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Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis






Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Wage-earning women and the Women's Bureau____ ______________ ______
Married women in industry__________________________________________
Women's work in industry________ ___ ___ _____________________________
Women's wages_____________ _____________ ____________________________
Budgets_______________________ ________________________ __________ ___
What women earn__________________________________ _____ ____ ________
Hours of work____________________________ _____ ___________________
Health and hygiene for women at work ---------- ------------------Posture and seating________________ ______ _____________ ____________ ___
Some exploded theories about women in industry______________________
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis





Washington, November 5, 1923.
Srn: I am submitting herewith a bulletin on Women in Industry.
This bulletin consists of a number of short popular articles on
various conditions surrounding the employment of women in industry. The articles were originally prepared and used for a series of
talks over the radio, which were broadcast once a week during the
winter of 1922-2.3. Because of the many requests which have been
received for copies of some of these radio releases, it has seemed advisable to condense them and issue them in bulletin form.
The articles were written and broadcast by Mary N. Winslow and
Mary V. Robinson, of the editorial staff of the Women's Bureau.
Hon. JAMES J. DAvrs, Secretary of Labor.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Every man, woman, and child in the United States to-day is more
or less dependent on the work of some of the more than eight and
one-half million wage-earning women in this country. At every
turn you can see the products of women's activities. When you get
into bed at night you are covered by sheets which have been spun and
woven by some of the thousands of women employed in the great
textile mills of New England or the South. The clothes you put
on in the morning have been stitched and trimmed and buttonholed
by the women who make ready-made clothing, and who run sew:.
ing machines which take two or three thousand stitches each minute.
Your breakfast bacon has been sliced and packed, your coffee ground
and labeled, your sugar boxed, your bread wrapped by women employed in :food :factories. Women have helped to make the flivver
in which you ride down town, or i:£ you walk you will be marching on shoes which women's hands have had a large share in making. The pages of the books you read have been arranged and
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


stitched together by women, and the candies that you eat have a
nice thick layer of chocolate. because some. woman has taken each
piece of cream filling and dipped it carefully in thick warm chocolate, has watch~d it while it cooled and hardened, has made the box
in which it is packed, has packed it and labeled it, seen that it was
shipped to the store where you bought it, and has probably sold
it to you, and made your change.
Try as you will y'ou can't get away from the woman in industry
to-day. She is everywhere, and everywhere she is doing useful and
important work for you.
Because they do so many different things, when you hear about
women in industry you should have a true picture of the army of
working women in all the many occupations in the country, and not
see in your mind's eye only women servants, aitd clerical workers,
and salesladies, and teachers. You must not think that those are
the only occupations employing: many women. When we speak of
workingmen we see carpenters and plumbers, coal heavers and electricians, street-car conductors and office workers, farm hands and
miners. We know without the shadow of a doubt that all of ,these
men work under different conditions and that each occupation has
its own problems.
But what about the women~ How many people realize that of 572
occupations listed in the census there were only 35 in which no women
were employed~ In this country to-day are women who are managers
and superintendents of factories, bankers and bank officials, chemists,
clergymen, judges and doctors, inventors, engineers, and architects.
But there are greater numbers of women in the other ranks, working
in factories making clothing, automobiles, shoes, cigarettes. The
overalled woman with grimy hands, making guns and shells, was a
conspicuous person during the war, but she has been more or less forgotten since, and not everyone knows that she has not given up her
factory work but is probably busy now making implements of peace,
while she still wears the overalls and works on the same kind of machine that she used for making guns and shells.
The reason there are so many women in the :factories and mills is
that most of them are doing the work which used to be done by .women
in the home before machines were invented and industry was organized to make the things that used to be made by women's hands
at home. It is no longer expected that the average mother and housekeeper will rock the baby's cradle with one :foot while with the other
she works the treadle of a spinning wheel. Instead her spinning and
weaving is done by thousands o:f women and girls who tend great
machines holding hundreds of bobbins, and looms making many
yards o:f cloth a day. Except as a pastime, we seldom see women with
four knitting needles flying as a good serviceable stocking grows be-
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



