View original document

The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.

U. S. D E P A R T M E N T O F L A B O R
JAMES J. DAVIS, SECRETARY

WOMEN'S BUREAU
MARY ANDERSON, Director

BULLETIN

OF

T H E

WOMEN'S

BUREAU,

NO.

NEGRO WOMEN IN
INDUSTRY




WASHINGTON
GOVERNMENT P R I N T I N G OFFICE

ma

20




riEGRO WOMEN MAKING WEBBING.




CONTENTS.
Page.

Negro women making webbing
Frontispiece.
Letter of transmittal
v
Introduction
jI
Scope and method of study.
2
CHAPTER I . Negro women i n industry before and during the war
5
Before the war
:
5
During the war
5
CHAFTEK I I . Negro women i n industry since the war
II
Substitution of Negro women for white women and boys.
13
Retention of Negro women i n industry
14
CHAPTER I I I . Hours and conditions of emplo>Tnent
16
Hours of work
16
Daily—Weekly—Saturday half-hdliday&—Lunch periods—Nigjit work.
General working conditions
22 '
Toilets—Washing facilities—Drinking facilities—Dressing: rooms—Rest
rooms and lunch rooms—Health service—Posture at work—Cleanliness, ventilation, and lighting—Conclusion.
CHAPTER IT^ The occupations of Negro women
31
The clothing industry—The food-products industry—The furniture industry—The glass industry—The leather-products industry—The
metal i n d u s t r y - T h e paper-products industry—Peanut industry—
The textile industry—The tobacco industry—The toy industry—The
miscellaneous industries—Negro forewomen—Conclusion.
CHAPTER V, Wages of Negro women workers
40
CHAPTER V I . Employment policies, methods of supendsion, education and
^ training of workers
4^
CHAPTER VIT. Virginia home study
Hours of work—living, conditions—Age at beginning work—Years employed i n the tobacco industry—Wages—Dependents and home responsibilities—Conclusion.




m

TABLES.
Page.

Table 1. Number of establishments investigated, niimber of workers, male and
female, and niimber and per cent of white and Negro women, by industry..
3
Table 2. Number of establishments i n which Negro women were introduced
before, during, or after the war, and number employing them to replace men,
white women, or boys, and for other reasons
12
Table 3. Number of establishments aiad number of Negro women w i t h scheduled
daily hours as specified, by industry
17
Table 4. Number of establishments and number of Negro women w i t h scheduled weekly hours as specified, by industry
18
Table 5. Occupations of 13,812 Negro women workers i n 150 establishments and
32
of 16,708 white women workers i n 101 of the same establishments
Table 6. Employment policies and employers' opinions, 63 plants employing
13,493 white and 5,412 Negro women, by industry
50
Table 7. Negro tobacco workers interviewed, classified by weekly hours of
, work, V i r g i n i a . . . . . . . .
55
Table 8. Negro tobacco workers interviewed, classified by living conditions and
age group, Vii^inia
:
56
Table 9. Negro tobacco workers interviewed, classified by age at which they ,
began gainful employment and age at time of investigation, Virginia
57
Table 10. Negro tobacco workers interviewed, classified by age at which they
began gainful employment and years employed i n the industry, Virginia - .
59
Table 11. Negro tobacco workers interviewed, classified by age and weekly
earnings, Virginia
60
Table 12. Negro tobacco workers interviewed, classified b y weekly earnings
and years employed i n the industry, Virginia
•
61
Table 13. Negro tobacco workers interviewed, classified by conjugal condition
and age group, Virginia
62
Table 14. Negro tobacco workers interviewed, classified by family contribution and age group, Virginia
63
Table 15. Negro tobacco workers interviewed, classified by family contribution and weekly earnings, Virginia
64
IV




LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL,

U . S , D E P A R T M E N T OF L A B O R ,
WOMEN'S

BUREAU,

^Yash^ngton, July 21, 192L
SIR: I have the honor to submit the report of Negro Women in
Industry. This investigation was made by Miss Emma L. Shields, a
member of the staff of the Women's Bureau, in conjunction with the
Division of Negro Economics in the Department of Labor. The statistical work was done with the help and cooperation of the Bureau
of Labor Statistics. Mis3 Shields also wrote the report.
Respectfully submitted.
M A R Y A N D E R S O N , Director.
H o n . JAMES J .

DAVIS,

Secretary of Labor.







NEGRO WOMEN IN INDUSTRY.
INTRODUCTION.
During the World War, when there was a wholesale recruiting of
forces through wliich the great conflict might be speedily and
victoriously ended, the opportunity and call came to Negro women
to enter the growing army of American women workers.
^
^
^
This entrance of Negro women into industry brought ^vith it some
acute economic problems which called forth many perplexing questions. Were they to be used as a marginal class, merely filling the
gap caused by the labor shortage, or were diversified and equal
opportunities for emploj-ment and promotion open to them? Were
Negro women grasping successfully their industrial opportunity, or
were they failing to measure up to the usual standards in the work
which it had fallen to their lot to do? I n other words, Were they
standing the test industrially in the quantity and quality of work
which they produced as compared with their white coworkers ? Was
the question of the retention of Negro women when the reduction
of workers came durmg the reconstruction period one of industry or
one of race ?
To secure information answering these and related questions the
Women's Bureau detailed a member of its staff to the Division of
Negro Economics to make an investigation of conditions among
Negro women i n industry in typical industrial centers during the
months immediately following the close of the war. The facts and
figures secured during this investigation form the basis for conclusions concerning the needs and problems which must be faced in
order ''to foster, develop, and promote the welfare of the wage
earners of the United States; to improve their working conditions
and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment." ^
The data of this report could not have been so effectively gathered
la the time available had i t not been for the cordial assistance and
cooperation of social agencies and individuals in all of the cities
visited during the survey. Special appreciation is here expressed to
employers for their courtesy in giving interviews and in opening the
doors of their workrooms; to State employment officials, and a
number of private welfare and philanthropic organizations for
* Organic act creating the United States Department of Labor.




2

^TEGRO

WOMEN I N

INDUSTRY.

granting unrestricted access to data. in their files and for their
cooperation in facilitating the actual investigation; and to leaders
and other individuals whose interested responses were so helpful in
throwing light on industrial or related conditions surrounding the
life of Negro women workers.
SCOPE AND M E T H O D

OF

STUDY.

Since only a brief period of time, from September to December,
1920, was allotted for the field work of this report, i t was deemed wiser
to gather facts from selected places over an extended territory rather
than to make an intensive study of any special locality. Visits were
made, therefore, to points in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois,
Michigan, Indiana, Virginia, West Virginia, and Nort^i Carolina. I n
each locality the investigator visited as man}^ plants as possible.
Effort was put forth to include especially those industries which were
t3T)ical of the locality or of conditions under which Negro women
were working.
With few exceptions, the industries represented in the report are
mechanical and manufacturing industries. Domestic and personal
service occupations were not included unless they were definitely
allied with some industry. The reason for this was threefold. In
the first place, time would not permit an investigation of Negro
women so employed, because the'numbers are so great. Second, such
occupations embrace distinct and separate problems whose analyses
could not be adequately treated in a report on industry. I n the
third place, domestic and personal service does not represent new
opportxmities for Negro women, with the exception of employment
as elevator operators and stock girls in department stores. Although
there has been a widening of scope for Negro women in domestic and
personal service, this could not be called an industrial advance.
This report therefore includes mainly those occupations in which
Negro women were working in factories on mechanical and manufacturing processes.
I n aU, 150 plants were visited, in 17 localities in nine States. These
employed 70,409 persons. Of the workers 28,520 (40.5 per cent)
were women, and 11,812 (16.8 per cent) were Negro women. The
Negro women formed more than 40 per cent of all the women
employed. The following table shows the number of establishments
visited, the total number of workers employed therein, and the
number and per cent of white and Negro women employed, by
industry:




10 KEGRO W O M E N13S"I N D U S T R Y .
TABLE 1.—Number of establishments investigated, number ofworhers, male and female,
and number and per cent of while and Negro women, by industry.

Niimhcr of establishments—

Industry.

Number of workers

Xumber of
Per cent women
women work- form of total numers.
ber of workers.

Kmploying
females.

I
Clothing
Food products...
Furniture
Glass
Leather products
Metal
Paper products..
Peanuts
Textiles
Tobacco
Toys
Miscellaneous
Total

239 1,473 1,712
763
9,564 3,810 13,374 3,031
332
150
C63
331
1,910
304
904 2,S44
320
82
429
109
17,298 1,816 19,114 1.010
40
495
455
38
110
72
3,541 2,750 6,291 1,910
7,018 12,955 19,973 6,424
83
198
115
55
1,476 3,730 5,206 2,641

105

101

150

710 44.6
779
181 22.6
600 10.7
27 19.1
806
5.2
117 68.2
72
840
6,531
60 32.2
1,089 27.8
50.7
150 41,889 28,520 70,409 16,708 11,812

22.7

3 .4
6" "

41.5
86,1
5.8
28.5
49.9
27.3
31.8
21.1
25.4
6.3
4.2 , 9.4
91.8
23.6
65.5
65.5
43.8
13.4
32.7
58.1
30.3
20.9
71.6

W.9

16.8

40.5

According to the census of 1910,=® there were employed in the
United States at that time, as laborers and semiskilled workers
in the industries noted above, 16,835 Negro women. That Negro
women secured a much larger place in industry during and since the
war is indicated by the present investigation which, though covering
only some of the principal industries in 17 cities of 9 States, found
11,812 Negro women to be employed. Figures are not available
at the present time to show the total number of Negro women employed in manufacturing and mechanical occupations in the United
States in 1920. The figures of this report, and the evolution in
industry during and since the war,' make i t clear that there has been
a marked transition of Negro women from domestic service and
other home pursuits to factory work.
As far as possible, detailed facts were secured concerning all labor
conditions surrounding the life of Negro women workers. Interviews were obtained with officials of each factory visited and inspection of the workroom was made. Negro women employed in the
factories were interviewed, through arranged or accidental meetings.
Leaders of social agencies and other persons who were in close contact with the local industrial and community conditions were called
^pon. The answers to some of the questions asked employers" on
the comparative efficiency, behavior, and reliability of Negro and
white women workers were necessarily based only upon opinions,
but these opinions are in themselves pertinent factors in the situa»Bureau of the Census, Negro population in the United States, 1790-1915, p. 521.

64092''—22



2

4

KEGKO WOjVIKN" IN

INDUSTRY.

• tion. So many peculiar problems have to be faced hy Negro workers
in their effort to secure an equal chance with laborers of other races
for industrial opportunities and promotions that opinions of employers who have had experience with them are important and
valuable. Other employers may or may not feel confident when
they think of engaging them, largely because of these opinions.
One disadvantage of the investigation was that i t was made during a period when the industrial retrenchment following the boom
of war production was just in progress. Many plants were closed,
and the pohcy of the managements of these plants toward Negro
women workers could not be ascertained. A reduction of the worldng
force was being made in other plants, and the general depression
left much to conjecture concerning the industrial destiny of these
Negro workers.
More than one-half (6,531) pf the Negro women represented in this
survey were employed in the tobacco industry, an industry in which
they have held a monopoly of the heavy and dusty labor since the institution of the factory method of rehandling tobacco. Of this number
of tobacco workers, 5,517 Negro women were working in the tobacco
factories of the State of Virginia. A n investigation made by the
Women's Bureau in the autumn of 1919 revealed that of the 10,344
women employed in the tobacco industry of this State more than half
were Negroes; of the 7,694 women employed in the three largest
tobacco centers of the State, 4,504 were Negroes. So large a part of
the working population of the industry in this State being of tibe Negro race, a follow-up study of these women was desirable. Accordingly, the conditions in the three largest tobacco centers of Virgirda
were studied during the fall of 1920. Not only were visits made to
the factories in these three cities, but visits were made to 85 homes
of Negro women workers in the same places. The facts and conditions discovered through these home visits are included in this report.




CHAPTER I .
NEGRO WOMEN I N INDUSTRY BEFORE AND DURING THE WAR.
Before the war.
Work for wages is much more widespread among Negro than
among white women. I n 1910, -2,013,981 (or 54.7 per cent) of the
3^680,536 Negro women 10 years of age or over, and 6,043,709 (or
19.6 per cent) of the 30,769,641 white women 10 years of age or
over, were gainfully employed. B y far the greatest number of these
Negro women wage earners (1,904,494) were engaged i n agriculture
and domestic and personal service.® ,
Negro wonuen workers have been so largely confined to agriculture
and domestic and personal service for generations that these labors
are conceded to be traditionally their own. I n these kinds of work
they have been trained and have become experienced. I t is to these
labors that they have been bound, and more than other women they,
have been, lunited in engaging in other forms of gainful occupation.
I n 1910, manufacturing and mechanical industries which employed
1,366,959 women employed only 16,835 Negro women. I t is significant that of the 16,835 Negro women in industrial occupations
10,672J or 63 per cent, were laborers and semiskilled operatives in
cigar and tobacco factories, and 6,163, or 37 per cent, were general
laborers and " n o t specified*' in manufactures. Thi^ indicates that
the tobacco industry was the one in which Negro women had their
strongest footing prior to the war. W i t h the exception of that
industry, they had a very unimportant place and little industrial
opportunity i n the manufacturing processes in general; where they
were employed i n other industries than tobacco they were there simply to perform the unskilled manual work which i t was necessary to
have done in the establishment.
During the war.
The can of industrial opportunity was directed toward Negro
women for the first time during the period of the World War. Many
causes made necessary at that time the mobilization of labor from
any available source.
An acute labor shortage was created by the drafting and. enlistment of men who served the Nation on the battlefields and by the
cessation of immigration; at the same time, production of materials
»Bureaa of the Census Negro populatioii in the UnUed States, 1290-1915, pp^ 523 and 525.




6

^TEGRO W O M E N I N I N D U S T R Y .

and implements necessary for the successful prosecution of the war
had to be greatly increased. Besides these causes of the shortage
of male workers, the war munitions and implements industries made
heavy drafts upon the traditional woman-employing industries such
as garment and textile making, where more than 75 per cent of all
the women in manufacturing industries were concentrated before
the war. As white women workers were advanced industrially into
the more skilled and higher paid positions, because of the existing
labor shortage, Negro women were recruited in large numbers to fill
the places thus left open in the ranks of industry. This is indicated
partly in Table 1, which shows that 75 per cent of the Negro women
studied were working in industries which have been classified as the
five principal woman-employing industries in the United States in
the prewar period, namely, textiles, clothing, food products, tobacco
products, and hand and foot wear. This fact is further brought out
in that between 60 and 65 per cent of the 21,547 Negro women whose
occupations were listed in 1919^ were engaged i n these five traditional woman-employing manufacturing industries.
Although Negro women have entered other industries also, there
is a definite indication that for the more skilled processes they were
drafted in largest numbers in those industries which white women
had left for new occupations. I n addition, many other industries
for the first time opened their doors to a limited number of Negro
women. There are no complete figures available to show to what
extent Negro women did embrace the opportunities that were offered
to them. The facts revealed in a bulletin of the United States Department of Labor® as a result of an investigation made in 1918 and
1919 give valuable information concerning the Negro woman at work
during the war. According to this report in 152 plants distributed
in aU sections of the country there were employed 21,547 Negro
women. These women were working on many processes which were
new to them and, in some industries, new to all women. Including
those engaged in such war work as the making of shells, gas masks,
and parts of airplanes, 15,157 Negro women were working in the
manufacturing industries.. The remainder were i n some kind of
clerical work or domestic and personal service. Included i n these
industries were approximately 75 different kinds of work, much of it
involving the use of hitherto imfamiliar power machinery.
That this period wiU be far-reaching in the history of the Negro
woman i n industry is further emphasized by several studies of local
industrial situations. A New York study made during 1918 states
< U . S. Department of Labor.
1921, p. 125.
6 U . S. Department of Labor.
1921.




The Negro at W o r k during the World W a r and during Reconstruction,
The Negro at Work during the World W a r and during Reconstruction,

7

KEGRO W O M E N13S"I N D U S T R Y .

frankly that the ''Colored woman is a new-comer in the field of
industry," ® and that during this period establishments which had
formerly practiced an industrial boycott against Negro women inserted in their advertisement the word ''colored'' before the word
''wanted." So prevalent and urgent was the need in this and many
other localities that employers eagerly sought the labor of Negro
women. This investigation found Negro women in 217 establishments—in the garment trades, in paper box factories, in establishments making leather goods, fashioning hats, and dyeing furs, and in
other kinds of work. The greatest number in any one industry, 892
of the Negro women represented, were employed on the several different operations of the garment trades.
t The Consumers' League of Eastern Pennsylvania made a similar
study of colored women as industrial workers in Philadelphia,^
which disclosed the employment of approximately 2,800,Negro
women in 108 factories in that city. Here, too, the labor shortage
was reflected and the use of the labor of Negro women was a result.
The transition is indicated by stories which appeared in Philadelphia
newspapers with such captions as the following:
Use Negro woman labor to fill war workers' gaps.
Negro women take place of men i n industry.
Colored girls doing housework, Y . W. C. A. is placing many i n shops and
factories.

