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H ou se D o cu m e n t N o . 225

79th C ongress, 1st Session

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Frances Perkins, Secretary
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS
Isador Lubin, Com m issioner (on leave)
A. F. Hinrichs, A ctin g Comm issioner

+

Postwar Employment Prospects for
W om en in the H osiery Industry

B ulletin 1V[o. 835

For sale by the Superintendent o f Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office
Washington 25, D. C. - Price 5 cents




Letter of Transmittal
U

n it e d

St a t e s D e p a r t m e n t of L a b o r ,
B u r e a u o f L a b o r S t a t is t ic s ,

Washington, D. C.f May 22, 1945.
The S e c r e t a r y o f L a b o r :
I have the honor to transmit herewith a report on postwar employment oppor­
tunities for women in various occupations in the hosiery industry. This is the
second in a series of bulletins prepared in the Bureau’s Occupational Outlook
Division, based on studies of the outlook for employment in the various occupa­
tions and industries. This report was prepared by Arthur W. Frazer and Abra­
ham Ringel.
A. F. H i n r i c h s , Acting Commissioner.
Hon. F r a n c e s P e r k i n s ,
Secretary of Labor.

Contents
P age

oc




(ii)

1
2
cq cocoob-

Summary______________________ _____ ________
Trend of employment of women in the industry
Full-fashioned hosiery manufacture:
Composition of labor force_______________
Skills required___________________________
Women in full-fashioned knitting_________
Women in boarding operations___________
Women in other occupations_____________
Seamless-hosiery manufacture:
Composition of labor force_______________
Skills required___________________________
Women in seamless knitting______________
Women in boarding operations___________
Women in other occupations_____________

10
12
12

Bulletin 7^o. 835 o f the
U nited States Bureau o f Labor Statistics
[Reprinted from the M onthly L abor R eview, M a y 1945]

Postwar Employment Prospects for Women in the
Hosiery Industry
Summary

Replacement of men by women workers during wartime occurred
in the important occupations in both the full-fashioned and seamless
branches of the hosiery industry. In the seamless-hosiery branch,
which before the war employed proportionally more women than did
the full-fashioned branch, the gains in number during the war were
relatively greater because the principal occupations require less skill.
In the manufacture of full-fashioned hosiery, some gains, however,
have been made in the employment of women in such skilled occupa­
tions as knitting and topping. Considering mill experience and
wartime preference, it appears that the gains made in the seamless
mills stand a greater chance of persisting after the war. Technolog­
ical developments in both branches of the industry, not fully effective
before the war, will favor the continued trend toward greater use of
women in some occupations but may eliminate some jobs in which
women have been customarily employed.
The labor force of the hosiery industry consists mainly of women.
In addition to the jobs which they have customarily held, women
have made significant wartime gains in occupations in which men
were formerly employed. The shortage of male workers first con­
fronted the hosiery industry at the time when raw materials such as
silk and nylon were no longer obtainable and the industry was attempt­
ing simultaneously to convert to the use of rayon and adjust the
production levels to rationed supplies. In fact, the occurrence of
temporary layoffs and fractional workweeks during this transition
period accentuated the drift of workers—women as well as men— away
from the hosiery industry. The number of workers in the industry
dropped from 159,100 in 1939 to 128,500 in 1942.
By the time an operating balance between labor and raw material
was achieved, the hosiery mills had lost many of their men, including
some of their best workers. This drain of men continued. Hosiery
manufacture was not considered an essential industry, and the men
in hosiery mills were comparatively young; most of them were under
38 years of age. In higher-paying war jobs their previous experience
and mechanical aptitude were a definite asset. Many of them went
into service with the armed forces. Not only was it difficult to find
men to replace them, but the mill managers were reluctant to expend
the money and time required to train new men for skilled jobs when
the likelihood of losing them, under wartime conditions, was so great.
Among the expedients adopted by hosiery manufacturers was the
649517------45




( 1)

