork___ ___

____________ _____ ________

Textiles_______________ ________ ____________ _____
Silk, cotton, and lace goods (Philadelphia)_____

___

Jute_______ ____________ ________________

Hosiery ______
Knitting and topping___________
Looping and seaming

26
18
18
34
*392
34

23
2 207
67
70
29
18
87
26
17
21
23
27

281
237
176
61
41

3
1
2

12. 35
18. 50
14.00
10.70
16.60

16.05

16.00
17 95
14.95
11.05

16.60
16. 20
16. 25
15.75
15.40
24. 50
19.05
19.50
18. 50
19. 75
18. 50
15. 70

0

16. 50
12. 50
15.10
14.15

(>)

(■)

Miscellaneous manufacturing—
Other______
Sewing operations not elsewhere specified___________
Domestic and personal service—
Laundries_ ___________________ ___________________
_
Office cleaning_________________________________ ____

1 Not computed, owing to small number involved.
2 Includes all occupations reported in the industry.
3 Includes haircloth and curled hair, not shown separately.




15
15
33
31

3

54

18. 25

10
17
66
2
8
2

(l)
14.50
11.25
(i)
(i)
0)

2
1

(>)
0

92

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOE

The median of the week’s earnings for all the women reporting
was $15.35 in Philadelphia and $16.75 in the Lehigh Valley; these
were the midpoints in wages; that is, half the women earned less
and half earned more than these amounts. In the Lehigh Valley
medians have been computed for only three industries—cigars, silk,
and jute, and for a few of the chief occupations within these indus­
tries, so comparison of the median earnings may be made for the two
districts in only two industry groups—cigars, in which the wages
range higher in the Lehigh Valley, and jute, in which the wages are
markedly higher in Philadelphia.
In Philadelphia the textile group is composed chiefly of woolenand-worsted-mill operatives and in the Lehigh Valley it is chiefly
silk-mill operatives. On the whole, earnings were higher for the silk
workers than for the woolen-mill operatives, yet the group of 18
woolen weavers shows median earnings ($24.50) higher than the
median in any other occupation or indeed in any other industry.
However, for the other occupations in the woolen and worsted indus­
try median earnings were $8 to $9 lower than for these few weavers.
In Philadelphia the next highest median is that of the women in
hosiery mills; for all occupations reported in the industry this me­
dian amounts to $19.05, ranking above every other industry group
in Philadelphia or the Lehigh Valley. The few women in Philadel­
phia in the meat-packing industry show higher median earnings
than do the clerical workers. At the other extreme are the rag
sorters, with a median of $10.70 a week. Handworkers in the cloth­
ing trade, women doing miscellaneous sewing operations, bakery and
candy workers, laundry workers, women in the metal trades, and
those in tanneries, had median earnings below the amount shown for
all women reporting ($15.35). The earnings of office cleaners also
were very low, but it must be remembered that hours were shorter
and, though many had broken shifts, this was little more than a part­
time job.
In the Lehigh Valley the silk weavers were at the top of the scale
with a median for the week of $20.25, and the tobacco strippers at the
bottom with a median of $10.70, the same amount as has been re­
ported for the rag sorters, the lowest-paid group in Philadelphia.
The jute workers in the Lehigh Valley were also a low-paid group;
for them the median is found to be only slightly higher than that of
the tobacco strippers.
The cigar bunchers and rollers in the Lehigh Valley were earning
more than a large majority of the women in the various industries
and occupations in Philadelphia, their median being slightly higher
than the median for clerical workers in Philadelphia.
Effect of experience on wages.
Whether a woman has worked a long or a short time in an indus­
try undoubtedly affects to some degree her weekly earnings. In order
to discover to what extent experience in an industry affected earnings
of the women medians were computed for two groups, those employed
in the major industry—that is, the one in which they had worked
longest, and those employed in a minor industry—that is, one in
which they had had less experience. From the accompanying tabula­
tion it is apparent that the wages were higher in an industry when




CONDITIONS IN PRESENT JOB

93

experience was greater, for in Philadelphia the median of the earn­
ings of the women employed in their major industry was $2 higher
than for those employed in a minor industry, and in the Lehigh
Valley the median was $5 more. The 145 silk weavers who had spent
more time at weaving than at any other occupation had higher earn­
ings than had the group of only 29 who had spent more time in other
lines of work. The vast majority, however, were employed in their
major industry—only 183 women in Philadelphia and 72 in the Le­
high Valley reporting earnings in a minor industry.
Table 47.—Median of the week’s earnings according to whether present

employment major1 or minor, by locality
Philadelphia
Present employ­
ment major 1

Present industry or
occupation

Lehigh Valley

Present employ­
ment minor

Num­ Median Num­ Median
ber of
of the
ber of
of the
women week’s women week’s
report­
report­
earn­
earn­
ing
ings
ing
ings
All industries_____

_

Cigars _______ ____ _____
Clothing____________
Food products.. ________
Hosiery and knit goods
Silk. .
Weaving__________ _.
Woolen and worsted goods. _

3 757

$15.80

183

$13.65

154
35
92

15.00
15.25
18. 75

16
20
18

15.00
14.00
17.00

182

16.25

19

15.25

Present employ­
ment major 1

Present employ­
ment minor

Num­ Median Num­ Median
ber of
of the
ber of
of the
women week’s women week’s
report­
report­ earn­
earn­
ing
ings
ing
ings
2 760

$17. 20

523

17.15

145

20.75

72

$11.70

1 The industry occupying the women for the greatest number of years.
^ Total exceeds details because only those industries appear that were reported as minor in numbers
large enough for the computation of a median.

The effect of experience upon wages is further emphasized by the
following table.
Table 48.—Median of the week’s earnings, by actual time worked in present

industry

Time worked in present industry

Total__________
Under 1 year________________
1 and under 2 years, _ ................
2 and under 3 years________
3 and under 4 years. ________
4 and under 5 years ... ...
5 and under 10 years_________ .
10 and under 15 years. __
15 and under 20 years
.
20 years and over_____________

Number of Median of
the week’s
women
reporting
earnings
1,682
228
203
203
176
124
403
244
74
27

15.40
15.90
17.10
17.85.
17.25
18.50

Whether a woman had worked 1,2,3, or 4 years seems to have made
little difference in median earnings, but with experience of 5 years
and more there is, on the whole, an upwrard trend in earnings; how­




94

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

ever, an increase in wages of less than $6 after working for 20 years
does not place a high premium on experience.
Wage reports from other sources or agencies.
Wherever possible these data on a week’s earnings, based solely
upon statements made by the women during the interviews, were
checked with other source material. In every case such information
is so similar that confidence in the reliability of the interviews is
increased.
Finn pay rolls.—Earnings of foreign-born female employees were
obtained from two pay rolls—a representative cigar firm and a repre­
sentative silk firm. Located in the Lehigh Valley, both plants were
operating full time and to capacity employment, but with few ex­
ceptions the women were pieceworkers and the time actually worked
was not entered on the pay roll.
The manager of the cigar factory remarked that it was “ not neces­
sary to employ natives * * * they all come from foreign fami­
lies.” About 100 foreign-born women were employed, most of them
as bunchers and rollers, and in these two occupations the earnings of
the women for the week selected (in June, 1925) had a median of
$19.45. It will be recalled that the median as computed for bunchers
and rollers from the statements of the women themselves was $18.35,
or only $1.10 below the amount derived from the pay-roll figures.
In the silk mill the foreign women were almost exclusively weav­
ers. The manager explained that the immigrant women insisted on
this job and worked at it as hard and as efficiently as did any of the
men. Since the earnings of weavers varied so from week to week, the
computation of their median was based on the individual pay-roll
entries for four weeks of 30 women who were “ steady on the job.”
This exclusion of irregular and less experienced weavers resulted in
a median for the select group, during a week in June, 1925, of $22.45,
a figure which, though representing the earnings of unusually steady
and experienced workers, is only $2 higher than the median com­
puted from the earnings as given by the women themselves.
It was the manager of the silk mill who remarked that only Ameri­
can girls were content to do winding. In fact, only three foreignborn women in this mill were not weavers, and this was the situation
throughout the industry in the Lehigh Valley.
In view of the fact that earnings as obtained in the interviews were
not for any one specific week but rather were for the pay immediately
preceding the week of the agent’s visit, whereas the pay-roll record
covered one definite and decidedly busy period, the slight discrep­
ancies in the medians of the two groups are not surprising.
Bureau of labor statistics.—Another authority on wages has issued
recently two bulletins on wages and hours of labor in the manufac­
ture of woolen and worsted goods and of hosiery and underwear. A
comparison follows of earnings based on the interviews in the present
study and figures selected from the bulletins referred to for women
workers in the State of Pennsylvania as a whole. In the woolenand-worsted industry the wages range from $1 to $3 higher for the
women interviewed; in hosiery the wages for the interviewed group
are lower.




CONDITIONS IN PRESENT JOB

Average
Median of week’s earn­
ings as re­
the week’s
ported in
earnings as
Bureau of
reported by
Labor
interviews—
Philadelphia, Statistics
bulletins—
1925
Pennsyl­
vania, 1926

Industry and occupation

Woolen and worsted goods:
Carding.._ ... ___
Spinning__________
Weaving. __ _________
Hosiery___________ .
factoring,*1910*0

95

* 14. 55

ta W°°len and Worsted Qoods Manu‘

2 2-week pay period.

3 U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wages and Hours of Labor in the Hosiery and Underwear Industries, 1907 to 1926. Bui. 452, p. 12.
4 Full-time earnings.

There is probably a closer correspondence in actual earnings than
at first seems apparent from the figures. The Bureau of Labor
Statistics data are for a year later than the Women’s Bureau study1926 and 1925, respectively. The bulletins state that in the case of
knit goods the index numbers of pay-roll totals throughout the United
States increased from 105.6 in 1925 to 109.6 in 1926 and that in
woolen-and-worsted-goods manufacturing they decreased from 87.2
in 1925 to 78.9 in 1926, which may account in part for the differences
in figures of the two authorities. Furthermore, in hosiery the wage
computation for the workers interviewed was based on actual earn­
ings, while the figures from the bulletin are for full-time workers
only.
HOURS OF WORK

Source of data.
Though the schedule did not call for data on working hours, more
than 200 women in each locality volunteered very definite informa­
tion on this point. In the Lehigh Valley these women were employed
chiefly in 12 cigar factories and 27 silk mills, but in Philadelphia
they were so scattered in various manufacturing industries that a
classification of hours by industry is not significant.
The table following is based on statements of the women regarding
the hours they worked. These are not necessarily the scheduled hours
of the plants, since many women, especially those in cigar factories,
prolonged the firm’s scheduled day by beginning earlier than the
customary hour in the morning or by reducing the lunch period. It
is customary in the Lehigh Valley to make cigars by the old hand
method, in no way dependent upon power-driven machinery, so that
they have more freedom in their hours than have the workers in the
plants where work hours are regulated by machines. In the former
case, however, instead of working shorter hours than the plant stand­
ard the women frequently work longer hours. Some factory doors
are unlocked at 5 in the morning for janitors and cleaners and the
women may go in as early as they please. It is not unusual for some
of the older strippers, eager for a fuller pay envelope, to be at the
factory by 6 o’clock.




96

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

The women reported such uniform data as to their hours of work
in the mills and factories that there seems no doubt that these reports
give reliable facts for the 443 women concerned.
Table 49.—Daily and weekly Hours of work in manufacturing industries, by

locality
DAILY HOURS

Philadelphia
manufacturing
industries

Lehigh Valley manufacturing industries
Silk

Cigars

Total

Hours of work
Number Per cent Number Per cent Number Per cent Number Per cent
distri­
distri­
of
distri­
of
of
distri­
of
women bution women bution women bution women bution
Total................... ..........

9
10

....... ................
..................... ..........

226
18
71
20
73
43
1

100.0
8.0
31.4
8.8
32.3
19.0
.4

i 246
17
3
39
68
28
2 91

100.0
6.9
1.2
15.9
27.6
11.4
37.0

136

100.0

96

100.0

1
1
2
22
20
90

.7
.7
1.5
16. 2
14.7
66.2

15
2
30
40
8
1

15.6
2.1
31.3
41. 7
8.3

’

----- ------WEEKLY HOURS
Total---- ------- ---------Under 48............ ..............
Over 50 and under 54--------Over 54......................... -........

217

100.0

194

100.0

107

100.0

77

100.0

56
45
31
25
40
10
10

25.8
20. 7
14. 3
11.5
18.4
4.6
4.6

11

5.7

3

2.8

7

9.1

6
27
55
12
383

3.1
13.9
28.4
6.2
42.8

.9
17.8
5. 6
72.9

5
24
31
6
4

6. 5
31. 2;
40. .1

i
19
6
78

5. 2

i Total includes several small groups not given separately in the table.
i In the majority of these cases the day was 1014 hours. See discussion, p. 95.
a in the majority of these cases the week was not over 55 or 56 hours. See discussion, p. 95.

Daily hours.
The table emphasizes the long hours prevalent in the Lehigh Val­
ley, where 37 per cent of the women reported that they were work­
ing more than 10 hours a day (10 hours is the legal maximum per­
mitted in Pennsylvania).
In Philadelphia less than 20 per cent of the women were em­
ployed as long as 10 hours a day, and only one woman worked more
than 10 hours; these were principally workers in the woolen and
jute mills.
Again, while in the Lehigh Valley only 8.1 per cent of the women
worked less than 9 hours a day, in Philadelphia 39.4 per cent worked
less than 9 hours.
.
The cigar industry is responsible for the excessively long day in
the Lehigh Valley; only four cigar workers reported a full-time day
as short as 9 hours and practically two-thirds of the women report­
ing in this industry worked for slightly more than 10 hours.
A short workday on Saturday was customary in both districts and
in all manufacturing industries.
Weekly hours.
Equally striking differences are found in the length of the working
week in the two districts and in the two industries in the Lehigh



CONDITIONS IN PEESENT JOB

97

Valley separately tabulated. While in Philadelphia almost one-half
(46.5 per cent) of the women reporting did not exceed 48 hours a
week and only 20 women (9.2 per cent) had a week as long as 54
hours, in the Lehigh Valley the 48-hour week was almost unknown
and more than two-fifths of the women said they worked over 54
’ hours, which was exceeding the legal limit. For the women in the
silk mills of the Lehigh Valley the prevailing hours were found to be
50 and under 54 hours, but in the cigar industry almost three-fourths
of the women reporting (72.9 per cent) reported hours that exceeded
the legal limit, and in a few instances extended to 56, 58, and even
to 60.
In the Lehigh Valley work began early in the day. The most
usual hours of the cigar workers, affecting nearly three-fifths of the
women who reported beginning and ending hours, were from 6.30
a. m. to 5.30 p. m., and since in many instances the time allowed for
lunch was only 45 minutes, the workday here was 10)4 hours. Only
five women reporting in this industry began work later than 7.
The prevailing workday observed by the silk industry in this
same district was somewhat shorter, the day starting at 7 or 7.15
and closing not later than 5. A few mills had inaugurated the
2-shift system.
.
In Philadelphia it was unusual for the workday to begin earlier
than 8 or to end later than 5 or 5.30. During one interview a girl
who had worked in Allentown and later in Philadelphia referred
three times to the 8-hour day she was enjoying in the Philadelphia
plant in contrast to the longer day of her earlier industrial
experience.
But the day of these housekeeping wage earners began long before
the hour of their arrival in the factory or shop. Breakfast had to
be prepared and lunches put up before leaving home in the morning,
and one worker said she had formed the habit of doing her buying
at 6 o’clock, before her day at the factory began. After 9 or 10
hours in the factory these women returned home to prepare the family
meal, and spent the evening washing, ironing, cleaning, or baking.
Long hours and overtime.
In view of the business depression and the consequent amount of
undertime and unemployment prevalent in some industries, it was
surprising to hear complaints of long hours and overtime, one of the
most common causes of dissatisfaction among the women.
The woolen mills came in for their share of complaints because of
the long day that for years had been customary in this industry.
A Slovak woman who came to America in 1912 was taken to a woolen
mill three days after landing. Here she worked for several years
as a burler from 6 in the morning until 6 at night, with only half an
hour for lunch. As she recalled the experience she laughed and
remarked that she had “thought that was the way in America.”
But there were “ only greenhorns ” employed in that mill, and it
was not until she married and moved to another town that she real­
ized that conditions were not the same everywhere.
More recently a number of yarn winders had summoned courage
to protest to the boss against the long day in their mill. They had
asked for an 8-hour day, but the boss had replied, “No good; you
no work 10 hours you no come.”




98

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Hours in the cigar factories seemed to be a cause for general com­
plaint by members of their families as well as by the women them­
selves. A husband employed in the steel mill on a shift of hours
shorter than his wife’s felt that she was working herself to death.
“ He [referring to his wife] has two jobs. Begin half past 5 every
morning; 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock at night he finish.”
Rosy was a “ greenhorn ” in a cigar factory, but she was not too
green to know that she was working too long and described the
situation very vividly. “The foreman says to me ‘Rosy, what are
you doing to-night? ’ ‘ Nothing.’ And then he says, ‘Well, I guess
you can work until half past 6.’ ” Several evenings every week for
a month this conversation had been repeated, and on those days
Rosy began work as usual at 6.30 in the morning and continued until
6.30 in the evening.
The working day of a hosiery knitter also was being extended to
9 p. m. once or twice a week, and a silk winder who worked usually
from 7 to 4.45 found her day lengthened to 6 o’clock about three
times a week.
When women expressed satisfaction with their hours it was usu­
ally because in some former job they had worked so much longer.
A rag sorter felt that her change from housework to rag sorting had
been a great advantage because work in a private family frequently
had occupied her until 9 o’clock in the evening. She prefers rag
sorting because the job has regular hours, although she realizes
that actual earnings are less.
Comments of the night workers were very illuminating; it was not
from choice but as a matter of convenience that they worked through
the night hours.
A dishwasher in a restaurant kitchen preferred the night shift
because when she went to work she could lock the children—2, 4,
and 6 years old—in the house. “ That is why I work at night so
hard—then in the morning hurry home to the children.”'
A woman of 43, alter working for 1 y2 years on the night shift of
a dairy, tending a bottling machine, had to give up the job because
of illness. She was convinced that her illness was due solely to the
night work, but she overlooked the fact that she had combined with
this the family cares that occupied most of her day, since working at
night made it possible for her to care during the day for six chil­
dren, 4 to 11 years old. It was doubtful how long she would be able
to remain in her present job—cleaning the inside of taxicabs from
11.30 at night to 9 or 9.30 in the morning. “ I have awful short
sleep, three or four hours after supper. Such dirty wet work.
Sometimes I awful tired and I stay home one night, but they give
me hell if I don’t go in. They say they going to raise us to $3. I
don’t know.” Wages were $2.50 a night at the time she was
interviewed.
It was said repeatedly that men were working in the Lehigh Valley
an 8-hour day although hardly any women in the community enjoyed
such a privilege. Frequently the husbands reached home in the
afternoon and started the evening meal before their wives returned.
One young cigar roller felt that it “ wouldn’t hurt to have an 8-hour
day in Pennsylvania, for it is too long for women to work in the shop
10 hours and then do their work at home.” About the only way these




CONDITIONS IN PRESENT JOB

99

women have of expressing their dissatisfaction is what they call “ a
fight,” which in the cigar industry means much petty quarreling,
ending in a walkout.
A woman who had learned a little English said, “ I wish they could
fight out something that the women work eight hours. Eight hours
is just enough, but 10 hours a day—from 6.30 to 5.30—is slavery.”
However, dissatisfaction with the hours in the cigar factories was
not universal. More than one cigar buncher was fearful lest hours
should be reduced. They were keen “to get rich,” and one said,
“ Can’t make good in 8 hours, so bad the stuff now. Now must work
10 hours to make.” Invariably these were women who had begun
work when the cigar industry was developing in the Lehigh Valley
in the early part of the century. Such eagerness and grasping was
not observed among the younger women nor among those who had
acquired some knowledge of English and of American standards.
The length of the lunch period in the cigar factories is optional
with the workers. Although the factory schedule may allow 45
minutes for lunch, frequently women take no more than 15 minutes.
The more they shorten their lunch hour, the larger they expect their
earnings to be. As one woman said who worked regularly from
6.30 to 5.30, never taking more than 20 minutes for lunch: “ If I eat
longer, I never make the little I have now.” Another remarked:
“ Sometimes I bring my lunch back home at night. If I see others
start to work I forget to eat, I start work, too. If I work hard and
hurry up all day, 6.30 to 5.30 sometimes, I have $18 and $20 every
week.” Another woman, in describing the rush of the factory, said:
“ Now the strippers they are working and eating there; only those on
day wages take time to eat.”
While the tobacco strippers were glad to reduce their lunch time to
a few minutes, silk weavers complained of the change in shifts that
had eliminated entirely the lunch hour. A few of the silk mills were
operating two shifts a day, one group of employees working from 6
to 2 and another coming on at 2 and working till 10, with no allow­
ance for a rest or lunch period in either of the 8-hour shifts. As was
inevitable, not all the workers were pleased with the change. One
weaver had been employed in her brother-in-law’s “ small little mill ”
where she “ had it nice ” until he changed from the usual workday—
7 to 5—to the 2-shift system. Neither of these shifts suited this
weaver, as they did not fit in with the schedules of the rest of her
family and her housekeeping program. “ Besides,” she said, “ it was
dreadful to work eight hours without a chance to rest, but sometimes
we snatched a bite to eat now and then when Ave went to the dressing
room.” She added: “My brother-in-law made an awful fuss when
I quit on him, and said: ‘ What I do, if all the other girls quit like
you ? ’ ”
Although most of the comments against long hours came from
workers in woolen mills and cigar factories, occasional reference
was made to excessive hours in restaurants and stores. Not infre­
quently restaurant workers left their “ places ” because they “ worked
all the time every day ” or “ had to work Sunday all day.” The
work was hard and the hours were long, in one case lasting from 7
in the morning till 10 at night; “ so much to do, no get away.”




100

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Only because her pay was $25 a week had one young mother
endured working in a little neighborhood store from 9 in the morn­
ing until 11 at night, with only short breaks for lunch and supper.
But at the end of seven months she “ went all to pieces ” and had to
give up her job.
Work in a millinery store from noon to 10 o’clock at night, and
sometimes later on Saturdays, proved irksome to a bright girl be­
cause it deprived her of all social contacts and opportunities for study.
•‘You don’t see anything; you don’t read anything; you eat and
sleep. It’s like an animal. I thought youse people were going to
break that working at night.”
IRREGULARITY OF EMPLOYMENT

In view of the prevailing long workday and overtime in some of
the industries there was an astounding amount of despair over short
days and half-filled pay envelopes, especially among women em­
ployed in the woolen and worsted mills and the clothing factories.
The clothing workers, as a rule, had found work irregular and slack,
a week off here or a short day there, while for some workers in the
woolen mills the day had been definitely shortened or the week was
only 4 or 5 days instead of 5y2. The following shows how such
undertime had affected the work of 476 women in manufacturing
industries within the year preceding the date of interview.
Type of shortened day or week

Number of
women
reporting

Total—................ ................ ......

476

Daily hours shortened regularly___
“ One-half day or 1 day out a week ”
“1 or 2 days out a week”_________
“2 or 3 days out a week”_________
3 days or more out_______________
Indefinite________ ____ __________

53
75
94
69

22

163

Practically a third of those who complained of undertime were
unable to describe it except by “ slack ” or “ very slack,” because it
was so irregular—a day off here, or a few hours there, scattered
through the week. That this experience of less than full-time work
had continued through much of the preceding 12 months for some of
the women is shown in the following:
Duration of period of less than full-time work
Total.
“Few weeks”_______
1 and under 3 months..
2 and under 2 months..
3 and under 6 months..
6 and under 12 months.
9 and under 9 months..
“The summer”______

Number of
women
reporting
320
17
31
38
97
25
49
63

This information was given by the women in a very indefinite
way, as “ 2 or 3 weeks,” “ 4 or 5 weeks,” or “ 3 or 4 months.” Many
women knew merely that “ the summer ” had been a particularly bad




CONDITIONS IN PRESENT JOB

101

time, and this may have meant a period of any duration—a few weeks
or a few months; but jn spite of the vagueness of their reports there
is unmistakable evidence of long-continued undertime that had left
a deep impression on the women.
In addition to temporary irregularities complaint was made again
and again of shutdowns when the plant was entirely closed. The
following gives a slight idea of the time lost through shutdowns
reported by 205 women. ' Although some of the shutdowns lasted
only a week or so, a serious situation is revealed by the fact that
more than a third of the 205 women had been continuously out of
work for from one to three months and practically as many for a
longer time.
Duration of shutdowns
Total____________

1 and under 2 weeks______
2 weeks and under 1 month.
1 and under 2 months_____
2 and under 3 months_____
3 months and over_______

Number of
women
reporting
205
18
44
37
36
70

It is bad enough for the woman who has a job to be temporarily
out of work, but it is infinitely worse for the woman who when times
are bad is forced to hunt for a new job. About 400 women told how
they had searched for work during periods of unemployment, condi­
tions so recent that they were able to recount them in great detail.
Women with years of experience as well as those who had not been
long in America described the discouragement that followed days of
futile hunting for a job. Young and old had failed to find work,
and although for the most part these applicants were young women
full of vigor it is impossible to forget the woman of 67 who described
her hunt for work as “ just walking around.”
From the numerous references to irregularity of employment it
is evident that the difficulty of finding and keeping a steady job
caused the women more anxiety than did any other recent experience
in industry. Particularly was this true in Philadelphia. It was
hard enough to find work in the first place, but when after struggling
through the learning period it became apparent that slack seasons
with no guaranty of work were inevitable, disappointment was par­
ticularly keen.
The following phrases have been selected at random from the
schedules:
Work only two or three days a week now.
All time stop.
All places slow.
They stopped too much.
They were stopping many days.
It goes too bad.
•
I was always being home more than I worked.
Sit and wait for work ; so weary waiting for work.
No work; made 45 cents one week. I saw it doesn’t pay me to go in that
place.
Come home early many days.
Work has been bad two years. Never know. Sometimes work half day,
sometimes few hours, sometimes no work. Never know how much work when I
go in morning.




102

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Every year some stout down.

Close every year; Easter two weeks, Christmas two weeks.
Every Christmas closed. Too much stuff. That way every year now'.
Home three months—all the places have it bad.
Worked only four days a week for several months.
.
About two years everywhere slack.