The prevailing occupations for the Negro women covered by this
survey were in the manufacture of munitions, textiles, paper products,
tobacco products, candy, glass, and clothing. Negro women in
Philadelphia also received their greatest opportunity in the garment
trades, which they entered in largest numbers.
I n an article entitled "Reconstruction and the Colored Woman,"®
by Forrester B. Washington, the middle western situation during the
war period is well depicted. I t is pointed out that in Chicago, unlike
other cities, Negro women made little progress into the s l ^ e d a^d
semiskilled occupations in actual mantiacturing industries; that of
170 firms which employed Negro women for the first time during the
war, 47 per cent gave them new or wider outlets i n domestic and
personal service but only 7 per cent hired Negro women in those
occupations which might give them a real place among ''women in
industry." On the other hand, i t is shown that in Detroit considerable numbers of Negro women were working on machines in large
automoT)ile factories, many of them in skilled or semiskilled occupations. They were employed as " assemblers, inspectors and shippers,
«Consumers' League of the City of New York [and others), A New Day for the Colored Woman Worker,
1919.
* Consumers' Iveaguo of Eastern Pennsylvania, Colored women as industrial workers i n Philadelphia,
1919-20.
• Life and Labor, Vol. I X , No. 1, pp. 3-7.




8

KEGRO W O M E N 13S" I N D U S T R Y .

in auto plants, as core makers and chippers in foundries, as shell
makers in munition factories^ as plate makers in dental laboratoriesj
as garment makera, and as armature winders in insulated wire
factories/' This employment gave important, unprecedented openings to Negro women, and i t also meant opportunity in the more
skilled, better paid work from which Negro women formerly had been
barred. I t is estimated that at least 1,000 Negro women were in the
skilled industries i n the Detroit district.
The industrial tide which swept so many Negroes into sections of
the country hitherto unknown to them, aroused in these women a
desire to search for new gainful opportunities. Kecent releases of
the census report of 1920 have shown this ebb and flow of the Negro
populatioDu Negro women migrated in large numbei-s to those cities
whieL they knew afforded a good chance for earning a living, sometimes because of family relationship^ sometimes because individually they were stirred with a fervent desire to better their conditions.
I n some of the plants where they found employment the actual
industrial operations were too heavy for the employment of any
women; in others, where the operations were lighter and more suitable for women and where there was a labor shortage, Negro women
were able to get work. I n some communities there were openings^
i n domestic service which were far more remunerative, agreeable,
and healthful than those in the places from wliich these women came.
I n such cases there was a happy solution of what might have been
serious personal problems, for iudustrj^ Avas not ready to receive the
large numbers of Negro women who moved North and West, following
for the most part the movement of Negro men.
There were many things which might have kept the Negro woman
out of these new industrial opportunities. One of the first problems
was to overcome the prevalent belief that she was capable of performing only domestic and persomil service. The woman herself was
conscious of her own industrial inexperience and showed a timidity
which was a drawback i n acquiring the assurance and speed so necessary i n the factory. Handicapped by industrial ignorance, inexperience, and an acute lack of factory sense,, she was suddenly launched
into the world of industry during a time when " efficiency—maximum
production" was the country's slogan.- A t the same time, industrial
management had neither the time nor the experience effectively to
direct and train such unprepared^ immature workers. I n spite of
this fact^ the Negro woman, was under the necessity of holding her
own among the white women who had the advantages of years of
precedent and industrial experience and training.
Such considerations as these must be borne in mind in any effort
to- discover what employers think of the success or failure of their
Negro women workers. Some idea of their opinions may be gleaned



9

KEGRO

WOMEN

13S"

INDUSTRY.

from a summary statement made in an earlier report of the Department of Labor.®
Realizing that the opinion of their employera would serionsly affect the future of
Negro women i n indxistry, an attempt was made to secure the opinions of superintendents or other officials dealing w i t h Negro women i n these plants. Of 34 employers
who expressed a definite opinion on this subject, 14 said that they found the work
of Negro women as satisfactory as other women workers, and three found their work
better than that of the white women they were working w i t h or had displaced. Of
the 17 employers who felt that the work of Negro women d i d not compare satiafactoriiy w i t h that of the white women, 7 reported that irregularity of attendance was the
main cause for dissatisfaction, and 7 otkers felt that the output of Negro women was
less because they were slower workers.

In ' ' A New Day for the Colored Woman Worker/'
that—

it is stated

A n effort was made to discover what employers thought of the success or failure of
their experiment. As was to be expected, their testimony was contradictory. I n
many instances colored women have made good. I n other cases they have not.
About half of the employers considered them as efficient as their white workers.
These foimd them well-mannered and more courteous than the white girls, and found
them steadier, although sJgweriQJfiovements. The other half considered them lazy,
stupid, and unreliable, and declared tliat they would not have them i f white girls
were obtainable.

The following extracts from an article which appeared in Life and
Labor" have the same tenor:
There has been a lot of theorizing regarding colored working women, but the testimony of their worth has far outweighed the unfavorable criticism. ''More loyaK more
cheerful and more intelligent than foreign girls,'' are some of the reports.
So far as efficiency is concerned, there have been numerous cases where colored
girls, given equal conditions, far excelled their white sisters. I n the cartridge factor}at Newark, N. J., the colored women working nights averaged fifteen huntked more
shells per eight-hour shift than the white women who worked i n the day. J
A t Decatur, III., a tent and awningcompany engaged i n making bags for the Government hired colored girls to take the place of white. According to the rate at which
the white girls had been turning out the work, i t is estimated that i t would take the
new force u n t i l Fcbruar>' to complete the contract. The colored girls worked so
much faster than their white predecessors that the contract waa completed early i n
December. These examples have no significance as to the comparative superiority
of white or colored girls, but they do show that as many examples can be given of the
colored girl's efficiency as of her inefficiency. I t has been suggested that colored girls,
realizing that they were on trial, should have taken pains to be extra efficient. But
isn't this expecting too much vision from a poor working girl?

These bits of expert testimony from authorities who were in
contact Avith the industrial situation during the war give ground
for believing that the Negro woman in spite of the handicaps which
S. Department of Labor, The Negro at Work during the World War and during Reconstruction,
1921, p. 130.^.
"Consumers' League of the City of New York [and others], A New Day for the Colored Woman Worker,
1919, p. 25.
" Life and Labor, Vol. I X , No. 1, pp. 3-7,




10

^TEGRO

WOMEN I N

INDUSTRY.

surrounded her did make a record in the work which i t fell to her lot
to do. The majority,of the criticisms directed against Negro women
may be traced directly or indirectly to some of the living or working
conditions surrounding them. They are slow,- unreliable, inexperienced? Long hours and low wages, menial, undesirable work,
unhealthy working conditions, with a lack of welfare facilities—
conditions which colored women as marginal workers had to face—
underlie much of this criticism.
The salient facts concerning the Negro woman in industry during
the war may be very briefly summarized:
1. Labor shortage due to the mobilization of men for the Army,
cessation of immigration, the drafting of white women from the
traditional woman-employing industries into new occupations, and
the war's demand for varied, increased production made necessary
the employment of Negro women.
2. Although recruited for many industries, opportunity on the
more skilled processes came to the largest numbers of Negro women
in the traditional woman-employing industries from which white
women had advanced into those industries which men had monopolized
during the prewar period.
3. Considerable statistics point to the fact that large numbers of
Negro women were employed on varied, semiskilled, and skilled
processes in many industries not heretofore employing them.
4. Negro women migrated into remote industrial centers in their
search for opportunity, but they were the marginal workers and had
to fill the gap, either in domestic or industrial openings, wherever
they were needed.
5. Skepticism about her utility on the one hand and her industrial
ignorance and inexperience on the other, presented barriers to the
success of the Negro woman in industry.
6. Examination of available data shows that the Negro woman
was as successful as could reasonably be expected in view of her
handicaps, the discrimination against her, and the dearth of industrial incentives.
7. I n inany cases the criticisms against her may be traced in the
last analysis to the conditions under which she has lived and worked .
more than to the Negro woman herself.




. CHAPTER I I .
NEGRO WOMEN I N INDUSTRY'SINCE THE WAR.
The readjustments of industry to the conditions of peace were
not so sudden nor violent as were those which ^vrenched the whole
industrial world during the days of the great war. There was a
more gradual shift from war to peace-time production. The men
returned from the front and adjusted themselves to the new industrial
condition which prevailed in the United States. The manufacture
of war munitions, implements, and supplies was discontinued.
The facts and figures for this postwar period show labor conditions more normal than they could have been during the days of
war. During the latter part of this survey industrial retrenclmaent
was well under way. These conditions were especially significant
in their relation to the Negro woman worker for they undoubtedly
produced a crisis in her industrial career. The labor shortage and
the needs for increased production to which she responded during
the war no longer existed. Her retention then in industry, and the
conditions which surround her, as shown by the studies which have
been made, throw light on many pertinent disturbing questions
concerning the future position of the Negro woman in industry.
Although 11,812 Negro women were found in 150 .plants visited,
20 additional establishments which had employed Negro women
during the period of the war were found to have entirely dismissed
their Negro women workers. I n 40 of the 150 establishments the
Negro women had been reduced to processes less skilled than those
previously performed, and in two of these plants the management
frankly acknowledged that the Negro women were gradually being
weeded out.
Some of the reasons given for such action were: White girls were
obtainable; men had returned; changed conditions made them no
longer needed; they didn't join the union in the allotted time—
though as a matter of fact, " t h e union didn't bother to get them
because i t didn't want them." The following statement from one
firm, which had employed hundreds of Negro girls and had many
times expressed its entire satisfaction with their work, is typical of
the sentiment of several others: "They were employed solely on^
account of the shortage of labor and i t was not the intention of the
management from the beginning to retain them when white girls
were'available."
Although at the present time her opportunities for industrial work
are not increasing, the Negro woman's brief participation in industry
has imbued her with an amount of industrial experience and knowledge of the routine working habits that is fitting her for future
64092''^22
3
,
11



KEGKO W O U E l ^ I N INDUSTRY.

12

usefulness to industry. She has gained a footing, however slippery,
which will mak-e her an increasingly important factor in American
industry i n the future.
A study of the industrial opportunities open, the time at which
employment began, and the reasons given for employment of the
11,812 Negro women employed in the 150 estabhshments included
in this survey, indicates clearly that Negro women did not have a
permanent footing in industry i n 1920. Table 2 gives the figures
underlying the statements of the preceding discussion of the new
opportunities which came to Negro women during the World War,
I t shows the introduction of Negro women into specific industries
before, during, and after the war, and their replacement of inen,
white women," and boys.
TABLE
'Number of establishments in which Negro women were introduced before^
during, or after ike war. and number employing them to replace men, white women, or
boys, and for other reasons.
Establishments which betran employing Nfigro women—
Number
Number of estabol Negro lishments
After the war. ,
During the war.
women
Before the war.
em*
plo^-in?
emNegro
ployed
women
m 1920.
in 1920. Number. Per cent. Number. Percent. Number. Percent.

Industry.

710
779
181
600
27
806
117
72
840
6,531
60
1,089

Peanuts
Textiles
Tobacco
Toys
Miscellaneous

...

Total

30
13
5
8
3
12
6
3
10
39
3
18

12
5
2

2

40.0
3&5
40.0
25.6

2
3
4
39
1
6

33.3
100.0
40.0
100.0
33.3
27.8

11,812

Clothing
Food products
Furniture
Glass
Leather products
Metal

150

. 75

50.0

12
7
2
5
2
12
• 4

40.0
53.8
40.0
62.5
66.7
100.0
66,7

6

6
1
1
1
1

20.0
7.7
20.0
12.5
33.3

QUO

2
10

66.7
55. G

3

62

41.3

13

S.7

Establishments in
which Negro womon were employed for other
reasons.

Establishments in which Ne>;ro women replafert—
Industry.
Men.

White women.

Boys.
Number. Percent.

Number. Percent. Number. Percent. Nimiber. Perecnt.
Clothing...-".
Food products
Furniture
Glass
Leather products
Metal
Paper products
Peanuts
Textiles.
Tobacco
Miscellaneous
Total




7

1
1

7.7
2ao

15
5
I

1

8.3

2
8
4

66.7
66.7
66.7

a

20.0

6

33.3

1
6

4.0

47

31.3

9

6.0

88

33.3
33.3

6

16.7

5C.0

1

87.5

2

15
7
3
1
1
1
2
3
3
30
1
12

50.0
38.5
20.0

5ao
63.8
eao
1Z5
, 33.3
&3
33.3
loao
30.0
100.0
33.3
66.7
58.7

13

KEGRO W O M E N13S"I N D U S T R Y .

Table 2 shows that 75. establishments, or 50 per cent of the total
number visited, began employing. Negro women before the war.
I t must be noted, however, that the tobacco industry, which includes
the greatest number of Negro women and the greatest number of
establishments, is represented entirely in this prewar grouping,
Rehandling tobacco has always been exclusively Negro women's
work. The peanut industry, in which all three establishments
started employing Negro women before the war, is also traditionally Negro women's work. Indeed, preparation of peanuts
has evolved from an agricultural to a factory industry only because
the operations which used to be performed in the peanut fields
are now performed in factories. Excluding the tobacco and peanut
industries, 33 establishments, or 22 per cent of the total number
covered, began employing Negro women before the war.
Too great significance must not be attached, however, to the proportion of firms employing Negro women before the war. Sometimes
the number of women employed was small, only two or three persons
whom a manager esteemed so highly that he made openings for them
in some capacity or other. Consequently, though i t appears that
all of the industries except the leather products and metal industries
began employing Negro women before the war, i t was obvious from
the interviews with managers that in many plants the number was
relatively small.
The new opportunity which came to Negro women is shown by the
62 establishments, 41 per cent of the total number, which began
employing Negro women during the war. A l l of the industries except
peanuts and tobacco show a considerable number of establishments
which began employing them during this time. I n the clothing and
furniture industries equal proportions of the establishments introduced Negro women before and during the war. A l l of the metal
establishments visited began employing Negro women during the war.
Thirteen establishments, or 9 per cent of the 150 firms, first employed Negro women after the war. This introduction of Negro
women is significant because i t means the deliberate choice of employers rather than the hasty experiment of %var necessity. The
duration of this postwar employment of Negro women ranged from
three to 18 m o n t ^ . I t is noteworthy because i t represents extended
openings i n some industries, notably clothing manufacturing, in
which Negro women received their greatest opportunity and advances
during the period of the World War.
Substitution of Negro women for white women and boys.
The remainder of Table 2 shows the number and per cent of establishments in which Negro women are employed as substitutes for
men (white and Negro), for white women, and for boys. To a large



14

^TEGRO

WOMEN I N

INDUSTRY.

extent tlie statements of the management as to what were and were
not substitutions had to be accepted; therefore a number of firms in
which Negro women were employed to meet the demands of expansion and increased production on processes which had been traditionally white women's work are classified as establishments in
which Negro women were employed '^for other reasons.*' To this
classification also were assigned the firms in which Negro women
were employed on occupations which have been traditionally their
work, the firms which have always maintained an open, liberal policy
in their employment of Negro women, and the firms making no specific answer to this inquny.
I n 62 establishments, or 41 per cent of the total number, the
initial employment of Negro women was due to an existing labor
shortage met by the replacement of former operatives \dtii now
workers. I t is significant that in 47 of these firms (31 per cent of
all) Negro women replaced white women. I n leather, metal, and
paper products the extent of substitution was greatest, followed by
the traditional woman-employing industries of clotliing and textiles.
Tliis further substantiates the statement that in many cases Negro
women filled the gap in industry which had been caused by the
advancement of white women into the newer and more skilled
occupations.
Six firms (4 per cent) put Negro women on the work of men for
their initial employment. This substitution was found in the food
products, fiu-niture, metal, textile, and toy industries. The nine
firms in which Negro women replaced boys were almost all in the
glass industry. This replacement probably was due to the recent
stringent enforcement of child-labor laws.
Negro women were employed not directly as substitutes but for
some other reason in 88 plants, 59 per cent of the total number.
Excluding the tobacco and peanut industries because they involve
operations which have always been exclusively and traditionally
within the province of Negro women, 46 remaining establishments,
31. per cent of the entire number, either took on Negro women to
meet the demands of increased production, on work that was new
to them, or else had always employed them in relatively small numbers. Each of the industries investigated has one or more firms
whose initial employment of Negro women may be attributed to
these causes. Among them, the clothing, food, and furniture industries, and the 12 plants classified as miscellaneous, show the largest
proportion of firms.
Retention of Negro women in industry.
The only basic data available for comparison of the labor forces
of the war period and the postwar period were secured during this



XEGRO

I N INDUSTRY.

15

survey. Records from the New York Stale Bureau of Labor described in ''A New Day for tbe Colored Woman Worker'^ ^ were
^
examined in this study of that territory. Fifty-seven firms which
had avowed their satisfaction ^vith Negro women at that time, and
their intention of retaining them after the war emergency ended,
were selected and visited. According to their records, there were
797 Negro women employed in these 57 establishments in 1918.
Follow-up visits w^ere made in 1920 at the same time of the year as
in 1918, because of the seasonal aspect of many of these industries.
There were 11 establishments which had dismissed their Negro
women workers and 5 establishments which had gone out of business. These 16 firms had employed 112 Negro women. The remaining 41 establishments, which had employed ^685 Negro women
in 1918, were employing 395 Negro women in 1920, a reduction of
42 per cent.
These figures appreciably strengthen the prevailing opinion and
testimony that the ranks of Negro women in industry have been
greatly reduced since the war.
" Consumers' League of the City of New York [and others], A New D a r for the Colored Woman Worker,
1919.