2
employment of women, manyvof *whom* lacked-previous industrial
experience.1 Job simplification and other techniques, aimed at the
most efficient utilization of this new supply of labor, were introduced.
The wartime experience in the mills and the opinions now generally
prevalent as to the success with which women have adapted them­
selves to these occupations afford some indication of what may be
expected after the war as regards relative employment opportunities
for men and women in the hosiery industry.
The production of full-fashioned hosiery differs considerably from
that of seamless hose, not only in the manufacturing processes and
the products, but also in the machinery used and the degrees of skill
involved. For these reasons, the two branches of the industry are
here treated separately.
Trend of Employment of Women in the Industry

Within the past 20 years the proportion of women employed has
increased in both full-fashioned and seamless hosiery manufacture,
but the rate of increase began to level off prior to the war. In Octo­
ber 1942 female employment for both branches of the industry was
63 percent of total wage-earner employment— only 2 percent higher
than in October 1939. By August 1944, however, women in the
industry constituted 69 percent of the total number of workers em­
ployed. In the full-fashioned branch of the hosiery industry the
proportion of women in the labor force rose from 57 percent of the
total in 1939 to 63 percent in August 1944; in the seamless branch
the increase was from 67 percent to 75 percent.
Full-Fashioned Hosiery Manufacture
COMPOSITION OF LABOR FORCE

In general, jobs in the full-fashioned branch of the hosiery industry
demand a relatively high degree of operating skill. The machinery is
complex and therefore requires close attention, manual dexterity, and
mechanical aptitude on the part of its operators. A study made by
the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1938 2 indicated that skilled workers
accounted for 64 percent of the total labor force, as compared with 23
percent in the semiskilled and only 13 percent in the unskilled groups.
The importance of the major occupations in the total wage-earner
employment of the 105 full-fashioned hosiery mills covered in that
study is shown in the accompanying tabulation.
Percent of
total wage
earners

5. 2
Boarders_______________________________________
Folders, wrappers, and boxers___________________ 3. 3
Inspectors and examiners_______________________
5. 7
Knitters___________________
27. 7
Loopers _ __________________________
6. 1
Machine fixers__________________________________ 1.0
Menders and seamers____________________________ 11. 7
Pairers_________________________________________ 3. 7
Toppers_________________________________________ 15. 8
All other________________________________________ 19.8
1 W omen workers who were new entrants into the labor force between December 1941 and March 1944
constituted 43 percent of all women in manufacturing at the latter date; more than half of this group had
previously been home housekeepers. (See U. S. W omen’s Bureau Bulletin N o. 20: Changes in W omen’s
Employment During the War, Washington, 1944.)
2 Earnings and Hours in the Hosiery Industry, 1938, by Jacob Perlman and H. E . Riley, in M onthly
Labor Review, M a y and June 1939 (also reprinted as Serial N o. R . 955).




3
SKILLS REQUIRED

The skilled occupations are characterized, for the most part, by
distinctly different aptitudes, some of which are most generally
associated with men and others with women. Machine fixers must
undergo long periods of mechanical training and first-hand experi­
ence on the complex knitting machines; men are more likely to possess
the mechanical ability and other innate qualities which make for
quick progress and highest efficiency. Men also appear to withstand
better than women the heat, humidity, and heavy work in the dye
house. On the other hand, women are preferred for those occupations
which depend primarily on quickness of eye and manual dexterity.
These include topping, which involves the transfer of the leg of the
stocking, loop by loop, onto the needles of a transfer bar which is
set on a “ footer” ; and the looping or joining together of the openings
in the heel and in the toe after they have been set (loop by loop) on
the needles of the looping machine. Sewing the seam down the back
of the stocking, repairing, inspecting, and pairing all require careful
and close attention, and women are customarily preferred for these
jobs. Folding and boxing require few special-aptitudes; men and
women are equally efficient.
Job Requirements in Full-Fashioned Knitting