One woman could not understand why the custom had changed in
the factory; formerly they worked regularly to make up stock in
advance of orders but now they “ sit and Wait for orders.”
Referring to the necessity of taking any kind of work during a
slack season, one girl said: “ You see, if I get work there, if I don’t
like it or not I’ll stay there.”
Another woman made this statement: “ That is a disgusting place,
the work runs so slack. I quit about 50 times and went back.” Her
present anxiety over slack work had overshadowed all earlier trou­
bles, and when the agent tried to get some information about her
first job and early wages this woman replied, “It ain’t to-day I’m
worrying about that, so it don’t hold in my head.”
Undoubtedly the clothing workers had had the greatest difficulty
in making adjustments to the seasonal character of their industry,
but undaunted by its irregularity they clung to the trade.
A widow with the responsibility of a family had been unable for
five years to earn enough in the busy seasons of her trade to tide her
over the slack summers, so with great difficulty she had found sup­
plementary unskilled jobs as chambermaid, dishwasher, or office
cleaner. The sign “ house for sale ” on the home that had been hers
for years told the story of how shutdowns and lay offs had affected
the household dependent upon her uncertain earnings.
One account of time lost ran thus: “ No work Lincoln’s Birthday;
no work Saturday; no work the next Saturday; and closed all the
next week. Worked only three days this week.” Another clothing
worker figured undertime in terms of lowered earnings. “ In October
I earned always $15 a week; in November I went down to $10 one
week; in December it is always bad—$3 or $4 a week; January and
February still bad—about $6 or $7 a week. Now [March] it is good
again.”
A millinery worker recalled a seasonal shutdown of about six
weeks in January and, beginning again in May, another long shut­
down of three months; and then after a busy fall she found herself
out of work in December for about two months.
Others had shifted from factory to factory, finding work for a
short time in one place and then hunting work in another. One
woman, when trying to account for the time she had worked during
her brief experience in industry, exclaimed almost hopelessly: “ So
many places, I can not count them.”
A hand finisher in the clothing industry reckoned on two busy
seasons of perhaps eight weeks each in the spring and autumn. Dur­
ing the week of the interview the earnings of this woman were only
$3.50, and while her full-time earnings amounted to $20 there were
some weeks when there was no work in the plant. Yet she holds on
to her job: “All the places have it slack when mine is slack. The
busy season will begin soon.” Probably the secret of her courage in
the face of such irregular employment is found in her last comment:
“ I’m satisfied; it’s better than in the old country.”




FINDING A JOB
Many of the schedules bore entries telling of the difficulties the
women had experienced in first finding work in a strange land. Se­
lected at random, a few of the phrases that the women used in describ­
ing their search for work indicate how haphazard it all was and how
they caught at anything that chance offered: “ I was all over asking.”
“ Too many people, all hunting work.” “ I went all over the places,
nothings, nothings.” “Walking and walking, I wore my feet out.”
“ Two months too long till you get a job.” “ Looking every day
couldn’t find.” “ I just didn’t get; they didn’t need girls. I walked
all over, five or six weeks, and ask if she need a woman; I look, I
look, come back and next day go again. They all say 4 too late,’
4 call again,’ 4 will let you know.’ ”
Making a choice.
A classification of the influences that sent the women job hunting
hither and yon, some to this job and others to that, is given in rather
general terms for Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley together in
the following table. It emphasizes to what a great extent a friend’s
help or mere chance determines where the foreign-born woman goes
to work.
Table 50.—Reason

for choice of first job, by industry
Number of women whose first job was in—
Domestic
and personal
service

Manufacturing
Reason for choice

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

Num­
ber of
wom­
en re­
port­
ing

2,000

Influence of relatives, countrymen, friends___ _ 1,035
Chance, first or only
job available or
easiest to get
346
Advertisement or
employment
32
agency---- ---------Her trade or work
she knew
220
Job desirable or
good working conditions
135
Near home. _
73
Physical disability
(including age)_
_
45
Miscellaneous (ineluding temporary)-------------------- 114

Other
Trade indus­
and
tries
cleri­ and
Mis­
cal
cella­
occu­
Ho­
Ci­ Cloth­ siery
pa­
Woolen Other neous House­ Other work tions
ing
gars
manu­ work
and Silk
and
tex­ factur­
other goods worsted tiles 1
ing 2
knit
goods
goods
Textiles

655

196

104

218

221

80

151

228

89

54

4

373

83

44

105

170

57

85

61

42

14

1

74

55

33

14

16

6

31

3 78

28

4
57

40

1
10

34

16

4

6

4 41

2

42
15

7

7
7

5 38

1
16

1
2

4
17

8 11

9

14

1

25

3

4

2

8

6

2

7 69

2
2

1
1

1* Includes 47 women in the manufacture ofof food
Includes 39 women in the manufacture jute.

and 22 in rug sorting.
3 Housework best for greenhorns (5 women).
4 Only work known or known about (34 women).

65661°—30-----8




4

1
12
1
14

1

■

15

1
3

1

5 Better
women), working conditions than in cigars (26
8 Better; includes room and board (9 women)
7 Quicker to learn than silk; earn sooner (44
women).

103

104

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

More than half the women gave reasons that fall in the first group,
showing how the women flocked to places where friends were already
working, where friends took them, or where they could understand the
language spoken in the plant. Thus more than 1,000 women followed
their brothers, sisters, other relatives, or friends wherever they led
the way. The expression of most common occurrence, often uttered
with a shrug of the shoulder, was: “ My cousin, she took me there.”
“ My friend talk German, the other women talk German in that
factory, I talk German, so I go too.” When there were no relatives
to advise the recent arrivals, fellow countrymen gladly took the places
of brothers or cousins and helped in finding the jobs. Well over
half of the women who first went to work in cigar factories or in
textile mills gave as the reason for their choice that friends or rela­
tives had made it possible for them to get work; there. Because
friends had suggested it as the most available job, 13 women had
started in as rag sorters.
Far less than the influence of friends and relatives was the ele­
ment of chance, 346 women having begun work where chance led
them. Sometimes it was the first job they could find, or sometimes
the only one obtainable, and sometimes it was the easiest one they
could get. Only 355 women had chosen the work because they were
experienced in it or because the job seemed desirable. The monotony
in the repetition of “ my friend work there,” “ all I could get,” “ I
learn quicker there,” was rarely broken by such answers as “ it was
my trade,” “ work I knew,” “ thought I’d like it,” “ pay was good,”
“ thought I could work up to a good position.”
The only industry groups shown in the table in which trade ex­
perience and good conditions were considerably greater factors than
chance in getting a job were the manufacture of cigars or of silk and
trade and clerical work.
Industries near their homes influenced many of the women to go
to the plant that was most convenient, and in this way 73 were able
to carry wage-earning jobs in addition to their family responsibilities.
Employment agencies were not mentioned by the women outside
Philadelphia, and even in that city the women seldom had recourse
to agencies, except in the case of domestic service. Occasionally the
Jewish girls reported that they watched the help-wanted columns
for work in the clothing trade.
For one reason or another housework was the first choice of 228
girls. They knew nothing about factories or else no job in a factory
was available.
Many women in the Lehigh Valley, where work was limited prac­
tically to two industries, were careful to explain why, if they first
worked in cigar factories, they had not gone to silk mills, and vice
versa. Forty-four women expressed a preference for cigar manu­
facture because it was possible not only to learn the work more
quickly but to get on a wage-earning basis very soon after beginning,
while in the silk mills it took weeks and weeks. Nine others pre­
ferred cigars, giving no specific reason, and 12 could find no opening
in the silk mills and of necessity went to the cigar factories.
On the other hand, 26 women in the Lehigh Valley expressed a
preference for the silk mills because working conditions were better
than in the cigar factories, and both the work and the establishments




FINDING A JOB

105

were cleaner; 12 preferred silk to cigars but did not specify the
reason, while only 1 went to a silk mill because there was no opening
in a cigar factory.
In giving their reasons for first doing housework a few made
comparisons with other occupations. Fourteen felt it best for
“ greenhorns ”; they had a home—room and board—besides wages.
A number preferred it to work in the mills but did not specify why.
Several years ago, when there was a shortage in help, runners from
factories had met the incoming boats and before the girls left the
dock had offered them work. One woman stated that she was offered
employment as a dishwasher in a restaurant before she had had time
to look for work. “As soon as he hear a greenhorn want work, he
come for me by my cousin’s.” In rare instances agents from a
factory had canvassed the neighborhood to persuade the women to
go to work.
Importance of chance.
The women who had no friends to intercede for them had anxious
times finding work. Chance was all that guided them.
Schedule after schedule contains entries of the women’s remarks
describing the haphazard way in which they had secured employment.
“ When I first here I so foolish, I go out, I make chalk marks so I
find my way home again; that how dumb I was. I was in the
street and I saw a factory. I was coming in to ask for a job and
they gave me.”
Another couldn’t tell where she went. “ Market street upstairs
where I see steps always I go.” She understood there was no work
when the men shook their heads and shouted “ No.”
“Any work, I didn’t care what I would do.” u I had to go some
place and a girl took me.” “ Every girl, she was going there and I
go, too.” “ My sister say I make him more money there.” “Any­
thing I get.” “Just a job.”
The foreman in a cigar factory gave one woman stripping. “I
didn’t know I should ask for rolling. Now I know stripping was
the worst job.”
“All the girls go to cigars. I didn’t know it was so bad.”
An illiterate woman of 45 said, “Any—any place—just look for
signs.” Though she could not read, a placard nailed to the factory
door indicated to her that help was wanted within.
It took one Kussian woman about two months to secure her first
work. She walked the streets and whenever she saw a person who
looked like a Kussian she would ask her where she worked and if
she thought she herself could get work there; finally in this way she
found work as a rag sorter. When out of work she still goes to the
same places that she learned about in her first search 15 years ago;
she feels at home among the Kussians who work in these plants. “ I
know no English; how do you expect me to go somewhere else to
find a job?”
A young German girl arrived in America carrying a piece of
paper on which was written the address in Allentown of the one
person in America whom she knew. When she reached Allentown
she was distressed to find that the friend had moved away, no one
knew where. After walking around for a few hours she asked a
policeman where she could get a job, for she * just had to work,”




106

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

and through his help she found a place “ maiding,” where she stayed
until she married.
An Italian girl of 19 was so unhappy in the cigar factory where
her cousin first took her that after a week she quit, thinking to find
something better for herself. For eight clays she wandered about,
fearing to go far. She followed other girls in the morning and went
in everywhere. Her mother lost patience with her and she regretted
having come to America. Finally she stumbled accidentally into a
factory where the Italian boss would take a “ green girl,” and for
six years she worked where “all the green girls went,” but they
learned no English and had no way of knowing what a “ slave
driver ” he was. She refers to it now as her “ training school.”
A forelady earning $25 a week relates that when she was a mere
child a big-hearted neighbor took her to work in the box factory
where she happened to be employed at the time. “ She took me for
charity and taught me, and for 28 years I have worked in nothing
but paper-box factories.”
Not only did those have trouble who knew no English, but an
English-speaking woman who had been a weaver eight years in
the old country did housework here for a year because she did not
know how to find her own work. Her next move was to a textile
mill, but upon a very minor operation. However, it proved to be
an entering wedge, so she finally “ got some looms.”
Another woman, who was a mender in a hosiery mill in England,
first found a job packing candy in this country, and it was three
months before she was able to find her “ own job ” here.
Influence of friends and language.
Ignorance of English undoubtedly was one of the chief draw­
backs in finding work, not only when the women arrived but later
in making changes; in fact, many who did not know English re­
mained in their first job, no matter how unsatisfactory, rather than
undergo the difficulty and embarrassment of seeking a new one.
A considerable number of these women, because of their ignorance
of the language, relied solely upon relatives or friends to find them
work, and fortunately the great majority of them came to persons
who had a sense of responsibility for the newcomers, and saw to it
that they were settled in a job as soon as possible, regardless of what
the job might be. Wherever they were taken to work by relatives,
friends, or fellow countrymen the girls were glad to go, for they had
come to America to work and to better themselves. They were like
children in their dependence upon others. One woman described
the situation most aptly when, in halting English, she said: “ I like
I just been born. I wasn’t so long in this country. I not know
where I go except someone he take me.”
The language spoken by the foreman and the race of the other
women employed often were the determining factors. “ People
talked Hungarian there and I was talking Hungarian.”
A great number of the women never considered working except
in places where their friends were employed, and they would not go
where there was not a common language. “ No Slovak people in
silk—all Slovak and Russian people go to cigar factories. You must
talk English in the silk mill.” Another went where she “ could ask
Jewish bosses for work.”




FINDING A JOB

107

“All my people from old country go to cigar factory, all they
know about, and Windish women take me.” “ My Polish friend
know the laundry and take me there day after I come.” “ I like
this place best of all. Nice Slavic boss there.” “ Me no English
so stay same place. All talk Italian; that is better; no change.”
Another Italian woman was so conscious of her ignorance of Eng­
lish that throughout the interview she kept repeating: “Me little
English, me little English ”; and she was continuing at a miserable
job because “ They know me and I know them. We talk Italian.
Me ’shamed to go anywhere.”
Because of their ignorance of English the women cling to the
work they have. Resigned to the monotony they say: “ No like to
change. You know your own people. What you used to you like
to do.” An old tobacco stripper had always worked in one place
where she knows what they say. Her country people gave her the job.
Some of the schedules read:
“ In United States 20 years, but when a change necessary friends
who could talk English to the boss always went with her.”
( “ Does not understand English, although came to the United
States at age of 13, and is now 40. She must always ask friends
where there is work, and then get someone to take her to the fac­
tory and talk for her.”
“ Has never searched for work independently.”
Often the children shared the anxieties of job hunting. A 15-yearold daughter went from place to place with her mother, reading
and interpreting the signs for her. “ We walked two or three weeks
like that last summer.” A niece interpreting for her aunt of 50
said: “ She could never find her way alone to the factory at first.”
A 16-year-old boy showed his mother the way to the shop and
“ talked for her ” and a little girl of 7 acted as guide and interpreter
for her mother.
For four years a young Slavic woman clung to her first job as a
shaker in a laundry because the boss “ he talk Polish.” The hard
work, coupled with the long hours, “ almost killed her.” Gradually
she learned that there were “ nicer ” places to work and at length
she found courage to quit. At 45 she is still conscious of her handi­
cap. “ Greenie not wanted in nice clean places.”
Another girl hunted “ everywhere ” for work when her mill closed
down, but upon further questioning it developed that “ everywhere ”
was limited to three mills where there were Italian bosses and that
she “ didn’t know where else to go.”
Only two women expressed themselves as satisfied not to know
English. One, a German, had been very successful in having desira­
ble work, and after her first job, to which her cousin took her, she
had always found work alone. She assured the agent that not much
is required just to ask for work, for the bosses know some German
and occasionally they are “ Dutch themselves.”
A charming young Magyar woman who had learned to speak
English fluently gives the following account of her experience in
seeking a job:
“ First in 1923 I asked in the office and the man just grunted ‘ no ’
at me. I knew I must work and I could see others at work through
the window, so I just said please give me a chance.” In 1925, when




108

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

again out of work, she answered an ad. for an experienced worker
in a hosiery factory. “ To get the job I knew I would have to say
something, so I said I was experienced, but when he took me to my
machines I had never seen anything like them. But I was in with
a job in sight and I couldn’t give up, and I just begged him to give
me time and I would learn, and it was easy to learn. I didn’t mean
to do wrong to get that job, but it is so hard to ask for work. It is
always asking a favor just like asking charity.”
One girl had a start different from that of most of the women.
She did not seek out a place where hers was the language of the
shop, but began work where English was spoken and there she has
remained for 13 years. She says, proud of her accomplishment,
“ So, of course, now I talk English, too.”
During one call the agent complimented a young woman from
Austria upon her unusual command of English. Whereupon the
woman explained: “ Oh, I learned in New York before I came to
Northampton. I sometimes think I was silly to learn. Now we
say no English word. All the people here talk- what they call Dutch
in the silk mills—even the foreman is German. I could never learn
English here.”
Definite choice.
On the whole, skill and experience counted for little when the
women started out to find work in the United States.
The mass of comments give an indication of the haphazard way in
which a job is selected and it is a relief to hear occasionally of a suc­
cessful definite choice. The most astonishing case was that of a girl
who learned from her employer in Europe the name of the firm
to which he shipped thread in the United States and who came
directly to this address to apply for work.
A German woman stated that it was three years before she found
the right kind of machines and “ really good stuff ” to work on.
An English woman, with 18 years’ experience in paper-box facto­
ries before coming to the United States, set out for a job of the same
kind in this country, but everywhere the work she had done by hand
was being done by machine, and, though with very little assistance
she could have learned to operate the machine, no one was willing
to teach her. She still hunts for “ her job ” and hopes ultimately
to get her “ own work.”
An Italian weaver was working as a stripper in a cigar factory
while she watched for a chance to get into her own trade.
A woman who had been an experienced knitter in the old country
tried work here and there in about 10 plants during her first two
years in America before she found what she was accustomed to, but
since then she has remained five years in one job.
For three years a woman who had been an experienced hosiery
knitter in the old country wandered about, trying to find work that
suited her. She expected to find exactly the same kind of machine,
the same kind of yarn, and all the other operating conditions to
which she had been accustomed. Fortunately she kept at it, and
after trying about 10 places she found what she wanted. The only
reason she did not try some other trade, she said, was because she
was afraid. It was hard enough in an industry that she knew
something about.




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109

An unusually alert German girl, a weaver in the old country,
sought work in a silk mill here. She was able to speak German to
the “ super,” but he replied very firmly, “ No work, no help needed.”
As she was passing out she stopped to look at a loom and commented
on the difference between it and those she had operated. Imme­
diately his manner changed and he gave her the job she wanted.
An experienced French weaver applied for work in the only mill
where she knew the foreman was French and then waited several
weeks before there was work for her, preferring to wait rather than
make a failure because of inability to understand the language of
other foremen.
In the Lehigh Valley many were intent upon silk weaving. One
girl said she knew what work was like in a cigar factory, as her
older sister worked there, so she herself went to the silk mill because
“ more American girls work in the silk mills.” And another deliber­
ately chose to work in silk because cigars, the only other work she
knew about, were “ too much strong.”
A Polish girl who had sewed in the old country and was bent
upon finding the same kind of work here, for six weeks kept hunting
with a dogged determination until, as she expressed it, she “had
a place to go.”
Domestic service as a first job was the definite choice of many girls
and doubtless the element of chance here was small. “I always
liked housework. I was taught that way and it was only thing I
knew.” “Housework is best for greenhorns; they learn how to do
everything and get used to the country.” “ You can learn more and
you have a good home.” One woman who had done only housework
or office cleaning because she “ no like factory ” recommended house­
work because “ you get room, clothes, everything, and can save.”
But others were not so enthusiastic about housework and had gone
into it first because, they said, they took what they could get and this
was “ easiest to find.” “ I didn’t know English enough to find other
work then.” “ I was a greenhorn and didn’t know I could do better.
I knew nothing about factories then.”
A woman who was a winder in the old country tried domestic
service here for a little less than a year, hesitating at first to go to
a factory. “ I was a greenhorn and I thought everyone would laugh
at me in the mill.”
Other agencies.
Those who depended upon advertisements and employment agen­
cies were not much better off than those who hunted blindly. The
clothing workers particularly watched ads in the Yiddish papers.
One girl said she would starve if she could not read the papers,
yet the places often were filled before she found them and frequently
she failed to locate the addresses. “ I used to think I’ll be the earliest
one, but when I came there I see 15 or 20 ahead of me.” “ Many
weeks I hunted, all the ads I answered, but always the jobs were
filled and the bosses say 1 Just leave me your name and address.’ ”
Difficulties of experienced workers.
Finding the first job is not the only time that getting work presents
difficulties. Shutdowns, slack work, low wages, and other adverse




110

THE IMMIGBANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

conditions sent experienced workers out again and again in search of
employment. Almost every woman interviewed had either clung
helplessly to her one and only place of employment or had experi­
enced much trouble in finding work if she had changed.
“ Went to many places alone always; they take my name but I not
talk for myself. Many times I change. "Always I wait for work
two weeks, three weeks, maybe three months. I ready to do any­
thing.”
“ I hunted long time everywhere, every day I walk around.”
Lack of English was always a drawback, whether hunting for the
first job or the third or fourth. Since 1922 or thereabouts the
women had been finding employment conditions particularly hard.
A clothing worker could not recall the number of places she had
gone to for work in December, 1923, the only time she had had
trouble of this kind since finding her first job in 1910.
,
Textile workers had had the same kind of experience, they said.
“ Last four months almost no work.” “All the places slack.” “ No­
body finds work now.” “ No help needed, some mills keeping only
their oldest workers.” A young girl who had worked only a year
regretted that she left a fairly good job in a mill because it was
slack, not realizing that the whole industry was affected at the time
and that she could not find a better job than the one she had left.
Another said: “Every time I change since 1922 I have trouble—
hosiery, silk, shirts, everywhere no girls needed.”
Another had had trouble in getting each of her six jobs; she
looked for signs on the buildings or asked other women. She
thought she often failed to get work because no help was needed, but
her young son’s aside was, “ She is not educated in English.”
A cigar worker complained: “It is slow getting a place. Work
lasts only a couple of days, then I be home for three or four days.
Then another place a few days, according to what the times run.”
In 1920 a clothing worker did housework for seven months until
she could find something better. A machine operator had her
“ worst experience ” in 1921, when she spent several months hunting
for work.
Another skilled worker went from factory to factory not knowing
what kind of work was done in them. For two months she was
“ going around.” Someone would say, “ There is a factory, try
there,” but everywhere they said, “No work; work so slack now.”
She went to 10 mills one day, asking for work. “ I must work. The
children need clothes.”
Many have learned from experience that when their work is slack
it is useless to look for work elsewhere, especially in their own trade.
After taking two months to find a job Mrs. A. was loath to give it
up, and although she had work only part of the time she held on:
“ I no make much but I’m steady. My place runs bad, others bad
too.” A clothing worker expressed the same idea: “ I don’t go out
to hunt much because between seasons others haven’t work either.”
An account of a similar experience follows: “ I couldn’t find. I
see I didn’t get. The bosses all say, ‘ Oh, I got a girl,’ so I didn’t
try any more, I wait for my job. They send for me always back
again.”




FINDING A JOB

111

Repeatedly the women said that they never tried to work except
at their own places, as in the case of Mrs. K., who had worked off
and on from 1909 to 1924 in the same cigar factory. “ The boss call
me back when he gets work,” she said; “ always I knew my place.”
It was she who made the comment “ Greenhorns need their wives to
help them,” as she explained why she always returned to the factory
as soon as her babies were a few months old.
Age a drawback.
In addition to ignorance of English the women found that age was
a handicap. This was the experience of the woman of 38 who re­
peated the words of the superintendent of one plant where she ap­
plied for work: “ He pointed to the sign and said, ‘ It reads girls
wanted, not old women.’ ”
At the age of 42 a woman returned to a cigar factory as a stripper
although in her youth she had been a roller. u Stripping is an old
lady’s job,” she said; “old women not get every place. Factory is
for young girls.”
Even a woman who had learned to speak English felt that her
age was against her. She was in her forties when she returned to
work after an absence of 16 years from the shop. “ I would try to
get other work but it is hard, for an old person to get work and I
didn’t know where else to go. They take younger women first.”
One of the most appealing cases was that of a rag sorter of 63 with
no other industrial experience; because she can not speak English
she goes where her friend first took her years ago. Her final com­
ment was, “ Both of us old now, no one wants old people in America.”
A woman of 53, who had been in the United States 28 years and had
woiked in restaurant kitchens, retained a vivid impression of her
vain search for work in the summer of 1924; the experience seemed
to have blotted out all her former efforts to find work: “Too old
Boss all time holler, ‘ I want young girls, young girls.’ When we are
young and strong it is all right in America, but we wear out pretty
soon, then what? In old country better for old people; they can
stay on farms.”
J




ADJUSTMENT IN THE JOB
Not only did finding a job present various difficulties but frequently
there were nonadjustments in the jobs found and these the women
accepted as inevitable. In telling why they remained in one plant
or why they left another the workers quite unconsciously gave the
picture of their industrial life in America. To what extent the
foreigner has had greater difficulty in fitting into industry than has
the native it is impossible to say, since many of the obstacles encoun­
tered by the foreigner are met also by the native-born American.
Nevertheless it is acknowledged that the immigrant bears the greater
burden because in addition to all other difficulties is the endeavor to
understand and be understood by a people whose language and cus­
toms are wholly strange.
Personal antagonisms or prejudices may have caused some of the
women to exaggerate or to make understatements, but the composite
picture that emerges from their stories may be regarded as a fairly
true characterization of an attitude of mind that deserves thoughtful
consideration.
_
In answering questions as to how they liked their work in America
and which of all the jobs they had had in America they liked best,
one after another of the women would say: “ I must like, I make a
living”; “My business to like it”; “Sure, I have to like, I need
money.” Kepeatedly the grim answer “I must like” indicated a
total lack of interest or enthusiasm for the job and a resignation to
the necessity of working.
This fatalistic view was noticed particularly among the older
women of Jewish or Slavic extraction. A Jewish widow working in
a hosiery mill had struggled for five years to support three children.
Speaking of the desirability of her job she replied quite naturally,
“ Well, I couldn’t help, if I’m not liking I have to do it.” 1
Another woman whose present occupation, stripping tobacco,
brought her only $7 to $8 a week, said: “ I must like. What I eat, if
I not work? ” She had been employed in a shirt factory and in a
jute mill, and every year she tried to get a few weeks’ work in the
country digging potatoes or husking corn. This Slovak widow of 43,
glancing about her small house, commented “ Not much to clean ”;
but she seemed grateful that she had managed to keep from starving.
Still another woman “ must like ” her job, for although she had
been working 14 years as a roller in a cigar factory the family had
not yet succeeded in paying for their home.
A few younger women had much the same attitude toward their
work as was expressed by these mature women after long years of
difficult experiences. The young German girl whose comment was,
“ Have to like it, it’s daily bread,” had been in the United States but
two years, during which time, besides supporting herself, she had
112