neath theirhands. Instead there are knitting_machines in great
factory rooms which
turn out hundreds of
stockings a day, while
women and girls tend
the machines. In this
age industrial processes have become so
complicated that one
.person is seldom able
to complete an entire
article. It takes about
150 different operations to make a shoe,
which used to be made
entirely by one person's hands, ·and many oth~r products of industry
are equally subdivided in the process of manufacture.
Naturally with this kind of development in industry there have
been tremendous changes in the number of women employed in some
occupations. There are about 110,000 more women in manufacturing
and mechanical industries now than there were in 1910, and there are
297,000 fewer women who are servants.
In almost every factory where men work there are some women
employed, but in some kinds of factories there are many more women
than men. In the clothing industry, where corsets, gloves, shirts,
collars and cuffs, and other articles of clothing are made, and in
knitting and silk mills, there are nearly twice as many women employed as there are men. But in spite of the large numbers of
women they employ, these industries are no_t the places where the
greatest number of women work. Over a million women work on
farms, more than a million women are servants, over 600,000 are
teachers, and over 560,000 are stenographers and typists, so the general impression is correct that teaching, domestic service, and clerical
work are the chief occupations for women. There are, however,
more than 50,000 women employed in many different occupations
manufacturing such things as iron and steel products, shoes, food,
cigars and tobacco, clothing, cotton, silk, and woolen goods.
Those are big numbers and they mean big things to the countryfor women are in industry to stay and no longer look to domestic
and personal service as their only opportunity.
Think of these millions of women working at all kinds of jobs, and
then think of the homes they come from, the family ties which bind

711521;} - 24--2
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



them, the communities of which they form a part. If your vision is
keen you will see that the conditions under which those women work
will be reflected in the standards of their homes, their communities,
and their country.
As a Nation we can not afford to let these standa.rds be lowered.
We found that out when we were faced with the great needs of
the war and it became obvious that the employment of women was
a national problem to be met with a nati{Vlal standard. To fill this
need the Women's Bureau was established in the United States
Department of Labor. This bureau finds out what women are doing
in industry ; it studies the conditions under which_women work;
and · it recommends certain standards for their most efficient ancl
successful employmen_t. If ~n employer wants to know what stand- ·
ards other employers are establishing and what the best standards
are for hours, wages, and working conditions for women, he can
get this information from the Women's Bureau. If a woman worker
wants to know what she should expect in the industry where she
works, the Women's Bureau standards will tell her that; if a State
wants to regulate conditions for women, the Women's Bureau will
investigate to find out what conditions are most in need of regulation
and will show how such conditions are regulated in other States.
. Besides investigations to find out what are the wages, hours, and
working conditions for women in an entire State or in one or more
specific industries, the bureau studies the effect of laws regulating
the employment of women to see whether they are helpful or harmful. Its agents interview thousands of women in industry to find
out what problems they have to meet, whether they have dependents
to support with their earnings, and how they manage to run their
homes and to work in industry at the same, time. It publishes reports and prepares exhibit material of all sorts in which are presented both the human and the scientific aspect of the employment
of women in industry, so that the information secured may be
available and useful for all of the many groups that are interested
in the wage-earning women of the United States.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Most persons think of wage-earning women as youngsters from 18
to 25 years old, who are working for a few brief years in industry
until they are fortunate enough to meet some young men who marry
them and they live happily ever after.
That is just what does happen to a good many young women,
as we all know. But it does not happen by any means to all women
wage earners. There · are many thousands of women in industry
who never _marry but keep ·on working through all their lives. A
woman in a factory in Indiana stated that she had been making
gingham aprons in that factory for more than 40 years. Besides
such wom~n who have worked steadily in industry there are many
thousands more who get married, stop work for a while, and then
go back to the factory to help out with family expenses, or, in some
cases, to take the places of husbands whom sickness or death has
removed from the ranks of the breadwinners.
Those are the women the bureau wants to tell you about, so that you
may get a better idea of who goes to make up the great group of
women wage earners, and so that you will know more of the human
problems which must often be dealt with by these women who wait
on you in stores, who make your clothes, prepare your food, and help
to make almost every article you ,use, from a toothbrush to a railroad train.
It is an easy matter to find out how many married women are
wage earners. In 1920 there were 1,920,281 married women who -were
gainfully employed. The census which is taken every 10 years
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