CHAPTER I I I .
HOURS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT.
There is a growing tendency in the United States toward industrial legislation insuring a high standard for the conditions of employment of women workers. Such labor legislation establishes a
standard which prevents excessively long hours and- insanitaiy
working conditions. The best establishments demonstrate the
feasibility of such measures, having found that they mean greater
efficiency and increased production and thus are profitable to both
employer and employee. Yet there are many establishments which
continue the bad industrial practices and make imperative the need
for legislative action.
The States in which were the localities covered by this survey
ranged from those having the most detailed and best enforced legislation to those with very little. Some of the conditions found needed
correction through provisions of law, but others could be corrected
if the provisions of existing laws were enforced. Because of the
' Negro woman's inexperience her employment has been accompanied
by many of those industrial practices generally conceded to be be' neath that standard which conserves the efficiency and health of
women. The interdependence of all women workers requires that
the regulations set forth for conditions of employment for women in
industry should include all working women without regard to race.
The entire group of women workers will be safe only when all of its
elements are protected by adequate, impartially enforced law.
Hours of work.
Reduction in working hours throughout the country has been
marked during the past decade. I n the census of manufactures for
1909 and 1914, working hours of about 7,000,000 wage earners were
recorded. These figures show that in 1909, 69.4 per cent of the
wage earners worked more than 54 hours per week, while in 1914
only 48.9 per cent of those for whom reports were received worked
more than 54 hours per week. I n 1909 about 8.7 per cent of the
wage earners worked 60 or more hours per week; in 1914 this number
had been reduced to 5.8 per cent of the total number whose hours
were reported.^®
Daily hours.—T^q prevailing daily hours* for the 150 establishments visited in 1920, classified by industry, are shown in Table 3:
" Bureau of the Census, Abstract of the Census of Manufactures, 1914, p. 4S2.

16



17KEGROW O M E N 13S" INDUSTRY.
TABLE 3.—IVZTM^ER of estublishinents and number of Negro women with scheduled daily
hours as syedji^d, by industry.
Total.

Over 8 and under
9 hours.

Number Number
of estabof
lishwomen.
ments.

Industry.

8 hours or less.

Number
of estab- Number
of
lishwomen.
ments.

Number
of estab- Number
of
lishments. women.

Clothing
Food products
Furniture
Glass
Leather products
Metal
Paper products
Peanuts
Textiles
Tobacco
Toys
Miscellaneous

30
13
5
8
3
13
6
3
10
39
3
18
160

Total
Per cent'of women in each time group

710
779
181
600
27
806
117
72
840
6,531
60
1,089
11,812
100.0

20
6

274
423

3

181

6
2
4
2

470
23
181
56

1

250

o4

O130

1
10

3
30
804

235

o55

o2,391
20.2

12 ;

S21
7.0

155

9 hours.

Clothing
Food products
Furniture
Glass
Leather products
Metal...
Paper products
Peanuts
Textiles
Tobacco

10 hours and over.

Number Number
of estabof
lishwomenu
ments.

Industry.

Over 9 and under
10 hours.
Number
of estab- Number
of
lishments. women.

Number
of estab- Number
of
lishments. women.

7
3
3
2
6
4

:
:
_

Total
Per cent of women in each time group

1
9
2
2

30
1,919
30
75

I

:;;

Miscellaneous

255
266
106
130
4
363
61

.

40

1
2

10
75

1

12

6

1,369

1

1,521
12.9

80

3
5
21

72
680
3,008

32

3,840
32.5

55

11

3

o Including 1 establishment with 90 women workers whose hours of work per day were 6,

Practically one-third of the women (3,840, or 32.5 per cent of all
included in the survey) were working 10 hours or more per day.
The next largest number, 3,239, or 27.4 per cent of the total, were
working 9 hours daily. I n 55 establishments employing 2,391
Negro women, 20.2 per cent of the total number, the Negro women
were working 8 hours per day.
These figures indicate that there is a tendency toward standardizhxg the hours of employment. Although no State represented in
the survey legally Ihnited the working day to 8 hours, i t is significant
that one-fifth of the women workers were found in that grouping.
This voluntary choice on the part of employers in shops where
Negro women were working argues strongly that these employers
were finding the shorter work day of value in increasing efiiciency.
Three of the States, in which were 64 of the establishments covered by the survey, employing 2,045 Negro women, limited by law



^TEGRO W O M E N I N

18

INDUSTRY.

the working day for women to 9 hours. There were 8,100 Nogro
women in 70 establishments in three other States which had a legal
working day of 10 hours; 1,144 Negro women were employed in 5
plants in another State having a legal ll-hour working day; and 523
Negro women were worldng in establishments in two States which
have no limitation upon the working day of their women workers.
The distribution of the Negro women workers in the daily hour
groups as showoi in Table 3, compared -svith the latitude of the law,
emphasizes the fact that managements have found i t profitable to
reduce the working day without compulsion. Although 9,767 Negro
women were employed in States where the law permitted women to
work 10 hours and more each day, only 3,840 women were found so
employed.
' The distribution by industries of the Negro women in the hourly
groupings is also of interest. Peanuts, textiles, and tobacco make
the worst showings. All of the employees in the peanut industry
were found to be worlung 10 hours or more per day. Of a total of
840 Negro women in the textile industry, 680 were employed 10
hours or more, while the tobacco industry had nearly one-half (3,008
of a total of 6,531) of its Negro women employees in this group. Of
the other women in the tobacco factories, 1,919 were in the 9-hour
grouping and 1,369 worked between 9 and 10 hours a day. I t is
noteworthy that all of the industries but three were represented in
the 8-hour group.
WeeTdy Tiours,—An equally vital factor in the life of women in
industry is the length of the working week. Table 4 shows the
distribution of the Negro women included in the survey in classified
weekly hour groups, by industries:
TABLE 4.—Number of establishments and number oj Negro women with scheduled weekly
hours as specified^ by industry.

Industry.

41 hours or less.
Total
num- Total
ber of numestab- ber of NumUsh- women. ber of Numestab- ber Of
mcnts.
lish- women.
ments.

Clothing
Food products... * . .
Furniture
Glass
Leather products....
Metal...
Paper products.. * . .
Peanuts
.......
Textiles
Tobacco
Toys
...
Miscellaneous

30
13
5
8
3
12
6
3
10
39
3
18

710
779
181
600
27
806
117
72
840
6,531
60
1,089

Total
Per cent of women
in each time group.

150

11,812

fl4o o 1,474

100.0

12.5

21
1

275
118

3
2
4
2

ttl30
42
30
419

4Shojrs.

Over 48 and
under 50 hours.

Number of Numestab- ber Of
lish- women.
ments.

Number of Numestab- ber of
lish- women.
ments.

Number of Numestab- ber of
lish- women.
ments.

200
23
181
56

«4
1
1
6

Over 44 and
under 48 hours.

1

203
1.7

2

157

2

157

270
250
6

1

75

7
2

118

15
220

1
1

85

1
4
3

1

430

18

1,266
10.7

«Including 1 establishment with 90 women workers whose hours of work per week were 35.




1.3

19KEGROW O M E N13S"I N D U S T R Y .
TABLE ^.—Number of establishmenis and nuniher of Negro women with scheduled weehlu
hours as specified^ by inifw^/ri/—Continued.

50 hours.

Industry.

Over 50 and
under 55 hours.

NumNumber of Num- ber of Numestab- l>er of estab- ber of
lish- women. lish- women.
ments.
ments.

Clothing
Food products
Furniture
Glass
Leather products....
Metal
Paper products
Peanuts
Textiles
Tobacco
Toys
Misc^aneous
Total
Per cent of women
incach time group

4
4
3
1
1
6
3

178
276
106
30
4
363
55

1
lo
2
2

30
3,288
30
68

2

4,418

7

274

NumNumber of Num- ber of Numestab- ber of estab- ber of
lish- women. lish- women.
ments.
ments.

i62

42

Over 55 and
under 60 hours.

55 hours

37.4

2

75

Number of Ninnestab- ber of
Ush- women.
mcnts.

85

2

60 hours.

3

100

3
5
19

1

80

1

72
680
2,913

12

2.3

31

3,845
32.6

1

15

1

O
S

2

95
0.8

1

' 1

S
O

80
0.7

The greatest number of women (4,418, or 37.4 per cent of the total
number included in the survey) were employed 50 hours per week.
The next largest number (3,845, or 32.6 per cent of the total) were
working 55 hours per week. The remainder of the women for the
most part fell within two main groups, in one of which 1,474 (or
12.5 per cent) were working 44 hoiu^s or less while in the other 1,266
(or 10.7 per cent) were working 48 hours per week. I t is significant
that 2,943 Negro women (24.9 per cent of the total number) were
working 48 hours and less each week, and that this number is distributed among all except the furniture and peanut industries. Of the
women in the textile industiy 680 (81 per cent) were employed 55
hours a week. A l l of the women in the peanut industry, 72 in number,
were in the group which was working 55 hours per week. I n the tobacco industry 2,913 Negro women workers were in the 55-hour
group. This industry, however, had a greater number of Negro
women (3,288) in the 50-hour group. I t is also noteworthy that 95
women workers in the tobacco industry were in the longest weeklyhour groupings found in the investigation—over 55 hours—and of
this number 80 were working 60 hours per week.
A tendency toward approved standards is indicated in many of
these establishments by the prevalence of a shorter working week,
than the law requires. There were 1,144 Negro women employed in
5 establishments in one State which limited its worldng week by law
to 60 hours. Two States in which 7,696 Negro women were working
in 68 establishments had a legal working week of 70 hours. I n two
other States there was no legal limitation on the weekly working
64092®—22




4

20

NEGEO W m U ^

IK

IXDUSTBY.

hours, yet 523 Negro women were employed i n 11 establishments, in
none of which the hours exceeded 60 a week. Standards which have
been indorsed voluntarily by managements, as is sho\vn by comparison of these facts with figures presented in Table 4 need legislative
support in order that they may be adopted in all establishments
employing women.
Although on the whole many industries were running shorter
hours than those required by law, a considerable number of infringements of legal restrictions were noted during the survey. I n some
cases the infringements were due to clauses i n the law interpreted so
as to permit its easy evasion- Some typical examples will show the
strain produced by such action. One group of laborers in a textile
factory whose hours were from 6 a. m. to 8 p. m. were reported by the
management to be working only the legitimate 10 hours per day
because they were given 45 minutes each day for a midday dinner and
were working only intermittently all during the day. According to
the workers themselves, however, they had "plenty to do during the
whole 14 hours, and must be on.the job all the time."
I n a large tobacco factory where hundreds of Negro women were
said to be employed during a legal 10-hour day, the management
permitted as much overtime as desired. The workers told with pride
of their thrift in working ''before hours, after hours, and often during
the lunch period.'' The situation seems to be well described in the
words of one woman who said: ' ' I f I have something I want to buy
this weeky I start to work about 6.30 every morning and work until
late at night.'' I n other tobacco factories women were foimd working all during the lunch horn'. Tliis condition was found so frequently
as to suggest that the only possible remedy would be the stipulation
in State labor laws for women that the midday rest and lunch period
be compulsory.
The- worst condition found was i n a glass factory—^located in a
State which has no protective laws for its working women—where
the management reported three 8-hour shifts daily for different
groups of Negro women workers. Upon investigation i t was discovered that if it were not for the overtime of the women on the shifts
there would scarcely be enough workers to supply the machines. I t
was not infrequent i n this plant for women to work continuously
for two shifts, or 16 hours. I n fact, one women interviewed said she
had worked continuously 21 hours on one occasion, two shifts of 8
hours each and 5 hours on a third shift. So strictly were the women
kept at work that only 10 minutes between slxifts was allowed for
meals. To prevent cessation of work during the work period water
was passed to them at intervals from a common bucket and common
drinking cup by a water carrier. These are isolated cases, but they
serve to illustrate the inaccuracy of some reports on hours (for



NEGRO

WOMEN

IN

INDUSTRY.

.

2

1

example^ the glass factory described is reported as working an 8-h.aur
day) and the methods of evasion that may be used to lengthen, the
working: day for Negro women.
In each of the cases cited the white women were found employe<l in
separate workrooms and with much shorter hours^ a condition Justified, in the opinion of the managements, by the difference in. the operations performed by the two groups. These instances are sufficiently
typical to illustrate the need for legislation which would eradicate such
harmful conditions for all working women.
Many States require that a schedule of hours be posted in each
factory. Such a plan fortifies any manager against misunderstanding
both on the part of factory inspectors and on the part of the employees
in the plant, and reacts on the workers in making them feel protected
from exploitation,, a feeling not always existing where workers are
ignorant of the definite conditions of their employment. Of the 150
plants visited only a7, employing 2,369 of the total of 11,812 Negro
women, had a record of hours posted i n the workroom.
The worldng day of the majority of the Avomen interviewed during
the survey was greatly lengthened because of home duties in addition
to factory work. Ono case of a woman with five small children is
typical. Rising at 5 o'clock, she cooked breakfast, dressed the children, and prepared food and made conditions around the house aa
suitable as possible for the children for the day. She was at her place
of employment by 7, and continued work until 5.3Q ia the evening.
Returning home, there was a round of household duties—cookings
laundering, cleaning, and caring for the children—^usually until near
midnight. Frequentl}' she was " too tired to sleep.''
I t has for many years been recognized that long hours not only are
injmious to the individual but are a serious menace to the welfare
of the State. The Supreme Court of the United States has supported
laws hnoiting houi^ of work, to the extent of justifying the use of the
police power of the State as a method of enforcement. The main
basis for the defense of such law is physiological, as stated before the
Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Bunting v, Oregon
The experience of manufacturing countries has iUustiated the i l l effect o i overwork
upon the general welfare. Health is the foundation of the State. No nation can
progress if its workers are crippled by continuous overexertion. The loss of human
energy^ due to excessive working hours, is a national loss, and must ine\itably result
i n lowering the nation^s prosperity.

- ^ y condition that reacts on the family, that institution upon
which the present and future prosperity of the State rests, should be
of vital interest to the State. The health and strength of women
workers should be maintained and guarded not only because production is so largely dependent upon them but also because it is upon
Banting v. Oregon, Brief for defendant i n error, vol. 1, p. 42S.




'

22

^TEGRO

WOMEN I N

INDUSTRY.

many of these women that the maintenance of the family and the
molding of the future citizens of the State depend.
Saturday Jialf JioUdays.—With the exception of 12 estabhshments
the Saturday half hohday was found to be obseiTed throughout the
survey. These exceptions were for the most part in the glass and
food products industries. The claim of some managers that the
nature of these industries prohibits the allowance of the short Saturday conflicts with the action of others in the same industries who
observed the half hohday.
Lunch 'periods.—Of the 150 plants visited there wore two which had
totally inadequate lunch periods, one 10 minutes and the other 20
minutes. There were 88 plants which had a half-hour period, 20 ^rith
a 45-minute period, and 40 which allowed one hour for lunch. The
establishments having an hour for lunch were in most cases the ones
with the 8-hour day and the week of 48 hours or less. These estabhshments were nearly all concentrated in one State, wliich is conspicuous for the enactment and enforcement of its labor laws. • Thirty
minutes for lunch is the minimum which could suffice for a worker who
remains at the factory. I n such cases she should be provided m t h a
comfortable rest room and lunch room. Wliere there are not these
provisions, a longer period is necessary, so that employees may go
home or outside for lunch. Great numbers of Negro women who were
working, and were required to eat their lunches, in workrooms thick
with dust, reported that they lost their appetites because of the choking atmosphere and insanitary conditions. They were forced, however, because of the shortness of the noon period and the lack of lunch
facihties, to eat and to spend the time allowed for rest in surroundings perhaps unavoidably dusty or dirty as far as the work was concerned, but which were entirely unfit to be used as lunch or rest
rooms.
NigTit worh—Six establishments were running night shifts when
visited. These were in the glass industry. Because the process of
manufacturing was continuous, the management claimed that night
work for women was necessary. Other plants in the same industry,
however, did not follow this practice.
women were permitt-ed
to work on the-night shifts i t meant in many cases that they carried
the double burden of caring for their families by day and laboring in
the factory by night. For this and other reasons there should be
laws forbidding the employment of women on night work.
General working conditions.
Next in importance to the hours of women workers are the general
conditions under which the working hours are spent. Generally
speaking, the standard of-working conditions in the factories employing Negro women was low. Yet there were many cases in which wide


NEGRO WOMEIT I N I N D U S T R Y ,

23

awako managers had surrounded their Negro employees with modem
sanitary equipment and adequate facilities for their health and comfort. Other employers seemed to awake with surprise when standards
of employment were discussed. Frequent was the remark, ''Well, I
hadn*t thought of that.'' I n a number of cases managers requested a
conference with the investigator as a means of obtaining definite
advice and assistance in formulating plans and selecting equipment
for the improvement of their plants. Sixteen large tobacco plants
in one State visited were reconstructing and equipping their factories
so as to improve working conditions.
Toilets.—The inadequacy and insanitary condition of the toilets
was one of the most serious conditions disclosed by the visits to the
various factories. Of the 150 visited, 59 establishments, employing
5,447 Negro women (46 per cent of the entire number) were found to
have inadequate toilet facilities. The accommodations varied, of
course, but the worst examples of insufficiency were in three plants
having but one toilet for 125, for 109, and 100 women, respectively.
On the other hand, in some factories the toilets conformed to the
best standards; they were adequate, completely separated from the
workrooms and screened, scrupulous^ clean, and in a location \vhere
fresh air and sunshine made them pleasant and sanitary.
In the majority of cases insufficiency went hand in hand Avith the
bad sanitation of the toilets. This phase of the factory management
seemed to be very unsystematic. The toilets were not clean in 88
establishments, employing 7,653 Negro women. The cleaning in
most of them had to be done by the women workers themselves.
Sometimes 8 or 10 connected toilets were found with a single automatic flushing device which operated only every 15 or 18 minutes. I n
some cases the toilets were not cleaned regularly and sometimes it
was not clear whose ' H u m " i t was to clean them, under which circumstances, of course, ''everybody's business was nobody*s business."
^ o n g foremen and other officials there did not seem to be reasonable
' interest in the question of sanitary toilet surroundings.
The toilets in 45 establishments, employing 4,535 Negro women,
had no outside ventilation. They were screened from the workroom only by a partition which did not reach the ceiling. The only
possible ventilation in such cases was from the workroom, which often
needed ventilation almost as badly as did the toilets.
Washing JaciUties.—^The nature of the industries in which the
majority of the Negro women workers were employed made adequate
washing facilities necessary as a safeguard to the public as well as for
the health and comfort of the workers. A large number of the women ,
were employed in industries where the product is easily contaminated
and in time reacts on the public health if there is a lack of provision
for cleanliness. Yet in 104 establishments, employing 9,397 Negro



