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1f'ilJIDfGTOK, D. C.


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WoJaN·s Bmau.u,
w ~ De~
tl, 19!3.
Sm: Trulsmittied herewit.h is an addns5 made by Mary N.
Winslow, editor of the Women's Bureau, before the section on The
Home, National Conference of Social Work. Washington, D. C.,
May 21, 1923.
Many requests have been made of the Women's Bureau to ha't'II
this address printed in pamphlet form because it deals with a subjeei
which is of unusual int.erest to the population as a whole-the married woman in industry.
Respectfully submitted.

Hon. J..,.. J. Dnm,
~ o f Labor.



There are three definite factors which we must consider when we
are trying to establish a standard regarding the employment of married women in industry. They are the economic needs of industry,
the social needs of the family, and the human needs of the individual
No one of these factors can be considered separately. They are sll
interrelated and interdependent, but to a certain ertent we mm,-t
isolate them if we are to think clearly_ in terms which have real soci:il
significance. I have talked with many people about the general subject, .as well as about individual cases of married women who work,
and I have seldom found anyone who lacked an opinion as to what
should be done about it. The trouble is that these opinions usually
come after thinking of only one aspect of the question. One per.;on
will say it is a fine thing for a married woman to work in a factory; that she is able to do so much for her children; she can even
give them a high-~hool education. In this person's opinion it does
not seem to make much difference if the children do not help at
home, for the mother bas always been accustomed to doing mo& of
the work. No credit is given for the individual sacrifice ..-hich the
woman has been making all these years to keep her children in high
school and no word of the loss to the children of a mother's constant care and supervision. Discussing this same situation someor.e
else might say they thought the woman in question ..-ould be doin~
much better by her family if she stayed at home; that it is more important for her to get along on what her husband makes, though it
is not much, than to kill herself with work; that the children need
their mother at home to look after them. The single woman who
has lost her job and is sick with worrying about how she is to get the
necessities of life for herself and her dependent mother may have a
third point of view. She may think that because this other wom::n
has a husband to support her she has no right to be working, and tLat
when there are not enough jobs to go around it is not fair to keep on
the married women and lay off the single women who are depend, nt
upon themselves for support.
All of these attitudes have a certain amount of truth in them
and yet carried to their logical conclusions one of them wo:;Jd

Addnss dellven,d before the sertion on 'lbe H - National COllferentt of 8-1

Work. Washington, D. C.,



21. 1923.




completely bar married women from industry, one would allow
them to work intermittently; and one would place no restrictions
whatever on their employment.
It is a very delicate problem to make a nice adjustment among
these three points of view so that we may eventually come to some
sane and consistent standard. If we are to do this I think we must
narrow our question down to its barest outlines so that we may
eliminate at least a few of the contradictory opiniolll! and theories.
In the first place-what are married women in industry 1 What
is your mental vision when you hear that phrase! To some people
it means the woman who works in a factory, to others it is a charwoman or day worker. Some even go so far as to see the work of
a business woman, a shopkeeper-even an architect-included in the
magic word" industry." Indeed, I read the other day in an English
magazine which was giving the pros and cons of the employment
of married women, an enthusiastic indorsement of their employment
because of the wonderful example which England had to offer of
the perfect wife, devoted mother, ani successful working woman-Queen Victoria ! It is obvious that we can not successfully discuss
working women under a classification which ranges from charwomen to queens-and here is the place for our first pruning of the
The census of the United States tells us that we have nearly
2,000,000 married women gainfully employed in this country, and
that the gainful employment of married women is increasing. In
1890, less than five of every hundred married women were gainfully
employed; in 1920, nine of every hundred married women were
gainfully employed. This increase in proportion represents a tremendous increase in actual number, from about 515,000 in 1890 to
nearly 2,000,000 in 1920. But when we come to examine the figures
closely we find that in certain fields the employment of this type of
woman is increasing at a much greater rate than in other fields. A
great proportionate increase in the employment of married women
during the past 10 years has taken place in manufacturing and
mechanical industries. In that group, although all women employed
increased only 7 per cent, married women increased 41 per cent between 1910 and 1920. In occupations connected with trade there
has been an increase of 21 per cent for all women employed but an
increase of 88 per cent among married women. On the other hand,
in domestic and personal service occupations there was a decrease of
12 per cent in the number of married women employed. It is simple
to see, therefore, that if we are going to develop a standard regard~ the employment of married women, the place to begin is where
this employment is increasing rapidly, and that trade and trans-