ADJUSTMENT IN THE JOB

113

paid back the borrowed passage money and had sent half her pay to
her widowed mother in the old country.
A young Jewish woman with a vivid memory of a massacre in the
old country had been working a year as a collar setter and in that
time had had no advance in the $12 wage of her first week in the
industry. In regard to her job she too feels, “ I must like. I must
make a living.”
A few women frankly admitted that they had found no work they
really enjoyed. One woman whose job was hand quilting, which she
described as so simple that anyone can do it, in speaking of her ex­
perience said: u I work because I like the money. I like the money
but not the job.”
A German woman who since 1905 had never been long without
work, chiefly in restaurants, summarized her experience thus: “A
long while in one place, a few months in another place. I go in a
place, I have to think it good, it don’t make any difference where; all
the same.”
In contrast to the group of stolid, uncomplaining women who saw
no possibilities in their work and looked for nothing except a pay
envelope at the end of the week, were many who expressed satisfac­
tion with their work and appreciation of the people for whom they
were working. One young Jewish girl accounted for the cause of
dissatisfaction of many of her friends when she said: “ When the
women have trouble it’s because the employer doesn’t realize that they
are as necessary to him as the job is to the women; it’s no path of
roses either way.” This girl liked her job, hand finishing in a cloth­
ing factory. My mind is free and while I work I can think of all
I ve read and all I’ve seen.”
The following comments, selected at random, show how apprecia­
tive the women were of considerate treatment:
One was satisfied in the cigar factory “ because the boss has good
respect for me.
An Italian remained on her job because she liked the Italian fore­
man. Lots of places they not talk Italian.”
One woman was very keen about her job “ because the boss calls
me back' ; that is, slack seasons did not trouble her, for she knew
that she would be notified as soon as there was work.
Another woman was happy in her laundry work “ because they are
so nice to their help, they are nice people.” Another made a similar
comment about the hosiery mill where she was working: “ They treat
the women nice, nobody say anything, no boss holler, no boss yell.”
In various industries—silk, hosiery, and jute—the women were con­
tented, some because they had found work vastly easier than what
they had been accustomed to, others because the hours of work, or
seats and a chance to use them, made a job seem desirable. Many
were enthusiastic about their jobs without giving any reason. In this
g™uP YaS ■ , Y/irri!in who had done pairing for 14 years in a hosiery
mill she said, “I always stick to my job, I like it so ’’-and the lace
worker whose comment was, “ This is a fine job, nicest one I ever
had. Another worker when contrasting her life on a farm in
Lurgenland with her present job in a cigar factory talked about the
nicer work here. A woman of 41 was more than content to feed




114

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

the breakers in a jute mill, for in spite of the fact that it was physi­
cally hard work she found it easy to learn—“ I didn’t have to know
anything to learn ”—and she considered it a good place for an “ old
greenhorn.” There seemed to be a sort of dumb satisfaction with the
job among the jute workers, even the woman who was getting 25 cents
an hour after 13 years as a breaker showed no discontent and was
proud to have worked always for the one firm. “ I never left here,”
she said.
A power-machine sewer was glad to work in a trade observing t^ie
8-hour day and Saturday half-holiday. An office cleaner liked her
job because she worked at night and could remain home during the
day when she was needed to care for the children and do her own
housework; to her the convenience of the work hours more than
compensated for other drawbacks. An experienced silk weaver com­
mented favorably on her job, for although she had worked in several
mills this was the first where stools had been provided for the weav­
ers ; and another weaver made a similar remark: “ There is a bench
for each loom and a chance to sit.”
After doing daywork for some time one woman had finally found
her place and for 12 years had been a presser in a clothing factory.
“ Now fine pressing is my trade. I’m the best there and I iron all
the samples.”
One woman was content because she still retained her job as a hand
stripper; she knew she wouldn’t like to work on one of the modern
stripping machines. Another, pleased with her job, assured the
agent, “ If we work hard, the boss he like.”
INDUSTRIAL REASONS FOR DISSATISFACTION

Dissatisfaction as expressed by the women did not refer to one
mill but to many, not to one laundry but to many, and the experiences
of these women had extended over several years; but they talked of
events of 20 years ago almost in the same breath in which they de­
scribed present-day conditions. And whether they talked of one
industry or another, or of the past or the present, the impress that
American industry had made upon them wTas unmistakable.
In the following tabulation of the reasons given by the women for
leaving their jobs a correlation with the industry has been made
whenever the reason seemed to bear directly upon the conditions of
work. In cases where the women had left more than one job the
cause for leaving each such job is included, but when various reasons
were given for leaving one job only the first reason mentioned has
been used in the tabulation,




ADJUSTMENT IN THE JOB
Table

115

51.—Condition in the industry reported as reason for leaving job, by

industry
Number of times condition specified was reported as reason for leaving job in—
Domestic
and personal
service

The manufacture ofReason for leaving
job

Total
Plant closed, shut­
down, moved, or
worker laid off,
discharged
Work slack
Low wages
Hours unsatisfactory
Bad working condi­
tions
Poor managerial pol­
icies......... ................
Personalities; lan­
guage
Physical strain____
Illness attributed to
job
Return to former job
or trade
For better or differ­
ent job................... .

All
in­
dus­
tries

Other
Sales indus­
and tries
cler­
or
ical occu­
Mis­ House­
Ci­ Cloth­
work pa­
Woolen
cellan­ work Other
ing Knit
gars
tions
Silk
and
eous 2
goods goods worsted Other1
goods

1,860

Textiles

441

267

119

236

133

58

194

204

85
55
65

33
32

57
32
53

37
38
15

5

12
18

46
26
47

399

64

221
462

22
128

53

24

85

47

103
142

22
8

80

52

11
1

118

28

18

167

46

12

.

18

1

115

85

8

28

16

1
26

24
3

4

69

22

1

14

1

2

2
15

16
44

3
29
3

1
1

3

4

1
2

36

1
10
9

5

4

3

3

11

4

16

2

16

14

9

4

9

6
10

3

14

3

13

21

15

21

1
1

2

18

7
9

15

10

6

3

1 Includes 28 women in jute manufacturing.
2 Includes 37 women in food manufacturing and 28 in rag sorting.

No work.
Trade conditions causing shutdowns, lay offs, and part-time em­
ployment, such as were described in the section on irregularity of
employment (pp. 100 to 102), accounted for a third of the cases of
shifting from job to job appearing in this table. No industry is with­
out examples of this. With the exception of housework, cigar manu­
facture has the smallest proportion of cases.
In over a hundred cases the workers had returned to some former
employment, this change frequently being tied up with trade con­
ditions in the industry. In addition to fairly definite reasons there
were others more general, and without being specific the women
seemed to think that if they “ didn’t like ” the work or wanted a
“ better job ” these were sufficient reasons for changing.
Low wages.
More than any other reason low wages had caused women to leave
their jobs. This seems to have been the case particularly in the cmar
industry and in housework. The cut in rates for cigar making had
caused discontent generally among the workers. And the women
who had formerly done housework referred again and again to the
low wages they had received in such employment: “ $2 a week never
pay for the ship card.”
Though she had been an experienced cigar maker in the old coun­
try, a change in style first presented difficulties to a girl who found



116

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

“ they made long, straight ones here.” It took her several weeks to
get up her speed making a long cigar instead of a short one. During
this period of learning her earnings were very meager, and when
it seemed to her that she had about acquired her usual speed the
factory cut down its working schedule to four days a week, so she
had never known a full week’s pay in her trade.
In the case of the clothing workers who found their earnings too
low to warrant staying longer on the job, wages were so interrelated
with slack work and undertime that it is difficult to separate the
two. This is true also, though to a less extent, in the various branches
of the textile industry and in the group classified as miscellaneous
manufacturing.
When an Italian rag sorter was promoted from sorting to baling
she asked for a raise of $1 a week. She was refused and quit, only
to find work in another rag shop. In the new place she had advanced
to the position of forelady, earning $13.75 a week, “ the highest wage
anyone earns.” So she is content.
References to the amounts earned in different jobs would mean
little unless correlated with the year, but whether the job was held
20 years ago or 2 years ago the women regarded their pay as too
small—that is, below the average or inadequate to provide a decent
living.
Pay while learning.
Many women recalled the first few weeks in industry, when they
had struggled to live on their slight earnings or no earnings at all.
A Polish girl related how she went with a fellow countrywoman and
neighbor to her first factory, where this neighbor taught her powermachine sewing. After about six weeks an employee at the next
machine, a German wTho spoke Polish, asked the girl about her earn­
ings. To her amazement the new girl learned that all other begin­
ners on the same work were receiving $5 or $6 a week, while she was
getting only $3, and it developed that her friendly neighbor was
getting half the pay due her as commission for supplying a worker.
The need of immediate earnings had made it impossible for most
of the newcomers to spend weeks learning any of the more skilled
kinds of work, during which time they would earn no wages—“ learn
for nothing,” as one of them explained.
Not all were so fortunate as the girl who said: “For six weeks T
had no pay, learning to weave; guess I would have starved if I
hadn’t lived with my sister for nothing.”
In 1914 an illiterate girl started work as a cigar roller. She
“ went for work where the others go,” but earning not more than
$3 during the first two weeks and fearing it would take too long to
increase her pay, she left the factory. Now as she looks back she
realizes her mistake in not remaining through the apprenticeship
period, and her comment is “ I foolish then—I stripper now.”
In 1905 another girl worked on through two months without any
pay while she learned power-machine sewing. Comparing industry
as the immigrants found it in the early 1900’s with that of the present
day, one woman said: “ Many greenhorns came then and the wages
were small, but I’m glad I came so early, for although the pay was
low it was easier to get a machine then and easier to learn.”




ADJUSTMENT IN THE JOB

117

First wages were likely to be wholly inadequate, as in the case of
the girl who, out of her $3 a week, paid her uncle $1.50 for board
and $1 toward the cost of her passage, which he had advanced. It
was not unusual for the women to feel that because they were “ green­
horns ” they not only worked for very low wages but received less
consideration than the others, and one who had begun her industrial
career in the basement kitchen of a dingy restaurant made the com­
ment: “ I had the hardest, heaviest w’ork to do all the time.”
Applicants for jobs sometimes hesitated to inquire the rates of pay,
and if they did ask they were likely to receive an evasive answer.
Two women who had not worked long enough to have had a pay
day in the jobs they were holding when interviewed explained that
they could not tell what their wages would be because “ Many times
you don’t ask, for you know the bosses sometimes get sore about it ”
and “ So glad I get a job, I couldn’t ask about the pay yet.”
One girl, when asked about her wage in a job begun two days
before, replied: “ I’m not privileged to ask, for it isn’t my trade. It
is what they give you.”
Changes in method of pay.
Changes in method of pay and efficiency systems were a source of
uneasiness to some. Before such a change one textile hand inter­
viewed could reckon her pay, but now it is too complicated for her
to understand.
A tobacco stripper found that her earnings were less when the
bundle of tobacco leaves—the basis of the wage rate—was enlarged.
When a topper in a hosiery mill was transferred from a job on ladies’
hose to half hose the machine adjustments were so different that her
pay envelope became alarmingly thin and she finally quit. Then she
added exultantly, “ But now the girls on that job are all right, for the
union has set the rates so you can earn as much on one kind of hose
as the other.”
A weaver who “ quit her job ” when the boss refused the raise she
asked for learned that the increase was offered immediately to those
who remained. “ I do that for them,” she said proudly.
Jedging by the comments of the women, a cutting of wage rates
had been quite general after the peak of 1919-20, a strange experience
for those who had worked as long as 10, 15, or even 20 years with­
out. a reduction. Naturally they protested, but in vain—“ the boss
said ‘ I cut everybody. I cut you.’ ”
The case of a power-machine operator in an upholstery shop was
happier than most. For years she had speeded away, earning some­
times $12 per week, and sometimes $15, never more. She heard of
the higher wages in other shops and mustered courage to ask for
a raise. This was flatly refused. She accepted the boss’s decision as
final and it never occurred to her to look for employment elsewhere;
but good workers were in demand and a foreman from another shop
called at her home, offering her the same kind of work at double the
rate. Even so she was loath to leave her old boss, but the inducement
was too much to refuse; and throughout the depression that followed,
when others were out of work or having their wages cut she had
steady work in her new job with increasingly higher pay.




118

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

A clothing worker, unable to earn sufficient during the day after
rates were cut, brought home immense bundles of overcoats to trim
and clean during the evening, the rate for this kind of work being 2
cents a coat. The week before she was interviewed she had worked
four nights until 11 or 12 o’clock and received for the week’s employ­
ment, including her work in the shop and her overtime at home,
$9.75. She was working when the agent called and the kitchen table
and chairs were piled high with overcoats. The call caused no inter­
ruption in the work.
Difficulty in collecting wages.
It seems incredible that employers should exploit labor by with­
holding wages or by the nonpayment of wages that had been fairly
earned. Yet an Italian girl, one of the most recent immigrants
visited, related the following experience: The Italian boss of the
shop where she sewed on coats kept promising to pay her, and at
the end of three weeks owed her $31.80. Meantime she had nothing,
and expecting to get what was due her she kept promising to pay her
landlady the rent. “All the girls waiting; no money for car fare,
no lunches but bread brought from home.” The boss said: “ I pay
next week”; then, “I pay after Sunday.” But after Sunday the
girls found the door locked. The office assistant promised to get
their pay and to meet them with it “ on Market Street,” but they
were never able to find him. The machines were removed from the
shop. A few of the girls, after spending “ lots of days ” trying to
find the boss, went to the city hall, but they discovered that the cost
of collecting would amount to more than their wages. It was all
very discouraging. “ Then what I do ? I get married. He want
me; he help me pay my ship card. I help him buy nice things”;
and she pointed to the kitchen table and chairs. Their two rooms
shone with newness, purchased on the installment plan, for she had
married a laborer whose earnings were barely $20 a week.
Several firms had the reputation of “ holding back ” the money
due the girls for the first few weeks of work, and it was next to im­
possible to collect this back pay. A girl who had worked for five
weeks while learning her job signed a paper which, she understood,
was a promise on her part to work a year with her employers, at the
end of which time they in turn were to pay her $8 for each of the
five weeks of the learning period. She had worked more than the
year stipulated but the sum had not been paid. “ Many times I ask.”
A bright Hungarian girl, whose parents were old and whose young
brother “ must be a success,” in speaking of conditions confronting
a woman with responsibilities at home said that the girls are afraid
and take anything. “ You feel like a slap in the face when you ask
for a raise and the boss refuses. ‘You make well enough, be quiet.
If you do not like it you can get out. I taught you. Look how
much I give you already. You know nothing before I learned you.’ ”
She went on to say that the present boss makes mistakes in the
pay roll and the girls are afraid to tell him. Besides, some girls
do not know how to figure. “He forgot to pay me overtime. I
Avorked on two nights before Easter to 8 o’clock. He pulled off $6.80
on me. I kept telling him two Aveeks and he tells me to go where;
but he likes me for my work and gave it in my pay last time. Last




ADJUSTMENT IN THE JOB

119

year I was shy, too, and I never fuss for anything under $1, but
now I get tired telling him about all 25 cents. I copy in my book
all the amounts on the work slips before I take them back to the
forelady, so I know what I do just like a bookkeeper. It takes a
little bit of sense to keep it. That’s the way they do in a union shop.
Bosses don’t make such mistakes in union shops. Not all bosses are
like this one.”
One can almost hear the petty wrangling and bickering over these
small amounts. Annie expected that $5 would be paid her at the
end of her 6-week learning period, but through some oversight her
name was not on the books. She stayed on, hoping to get the $5, as
her pocketbook was empty. “ I talked lots and the other girls all
talked lots, too, before he paid it.”
Personalities; language difficulties.
In over a hundred cases women had left work because of friction
with employers or other employees; they were sensitive to anything
that suggested other than impartial treatment toward themselves
and the workers who were American-born. Sometimes the clashing
of personalities would make a job so unendurable in one place that
the girls would quit, expecting to find conditions more harmonious
in another plant. Their accounts were brief:
Had an argument with the boss.
We had a personal tight.
Many arguments.
He boss so much.
The boss always picked on me.
The people got me sore; sometimes they think I didn’t do enough and the
work wasn’t right.
They wouldn’t let me earn enough.
If you hurry all day, it’s all right; but if you go little bit slow, then he say
“Get to hell.”
That man was cruel. If the girls made a mistake, he yelled at them • he
all the time scream at us.
The boss so rough; he say, “Go home, stay home,” always yelling I get
so excited I don't do anything right.
The boss was too common; lie was not an intelligent man.
The bosses get so fresh. They are not Christian American people any more
The super scares the girls—always he yell at them.

Not infrequently the women left places when they had not the
medium of a common language. A Pole said, “ The other girls were
all Italian and were always talking against me.” A Slovak’s com­
ment was, I didn’t like it there. The German ladies stayed to­
gether and there was only one other Slavic girl, and I didn’t like
that.” One German remarked, “ Too many Russians there and no
Burgenlanders.” Another said, “The foreman wanted the Italians
to have the best warps.”
A learner, in speaking of her first job, said of the American boss:
“ He just yelled and motioned how to do the work.” There was no
fellow countryman to help this girl, and after a week’s struggle with
the simple job she gave up. “ The boss, he all the time yell at me ”
A ‘ greenhorn ” just 18 years old spent but half a day in her first
mill. ‘Only two other girls in the big room who could talk. It
was so dark and lonesome.” But in her next place this girl remained
eight years as a spinner.
65661°—30---- 9




120

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

In her first job another woman was learning to double silk, but
“ the people were no good, always fighting, and I couldn’t talk to
explain,” and when the forelady slapped her to make her understand
she quit. She stated that she was much happier in a cigar factory,
where “ all talk the same.”
Although she could not say how she got the impression, one woman
asserted quite positively that after a strike those who knew English
got their jobs back because the blame was put on those who did not
know English. Like her, many were so conscious of their ignorance
of English that they became supersensitive and thought they were
being imposed upon because they were “ greenies.” Repeated refererences were made to foremen who had taken advantage of their
ignorance and given them the worst jobs; for example, tobacco strip­
pers felt that they had been imposed upon “ when the boss put them
there to strip.”
Textile workers also had their grievances. One woman had been
satisfied to take a job as a quiller upon the promise of getting weaving
soon. When she saw that several new American girls were given
weaving in preference to herself she began asking for looms also,
but she was put off with a promise, “Next time you get a loom.”
But she never did, and she left without understanding why she was
not given a job as a weaver. In the same way a bobbin girl of 16 was
promised a job of winding, but it was “ all promises.” She saw four
new girls hired for winding at 16 cents an hour—■“ more American ”
girls than she—and meanwhile extra frames were given her until
she felt like a “chore boy” with so much running. In despair she
finally quit, blaming the foreman for her bad luck.
Women who were shakers in laundries, gill-box tenders in woolen
mills, and breakers in jute mills frequently remarked that Americans
would not do the kinds of work they were doing.
Hand seasoning in tanneries is not an easy job. It consists of
rubbing—with a long, constant sweeping motion of the arm—a stain
into the leather stretched on a table before the worker. Machine
seasoning is much less exhausting, for this means feeding the hides
into a manglelike machine that does the staining. The Polish women
felt bitter because those who knew English were given the preference
in these machine jobs. It seemed never to have occurred to them
that they might learn English so as to understand instructions about
the work and the machine.
Extreme dissatisfaction with conditions is expressed by the women
in ineffectual walkouts—strikes, as they call them. This is appar­
ently the only way the workers have of releasing their pent-up feel­
ings. The strike of the Lehigh Valley cigar workers in 1924 was
most vivid in the memory of several of the women interviewed. At
least 50 referred to it in an attempt to explain their feelings toward
conditions prevailing in their plants, even though this strike, as a
protest against the cut in rate, the long hours, and the poor quality
of tobacco, had gained nothing for them in the end. There were
other women who had not taken the strike seriously, seeming to know
little of its cause, its settlements, or its details. One poor soul asked
helplessly, “ Why in America women have to fight the bosses ? Why
the bosses always scold and always holler ?■ ”
One intelligent woman thought that the failure of the strike was
due largely to the lack of leadership and unity among the women




ADJUSTMENT IN THE JOB

121

themselves. For, though there was a general exodus from the plant
at nrst, the women were not organized and could not come to an
agreement among themselves. Some wanted the 8-hour day, while
n,hTnVafraii theLCould not earn en°ugh in 8 hours, insisted on
the lU-nour day. Many languages complicated the situation. “ The
Hungarians said to the Winds they did not know what they wanted.
1 hey said to me. You are German; you go with the Jews.’ I said,
*rs’ ^ stand in this corner and holler for my side; you stand in
hat corner and holler for your side; and some one else stand in
another corner and holler for her side ’; and we didn’t get anything ”
Several women were quite disgusted because the workers did not
stay out longer. Their comment was that “ foreign women were too
easily frightened by the boss.” One woman said that she was learn­
ing English so as to fight for herself next time. “ The girls are
so dumb.”
b
Managerial policies.
The satisfactory adjustment of the worker to the job depended
to a great extent upon the condition of the equipment in the plant.
In this the machine and the condition of the stock that the worker
must handle play equally important parts. A mismatched team
trying to adjust themselves to each other’s speed and shortcomings
was a frequent cause for complaint, and the difficulties of learning
and becoming established discouraged many.
Machines.—The remarks of the women about the machines they
had to operate reflect the timidity and alarm of those to whom
machinery was entirely new and strange.
“ Machine goes so quick. I can’t keep up so fast.” A doffer “ didn’t
like the machine—so big, so hard to take care of, and too much
noise. Of combs in the card room a girl said, “ It looked so ugly,
^ KJ1V-.e^’ aiM another “wanted to run away” as soon as she
started the machine.
You have to use your arms and feet so much.
Your whole body has to move when you sew,” said a stitcher One
girl who gave up a machine operation after two days because she
could not get used to the noise never tried factory work again but
she regretted this—‘No one tell me machine all right by and by
when I get used to it.”
6
J
“
After six months a Russian Jewess left her job in a clothinofactory because “ the machines were so close, so noisy, there was
no breath. Another said of power-machine sewing, “For the eyes
bad, for the mmd stale; no time to think, all the time run, run.”
u a Ie riiac,l"'<js seemed to get out of order for unaccountable reasons
hornet lung the matter with the machine”; the girls must “lose
time waiting for the machine fixer”; and “the foreman tired of
hxmg my machine were common complaints. A rather retiring girl
told how the other workers crowded her out of her turn in getting
woik inspected or her machine fixed. Her machine was delicate and
broke down often and the forelady would fix the machines of older
workers first, leaving the new hands to wait. One day, after wait­
ing what seemed to her like hours, she quit, hoping to find a better
machine somewhere in another shop.
A weaver, young in years but old in experience, had learned “ never
tnnW? a g7d 7 first
y°u, g°„to a mill, for nobody before
you left a good job for something else.” In one place she had found




122

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

the “ warp so bad, so many ends out, and I spent so much time pull­
ing them in with the reed knife I couldn’t make out. The boss Kept
promising and promising something better but always the same bad
warp. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. In another place I
had old looms; one was always broken and I had to wait so long for
the loom fixer; sometimes 20 minutes and once over an hour. . I
couldn’t afford to wait so much so I quit.”
Others made similar remarks. “ Much trouble—bad silk all the
time; second-hand looms and everything loose on them.”
Dissatisfaction with the small number of looms also was ex­
pressed. One employee who saw one of her three looms taken from
her and given to a new girl quit her job.
Though an experienced weaver was given three looms, one was
“ no good ” and she could not make as much as on two good looms,
so she left. Sometimes the weavers gave up their jobs because they
had only one loom; “ could not make on one loom ” was their
comment.
Some of the older women had seen changes in machinery and the
introduction of more modern methods of production that threatened
their positions in the factory. A few silk pickers felt that their
occupation was not so good as it had been, because a machine was
turning out much of the work formerly done by hand. With ma­
chine picking the method of pay also had been changed from a
piecework to a timework basis, and the earnings of the women had
fallen off.
In the cigar industry the stripping machine had displaced some
of the women. “ It makes the pay smaller,” was their chief com­
plaint. When stripping machines were introduced, a foreman prom­
ised to teach one of the old hand strippers how to operate them.
Meanwhile she was laid off and waited two weeks, going back to
inquire from time to time, and at every inquiry the foreman renewed
his promise to teach her. Not until she saw that all the machines
had operators did she realize that she had to find another job. “ Bad
for hand strippers now.”
The recent introduction of the automatic cigar-making machine
in one of the factories in the Lehigh Valley was making the women
apprehensive about their jobs as they saw themselves gradually being
displaced and no other kinds of employment open to them. As a
rule, the older, experienced women were not given an opportunity
to learn to operate the machines. “ They wanted young girls and
couldn’t use me,” was a remark heard again and again.
Poor stock.—The poor quality of the raw material on which the
women worked was the cause of much discontent, as poor stock is
harder to handle and slows down production. Some of the bitter­
est complaints made by the cigar workers referred to the quality of
the tobacco: “ They give us bad stock, but they want good work.”
“Rotten stock, bum pay.” “Every place you go they give you
rotten stock and don’t let you make enough.” One woman’s pro­
duction had been cut about half when she began working with a
poorer grade of tobacco, even though the rate of pay remained
unchanged.
When poor tobacco is used it is difficult to cut the required number
of wrappers from a leaf, and in cutting it is likely to be wasted.