tells us that. But the census does not tell us very much about
them. The Women's Bureau wanted to find out more details of
those women, so the records which the census had taken in 1920 for
all the women in one industrial town were studied, and it was found
that about half of the women who were breadwinners were married
women. There were more than 4,000 married women earning money
in this one community. When examined closely the records of these
4,000 married women disclosed something that seems very important.
Nearly two-thirds of them were mothers who had children less than
5 years old. The bureau wanted to find out how these mothers
managed to take care of the children and do other work at the
same time, so the census records were looked at again to .see1whether
any light on the subject could be discovered. It was found that
about half of these mothers of young children earned money at
home by taking in boarders or doing laundry or some other form
of work which did not oblige them to leave home-, so they could
look out for the children and work at the same time. But the other
half went out to work and spent their days in mills making woolen
and worsted cloth, and in factories making handkerchiefs and other
manufactured articles. Wonder arose as to what became of these
little children while their mothers were a'w ay from home all day;
and, because there was no other way to find out, agents were sent to
visit as many of these families as they could.
During these visits, among every five women one was found- who
was working at night and looking out for her children during the
daytime, and one who just left the children alone at home to look
out £or each other. Somet imes the father worked at night and cared
for the children in the daytime while their mother was away, and
sometimes t he neighbors or the landlady ·or relatives kept an eye
011 the children. Only one woman in twenty had some one who was
paid especially -to care for her young children while she was away
at work.
Does this give you a picture of the pressure under which women
are working in industry? Can you see all of these mothers, leaving
home at 6.30 or 7 in the morning after they have washed and dressed
t~e children and fixed their breakfasts and lunches? Can you see
these mothers working all day, and can you imagine their thoughts
as they wonder whether the children. are all right and whether some
one has seen to all the many things little children need? And at
the end of the day's work in factory or mill can you picture the
home-coming of these mothers, and the tasks which await them?
The mothers who work at night have an even more serious situation confronting them, for if their children and homes are to get the
attention they need, sleep must be curtailed and rest ignored, and
much of the day which $hould be spent in bed after a night in a
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