24

NEGRO W O M E N I K

IXDTJSTRY.

women (80 per cent of the total number), these facilities were either
entirely lacking or very inadequate.
A l l kinds of makeshift appliances were found in some establishments. One plant which had 300 Negro women rehandling tobacco^
a very dusty process at best, provided each of the four floors on which
these women were distributed with one tin basin, and these were unclean on the day the investigator visited the factory. I n a large factory in which the women workers were pitting cherries, the only washing accommodation consisted of one basin, with no soap nor towels and
no hot water. I n another factory the women workers followed the
practice of washing their hands in pails from which the cherries had
been taken before pitting. Often the only washing accommodation
was a dirty iron sink situated in a remote corner of the workroom,
this being the only provision for both men and women workers. In
a candy factory where Negro women were hand dippers in the manufacture of the choicest chocolates, a sink with no hot water and
neither soap nor towels furnished the only means of removing the
thick coating of chocolate from their hands.
The reaction of these conditions on the public health is unavoidable
and the effect on the individual worker is uncomfortable and injurious.
To go to lunch, and to go home after work, without being able ta
remove from the person the dirt acquired in the work room is disagreeable and embarrassing to almost all workers. Many of the
women probably have become so accustomed to this condition that
they have lost much of their pride in tidiness and cleanliness. Some
employers were ready to criticize their Negro women workers for
untidiness, although they had not provided the facilities necessary
for common decency, to say notliing of equipment so attractive as to
serve as a suggestion or incentive for improving the personal appearance.
A few plants were found which had modern wash rooms. Sometimes adequate and satisfactory washing facilities were found in the
toilet room or in the cloakroom. One plant visited had a very attractive wash room—spacious, airy, and light. I n this room were
six white enameled bowls, with running hot and cold water and
liquid soap. Individual towels were attached to a rod. Three
shower baths were provided also. Looking-glasses were hung at
intervals around the room. The manager testified that this arrangement had resulted in the women paying more attention to their cleanliness and personal appearance. He believed this and other improvements in the plant had decreased his labor turnover and increased
the efficiency of his Negro workers.
Washing facilities, with hot and cold water, soap, and individual
towels, should be provided in sufficient numbers and in accessible
locations in every plant, first as a responsibifity in safeguarding pub


KEGRO WOME]Sr I X INDUSTRY.

25

lie healthy and secondly, as an obligation to the workers themselves in
promoting their comfort, health, and self-respect.
Drinking facilities,—Quite as important as the washing facilities in
an establishment is the provision of cool, pure drinking water. Insanitary and inadequate drinking facilities were found in 98 estab.lishments, employing 8,980 Negro women (76 per cent of the total
number). I n view of the dust and heat under which these women
work, it is a matter of great importance that cool, pure drinking
water should be provided.
The facilities reported were of various types. The majority of
establishments furnished barrels containing water. I n some places
tin cups were attached to the barrels by a chain; i n other places
glasses were placed upon the tops of the barrels. The common
drinking cup usually was in evidence. Sometimes the emplo^^ers
stated that the employees were supposed to furnish their own drinking cups. I n other establishments the only means of securing water
was from the sink faucet, beside which a glass usually was placed.
The following quotation from the investigator's report describes a
condition found in five establishments, employing 1,440 Negro women:
" I n the workroom there was a bucket of water with a common drinking cup a4;tached, from which the workers drank.*'
Dressing rooms.—Only 10 establishments visited had the sUghtest
provision for a dressing room. Except in the plants which contained
adequate wash rooms there were no facilities for dressing and
changing clothing. One manager said he did not need a dressing room
because ''Thej' are all women in my plant and they can easily change
their clothing in the workroom." This naive statement of the employer indicated a point of view as well as a condition. Presumably
this attitude on the part of the employers was the reason wh3-, in this
and many other establishments, the hanging of wraps and hats around
the workroom was common. The dust or heavy fumes with which
the atmosphere was laden in so many establishments employing
Negro women soon rendered their garments unpleasant, unclean, and
unhealthful. I n other factories a worse plan was to hang such clothing in the toilet rooms. Where cloakrooms existed they were usually makeshifts only, being inadequate, untidy, and insanitary.
Rest rooms and lunch rooins.—Comfortable, attractive rest rooms
were found in four plants covered by this survey; in the others the
managers made no provision for such accommodation. There were
only 20 establishments Avhich had a room where lunches might be
secured or where the employees might sit during the noon hour and
eat lunches brought with them. I n many establishments women
were seen during the noon hour in the dirty workrooms eating their
lunches on chairs, boards, or other available seats. Long wooden,
benches were found in the toilet rooms. Women were observed



26

NEGRO WOME-X

IXDUSTBY.

stretched out on these benches to get some rest during the noon hour;
others were seated on the benches and—unattractive as their surroundings were—seemed glad to use this one means of escape from
the workroom.
The women in some of these establishments were working 10
hours or more every work day. They needed a place where they '
could procure a nourishing lunch in clean and pleasant surroundings,
followed by a few minutes of wholesome rest and relaxation.
Ten large establishments employing Negro women were remodeling
their factories with a view toward establishing up-to-date cafeterias.
The managers were enthusiastic over this venture and solicited the
advice and assistance of the investigator in the selection of equipment. The words of the manager of a large tobacco factory indicate
a growing consciousness of the relation between industrial standards
and efficiency: ''The labor problems as they exist i n present-day
industry are to be solved by the individual factories adopting a
definite and improved labor policy. We are just beginning to work
in that direction and the cafeteria and hospital are our first experiments. I n these we feel sure that we shall get the cooperation and
appreciation of the employees. Although this equipment will cost
the firm thousands of dollars, we feel positive that i t will also increase
the industrial efficiency of our factory hands."
Health service.—^Provisions for health service in the establishments
visited varied from the best to the worst types. I n 18 establishments,
employing 2,502 Negro women, adequate and sanitary first-aid dispensaries were found under the supervision of trained nurses.
Employers were unanimous i n emphasizing the good results emanating from these arrangements. Not only could expert aid, quiet, and
comfort be given the worker who had been taken i l l or who had met
with accident in the factoiy, but in many cases the influence and the
advice of the nurse had an effect on the daily habits of the workers,
both in the factory and in their homes, and was being reflected in
better living. I t may be remarked in passing that sympathy and
understanding seemed to exist between Negro nui^es and the workers
of their own race, giving these trained women a strong influence for
good on the factory workers. I n one large hosiery mill the manager
said that a very efficient Negro nurse had such strong influence over
the girls that she had caused a decided decrease in his labor turnover.
Here, as in some other places, a marked improvement in the personal
appearance of the girls was attributed to the influence of the nurse.
Through visits to these women this nurse had been successful also
in improving the sanitation and economic management of their
homes. She had secured the cooperation of the city health department in making and keeping clean the neglected surroundings of these




KEGRO W O M E X I X IKDUSTRY.

27

workers' homes. Experience justifies the recommendation that a
Negro nurse be emploj^ed as supervisor of the health service in
establishments where large numbers of Negro women are employed.
I n 132 establishments either there was no equipment for the treatment of illness and injuries or there was a nominal first-aid cabinet
containing one or two medicines to be administered indiscriminately
as the panacea for any ill. Some managers seemed surprised when
equipment for health service was mentioned. I n many cases they
replied that they had a standing agreement with a hofipital for treatment of their accidents and for ambulance service at top speed. I n
many establishments managers had no health or accident records by
which they might keep account of health conditions in their plants
and ultimately reduce losses in labor caused by preventable illness
or accident. The 18 establishments with proper health equipment
showed that they realized the significance of this phase of factory
management by keeping records of all sickness and accident cases.
Posture at worZ:.—One of the most injurious conditions surrounding
thousands of Negro women is the arrangement for seating them when
at work. I t has been physiologically proved that continuous standing, or sitting on improperly adjusted chairs, is particularly injurious
to the health of women, and that one of the best methods of relieving
their fatigue and strain is to provide adjustable seats for use while
at work. The managers of the plants included in this survey, however, seemed generally to have ignored this very important matter,
as seen in the fact that 128 establishments, employing 10,115 Negro
women (86 per cent of all) were found to have either makeshift seats
or none at all.
These makeshift seats usually were stools or wooden boxes, with
no back supports. OccasionaUj^ the women had tried to relieve this
latter situation themselves by nailing a straight board to a box.
Even where better seating was provided there was apparently little
adjustment possible between the height of the worktable and the
chairs. A strained posture consequently was unavoidable.
Continuous standing with no facilit}^ for sitting was quite common.
Many managers were emphatic in their avowal that certain of the
processes on which Negro women worked could not be performed
while sitting, yet in other establishments women were comfortably
seated while performing these same operations. Ten managers said
the women would go to sleep if they provided them with seats, but
there was no evidence that this happened in the places where seats
were provided.
The responses of employers to suggestions about such conditions
showed clearly that many were eager to remedy them and were not
^ 64092^—22




5

28

^TEGRO W O M E N I N

INDUSTRY.

deliberately forcing them upon their workers. Of course, there
were the careless and the unwilling minority, but these for the most
part would yield to a general trend when well under way.
Cleanliness, ventilation, lighting—T^h.% general standard of cleanliness and sanitation was very low in some of the establishments
visited. Ninety-three plants were in need of immediate cleaning,
either as a whole or in part. The character of some industries made
the cleanliness of the factory a matter of public concern, as in establishments where foods were manufactured, yet in some of these the
lack of cleanliness was depressing. Nor is tliis less true of some establishments where cigars and cigarettes were manufactured. In
many establisliments this condition was due to the fact that there
was no definite cleaning force, cleaning was not done regularly and
systematically, and when done was not properly supervised. Some
managers seemed shocked at the idea of scrubbing the floors and
walls of their buildings. The employees, however, were not unmindful of this condition. One woman remarked, I t just makes you sick
to work in this filth."
The dirty factory surroundings of Negro women were partly due,
it seemed, to the fact that these women were left in the old factory
buildings, which managers considered beyond the hope of cleaning,
when new factory buildings were constructed for the Avhite women
workers. Sometimes the managers frankly stated, ''The building is
too old and the floors too rough to respond to cleaning, and the fumes
have so saturated the walls and laden the atmosphere that the building can not be better ventilated." Fifteen examples of the employment of Negro women in quarters which had been vacated by white
women, involving nearly 3,000 Negro women, were noted during the
survey. Manufacturers would do well to consider that the surest
way of stabilizing Negro women in industry is to surround them with
clean and sanitary improvements such as have been found necessary
and advisable for other women workers.
I n tobacco factories conditions were particularly imsatisfactory.
Sometimes the fumes were so strong that they were stifling and provoked incessant coughing from persons not accustomed to such conditions, Frequently the women wore handkerchiefs tied over their
noses and mouths to prevent inhaling the heavy tobacco dust diffused throughout the room. One manager said new workers, often
suffered from nausea and loss of appetite, but as soon as they got
used to the tobacco they did not mind it. Dust was thick in the air
in many of the factories, especially those in which the screener was
operated in the general workroom without exhaust systems. I n 18
factories these conditions were so bad that ventilating systems to
purify the air were needed. A strong contrast was noted in one




NEGBO W O M E K I N INDUSTRY.

29

factory; the dust was taken off by electric fans, while humidifiers and
a system of washing the air kept i t pure and fresh.
The dust of the tobacco factories, however, was not so thick as the
dust in a factory in which cement bags were being emptied and
mended. Here the dust was so very heavy that the investigator put
on a uniform before entering the workroom to prevent her clothing
from being completely covered with dust during a short visit. Footprints in the thick layers of cement dust did not even disclose the surface of the floor. The machines for mending the bags had to be
covered with an exhaust lest the dust gather so thickly upon the
needles as to prevent stitching. Yet 110 Negro and foreign-born
women were breathing daily this impure air. . The dust hoods and
conveyors used in this factory were very inadequate, and there was
no other arrangement for disposing of the dust or washing the air.
The lighting of some factories was almost as inadequate as the
ventilation. I n some cases the dust upon endows dimmed the light
which otherwise would have entered the workroom. I n other plants
clothing, burlap bags, and sometimes aprons were improvised as
window shades to protect the workers against the glaring streams of
light shining directly into their eyes. I n 43 plants the artificial light
was improperly shaded or was hanging too low or too high. I n one
factory 40 young Negro girls were employed in the manufacture of
fiber-wood envelopes in a dark, damp cellar. Electric bulbs, the
sole source of light, hung so nearly on a line with their eyes as to be
almost blinding. Tlie resulting discomfort, to say nothing of injury
to the sight, should be reason enough for correcting these conditions;
in addition i t has been proved that the lighting facilities in a factory
have a decided relation to production. The manager who permits
bad lighting conditions is himself causing the inefficiency of his
employees, and as a result is getting reduced production.
Conclusion.—A. few establishments visited during the survey were
impressive because of their immaculate sanitary working conditions
and their service facilities. These places were greatly in the minority* y^t they represented successful experiments through which much
dissatisfaction and many labor problems had been avoided, and inefficiency and turnover had been reduced. Conversely it was particularly noteworthy that complaints against the workers usually were
greatest where the working conditions were the least desirable.
Widely diverse conditions for Negro and white women workers
were found to exist in some establishments. Excluding 39 factories
m which Negro and white women were working together in the same
workrooms and those which employed Negro women only, there
remained 101 establishments which employed white and Negro
women workers under different conditions. I n these inequality in




30

OTIGRO

WOjMEN I N INDTJSTBY.

facilities for the two races was the rule with only a few exceptions.
The following report describes a typical contrast:
The -white women were i n the newer sections of the factory. Their worlcrooma
were commodious, well ventilated, and immaculat<;ly clean. T h e walls were clean
and white. Workers were comfortably seated i n adjustable seats, w i t h backs. Drinking water was supplied from a bubble fountain cooled from an automatic refrigerating
system. Toilet was clean and adequate. Washrooms contained shower baths and
white enameled bowls, w i t h hot and cold water. L i q u i d soap and indi\'idual towels
were provided. Dressing rooms w i t h indi-vddual lockers and keys were i n charge of a
matron. A dispensary suite tinder the supervision of a doctor and t^vo nurses, and a
cafeteria excellently equipped also were pro\aded, A splendid new, attractive rest
room adjoined the cafeteria. Two welfare workers promoted recreational activities
among the girls.
The Negro women were i n the old part of the building w h i c h the manager said waa
b u i l t i n 1850. There were practically no service facilities. T h e y were seated on
stools without backs w i t h makeshift worktables fashioned l i k e a trough. The workroom was clear of loose dirt but was greatly i n need of scrubbing. The walls needed
whitening. The rooms looked worn, and smelled old and stuffy. The ventilation
was poor. Drinking water was furnished from a barrel, beside w h i c h himg a common
drinking cup. Toilets were adequate and clean, b u t were w i t h i n the workrooms and
had no outside ventilation. A dingy lunch room was pro\'ided, t o which food waa
brought for sale from the main cafeteria. The doctor rendered first aid i n case of
accident. A n inadequate cloakroom w i t h nails for the wraps was pro\'ided, but
cloaks were also observed hanging i n the workroom.

I n some factories conditions were worse than those just described.
I n some they were better. I n most cases the Negro woman has no
alternative but must accept these industrial handicaps and discriminations. Interviews with many of the women revealed the fact
that they had fully observed the differences and felt humiliated and
discouraged as a result. Frequently they reacted against such neglect
and gave in return less effort and therefore less elFiciency.




CHAPTER IV.
THE OCCUPATIONS OF NEGRO WOMEN.
The Negro woman's position in present-day industry is strikingly
sho^vn by the various occupations upon Tv^hich she was employed in
the 150 establishments visited in 1920. Her claim to a real place
among women in industry is strongly supported by the long list of
processes upon which she was working, compared with those on which
were employed white women whose position in similar industries
had been established years before industrial opportunity was given
to Negro women.
The comparative occupational groupings of Negro and white women workers in the industries studied are sho^vn in detail in Table
5, which gives the occupations of the 11,812 Negro women workers
in the 150 establishments studied and of 16,708 white women workers
who were employed in 101 of the same establishments.
I t must be borne in mind in analyzing Table 5 that although the
occupations of Negro and white women workers arc shown to be
similar in many industries, the actual number of Negro women employed in the various processes of an occupation, as compared with
the number of white women, makes a considerable contrast. The
numbers of Negro women working on the lighter and more skilled
processes were invariably less than the numbers of white women
employed. Often there were only two or three Negro women, reported to be exceptionally efficient or well trained, who were working
on the more skilled operations in an establishment. Although figures
to substantiate this observation are not available, i t is supported by
the difference in the wages of Negro and white women workers. The
small number of Negro women being paid the higher wages i n some
industries indicates that there were comparatively few of them employed in the more skilled and higher paid operations. I n spite of
this fact, the satisfaction given by this minority of Negro women
workers is significant and valuable in judging the industrial success
and progress of the group.




31

TABLE 5.—Occupations of 11^812 Negro women tvorhers in 150 establishments and of 16,708 white women worhera in 101 of the sams esiahlishments.
CO
to

Number of eatablbhments employing—

Industry.
\Vhite Negro
women.
Clothing

26

30

Food products. -

12

13

Furniture.
Glass
Leather products..