ADJUSTMENT IN THE JOB

123

They are then “short with wrappers” and the “foreman fight
about it so all the people look at you.” After 3^ years with a firm
one cigar wrapper left because “ The stuff was so bad, I used too
much. They were scolding me all the time.” One girl had pre­
ferred, instead of “ fight too much,” to quit and find a place where
“ they don’t give you hell yet.” “ He have not good respect for the
tobacco; he call my work short; he always make a row” were the
comments of another worker.
Workers in the textile mills had trouble with the quality of the
fibers and threads: “Poor material.” “Rotten warp.” “Work
running bad and poor pay.” “ Silk was bad.” One woman re­
marked : “ The work runs so bad, I quit. Then the boss would send
tor me and say, ‘ I’ll fix the work all right for you,’' but he no fix.”
“ You don’t get your warp in and you have to wait and wait.”
Another said: “ You might find the work left all in a tangle. You
would know to look at it such a place can’t pay.”
Teamtworlc.—In the Lehigh Valley cigars were made chiefly by
hand, three girls working together in a team, the buncher keeping
the two rollers supplied with stock. Again and again the cigar
workers referred to the drawback of ill-balanced teams. Rollers
complained of irregular or poor bunch makers or of having none at
all. “ She make bad bunches, so my work bad, too, and I quit.”
Waited three days for a bunch maker, then I quit.” “ Bunch maker
gone every week a day.” “ When you don’t have bunch maker you
have to go to another factory. They kept telling me, ‘ Next week
you 11 have a bunch maker,’ but she not come.” “ No got bunch
maker, got to get other job.”
Slow rollers annoyed a swift buncher, who frequently must quit
by the middle of the afternoon, since she had made enough bunches
to keep the rollers busy the rest of the day. “I like to work to
5 o’clock, too. I no got strong cigar roller.”
A cigar buncher who had been unavoidably absent from the fac­
tory found when she returned that there was no roller for her.
Although she had worked for the firm several years, no effort was
made to fit her into another team, and the foreman insisted that as
she was old now ” (she was 38) she could not expect to have another
roller and so had better do stripping. After having been a stripper
it was impossible for her to get a job as a buncher, and when it was
too late she realized her mistake in submitting to the change in jobs.
On the other hand, bunch makers whose pay was regulated by the
piece-work earnings of the two rollers were dissatisfied and quit their
jobs because the rollers were slow or irregular in their work. “ Some­
times no roller—she stay home.”
Th® impossibility of a German cigar buncher conversing with
the Hungarian rollers on the team made a critical situation in one
plant. Each m her own tongue shifted the blame for the poor work
being done. The trouble ended in a quarrel, and the buncher left
the factory. When women said that they had quit a job because “ the
people there no good ” it usually developed that race prejudice and
misunderstandings, exaggerated by inability of the workers to
converse with one another, were the real causes.
Workers in other industries seldom made reference to poorly bal­
anced teamwork. The case of a topper in a hosiery mill is an excep­




124

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

tion. After three days as a topper, she gave up a job that promised
well, because she was so driven in her elfort to keep up
with the knitters. “ Didn’t have time to go to the dressing room or
even to get a drink.” But in contrast to these occasional misfits were
many more who were well matched and worked together harmoni­
ously. A buncher, aged 42, had a slow roller, but her comment
was that she herself was getting slow; “ not so young now.”
Unsatisfactory arrangements for teaching.—In only one mill had
the firm supplied an instructor for the apprentice weavers. Instruc­
tion usually was a personal arrangement between the girl who wanted
to learn and a friend or relative who was an experienced weaver in
the mill. These friends taught the beginners on their own looms
and it was customary for the learners to pay them $5 or $10, some­
times $15. Occasionally a gift instead of money was presented
to the teacher. The learning period varied from one to four weeks
and during the period of apprenticeship there was no pay. One
woman told how she had been given a loom at the end of three
weeks, her first week’s earnings being $2.50.
A girl who expressed a desire to learn weaving, when asked what
hindered her replied: “ Who going to learn you ? Factory not give
you the chance. Have to find yourself someone willing to show you.
It takes money.”
Moreover, there is no agreement on the part of the management
to furnish looms after the job is learned. The arrangement is most
informal; it is not always certain that the girls can get their own
looms when the learning period is passed, and even after they start
on one loom often there is difficulty in getting enough looms to make
the job pay. “ Silk-mill people are very hard on their workers in
regard to their looms,” is the impression of one young girl whose time
spent in learning was lost, since she never got looms of her own,
and she finally had to go to a cigar factory because there was “ noth­
ing else to do.”
_ _
Several years ago a similar situation had been prevalent in cigar
factories. It was customary for rollers and bunchers to work with­
out pay while they learned their trade, though strippers began earn­
ing at once, and many were forced to select stripping instead of roll­
ing or bunching. One woman of 35 had begun work as a stripper
in 190T. She had kept at it whenever her domestic duties permitted,
and with only a stripper’s pay she had been the chief wage earner
in the family for three years. Ip a tone of regret she said that she
would have liked to learn rolling, but she “ couldn’t live for nothing
while learning,” and now they want younger apprentices. '
A girl who had borrowed $80 to come to America felt so bur­
dened' with debts that she started at once as a stripper. Another,
who had not expected to work many years, had begun as a stripper,
never guessing that at the end of 11 years she still would be stripping,
else she would have learned “ something that paid better.”
A stripper felt that she had lost the opportunity of her life because
she was ill just when she had a chance to learn bunch making.
The following two instances, one of a woman with years of ex­
perience and the other of a girl spending her first day in industry,
indicate how the worker’s failure to get the employer’s point of view
gave her no choice but to look for work elsewhere;




ADJUSTMENT IN THE JOB

125

On the reorganization of a plant a forelady, who had been with
the firm for 19 years, was given a piecework job that she had not
done tor a long time and for which she no longer had speed and
skill. Naturally she had to leave.
. It took considerable courage for a new girl to give up her first
.job when she heard the employer discharging another girl because
the _ greenhorn [referring to herself] would work cheaper.”
Piecework. In many of the industrial jobs piecework was driving
the workers to their utmost speed, as they wanted to earn the extra
pennies. The rate of pay for polishing the heads of brass screws
was 60 cents a thousand. “ If I do 5,000 a day, that is $8. It is not
so hard, but every minute you’ve got to be quick.”
Another said: “ It is how much you work. Some day no feel so
good, don’t make much. Some weeks $18, other weeks, you know
you get bad stock.”
J
’
The young pace setter in one factory was rather proud of the
distinction. 14 I’m supposed to be the fastest worker. When a new
girl comes for work Mr. G. takes my card to show her how much
I make.”
However, some of the women were keen about piecework and
seemed dissatisfied when another basis of pay was used. A girl dis­
couraged with her timework earnings of $12 a week said, “ My place
not so good. They promise you piecework, but it is only promises.”
Others had left because “ there was no chance for piecework.”
Disgust with the piecework rates was expressed occasionally.
Many tobacco strippers felt that they “ hurry all the time and work
too hard for anything.” The maximum pay of a Slovak woman
was $20. She sighed as she remarked: “Twenty is too much. I
work too hard all time to get it.” Another said: “ I work like an
automat.”
A clothing operator who had packed crackers during a slack sea­
son m her trade found that she could not keep up with the speed of
the conveyor. To earn the standard rate she was expected to fill
piles and piles of boxes ” a day. “ I quit. He can find another fool
if she is willing.”
Unlike most of the women a silk weaver with experience in several
mills seemed delighted to be in a mill “ nicer ” than all the others be­
cause there was no piecework, and she never wants to return to the
old system of pay.
,
Another weaver, who had been promoted to the position of weav­
ing instructor, appreciated the change. “ They give you a chance,
they dont hurry and bully you. You’re not on a rush, and don’t
get too tired.”
Speeding was wearing out some women. “All the time I’m tired.
It’s piecework, and operating on men’s vests is cheap work. I hurry
all the time to make anything.”
A “ speed fiend ” who had made as high as $39 on piecework in a
cigar factory changed to housework after a very few years because
Sii ,tl.iougbt it would be healthier.” Upon further inquiry she
added, “ Well, I guess I speeded myself to death.”
Although not on a machine job, seamstresses in dressmaking shops
had felt the nervous strain of speeding, and this combined with




126

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

long hours and low pay made conditions all but unbearable. The
comments of a woman who had worked also in the needle trades in
the old country are illuminating: “ The madame says the work must
be done if we get our pay from the lady who wants the dress. Then
we don’t have any supper time but sew, sew, sew till sometimes 8
o’clock, 9 o’clock. That rushing. Once I said that I didn’t want
to stay and was leaving; she gave me $2, and I worked that night
until the dress was done.” For a “long time” in 1924 she had
wTorked like this for $10 a wTeek. “ I haven’t got the education, but
I’m not dumb,” she added, “ and I know I do lots of things nicer
than the others, but I didn’t get the pay.”
Contrasting her work in a clothing factory with her previous
experience in a dressmaking shop, working under high-speed pres­
sure and trying to please “ fussy customers,” another girl said:
“ Here, one boss to please. Every day the same hours; I do one
thing, I get it done.”
Physical strain.
A surprising number of women had left jobs because of the physical
strain of the work and illnesses attributed to it.
Housework.—More women left housework than quit any other job
because it was: “ Too hard.” “ Too heavy.” “ I not strong enough.”
“ So much to do—not go to church.” “ Work all the time—work so
early, so late.” “ Clean 10 rooms, wash dishes, wash clothes.” “ Too
hard, I too skinny, I get sick.”
On the whole, “maiding,” as many of the women called it, was
not popular as a job. Comments selected at random from the sched­
ules give a picture of lonely girls handicapped by new ways of
housekeeping, new customs, and a new language. “ Not hear a Polish
word spoken, couldn’t stand it.” “ Everything new, learn everything
new.” “ I so lonesome I cried all the time.” “ I wanted to see some
people.”
Eye stram.—Eye strain was complained of particularly by women
employed in textiles—hosiery and silk. “ So hard for eyes.
Couldn’t see enough to earn.” After two days as a topper a girl
quit because “ It was too bad for the eyes. I have good eyes. Why
should I spoil them ? ” A few gave up silk weaving because they
“couldn’t see the fine threads. I crazy. Eyes no good.” One
weaver who needed glasses said, “ Gotta eye every night, gotta feet
every night.”
Exhaustion.—Not all the women who talked about their tired,
aching feet had left their jobs, but an Italian woman of 58 who had
been working seven years as a doffer—her only job in the United
States—had given it up because “ stand all day and when I come
home I can’t even walk.” Her daughter said she did not know what
other work her mother could find.
While the weavers found it “ hard to stand 10 hours, not healthy,”
the cigar makers complained of the strain on their backs. “ Too
hard, sit all the time. Every day, my back.” “ Lots of times head­
ache and backache. You’re sitting all the time and you have to bend
down.” A cigar roller aged 34, who had been at the job since she
was 15 years old, was “ afraid ” she wouldn’t be able to work much
longer, her shoulders were “so bad from bending over the work so
many years,”



ADJUSTMENT IN THE JOB

127

Textile workers particularly referred to the physical exertion of
repeated bending, lifting, and standing. “ Starting and stopping
the loom takes all your strength.” “ Had to lean so much to fasten
up ends.” A weaver who was pregnant had to give up her job
because of the lifting of the weights on the loom, and when inter­
viewed she was worrying lest she should not get back her looms
when she returned to work.
A winder complained of the effort to reach the reels above her
head. A ribbon weaver found the high reach and stretching on
ribbon looms too difficult, and at the end of three months gave it up.
Another woman was transferred to box looms, and had to resign
before she became accustomed to the work. Her comment, like that
of the ribbon weaver, was “ It’s a man’s job, it’s so heavy.”
Boarding in the hosiery plants also was physically exhausting,
and at least one woman called it “ a man’s job.” The daughter of a
woman who had tried steel chipping explained that her mother
“ used to wear straps around her wrists all the time, it was so hard.
It was a man’s work.” Women who were lifting and moving cans
of paint said, “ It really isn’t a fit job for a girl.” When one young
mother was interviewed she said that after she had lifted a lot of
heavy boxes of locks she “ had to go to the midwife.”
In a few other jobs reported by the women there appeared to be
a definite connection between the job and physical ills. After operat­
ing a kick press for two months one woman refused to work longer,
though she had been offered $2 a week more if she would remain;
her back and legs were too lame to consider the offer. Another
woman thought that constant kicking of a foot press had caused a
miscarriage. On her return she had asked for lighter work but
there was none. “ Too hard standing on one foot and pressing the
pedal all day.”
One slender girl was employed in an upholstery department
stretching tapestries over furniture frames with the left hand while
she nailed with the right. This was the same kind of work as the
men were doing and for months her arms ached severely. When she
suggested to the foreman that her work was causing the trouble he
laughed at her and said: “Anyone is liable to have rheumatism.”
Finally her arm stiffened, swelled, and grew numb, and she had to
stay in the hospital for weeks.
Women who had worked in tanneries referred more often to the
strain of their jobs than to other conditions. Trimming skins re­
quires little skill, but one woman who had trimmed skins day after
day for five years said: “ It’s hard, the scissors on the hand.” Hers
was a piecework job and probably a full pay envelope had kept her
at it, for in 1920, when the rate was cut, her earnings had dropped
from $20 to $16, so she had become discouraged and quit.
Insanitary conditions.
Work done in dismal, damp, or dirty surroundings becomes all but
unbearable. Though comparatively few of the women had worked
in meat-packing plants, their comments almost generally were
critical of the rooms in which they worked. “ You stand all day on
a wood platform and wear skin aprons to keep dry, but the water is
everywhere and it is wet and cold just the same. In the winter it is
colder and the meat so cold sometimes it has ice on it and the tables




128

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

are cold.” These women had “ too many colds ” and “ the wet floors
hurt the legs.” One woman, after linking sausages four years, had
given up the job in spite of her good pay because she “ ached so.”
. The rag sorters, too, referred to dust and dirt, but one had quit her
job not so much because the rags were dirty as because the work­
room, a large barnlike place heated by one little stove in a far corner,
became unbearable when the winter winds whistled up through the
cracks in the floor on which she sat to work.
Illness reported by cigar workers.
Specific causes for leaving a job occurred oftener in some industries
than in others, and the reasons seemed peculiar to conditions in the
industry. For example, long hours and physical strain were more
often assigned as reasons for leaving domestic-service and office­
cleaning jobs, and difficulties over work equipment or plant policies
were causes mentioned almost exclusively by cigar and silk workers.
Leaving jobs in the clothing trades was due largely to slack work,
shutdowns, or closing, and in most of the cases in which low earnings
were given as the cause of leaving jobs in this trade the pay was
linked closely with such undertime employment.
Insanitary conditions of the plant and illness due to the job were
reasons advanced almost exclusively by cigar workers.
Though the indefinite “ no like ” was as much of a cause as a few
cigar workers were able to give, the majority assigned very definite
reasons. A woman of 33, who had worked as a cigar roller all but
two years since she was 18, described the effect of such an experience
when she said: “ Cigar work no good for any woman. It make her
foolish and rough and she not know much after some years.”
A young woman who had worked in a cigar factory in Munkacs
before coming to America showed the agent a picture of that factory
and drew comparisons not favorable to the cigar establishments she
knew in this country. She called attention to the grass and trees
around the European factory, praising its cleanliness and light. Her
final comment was that she thought Americans did not know how
to keep clean and tidy. Nor was it unusual for women with ex­
perience in various cigar factories in the United States to draw con­
trasts of conditions. It was natural that these women should have
their preferences. In one plant the windows were large, in others
small; in some they were opened for ventilation, in others not. An
appreciative roller said: “ The super we got now opens the window,
but the other one didn’t bother about the people. This one says it’s
nice to get fresh air. I like him.”
In addition to references to the steam, the dust, and the lack of
fresh air in the factories a number of cigar workers discussed
physical ailments, chiefly digestive, which they attributed to their
occupations in cigar factories. Some had experienced the symptoms
in their first jobs and had quit after only a few days or after giving
the job a few months’ trial. On the other hand, some women who
had not suffered at first later found themselves subject to such
digestive disorders that they were unable to work.
In 18 months a persistent woman had tried four different cigar
factories, always in hope that the next place would smell less rank
and the tobacco be less strong. Her health grew worse and worse




ADJUSTMENT IN THE JOB

129

until a doctor advised her to give up work at once. Another with
years of experience said: “Too much stink. I can’t eat, my stomach
like fire. All good again when I not work a while.” A woman who
had quit after a year because of loss of appetite said: “ Since I
don’t work there no more I eat like anything.” A stripper also com­
plained of loss of appetite; “But then,” she added, “good thing,
maybe; not pay so much for food.” A young woman who had been
working in a cigar factory since her arrival in the United States
in 1920 pointed with pride to her framed passport picture, which
showed her to have been plump at that time. When her father met
her three years later “ he not know me, I so thin and skinny. Never
sick before I came to America. Cigars not good to work.”
According to the description of one cigar worker, life is a vicious
circle: “ I work, I get sick, I work again to get a little money to pay
doctor and the drug store; that work makes me sicker and sicker,
another doctor’s bill, work for money to pay, and sick again.”
Though the evidence of the women indicated that the cigar in­
dustry was blamed for many physical ills, occasionally workers
volunteered such information as “ Healthier in the factory than at
home,” or “ Cigar work is good for the health,” and “ Tobacco never
made me sick like the other ladies.”
In this connection it is interesting to note that the Anti-Tubercu­
losis Society of the Family Welfare Association of Bethlehem had
instituted medical examinations in four cigar factories in 1925. Many
of the women were unwilling to submit to physical examinations, so
not. more than 138 foreign-born women wTere included. These were
chiefly Hungarians, ranging in ages from 16 to 60. Forty-two were
single, 85 were married, and 11 widowed or separated. The results
of this investigation show no condition prevalent at that time corre­
sponding to the. digestive disorders complained of in the interviews
of the present study. The examinations showed that 39 women were
normal, 11 were tuberculosis suspects, 32 had goiter, 18 were anemic,
6 had stomach or intestinal trouble, and most of the others were
suffering from bad teeth, eye troubles, or fallen arches. In all proba­
bility the old buildings, the bad ventilation, and the posture through
long hours of work contributed to the ailments that the women
reported, but in the community the workers themselves held the
tobacco chiefly responsible for their ills.
PERSONAL REASONS FOR LEAVING JOB

In addition to the reasons for leaving work concerned directly
with conditions within the industry jobs had been given up for per­
sonal or family reasons in no way related to the industry.
An unpublished tabulation shows that in 574 cases personal and
family reasons had caused the leaving of jobs. It is interesting to
note that the reasons for leaving jobs because of conditions in the
industry are more than three times as many as those classified as
personal. Some workers had moved away from their places of
employment and others wanted a job nearer home; others reported
illness of self or family as the reason for leaving; in 66 cases rela­
tives and friends influenced the worker to try a different job; a few
women gave up working when their husbands had an increase in




130

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

earnings so that it was no longer necessary for the wives to help with
the family, support. The personal causes most frequently given for
leaving a job were the marriage of the worker or home duties and
the illness of self or others in the family.
UNSATISFACTORY CONDITIONS NOT RESULTING IN CHANGE OF
JOB

Conditions that set some women to hunting new jobs were en­
dured by others. The office cleaners illustrate this point. Office
cleaning was desirable chiefly because of the hours of work and not
because of the job itself. Though some were forced to give up
because their “ knees were sore ” or they “ couldn’t stand it, work
all day at home, then work all night,” many continued the work in
spite of conditions or because they knew that office-cleaning jobs
were limited. “Five or six women come every night to get work.”
The usual routine of one office cleaner was described on the sched­
ule as follows: From 6 to 9 in evenings sweeps and mops 26 lino­
leum-covered and 2 wood floors; wrings mop by hand though negro
porters in halls have mop wringers; asked for wringer but told they
were too heavy for women; to get through allotment of offices must
hurry so that clothes usually wet with perspiration when she leaves.
Returns in morning to dust rooms, clean mirrors, wash bowls and
cuspidors, and empty waste baskets.
The number of rooms for which each woman was responsible
varied with size of room and kind of floor, but the worst feature of
the work was the white steps: “No like scrub marble,” they said.
When one asked to be relieved of scrubbing on her knees and given
sweeping and dusting only, the forelady said, “ You no want, I get
someone else,” so the worker continued to scrub. “ I must,” she said.
Another woman had left a similar job because of her bad knees,
and while there was no heavy mopping and scrubbing in her new
place the carpeted floors required heavy sweeping. No vacuum
cleaner was provided, but the respite from scrubbing was giving her
knees a chance to get well.
One of the women interviewed was working with a group all of
whom except herself were Americans. She could not understand
English and was sure she was being imposed upon because she was
a greenie.” She said that she was the one who had the hardest
scrubbing of white-tile floors and that the washing powder used
made her hands smart. Another worker had to clean 30 rooms,
more than many of the other women, and nothing would convince
her that the forelady was not favoring the Americans while she
exploited the foreigners.
Not only office cleaners but laundry workers showed a tendency
to remain on the job in spite of adverse conditions. These were,
for the most part, older Slavic women, conscious of their handicap
in not speaking English and certain that it was because of this han­
dicap that they were imposed upon frequently. These women were
shakers, mangle workers, pressers. They spoke of the steam, of
the hot pipes under the cement floors, and the heat in general; of the
low ceilings in the basement workrooms. A few had collapsed un­
der the strain of such conditions, yet they had returned to laundry
work. “ It’s hard work, terrible hot, you have to be strong to stand




ADJUSTMENT IN THE JOB

131

it.” Not only was the work heavy; the pay was inadequate. The
women told of the struggles they had had to live on their wages.
A representative number of women had worked at one time or
another in the jute industry—“ jutey,” as they called it. In the mills
the women fed the breakers or watched the roving cans—heavy or
monotonous work that required no little endurance. Yet these
women, who looked strong and equal to the job, were critical of the
long hours, the constant standing, and the dirt.
The similarity in the lives of these jute workers may be illustrated
by citing a couple of the interviews. As a girl in the old country
Mary often had “ chopped wood in the bushes and dug potatoes,”
and her first work in America was “ maiding,” which she did in the
two years preceding her marriage. While her seven children were
young she supplemented her husband’s earnings by taking boarders,
and when her children were older her time had been about evenly
divided between her home and the mill. From 1909 to 1912, during
her “ man’s ” illness, and also for nine months in 1914 when his work
was slack, she had worked in the jute mill, and since 1918 she had
worked there quite steadily. She remarked to the agent in the inter­
view that her chief concern, now that her children were grown, was
for her husband. “ I pity my man. One week he work days, the
next he work nights, 12 hours every night, and next Sunday he
work 24 hours. If he die, I have more trouble, so I work, too.”
As her husband had died Annie came to America in 1914, for she
had heard she could get “nice work” over here. First she tried
housework, then she heard of “ jutey.” The war came and for five
years she had “ much trouble,” as her four children whom she had
left in Europe until she could earn money to send for them almost
starved. At the time of the interview she seemed happy in having
her children with her, and hoped that the two youngest could “ be
nice educated.” In the expectation of a “ better life ” she had
remarried in 1920, but after only a few weeks it had become evident
that a “ husband can’t do it alone. Plenty to do, so I go back to my
place in mill.” Annie’s husband acted as her interpreter, as she
herself could not read the figures on her pay envelopes nor tell the
amounts of her earnings. Often she spent her wages on iier way
home from the mill. “ Shoes, meat, bread, then all gone.”
The following are among the many cases that illustrate the woman’s
helplessness and her failure to understand new methods and strange
customs.
A French girl who spoke English and had had sales experience in
her native country was working in a candy factory. As part of this
job she had to carry 5-pound boxes of candy from the second floor
to the basement. To get through more quickly she would carry as
many as possible—5 or 6 boxes—each trip; even so, she sometimes
was going up and down stairs for two hours at a time. She knows
she was given more than Her share of the heavy work because she
was not an American. “ There is nothing to learn, just taking candy
from a board and packing it. I could see myself 50 years there and
not any higher.” Although her weekly earnings were only $10 she
felt timid about hunting another job. “ I have ambition but not
nerve.” She had refused a position selling toys at $12 a week because
she did not know the stock and at that wage could not afford clothes




132

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

nice enough for the store. Yet she would like to sell perfumes or
dresses. “ I know those best,” she said.
A typical case is that of a woman who had never found adjust­
ment in her job. In 1914, at the age of 29, she had first tried her
luck as a stripper in a cigar factory, but she made little more than
50 cents a day. “ 1 all the time cry.” Then for two years she was
in a hotel restaurant, but her health broke down; “ I skinny, sick.”
Discouraged, she went back to stripping tobacco, since she "knew it
was easier than kitchen work. She had continued at stripping fillers,
though to make her usual pay of $10 or $11 a week it was necessary
to go very early to the factory and to work for long hours and very
hard: sometimes she began as early as 6 for the door was open then
and the strippers could go in. She worked till 5.30 in the evening.
A Slovak woman beginning work in this country at the age of
31 had attempted several unskilled jobs, but unsuccessfully. The
expression of her face was one of complete discouragement as she
spoke of the many times she had been forced to go back to office
cleaning, “ because not trained for anything else.”
An experienced silk weaver was unable to arrive at a satisfactory
adjustment in the mill, where she was employed on the day shift.
A weaver on the night shift was using the same looms and in the
morning the day worker found such “ a mess of ends down ” that it
spoiled her work, caused her delay and, of course, cut her wages.




ACCIDENTS
As many as 124 women reported industrial accidents, and while
almost half of this number had occurred in textile mills and about
a fourth in the clothing industry accidents were reported also by
office cleaners, restaurant workers, and even rag sorters.
In the needle trades the most usual trouble was running the needle
into the finger, but the women regarded such punctures as trifling
matters. “ Kun plenty needles in my finger,” was a frequent com­
ment. One operator said, “ I never had an accident, nothing but a
needle in my finger.” When one girl was asked to describe an acci­
dent, she replied, “ It’s something that you never can tell, you work
so hard, so close, it happen lots of times.” In one case infection had
developed from a needle puncture and for the four weeks during
which the operator was unable to sew she had been given general
work and paid a flat rate of $10 a week. It was such a relief from
piecework speeding that the girl referred to it as “nice vacation
for me.”
The workers regarded cuts much as they regarded needle punc­
tures-—minor affairs for which, in a number of cases, little or no
time was lost.
“ The knife slipped when the boss hollered at me in the ear,” was
how one woman accounted for an ugly gash. A woman summed up
her disregard of cuts in the words: “ Got now lots of cuts, no cuts too
much ”—that is, none seemed to her serious.
Other accidents, however, were serious. A woman whose finger
was caught in a power machine described her fright by saying, “ I
run, I run so fast, I never go back, I quit my job.” Others said,
“ The cog took a bite,” or “ The machine chewed my arm.”
Flying shuttles, combs, punch presses, and slippery floors all con­
tributed to accidents. The dark stairway where one worker fell
might have been anywhere, and it was not until after the accident
that a light was installed on the stairway. A hole in the floor not
visible because of old papers, in which a rag sorter injured her
ankle, likewise was repaired after the worker had been injured.
In very few cases did it appear that ignorance of English was a
definite contributing cause of the accident. However, of the 18
women who had been permanently injured, 9 did not speak Eng­
lish at the time of the interview. The outstanding case where lan­
guage difficulty seemed to be the main factor in an accident was that
of a 16-year-old Italian girl who was at work in a mill within a
week after she reached this country. She was assigned to a Polish
girl as her “ learner.” Neither could understand the other, and on
her second day in the mill, in an effort to stop the machine, the young
Italian girl lost her hand.




133

IMMIGRATION SINCE THE WORLD WAR
To get a picture of the recent immigration, illustrating the prob­
lems of the women who had lived here only since the World War,
separate tabulations to show some of the characteristics of this
selected group were made. Among the women reporting there seems
to be very little difference between the immigration of this more
recent period and that of 20 or 30 years before. The women of both
periods had youth, racially they were the same, and industrially
their experiences had been similar.
Race.
In Table 6 of this report appear 451 women who had come to the
United States since and including 1920. These women had come
from the same countries in Europe and to the same localities in
Pennsylvania as had the immigrants who preceded them years before,
and they had settled in the neighborhoods where fellow countrymen
had been settling for many years. A further analysis shows the
racial trend of this group. The numbers were about evenly divided
between Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley, with Jews predominat­
ing in Philadelphia and Germans in the Lehigh Valley. The other
races or peoples, represented tty! much smaller numbers, merely
indicate a tendency of recent immigrants to settle in communities
where their countrymen had already established themselves—prac­
tically all the Italian and English-speaking groups going to Phila­
delphia and most of the Slavs and Magyars going to the Lehigh
Valley.