portation and manufacturing and mechanical industries are the
occupational groups which most need our attention.
Taking this group, which consists of about half a million women.
wh&t do we want to do about them! For the advancement of the
social interests of the community is it going to be wise to establish
special regulations for their employment in industry! Do we want
to bar them from industry entirely! Do we want to make it possible for them to work in industry under any conditions which their
1 necessity may drive them to accept!
These are difficult questions which can not be answered properly
without considerably more definite information on a number of
phases. Before we can decide anything satisfactory about the employment of married women in industry we must know what it is
costing in terms of family welfare and standards of living, what
the cessation or regulation of their employment will cost in the
same terms.
In measuring this cost and its relation to social values, the married women we are discussing fall into two c l ~ There is the
young woman who is bearing children and whose employment presents certain definite health problems for herself and for her babies.
and there is the older married woman with a growing family, whose
employment away from home, in addition to the individual hardship
of carrying two jobs, may have as definite a relationship to the
standards of character and upbringing among her children as it has
to the actual economic standard of the family income.
Taking these two groups of married women in industry, let us try
to draw up a balance sheet to show what we are gaining and what
we are losing through their employment.
Industry is gaining half a million workers. Many of these women
work at night, many more of them work in very low-paid and undesirable occupations. Because of the double demands on their time
they are more irregular than other employees. Nevertheless, their
employment has increased 40 per cent during the past 10 years, so
it does not seem likely that they are not economically valuable to
What are the women themselves gaining! They are certainly not
gaining the freedom that is so much discussed in connection with
women's economic emancipation. It is not just a desire for "personal liberty" that is taking them into wage-earning pursuits.
"At what great cost obtained I this freedom " is a perfectly good
text for the woman who goes to work in a profession because she
has not enough interest in her family to keep her busy at holllt'.
But it is no kind of a text for the women we are talking about.
·what they are working at such great cost to obtain is a chance for



their children to have health and education and for their families
to have a satisfactory home life.
It is important to remember, in this connection, that the women
I am discussing represent the average married woman in industry.
When the Women's Bureau makes its investigations we try not to
get figures which pertain only to special types of women. It is our
object to get a cross section of the women employed in typical
woman-employing industries. And so our facts are representative
of normal situations. We have found very large numbers of
married women employed in most of the industries we have
studied. In Alabama 27 per cent of the women included in a Statewide survey of wages and hours were married; in Kentucky, 19
per cent; in Missouri, 20 per cent; and so on. Recognizing the
importance of understanding as clearly as possible the economic
relationship of wage-earning women to their families, we have
made a study of the contributions which wage-earning women make
to the support of their families. This study is called " The share
of wage-earning women in family support," and came from the
press just a few days ago. We based this report on information
from a great many different sources, including an original investigation made by our own bureau and investigations made by the
Bureau of Labor Statistics and other organizations which have
assembled any pertinent information.
From the material on married women wage earners which we have
assembled in this report we have reached one definite conclusion:
"Whatever may be the extent of their earning capacity, whatever
may be the irregularity of their employment, married women are
in industry for one purpose and, generally speaking, for one purpose only-to provide necessities for their families or to raise their
standard of living. In one study we found that practically all
women who were wives or mothers-95 per cent of them, to be
exact-contributed all of their earnings to their . familes. And
although these earnings were not as a rule large, they often
brought the family income up to a level which was adequate for
the maintenance of a satisfactory standard of health and education for the children.
That is what married women are gaining from their employment
in industry. They are gaining the personal joy and satisfaction
of increasing the family income so that it more nearly comes up to
the level necessary for maintaining adequate standards.
But what are they losing? Because of the overfatigue of long
hours in the factory, followed and preceded by long hours at home,
they are losing health and vitality and they are losing opportunities for educational development and participation in community
life. I think that some types of women gain far more than they