Metal..

11

Paper products.
Peanuts
Textiles

Tobacco..




Number of women employed.
Occupations at which white women
weroemployeMi.

ir.

1
2

Occupatlona at which Negro women
were employed.

Total.

Assembllfi^, assorting, cutting, design- (Assembling, assorting, cutting, designing, draping, embroidering, examining, drapmg, embroidering, examining, finishing, hat making, operating, finishing, hat making, operating, pasting, pressing, trimming.
ing, trimming.
13 Assorting, boxingandcanning, casing, Assorting, cleaning, dipping, machine
feeding and packing, filling, peanut
sausage cleaning, candy dipping,
hulling, packing, seeding, stamping,
filling, labeling, packing, preserving,
tying, trimming, washing, Avrappli^.
fruit seeding, mcfit tying, trimming,
washing, ^vrapping.
Assembling, assorting, cleaning, knotMattreas knotting, polishing
ting, veneer laying, polishing,
weaving, winding.
Assorting, etching, packing, painting, Blowing, carrying and shoving of glass,
wrappmg.
machine feeding and operating.
Feeding, linishing, binding, pressing, Binding, operating, packing, pafrting..
plove making, machine operating,
mspecting, pasting, sorting, stamping, stitching.
12 Assembling, core making, drill and Assembling, core making, dipping,
foot press operating, inspecting,
drill and foot press operating, filing,
making of briLshes and carbons for
general labor, making of brushes and
arclights, operating, packing, polishcarbons for arclights, molding, opering, shippmg, soldering, welding,
ating, packing, painting, punch
wrapping,
press, polishing, soldering, welding,
\\-mpping.
Bhiding, cutting, labeling, operating, Binding, cutting, labeling, examining,
pasting.
operating, pa-sting.
Assorting, cleaning, shelling, storing
peanuts.
Assorting, binding, dnming. mending, Assorting, binding, cleaning, darning,
operating, packing, pairing, reeling,
feeding/ nicndlnfj, operating, pac:
sewing, spuming, spooling, weaving,
ing, pairing, reeling, spinning, sowwinding.
ingi spooling, weavfng! winding.
Cigar, cigarette, and smoking tobacco Casing, filling bagsof tobacco, hanging,
making, labeling, operating; packing.
picking, and separating tobacco,
stemming, stripping, tying, twisting.

\Vhtte.

Negro.

Total.

7G3

710

3,031

779

150

181

331

304

GO
O

904

82

27

109

1,010

30

80fi

1,810

1,473

i

w

d

•

i
338

117

455

72

72

1,910

&10

2,750

6,424

0,531

12,955

Toys,...,,...

. 2

3

3

JUacellaneoua,

12

18

18

101

150

160

Total.......




t

Operating, packing, pressing on
maehines, soldering.
Assorting, bookbinding, clerical work,
bookkeeping, rubber goods making,
wig making, machine operating,
switch-board operating, salesmanship, stock keeping, circular letter
typing,

Operating, packing, pressing on
machines, soldering.
Assorting^ addressograph operating,
• book bmdingj bookkeeping, automobile cleamng, other cleaning,
clerical work, lamp-shade making,
maid service, wig making, mixing
and packing, marking and tying,
elevator operating, switchboard
operating, packing, stock" keeping,
bead strmgmg, typing, waiting.

55

60

115

2,G41

1,089

3,7C0

1C,708

11,812

28,520

§
o
§

C
O
eg

34

^TEGRO

WOMEN I N

INDUSTRY.

The clothing industry.—According to the Census of Negro Population the number of Negro women gainfully employed in 1910 as
dressmakers not in factories was 38,148. This indicates that when
the clothing manufacturers were forced by dire necessity to open their
doors to Negro women, many entered who had some idea of the trade
although the factory sense was lacking. Negro women were recruited
in large numbers for the clothing industry in some cities, and in some
plants they were found doing all of the various operations necessary
for the completion of a garment. Negro women were represented
in each occupation in the clothing industry, although white women
were employed more largely on the skilled and better paid work.
The majority of Negro women were employed on the semiskilled
operations, but approximately one-fifth of them were working on
more skilled processes such as machine operating. Frequently managers discriminated in favor of Negro women as pressers, because ,
they felt that their work was more satisfactory. The clothing upon
which Negro women were working varied from the most expensive
to the cheapest, made from the finest and the coarsest materials.
They were making ladies' silk,muslin, and cotton dresses; the choicest
and poorest lingerie; waists, children's dresses, undersvear, hats,
men's shirts, trousers, and essentials and accessories of attire of almost
every kind.
The food-products industry,—The occupations in the manufacture of
food products noted in Table 5 may be divided into three main
groups—^meat products, candy, and canned and ciystallized fruits.
The comparative numbers of Negro and white women employed in
the different processes of this industry indicate that opportunity in
the more desirable operations was for the most part denied to Negro
women. Although there were individual establishments in which
Negro women were employed, on all of the operations, two-thirds of
the firms drew a sharp line between the occupations of Negroes and
those of white women.
I n abattoirs and stockyards, Negro women trimmed, sorted, graded,
and stamped different portions of the carcasses, separated and cleaned
the viscera, and prepared the meat for curing and canning. However,
they were barred from the more desirable work of canning and wrapping meat and its by-products. The work of Negro women was
usually in the wet, slippery part of the establishment where unpleasant odors filled the air and where marked variations in temperature and humidity made the surroundings hazardous to health.
Wherever Negro women were employed in candy factories, they
were, without exception, employed on the same occupations as white
women workers—in hand dipping of chocolates, machine tending,
assorting, wrapping, and boxing candies.
^ Bureau of the Census, Negro Population in the United States, 1790-1916, p. 621.




KEGRO W O M E N I K m D U S T E Y , -

35

The opportunity of Negro women in canning and crystallizing fruits
was limited to one occupation—seeding or pitting the fruit preparatory to the other processes. Although white women were employed
on the seeding and pitting processes also, all other occupations in
the industry were open to them.
The furniture industry,—In the two establishments manufacturing
lumber products in which Negro and white women were both employed their occupations were the same. I n one plant they were
knotting mattresses^ and in another they were polishing Victrolas.
In the remaining establishments in the furniture industry, the manufacture of school supplies, chairs, file cases, and wicker furniture,
only Negro women were employed.
The glass industry,—The occupations of Negro and white women
workers in the glass industry were entirely different. White women
were found assorting the glass products, etching or hand-painting
glass globes and other products, and inspecting, packing, and wrapping finished glass products. Negro women, on the other hand,
were in the most dangerous part of the establishment, where at times
bits of broken glass were flying in all directions. They were in rapid
continuous movement, heavily laden with glass products which they
were conveying from the blowers to the ovens to be tempered.
They were employed in opening and closing the molds in which the
hot glass is placed to be blown. I n on§ establishment three Negro
women were working as glass blowers, although the manager said it
was a temporary arrangement to answer that day's emergency.
The lifting and carrying of heavy weights, the unhealthful and
hazardous , conditions in the workroom, and the prevalence of night
work made this employment especially undesirable for any group
of women workers.
The leather-products industry.—Negro and white women workers
were employed in the same occupations in one of three establishments which manufactured leather products; the Negro women,
however, were not promoted to the more skilled work which white
women were performing, except in one instance where three Negro
girls were employed as machine operators. Binding and pasting,
which Negro women were doing for the most part, is a semiskilled
^
occupation ''which called for cheap labor and therefore Negro
Women were employed,'' as one manager said. They contributed
in this way to the manufacture of some very choice leather products—gloves, pocketbooks, bags, bill folders, belts, traveling cases,
and other small leather goods.
The metal industry,—^When managers in the metal industry
included Negro women among, their employees they generally gave
to them the same opportunity and treatment which they gave to
other women workers. Only one exception to this was noted, and



36

^TEGRO

WOMEN I N

INDUSTRY.

that involved 12 Negro women workers who were employed as
assemblers and molders in a factory in which they were surrounded
by very harmful working conditions with a very low return in wages.
I n the same plant 290 white women were working on practically the
same processes in healthful surroundings and were receiving much
higher wages. This, however, was an exceptional case in the metal
industry.
By far the largest number of Negro and white women working in
the other establishments in the metal industry were making cores.,
Cores are parts of molds occupying the spaces that are hollow on
finished castings, and they are made either by hand or by machinery.
The weight of the core differs, of coui'se, according to the type of
casting which i t completes. I n the majority of establishments
women were making cores of light weight, but in others they were
making heavy cores for stove and automobile castings.
Both Negro and white women were observed to be occupied in
drilling/polishing, painting, punch-press operating, molding, welding,
soldering, and filing parts of metal products in the manufacture of
automobiles, brushes, and carbons for arc lights, stove parts, implements, hardware, enamel products, nuts, bolts, files, springs, and
other metal and steel products and their parts.
The paper-'products industry,—One establisliment manufacturing
paper products employed Negro women only. I n this plant they
were performing all operations in finishing the product. I n the
remaining establishments both Negro and white women were distributed in all of the occupations in the industry. They were employed on handwork, packing, and folding paper, and were operating
the machines, taping, and stitching the paper goods. The work of
operating machinery calls for quickness and speed and is the better
paid work in this industry. I n the establisliments visited the proportionate numbers of Negro and white women working in the
different occupations were nearly the same. Paper boxes of all
kinds and fiber-stock envelopes were the products m a n u f a c t i u ' e d
in these establishments.
The peanut industry,—Negro women exclusively were employed m
the peanut industry. They rehandled the peanuts which had been
brought from the fields; assorted them according to grade and
quality; cleaned and sometimes shelled them, and packed them in
coarse bags for storage or shipment. The lifting of heavy weights
required by these operations, particularly in storing the bags, as
well as the dust from the shaking and sorting, make the present
conditions in this industry undesirable and unhealthful for any
group of women workers. The simplest adjustments would remedy
these conditions.




NEGRO W O M E K I N IKDTJSTEY.

37

The textile industry.—There were six establishments in textile
manufacture that were employing both white and Negro women,
and with one exception they separated the occupations which the
women were to perform. I n five establishments Negro women were
working in the imskUled operations, such as cleaning floors, and were
cleaning the lint and cotton from macliines. The skilled operations
in this industry were performed by white women, nor was promotion
to these occupations held out as a hope to Negro women. The one
firm which formed the exception employed Negro and white women
workers mthout separation or discrimination on all operations in the
industry.
The remaining four establishments visited in this industry employed only Negro women workers. They were' working on all processes, including the skilled work from which they were barred in
establishments employing both white and Negro women.
The women working in the textile industry were manufacturing
cotton materials, such as carpets, lawn, cotton duck, hose, and twine.
The tobacco industry,-—^A decidedly sharp line was drawn between
the occupations of Negroes and those of white women in the tobacco
industry. Negro women were employed exclusively in the rehandling of tobacco; white women were employed e^iclusively in
manufacturing the tobacco after the sorting and preparation of the
rehandling process. Negro women were doing mostly handwork,
although a few establishments had installed machinery for stemming tobacco. They were separating the compact cases of tobacco
as they were brought from the warehouses, picking and separating
the good tobacco leaves from the bad as they came by on a huge
moving belt.
Many Negro women were employed in stemming or stripping the
midrib from the tobacco leaf. This process requires considerable dexterity and speed, and is one of the most important in the rehandling
of tobacco. Negro women were occupied also in tying and twisting
the tobacco leaves and in hanging bunches of tobacco leaves on
frames preparatory to sending them to the drier. I n one establishment they were employed filling bags, with tobacco. This last^ however, was unusual among the tobacco firms visited.
White women were operating all kinds of machinery in the manufacture of cigars, cigarettes, and smoking tobacco of all sorts and
brands. They were also packing in boxes and labeling cigars and
cigarettes for sale and for shipment. For the most part their working conditions and wages wxre in striking contrast to those of Negro
women workers. Their separation and isolation to prevent any contact was apparent in the 16 establishments in which both races were
employed.




38

^TEGRO

WOMEN I N

INDUSTRY.

Three managers very frankly expressed their desire to increase the
opportunities for Negro women in the tobacco industry so that they
would include all processes in manufacturing which are now performed solely by white women workers.
One manager told of his experience in employing Negro women
in the manufacture of cigars in a southern town during an emergency, and the success of the experiment is described in his own
words, ''They made the prettiest, most perfect cigars you ever saw."
Protests from the Tobacco Manufacturers' Union and objection from
the central office forced him to discontinue the practice. Opposition to such promotion of Negro women is so strongly fortified that
it will take patient, persistent effort to weaken it, and to make possible
the employment of Negi'o women in the manufacture of cigars and
cigarettes.
The toy industry.—The same occupations for Negro and white women
workers prevailed throughout the toy industry. One establishment
visited employed Negro women only, and where the groups were
mixed they were similarly occupied in soldering, in operating machinery and foot presses in the manufacture of parts of toys, beads,
and dolls' eyes, and in packing the dolls, blocks, animals, and other
finished toy products for shipment.
The miscellaneous industries.—The miscellaneous industries may
be divided to include four main branches of industry—department
stores, mail-order and publishing houses, lamp-shade factories, and
novelty factories.
The occupations of Negro and white women workers in department
stores were different. Negro women were employed as stock girls,
elevator operators, store maids, and cafeteria waitresses. The white
women workers were employed for the most part as sales girls,
although they held jobs as stock girls, elevator operators, and waitresses. I n some department stores and in a few other establishments Negro girls were gradually being dismissed from these jobs
and white girls were being employed. Opportunity as sales girls,
however, was not extended any^vhere to Negro women. I n one
large department store 125 Negro girls were packing goods in the
mail-order department. Discrimination in wages and in service
facilities characterized most of the department stores in which
-Negro girls were employed.
Negro and white women workers were doing exactly the same
work but in separate houses i n the three mail-order and publishing
firms visited. They were employed as typists, stenographers, bookkeepers, clerks, switchboard operators, addressograph operators,
bookbinders, and packers. An interesting and friendly competition
had arisen between the Negro and white women workers in doing




NEGRO W O M E K I N INDUSTRY.

39

this work. The splendid results from the Negro women were partly
attributed to the fact that Negro forewomen supervised the work
in these houses.
The lamp-shade industry was unique in its employment of skilled,
well-trained Negro girls. They had replaced white girls in two
establishments. The work involved not only knowledge of drawing and drafting, which was done by the Negro forewomen, but
skill in the use of the needle. Silk shades for electric lamps were
being made, some of which were afterwards hand painted by Negro
women. No white women were observed working in the establishments visited in this industry. Wages were good, but working
conditions were not. Managers invariably defended themselves by
saying that the product was a fad which might pass out of favor at
any time, and so they were reluctant to improve their plants.
The only occupation common to Negro and white women workers
in the novelty factories was wigmaking. This was handwork which
required skill and patience. The wigs ^vere made from human hair.
All operations in the manufacture of beads and earrings were being
performed by Negro women workers.
I n one large establishment classified among the miscellaneous
industriea the white women were employed in the manufacture of
small rubber products, such as heels, gloves, tubes, erasers, and
nibber rings. Negro women had been employed on this work, but
at the time of the survey had been either dismissed or reduced to
such occupations as cleaning up the waste incidental to the industry.
I n another large firm Negro women were employed in cleaning the
automobiles which provided most of the city with motor service.
Negro forewomen,—^The employment of Negroes as forewomen of
units of Negro women is of such great importance that it is given
special notice in another chapter of this report. I t is to be noted
here, however, that 12 Negro women were employed as forewomen
in 12 establishments visited. They were distributed in tobacco,
clothing, hat, paper products, food products, toy, and lamp-shade
factories, in mail-order and publishing houses, and in the shipping
section of a department store.
Conclusion.—The occupational groupings described in the foregoing show the new avenues of employment which have been opened
to Negro women during and since the period of the war. They
indicate that Negro women arc gradually advancing from the occupations in domestic and personal service and in agriculture to which
they have been inured throughout their generations of toil. These
advances mean that Negro women, in spite of handicaps, are giving
a measure of satisfaction in their new fields'of industrial opportunity.




CHAPTER V.
WAGES OF NEGRO WOMEN WORKERS.
There are many important influences which must be considered in
any study of the wages of Negro women in industry. Perhaps the
most significant of these is the discrimination and variation among
employers in determining the reward which the Negro women should
receive for her labor. Although the time devoted to this survey did
not permit of a scientific and accurate wage study, certain facts
developed through interviews and occasional examinations of pay
rolls which are most significant.
While Negro women were performing the same operations in different establishments in an industry, there was often a \vide diversity in
the wages paid within the group. There was an even wider difference
in the wages of Negro and white women workers who were doing
identically the same work in separate and different factories. Only
30 firms were employing Negro and white women (2,110 and 4,876,
respectively) without separation and with equal opportunities on
any operation, and seven of these firms made a discrimination in
the wages paid the two racial groups.
The just principle of giving equal pay for equal work is urgently
in need of application by a great many firms employing Negro women.
The right to equality of wages should be established on the basis of
occupation and not on the basis of either sex or color. The adoption
of wage standards depends to a great extent upon the voluntary
agreement of employers and workers. Because the Negro woman is
so generally employed on casual and unstandardized work managers
may, with little regard to her desires or productive capacity, offer
what they choose, with a corresponding effect upon her efficiency and
enthusiasm. I n the words of one Negro woman, You never know
what you are going to gei; you just take what they give you and go.''
The inequality of the wages is accompanied by another prevalent
condition—their inadequacy. The cost of living should be the first
consideration in determining the minimum wage of any group.
Where States have not enacted minimimi wage legislation, there
should be very definite consideration by managers and workers, in
promoting that wage agreement, of the minimum which would cover
the cost of subsistence. The minimum wage board of the District
of Columbia recently set forth $16.50 per week as the least sum upon
which a self-supporting woman could maintain herself according to
prevailing standards and the cost of living. Yet, according to the
statements of their employers, thousands of Negro w^omen represented in this survey were getting far less than that amount.
40



KEGE.0 WOMEVK I K II^T>XJSTRY.