factory, must instead be spent in getting through the many duties of
the housewife and mother. Almost every one of the women inter viewed cooked, cleaned, and washed for her family and looked
out for the children, besides working for wages outside the home.
This seems to be considerably more than a full-time job for any
woman, and I imagine you will all agree with me about that.
And now, I think that if the radio would let me hear as well as
speak, I might get an echo of some voice asking " What's to be done
about it?" If you are asking that question, I shall have to confess
that the correct answer is rather difficult. to give. Of course, low
wages are at the bottom of it-low wages for the fathers which make
it necessary for the mothers of young children to work, too, if the
family is to be supported. But tliis situation can not be remedied
until it is recognized, and until people realize that families, not just
persons, depend on the earnings of both men and women, and that if
those earnings are not adequate whole families and many children
suffer. So this is what you can do: Help to make others realize the
important contribution which many married women are making to the actual support of their families. The Women's
Bureau feels that this fact must be thoroughly appreciated if women are to be
given their right standing · in industry.
An<l you need only to look around you
to see that the things the bureau is telling
you are true.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Do you know what it means to stand
before a machine or work table all day,
doing one thing over and over again?
Just to give you an idea of what it
means, in case you do not know, I am
going to describe a few of the things
women do in industry. .
During the war rows of girls sat all
day at a high table and looked to see
whether they could find any imperfections in shells which rolled before them.
Just one shell after another rolled by,
15 or 20 each minute, while the girls
looked carefully. That kind of work
is called inspecting, and many thousands of women do it not only
for shell manufacture in war time but in all branches of industry
all the time. When next you use an electric lamp, or a telephone,
or any of the other complicated articles· that are made for you every
day in industry, -think of the thousands of women who are spending
their working hours just inspecting little bits of metal or rubber or
wood to see that they will go together properly. That sounds like
rather a dull job. It is a dull job, but it has to be done and .done
well, or else things would not fit together and would not work
There· are many other thousands of women who do what is called
assembling. They sit or stand all day before long work benches
and fit together a few bits of wood or metal. Then there are the
ones who do wrapping and packing. When you buy a new piece of
soap or a toothbrush, you generally find it wrapped in paper and
packed in a little box or carton. Many women spend 8 or 10 hours
a day doing nothing but wrapping these bit.s of soap or toothbrushes
and putting them in their boxes. When you· open a package of
cigarettes you h' veto tear through a revenue stamp pasted across the
p ,h as probably been put there by a girl who sat all
end. This s
day befor~ a moving belt which carried boxes of cigareUes before her
while she hurriedly pasted on the r~venue stamps.
In the actual manufacturing processes women do many different
kinds of work. Take the making of candy, £or instance. Have you
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



ever wondered how the chocolate coating gets on the outside of a
chocolate cream~ The answer to that is simple--"A woman does
it." In the big candy :factories the women who do this by hand
are called "chocolate dippers." They sit all day at a table with a
slab covered with thick sticky chocolate at their right. In front of
them is a large tin tray covered with little round dabs of cream
filling. The chocolate dipper takes the cream filling in her fingers,
rolls it deftly in the chocolate, puts i.t on another tray and lets a bit
of the chocolate drip from her fingers into the curlicue pattern which
is on the top of almost all chocolates and which shows what kind
of cream filling is within. Over and over again she does this u~til
she has dipped hundreds and hundreds of chocolates by the, end of
the day. And all the time she work~, her right hand, and sometimes
her left hand too, is covered with chocolate so ,thick that it looks like
a glove. A girl once told me that the chocolate got into her skin
until no amount of washing would take it out, and that she always
smelled of chocolate so that people knew the kind of work she did
even when they only passed her on the street.
In textile mills women tend all kinds of machines which are
making thread or weaving cloth. Here they have to walk from one
machine to another tying up threads which have broken, removing
the full spools, and replacing spools from which all the thread ha8
been unwound. The noise of the machines is often terrific. The
women seldom have any chairs to sit on, and obliged to stand
all day.
In garment factories many women operate sewing machines, but
not the. kind -of machines you are accustomed to using at home.
The,se factory machines run by electricity and take two or three
thousand stitches a minute. You can hardly conceive of the rate at
which these women work. 'In the first place they sew only one little
part of a garment, because it has been found that the work is finished
more quickly by having each worker repeat onekshort operation over
and over again than by having each do a number of different operations; so the interest of seeing the garment grow under the hands is
denied the person who makes garments in a modern factory. Instead
she will spend her days doing such work as running up the seam on
one sleeve. after another-nothing but running sleeve seams-so. fast
that while the right hand is guiding th~ ~le~ve beneath the needle
of the machine the left hand is reaching out for another sleeve to
feed in as soon as the first one is finished. So fast do they•go that
in the machine room is a whirr like a swarm of very angry bees,
and the ·women bend over their work with the most intense concentration.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