Knitting entails the operation of complicated and expensive powerdriven machinery and the careful handling of easily damaged hose.
It has been customary in most mills to employ two types of machines
to produce the flat stocking— a “ legger,” which knits the leg of the
stocking down to the ankle, and a “ footer,” which completes the
knitting process. The operation of the machines requires the use of
men with considerable mechanical abilities and more strength than
women usually possess. “ Legger” and “ footer” knitters are highly
skilled, and learners in the knitting trade at one time served a formal
apprenticeship. Even though the apprentice system has been
abandoned, a worker has *not been considered a skilled knitter,
capable of taking full responsibility for the job, until he has worked
at least a year. Experienced knitters have been required to be
thoroughly familiar with the design and function of the knitting
machine and, in addition, to be able to make any necessary minor
repairs and adjustments. Occasionally they are called on to make
changes involving the patterns and sizes of the stocking. Consider­
able physical effort is necessary in starting the machine, particularly
on older models, if it is stopped at a point of unbalance. Starting the
machine is done by a handwheel and may be necessary three or four
times during one cycle of operation. In addition, although the
machine is automatic, the operator of a 30-section machine must
care for and watch the knitting of 30 stockings; and the machine is so
complex that a minor breakdown can result in expensive damage.
WOMEN IN FULL-FASHIONED KNITTING

Sources and utilization of labor.— Women were almost never used
as knitters until mills were compelled to seek a solution to the problem
of a rapidly disappearing force of male employees. Prior to the war,
a few mills experimented with the use of women knitters, but there



4
was no particular need to substitute women for men before the current
manpower situation, and the techniques which were later introduced
in order to utilize the capabilities of women knitters to best advantage
were not attempted. The earlier experience of mills which had used
women knitters was valuable later, but the practice did not become
widespread so long as male labor was plentiful. In 1938, only 1.4
percent of the knitters in mills in the Bureau’s survey were women.
The first women to be trained as knitters were taken from among
the toppers. Because of.. their general familiarity with the knitting
process, they were able to attain reasonable proficiency in the basic
operation of the knitting machine within a few weeks. However,
technological advancement, which during a period of 5 to 10 years
before the war had brought about single-unit knitting, caused the
displacement of large numbers of toppers and their disappearance
from the hosiery industry. Topping also became one of the critical
occupations in the industry because women who were adept at such
work had begun to leave for war industries where their qualifications
were especially useful on precision assembly work and jobs of similar
character. Loopers, next preferred for training as knitters, were
difficult to replace. Thus the industry was forced to rely, for its
knitter learners, on women who came from jobs in the plant with no
related experience or who were altogether new to hosiery production.
The hosiery manufacturers therefore attempted, by job simplifica­
tion, to divide the knitting operation in such fashion that the remaining
experienced knitters would be used most effectively and the new
women knitters would not be pressed beyond their immediate capa­
bilities. In the strictest sense, the latter group consisted of machine
operators rather than knitters and normally took care of the thread
supply, observed the proper functioning of the machine, removed the
finished stockings, and attended to other similar details involved in
the knitting process.
In most mills where women replaced men, the remaining expe­
rienced male knitters were utilized principally as group leaders, or
supervisors, of three or four women operators, each attending one
machine. In such cases, the skilled male knitter received either a
weekly salary or wages based on the production of the knitters under
him. If paid by the latter method, he sometimes operated his own
machine, besides supervising others, and received, in addition to the
regular piece rate for production on his own machine, a fractional
piece rate for production from other machines under his supervision.
In only a few mills were women given complete responsibility for
knitting, as the process requires technical supervision as well as
some assistance on manual operations which are too strenuous for the
average female worker. However, the newer machines installed in
some mills reduce these disadvantages of the women workers. Thus
the automatic welt turner, which turns the welt on all the stockings
at one time in a few seconds, eliminates the time-consuming manual
adjustments otherwise necessary on each individual stocking. One
employer, operating a mill with modern single-unit machines equipped
with automatic welt turners, reports that the satisfactory performance
of his all-women knitting department is due primarily to this inno­
vation.
In one group of mills, the male knitters were transferred from one
plant to another, leaving only a skeleton crew of 4 male knitters to