lose by going into industry to work. On the other band, there are
the night-working mothers and the mothers of little children who
must work in factories during the day who unquestionably lose
more than they gain. In a study made by the Women's Bureau of
census schedules from one industrial town we found that 72 per cent
of the bread-winning married women reported by the census had
children, and that three-fourths of these women had children who
were less than 6 years old. To find out the burden of work at home
which these wage-earning mothers with young children were carrying,
we followed up some 500 of them and we found that about one-fifth
were working at night and looking after the children during the day.
Four hundred and nineteen of the 522 mothers interviewed cooked,
cleaned, and washed for their families, in addition to caring for the
children and performing remunerative services outside of the home.
This is the kind of " freedom " which many wage-earning women
are going into industry for. It seems to be asking a great deal of one
woman or of one group of women, and it seems as though such a
demand could only result in a deterioration of health which would
have serious consequences to the worker.
What are the gains and losses for the family when the wife and
mother is a wage earner in industry! Under the industrial conditions
of the present day this question resolves itself into several others.
Which does the more harm, the employment of married women or
poverty! Which is the better off, the extremely poor family where
the mother stays at home or the family with the better income where
the mother works out! In which family is there the least delinquency among the children, the higher educational standard! This
is the crux of the whole matter, but unfortunately we really have not
enough facts to give the correct answers. The Children's Bureau,
through its infant mortality studies, has in some localities brought
out what seems to be a fairly definite relationship between infant
mortality and the employment of mothers outside of the home. But
in other localities where conditions were somewhat different-----i!ither
the family incomes higher or the women employed in different industries-this relationship seems to be much less marked. In Manchester the mortality among the babies of mothers who went out to
work during the first year of the baby's life was 227.5 per 1,000 compared to 133.9 for babies of mothers who remained at home and were
not gainfnlly employed. In New Bedford the rate was 167.8 for the
babies of mothers working away from home and 108.8 for the other
babies. But in Manchester and New Bedford, which are textile cena
ters, the families were poor and there was a large percentage of
foreign born among the families studied. In Akron, where rubber is
the chief industry, which pays higher wages, family incomes were
higher and living conditions better, and the death rate for the babies



of mothers who went to work during the first year of the baby's lifewas only 88.2 while the rate for the other babies whose mothers
stayed at home and were not gainfully employed was 77.2, a very
much smaller difference than in the communities where the familes
were poorer. Common sense will tell us that under exactly similar
conditions babies fare better when their mothers are at home, but
when the question is complicated with that of the decrease of poverty
incident on the employment of mothers it is difficult to see a straight
path of action, for there has been established a very definite relationship between infant mortality and the size of the family income.
What we must decide for the future is how we are going to get the
necessary increases in the family income to keep down the infant
mortality and to keep up other family standards.
We can not say definitely from any facts we have now whether
under present conditions the married woman in industry is entirely
an asset or a liability to her family, but if we are going to keep
on raising the family income through the earnings of married
women, let us give them a fair show in industry and not have them
hanging on by the skin of their teeth, the victims of an ever-changing
public opinion. It is pathetic to see how the fear of losing their
jobs hangs over many of these women. The experiences of the past
few years have shown us that they are more or less the weathercocks
of the business cycle. When times are booming and labor scarce,
married women are readily employed. Special inducements even are
offered sometimes to get them to come into the factory. Then, when
times get less prosperous, when there is unemployment, when men as
well as women are losing their jobs, the shoe is on the other foot.
The married woman who works is said to be a menace to the social
standards of the community. She is held up for criticism because
it seems that she is taking jobs away from men who have families
to support and from girls who have to support themselves. I do
not want to say that none of these things are true. To a certain extent I am sure they are. But what I do want to bring out is that this
kind of weathercocking is pretty hard on the married woman worker.
In hard times when there is unemployment the earnings of married
women may be of vital significance to their families, and the dismissal of a married woman from a textile mill will not give a job
to her husband who is laid off from a steel mill or to her daughter
whose employer has closed down his candy factory. The least that
the married woman who works should expect from industry is a consistent attitude toward her employment so that she may know what
she is to expect during times of stress as well as during times of
plentiful employment.
And so you see I am not very good at drawing up a balance sheet,
for I do not know whether my most important item is a debit or a