Locality

Number of women arriving in 1920 and since * who reported race or
people as—
Number
of wom­
en re­
porting English­ German Italian
Jewish Magyar
Slavic
Other
speaking

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

451

33

162

31

98

47

72

28

Philadelphia....... ......
Lehigh Valley

221
230

31
2

•26
136

28
3

97

12
35

24
48

3
5

1

1 Through part of 1925. Field work was concluded in October, 1925.
2 Includes 1 Armenian, 2 French, 2 Spanish, 1 Portuguese, and 2 Greek.

Housing.
As already stated in this report (see p. 65) it was chiefly those
races contributing the major part of recent migration into the Lehigh
Valley that were living in cooperative households—dwellings that
furnished shelter for economic household groups consisting of more
than one natural family unit. One-half of the total number of
women living in these households in the Lehigh Valley had arrived
in America since the World War and it is not surprising that those
recently so near the poverty level in Europe were taking advantage
of this mode of living as a means of reducing expenses,

134



IMMIGRATION SINCE THE WORLD WAR

135

Education.
By reference to the summary on page 29 it is apparent that slightly
less than half of the women of non-English-speaking races who had
been here less than five years, and therefore must have been part of
the postwar immigration, had learned to speak English; and it is
apparent that the proportion able to read English was similar for the
group here only a short time and the group that had lived here 10
years or more.
Not only had the group coming to America within the more recent
period made considerable headway with English but 32 of them—
chiefly Jews and Germans—who had been in the United States less
than five years when interviewed had filed their first papers prepara­
tory to becoming American citizens.
Age and marital status.
As was the case in other periods of immigration this group of
women were decidedly young. Unpublished data show that nearly
four-fifths of them were under 25 years of age when they arrived,
and over half were not even 20 years old. Only 14 of the number
reported that they were as much as 40 when they came.
As would be expected in a group as young as this the women were,
for the most part, unmarried; in fact, three-fourths were single when
they arrived, although 85 had married since arrival.
Reason for coming.
These women had come to America primarily to earn a living.
Friends in the United States had written how easily girls could find
work here, and they had come with youth, strength, and heavy re­
sponsibilities—the world-old story of the pioneer immigrant—to start
life anew in a strange country.
During the interviews with the agents of the bureau the women
spoke with much concern of the destitute parents, the brothers and
sisters, whom they had left in their native homes in Europe; they
had been sending money to help them and hoped ultimately to “ bring
them over.”
. Age at entering present industry.
The girls were young when they came to the United States and
they were young when they began to work—indeed, they lost little
time in finding a job. The following summary shows that more than
three-fourths of 460 girls who had come to the United States since
the World War 1 had begun work in their present jobs before they
were 25 years of age.
Women reporting
Age at beginning present industry
Number

Per cent

Total.................. ...... ........................................
Under 18 years____________________ ________________
Under 20 years_____________________ _____________ _ _
Under 25 years______ . _____________ _______ _
25 years and over______ __________ _________ _____________
1 Includes two who came in 1918.

65661°—30---- 10




106

77

136

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

It was a coincidence that the same number of women who had
come here since the World War were interviewed in Philadelphia
and in the Lehigh Yalley. The table following shows in what indus­
tries these most recent arrivals first found employment, in what in­
dustries they were employed at the time of the survey, and how
many had made no change in the few years they had been at work.
52.—Distribution by industry or occupation of women who had arrived
in the United States in 1919 or later,1 according to first employment in the
United States, according to present employment, and. showing number who
had remained in one industry or occupation, by locality

Table

Philadelphia: Number
of Lehigh Valley: Number of
women for whom industry
women for whom industry
or occupation specified was— or occupation specified was—
Industry or occupation

Total_______________ __________
Manufacturing:
Cigars________________
Clothing_____ . _
Food products—
Meat packing_________
Other____
Leather products (includes tanning).
Rag sorting
Textiles—
Hosiery
Other knit goods______
Silk goods . ......... ..................
Woolen and worsted goods
Other textiles____ __ _____
Miscellaneous manufacturing.............
Clerical and trade________________
Domestic and personal service:
Hotels and restaurants
Housework_______________ _
Laundries________________
Office cleaning............ .................. .
Other industries___ ________ ____

First
Only in­
First
Only in­
employ­ Present dustry or employ­ Present dustry or
ment in employ­ occupa­ ment in employ­ occupa­
United
tion en­ United
ment
ment
tion en­
States
gaged in States
gaged in
232

232

133

232

232

175

10
78

8
81

4
53

167
3

148
3

134

7
7
5
1

4
10
5
2

3
4
4
1

2

17
14
6
28
9
20
7

22
11
5
29
7
35
5

11
4
2
22
5
13
3

77

36

1
16
4
1
1

4
1

3
3
1

43
1
1
2
12
1

1 Includes 2 who came in 1918.

The list of industries is the same as that used in the tables for all
women regardless of the year of arrival in the United States, and
the grouping shows the same general trend as does the earlier table,
tor the immigrant women of short residence in the United States were
finding work in largest numbers in the cigar factories and silk mills
in the Lehigh Valley, and in the clothing factories and various textile
mills in Philadelphia.
As in earlier years, some had drifted into housework first but they
had not remained there.
As would be expected, this group of more recent arrivals had
changed less from industry to industry than had the all-inclusive
group regardless of the time they had been here. Nevertheless, it
is interesting to note that in Philadelphia, with its variety of indus­
tries, more than half (57 per cent) of those arriving since the war
had remained in the same line of work in which they started.




IMMIGRATION SINCE THE WORLD WAR

137

Finding work.
In one respect the group of more recent immigrants have faced a
harder situation than that of the earlier arrivals. Some of the women
came at the time when jobs were plentiful and a woman who wanted
work and failed to get it was the exception. But since the World
War many efforts to find a job have been in vain. Unpublished fig­
ures show that more than two-thirds of the failures to secure work
reported as having occurred since 1900 had occurred since 1920.
Young women as well as older ones had experienced trouble in find­
ing work. One industry seemed as slack as another—whether cigar,
clothing, or textile factories, sales and clerical work, or office
cleaning.




INDUSTRIAL WORK IN THE HOME
INTRODUCTION
Canvassing from house to house in Philadelphia in the search for
foreign-born wage-earning women, the agents found many who were
contributing something to the family support though not leaving
their homes to work in standardized industrial plants. These women
were taking material from the factories to finish at home. Some
were felling seams, and had piles of coats stacked beside them on the
kitchen table; others were sewing pockets on sweaters, which were
piled up by the dozen; still others were tearing rags into strips, sew­
ing them together, and winding them into balls for weaving by
factory hands into rag rugs.
The 159 women thus found engaged in industrial home work have
been treated as a unit, entirely apart from the other groups of women
in the survey; for not only is this kind of work more seasonal in
character than other work1 but even when employment is available
its irregularity would tend to exclude the occupations of home work­
ers from a group of regular or even seasonal factory jobs. As the
earnings from home work seldom, if ever, reach the minimum stand­
ard for a living wage, it would not be fair to weight the earnings of
industrial workers with the very low amounts derived from home­
work occupations.
Life stories of great courage and enduring patience were developed
as the women talked to the interviewers. One such illustration is the
case of Jennie, who when 21 years old followed her sweetheart to this
country. Almost immediately upon her arrival a friend took her to
a clothing factory, where she finished coats until she married. She
was a very swift sewer and more than once during that year in the
factory the boss told her she was earning too much. Finally he cut
her rate, and she had to accept the reduction because she needed
work and did not know where else to find it.
She had sewed practically all her life, for shortly after her mar­
riage Jennie returned to the factory, knowing of no other place and
fearing to venture alone. But when the first baby came she gave up
working in the factory, and ever since she had taken the coats and
pants to finish at home. She said: “ I don’t stop only when I get
a baby; then I stop two weeks maybe.” When telling how she first
found the place that gave out home work Jennie was quite apologetic:
“ I stole my work. I watched the other women go for work and I
followed, too.” The inquiry as to why she worked seemed superfluous.
With a gesture indicating the children and the furnishings of the
small, crowded room she replied: “Why I work? Needed a slice
of bread.” She did not want her children to crave food. “ We work
1 See third annual report of the New York State Commission to Examine Laws Relating
to Child Welfare, 1924, p. 71.

138




INDUSTRIAL WORK IN THE HOME

139

to eat, we all must live.” Her husband was a street cleaner, earning
at the most $25 a week and in winter sometimes only $10. He had
had four serious illnesses and by her home-work earnings the wife
probably kept the roof over their heads.
She had a regular schedule for work. Rising at 5, she prepared
her husband’s breakfast and lunch and then sewed until time to
awaken the children and hustle them off to school. Then she sewed
steadily until noon with the clock always before her, driving her­
self—“ So much to do can not breathe.” She tried to finish a coat
in an hour, and if she failed in her stint one hour she tried to make
it up in the next. In the afternoon she shouldered her bundle of 8
or 10 coats and went to the shop for another lot of work. One
factory where she got work was quite distant, the trip requiring an
hour and costing 15 cents in car fare—almost as much as she could
earn by sewing in an hour. In another factory she got pants, but
she preferred coats because pants required more turning of the gar­
ment and two kinds of thread. At times she had tried to find better
work, but she had gone so often to other places and found nothing
that she had given up any idea of change and was content to go
where she was known. She quoted an Italian proverb to fit her
case—“Sai cio che tieni e non sai cio che trori.” (You know what
you have but you do not know what you will find.) One summer
when needlework was slack she was induced to go with the children
to work in a cannery in the country. She went with a “ few dollars
in the pocket ” but returned with “ not’ings, not’ings.”
Such was this woman’s industrial record. But she also did the
housework in the little 3-room house, entirely lacking in the modern
conveniences. She even baked the bread, and from pieces the tailor
gave her she made the suits for her three little boys: “A scissor here,
a scissor there, some stitches, I put it on and he walk out the door.”
Race and present occupation.
The following table indicates in a general way the race of the
women who were engaged in industrial home work and the kinds
of work they did. All the women who were employed on industrial
work in their homes lived in Philadelphia and Norristown; none
were found so employed in the Lehigh Valley.
Table 53.—Kind of home work done, by race of woman

Kind of home work done

Number
of women

Number of women whose race was re­
ported as—
German

Total......................................................
Sewing carpet rags.......... .................... ...........
Finishing clothing:
Men's_______________________ _____
Women’s and children’s___ ____ _____
Finishing sweaters and knit goods________
Stringing tags_____ ___________________
Beading buckles_______________________
Covering curtain rings and pulls__________
Carding or arranging hooks, snaps, and pins.1
1 Includes 2 Magyars and 1 Spaniard.




159

Italian

27

108

28
27
15
26
15
3
20
25

Slavic
21

Otheri
3

28
1
24
2

26
13

1
1

14

1

2
25

18

1

140

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Two-thirds of the 159 home workers interviewed were Italians.
Of this race, 34 lived in Norristown, most of these sewing carpet rags
and finishing a cheap grade of men’s clothing, while 21 lived in the
down-town wards of Philadelphia and all the others lived north, in
and near the parts of the city called Nicetown and Tioga. In the
down-town districts these women were engaged in finishing men’s
clothing; uptown they were stringing tags, covering curtain rings,
embroidering children’s dresses, threading dress hooks on rods, and
carding pins and snaps.
Next in size to the Italian group, but only one-fourth as large, was
the German, with 27 women. They were living in an old section of
Philadelphia just north of Girard Avenue and east toward the
Delaware River. The great majority of them were finishing sweaters
and other knit goods.
Twenty-one Slavic women were home workers; there were 13
Slovaks, 4 Poles, 2 Russians, 1 Lithuanian, and 1 Ukrainian. All but
two of the Slavs were living in the Nicetown district, and they were
engaged in many of the kinds of work done by their Italian neigh­
bors. One Spaniard and two Magyars, to complete the list of races
in the table, were living near the German women and were doing the
same kinds of work.
With very few exceptions the Italian home workers had come from
southern Italy—Sicily, Naples, and vicinity. Only 2 of the German
women were natives of Germany, 18 of them having come from
Rumania and the others from Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Czecho­
slovakia.
Work in the old country.
The industrial home work in which these women were engaged
was in many cases entirely different from anything for which their
early training in the old country might have fitted them. Unpub­
lished tabulations show that two-fifths of the women reporting had
had no special occupation in their early homes and that three-fourths
of those who did give definite information about their jobs over there
had been engaged in farm work, some for wages but more in the
fields and vineyards of their own homes. The majority of those who
reported agricultural work were Italians, and a few Italians had done
sewing and fine embroidery. A few German women had done house­
work. Of the women who had worked for wages in their native
country 10 had done housework and 6 had done sewing.
Reason for coming to the United States.
The urge that had prompted these women to leave life on the farms
in the old country and to come to America was the impelling force
that had caused others before them to come. Opportunity and better
economic conditions had tempted them: “To make a living,” “To
work,” “ Others were coming,” “ The riches in America ” were a
few of the reasons advanced for their move to the United States.
An expression common among them was “ better in America ”—a
phrase that summed up the poverty and lack of opportunities in the
homes they had known and their hopes of economic independence in
America. A number had been influenced by relatives already here
and at least one in four had come to join husbands who had made a




INDUSTRIAL WORK IN THE HOME

141

start in the new land and were ready to establish homes here. The
spirit of adventure had brought some of the women.
The date of arrival in the United States is shown in the summary
following:
Year of arrival

Total________ __________

Number of
women
reporting
159

Before 1905__________
1905-1909________________
1910-1914__________
_
1915-1919_____________
1920 and since i__________

29
40
59
5
26

1 Survey was concluded in October, 1925.

PERSONAL DATA
Age and marital status.
Practically three-fourths of the women (74.2 per cent) had come
to the United States when between 15 and 30 years of age, and only
two of the number reporting had been as much as 45. But at the
time this study was made (1925) about 70 per cent were in the age
groups 30 and under 50 years; only eight had not reached 25 years.
More than one-half of the women had been married 10 and under
20 years. Only three of the total number reporting home work were
single.
Approximately four-fifths of these women had lived in this country
at least 10 years. Those with a residence of as much as 20 years
were mostly Italians.
The recent immigration, so far as can be judged from so small a
number as the 26 women who had come to the United States in 1920
or since, showed no striking differences from the immigration of a
decade before. Like the earlier arrivals, these women had been
young when they came to America, and they belonged to the same
races. All were married at the time of the interview, and they were
doing the same kinds of home work as the women of longer resi­
dence—8 were finishing clothing, 7 finishing sweaters, 5 covering cur­
tain rings, and the 6 others were sewing carpet rags, stringing tags,
arranging dress hooks on rods, or beading buckles. It is to be noted,
however, that more than half of the number were doing the more
skilled work on clothing and sweaters.
Ability to use English.
Although four-fifths of the women had been in the United States
for 10 years or more, as many as two-thirds of the entire group
could not speak English. Among the Italians the proportion was
even larger.




142

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Table 54.-—Inability

to use English and general illiteracy, by race or people
Number of women—

Race or people

Number of Unable to Unable to Unable to
read and
women
speak
read
interviewed English
write any
English
language
(total re­
(total re­
(total
porting, 159) porting, 155) porting,re­
155)

Total

159

104

139

70

German_
_
Italian___
Slavic____
Other____

27
108
21
3

9
80
9

19
97
20
3

63
6
1

The proportion of women engaged on home work who could not
speak English is greater than the per cent already cited for the
women who worked outside the home. In fact, interpreters were
needed throughout the interviews with the home workers. Since
two-thirds of the number reporting could not speak English, even
brokenly, it is not surprising that almost nine-tenths could not read
it. This ignorance of the language of their adopted country was
in part due to the fact that the vast majority had passed the school
age when they arrived in America and had settled in communities
of their countrymen where there was almost no need for English and
little or no group enthusiasm to learn it.
In addition to their ignorance of English there was a shocking
degree of illiteracy even in their native tongues, for almost half the
women were unable to read and write in any language. This illiter­
acy was found chiefly among the Italian women. All the Germans
reporting and the two Magyars were able to read and write in at
least one language.
The lack of English had limited many women in their choice of
work. The Italians liked to work for Italian bosses; the other
races, for their own.
An educated Italian girl who had been in the United States only
five years had been particularly embarrassed by her ignorance of
English. Recently she had returned to the only factory in which she
had been employed before her marriage, this time to get home work.
She was distressed to find that during her short absence the “nice
Italian boss ” under whom she had worked had left, and she had
trouble in understanding the directions of the new one about the
embroidery. Her anxiety lest he think her mistakes willful or
careless was keen, but she could not explain to him—“ Me no English
and he no Italian.”
In 1891 an Italian woman searching for her first job had followed
some of her fellow countrywomen into a clothing factory and be­
come contented there, since the foreman was “ nice ” and she “ liked
the other ladies,” all of whom spoke her language. But after 10
years there was a change in bosses, the Italian was replaced by a
man of another race, and wages were reduced from $9 to $3. The
new boss said: “ In Italy you would make only 10 cents. See for
yourself how much more you make here.” He gave the women to




INDUSTRIAL WORK IN THE HOME

143

understand that there were hundreds of newly arrived immigrants
waiting to take their places, and it was well known that he made a
practice of meeting the boats to look for workers among the arriv­
ing immigrants.
This woman had remained in her next place five years, quite con­
tented again and apparently for the same reason, as she found an­
other Italian boss and other Italian “ ladies.” She had never had
the initiative to try to work where Italian was not the common lan­
guage, and after 34 years’ employment in this country she still was
working for an Italian boss—finishing coats at home.
Citizenship.
As so much is said about the Americanization of the immigrant,
it is interesting to know that about one in four of the women report­
ing was a citizen of the United States. However, only one of the
entire group—a German who had come to this country when she
was still of school age—had been naturalized through her own
efforts. The others had acquired their citizenship through the ini­
tiative of their fathers or husbands. Fifteen women did not report
whether or not they were citizens.
Dwellings.
It is easier to understand why these women were trying so hard to
earn a little money and why they were doing this work in their homes,
when an impression of their homes and families is obtained.
More than half the families were living in rented homes, chiefly
dwellings of three or four rooms. Invariably the 3-room house was
in a rear court or alley, one of a row of 3-story houses, one room
above the other, devoid of all modern conveniences, often without
gas. The median of the monthly rentals for homes of this size was
$14. For houses of other types and of four rooms the median of the
rentals was $27.15, nearly twice as much as for the alley type.
Surprising as the fact is, 12 of the families owned their homes,
although nearly two-fifths of them still were making payments—
payments that invariably were so burdensome that they crippled the
family’s standard of living.
About a third of those who were buying their homes were Italians
living in the vicinity of Norristown. Those who were buying homes
in Philadelphia lived away from the center of the city; some were
Slavs in the Nicetown district and others were Italians in Tioga,
whose homes were the familiar 2-story brick dwellings'.
Persons per room.—The families crowded into these houses were
not small; 4 to 7 persons were most usual and about a fifth of the
families were even larger, having 8 to 10 persons. The groups con­
sisting of as many as 11 persons—and there were a few such—in­
cluded lodgers.
Since dwellings of three and four rooms were the prevailing types,
and since families of four to seven members were the most common,
there was bound to be some overcrowding, and under these conditions
it is not surprising to find that in more than one-eighth of the homes
there were two or more persons per room.




144

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Number and per cent
of dwellings

Persons per room
1'person or less_________
Between 1 and 2 persons___
2 persons or more___ _________

21

13.7

In one case 6 persons lived in a 2-room dwelling. Marked con­
gestion was found also in 3-room dwellings housing families of 5 to
7 persons and in dwellings of 4 rooms housing families of from 7 to
9 persons.
THE FAMILY
Number and ages of children.
There were many children in these homes, and it was chiefly be­
cause the families were large and the children young that these
mothers could not leave home and of necessity were sewing carpet
rags or covering curtain rings whenever they could snatch a minute
from their household cares. In only about a dozen homes were there
no children, while in 142 families there were altogether 535 children,
an average of 3.77 children to the family. Only 83 children were as
old as 14, and nearly three-fifths of the'number were between 5 and
14; in 41 families the youngest child was less than 2. The table fol­
lowing shows that in three-fifths of the families the youngest child
was not yet 5, and that in more than one-half of these cases there
were four or more children in the family.
Table 55.—Number of children in all families and number where youngest

child teas under 5 years of age

Number reporting
Number of children in the family

Number where young­
est child was under
5 years of age

Families
Total
1.
2.

3.
4.
5.
6.

7_
8.

9.

Children

142

535

84

351

16
25
33
17
24
12
11
3
1

16
50
99
68
120
72
77
24
9

6
11
22
7
16
9
10
2
1

6
22
66
28
80
54
70
16
9

Families

Children

It is evident that in practically one-half of these families there
were as many as four children and that in almost a fifth there were
six or more. Of the 68 mothers having as many as four children,
four-fifths were Italian.
Husbands.
Their work.—In all but 12 of the families men had the chief
responsibility of support, but the work that they were doing was




INDUSTRIAL WORK IN THE HOME

145

mainly unskilled and the most poorly paid labor. The following is
a partial list of their jobs:
Digs in street.
Sweeps street.
Labor on road.
Track work.
Trucker.
Yard work.
Wheels coal to furnace room.

Gate tender.
Night watchman.
Tends machine.
Sweeps chippings.
Loads boxes.
Cleans cars.

The low earnings of the chief breadwinners and the care of the
many small children in the families made it necessary for the
mothers to try to eke out a living by earning a penny here and a penny
there, as they could spare time from housekeeping tasks so arduous in
themselves that under ordinary circumstances it would be impossible
to do any extra work at all.
In 101 families information about the regularity of the man’s job
was secured. In 29 cases his employment was in a seasonal trade
and in 43 it was reported as very irregular. Only 29 men were said
to have steady work.
There was a similarity among many of the stories, and such
comments as the following were made: Of a presser in a clothing
factory, “ work slack ”; a shoemaker’s helper, “ irregular ”; a laborer
near an oven, “business slack and expects to be laid off any time”;
a molder, “ four or live days a week now a factory laborer, “ laid
off three months ago, no work now ”; a crane operator, “ work un­
certain”; an elevator operator, “factory shut down a week now”;
a factory laborer, “ no work all winter a card stripper, “ four days
a week now.”
Others said that the employment of the chief male breadwinner
was subject to weather conditions: A stone mason’s helper, “out
of work now ”; a street laborer, “ depends on weather ”; a cement
finisher, “little work in winter”; a plasterer, “slow in January
and February ”; a stone mason’s helper, “ steady only in good
weather”; a street cleaner, “sometimes only two or three days a
week ”; a quarry worker, “ no work in bad weather ”; an outside
laborer, “ no work when it rains or in bad weather ”; a carpenter,
“ not much work in winter.”
Of the 29 who had steady work, several were railroad employees
and some were carpenters, though other railroad employees and car­
penters reported irregular work; more were in establishments man­
ufacturing wheels and automobiles; a very few were bakers, one
was a machinist, one a foreman, and the others were in various
manufacturing lines.
Earnings.—In about a third of the families the earnings of the
chief male breadwinner for a current week were reported. One of
the men had earned less than $10 during the week reported and
15 had earned less than $20. One man had earned as much as $38.
The median of the week’s earnings for the group of 51 men was
$24.25. There was a difference of more than $4 in the median be­
tween those reported as having steady employment and those re­
ported as having seasonal or irregular employment. In the first
instance it was $25.85; in the second, $21.50.
In a few cases rates for the hour or the day were reported instead
of definite earnings, the former averaging 40 cents and the latter




146

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

$3.85, but actual earnings were said to be far below what the rates
would indicate, as some men had such irregular employment. For
example, for three months a laborer in a yarn mill whose rate was 45
cents an hour had had work only four days a week.
Included among the male wage earners for whom no definite
report on wages was obtained were a few conducting their own busi­
ness. One was a junk dealer, another had a shoe-shine stand, another
sold soft drinks, and another was a tailor who carried on a business
at home when he could get work and at other times tried to find
employment in a shop. In no case was there any investment of
capital and frequently the front room of the dwelling was given over
to the husband’s trade.
At the time of the interview with one of these families the father
had spent the day looking for work. As a cobbler he had been mak­
ing $10 to $12 a week repairing shoes. On some days he had had no
work; on other days one, two, or perhaps three pairs of shoes to mend.
They “ couldn’t live that way,” so the wife was helping as she could,
sewing “ by coats ” at home.
INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE
Reasons for working.
It is apparent that these women worked because the husbands’
earnings were far too small to support the families decently, families
that more frequently than not were large. “ To help my husband
his work not steady,” “Husband wasn’t making much,” “Large'
family and nothing to eat if not work,” “ To buy bread,” “ Husband
in hospital, money no got,” were the women’s comments.
Invariably the family “ could not make out on the husband’s wage,”
or he was getting old ” and they were facing poverty in their ap­
proaching old age. Sometimes the husband’s pay had been cut—
and it was never high—while the rent had been raised. It was not
necessary for the women to add that they “ used every penny they
earned, and to many the question as to the necessity of their work­
ing seemed superfluous—“ What you think? I hungry. Children
need shoes, bread.”
Reasons for selecting home work.
There was nothing new in the reasons the women gave for their
selection of home work; they simply “needed money.” Small chil­
dren m the families made it imperative for most of the mothers to
remam at home, and home work offered itself as a means of helping.
Too much to do at home to go away all day.” “ Could keep the
baby nice and make money, too.” “ Couldn’t go away from home and
leave the children. ” “ The snap factory is near, must work at home
while children are little.” “ Could care for the children and help
support the family.”
The following notes on Concetta’s story tell why one of the women
does industrial home work. Her husband was in the hospital in 1920
and despair drove her to seek a job. Payment had lapsed on the
home they were buying and debts were accumulating. When she
went to the mill she had to leave a baby 6 weeks old in the care of
four small children. Her industrial experience, however, was cut
short very soon afterwards because two of the little ones were severely