5
supervise the 24 women on knitting machines. Wholesale transfer
of workers in all other occupations in the mill resulted in a labor force
which was 97 percent women. In another mill equipped with con­
ventional leggers and no automatic welt turners, the majority of the
knitters were still male, but the proportion of women on knitting
machines was increasing. In still another, where only male knitters
were used formerly, 11 girl knitters, comprising about two-thirds of
the total knitting force, were employed.
Relative efficiency of women.— In the early months of the war
women knitters were generally reported to be satisfactory, but there
were some exceptions.3 In a few mills employment of women was
tried but later abandoned; in most of these, however, the knitting
equipment was old and not suitable for operation by women. Some
early reports indicated that the percentage of successful knitters from
a group of learners was lower among women than men and that two
women learners had to be recruited to obtain one satisfactory knitter.
Although this ratio was higher than the proportion of learners usually
needed to train a given number of successful knitters, it did not re­
flect inability of women to develop into efficient knitters, since
many of the learners became dissatisfied with the type of work
when the initial appeal diminished, and others, as was common in all
industries early in the war, moved on to other jobs.
Reports have indicated generally that productivity was reduced from
10 to 20 percent with the use of female knitters. Such reports, how­
ever, should be used cautiously in drawing conclusions regarding the
comparative efficiency of male and female knitters. Very few male
knitter learners were used, and differences in the productivity of men
and women knitters with equal work experience were not determinable.
Moreover, with job simplification, the duties were divided and the pro­
duction and maintenance of a knitting machine therefore did not
represent the exclusive time and effort of the operator alone. It is
known, however, that the differences in productivity were appreciable.
In one mill, women operators at the end of 2 months were producing
about 50 percent as much as male knitters. In another, men produced
from 14 to 15 dozen pairs of hose per machine in 8 hours, as against
between 8 and 9 dozen pairs for women operators with 5 or 6 months’
experience. Still another mill reported that female knitters produced
between 10 and 11 dozen pairs of hose in 8 hours on a 24-section ma­
chine, as compared to 12 to 13 dozen pairs for male knitters. Local
conditions, types of machines, previous experience, and individual
aptitudes of women knitters accounted for these large variations. The
last-mentioned mill, with the highest comparative efficiency, drew
heavily from workers with previous hosiery-mill experience, several of
whom were former toppers.
Relative incidence of women workers.—Although it is impossible to
make a general estimate of the number of women knitters who came
into the industry during the war, it is evident that the proportion of
women in this occupation is now substantially higher than the 1.4
percent reported in 1938. Reports from selected areas, based on
8 Information in this section is based on a field survey of the hosiery industry b y the Bureau in 1942,
supplemented with information obtained in 1944 from firms in the industry, the National Association o f
Hosiery Manufacturers, and the American Federation of Hosiery Workers.




6

surveys by the Bureau's Wage Analysis Division, indicate that in 117
full-fashioned hosiery mills approximately 7 percent of the knitters in
1943 were women. In the South, approximately 13 percent of all
knitters were women, which suggests that southern mills with their
newer machines found the use of female knitters more practicable.
Employment outlook.—Even where the use of women knitters has
proved satisfactory, mill owners generally continue to indicate a pref­
erence for men in this occupation. The trend towards faster and more
complicated knitting machines is evident in each new model manu­
factured. Improved machines are more automatic and hence require
fewer manual duties; at the same time, the complexity of such ma­
chines necessitates the continual attention of a highly experienced
knitter, able to understand the functioning of the machine and make
any minor repairs and adjustments that may be necessary. This
need for continual attention is likewise essential on the great
amount of old and obsolete machinery which can be modernized by the
addition of attachments. Job simplification, adopted to facilitate the
employment of women, has many operating disadvantages, and the
mills naturally prefer workers who can be assigned complete respon­
sibility for the entire process and related duties. Men not only have
the mechanical aptitude and greater strength that the process requires,
but also are more likely to make it a lifetime trade. Under normal
conditions most employers would hesitate to incur the expense of
training a young woman knitter and assume the risk of having her quit
because of marriage or other reasons just as she attains a high degree of
proficiency. Such expense, in addition to wages, includes the cost of
raw materials wasted in the manufacture of unsalable hosiery as well
as the unproductive use of costly machinery.
Recently, the trend in the substitution of women knitters has slack­
ened for several reasons. The manpower situation has eased some­
what since men over 30 are no longer generally being inducted into the
Army and Navy, and in addition, a few of the knitters who left the
industry have returned to their former occupations. Many mills still
employ women on their knitting machines, but the preference for male
knitters is almost universal, and it is indicated that, once ample labor
supplies are available, mills will revert to the use of men.
WOMEN IN BOARDING OPERATIONS