-credit. But what I have learned from this attempt to draw it up
is that I need many more facts. Last fall everyone's interest in this
matter was tremendously stimulated by the publication of Hutchinson's latest novel, This Freedom. I am sure that every lunch party
and dinner party and book club in the country has discussed this
book at one time or another during the past winter- I shudder to
think of all the sage remarks that have been made about the story
and of the prejudices which have been reinforced by iL For Thls
Freedom and other books like it are simply feeders of prejudice,
and where problems of women are concerned there is no need to
stimulate the lusty crop of prejudices we already have to cope with.
It may be true, as so many people have said, that in spite of the
exaggeration there is something to the theme of this book, but it
must be true that there is very little to it, or else our country would
be in a very parlous state. We have nearl:: 2,000,000 married women
gainfully employed in the United States. Who shall say that because of their employment these women will have daughters with
illegitimate children and sons who are thieves or suicides 1
We are not going to accept these prejudices, but we do know there
i~ a problem, and although we have not yet got the final social fact.s
to tie up with conditions as they exist, we are fortunate enough to
have a basis of information which will broadly outline the extent of
this problem. To offset the generalizations of the novel writer I
should like to suggest such sources of information as the United
States Bureau of the Census, the Children's Bureau and the Women's
Bureau of the United States Department of Labor, and the various
comprehensive studies of wage-earning women which have been
made by other social fact-finding agencies.
We must know much more than we do now about the social consequences of the employment of married women before we can say in
sweeping terms that they should not be employed. And we must
find a substitute for their necessary contributions to the family support, or else we shall be getting out of the frying pan and into the
We have accepted the employment of men in industry, although
at the beginning, when the factory gystem was fir.;t established,
many dark pictures were drawn of the restrictions to which men
were subjected. Hammond, in his book, The Town Laborer, describing the new industrial gystem which started with the industrial
revolution uses these words:
The bom., worker • • • worked Jong hours, but they were bis own
hours; bis wife and children worked, but they worked beside him. and there
was oo alien power over their Jives; his house was stillillg, but be could slip
Into his garden ; be bad spells of unemployment, but be could use them eometimes for cnlti vatlng his cabbages.



But in spite of the restrictions imposed by the new factory regime,
the social consequences have not been such that we can seriously
advocate the withdrawal of men from industry. With children the
opposite is true. The social consequences of their ~mployment have
been shown so <;learly that there is almost no one who will advocate
their employment in industry.
We have just begun to accept the employment of single women
in industry. We no longer are willing to let them be classed as
casual laborers, working only for extras, and ready to leave industry
after a very short experience. We are asking that single women be
offered a future in industry, that they be recognized as economic
factors, both in industry and in the home, and that they be given
vocational training and opportunity in the occupations they enter.
The single woman is coming into her ownNow we have to face the problem of married women in industry.
It is not an entirely new condition. Married women have done
many different kinds of work since the beginning of time. The
work they are doing in industry is merely a transposition into
another location of many duties which they formerly carried on
at home. The difference is that now the married women can not
tend a spinning machine with one hand while she takes care of the
baby with the other. She has to leave one work while she carries
on the other. And both work and worker suffer as a result. But we
really do not know just how much they suffer. We do not know
enough of the social consequences of women's employment outside
of the home. We have not yet made any adequate plan to keep
family incomes high enough so that they will not need supplementing. If we are to get such things accomplished we must have broad,
intensive, and continuous social studies. The Women's Bureau and
the Children's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor
are at work 01.i. this problem. If their work can be supplemented
and coordinated with the more intensive work which is being done
by the many social agencies in this country we shall be able to lay
out an array of facts which will serve as an unfailing guide to
social thought and action on this matter.
In the meantime, while we are amassing and compiling and studying these facts, there is one sure and definite thing to do. Make it
possible and usual for the normal married man to support his
family according to a decent American standard of living, and
we shall find that the problem of the employment of married women
is taking care of itself. But until such a situation is brought about
there is one thin~ we must not forget. Because of the work she is
doing, because of the individual sacrifices she ii,_ making, because
of the high ideal she is striving to fulfill, the married woman in
industry is the greatest social worker of us all.