INDUSTRIAL WORK IN THE HOME

147

scalded while she was away from home. She could never be per­
suaded to go to the mill again and was quite satisfied to earn a share
of the family income by sewing carpet rags at home.
There was a note of helplessness in some of the replies: “ Knew
nothing else to do “ Only thing I knew about ”; “ Knew no other
way to help my husband “First work I could get ”■—this last from
a German woman who had taken up the finishing of sweaters two
weeks after arriving in this country in 1921 while her husband still
was hunting for work. A little daughter said of her mother, a widow
working for the first time: “ She doesn’t know anything else; a
neighbor lady could teach her and show her where to get the work.”
A rag sewer, 60 years old, said with a shrug of the shoulder, “ What
else I do ? ” She had been a hand spinner in her youth in the old
country, but during her 20 years in the United States she had had
no experience as a wage earner; so in her old age she grasped at the
only work that she could get.
The proximity of the factory giving out home work and the estab­
lished habit of the neighborhood influenced others to try home work.
The simple statement made by many of the women, “ there was a fac­
tory across the street,” seemed to them a sufficient explanation for
taking such employment. Others said: “ Saw other women doing
it “ Saw neighbors getting the work ”; “All the ladies work; so I
try, too “ Friends do this clean work.”
A middle-aged woman saw how other women got snaps to be carded,
so she “ asked for snaps, too.” It was the only thing she knew about,
except sewing, which she did not do nicely enough, as her work in the
old country had been mostly in the fields.
To recruit help, agents from the factories sometimes made the
rounds of the immediate neighborhoods. “A girl from the factory
came ringing the doorbell.” “ She walks to the houses and asks the
ladies if they want to do it.” “ She says, ‘ The work so easy to do;
children like it; so easy to get; stay home and work and make the
money.’ ”
Seven mothers said they had taken tags, hooks, snaps, or pins partly
because these provided “ busy work ” for the children: “ It kept them
from running around and breaking their shoes ”; “ Kept them off the
street ”; and “ Good for children to help a little.”
One instance of group work was particularly pathetic. The family
consisted of a paralytic husband, aged 61; a wife of 51; her feeble
father of 74; a daughter of 31 mentally defective and almost blind;
two wage-earning sons; and a daughter in school. Four members
of this household worked regularly on carpet rags. The grandfather
and the older daughter worked steadily in their corners—one cutting
the rags and the other winding the cuttings into balls; the wife and
the younger daughter for three or four hours each day sewed the
rags. The stint of the group was to work up three or four 25-pound
balls a week, for which they received $5 or $6.
First work in the United States.
When these women came to America they were for the most part
young, many of them facing the problem of self-support. They
“ came to America to work ”; they “ expected to work until mar­
ried”; they “had to pay for their ship cards”; they “had to earn




148

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

a living.” Many drifted into domestic service as housemaids and
cooks, while others had their first industrial experience in clothing
factories and woolen mills. The list following shows the first work
done by women who did not begin with home work:
TotalT 75
-----Clothing 13
Textiles 18
Other 19
Domestic service 25

Manufacturing:

In these jobs many of the women had encountered the not unusual
experiences of the immigrant wage earner—experiences that lead to
dissatisfaction and misunderstanding. Some had found housework
trying. A girl from Hungary had been directed to domestic service
in 1905, but her comment at the time of the interview was, “ I was
sorry I took that job; too hard work, that’s why I get married.”
A number had found this work “lonesome,” and the difficulty of
understanding a foreign language was too great a handicap for
others—“ She not talk German, and I no English.” Another girl
who had gone originally into domestic service, thinking she would
learn more English in a home than in a factory, quit after six
months’ trial of housework because she “ didn’t understand the lady,
she talked so strange.”
Another had begun work at the age of 14 in a woolen mill. Just
one week did she endure her job as a doffer. She lived quite a dis­
tance from the mill (the walk to work took three-quarters of an
hour), the work was heavy, it was a 60-hour week, and the pay was
$3—a shock to a child who had expected riches in America.
Another, a mature woman, had been a spinner for eight years
before her marriage. She, too, had found the work terribly hard,
the day lasting from 7 to 6. “ I cried almost every night,” was her
final comment about her first job.
Time spent in employment other than home work.
At one time or another 81 of the women had tried work in fac­
tories or in domestic service. Four had tried even farm work.
Some of them had tried more than one line, but on the whole their
experience had been very limited. The following table shows how
brief their time had been in the various kinds of employment.
Table 56.—Employment outside the home, by industry or occupation and

duration of job

Industry or occupation

Num­ Number of jobs that had employed the woman outside the home
for—
ber of
jobs re­
6
ported
3 and
(wom­ Under under months 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 years
and
3
under under under under
and
en re­
6
port­ months months under 2 years 3 years 4 years 5 years over
ing, 81)
1 y^ar

Total____

101

11

14

17

10

Manufacturing:
Clothing___
Food______
Textiles____
Other_____
Domestic service
Agriculture____

14

3

3

2
3

5
1

1
3

4

28
16
27
4

2

........
3




12

1

2

6

2

6

1
4
1

149

INDUSTRIAL WORK IN THE HOME

One in four of the women had worked as much as three years in
employment outside of the home, but for another 25 per cent such
work had lasted less than six months. In domestic service the ex­
perience of the majority of the women had lasted two years or more,
but in practically half the instances of work in manufacturing the
women had been employed less than a year.
That these women had not been industrial workers' for any length
of time before they took up the more petty home-work jobs is shown
further in the following summary for 67 who were able to give a
detailed account of all the years they had actually worked in regular
jobs, either in manufacturing industries or in domestic service.
Years lived in the United States:
Aggregate---------------------------------------------------------------Average per woman_____ 14. 04
Years worked in the United States:
Aggregate---------------------------------------------------------------Average per woman 2. 27

941
152

Collectively these women had worked only 152 years, or about a
sixth of the time they had been in the United States; about a third
of the wage-earning years had been spent in domestic service.
A number of women in this summary had not worked outside the
home since marriage, but a computation of aggregate years has been
made for the group of 48 who had had some experience in regular
industry since as well as before their marriage. The summary fol­
lowing shows that the work histories of these women had been almost
too brief to consider.
Before
marriage

After
marriage

Years lived in the United States:
105
2.19

601
12.52

100
2.08

Years worked in the United States:

13
0. 27

Collectively the women had worked most of the time before they
were married, but the amount of time spent in industry after mar­
riage had been negligible, averaging only about three months per
woman. In the aggregate this group had spent almost half their
employed years in domestic service, an occupation that in no way
prepared them for work in factories or gave them any idea of
standards in American industry.
Experience in home work.
Primarily interest is centered in the 159 women as home workers
and not because of their former brief experiences in other industries.
For about half the women the first gainful employment had been in
home work, the same unstandardized work in which they were en­
gaged at the time of the interviews, so that many had no basis for
a comparison of conditions in factory work and home work. Of
the other half, who had had more varied experience as wage earners,
only 13 had engaged in occupations in the least similar to their
present work. Two-fifths of the women engaged in finishing




150

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

sweaters—chiefly Germans—had begun work as housemaids, an oc­
cupation that had first claimed about two-thirds of the women
working on curtain rings and buckles—chiefly Slovaks.
Occasionally a woman with industrial experience volunteered in­
formation that showed that she knew the handicaps of home work.
One woman who had worked in a factory before marriage and
then “ no go no more ” had been glad to return to her old job after
10 years at home. At the time of the study a young baby kept her
at home. She earned not over $2 a week “ by snaps,” though work­
ing hard all the time, day and night, and keenly regretting the loss
of her $16 pay envelope.
A finisher on sweaters told a similar story. She had worked in the
plant, but while the children were small she was finishing sweaters
at home and by hard work managed to earn about the same as in
the factory, though this meant that she had to work under tense
pressure all day and much of the night.
A German woman who had been a factory worker intermittently
since her marriage was engaged in home work when interviewed, as
her regular factory job was so slack that she could not afford to pay
$5 a week for the care of the children. Home work for her was
merely a makeshift, for she realized its drawbacks and planned to
return to industry as soon as the depression was over.
It was impossible to estimate even roughly how many months or
years these women had devoted to industrial home work. Over a
fourth had begun it within the year of the interview and un­
doubtedly had not worked the whole of this time. More than half
had begun it less than five years before the interview and a few
(only one-sixth) reported that their first home work had been done
as long ago as 10 years. One woman over 60 had done her first home
work at least 15 years before the interview, but another woman, of
67, had begun it within the preceding year.
Operations in home work and the rates of pay.
The finishing on men’s coats differed with the style of the garment.
On some the women made the buttonholes by hand; on others the
usual work was felling the inside and outside of the collar, the shoul­
der seams, armholes, wrists, both fronts, and bottom of the coat, and
this was paid for commonly at the rate of 17 cents a garment. One
woman said that by driving herself she could do seven or eight coats
in six hours. By working quite steadily two sisters, who had grown
old in the trade, managed to finish 9 to 12 coats a day.
Other women in the clothing group were embroidering children’s
wash dresses in rather simple designs. The rate differed with the
design, but the rate for one quite popular style, requiring outline,
chain, and lazy-daisy stitches in four colors, was 50 cents a dozen.
In a few cases women were able to finish a dozen of these in four or
five hours. One woman organized her work so that her evenings were
free for embroidery. The children were in bed by 6.30, which left
her three or four hours to work “ a little,” and “ if I have time I
make a dozen, maybe dozen and a half. Last night I made 45 cents.”
There was nothing casual about this line of home work. The women
were eager to get it and their chief complaint was that work was too
scarce.




INDUSTRIAL WORK IN THE HOME

151

The work of finishing sweaters included sewing on pockets, collars,
and cuffs, turning the hem, and finishing the neck and armholes, with
slight variations according to the different styles. The work was
done very evenly and so closely that it had the appearance of machine
work. It was as skilled as any of the home-work operations. A usual
rate paid for such work on a sweater was 40 or 45 cents, and it took
a swift worker, sewing without interruption, about an hour and a
quarter to finish one sweater. The hourly earnings in such a case
would be from 30 to 35 cents.
Work on tags consisted of threading the twine or wire through the
hole in the tag and knotting it. Wire was a little harder to handle
and there were differences in knotting, but it was all the simplest
kind of work. The usual rate was 10 cents a thousand. Few women
who were doing tags could estimate their rate of speed, since they
worked so intermittently or else had haphazard help from the chil­
dren. Yet from scattering statements, 500 tags an hour seemed to
be a fair average. One woman of 38, who had a very small family,
was able to spend several hours a day stringing tags. She reckoned
her speed at about 500 an hour, on which basis her earnings would
be 5 cents an hour.
Covering curtain rings was done by crocheting a cord over the ring
in the simplest of stitches. The rate for this was 40 cents a gross.
One fast-working woman, a speeder, said that if she had no interrup­
tions and could work steadily she sometimes did six dozen an hour, but
that she couldn’t keep up that speed for any length of time. Many
women felt that when they did two dozen rings an hour they were cov­
ering a lot, and they reckoned on doing a gross in about five hours of
steady work—that is, their earning rate was about 8 cents an hour.
One woman had discovered that her earnings were more when
she covered curtain rings than when she strung tags. She and her
15-year-old daughter counted on doing two gross a day when they
had the rings. On the last trip to the factory the daughter had got
six gross. “We did two yesterday, two to-day, two to-morrow, then
we take them back.” On the day of the visit the girl had worked an
hour before school in the morning, some time at noon, and about two
hours after school, and was planning to work perhaps another hour
in order to complete her daily stint of one gross. In spite of house­
hold interruptions the mother had worked about this same time dur­
ing the day.
Work on carpet rags—cutting the mill remnants into strips, join­
ing the strips, and winding them into balls—occupied a group in
Norristown (largely Sicilians) in supplementing their husbands’ in­
adequate wages. Their houses were small and crowded, so in work­
ing they sat on the steps in the sunshine. They much preferred the
summer to other seasons because of not having to bother with the
“ muss ” of the rags in the house.
The earnings from cutting and sewing a sack of carpet rags were
about $1.50, the sack holding from 2 to 3 bushels; speaking very
roughly, then, the rate was about 50 cents a bushel. In one family
where work on rags was done steadily day after day, season after
season, they had found that three or four hours of steady work was
required to cut a bushel of rags, sewing them took about as long, and
65661°—30-----11




152

THE IMMIGBANT WOMAN AND HEE JOB

winding about half an hour. According to the reckoning of this
group it would take one person seven or eight hours to do a third
of a sack, the earnings for that being approximately 50 cents.
For the most part these women appeared to be happy in their work,
but occasionally a more thoughtful one voiced discontent. The cut
in rates that had occurred a year or so before the interview still
irritated a rag sewer, the mother of a young family. It seemed “ all
wrong,” because living costs were just as high and in some ways
higher than they had been. Pointing to her bare but shining white
floor the woman added, “ So much it costs, we never have a rug,
but we make them cheap; too cheap for Americans.”
Carding safety pins, 12 on a card, was paid at the rate of 8 to 10
cents per 100 cards for the large sizes and 15 cents for the smallest
size. In reply to questions regarding the amount of work they
could do, such comments as the following were heard: “ When I don’t
look at nobody I do 100 cards (assorted sizes), maybe, in two hours,”
the equivalent of 6 cents an hour. “If I have baby pins (smallest
size) and work all time, I might make 50 cents to-day. If I make
a dollar I feel rich.” A comment by an interested neighbor was,
“ They don’t make so much, but they just get the pins because they
need work. When the factory first moved here they paid as high
as 22 cents for- a hundred cards.”
The rate for snaps, a dozen on a card, was 10 cents a hundred cards,
and it was the general opinion that the work on snaps was harder
than the work on pins and hooks. The top of the snap had to be
pressed down securely over the knob on the lower part of the snap,
the latter being held so that the knob projected through the perfora­
tion in the card. The constant repetition of this pressure was tiring,
and sore, calloused fingers were the result.
Comments made again and again by the women showed how thor­
oughly they appreciated the hopelessness of earning more at home
work. An educated Italian woman, who had lived since 1905 in what
is now the Italian quarter in Tioga, had watched the changes during
those 20 years: “ Only four or five of our people here then; no houses,
no factory to give the women work in their homes.” She recalled
how “ tiny ” the first tag factory was in comparison with its present
quarters. “ It prospered on the work of our people.” In those days
the women had earned more, “but now too many people take the
work and pull the prices down.” Another worker summed up the
situation by saying: “ We Italians are used to working. It would
be better if we weren’t. We are hung by our own ropes; all the time
hurry to get work done, head ache all the time, hurry all the day.”
Two women reported serious infections that resulted from carding
safety pins or snaps. In one case the constant pressure necessary
in carding snaps had made the fingers sore, and an infection of the
index finger of the right hand necessitated some bone being removed,
so that the finger was permanently stiff and the woman had lost the
use of both joints. In the other case a finger on the right hand was
punctured while carding pins; infection followed, and the finger had
to be amputated.
Proximity of plants and difficulties of getting the work.
Within recent years one factory furnishing snaps, pins, and hooks
had moved into an exclusively foreign neighborhood away from the




INDUSTRIAL WORK IN THE HOME

153

center of the city. The dwellings were the typical Philadelphia
workingmen’s homes—2-story brick with four or five rooms, cheaply
constructed, and facing on narrow streets. The little community was
quite self-sufficient, its life was ingrowing rather than expanding, and
the women were learning little of American customs or language. The
factory gate where the pins and snaps were doled out to the home
workers was but a few steps around the corner. The home-work habit
had become fixed in the neighborhood, and this was all that many of
the women knew about industry. Any hour of the day these women
could be seen going back and forth with the work from the factory,
for when they live so near the trips for work are more frequent. On
the day of the interview one woman had been to the factory five times
to get pins and snaps, and each time she had been told, “ No work;
come later.,r “ Lots of stairs to climb,” was her comment. Several
women complained of the climb: “ Up four flights of stairs for
work.” “ Fifty steps.” “ When you get to top you can not breathe.
If they would put out a sign, ‘ No work to-day,’ it would save climb­
ing, but they never do that.”
Occasionally the women had their work organized. Such was the
case of one Italian mother who planned to carry her daily load of 20
to BO pairs of pants in the morning, while the baby was asleep; but
she said she was very nervous about leaving him: “ You start, then
think maybe something has happened, and you run back to see.”
When work was scarce others went to the factory early and sat, some­
times for hours, until they got something to carry home. On the
other hand, some of the firms delivered the carpet rags, sweaters, and
tags to the homes where the finishing processes were done and called
again for the completed work.
Help of children.
Errands at the factory were not the only way in which the chil­
dren were helpful, for there were few mothers working on pins,
snaps, or tags who were without the help of children in these monot­
onous operations. Perhaps the women did not regard this work as
a serious business and did it more casually because so often it was
“ a child’s job.” The busy lives of these mothers and the difficulty
of getting supplies regularly at the factory tended to make home
work on pins, snaps, and hooks most unsatisfactory as a steady or
worth-while occupation, and judging from the complaints of the
mothers the children were no keener about the work than the adults.
“ Sometimes they say ‘ Don’t ask me to do snaps to-day, my head
says no and if you whip me still my head says no.’ ”
Children helped also in stringing tags and to a less extent in
covering curtain rings, but these were not such haphazard occupa­
tions even for the children, perhaps because the delivery of the tags
by the firm was regular and the supply of curtain rings could be
counted on.
One Italian woman who herself worked intermittently at stringing
tags had the help of two children aged 7 and 9. “They once made
as much as 50 cents a day in summer. They have to sit two hours
to do a thousand; they can’t do them all the time. Must fix a
hundred tags for a penny.”
One woman, with a family of 10 to care for, had “ taken tags ”
regularly for 12 years; not that she could do much on them herself,



154

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

though occasionally she did a thousand or so, but she had a definite
plan of work for the children. Three children, of 10, 12, and 13
years, each must do a thousand tags a day, working before school in
the morning and again after school. The child of 8 years was ex­
pected to do 750 tags a day. After explaining how much their work
helped, the mother added, almost apologetically, “ It keeps them off
the street, you know.”
The operations on dress hooks, pins, and snaps also were so simple
that children could do them; often their nimble fingers worked
faster than did their mothers’. Hooks were arranged on a rod
about 2 feet long that had an open groove on one side. The rods
were filled by slipping the hooks on with the eyes fitting into the
groove. It took about 100 small-size hooks to fill a bar and the
rate of pay was 19 cents for 110 bars filled with the small-sized
hooks. A mother and two children who had been working steadily
for about an hour at the time of the agent’s visit had filled perhaps
50 bars with small hooks, the combined earnings of the three being
less than 10 cents for that hour.
One woman described vividly her family’s efforts to earn a little
“ doing hooks.” They were two days getting their first allotment
done, and were making so little that everyone hurried. The mother
scolded, she whipped the children to make them work, and when
the bars were brought to the factory they were under weight. She
searched the house and found a few hooks and returned with them,
but still the bars weighed short. “ I not eat them, the children not
eat them,” but as no more could be found they had to forfeit 10
of the 27 cents that they had expected for their two days’ work.
Time devoted to home work.
In determining the size of the pay check, as important as the
rate of pay and the amount of help the children give is the amount
of time that the woman herself devotes to the work. At least twofifths of the women worked so casually on industrial home work—
“Whenever baby sleep,” “Few minutes to-day, maybe no work
to-morrow ”• that undoubtedly such odd moments and spare time
—
did not amount to more than an hour or so a day; and this was
especially true of the women who were carding snaps and pins,
arranging hooks, or stringing tags. They knew they were busy all
the time, but how many hours were devoted to personal and family
affairs and how many to industrial home work they could not tell.
However, some of the clothing workers and the sweater finishers
worked quite regularly. Again and again they began sewing at
6, 7, or 8 in the morning, as soon as the husband was off to work, and
they had an hour or so without interruption before they hurried the
children off to school, and settled down again to sewing, barely stop­
ping for lunch. Housework chores were of secondary importance
in the homes of such steady workers. An Italian woman who was
doing fine embroidery described her first day’s sewing as follows:
“ I work all day. No make my bed upstairs even. First day made
20 cents, and when my husband come home at night and find out I
work, he so mad he could kill me.”
Several had a regular daily stint. For some it was only an hour
or so, but others liked to have sewing enough to keep them busy 5,




INDUSTRIAL WORK IK THE HOME

155

6, 7, or even 8 hours every day. For those who were able to sew 7
or 8 hours in addition to housework duties the day was a long one,
often beginning before dawn and continuing far into the night. In
1922, when her husband’s pay was reduced to $20 a week, an Italian
woman had begun to sew at home. Her day began at 4.30 or 5 in
the morning, and frequently did not end until midnight; but, in
spite of this hard work, it seemed impossible for her to earn more
than $5 or $7 a week. For nine years they had been paying $20
a month toward the purchase of their home, but since her husband’s
earnings were reduced he had been unable to meet the payments.
She said her husband’s work as a car cleaner, though poorly paid,
had been steady many years, and this steady employment seemed
better than the uncertainty that so often accompanied higher wages,
to prove which she quoted an Italian proverb—“ L’acqua minutella
fa il bugo a la pietra ” (Drops of water wear a hole in the stone).
The industrial history of a young German woman from Yugo­
slavia, who was “ reduced to home work,” was typical of the work­
ers whose ambition to succeed drove them beyond their strength.
As a bride she had come to the United States in 1921. She and her
husband were bending all their energies to buying a home, as they
begrudged paying $15 rent for an alley house of three rooms with­
out any modern conveniences, not even gas or running water. Her
first two months in this country had been spent as a boarder in a
hosiery factory, but the constant standing and reaching resulted
in an. illness that took her savings. Next she had tried fork dip­
ping in a candy factory for a year or so, but this too she had had
to give up on account of her health. While recuperating from her
second illness she was finishing sweaters, usually from 7 o’clock in
the morning and frequently until 8 or 9 o’clock at night, with inter­
ruptions only for her household chores.
EARNINGS
Source of data.
It would not have been surprising if women with hours of work
so casual and irregular had been unable to quote their earnings. But
the pennies were of such vital importance that usually the women
were keen in reckoning how many dozen sweaters they'had received
on Tuesday and how many more on Friday, and they knew the rates
for each dozen. Some clothing workers had been fortunate in having
regular work, and they too knew how many pairs of pants they had
felled or how many dozen coats they had finished, or how "many
pockets, collars, and cuffs they had embroidered for children’s
dresses during the week.
Even some of the carpet-rag sewers worked regularly enough to
know how many 20 or 25 pound balls they had made. Workers in
tags had no difficulty in reckoning numbers of boxes, and those who
crocheted curtain rings knew how many gross they had covered. It
was on such definite information as this that earnings were computed,
for the women always knew the rate of pay.




156

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Week’s earnings.
In computing earnings vague estimates were disregarded, and the
summary following is based upon definite statements of the amount
of work accomplished during the week preceding the interview.

Kind of home work

Total.. .........................
Carpet rags__________________
Clothing______ _____
Curtain rings and buckles— .... _
Sweaters________________ _
Tags, pins, snaps, and hooks . ...........

Number of Median of
women
reporting the week’s
earnings
earnings
139
21
34
23

3.45

36

2.35

The wide range in the medians of the week’s earnings—from $1.70
for the women sewing carpet rags to $9.20 for those finishing
sweaters—is due to several conditions, primarily to the rates of pay
but also to the amount of work available and the amount of time that
the women devoted to the work. Unpublished data show that not
one woman sewing carpet rags earned as much as $6; none working
on tags, hooks, pins, or snaps as much as $8; none crocheting curtain
rings or covering buckles as much as $10. In clothing, however, one
woman earned as much as $16 and in sweater finishing one woman
earned almost $20.
The low rates of pay as roughly estimated made it impossible for
the average woman interviewed to make much over 5 or 6 cents an
hour in pins or tags, or 7 or 8 cents an hour in curtain rings and
carpet rags, but the higher rates made it possible for a woman
finishing coats to earn 20 cents an hour and a woman finishing sweat­
ers 35 cents an hour.
The clothing and sweater finishers, on the whole, had a more serious
attitude toward their work and in their eagerness to accomplish all
they could worked incessantly—often day and night—while work on
pins, snaps, hooks, and carpet rags generally was regarded more
casually. Some women working at carpet rags would have liked
more work; clothing finishers were complaining bitterly of the lack
of work; the sweater finishers alone seemed to have all they could do.
These women were interviewed at the height of their season; the
slump in sweaters was expected a few months later.
Individual versus family-group work.
Another factor that must be considered in connection with earnings
derived from home work is that the individual woman often had
assistance from other members of the family. With this in mind a
classification was made showing to what extent the family group
worked together and to what extent the women were the only home
workers and were unassisted by others in the family,




157

INDUSTRIAL WORK IN THE HOME

Table 57.—Extent of individual and group work, by kind of work done
Number of Number of Individual
women
women in­ reporting
workers
terviewed earnings

Kind of home work

Total __

_

159

139

100.0

$3.70
Carpet rags____________ ____
Sweaters.____
Tags, pins, snaps, and hooks

28
42
23
26
40

21

34'
23
25
36

Family
groups

64
46.0
$4. 75

75
54.0
$3.00

11
22
12

10
12
11
6

19

36

In contrast to the more skilled work required in finishing sweaters
and clothing were the simple operations in tags, pins, snaps, and
hooks, for while only about a fourth of the sweater workers and
about a third of the clothing workers had help, every woman work­
ing on tags, pins, snaps, or hooks had help from one or more mem­
bers of the family, generally from the children of school age.
It was impossible to measure the amount of work done by the
mother and the other helpers, so the earnings represent the labor of
a miscellaneous group of adults and children. It is interesting, how­
ever, to note that individual work was more common in the two
industry groups having the largest earnings, that is, sweaters and
clothing. Of all the women reporting, the individual workers had a
median of $4.75 for a week’s work and those assisted by members
of the family had a median of only $3.
Dissatisfaction with earnings.
Dissatisfaction with pay was expressed freely by the women, but
to some degree they blamed themselves. “If we wouldn’t do the
work they would have to pay more.” “People like me make that
factory rich.” Another woman said: “ We ask God to give us work
and then we get so tired, more curses go on the cards than pins.”
She laughed at the folly of it, but still felt that anything was better
than nothing, for she could not afford to lose those few pennies.
Several complained of the recent reduction in rates of pay. “ They
used to be 25 cents, and now 10 cents, 15 cents.” “ Some women
would take the work if they paid only 2 cents. Now work all day
hard and 50 cents all can earn by pins.”
In spite of the pitifully low wages, hope and ambition were not
dead. Many mothers were cheerfully plodding along, hoping to
keep their children in school, “even through high school,” “as far
as their heads would carry them.” One mother’s attitude, however,
was quite different: “ God bless me,” she said, “ when my children
be big enough to work, maybe I not work so hard.” But the hopes
and plans of these home workers centered chiefly in the ownership
of their homes and not infrequently they expressed a wish that there
might be a garden, perhaps a farm; in every case it was to be a
“ nice ” home.
In these families the purchase of a home was a stupendous under­
taking. All plans revolved about it and other items of the family
budget faded away in comparison with it, for there was always the




158

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

constant fear that if the monthly payments should lapse they would
lose what had already been invested. In every one of the families
burdened with buying homes, the wives were working under pres­
sure to help to meet these payments. Because of doctors’ and hos­
pital bills one family was behind three months in the monthly pay­
ments of $20 on a house valued at $1,650, with no cellar, with open
drainage, and a cess pool. To contribute her bit the wife was sewing
carpet rags and her husband’s comment was, “She sits in rags all
the time; she kill herself to make a sack.” She was one of the many
who found it easier to wTork at carpet rags in the summer, when she
could sit out of doors; it was hard to work in the house with the
five children playing around in, the one small room that served as
kitchen, dining room, and living room. Working as hard as she
could and whenever she coukl her earnings from carpet rags rarely
were more than $1.50 a week. Yet that $1.50 loomed large and her
face shone like a child’s as she talked of the time when the home
would be theirs.