Women have proved to be quite efficient in the performance of the
boarding operation, which consists of drying and shaping the wet
stockings on wooden or metal forms. Indeed, some mills have em­
ployed women boarders for several years. In 1938, about half of all
boarders in the full-fashioned hosiery mills were women. However,
women were not generally attracted to this occupation or encouraged
to enter it because of the high temperature and excessive humidity
caused by heat and steam from the boarding forms or the drying
cabinets. Since the war, mills have used women in greater numbers
and many prefer them to men as boarders, because their softer hands
and greater manual dexterity cause less damage to hosiery. Rayon
hose are comparatively weak when damp, and their manufacture
necessitated greater attention to problems in the boarding depart­
ment. Manicuring service and rules restricting the wearing of hand




7
and arm jewelry have been introduced in an effort further to reduce
the amount of hosiery pulled or snagged during the boarding process.
No substantial increase in the proportion of women in boarding
has occurred during the war.4 Where women have been used, the
consensus of opinion is in their favor, and in many cases they have
been found more satisfactory than men.
Unlike the situation in knitting, a continuation of the employment
o f women in boarding is virtually assured. Many mills now indicate
a desire to hire only women in their boarding departments. It is
likely that boarding will offer the biggest opportunity of any of the
occupations in full-fashioned mills for greater proportions of female
employment, particularly if the unpleasant conditions resulting from
excessive heat and humidity are ameliorated.
WOMEN IN OTHER OCCUPATIONS

The proportion of women employed in most other occupations in
full-fashioned hosiery mills was quite high, even before the current
labor situation developed. In topping, which before World War I
was popularly considered a man’s job, 93 percent of the jobs were
filled by women in 1938, and by 1943 men had entirely disappeared
from this occupation. Loopers, inspectors and examiners, pairers,
and menders and seamers are occupations in which women have
filled virtually 100 percent of the jobs for many years. In such
unskilled jobs as those of folders, wrappers, boxers, stampers, and
labelers, women have likewise been used exclusively. Obviously,
postwar conditions will not affect the employment of women in these
jobs, on which their use has proved an advantage.
On the other hand, despite wartime losses of skilled men difficult
to replace under the circumstances, mills have not begun to employ
women in such highly technical jobs as machine fixing nor for work in
the dye house where conditions are usually unpleasant. Moreover,
it is highly improbable that women will replace men in such jobs
after the war.
Seamless-Hosiery Manufacture
COMPOSITION OF LABOR FORCE

The Bureau’s 1938 study already mentioned revealed that in the
seamless-hosiery mills only 6 percent of the workers (as contrasted
with 64 percent in full-fashioned hosiery mills) were classified as skilled,
73 percent (as against 23 percent) were semiskilled, and 21 percent
(as against 13 percent) were unskilled. These data indicate the
substantially lower skill level of the seamless branch.
Of the 6 percent in the skilled class, about 5 percent were machine
fixers (an exclusively male occupation); the other 1 percent consisted
of foremen and miscellaneous nonproduction workers. Among the
semiskilled workers the largest groups were, in order, the knitting
occupations and loopers.*
* Data from the wage report on Full-Fashioned and Seamless Hosiery for Eight Southeastern Labor
Market Areas, b y the Bureau’s Regional Office at Atlanta, July 1943, and from unpublished material in
the Wage Analysis Division, indicate that 53 percent of the boarders in full-fashioned mills in 1943 were
women.




8

The relative importance of the jnajor occupations in the 97 seam­
less-hosiery mills covered in the 1938 study are shown below:
Percent of
total wage earners

Boarders______ ________
7. 8
Clippers__________________________________________
2. 7
Folders, wrappers, and boxers_____________________ 3. 2
Knitters_____ ____________
24.0
Automatic.........................................- _____ ______
4. 0
R ib...............
1.5
String........................................ .................................. 2. 3
Transfer______________ _______________________ 16. 2
Loopers........... ..................................................................19. 0
Machine fixers__________ _________________________
4. 8
Menders and seamers------- _ _________ _____________ 6. 8
Pairers________ ___________________________________ 3. 8
A llother....................
27.9
SKILLS REQUIRED