41

I t must also be borae in mind that at least
per cent of the Negro
women included in this survey were employed on occupations, whose
performance is very definitely divided inta a busy and a dull season.
Sometimes the working force is. cut almost in half during the dull
season^ sometimes there is employment for part time only^ and sometimes there is no employment at all. The fluctuation i n wages and the
reduction or cessation of earnings is therefore another problem which
the Negro woman must face^ as she is usually the last hired and the
first laid off/'
Among the so-called seasonal trades is the clothing industry^ with
its busy season preparatory to the fall and spring demands for new
clothing and new styles. The food products industry has similar
fluctuations where fruits are prepared during the harvest season and
where candies are manufactured to meet seasonal demands, such as
those of Christmas and Easter holidays. The toy industry has its
busiest season preceding Christmas.
The seasonal aspect of the tobacco industry ia especially important
because the largest number of Negro women are employed therein.
The rehandling process in this industry is discontinued almost entirely in most plants between May and September, the season during
which tobacco is grown; nor is employmtot regular during the other
nine months of the year. This is no less true of the peanut industry,
the lowest paid of all the industries, which, like the tobacco industry,
closes down during the time the raw product is being grown. I n
addition, i t furnishes irregular employment even during the manufacturing season.
The earnings of Negro women in industry are seriously affected by
this irregularity of employment, which may reduce their yearly
income in some years one-fourth, in others one-third, and sometimes
more. Employment in another industry during the slack season of
their own trade increases the small income of some of the workers,, but
this substitution resolves itself into work of a makeshift type,, such
as house work, laundering, day's work in housecleaning, and other
kinds of uncertain employment. Managers were almost unanimous
in their expressed ignorance of the employment of their Negro \rorkers during the time their own establishments were closed.
Not only is there a psychical reaction on the worker herself because
of this shifting of jobs, and a tenseness provoked by the irregularity
of her earnings, but there is that reaction upon the standard of living
which such loss of earnings produces. Home visits made during this
survey justify the generalization that the majority of Negro women
workers are responsible for the support of others besides themselves.
The necessities of living have to be provided throughout the year.
The woman worker must have shelter, food, clothing, and car fare,
and should have a surplus for health and amusement. Her con


42

NEGRO WOME23' I X

INDUSTRY.

tribution to the family fund is as sorely needed during the slack
season as at other times; her dependents are as vitally in need of her.
One girl summed up the situation when she said, " Y o u need money
to lire on in the summer just like you do in the winter."
As already suggested, this inadequacy of wages is further accentuated by the irregularity of employment ^vithin the normally busy
season. I t is impossible for the workers to foresee the days of a
week or the hours of a day during which work will be discontinued
and the wages thereby reduced below the amount required to meet
the weekly expenses and responsibilities. These seasonal industries,
therefore, not only levy a toll upon the health of the worker, but in
many cases take severe toll from the fundamental family unit, forcing its maintenance beneath the standard requisite for health and
decency.
Complaints among Negro women workers concerning the methods
used by employers in computing their wages and impeding their
progress on piecework were too numerous and grave to bo ignored.
Women on piecework complained that employers provided them with
raw material upon which work necessarily was slow and would so
rate their work that i t would be impossible to make high wages, and
that the white workers were given the better material and machinery which would expedite their piecework. Making allowance for
the exaggeration of some of these complaints, i t still would appear
that some managers are ignoring the human element in their wage
policies and are nourishing a discontent which can not produce
efficiency in their plants. I t is but natural that workers should
respond to employers whom they regard as frank and square in the
rewarding of effort and skill on the job, and the good results of such
administrative methods were noted in a number of plants.
I n one large establishment where Negro and white girls were
working in friendly competition in making cores and filing castings
the efficiency of the Negro girls was commented upon with pride by
the manager. He spoke of one Negro girl whom he cited as the
best worker in the plant. He showed the investigator her pay
envelope for the preceding week, which contained S38, and said her
earnings on one occasion had been $42.
Another typical case of considering the human element in wage
adjustment was cited by the superintendent of a very large meatpacking plant. He employed Negro women to take the place of
men in cutting hog ears, with the definite understanding that they
would be paid men's wages if they produced equivalent o u t p u t *
The following is the statement of the result as made by the m a n a g e r :
They are paid men's wages and they do the work much better than men didThey seem to be inspired because no difference was made i n the wages, and their
efficiency and regularity on the job has been 100 per cent.




CHAPTER V I .
EMPLOYMENT POLICIES, METHODS OF SUPERVISION,
EDUCATION AND TRAINING OF WORKERS.
The future success of the Negro woman in. industry depends
largely upon the cooperation of employers who understand the special problems attending her employment and who will make adjustments and establish policies accordingly. The various methods and
the experiments in industrial management which were being promoted by some managers gave basis for recommendations whereby
conditions in other establishments might be improved. These are
summarized in Table 6 (see p. 50), together with some expressions
of opinion as to the value of the work of Negro women.
I n spite of the growing recognition among manufacturers of the
importance of the proper conservation, adaptation, and supervision
of the labor force in the different occupations of an industry, employers of Negro women were giving very little attention to.these
phases of industrial management. Yet the workers themselves
showed a human tendency to react to these conditions, influencing
not only the attitude of the management toward their industrial
groups but also the employer's conclusions concerning their industrial efficiency and worth.
Employment policies.
According to the table on page 50, 26 plants had employment
managers who directed the hiring, transferring, and discharging
within the establishment, but only 2,602 Negro women were employed
in these plants. The great majority of the plants visited had no
definite employment policy. I n these establishments the foreman
did the hiring, after which the success or failure of the worker on the
job was left entirely to his direction and the retention of the worker
to his judgment or whim.
I n the plants employing Negro women there was an especial need
of instituting some system whereby the new worker might be intelligently and carefully placed in the establishment and transferred
from one occupation to another until she was successfully adapted to
the job which she could best perform. This adjustment would eliminate much of the discharging which was so largely controlled by the
impulse of the foreman. However, because of the restriction in
opportunities open to Negro women, a scientific employment policy



43

44

KEGRO W O M E X I^T I N D U S T R Y .

is not applied to them in all of the plants having employment directors. I n establishments where limited occupations were open to
Negro women they were automatically discharged if they failed upon
the one process, and consequently they were judged as imsuccessful
and inefficient in their work. Their labor turnover thus was apparently greater, and they were considered an industrial liability, whereas
their wise and careful placement and adjustment ui the industiy
might have made them steady and efficient workers.
Frequently new workers were recruited by the employees themselves. When additional hands were needed the foreman posted a
card in the workroom or one of the reliable employees was informed
of the need so that the ne^vs might become widespread. Where
these methods Avere used managers often complained of the difficulty in getting desirable workers. This was probably due to a lack
of discretion and choice in their selection. These same plants reported that they had the greatest difficulty i n keeping their workers,
and deplored the instability of labor. One foreman reported that
he employed women in groups of three because i t was his experience
that only one out of tliree women was a success on her job. This
substantiated his poor opmion of Negro women as a group, and his
deduction that their turnover was very great because two out of
three workers were discharged or left. He reported that of 36 workers
employed at one time 12 remained with the firm. The installation
of an employment department to supervise this important phase of
factory management would eliminate many discharges and- thereby
reduce turnover and industrial loss.
An interesting feature of the employment policy of 10 of the establishments was that of employing Negro girls whose racial identity
could not easily be recognized. These managements emphasized
their own willingness to emploj^ Negro women, but reported that they
used this method in catering to public opinion, to their patrons, or
else to the white girls who were emploj^ed. The manager of a large
hat manufacturing establishment reported that he had two Negro
girls whose racial identity was not apparent and who had been employed with white girls during eight seasons and as forewomen and
instructors of the colored division when the plant for them was
recently opened.
Closely allied to the above-described feature of the e m p l o y m e n t
policy in 10 plants were the varied methods of employers in locating
the Negro women workers in their establishments. The managements visited placed the Negro women in separate buildings, workrooms, or groups and in mixed groups with workers of other racesWhere separate buildings were provided there were invariably employed large numbers of Negro women, in some instances on different occupations and in others on the same occupations as the white



I^KGRO

WOMEIs^

IK

INDUSTRY.

45

women. The underlying reasons for such separation were reported
as—
'^Separation because of lack of space, and because it wouldn't be
' pohcy. By policy, I mean that mixed groups wouldn't get
"VSTiite girls resent proximity to colored gh^ls."
''We are afraid there may be trouble."
"Our patrons wouldn't like i t . "
According to Table 6 there were 26 establishments among the 63
tabulated which had no separation of the workers cither in buildings,
workrooms, or groups, and 25 of these firms reported that relations
between the two groups were harmonious and agreeable in every
respect. The one exception was noted as ''tense" and this was
because colored girls were being paid a lower wage than the white
workers for similar and equal work, and in their resentment a feeling
of hostility had arisen between the two groups. I t was generally
noted that employers who did not advocate and promote separation
of the two racial groups were more sympathetic and liberal in their
pohcies toward Negro women workers and in extending to them
equal opportunities for employment and promotion.
Conspicuous among the comments of managers concerning the
location of their Negro women workers were the two following:
" I have no separation because i t is the policy of the management
to promote better racial understanding, and that can come only
through contact."
" I have no separation because where colored and white girls are
mixed there is not so much time wasted in visiting. The white girls
socialized all the time xmtil I mixed the groups, and now they work
and get along beautifully."
The Negro woman worker suffers in many ways because of her
separation from other working groups. I t was observed during this
survey that unequal working conditions, and sometimes unequal
pay for the same work or else a wide divergence in the wage scale,
accompanied this condition. Another disadvantage is that it tends
to minimize the Negro woman's claim to promotion in the establishment. The employer will not promote individual workers however
much they may merit it, because it would entail mixing them with
groups of white women workers. One manager frankly stated: " I
can not promote Negro women workers because I can't afford to provide separate accommodations for them."
Because the reaction of the Negro worker whose segregation at
work indicates her inferiority to other groups would be reflected in
her work and because separation involves great expense and invites
a difference in working conditions, occupations, and compensation,
the experiments which 26 firms have made and found profitable
would seem to show that employment in mixed groups was a practicable and advisable way of handling Negro women workers.



46

XKORO

WOMEN

IX

INDUSTRY.

Methods of supervision*
The managers of 12 establishnicMUs in which Xrfjro forewomen
were emplo3'C(l to supennso units of Xc»;ro women workers were
unanimous in their praise and recommenclation of this experiment.
One manager told of his experience in employing, (hiring the absence
of the Negro forewoman, a white women to supervise the Xegro
handw^orkers in a phmt where himp shades were designed and made,
\rith the partial intention of retaining her. She was so unsuccessful
in inspiring the women to work and everything became so chaotic
that he was most glad to welcome the Negro forewoman upon her
retuni.
Another manager of a large mail-order house in which 340 Negro
women were employed reported that when he placed a white supervisor over the group they stopped work for a half holiday. lie
emphasized how very much more comfortable, interested, and
energetic the women were under a supervisor of their own racc.
I n this establishment the Negro forewoman also instructed the girls,
and their efliciencj' had greatly increased because she had inspired
them with the slogan, *'Make good, 100 per cent/'
Another employer said absenteeism in his plant had decreased
from 20 per cent to 4 per cent since a Negro forcw*oman had been
placed over the colored unit of 260 girls.
Not only have the Negro supervisors serv^ed their employers in the
capacities for which they were employed, but also as advisers and
friends to the women in their work and play. Only three plants
visited during this survey had labor advisers, and in two cases these
were men and in all cases they were serving the m a n a g e m e n t in
other capacities. Negro supervisors and forewomen supplied this
need of direction and guidance in industrj' in the 12 plants employing them, because they were imbued with a patient, s y m p a t h e t i c
understanding of the Negro woman and her problems. The m a r k e d
success of this experiment substantiates the recommendation that
Negro forewomen be employed to supervise units of Negro w o m e n
workers.
THE

WORKERS.

Of primary importance in any investigation of industrial c o n d i tions aro the reactions of the worker herself to the many direct and
related problems which surround her. Only through her interest
and assistance in analyzing and improving her ow^n situation can there
be made such sifting of causes and effects as should underlie the
inauguration of a strong, constructive program for industrial betterment. I n many cases Negro w^omen have given to industry tb®
best that they had to offer. Complaints against them have g e n e r a l l y
been the result of industrial inexperience and lack of training, ^^^



NEGRO W O M E N I N INDUSTRY.

4T

the failure of nianngers to give to Negro women the encouragement
and guidance which they have so sorely needed during their period
of initiation into industry. On the other hand, in spite of these
impediments, and in many cases because of improved industrial
conditions and incentives, there have been many outstanding examples of strength and efiiciency among groups of Negro women
workers.
Efficiency.
Conspicuous among the citations of efficiency which have been
emphasized in interviews with employers are the following, taken
from the investigator's reports:
Negro labor is just as important as any i n the manufacture of twine now. Tlie
colored girls here have renewed the test of their worth and are very efficient. One
colored woman has been with the firm nearly 10 years, and she is now holding a most
important place i n the factory. She is very reliable, and if she is not on the job when
the factory opens i n the mornings, you may rest assured that she w i l l telephone i n a
few momenta the reason why.

In a plant in which automobile castings were made and the women
were employed in the manufacture of cores the manager thus expressed
his appreciation:
XegTo women workers are dandies; they are much more regular and dependable
than tlie men whom they replaced. I expect to retain them because they have made
good on the job.

A manager of a large cement factory in which Negro and white
women workers were employed in the manufacture of bags said:
The management finds,Negro women workers better, faster, and more satisfactory
than the white foreign-born women formerly employed. They are paid the same
wages, and we expect to employ them entirely i n the future. They are generally
more productive than the white women workers, but their turnover is greater.

A manufacturer of clothing said:
We have promoted an experiment i n our factory i n employing Kc^gro women to
make trousers. Negro women have proved themselves to be industrial assets. We
have done all we could to direct and encourage them and they are now as efficient
as any white girls i n our other shops. I n fact, some of them are faster. There is one
colored girl working on a button machine who is the fastest worker i n any of our three

The superintendent of a large meat-packing house made the follovring statement:
We are proud of our colored girls and of their splendid work. Of course, there are
bad ones on the job as there are i n all groups, regardless of color; but as a whole they
^0 exceptionally well. Here is a colored girl who was just an ordinary factory hand,
but because of her excellent work she has been promoted to timekeeper and office
girl on this floor. There is another colored girl who has been w i t h the firm for four
years—ever since we began employing colored women—|ind she has not lost a day
nor been tardy since first employed.




48

KEGRO WOMEI?: I N INDUSTRY.

The following testimony came from the manager of a large factory
in which Negro women were employed in the manufacture of spring
cushions for automobiles:
Our colored girls are all right, and now that they are more experienced'we can
stake t h e m against any other labor i n the factory. I n indi^'idual cases some are
better than white girls. We thought at first that we should have to dismiss them, for
they gave us all kinds of trouble. As a matter of fact, i t was our fault. We employed
the girls at a weekly wage of S9, and promised to raise them and let them go on piecework after two weeks. Of course they resented i t when we took our time about
keeping the promise, and they raised havoc, giving absolute dissatisfaction. Since
they have been put on piece rates we have been entirely satisfied w i t h them.

The statements following contrast the viewpoints of the managers
of two tobacco factories in the same city and show the difference in
industrial response which their attitudes evoked. These are not
isolated cases, but are typical of the response which the Negro
woman makes to different kinds of treatment in the same industry.
I.
We keep our Negro labor as bound and subservient as possible, because i t doesn't
pay to do otherwise. They give so much trouble i n being unreliable and irregular
that they don't deserve any comforts and rewards. There is no need of gi\'ing them
decent wages, because they do not know what to do w i t h them. Intelligence and
skill is entirely lacking among most of them everywhere, so we promote the policy of
rating them by muscle. The stronger the women are, the more wages they get. They
are terribly indolent, careless, and stubborn, but we know how to handle them because
we are used to them. Whenever they give trouble, we give them rough treatment
and that quells them for a while. Rough treatment is the only thing that w i l l reach
them.
II.
I can depend on the labor of m y Negro women workers first of all, and I let them
know how much I appreciate their allegiance and loyalty to me. They are very
trustworthy and efficient and we pay them and treat them i n an appreciative way.
Y o u never saw any group of people so responsive to kindness and a square deal. They
remember any l i t t l e injustices even after you have forgotten them. They get angry
sometimes when you give them inferior tobacco to stem, because i t is slow work and
lowers their wages, so they feel that i t is unfair. I n this new plant we are going to
have every modern factory convenience for the comfort and health of the women, and
they are just tickled over the prospect. We shall employ 800 Negro women as
stemmersin this new factory, and we'll not have any trouble getting them either, as
our plant is always a drawing card because of our wages and k i n d treatment.

One of the best evidences of the satisfaction given by the Negro
woman worker is the fact that she was employed in the 150 p l a n t s
visited during the course of this investigation. I t was not u n u s u a l
for employers to reply, when interrogated concerning the efficiency of
their Negro women workers,'' We wouldn't continue to employ them
if their production were not satisfactory." Four-fifths of the managers who were interviewed expressed themselves as finding the labor
of Negro women sati^actory and characterized in general only by
the industrial faults common to all other labor. Approximately 90
per cent of the managers expressed their intention of retaining Negro



KEGRO W O M E X IK INDUSTRY.