FOREIGN-BORN WOMEN ATTENDING PHILADEL­
PHIA PUBLIC EVENING SCHOOLS1
INTRODUCTION
As the house-to-house canvass progressed in Philadelphia it be­
came evident that one recent and very important group of immigrant
women was not being located by this method. It was quite generally
known that a great influx of young German working women had
taken place since the war, and that because of their education and
working experience in Germany these were important not only
numerically but industrially. The women had scattered throughout
the city and were not living in the so-called foreign sections where
the canvass of houses was made.
In order that the study should include all classes of foreign-born
workers it seemed important to reach this group of women; in no
other way could accurate data in regard to the recent German migra­
tion to Philadelphia become part of this report. It was learned that
these women were attracted from all parts of the city to the public­
evening-school centers where classes for beginners in English were
offered, and through the courtesy of the Philadelphia Board of Edu­
cation it was made possible to reach these pupils in the English
classes and so to gather information to supply the deficiency evident
in the other method of approach.
Information obtained in this way from a decidedly ambitious and
picked group is supplementary to the data in the first part of this
report secured during personal visits in the homes of the more mis­
cellaneous groups of women found through a house-to-house canvass
in foreign neighborhoods. Several of the schools were located in the
neighborhoods in which the block canvasses were made, but others
were very remote, and frequently the women stated that they had
to come long distances, the trip for some of them requiring an hour
each way.
In some of the more advanced classes the pupils filled in the
blanks without assistance, but in the case of beginners several teachers
made a class exercise of the questionnaire, interpreting it question by
question and giving individual assistance during the lesson. Every
possible effort was made to get reliable data, yet despite care and
precaution there were many opportunities for misunderstanding, be­
cause this group was not familiar with English and it was impossible
during the limited lesson hour to give adequate individual super­
vision in the larger classes.
Many of the questionnaires bore evidence of difficulty in writing
the letters and spelling the English words, but other replies were
wonderfully neat and correct. The students themselves evinced much
interest in the general purpose of the inquiry, often volunteering
1 The same questionnaire used in English classes of the Philadelphia public schools
was distributed to the women attending similar classes in Allentown, but so few Women
were enrolled that the data were insufficient for tabulation.




159

160

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

more information than was requested. Taken as a whole the data
obtained by this method give a fairly accurate picture of an espe­
cially progressive group who, in addition to their daily employment,
were making an effort to acquire the language of their adopted
country.
Not only Germans but women of many other races filled out the
simple questionnaire distributed among the foreign-born pupils who
were wage earners, so the following discussion is not confined to
German women.2
Almost half the questionnaires distributed in the six high schools
were answered by German women; the attendance in the 10 elemen­
tary schools reflected the predominating racial elements in the im­
mediate neighborhoods.
Summary.
Germa/n women.—Some of the outstanding facts brought out by the
questionnaires for the group of German women are these:
None of the 143 German women reporting was illiterate; as many as ninetenths had attended school for seven years or more before coming to the United
States.
They were not so young as the other races represented in the schools; twothirds were at least 21, and some were 40 and over, a few being at least 50.
Although seven-tenths of these women had been in the United States less
than two years, 41 of the 141 who gave a definite reply to this query were
looking forward to American citizenship and had filed their first papers.
They predominated in domestic service and in hosiery mills, and three of the
five professional pursuits were followed by German women.
Exclusive of those receiving living in addition to wage, largely domesticservice workers, the median of the week’s earnings of women of the German
race was $18.35.

All women.—Of the total of 732 women making out the ques­
tionnaires in the Philadelphia public evening schools, the majority
were Jews. The Germans were the next most numerous. The out­
standing facts concerning them are these:
The women were young, almost three-fifths of them being less than 21 years.
Over nine-tenths were unmarried.
Four-fifths of the women had been in this country less than four years.
More than a fifth of those who had not become citizens had filed their first
papers.
Nine were illiterate.
Almost three-fourths of the 695 women who reported extent of schooling in
the United States had been in school less than two years, explained partly by
the fact that almost a fourth of such group were at least 21 years of a'ge
when they arrived in this country.
There was a decided falling off in school attendance after three years of
residence in the United States.
Almost three-fifths of the women reporting had worked throughout their
period of residence in the United States.
Almost half of the women reporting present employment and race were in the
various clothing trades, more than seven-tenths of the number being Jewish.
Domestic and personal service, specifically housework, had a preponderance
of women of the German race.
More than a third of the women had been wage earners in the old country.
Almost two-fifths of those who had been wage earners in the old country—
chiefly domestics and dressmakers and tailors—were doing the same kind of
work here.
2 Several German women who answered the questionnaire had to be excluded from the
tables because they were not wage earners. They were well-educated, mature women
attending the English classes with their husbands, an interesting body of students but
not related to the present study.




161

FOREIGN-BORN WOMEN ATTENDING EVENING SCHOOLS

There was little shifting from job to job. More than half of the women re­
porting on this had had only one job in the United States, but almost three-fifths
of these women had been at work in the United States less than two years.
The median of the week’s wages as reported by 557 women is $17.40.

Scope.
The schools in which the questionnaires were distributed were lo­
cated in scattered sections of the city—the north central part, West
Philadelphia, Germantown, Frankford, Richmond, Kensington, and
South Philadelphia.
For each school the figures quoted represented an average at­
tendance—for one evening in February, 1925—and not the total en­
rollment. Questions relating to age, present living condition, work
and schooling in the old country, as well as citizenship, schooling,
and industrial experience in the United States, appeared on the
questionnaire. (See p. 175.)
The reports were sent to the bureau by the schools visited, he
number of questionnaires returned by each school being as follows:
Elementary

High

Total..............................................................518
Barry..----------Blaine.....................
Ferguson_____________
Hay________
Kearney-------------------------------Martin......................
Meade_____ ___________
Miller__ 65
Mt. Vernon 23
Southwark...________

Total..._______ ______________

26

_ ..214

Central.................................................... . ___
Frankford_______________________________
Germantown 24
Kensington___________________
Northeast 53
South Philadelphia 41

62
27
99
6
13

46

Grand total, both classes.................

71

732

9
41

126

PERSONAL DATA
Race and country of birth.
Although the pupils of these evening schools had come from 20
or more European countries and from South America and Canada,
and represented almost as many races, the concentration of numbers
is found among the Jewish, German, and Russian. Jews comprised
practically three-fifths of the 732 women reporting, and by their
overwhelming numbers they color every phase of this special survey.
The German group, next largest in numbers, comprised about onefifth, and the Russians about one-tenth, of the total.
Table 58.—Race or people, by country of birth
Number of women who were born in—
Race or people

wom­
Eng­
en
report­ land
ing

Ire­
land

Aus­
tria
22

121

16

4

732
English-speaking____
Non-English-speaking:
German..
Italian... ______
Jewish__
Magyar. _
Polish
Rumanian.............
Russian
Other races

4

8

12

4

Ger­ Hun­ Italy
many gary

Po­
land

Other
Ru­
mania Russia coun­
tries

8

143

8

117

415

10

4

24
4
76
228

1

22
8

2
1

6

22

77

21

392

i 49

17

317

13

1
22

48
23

69

^ Includes Lithuania 13, Latvia 7, Czechoslovakia 6, and Armenia 5. The remaining 18 were from
more other countries.
8 Includes Lithuanian 8 and Armenian 5. The remaining 15 were of 8 or more other races.




24
10

or
1

162

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

More than half of the women came from Russia—three-fourths of
the Jews as well as nine-tenths of the Russians claiming it as their
country of birth—and the next largest number came from Germany.
It will be recalled that the Germans who had settled in the Lehigh
Valley since the war had come chiefly from Austria, but that those
settling in Philadelphia had come from Germany. Yet not all the
Jews had come from Russia nor all the Germans from Germany, for
there were Jews and Germans from eight other European countries
also.
Age.
As might be expected, these evening-school pupils were young, well
over one-half (56.7 per cent) being less than 21 years of age. There
were, however, maturer women of 30 and 40 who, in spite of their
years, were bravely making the effort to learn English after the
day’s work.
The table following shows that while almost two-thirds of the
German women were 21 years old or more, two-thirds of the Jews
and Russians were less than 21. It is noticeable that in the highest
age group—40 years and over—10 of the 13 women reporting were
German. Three of these women were as much as 50.
Table 59.—Age, 6y race or people

Race or people

Total
English-speaking_______ ___
Non-English-speaking:
German ____________ ...
Italian__________ ____
Jewish...........................
Russian
Other races...___ _______

Number of women whose age was—
Number
of women
21 and
25 and
30 and
reporting Under 18 18 and
under 21 under 25 under 30 under 40 40 years
years
and over
years
years
years
years
720

90

12
142
21
408
74
» 63

318

177

65

57

13

6
10
l
61
14
4

42

43

20

17

10

212
35
21

91
15
16

23
7
9

20
2
12

1
1
1

■Includes Polish 24, Lithuanian 8, Magyar 8, and Armenian 5. The remaining 18 were of 9 or more
hAr FAPAK

Marital status.
Not only was this group of students young but from unpublished
data it is found that the vast majority of them (92.3 per cent) were
single. Only 56 were married. The German group had one-tenth
of their number married, while the Jewish and Russian groups each
had about one-twentieth in this class.
Time in the United States.
Taken as a whole the night-school pupils had been residents of the
United States a very short time, some having been in this country
less than a year. More than a third had been here 1 and under 2
years and about a fourth 2 and under 3 years. Four out of five had
been here less than 4 years. In contrast to these were a very few who
had been here 10,15, or eyen 20 years.




FOREIGN-BORN WOMEN ATTENDING EVENING SCHOOLS

163

Citizenship.
In view of the fact that only 81 of the 728 women reporting had
been here as long as five years it was surprising to find that 113 were
naturalized citizens of the United States. These had automatically
become citizens through their fathers or husbands and not because of
any action taken by the women themselves.
Real interest is attached to the 124 women in this young and very
recent immigrant group who on their own initiative had declared
their intention of becoming American citizens. More than a fifth of
those who were not citizens had taken this action, the proportion
being higher among the Germans than among any other race.

Number
of women
reporting

Race or people

Having full cit­
izenship

Having first papers
or having de­
clared intention

Number Per cent Number Per cent
Total_____ ________ ______________ _______

702

113

16.1

124

17.7

German..__________________ __________ ...
Jewish_______ ________
Russian..........................................................................
Other________ ________________ _________ ...

141
396
70
95

8
74
12
19

5.7
18.7
17.1
20.0

41
51
13
19

29.1
12.9
18.6
20.0

Illustrative of the eagerness of some to become citizens was the
Russian girl of 22 who, though in the United States only a year and
a half, had been in school the whole of that time and had" already
declared her intention of becoming a citizen. In contrast to her was
the Italian girl who in spite of a residence of nine years in America
had not taken out her first papers and was only beginning to learn
English. As a maker of artificial flowers the Italian girl had earned
$3 a week when she came, but as a cigar maker at the time of the
study she occasionally earned $20.
EDUCATION
Schooling in the old country.
Work in these elementary English classes was not the first experi­
ence these women had had in school, for the great majority had been
fairly well educated in the schools of their native countries and only
9 (4 Russian Jews, 3 Russians, and 2 Italians) could neither read
nor write in any language. Three-fifths of the women had attended
school as much as five years in the old country and many of them
much longer. Almost half of the women who had been in school in
the old country as much as seven years were Germans. This is the
more striking as there were about three times as many Jews as Ger­
mans in the total number reporting.
Seven-tenths of the women could read and write in more than one
language. The Jewish women showed the greatest proficiency in
languages, due in some degree to their knowledge of Yiddish as well
as the official language of their native country. One-third of all the
women reporting could read and write in as many as three lan­
guages, and most of these were Jewish. Approximately another
third of the women knew two languages, but of these about as many
were non-Jewish as were Jewish.




164

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

A Jewish girl born in Rumania was typical of her race as far as
languages are concerned. She spoke Yiddish at home; she had
learned to read and write Rumanian and German in the old coun­
try; and after two and a third years in American evening schools
she had acquired a fair knowledge of English.
Time in school in the United States.
The habit of attending school was acquired in the old country, so
it was not altogether a strange experience to continue studying here.
Table 60.—Time in school in the United States, bv age at time of arrival

Time in school in the United States 1

Total
Under 1 year_____
1 and under 2 years
2 and under 3 years.
3 and under 4 years.
4 and under 5 years.
5 years and over___

Number of
women re­
porting

Number of women with schooling
as specified whose age at time of
arrival in the United States was—
Under 14
years

14 and un­ 21 years
der 21 years and over

695

42

511

142

301

4

211

86

113
37

8
6

170
93
29

41

20

20

212
12

1

3

8

12
2

1

1 Expressed in years, though in many cases it may mean school years.

From Table 60 it is evident that practically all the women had
passed the usual grade-school age when they arrived in the United
States, the largest group being 14 and under 21 when they came, and
that all who had been in school in this country as much as five years
were less than 14 at time of arrival.
Of more vital importance is the length of time the women had
been in school in the United States. The table shows that much the
largest group had been in school less than a year. Only 1 woman in
10 had had as much as three years’ schooling in the United States.
Of the women who had been in school here less than a year, almost
two-thirds had attended less than six months.
Not many women were as eager for schooling as the Russian girl
described in the comments on citizenship. For example, of a group
of 62 women who had been in school in the United States less than
three months, 28 had been in this country 1 and under 3 years and 8
had been here 3 years or more. One woman actually had lived here
15 years. Of the 26 in the United States less than a year, 10 had
been here less than 3 months and had at once begun attending school.
The following correlation of residence in the United States and
attendance at school emphasizes the natural tendency for the period
of school attendance to be much shorter than the period of residence.
Only 17.4 per cent of the women had lived here a year or less, but
more than one-half of them (54.1 per cent) had been in school for no
longer than a year. At the other extreme of the table are 76 women
with an American residence of five years or more and only 20 women
with as much as five years’ schooling in the United States, presumably
those who came here when young.




FOREIGN-BORN WOMEN ATTENDING EVENING SCHOOLS

165

Table 61.—Distribution of women according to length of residence in the United

States and time attending school
Residence in the
United States

School attendance in the
United States

Time period
Number
Number of women reporting____ ____________
Under 3 months.__________ ____ _________ ____
3 and under 6 months_______________________ _____
6 and under 12 months__________ _________________
1 year_________
Over 1 year and under iy% years
1^ and under 2 years..
___
2 and under 2l years_____ ___ ____ _
A
2H and under 3 years
3 and under 4 years
4 and under 5 years______________________________
5 years and over

Per cent

Number

Per cent

708

100.0

708

100.0

10
16
15
82
78
93
133
40
111
54
76

1.4
2.3
2.1
11.6
11.0
13.1
18.8
5.6
15.7
7.6
10.7

62
133
114
74
103
38
94
21
37
12
20

8.8
18.8
16.1
10.5
14.5
5.4
13.3
3.0
5.2
1.7
2.8

From the next table it is evident that almost a fifth of the women
who had been in school less than five years had attended the eve­
ning schools approximately all the time these had been in session
since their arrival in the United States.
Table

62.—Attendance at school during approximately entire residence in the
United States

Residence in the United States

Number
of women
attending
school for
same
period

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

126

Under 1 year____________
1 year-------- ------ -----------Over 1 and under 1H years.

5
19
18

Residence in the United States

ll and under 2 years.
A
2 and under 2A years
2% and under 3 years
3 and under 4 years..
4 and under 5 years. _

Number
of women
attending
school for
same
period
15
32

11
20
6

This compilation is merely an approximation to. show that many
women had the habit of continued and regular attendance at school.
If a woman reported that she had lived here 15 months—that is,
from a year to a year and a half—and also that she had been in
school a year and a few months, it was taken for granted that in
the main the time of her schooling approached fairly closely the
over-all of the residence period, and she is included as one of the
women who had been in school during approximately their entire
residence. Undoubtedly the approximation is closer for the shorter
periods than for periods involving three or four years.
It is interesting to note how quickly many women had found their
way to school. One woman in the United States but two weeks
had been registered in school two weeks; two others in this country
only three weeks had been in school one week and eight days, respec­
tively; another with a month’s residence had been in school three
weeks; another who had been here six weeks had been in school four
weeks of that time.
The most significant fact is not that some immigrants find their
way to school so quickly after landing, nor that some attend school




166

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

regularly, but that after so short a residence as three years there is
a marked falling off in school attendance. The average foreign-born
pupil seems to leave evening school as soon as she knows the minimum
amount of English that enables her to “ get along.”
INDUSTRIAL EXPERIENCE
Length of time working in the United States.
These women were workers primarily, and they had spent a much
longer time in the shops than in the schools of their adopted land.
Time worked in the United States was reported as follows:
Time worked in the United States

Number
of women

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

682

Under 3 months____________
3 and under 6 months__
6 months and under 1 year______

17
18
28

Time worked in the United States
1 and under 2 years________________ _
2 and under 3 years___ ___

Number
of women
261
174
94
40
50

Only 9.2 per cent of the women had worked less than a year.
Five out of six had been employed from 1 to 4 years. The follow­
ing summary shows that roughly three-fifths had worked during
approximately their entire residence in the United States.
Table 63.—Employment during approximately entire residence in the United

States

Residence in the United States

Number
of women
working
for same
period
386

Under 6 months
1 and under V/i years________
2 and under 2l years
A

7
91
46
98

Residence in the United States

and under 3 years. ........................ .
3 and under 3J4 years________
_. ..
3Yi and under 4 years_______ _______
4 and under 4years___________
5 and under 10 years____
10 and under 15 years...
15 years and over...........

Number
of women
working
for same
period
17
56
9
31
10
8
8

This table includes only those women who gave exactly the same
answer to the two questions: “ How long have you worked in the
United States?” and “ How long have you lived in the United States?”
It does not include, for example, the woman who had been here 14
days and had been at work 10 days. Undoubtedly the information
is more exact for those in the United States only a short time, but on
the whole it may be said that 386 women considered that they had
been wage earners all the time they had lived here and that at least
it was their habit to work continuously.
Present employment.
Of the 712 women who gave definite data about their present em­
ployment, almost one-half were in the various branches of the cloth­
ing industry, while the next largest numbers were employed in the
manufacture of textiles, chiefly knit goods, and in domestic and per­




167

FOREIGN-BORN WOMEN ATTENDING EVENING SCHOOLS

sonal service. The miscellaneous-manufacturing group includes 6
women employed in the making of paper boxes, 6 in shoes, 7 in
neckties, 10 in lamp shades, 13 in bakery and confectionery establish­
ments, and others even more scattered. The professional group of
five women includes nurses and teachers.
Table 64.—Present industry or occupation, by race or people
Women reporting

Number of women in each specified industry
whose race was—

Present industry or occupation
Number Per cent English­ Ger­ Ital­ Jew­ Pol­ Rus­ Other
speaking man ian
ish
ish sian
Total_____________ _ .
Per cent distribution.
Manufacturing:
Cigars_____ ...

100.0

100.0

12
1.7

138
19.4

2.9

17
7

10

407
57.2

4.5

286
76
94

40.2
10.7
13.2

116

16.3

Dressmaking and tailoring___
Millinery...............
.........

62
28

8.7
3.9

Textiles................ ...........
Hosiery____________
Sweaters and bathing suits.
Other................... ........

98
25
52
21

13.8
3.5
7.3
2.9

3

Miscellaneous
Clerical.........................

78
15

11.0
2.1

1

11
1

Domestic and personal service__
Housework................
Other.......... ...... ..........

89
69
20

12.5
9.7
2.8

3

69
58
11

Professional work________
Sales................................

5
19

.7
2.7

73

212
56
78

9

28

78

32

Clothing_________ ..___
Men’s clothing
...
Women’s clothing
Other clothing and produets not specified

24
3.4

3

18

37
5.2

20

7

1

1

26
17
4

3
1

4

17

2

43

2

37
3

2

52
3

2
1

8

7
1

8
1

1

10

8
6
9
3
1
8

15

Since almost three-fifths of these wage earners were Jewish,
naturally this race predominated in many of the industry groups.
Altogether three-fifths of them were employed in the clothing trades
and they comprised a large proportion of the workers in the manu­
facture of cigars, millinery, sweaters, and the small lines included in
miscellaneous manufacturing, such as lamp shades, paper boxes, and
neckties. Most of the saleswomen were Jewish, but there were very
few Jews (only 3 of 89) in domestic service. None were found in
woolen mills nor in the group classified as professional.
The Germans predominated in domestic service. The Russians
were employed largely in the clothing trades, but otherwise there
is nothing distinctive in their industrial distribution. The few
Italians were in manufacturing trades exclusively.
Employment in the old country compared with present employ­
ment.
More than a third of the women had been wage earners in the old
country, to a considerable extent in the needle trades, as tailors, dress­
makers and seamstresses, or in clothing factories, but chiefly in house­
work. Others had been saleswomen, clerks, and farm workers, and
a few had been nurses and teachers.
65661°—30——12




THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

168

Agriculture was the only pursuit followed on the other side in
which no women had been employed since coming to the United
States. Those who had done farm labor were working here in domes­
tic service and in factories.
_
In the old country more than two-fifths of the women had been in
the more skilled trades and occupations, as dressmakers, saleswomen,
clerical workers, nurses, or teachers, but over here only about a
seventh (14.8 per cent) had succeeded in getting into such lines of
work, and most of these were tailors or dressmakers. None of those
who had been saleswomen were in saleswork here, only one clerical
worker had fitted into her own line, and only a few had found tutor­
ing or nursing positions in the United States.
_
The remainder of the women who had worked in the old country
were employed largely in the factories of Philadelphia, chiefly cloth­
ing and knit goods, and even in domestic service. Some women who
had been clerks, salespersons, or skilled workers in the needle trades
were employed here in domestic service. The manufacturing indus­
tries had recruited even more workers (62) from those who were in
skilled trades in the old country, as dressmakers, saleswomen, clerical
workers, and professional women than from those who were employed
in manufacturing in the old country (56).
Table 65.—Present employment, by occupation in old country
Number of women whose present job is in—
Num­
ber of
Occupation in old country women
report­
ing

Total___

___ _

Manufacturing:
Dressmaking and tailor-

Manufacturing
Dress­
Cloth­ making Knit
and
ing
tailor­ goods
ing

Domes­
tic and Profes­
Clerical
per­
work sonal sional
Mis­
work
cella­
service
neous

250

72

28

36

43

28

19

2

5

20
1
3

2

12

4
1
17
4
2
8
3
3

62

4

1

4
5
2
2
6

2

43
6
35
23
56
20
27

11
6
8
11
6
6
6

Sales

3
1
2

2
1
1

8
5
37
6
4

4

_____

Girls who had been office clerks, typists, and stenographers in Hun­
gary and Russia found themselves operating power sewing machines
in this country. It was a great change from working in a store to
packing pretzels, or from telegraph operating to work on a cigarette
machine. A girl who had been a teacher in her native country was
a cigar bander at the time of the survey.
But the largest number who had not found their places in industry
were in housework. Two German women, skilled weavers, were
domestics, making a desperate effort to attend the English classes at
night.
Several domestics, chiefly German girls, had been sales-




FOREIGN-BORN- WOMEN ATTENDING EVENING SCHOOLS

169

women, office clerks, and stenographers before they came to the
United States. With painstaking care they wrote in English their
answers to the questionnaire: In the United States—1 year 9 months;
in school—1 year 5 months; first papers—yes; work in old country—
stenographer; work now—housework.
While many had not yet found their places, at least 108 women,
or more than two-fifths of those who had been wage earners in the
old country, had fitted into the same general line of work here.
Over a third (37) of these women were in domestic service before
they came and reported the same in the United States. The next
largest number (20) were continuing as dressmakers and tailors on
this side; 11 others who had been dressmakers were in closely
allied branches of the clothing trade; and 2 who had been in the
clothing industry had become dressmakers. Nineteen had found
their own work in clothing factories, 5 in knit-goods factories, 4 in
professional lines, and 1 in clerical wTork. In the miscellaneous lines
of manufacturing 5 millinery workers were in the same general kind
of work over here, as were 2 cigar makers; and the only 2 who were
weaving had learned their trade in the old country.
Employment in the same industry is shown in"the case of the girl
whose answers to the questions were as follows: What kind of work
did you do in the old country ? Dressmaking. What was your first
job in the United States? Sew dresses. What is your job now?
Dressmaking. How many jobs have you had? Two. Or in the
case of the German girl who wrote her replies with great precision,
Nurse; nurse; I am a nurse.
Effect on industry of time in the United States.
The length of time that the women had lived in the United States
seems to have had little to do with the industry in which they were
employed. Although half of the group who had been here less than
a year were in the clothing trades, the others in this group already
were scattered through the main manufacturing lines and were also
in sales,_ clerical, and professional positions. About seven-tenths
of those in domestic and personal service had been here less than two
years, and none of the five professional nurses and teachers had been
here as long as four years.
The employment of immigrant women as saleswomen and clerks is
explained by the fact that this was mostly in neighborhood stores
in foreign sections, where the customers were as foreign as the girls
themselves, and a foreign language was a greater asset than English.
Such was the case with Rosie—a young Jewish woman who during
her year and a half in the United States had been employed as a
saleswoman in a store belonging to a fellow countryman. She had
had the equivalent of a common-school education in Europe and had
been in school “ 1 year and 19 weeks ” since coming to the United
States, hoping some day “ to talk English so good ” that she can
get a job in a “ nice store on Market Street.”
Number of jobs.
. Furthermore, the women had shifted comparatively little from one
job to another. Regardless of the time they had worked, more than
half of those reporting had held but one job in the United States;




170

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

about, three-tenths had worked in two jobs, and about one-eighth in
three jobs, and 44 women had had four or more jobs.
The following analysis shows how long the women who had made
no change in their employment had worked. It is apparent that
about two-thirds of the group had worked in one job one or two
years.
Table 66.—Women

having had only one job in the United States, by time at
tcork

Time at work in the United States

Total____________________ ____ _____
1 and under 2 years______ ______ ... _.
2 and under 3 years__________________
3 and undei 4 years... _______
4 and under 5 years______ __________
5 years and over....... ................... .............