The greater prevalence of female workers is directly related to
the nature and skill level of the occupations in the seamless mills.
In the prewar period the seamless-hosiery mills utilized larger pro­
portions of women workers than did the full-fashioned hosiery mills;
differences have been even greater during the war. The employment
of women in the seamless branch of the industry rose from 67 percent
in 1939 to 75 percent in August 1944, an 8-point increase as compared
to a 6-point rise (from 57 to 63 percent) in the full-fashioned branch.
In 1938, 79 percent of all unskilled workers in seamless-hosiery mills
and 73 percent of the semiskilled, were women; women constituted
only a negligible proportion of the workers in the skilled jobs.
In the seamless-hosiery manufacture, the occupational requirements
involve not only less mechanical ability, but less technical experience
such as is accumulated over a relatively long period. Seamless-hosiery
machinery is much simpler in design and function, the jobs are gener­
ally more operative in nature, and the operations (even though they
may not differ in repetitive character from those in full-fashioned mills)
are such that manual dexterity, limited mechanical skill, and the
ability to perform a number of relatively simple tasks are of greatest
importance.
Job Requirements in Seamless Knitting

The training period required for seamless knitting, in contrast to
that in full-fashioned, is comparatively short, and the operators are
considered to be semiskilled. The seamless knitting machines are
highly automatic in operation, yet simple in design. Seamless
hosiery is less complex than full-fashioned hosiery in its construction,
and although different kinds of men’s socks or women’s seamless hose
are produced on different types of machines, their knitting requires
relatively little skill and on most machines demands only intermittent
attention. The duties of the seamless knitter include keeping the
set of machines supplied with yarn, tying broken ends, and removing
finished hose. If the machines are not completely automatic, the
knitter must also transfer the rib tops, by means of a transfer ring,
to each of the knitting machines to knit the foot.




9
Types of machines used.— Because of some variation in the skills
required for operation and because of differences in the kind and
quality of hose produced, knitting machines may be classified into
three major groups.6
The first group consists of hand-transfer machines, usually grouped
in sets of four or five machines, called “ footers.” The ribbed top
(or welt) of the hose is knit in tubular form on a separate rib machine
and is transferred by the knitter, link by link, onto the needles of
a circular ring which is subsequently placed on the “ footer” to com­
plete the remainder of the stocking. Once the machine has finished
a sock, it stops and remains idle until the sock is removed and another
circular ring, to which the rib top has been transferred, is set into
place.
The second group consists of automatic machines which run on a
continuous-knit principle, making the complete sock, including the
rib and toe, and beginning another without interruption. Because of
the continuous-knit principle and the minimum attention required,
a single operator can handle a larger number of such machines. The
number of machines per set and their speed and complexity are
determined by the type of hose they are built to knit. The number
per set may vary widely, but averages about 20 machines.6 Auto­
matic machines are of wide variety. Plain colors, spirals, wraps,
reverse plaiting, English rib, mock rib, and fancy link patterns all
require machines of different construction. The knitter capable of
knitting hose on one type of machine may require retraining and
experience on another model before he understands the mechanical
details and becomes proficient in its operation.
The third group is composed of hand-transfer machines which have
been converted to automatic operation by the addition of a so-called
“ elastic attachment.” The conversion is comparatively simple and
inexpensive, and the elastic attachment makes unnecessary the sepa­
rate rib knitting and the hand-transfer process. Machines so con­
verted must use elastic, or rubberized yarn, in the rib of the socks.
With this exception, the product and process are similar to those of
the conventional automatic machines. Such converted machines are
grouped in sets at least as large as those of the conventional auto­
matic machines and may be even larger, because the converted
machines were originally designed to knit simple patterns and therefore
require less attention.
Use and effect of elastic attachments.—Elastic attachments were
adopted principally as an expedient for modernizing obsolescent
machinery and reducing labor costs. Unit labor requirements and
costs for the production of hand-transfer hose were high. In contrast
to the 20 to 30 converted transfer machines usually attended by one
operator, one knitter could operate only 4 to 5 hand-transfer knitting
machines. On a set of conventional automatic, or converted transfer
machines, the operator in 8 hours could produce 80 to 95 dozen pairs
of hose; on a set of hand-transfer machines, designed to produce hose
of similar pattern, the knitter averaged only 14 to 18 dozen pairs and
this did not take into consideration the labor required for rib knitting
and pulling.*
•
* Such machines are grouped into sets, each set requiring one knitter operator.
• The Scott and Williams “ H H ” , Reverse Plait, and “ K ” and “ R I ” models m ay run as high as 25 to
30 machines per operator. The more complicated Kom et and Links and Links models generally are placed
in sets of 10 machines.