.

49

women workers, which indicates that the grierances noted by some
employers were not great enough to warrant the dismissal of these
women from • industry or that employers were finding their labor
profitable regardless of the weaknesses of which they complained.
An attempt has been made in Table 6 to set forth the opinions of
employers of Negro women on some of the most fundamental points
of their industrial response. Like any opinion, it is undoubtedly
influenced to a large extent by personal relations. However, the
Negro woman's industrial opportunity and destiny are so largely controlled by public opinion that it becomes a matter of great importance
that attitudes toward her be properly recognized.
Part I of the table gives the comparative industrial response of Negro
and white women workers as shown in the opinion of managers of 42
establishments, in which 6,828 white women and 2,751 Negro women
were employed on the same occupations. Part I I gives the opinion
of managers of 21 firms which employed 6,665 white women and
2,661 Negro women on absolutely different occupations. Because
of the difference of occupations of the Negro and white women in
Part I I , there can be no accurate comparison of the two groups.
I t is shown in this table that of the 42 managers whose
opinions are noted in Part I , 24 stated that there was no difference
in the quantity and quality of the finished product of their Negro and
white women workers and 34 that the Negro workers caused no
greater loss of material in the processes of production.
Of the 63 managers reporting in Parts I and I I of the table^ 54
found no difference in the punctuality of the two groups. Many of
the employers expressed the opinion that their Negro women workers
were ambitious and enthusiastic in their work, and where this condition was lacking i t was sometimes attributed by them to the fact
that the women knew there was no opportunity for promotion and this
dulled their ambition and enthusiasm on the job. The majority
of the managers considered that the labor turnover was about equah
The stability of Negro women workers was emphasized in some cases
and instances were cited of workers who had remained with the firm
for many years.
The complaints of nianagers against Negro women have been, for
the most part, that they were slow^, habitually irregular, unpunctual,
and unreliable, the last being proved by instability, the frequent
changing of jobs, and the prevalence of the custom of ''laying off"
after pay day. Tlie lack of industrial experience and routine working
habits among them might reasonably account for these conditions.
Turnover and the apparent unreliability often were attributed by
the women themselves to undesirable conditions on a job which was
simply taken to tide over a period until something better could be
found.



Or
O

TABLE 6.—Emplo\jm€jit polidcs and employers^ opinions, 6S plants^ employing Jt3^493 white and 5/i 12 Negro womm, by ind^istry.
Part I.—(Firms employing Negro and white women on the same
occupations).
Number of plants.

Grand
total.
Clothing.

Totftl number reportinp
Having employment director
Having colorod labor adviser
Separating Negro from white
workers
Having welfare work for Negro
women
Reporting work done by Negro
women a s Greater in quantity and quality

than white

Less in quantity and quality
than white
Equal in quantity and quality
to white
Reporting material lost through
defective work by Negro women
asMore than white
Less than white
Same as white
Reporting Negro women as—
Alorc punctual than white
LeSvS punctual than white
Kqual m punctuality tg white..
Expecting to retain Negro women.
Not expecting to retain Negro
women

Food
products.

Furniture»

Metal.

Paper
products.

Textiles.

Toys.

Food
products.

Glass.

Leather Paper
prod- products.
ucts.

Textiles.

Tobacco.

Total.

21
7

6

20

3

4

g
W
o
^
o

3
2

n3
5

w

62

c7

1

h-t

M
o
d
cn
1
11

rfll

2
10

K

0

f6

2
1

^ 7,
I

« I n one plant it was reported that Negroes "talk so much and waste so much time on the job."
& Not so great because of lack of expcricnce in the industry.
c I n one plant it was reported that Negroes took longer to learn.




Miscellaneous. Total.

Part 2.—(Firms employing Negro and white women
on dilierent occupations).

I
^ Of the 12 plants in this group one Wtvs undccidod on its future policy.
« Of the 8 plants in this gioup one was undecidcd on its future policy,

51

KEGRO

W O M E N13S"I N D U S T R Y .

Another reasgn for this condition may be found in the example of
irregularity and unreliability set by the firms themselves in some
industries, which often cease work without warning, or discontinue
work seasonally. This unstable, irregular employment reacts on the
working habits of the women employed and invites the very conditions of which some managers are so ready to complain.
Though there are reasonable excuses for some of the defects among
Negro women workers commented upon by managei-s, they only
emphasize the fact that there is a great need of conscious, directed
effort in improving these conditions. The Negro woman must give
all that her white coworker gives if she expects to maintain her place
in industry.
Education.
The general schooling of the women was surprisingly high, especially
in some garment shops and in the mail-order and publishing houses
visited. Of the 125 Negro women whose education was noted 70 were
high-school graduates, and in 10 cases college women were found in this
work. I n the other industries, where the work was less skilled, the
schooling of the women ranged from none at all to high school training, concentrating for the most part in elementary school training.
In the case of some Negro women the new occupations open to them
were by no means commensurate with their training. I t is interesting that they should have been so persistent in overcoming the
obstacles and hardships which most of them had to endure in their
training, when they knew that the chances of appropriate employment and financial return were so smaU. No definite study of the
background of Negro women in industry was made during this survey,
but interviews with a number of women disclosed important facts
whose influence upon the industrial career of the workers could not
be ignored in a study of this kind. The conditions revealed varied
with the locality and its dominant industry.
Trammg for industry.
The majority of the Negro women interviewed had had no previous
training in the work which they were doing. Twent^^-five women
had been to school for special training but were obliged to accept,
because of restricted industrial openings, a difi'erent kind of work from
that for which they had been trained. These persons had entered
factories in both skilled and unskilled occupations, discouraged and
dispirited because obliged to forfeit their training on account of race
prejudice. I n the clothing industry Negro women had a background
for their work because of their experience in home sewing, but they
needed training in those routine factory habits with which generally
they were not imbued.



52

^TEGRO

WOMEN I N

INDUSTRY.

According to interviews with the women themselves, the need of
some carefully devised plan of industrial training for' this class, comparatively new to industry and largely ignorant of the standards
under which factory work is done, was obvious and urgent.
Unfortunately, under our present system of education, vocation^
training in public schools is denied to many Negro youths. Not
until there are equal educational facilities, with such extended
courses as are needed to prepare women for the industrial positions
into which they have recently gone, will Negroes be prepared to
take their place as potent assets i n the Nation's industry. A more
conscientious training for efficiency in public schools^ through the
fostering of pride in achievement, increasing personal and family thrifty
and encouraging the attitude of constancy toward a given task,
would insure that '^preparation for-life" which is the purpose ofdl
education.
To meet existing problems continuation classes or night schools
are being conducted in some places, but the admission of Negro
women to these schools and their opportunities therein are in many
cases restricted. Employers could very effectively advocate t k
introduction of such com^ses in their localities, with equal opportunities to Negro women. Six managers interviewed had very successfully promoted such a plan, and with their encouragement 324
Negroes had availed themselves of the opportunity. I n one city
extension work was given i n a privately controlled industrial school
which cooperated with the vocational bureau of the public schools.
Here courses were offered to housemaids, cafeteria workers, butchers,
core makers, motor mechanics, and garment workers. This opportimity had been enthusiastically welcomed by the Negro women
workers, and managers commented upon the efficiency of the work
of the women as a result of their attendance at this school.
I n some places where the public consciousness has not been
aroused to meet such industrial problems—Avhich are also essentially
social problems—^managers have to a greater or less extent promoted
industrial traioing within theic factories. However, the methods
used and the importance given to this phase of factory m a n a g e m e n t
have been extremely varied. Negro women have neeiied patientj,
careful training during their period of industrial initiation; yet most
managers have ignored this need of training and have left these new
workers groping blindly, to find their way accidentally in the work
they were to do. Ten managers interviewed acknowledged the
absurdity of such procedure, and one manager said to the investigator,
' ' I have just realized something which I should have realized in 1918—
that the thing needed was some one to train and advise these girlsI am looking for a woman of the proper type now.. If you find one,




KEG-Ra W O M E N I X INDUSTRY.

53

please put me in toucli with her." Other examples of unsystematized
training were observed in establishments in which forewomen, foremen, or fellow workers would assist the women ia their struggle to
learn their jobs. These establishments are conspicuous in their
complaints of the inefficiency,. slo\vness, and turnover of the Negro
women workers.
Twenty-five managers had definite '' break-in'' and training courses
in their factories. Such training, m t h the opportunities to advance
to more skilled work as efficiency increases, has been found very
profitable by most employers who are awake to the possibihties of
Negro women as workers. Five managers stated that i t took longer
to break in a Negro than a white woman worker, but all concurred in
thinking that she was just as good after she had been trained. The
general affirmation among these managers of the efficiency and loyalty
of their Negro women workers shows the value of some organized
method of training.
Much good also was resulting from the shop meetings which were
being held during the noon hour,, from once to three times a week^
in
of the places visited. Here educational talks on industrial
standards and policies were given the workers, either by representatives of community agencies with which the management was affiliated or by officials and welfare workers within the plant. I n five
plants the managements were offering ti-aining to women in the Red
Cross home-nursing and fii-st-aid courses, with the intention of extending the work to include training in home economics. Recreational
activities formed a very important part of the program* Their
value in stimulating the women to enthusiasm and happiness i n their
work was emphasized by the 25 managements who promoted these
activities.
Such programs as these were being elaborately and scientifically
executed in the 18 plants visited which employed welfare workers
to plan and promote this important part of industrial and educational
training. Forty plants were visited which seemingly appreciated
the importance of welfare work but were affording this means of
inspiration and training to white women only. lu' 10 other plants,
where Negro women also were given these privileges, their programs
were not so complete, because of a lack of facilities and the smaller
number of hours which the welfare worker was permitted to give to
them.
However, i n 19 plants social and community agencies were doing
very effective work in their cooperation with the managements.'
Their efforts to organize women i n industry into clubs and recreational
groups after work hours, was resulting in much good to those women
who availed themselves of the opportunity.



54

^TEGRO

WOMEN I N INDUSTRY.

Community life.
I t was significantly evident in friendly talks with Negro women
workers, that their life in the community was very largely controlled
by the hours and conditions of their employment i n industry. Long
hours, unhealthful posture at work or continuous standing all day,
followed by home duties which had to be' performed, so entirely
absorbed their energy that they were rendered physically unable to
attend meetings, clubs, and other community activities for progress.
love to go to the Y. W. C. A., but I ' m so tired at night I cm
scarcely get to bed." A condition is implied in these words which is
typical of the Negro woman worker. I n this state of fatigue the
instructive, purposeful club loses its appeal, and instead the young
women workers seek a more thrilling, exciting recreation, as is well
shown"in the words of another woman who said, " I f I go out at night
I go somewhere where there is lots of life and lots of fun; I ' d go to
sleep if I went to a lecture or a club meeting.'' I t was therefore
onl}^ the exceptional worker who had vision and fortitude enough
to grasp those outlets for improvement. This result makes emphatic
the need and importance of a well-designed program for the welfare
and improvement of the workers within the establishments where
they are employed.
There ^vere seven communities visited in which efforts for the betterment of conditions of Negro women workers were conspicuous by
their absence. These cases were of especial interest because in them
were employed the largest numbers of Negro women represented in
the survey. This condition became deplorable when i t was discovered that the factories located i n these places also were entirely
lacking in any industrial, educational, or recreational means of
improving their workers. Maladjustments to community life
obviously were more serious and more numerous i n these locahties.




CHAPTER V I I .
VIRGINIA HOME STUDY.
Realizing the importance of establishing an understanding and
sympathetic relationship Avith the workers themselves whose welfare
it was the aim of this investigation to promote, visits were made to
the homes of 85 Negro women in the tobacco industry of the State
of Virginia. These visits were supplementary to the factory investigation, wliich disclosed the employment of 5,517 Negro women in
33 plants manufacturing tobacco. The women represented in the
facts and figures herein disclosed were seen in their homes after
work hours, although other groups of women were interviewed at
work and at meetings.
The relation between the working and the living conditions of
Negro women workers could not be definitely studied throughout
the survey, but the facts presented in the followng section concerning
the 85 Negro women, whose homes were visited are typical of conditions which surrounded many thousands of Negro women workers.
The interest and enthusiasm of these workers in any endeavor
which they felt was for their benefit was indeed impressive. Their
eager responses and their questions showed that there was a gro\\dng
consciousness among them of their industrial needs, and of their own
inabihty to make laio\vn those grievances which they were feehng.
so keenly.
Hours of work.
The following table shows the number of Negro tobacco workers
to whose homes visits were made and their weekly hours of work:
TABLE 1.—Negro tobacco workers interviewed, classified by weekly hours of work, Virginia.
Hours of work per week.
44 hours.
49 hours.
50 hours.
54 hours.
55 hours.
Total.

Number
of women
1
1
32
2
49
85

Forty-nine (58 per cent) of the women visited worked 55 hours a
week, or 10 hours daily, the maximum number of daily hours permitted in the State law. The next largest group, 32 women, were working 50 hours a week, or 9 hours daily. These figures, however, do not
represent the whole story, for the hours reported were those which
were designated by the daily schedule. Hours often were lengthened
by overtime. I t was interesting to watch the continuous stream of
workers approaching some factories before 6.30 in the morning and



56

KEGRO

WOMEN

IK

INDUSTRY.

leaving as late as 7 o'clock at night. The reason for this and for"
another practice, that of continuing to work throughout the lunch
recess, as given by ten of the persons interviewed, may be stated in
the words of one of them, '^You just can't make-ends meet unless
you do extra work and often you are left in a hole even then."
I n the tobacco industry of the State of Virginia a standard of hours
which would safeguard the health and efficiency of these workers is
greatly needed. Not only would such a standard be reflected in
greater efficiency i n the industry itself but in the status of the home
the family, and ultimately the future citizens of the State. Sixty-six
per cent of the women visited were responsible for the entire upkeep
and care of homes, and 30 per cent, although not entirely responsible, had some home cares and duties which had to be performed earlj
in the morning before work, or late at night after the daily toil at
the factory was ended. The stories of some women, as told to the
investigator, show the hardships of their long hours in industry.
Besides the typical story of the mother who must leave her home
and children in quest of some means of livelihood, and yet has to
assume all of the cares of housekeeping and child-raising, there are
the stories of young girls who are responsible for the care and support
of sisters and brothers or of aged and feeble parents who are totally
dependent. One of these girls said:
am so tired when I reach
home that I can scarcely stand up, and then I have so much to do
that i t just exhausts me. I jump in m y sleep all night, my nerves are
so bad.'^ Another girl who was keeping house for herself said:
''My knees tremble so from standing all day that many nights I do
not eat supper because i t is so exerting to fix it.
Living conditions*
Tlie table which follows shows the living conditions of the women
visited, and that their home responsibilities and obligations were
distributed in all the age groups:
TABLE: S.—Negro tobacco workers interviewed, classified by living
age groupj Virginia.

Age group.

Number
of women
reporting.

conditions, and hy

Number of women who were
Uvmg—
IndepenWith
A t home. relatives, dently.

16 and under ISyeara.
18and under 20 years.
20and under 25 years.
25'and. under 30 years.
30and under 35years.
35and imder 40 years.
40 and imder 45 years.
46 and under-50 years.
50 and under 55 years.
55 and under60 years.
60 years and over
Total
Per cent distributioa-.




85
100.0

56
65.9

23
27.1

U

NEGRO AVOMEN I X IIs^DUSTEY.

57

Of the 56 Negro women (65.9 per cent of those visited) who were
responsible for the provision and care of homes, the greatest number
in one age grouping was 10; this figure appears in the groupings of 25
to 30 years, 35 to 40 years, and 50 to 55 years. Of the 23 women (27.1
per cent) who were found to be living with relatives, 19 were under
30 years of age. Only 6 women (7.1 per cent) were boarding; aU but
one of them were between 18 and 35 years of age.
Although 27 per cent of the women visited were living with relatives, not by any means was i t true that they were without home
responsibiUties. Beside^ contributing large amounts in proportion
to their wages, they had distinct home duties devolving upon them'
which had to be performed after the heavy strain of the workday, for
it often happened that the relatives with whom they lived also were
away from home all day in some kind of gainful employment.
The conditions which surrounded the tobacco worker both at
home and at work were conducive to a low, unwholesome standard
of living. Confronted with the need for food, clothmg, and shelter,
and placed in an environment which was unhealthful and sometimes
even degrading, they were seen to have lost themselves in the'struggle
for bare existence. Many conditions which savored of indecent,
unlawful living were observed during the course of the investigation,
but the cause of such conditions does not rest solely or chiefly with
the persons involved. The histor}^ of each generation of tobacco
workers too often repeats itself. Born into homes of poverty, the
children grow up unavoidably neglected by their mothers, who are
struggling daily to supply theh' elemental wants, until they too find
it necessary to begin work in order that they may add their small
earnings to the inadequate family fund.
Age at beginning work.
Table 9 shows the age at which the women visited began gainful
employment, according to theii* age grouping in 1920: •
TABLE

Negro tobacco workers irUerviewed, classified by age at which they began gainful employment and age at time of investigation, Virginia.
Number of women who began work at the age of—

Age groap.

Number of
women
reporting.

la

II

12

13

14

15

16 and under 18 year
18aiiduiidEt20years
20 and under 2a years
2a and under 30 year
M and under 35 year
35 and under 40 yea
f_ and under 45 yea
fc and under SO yea
g a n d under 55 yea
® and under eo years
60 years and over.
Totat




85

23

15

16

17

18

19

20 25
30
and and years
under under and
30. over.
25.