I could go on for a very long time giving you descriptions of the
different jobs women work at in industry, but I think that what has
been said will give you a fairly good idea of the monotonous character of many of the activities on which women are engaged in the
factories of the country. Of course there are many other jobs for
women which are full of variety and interest, but industry is tending to become more and more monotonous, and nowhere does this
show more clearly than where women are employed.
The chief results of this monotony are fatigue for the body and
dullness for the mind. Doing one thing over and over again uses
only one set of muscles, but uses them continuously, so that they
have no time for rest, and quickly become overtired. When one
simple action is repeated many times it becomes automatic, the
interest goes, and where there is no interest there can be little mental
There is a remedy for this state of affairs, a remedy which the
Women's Bureau and many other organizations have been harping
on for years. This remedy is reasonably short working hours and a
living wage-hours which will not bring over:fatigue to the body
and which will allow enough free time so that mental interests and
activities can be carried on, and a wage which will make possible an
adequate standard of life. When hours are not too long the day in
the factory should not bring overfatigue and will allow for outside
activities. When wages are not too low there is a margin for the
purchase of comforts
and facilities :for a
broader -life. The 24
hours of a woman's day
should be so divided
that she has time not
only for work but for
home duties, for recreation and self-improvement, and for rest; and
her earnings should be
such that she can get
these things in a satisfactory way. With such
a division the monotony of industry can be
counteracted, and vigorous, intelligent working women can take
their place among the
citizens of the country.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Everyone is talking about wages to-day, and almost everyone
seems to feel competent to set himself up as a judge of whether or
not wages should be reduced. Most of those who, pay wages want
them reduced, while most of those who get wages want them raised.
This is natural and human, but it does not get anyone very far,
and it really is important for all to look the wage question squarely
in the face and find out what we should think about it.
For the past four years .the Women's Bureau has been watching
the wage situation as it affects women, and never has it seemed more
important than at the present time for everyone to know facts on
this subject and to realize that snap judgmeRts and opinions without basis will not change things for the better but may lead into
worse conditions than exist at present.
The difficulty with which most people are faced when they want
to find out about wages is that they have so few sources of information from which they can get both sides of the story. Public
opinion is so readily influenced by vociferous declarations that .the
person who can declaim the loudest that wages are too high is
generally the person who is believed. But when wages are too low
the persons who are most supremely interested in telling this are the
men or women who are trying to get along on these inadequate
wages; and they can not always get their story over to the public.
It is to the advantage of all to have an impartial and authoritative
statement of facts, and so far as wage-earning women are concerned
the Women's Bureau as a Government agency is an impartial investigator of industrial conditions as they affect women. One of
the most serious situations that has been disclosed by its investigations is the prevalence of a very low wage for women and a public
opinion which does not recognize nor appreciate the significance of
this fact.
When we speak of low wages we must remember that this is a
comparative term. The important thing to think of when you are
talking about the wages So-and-so gets, or the•amount that So-and-so
earned last week, is what he or she must buy out of that amount.
Because a woman in one establishment makes $16 or $17 a week, while
a plant around the corner is getting women for $10 does not mean
that the $16 or $17 women are overpaid. Don't judge wages by
comparing them with wages of other people or of other days. When
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




I Jas a little girl my
mother used to buy
a whole chicken for
fifty cents. But
when I go to market
now I don't expect
to get a chicken for
that. I know that
the value of mo'ney
as well as the cost
of c h i c k e n s has
changed, and I try
to adjust myself to
the new standard.
It is the same with
wages. New standards and new values
exist now, and they
can not be compared
with those of former
Nor can you comp a r e one person's
wages with another
person's unless you
t I
know much more
about them than the
average man does
about his neighbor.
When you see two articles for sale in a store and one is more expensive than the other, do you immediately say that the higher priced
_article is outrageously expensive and th at nothing but Bolshevism and anarchism will result from such prices ~ I don't think
you do. I think if you are a sensible person you look carefully at
the two articles and find out whether the more expensive one is
made of better material, so that it will last longer, and whether it
is better cut and finished more carefully, so that it will be more fit
for the use for which it is intended. If this is so, then the higher price
is justified, and the m.ore expensive article may be the cheaper in
the end.
It is the same with wages. A well-paid workman may be worth
much more than one who is underpaid and can not, therefore, put so
much interest, initiative, and vitality into his job.
Sometimes, of course•, there are bargain sales of labor just as there
are of surplus goods in a store, and at these times .good labor can