Number of
reporting

Women with only 1 job
Number

Per cent

658

339

51.5

62
254
169
93
39
41

49
146
88
30
16
10

79.0
57.5
52.1
32. 3
41. 0
24.4

WAGES
First wages.
The questionnaire called for data on first wages earned in the
United States as well as present -wages, and since so few of the women
had been in the United States longer than five years their first wages
are indicative of what foreign-born beginners have been earning in
very recent years. The first week’s pay was less than $6 for 87
women, $6 to $8 for 85 women, and $8 to $10 for 116 women, so that
almost half of the 598 women reporting received less than $10 for
their first week’s work. About a fourth were paid $10 to $11, and
the remaining fourth earned amounts varying from $11 to $20, and in
rare instances more.
Raises in wages.
Almost 600 women answered the question, What do you earn now
when you work a full week? and the replies undoubtedly represent
maximum wages in busy seasons rather than actual earnings, espe­
cially in jobs in which there is as much undertime as in the clothing
trade.
A very few women were working at the time of the survey at a
rate lower than that at which they started; many more had ex­
perienced no change; but a comparison of amounts first earned in the
United States with the present full-time maximum wages reveals
that about 500 women had received material increases in pay during
the short time they had been employed. The extent of such increases,
based on the full weekly wage received, are indicated roughly in the
table following.




'

FOREIGN-BORN WOMEN ATTENDING EVENING SCHOOLS

171

Table 67.—Earnings in the first and the present job, by industry
First employment
Industry or occupation

Present employment

Number of Median of Number of Median of
the full­
the week’s
women
women
time
reporting
reporting weekly rate
wage

Total___ __________

590

$17.40

9.00
10.40
10.50

249
56
90

18.15
18. 50
18. 30

9.55
8.00
7. 10
10.00

131
30
27
74

15. 80
20. 50
15.95
14.80

22

Clerical; professional; sales_____

557

i 220
2 28
29
120

Miscellaneous manufacturing _ _ _
Cigars. ________
Millinery. ............
Miscellaneous occupations_____

$10.05

197
71
80

Manufacturing:
Clothing_________
Dressmaking and tailoring..
Textiles (including knit goods)___

10.80

31

15. 65

. 1 Includes 43 women in industries too small for tire computation of a median.
1 Includes some women employed in cigarette factories.

First wages and present full-time rates in some of the industries
or occupations in which the women were chiefly employed are com­
pared in Table 67. The median of the wages of all the women for
their first week’s work in the United States was $10.05, but the
median of their present rate is $17.40; that is, $7.35 more than their
first pay. There arc no extreme differences in the medians of the
wages for the first week in the industries that employed most women,
but the median for the sales, clerical, and professional group was
slightly higher than for the others. However, in contrast to this
the median of the rates for those now employed in sales, clerical,
and professional lines is lower than those in all the other groups but
miscellaneous manufacturing.
Wages in relation to experience.
The next summary shows that in general full-time wages increase
as experience in industry increases up to four years. The median of
the full-time wage rises from $12.25 to $19.50 during the first four
years, an increase that seems a normal result of experience.
Table 68.—Median of the full-time weekly wage, by time worked in the United

States

Time worked in the United States

Total__________ ________
Under 6 months_____ _____ ________
6 months and under 1 year. ...
1 and under 2 years...............................
2 and under 3 years___ __________
3 and under 4 years ________________
4 and under 5 years .............. ..................
5 and under 10 years_____ ___________
10 and under 20 years................ .............................. ..




Number of Median of
the weekly
women
reporting
wage
549

$17.45

31
25
188
148
84
33
22
18

12.25
13.40
15.80
18.60
19.50
18. 70
20. 60
16.00

172

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Wages and race.
A correlation of standard full-time wages and race showed some
variations among the three groups reporting in numbers large
enough to be at all significant, with the Germans having the highest
median.

Race or people

German_______

Median of
the full­
time
weekly
wage

_

Russian...____ ______ ____
....

Number of
women
reporting

66

16.40

_

Wages in domestic and personal service.
Besides the few hundred women who were wage earners in organ­
ized industries, 79 enrolled in the English classes were employed as
maids in private families and in other personal-service or profes­
sional lines such as sewing or practical nursing.
Since it was customary for this group to receive board and perhaps
room in addition to the weekly cash wages, they have not been in­
cluded in the discussion of wages for women whose compensation
was in money only. More than half who received their living as part
pay were working for a wage of $10 to $13 a week; a few were receiv­
ing more than $15 and a very few less than $10. Only five of these
women had been in the United States as long as three years; most
of them had been here only from one to three years.




SUMMARY OF PRINCIPAL FACTS
Date of survey: January to September, 1925.
Scope: Interviewed in Philadelphia, 1,120 women; in Lehigh Valley, 1,026.
Principal races: In Philadelphia, 26.3 per cent Polish; 19.7 per cent Jewish;
15.4 per cent Italian; 9 per cent German. In Lehigh Valley, 34.1 per­
cent German; 22.1 per cent Magyar; 17.9 per cent Slovenian; 8.2
per cent Slovak.
.
Date of arrival in United States: Three-fifths came between 1905 and 1915.
Age at arrival: Nearly three-fifths not more than 18; only about a sixth as
much as 25. Two-fifths made the voyage alone. Seventy per cent went
to work within a few months; many without losing a day.
Marital status: Single, 25.9 per cent; married, 57.2 per cent; widowed, separated,
or divorced, 17 per cent. Jewish were 73.1 per cent single; English­
speaking races, 47.7 per cent.
Age: Under 20, 13 per cent; 20 and under 25, 15.4 per cent; 25 and under 30,
14.7 per cent; 30 and under 40, 35.5 per cent; 40 and under 50, 15.2
per cent; 50 and over, 6.2 per cent. Italian and Jewish, younger
groups; women 40 or more largely German and Polish.
Citizenship: One-fifth were citizens of the United States, but only 18 by own
efforts.
Schooling: Three-fourths of the nearly 1,300 reporting schooling in old country
had had six or more years in school there. Nearly 1,400 never at school
in United States. More than 300 never at school either abroad or in
United States.
Inability to speak English: Of more than 1,500 in United States 10 or more
years, 37.2 per cent could not speak English. Of nearly 1,500 at least
14 when they arrived, about half had never learned to speak English.
This condition worse in Lehigh Valley than Philadelphia.
Illiteracy: More than two-thirds could not read English; about 1 in 6 could not
read and write in any language. Illiterate found largely in textiles
and cigars. Small minority attending night classes. Others found
them not suited to needs.
Living conditions: Only 139 living apart from family or near relatives. Twofifths of families had 5 or more members; one-fourth, 6 or more. Aver­
age size of family, 4.5 persons. Average number of wage earners in
family, 2.4. Woman was sole wage earner in 156 families; 116 were
widows and 26 wives.
Relationship of woman: Of 1,900 reporting on this, half were wives and moth­
ers, 1 in 5 daughters, 1 in 7 wives but not mothers, 1 in 7 widows with
children.
Children: Average number per mother, 2.6. More than two-fifths of mothers
had at least 3 and almost 70 had 6 or more. Three-fourths of families
had children under 16. In 600 or more cases there were children
under 7. Large numbers inadequately cared for while mother at work.
Slightly over 150 mothers had sons or daughters of 18 or more. Almost
all these were at work, as were perhaps half of those 14 and under 18.
Occupation of husband: Of more than 1,100 women reporting, 36 per cent gave
husband’s occupation as in metal trades, 13 per cent in cement, 10 per
cent textiles, 8 per cent labor, and 7 per cent building trades. One
hundred twenty husbands were not employed—ill, out of a job, “no
good.” Slack work was a common condition. In about a tenth of the
families the wife had become chief wage earner.
Earnings of chief male wage earner: About one-tenth of the 456 men whose
earnings were reported received less than $20 a week. Slightly over
a fourth, as much as $30. Lehigh Valley had somewhat higher earn­
ings than Philadelphia.
Married women’s return to work: Of 314 reporting on this, 223 had been at
home 5 years or more before again going to work. In 147 eases such
return was necessary for actual family support.
Home duties: Only 28 women had no household duties. More than 160 had
boarders and lodgers in the home.




173

174

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

Housing: Houses were larger in Lehigh Valley than Philadelphia, and in threetenths of the cases 2, 3, or more families occupied one house. Each
family rented one sleeping room, rarely two, and shared kitchen.
There were 43 cases of 6-room houses having 10 or more occupants ;
some had 12 to 15 people in 6 rooms. Both localities had examples of
2 and 3 persons living in one room; Philadelphia, one case of 4 in a
room. Rents averaged between $5 and $6 a room in Philadelphia; less
in Lehigh Valley. Sanitary equipment inadequate or entirely absent
in many cases in Lehigh Valley.
Women’s occupations: Principal lines in Lehigh Valley—cigars (658 women),
silk (308), jute (44). In Philadelphia—woolen and worsted (235),
clothing (205), hosiery (93), cigars (67), office cleaning (66), food
(61), clerical work (56).
Industrial experience: Most women coming as adults had been employed in
old country, more than half in farm work. Of these, 46 per cent were
now employed in cigars and 36 per cent in textiles. None doing farm
work. Of those formerly in domestic service, 34 per cent were in cigars
and 26 per cent in textiles. Most of those formerly in textiles were
again in textiles. Three-fourths of those not employed in the old
country were in cigars, clothing, and textiles. Seventeen hundred
women had gone directly into manufacturing in the United States
though only 200 had been wage earners in factories before. More
than a fifth in Philadelphia and about a tenth in Lehigh Valley went
to work first in domestic and personal service. In Philadelphia 38
per cent and in Lehigh Valley 64 per cent had had no change in occupa­
tion in their entire working experience in the United States; 66
women, no change in 15 or more years; 13 in one occupation 20 years
or more. Of Philadelphia women reporting, 53 per cent had been
employed in United States less than 5 years; 20 per cent as much as
10 years. Of those in Lehigh Valley, less than 40 per cent had been
employed under 5 years and 31 per cent as much as 10 years. In the
aggregate, Philadelphia women had worked somewhat less than half
their time in United States; those in Lehigh Valley, almost threefifths. Work after marriage more common in the Lehigh Valley. In
the aggregate, lost time was 88 per cent due to domestic causes.
Earnings: Of 988 women in Philadelphia, 11 per cent received under $10, 35
per cent $10 and under $15, 36 per cent $15 and under $20, and 18
per cent $20 and over. Of 836 women in the Lehigh Valley, 10 per
cent received under $10, 23 per cent $10 and under $15, 37 per cent $15
and under $20, and 29 per cent $20 and over. The medians of these
earnings were $15.35 in Philadelphia, where woolen weaving, hosiery,
meat packing, and clerical work paid best, and $16.75 in Lehigh Valley,
where silk weaving and cigar bunching and rolling had the highest
medians. For 1,682 women reporting, the median with experience of
less than a year was $12.85; for 5 and under 10 years, $17.10; for 20
years and over, $18.50.
Hours worked: Of more than 200 women in Philadelphia reporting hours
worked, almost two-fifths worked less than 9 hours a day, two-fifths
9 and under 10 hours, and one-fifth 10 hours or more. Of more than
200 reporting in the Lehigh Valley, only 8 per cent worked less than
9 hours, 43 per cent 9 and under 10 hours, 11 per cent 10 hours, and
37 per cent more than 10 hours. Many women prolonged their firm’s
scheduled day by beginning work earlier than the hour specified in the
morning or by reducing the lunch period, thus insuring higher earnings.
In Philadelphia 46 per cent gave their weekly hours as 48 or under;
only 9 per cent worked 54 hours or more. In Lehigh Valley less than
6 per cent worked 48 hours or less and 43 per cent said they exceeded
54 hours.
Irregularity of work: Slack work, during periods ranging from a few weeks to
more than 9 months, was reported by 476 women. Seventy women re­
ported shutdowns that kept them out of work for 3 months or more,
and more than 70 had been thus unemployed for 1 and under 3
months. Shutdowns, layoffs, and irregular employment had caused a
third of the cases of changing jobs reported; low wages a fourth of
all.
Accidents: Industrial accidents had occurred to 124 women; 18 injured
permanently.




SUMMARY OS’ PRINCIPAL PACTS

175

INDUSTRIAL HOME WORK IN PHILADELPHIA

Numbers and race: Italian, 108; German, 27; Slavic, 21; other, 3; total, 159.
Occupation: Finishing clothing, 42; finishing sweaters and knit goods, 26;
hooks, snaps, pins, tags, 40; curtain rings and pulls, 20; sewing carpet
rags, 28; beading buckles, 3.
.
Age: About 70 per cent 30 and under 50 years; only 8 under 25.
Marital status: Only 3 women single. More than half of all had been married
at least 10 years.
Years In United States: Approximately four-fifths in United States more than
20 years.
Inability to speak English : Two-thirds could not speak English.
Illiteracy: About 90 per cent could not read English; 45 per cent could not
read and write in any language.
Children: Dependency of children the principal cause of women doing home
work. Average number of children, 3.8. In practically half the
families, as many as 4; in almost a fifth, 6 or more. In 84 families,
youngest child was under 5.
Male breadwinners: Men had chief responsibility of support in all but 12
families. Their work mainly unskilled and poorly paid labor. In
29 cases, employment was seasonal; in 43, very irregular. Only 29
men had steady work. Of 51 whose earnings were reported, one
earned less than $10 and one as much as $38. Median was $24.25.
Fifteen earned less than $20.
Women’s earnings: Median of a week’s earnings, 139 women, $3.70. Ranged
from $1.70 for carpet rags to $9.20 for sweaters. Many had the help
of children. Finishing men's coats, 17 cents each. Steady workers,
4 to 8 in a day. Embroidering children’s dresses, 50 cents a dozen.
Some women, a dozen in 4 or 5 hours. Finishing sweaters, skilled work,
40 or 45 cents each. Swift and steady workers, a sweater in 1%
hours. Stringing tags, 10 cents a thousand. Fair average, 500 in an
hour. Covering curtain rings, 40 cents a gross. About 5 hours of
steady work, though one fast worker had done 6 dozen in an hour.
Cutting and sewing carpet rags, about $1.50 for 2 to 3 bushels. An
experienced worker took 7 or 8 hours to do a bushel. Carding safety
pins, 8 to 15 cents a hundred cards. Fifty cents a day; occasionally
a dollar. Carding snaps, 10 cents a hundred cards.
WOMEN ATTENDING EVENING SCHOOLS

Number of students answering questionnaire, 732.
Race: Jewish, 415; German, 143; Russian, 76; others, 98.
Age: Well over half were under 21; about 2 per cent were as much as 40.
Marital status: More than 90 per cent single.
Years in United States: Four in five, less than 4 years; a very few, 10, 15, 20
years.
Literacy: Seven-tenths could read and write in more than one language; onethird in 3 or more languages.
Years in United States and in school: Of 708 women, 6 per cent had been in
the United States under 1 year; 36 per cent 1 and under 2 years; 24
per cent 2 and under 3; 16 per cent 3 and under 4; 8 per cent 4
and under 5; 11 per cent 5 years and over. Of the same women, 44
per cent had been in school in the United States under 1 year; 30
per cent 1 and under 2; 16 per cent 2 and under 3; 5 per cent 3 and
under 4; 2 per cent' 4 and under 5; and 3 per cent 5 years and over.
Occupation: Of 712 reporting, 286, mainly Jewish, were in clothing; 98, mainly
Jewish and German, in textiles; 89, mostly German, in domestic and
personal service.
First wages in United States: Almost one-half of 598 women reporting had
received less than $10 for their first week’s work: Under $6, 87 women ;
$6 and under $8, 85 women; $8 and under $10, 116 women.
Present earnings: Median, for 557 women, $17.40; ranged from $14.80 in
miscellaneous manufacturing to $20.50 in cigar manufacturing.







V

*

1
I

.

APPENDIX—SCHEDULE FORMS
SCHEDULE I
This schedule was used for the interviews with the women in their homes.
U. S. Department

of

Labor

WOMEN’S BUREAU
I. Personal Data

1.
6.
5.
6.
7.
8.

9.
10.
11.
12.

Name--------------------------------------------- 2. Address.............
'
lime at present address.•_--------- 4. Marital status: S. M W S D~
Present age------------- Date of birth._
...
_
Country of birth----------------- Province "~Citv".................................................
Race______________
_ ____
J
~~
Date of arrival________________ _ _
_
Age at arrival.
Yrs. in U. S------------------------- Came a~lone.IL
With (spec.)__
Reason for coming to U. S____________________ _
Citizenship: Naturalized___ Own act.
Father..".
Husband.
First papers
Education:
Yrs. attending full-time school: O. C_____ , U. S_
Part-time or night school: O. C____ , U. S __
"
English: S. R. W. Other lang.: S". R. W. "(spec.)
II. Living Condition

A. With family (make-up of group):
1. Wage earners
Person

Industry

Occupation

2. Non wage earners—
Nat.

Age

Person

Nat.

Age

School

Self_______

3. No. earners: M_. F._ Total.. 4. No. nonearners: M_ F _ Total_
5. No. of lodgers.. 6. Total in house._
-n at
------Amt. rent------------------ 9. No. of rooms
B. Not with family:
L Room and board_____
With whom?
2. L. h. k---------- With whom?______________
_ _ _ __
Changes and dates in marital status since coming toU.
_
_
Notes:

III. Industrial History
1. Experience in own country:
Earner____________________________
Nonearner________________




177

178

THE IMMIGRANT WOMAN AND HER JOB

2. Experience in U. S.:
Occupation T. or
P.

Industry

How se­
cured

Fee

Training

Wage in past 4 weeks

Age Date
be­ be­
gun gun

1

2

3

4

Present job:
Dura­ Reason for leaving
tion

First wage Advances in wage
Influence in choice of job___________________
Reason for first going to work_______________
Experience between first and last job_________

3. Periods of nonemployment:
Date

Reason

Duration

Reason for return to work

IV. Special Industrial Problems
1. Unsuccessful attempts to secure work:
Date

Industry

Ago

Occupation

Method used

Fee

Reason not secured

.........
2. Cases of nonadjustment:
Date

Age

Industry

Occupation

Duration

Reason for leaving

i

3. Industrial accidents:
Date

Occupation

Age

Cause and manner of
accident

Nature and extent of
injury

Comp.
paid

Time
lost

V. Industrial Home Work
1.
4.
6.
7.

Ind__________ 2. Nature of work__________ 3. How secured
Busy season------------------ 5. Other home wrk. past year
Mos. of home wrk. past year_________________________________
Earnings (individual or group):
Amt. last
received

Por what
period

Amt. of
work

Rate

Est. average weekly earnings

8. Hrs. of day----- 9. Yrs. at home wrk. (overall)___
11. Other home workers:__________________




10. Yrs. unempl___

APPENDIX.—SCHEDULE FOEMS

179

VI. Social Responsibility

1. Economic responsibility to family:

________________

2. Home duties: All___ Most_____ Part_____

Describe.

3. Work done out of home
4. Care of children_______
5. Ambitions:
Education of children
Other______________
6. Affiliations:
Foreign societies__ „ _
Trade unions_______
Other______________
Employer’s name

Notes:

_

____ __

Address

_

Source of name____________________
Date------------------------------- Agent

Informant

SCHEDULE II
This questionnaire was filled out by the foreign-born women in the English
classes of the Philadelphia public evening schools.
U. S. Department

of

Labor

WOMEN’S BUREAU

1.
3.
4.
6.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.

Are you married?-------- 2. Do you live with relatives?
Do you live with friends?
Do you live where you work?_____ 5. What is your job now?
How old are you?-------------- 7. In what country were you born?
What language did you speak in your home in the old country?
How many years did you go to school in the old country ?
What languages can you read?
What languages can you write?
How long have you been in the U. S.? Tears
How long have you been in school In the U. S.? Years, months,
weeks
14. Are you a citizen of the U. S.?—— 15. Have you taken out your first
papers?
16. Did you work in the old country?----- 17. What kind of work?—______ I
18.
19.
20.
21.

What was your first job in the U. S.?
How many years have you worked in the U. S.?I
How many jobs have you had?___________________________________
Have you had trouble finding jobs?

22.
23.
24.
25.

Have you lost time hunting a job?
What was your first weekly wage in the U. S.?I_
_
What do you earn when you work a full week?_____________________
What do you earn a week on an average?
Remarks: __________________________________




PUBLICATIONS OF THE WOMEN’S BUREAU
[Any of these bulletins still available will be sent free of charge upon request]
•No. 1. Proposed Employment of Women During the War in the Industries of Niagara
Falls, Is. Y. lb pp. 1918.
No. 2. Labor Laws for Women in Industry in Indiana. 29' pp. 1919.
No. 3. Standards for the Employment of Women in Industry. 8 pp. Third ed
No. 4. Wages ot Candy Makers in Philadelphia in 1919. 46 pp. 1919
’
•No. 5. The Eight-Hour Day in Federal and State Legislation. 19 pp. 1919
No. 6.
19®l“pl0yment °f Women in Hazardous Industries in the United States. 8 pp.
No. 7.
•No. 8.
•No. !).
•No. 10.
No. 11.
•No. 12.
No. 13.
•No. 14.
No. 15.
No. 16.
No. 17.
No. 18.
No. 19.
•No. 20.
No. 21.
•No. 22.
No, 23.
No. 24.
No. 25.
No. 26.
No. 27.
No. 28.
No. 29.
No. 30.
No. 31.
No. 32.
No. 33.
No. 34.
No. 35.
No. 36.
No. 37.
No. 38.
No. 39.
No. 40.
No. 41.
No. 42.
No. 43.
No. 44.
No. 45.
No. 46.
No. 47.
•No. 48.
No. 49.
No. 50.

Night-Work Laws in the United States. 11919.] 4 pp. 1920.
Women in the Government Service. 37 pp. 1920.
Home Work in Bridgeport, Conn. 35 pp. 1920.
Hours and Conditions of Work for Women in Industry in Virginia. 32 np 1920
IVomen Street Car Conductors and Ticket Agents. 90 pp 1921
'
The New Position of Women in American Industry. 158 pp. 1920.
Industrial Opportunities and Training for Women and Girls. 48 pp 1921
A Physiological Basis for the Shorter Working Day for Women 20 pp 1921
Some Effects of Legislation Limiting Hours of Work for Women. 26 pp. 1921
(See Bulletin 63.)
'
Women’s Wages in Kansas. 104 pp. 1921.
Health Problems of Women in Industry. 11 pp. 1921.
Iowa Women in Industry. 73 pp. 1922
Negro Women in Industry. 65 pp. 1922.
Women in Rhode Island Industries. 73 pp. 1922.
Women in Georgia Industries. 89 pp. 1922.
The Family Status of Breadwinning Women. 43 pp. 1922
Women in Maryland Industries. 96 pp. 1922
Women in the Candy Industry in Chicago and St. Louis. 72 pp 1923
Women in Arkansas Industries. 86 pp. 1923.
The Occupational Progress of Women. 37 pp. 1922.
Women’s Contributions in the Field of Invention. 51 pp. 1923
Women in Kentucky Industries. 114 pp. 1923.
The Share of Wage-Earning Women in Family Support. 170 pp. 1923.
What Industry Means to Women Workers. 10 pp. 1923
Women in South Carolina Industries. 128 pp. 1923.
Proceedings of the Women’s Industrial Conference. 190 pp 1923
Women in Alabama Industries. 86 pp. 1924.
Women in Missouri Industries. 127 pp. 1924,
Radio Talks on Women in Industry. 34 pp. 1924.
Women in New Jersey Industries. 99 pp. 1924.
Married Women in Industry. 8 pp. 1924.
Domestic Workers and Their Employment Relations. 87 pp. 1924
(See Bulletin 63.)
'
Famiiy Status of Breadwinning Women in Four Selected Cities. 145 pp. 1925
List of References on Minimum Wage for Women in the United States and
Canada. 42 pp. 1925.
Standard and Scheduled Hours of Work for Women in Industry. 68 pp 1925
Women in Ohio Industries. 137 pp. 1925.
*
Home Environment and Employment Opportunities of Women in Coal-Mine
Workers’ Families. 61 pp. 1925.
Facts About Working Women—A Graphic Presentation Based on Census Statis­
tics. 04 pp. 1925.
w™Jgn ln the Fruit-Growing and Canning Industries in the State of Washington.
kiZo pp. 19Jb.
Women in Oklahoma Industries. 118 pp. 1926.
Women Workers and Famiiy Support. 10 pp. 1925.
Bl Women
Upon the EmPl0yment Opportunities of American

No. 51.
No. 52.
No. 53.
No. 54.
No. 55.
No. 56.
No. 57.
No. 58.
No. 59.
No. 60.

Women in Illinois Industries. 108 pp. 1926
Lost Time and Labor Turnover in Cotton Mills. 203 pp. 1926.
Ihe Status of Women in the Government Service in 1925. 103 pp 1926
Changing Jobs. 12 pp. 1926.
Women in Mississippi Industries. 89 pp. 1926.
Women in Tennessee Industries. 120 pp. 1927.
IVomen Workers and Industrial Poisons. 5 pp. 1926
Women in Delaware Industries. 156 pp. 1927.
Short Talks About Working Women. 24j>p. 1927.
Jntlustriai Accidents to“WomeiT iiT’New*Jersey, Ohio, and Wisconsin. 316 pp.
No. 61. ThooPevelop,IS?5t of Mihimum-Wage Laws in the United States, 1912 to 1927
635 pp. 1928. Price 90 cents.
No. 62. Women s Employment in Vegetable Canneries in Delaware. 47 pp. 1927.
'Supply exhausted.




(I)

No. 63. State Laws Affecting Working Women. 51 pp. 1927. [Revision of Bulletins
16 and 40.]
No. 64. The Employment of Women at Night. 86 pp. 1928.
♦No. 65. The Effects of Labor Legislation on the Employment Opportunities of Women.
498 pp. 1928.
No. 66. History of Labor Legislation for Women in Three States; Chronological Develop­
ment of Labor Legislation for Women in the United States. 284 pp. 1928.
No. 67. Women Workers in Flint, Mich. 80 pp. 1928.
No. 68. Summary : The Effects of Labor Legislation on the Employment Opportunities
of Women. (Reprint of Chapter II of Bulletin 65.) 22 pp. 1928.
No. 69. Causes of Absence for Men and for Women in Four Cotton Mills. 24 pp. 1929.
No. 70. Negro Women in Industry in 15 States. 74 pp. 1929.
No. 71. Selected References on the Health of Women in Industry., 8 pp. 1929.
No. 72. Conditions of Work in Spin Rooms. 41 pp. 1929.
No. 73. Variations in Employment Trends of Women and Men. [In press.]
No. 74. The Immigrant Woman and Her Job. 175 pp. 1929.
No. 75. W’hat the Wage-Earning Woman Contribues to Family Support. 20 pp. 1929.
No. 76. Women in 5-and-10-Cent Stores and Limited-Price Chain Department Stores.
59 pp. 1929.
No. 77. A Study of Two Groups of Denver Married Women Applying for Jobs. 10 pp.
1929.
Annual reports of the director. 1919*, 1920*, 1921*, 1922, 1923, 1924*, 1925,
1926, 1927*, 3 928*, 1929.
* Supply exhausted.




O

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