10
The popularity of men’s hose with elastic tops became so great
that many of the conventional automatic machines were “ converted”
to the production of such goods by means of elastic attachments. A
survey of 49 mills by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1942 indicated
that, of the total 17,000 knitting machines in the seamless-hosiery
mills, 3,000 were equipped with elastic attachments and a third of
the latter had been conventional automatic machines.
Following the freezing of rubberized yarn in 1942, the conventional
automatic machines reverted to the production of the customary
automatic (rib-top) hose. Most of the hand-transfer machines with
elastic attachments were put back on hand-transfer work or retired
from production. A few undertook the production of socks with
“ victory tops,” or simulated rib. A spot survey in 1942 of 22 seamless
mills with 6,000 machines showed that they had 3,500 hand-transfer
machines in operation before the rubber freeze; of these, 1,800 were
producing elastic-top hose and 1,700 were on hand-transfer operations.
After the rubber freeze, 2,300 machines were on hand-transfer work,
an increase of 600. Of the remainder, 400 had been put on the pro­
duction of hose with victory tops, and 800 had become at least tem­
porarily idle, because some mills hesitated to engage in the highercost production of hand-transferred hose or were unable to recruit
transfer knitters to operate the machines.
WOMEN IN SEAMLESS KNITTING

In 1938, women held 67 percent of the jobs on knitting machines in
seamless mills, as compared to 1 percent in full-fashioned mills.
Women knitters had increased to 74 percent by 1943, but the propor­
tion of women varied considerably from mill to mill, depending on the
type of knitting performed or even on the model of the machines in use.
As early as 1938, 88 percent of the knitter operators on handtransfer machines were women, for their manual dexterity made them
particularly adaptable to hand-transfer knitting. Moreover, the job
largely involved a short cycle of highly repetitive tasks. The intro­
duction and widespread adoption of cheaper elastic-top knitting,
which was doubtless stimulated by the minimum wages under the
Fair Labor Standards Act, caused a marked decline in the use of
transfer knitters. A comparison between 1938 and 1940 in 87 seam­
less-hosiery mills shows that the operation of machines on transfer
top, string work, and rib knitting decreased 23 percent, and that auto­
matic and converted transfer knitting increased 19 percent. In
addition, there were less than half as many transfer-knitter learners
in 1940 as in 1938. Further indication of the technological displace­
ment of transfer knitters is shown by the fact that the employment of
all knitters declined approximately i5 percent, although total employ­
ment in the 87 identical mills in 1940 was only 3.3 percent less than
in 1938.7
The freezing of rubber encouraged the return of hand-transfer
hosiery and, with it, the use of women transfer knitters. The
gradual disappearance of men from this occupation has been acceler­
ated by wartime conditions. By 1943, less than 5 percent of such
knitters were men.8
*
i Data are from the mimeographed report Earnings in the Seamless Hosiery Industry, 1940, prepared in
the Bureau’s Wage Analysis Division, April 1941.
* Significantly, the substitution of women for men in transfer knitting gained its first impetus in W orld
W ar I. The manpower situation during the current war appears to have completed the shift of the occupa­
tion from men to women.