58

l^BG-RO W0ME2T I N

INDTJSTEY.

Twenty-three of the 85 persons visited began work at the age of 12
years. Three women began work at the age of 11 years, 8 at 10
years, and 1 each at 9 and 8 years. Thus 36 of the 85 women visited began working before they were 13 years of age, and 64 women,
or 75 per cent of the whole, began working before they were 16. The
remaining women, with the exception of 5, were forced to begin
gainful employment after becoming widowed. The effect of child
labor legislation during the past few years appears in the fact that
no woman under 20 years of age began gainful work before she was 12.
The women interviewed told of the custom among mothers in the
'tobacco industry of securing employment for their children in the
factories with them, as soon as they could legally or otherwise answer
the age requisite for employment in that State. This accounted for
the prevalence of the employment of mothers and their children
which was observed in many factories and emphasized in interviews
with managers. Life in each generation was then bounded on all
sides by the same influences. I n the factory, nothing elevating or
improving was afforded the workers; home influences were no better,
for the wages were so low that the workers were forced to select the
poorest of homes, in localities so undesirable and unhealthful that
the envii'onment naturally would react on the lives of the persons'
within it. There thus resulted a class consciousness among those
workers, which was expressed in their suspicion of other groups, their
concentration on their own interests, and their maladjustment to the
communities in which they lived. Higher wages, better working
conditions, and a sympathetic relationship among the employers, the
community, and the workers would do much toward leading and
inspiring these people to better living.
Years employed in the tobacco industry.
No less interesting than the age at which the women began gainful
employment is the number of their years of service in the industry,
as shown in Table 10.
The women visited had been employed in the tobacco industry
from a minimum of six months to a maximum of 42 years. The
fact that 7 women, 4 of whom had begun work- at 12 years of age,
had given service in the tobacco industry for 30 yeaxs, and that 6
women, aU of whom began work between the ages of 9 and 14, had
rernained in the industry more than 30 years^ is especially noteworthy as indicating the long periods of service which managers
stressed as characteristic of Negro women in the tobacco industry.
Many women bent with toil and age were daily wendmg then- way to.
the factory, where they earned any small amount which they could
as a means of subsistence. One factory visited was called the ''Old
Folks' Home'' because i t employed so many old women who had




NEGRO

WOIMEN

IN

59

INDUSTRY.

given tlieir youth and ihe best part of their lives in the service of the
tobacco industry of the State.
TABLE l^i.—Negro tobacco worhrs interviewed, classified hy age at which they began gainful employment and years employed in the industry, Virginia,
Number of women who began work at the ago of—
NumYears employetl in the iDcrof
women
industry.
reporting.

10

11

12

13

11

15

16

17

18

19

20
25
30
and and years
under under and
25.
30. over;

Less than 1 year
land under 2 years..
2and under 3 years..
3and under 4 years...
4 and under 5 years..,
Sand under G years..
6and under 7 years..
7and under 8 years..
Sand under 9 years..
9and under 10 years.,
10and under 12 years,
12 and under 14 years
14 and under 16 years,
16 and under 18 years.
ISand under 20 years,
20 and under 25 years.
25 and under 30 years.
30 years.
Over 30 years
Total

86

23

15

Wages.

Inadequacy of wages was a general complaint among the women
visited in this survey. Two wage rates were paid in all tobacco factories—a daily rate varying from $1.50 to $2.25 in different cities for
hanging and packing tobacco, and a piece rate for stemming. The
same workers were employed at times on each of these processes. I n
complaining of the inadequacy of wages, the women also emphasized
the hardship entailed by the irregularity of employment and their
corresponding inability to foretell the amount of their weekly income.
There was a strong feeling among many employees that they were
not getting a just return from their labor. The day hands felt that
they were not receiving a living wage commensurate vnth their services, and the stemmers felt that the scales were wrong on which their
finished work was weighed or that they had been deliberately cheated
in the computation of their wages. Ignorance of the method of computmg wages'on a piece-rate basis and the attitude of suspicion which
years of servitude have stamped into the lives of these workers were
responsible for this feeling. However, i t would seem wise for employers in the tobacco industry to facilitate a better understanding with
their Negro women workers and make them feel that their labor was
not being exploited, but that they were a respected and important




m

NEGRO W O M K N I X

industry.

part of the industry in which they were employed. This human
touch, so sorely lacking in the tobacco industry, would counteract a
good many of the problems which present themselves to the employer in terms of dollars and cents.
As before expressed, the inadequacy of wages is accentuated by
the seasonal aspect of the industry. Many were the wishes expressed
that there might be a readjustment of their work so that employment
might last throughout the year. Even when received regularly the
wages in many cases were so low that they were not sufficient to provide the barest necessities of life^ and there could be no provision for
the season during which work would discontinue. These conditions
presented a very serious problem to many Kegro women workers.
The weekly wages received were said to be as low as S4 and a
a
high as $18.50. These figures were n o t secured from examination of
the pay rolls, but are the amounts reported by the women interviewed as the contents of their pay envelopes during a normal
worldng week.
The range of earnings is shown in the table following;
TABLE 11.—Negra tobacco- workers internieived, clmdfied. by age and weekly earnings

Virginia.
J^umber of women whose age in years was—

Weekly earnings.

and under $5
$0 and undfiT S6
$6 and under $7
87 and under S8
$8 and under
and under S10__
$16 and under 311
J l l and imdcr J12
$12-and under S K
K
f l 3 and under $14
$14 and under $15
$15 and under $1&
$16fand over
Total

Number of
women 16
report- and
uning.
der
IS.
1
1
2
7
5
16
12
17

9

18
and
under
20.

35
and
under
40.

40
and
under
45.

45
and
under
60.

50
and
under
55.

65
60
and
un- and
der overr
60.

I
3
1

1

4
1

1

I
2
2
2
2

3

9
1
6
1

85

20
30
25
and. . and , a n d
unununder
der , der
30.
25.
35.

1

1
1
1
« 3
4
1
3

1
1
I
1

2
6 .

8

14

4

1

1
1

2
1
1
2
2

1
1
1
1
10

2
1
1
2

1
1
2
5

2

t
t

"T

1
2

9

8 -

10

2

Sixty-one (72 per cent of those interviewed) reported weekly
earnings of less than $12, 16 of them less than
Only one woman,
reporting the exceptional earnings of $18.50 a week, was receiving
a wage as high as the minimum set hy the District of Columbia
($1^.50) as the lowest amount sufficient to cover the present-day
cost of the necessities of life.
Managers did not emphasi^^e the importance of experience i n tb&
rehandling of tobacco, but the following table shows some relation
between the wages received and the years employed i n the industry:




NEGRO W O M E N

IN

61

INDUSTBY.

TABLE 12.—-Negro tohacca worhen interviewed, classified by weekly earnings and years
employed in the industry, t^irginia.
Number of women who had worked in the industry—

"Weeklv earnings.

Si and iinjder
1 ^ and under
5
J6and under
f7 and under
ind under S!)
$9 and under 110
$10 nnd under Sll
$11 and under $12
$12 and under S13
$13 and under $14^.*
$11 and under $15
$15 and under $16
$16 and over

Number
of
women
report-

1
1
2
7
5
16
12
17
S
9
1

6
7
8
and and and
unun- under
der
der
7
8
9
years. yc4rs. years.

L
1

1
1
1

2

1
1
2
1
2

I
1
1
2
1

1
1
1

1

t
2
1
^
2

1
1

1

L

1

1

1
1

1
85

Total

1
3
6
2
4
Tin- and and and and and
der
unununun- un1
der
der
der
der
der
year.
2
6
3
4
5
years. y 8.113. years. years. years.

3

5

7

6

5

7

3

2

2

Number of vro men who had work edinthe industry-

Weekly' earnings.

$4 and under S5
$5 and under S
O
JO and under $7
$7 and under 58
$S and under $9$9 and under $10
510 and under $11
$11 and under $12
$12 and under ?13
Sia and under Sl4
$H and under $15
$15 and under
$1©and over.
Total

9
and
under
10
years.

10
and
under
12
years.

12
and
under
14
years.

14
and
under
le
years.

16
and
under
IS
years.

20
25
18
and and and
un- un- un30 Over
der der years. 30
der
years.
25
30
20
years. years. years.

1
1
1

2
1

1
1
4
I

3

7

7

I

1
1

1
1

1

1

4

T

6

1

i
I
1

4

3
1

1
1
2
1

1

i
1

2
2

1
1
2
1
1

I

3

The woman worker wlio reported that she was receiving only §4
had been in the industiy one year, and seven other women receiving
between $5 and S8 a week had been in the industry from one to five
years. Conversely, the person reporting the highest amount ($18.50)
had been employed in the tobacco industry 18 years, and six other
women whose earnings were i n the higher groups, between $14 and
$1&, had been i n the industry from 14 to more than SO years. The
^ m e n in the medium wage groupings, however, had been rehandling tobacco for a period of from one year to more than 30 years, the
longest service for any worker having been 42 years. This indicates
that in only certain cases did experience mean an increased wage, for
17 women who had been in the industry for 20 years and more were
m the medium wage groupings. I t must be borne in mind in any




62

^TEGRO W O M E N I N INDUSTRY.

analysis of tlic wages of tobacco workers that regularity and stability
of employment are stronger factors in determining the earnings of
tlie workers than is their comparative efficiency while at work.
Dependents and home responsibUities.
An important element in an}'' consideration of wages is the extent
of family dependency upon the earnings of the woman who is working. Often the women reported that the fact that they were married
did not alleviate their responsibility in supporting-the family. In the
typical family it took all of the earnings of every wage earner, regardless of conjugal condition or age, to meet the family expenses.
Table 13 shows the conjugal condition of the women visited, classified by age groups:
TABLE 13.—Negro tobacco workers interviewed, classified by conjugal
age group^ Virginia.

condition and

Number of women who were—
Number
of
women
reporting.

Age group.

16 and under 18 vears
18 and under 20 years
20and under 25years.
25 and under 30 years
S and under 35 years
O
35 and under 40 years
40 and under 45 vears
45 and under 50 years
50 and under 55 years
55 and under 60 years
60 years and over
Total
Percent distribution

...........

6

h

9
14
4
10
q
8
10
2
5
85
100.0

Single.

c
8
8
8
2
1
2
1
1

37
43.5

iMarried. Wido^ved.

Separated
or
divorced.

1
3
2
6
3
4
4
2
1

2
3
2
4
3

1

26
30.6

14
16.5

8
9.4

This table shows that 48 of the 85 women interviewed were or
had been married. I n the case of single women also, however, when
there were others in the family partially or wholly dependent upon
them for subsistence the condition resolved itself into a vitally
serious problem. Certainly the extent of dependency as detailed
in the interviews with this group of women wage earners reveals
the need of higher wages for women in the tobacco industry.
Among the 85 women visited there were 15 who had no families,
and 16 others who had only themselves to support. The remaining
54 women either had relatives who were entirely dependent upon
them, or were contributing a definite amount weekly toward the
maintenance of the family. Twenty-eight women who contributed
to the family fund had children who were dependent, and in 20 of
these cases the children were entirely dependent. Eleven of the
20 women referred to had one dependent child, 4 had two dependent children, 3 had three dependent children, and 2 women had four




NEGRO W O M E N I N INDUSTRY.

63,

dependent children. Twenty-six women having dependent" children
were in the wage groups varying between S7 and S14.
Twenty-five of the women visited who contributed to the family
fund had husbands, but of this number one woman had a husband
who was entirely dependent. She was receiving a weekly wage of
about S l l .
Of the persons contributing to the family support, two women
whose weekly wages were $9 and'810, respectively, had fathers who
were entirely dependent upon them for support. One woman
whose weekly wage was S13 had a mother whose maintenance fell
solely upon her, one whose wage was $7 had two nieces for whom to
provide, and five others whose wages were between S9 and $12 had
grandchildren for whose support they were entirely responsible.
In nine cases dependency was due to sicloiess, involving not only
the financial support of the dependent but also provisions for medical
attention, making a double drain on the small family income. One
girl whose father had been i l l for three years said: ' ' I am so worried
and worn in my strength that I feel at times as if I can not stand i t
any longer. I t is not only the need of money that burdens me but
the responsibility of being nurse and housekeeper and wage earner
at one time."
The following tables show the amount contributed to the family
expenses, classified first according to age and second according to
weekly wage:
TABLE 14.—Negro tobacco workers interviewed, claussified by family
age groups Virginia.

contribution

and

Number of women who contributed to tbe family
each week—
Num- Number of
ber of
women women
All
report- with Noth*
no
«7 earnS6
S5
$2
$3
$4
ing. family. ing.
ings.

Age group.

-t
16 and under 18 years
18and under20 W s . . '
^ a n d under 25 years...
2oand under 30 years..
^ a n d under 35 years
Soand under 40 years.. .
«and under 45 years
Ja and under 50 years....
^ a n d under 55 years.. .
^ a n d under 60 years..;.
C years and over
O
Total




' '

6
8
9

U
4
10

"' '

9
g

10

1

3

i

1
4
1
2
2
2

2
5

15

3
1

3
1
2
3

2

85

2
3
1

1

2

8

1

2
5
2
6

1

1
2
5
5
4
2

2
1

1
1

1
16

1
1
1

1

1

5

2

1

35

.

]srEGRO W O M E K IN

64

INDUSTEY.

TABLE 15.—Negro tohacco workers interviewed, classijkd by family
weekly earnings^ Virginia.

Weekly earnings.

S4 and under
.....
$0- aii<l under 80-$6and under$7
J7 and under J8. ....
....
$S and under 59 • • • Sd and under SIO....
.....
SlO and under $11
$11 and uiider S12
S12 and under $13
S13 and under S14....
$14 and under S15
$15and under $16....
$16and over, v . . .
Total

contribution and

Number of women who contributed to the family
each w e e k Num- Number of
ber of women
women with
reportAH
Noth- $2
no
$5
$6
$3
$7 earning. family. ing.
ings.
1
1
2
7

0

1
1
1
1

1

2
5
1

16
12
17
8
&
1
5
1

2
2
3
15

le

i
2
1
1
3

1
2
1

2
1

85

1
t
1
3

i

2
2
1

1
1

1

11
6
9
2
i

1

35

i
1
1

1

2

S

5

2

Thirty-fivo of the women interviewed contributed all of their
earnings—ranging from $4 to $14 a week—to the family expenses.
Sixteen women contributed from $4 to $7 a week, their weekly earnings
ranging from S9 to $15. The 15 women who had no family relations
were solely responsible for their own maintenance and the 16 other
women who did not contribute to the family expenses emphasized
that they used their earnings for their own support because their
families were provided for without their assistance.
Conclusion.
Better wages to that large group of working women of which the
examples given are typical would react very definitely upon industry
as well as upon the home and community life. Ultimately the
standard of living within these families would be raised and health
and efficiency would be safeguarded.
As it is, the struggle for improvement among these people is a
rugged, persistent one. Their homes, many of them houses of two
and three rooms in which five and six persons were housed, had the
marks of neglect, misery, and poverty. Three-room houses, one inhabited by nine, another by eight, and another by seven persons, told the story of that congestion which involves bad sanitation and poor health, so prevalent in the houses visited in VirginiaThe lack of any civic or community effort in. improving the locality
populated by this class of workers was very marked. These workers
were concentrated and isolated in the districts where drainage was
poor, where streets were merely roads, where the failure to remove
refuse of all kinds nourished conditions which were inimical to health.
As a matter of fact, interest was taken in cleaning and sewering
these sections in exact proportion to their proximity to localities




NEGRO

WOMEN

IN

INDUSTRY.

65

inhabited by wliite people. Of the 85 homes visited, 47 had sewerage
and water supply and 38 had neither of these facilities. Eleven of the
homes visited were owned by the workers inhabiting them, and of this
number three had sewerage and water supply and eight had none.
There was a sincere desire and effort among many of the women
visited to save and invest some portion of their small weekly earnings.
Their enterprise in buying homes was an example of this. Although
the houses were largely makeshifts, some, which had been owned a
number of years, showed the marks of persistent toil in improving
them in every way possible. One woman visited, who was bent low
with the weight of her 63 years of toil, told a pitiful story of her struggle in buying a home on an average weekly wage of $5. The house
cost S250; and by paying a dollar a week she had succeeded in liquidating one-half of her indebtedness.
Another characteristic investment of these women was insurance.
Ninety-five per cent of the women visited were carrying some form
of sick benefit or life insurance. Insurance agents who were interviewed emphasized the large numbers of workers in the tobacco
industry who had affiliations \ n t h their companies.
There was something of beauty in the attitude of the women toward
their work. Their patient trust and belief in the better day that
should come to them as workers was pathetic. I n spite of the unpleasant conditions which surrounded them at work, they continued
to express their consolation and hope, as they sang and chanted their
own songs during the long hours of the day. One employer
told the investigator that a new foreman tried to stop their singing
during his initiation in the factory, and the employer told him
there was no need of this, because the women worked better when
they sang. Although so largely bound by ignorance,^® yet the hard
school of adversity had taught them many beautiful life lessons—
they had that simple faith and trust with which religion, their one
unrestricted outlet, had imbued them.
wOftho 85 women visited, 21 had never attended school, 12 had stopped in the second grade, 7 in the
third, 21 in the fourth, 11 i n the fifth, 6 i n the sixth, 2 in the seventh, and 2 i n the eighth grade. Three
ere graduates of high schools.







A D D I T I O N A L COPIES
OF THIS PUBLICATION MAY BE PROCUEED RKOM
THE STJPERINTENDENT OF DOCUMENTS
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFHCE
WASHINGTON, D. C.
AT
10 C E N T S P E R COPY


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, One Federal Reserve Bank Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63102