11
Employment outlook.— It is evident that the proportion of women is
quite unlikely to decline in transfer knitting after the war, but the
proportion of women in seamless knitting generally may depend on
the extent to which hand-transferred hose are produced.
The situation as regards employment of women on converted
knitting machines, equipped to produce hose with elastic tops, is less
clear. Many mills, as they added elastic attachments to their old
machines, retained their women transfer knitters and used them as
knitters on the converted machines. With the increase in the size of
the set from 5 to 25 (or more) machines, the character of the work
changed completely. The knitters were no longer operators with a
strict cycle of duties, but became responsible primarily for vigilance in
seeing that all machines were knitting properly, in supplying them with
yarn, etc. Although the ability to make minor repairs was a desir­
able attribute, the converted machines were almost universally of
comparatively simple design and, despite their age, required only
occasional attention.
There has been no wartime experience in the employment of women
knitters on elastic-top hose upon which assumptions regarding the
character of postwar employment may be predicated. The generally
satisfactory experience of mills with the use of women prior to the*
freezing of rubberized yarns suggests, however, that they may be used
more widely. An added advantage stems from the fact that experi­
enced workers will be immediately available from among the transfer
knitters when mills reconvert their knitting machines.
Women had been used to some degree on the conventional auto­
matic knitting machines. By 1938, about a fifth of such knitters were
women, but their employment was generally restricted to models which
were less complex in design and operation. Since this group of auto­
matic machines includes the latest and most complicated models, it is
not surprising that their prewar employment included the smallest
proportion of women. The loss of male labor resulted in the greater
utilization of women on such machines, as on the others, and by 1943
slightly over half of the knitters on automatic machines were women.
Nevertheless, although there may be some partial retention of the*
wartime gains, the employers' preference for male knitters on this
type of knitting machines will have noticeable effects on the propor­
tion of women employed.
Finally, another important consideration in the future employment
of women in knitting is the postwar promotion of 400-needle, seam­
less, “ bare-leg” stockings. Interest in the manufacture of these*
stockings was aroused prior to the war because of the form-setting
qualities of nylon. The machines on which the bare-leg stockings
are knit are automatic and knit the complete stocking in one con­
tinuous process, beginning another cycle without interruption or atten­
tion. They were tentatively grouped in sets of 20 to 30 machines.
The war and the resultant loss of nylon for civilian use in 1942 cut
short the manufacture of nylon bare-leg hosiery almost before it
emerged from the experimental stage. Here, also, technical knowl­
edge and the aptitude for mechanics may be the determining factor
in the job qualifications for the operation of the new machines, and
it is most likely that men will be employed. If seamless nylons meet
with the popular acceptance and demand that many expect, a
resultant boom in employment in seamless-hosiery mills may be



12
reasonably expected. Such a development would result in the
employment of a greater number of women for other occupations,
even if they are not utilized on the 400-needle machines in the knit­
ting department.
WOMEN IN BOARDING OPERATIONS

Boarders constitute about 8 percent of the total workers in seam­
less-hosiery mills. The hose handled by boarders in these mills are
heavier than the sheer full-fashioned hosiery, and thus do not require
the same degree of care in handling to avoid damage. Heated metal
forms, rather than wooden forms and drying cabinets, are predomi­
nantly used in seamless-hosiery mills, and the danger of skin burns is
somewhat greater. Otherwise the occupations in seamless and fullfashioned mills are comparable. Nevertheless, before the war, women
constituted only 15 percent of the boarders in seamless-hosiery mills,
as against about 50 percent in the full-fashioned hosiery mills.
Early in the war some seamless-hosiery mills attempted to replace
their losses in the boarding department with 17- and 18-year old boys,
but the lowering of the draft age made this plan impracticable. By
1943, the proportion of women boarders was 36 percent, or more than
double that in 1938. The wartime gains of women in this occupation
suggest that the previous hesitancy to use them stemmed from inertia
rather than from proved impracticability. It is believed that board­
ing will present employment opportunities for women, although
postwar increases in the employment of women boarders will not
compare with those made during the war. It is possible that some
women may be transferred to the boarding department from the knit­
ting occupations, as servicemen return to their former occupations in
the knitting department.
WOMEN IN OTHER OCCUPATIONS

Elsewhere in the seamless-hosiery mills, the proportion of women
employed has increased to a point which amounts virtually to their
exclusive use. Looping, pairing, seaming, mending, and inspecting
have long been considered entirely women’s jobs, and no change is
anticipated. In miscellaneous occupations the wartime increases in
women workers are accentuations of earlier trends.
The only jobs in which women have not replaced men to any degree
are machine fixers and helpers, and dye-house employees. The pos­
sibility of the utilization of women in these occupations is remote.




U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 19 45