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



be bought cheap, just as an article with which a store is overstocked
can sometimes be bought at less than its real value.
But bargain sales should not be allowed to set a. standard for all
prices. The owner of a store is the man who loses from a bargain
sale, and he is the one who decides how far he will let such losses
go on. The person who has only his work to sell can not do this.
He is the one who loses when there is a bargain sale of his only
commodity, and often he is powerless to control the prices at which
he sells. For he must sell to live, and too often he must make
the decision that half a loaf is bettBr than none.
H you are going to have opinions on wages, then, look out for the
bargain sales-the periods of industrial depression-and don't let
yourself be misled into thinking that they represent the whole
story. For wages mean more than the price of a certain number
0£ hours 0£ work. They mean life and a chance to enjoy and advance the civilization of the day.
H you think that it is all right to pay a woman $9 a week, simply
because you can get her to work for $9 a week, .then you think that
it is all right for you to take from that woman not only the hours
of work you have bargained £or, but also her health, her comfort,
her chances for pleasure and education, and provision for her old
age or sickness. You will take all these things, because a $9 a week
wage can supply none of them. You will also be taking from the
community a healthy, happy, interested citizen and leaving in her
place a woman who will have neither time nor energy to make a
contribution to any social progress, a woman whose standard 0£
living must be too low £or safety; in fact, a woman who is a liability
instead 0£ an asset in the community life. This is too large a contribution for any one person to take from another, yet those who
pay less than a living wage are taking such a toll from every person
they employ, and from every community in which these persons live•.
In recent years there has been much discussion 0£ the way the cost
of living and wages have risen together. In this connection there
are two things to remember: First, and most important of all, although wages have risen with the cost of living, for many peoplewomen especially-they never have caught up with the cost of living.
Second, when both wages and the cost of living start to come down,
wages come first and the cost o:f living makes a more leisurely descent.
Thus it is that wages may often rise a long way without catching
up, and though the cost of living may fall wages are generally falling
The discrepancy between wages and the cost of living is often
particularly great for women, w_h o in the main are employed in the
low-paid occupations and must stretch every penny to make the
proverbial two ends meet. We do not see men making the e:fforts
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



that women do to eke out a low wage: and keep up a certa in st andard of living. No matter h ow small his pay, after his day's work •
the average man does not come home to wash and press his clothes,
so that he may look clean and fresh when he goes to work the next
day; he does not often cook his supper over a gas plate to save the
price of a meal in a restaurant; nor does he make over his clothes
and trim his own hats. Yet this is the usual thing for women to do,
and they do it not for fun but because they can not a:ff ord to do
anything else. Their margin is too close. When you have such a
narrow margin a rise in the price of food and rooms, clothes, and
car fare, or a decrease in earnings is nothing short of a disaster ; and
it is a disaster which occurs all too frequently for many wage-earning
Many investigations have shown that wage-earning women as a
' rule are not only supporting themselves entirely but are also contributing to the support of others.
Thousands of young women leave
shops and factories at the end of the
day's work and go home to cook, and
scrub, and mend, and to contrive how
the family budget can be adjusted
so that little brothers and si~ters can
have shoes and dresses to wear to
school and so that landlord and
grocer may be settled with.
Yet, in spite of the many demands
on their earnings, women have not
yet been able to secure for themselves adequate recognition in industry. They are still employed in large numbers in ·1ow-paid occupations without much fu
ture. For this reason it
is particularly important
that wag~s for women _ __
should be standardized -.,_____________
and stabilized in some
way. .
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

-........!. ~

For a good many years people h ave spent a lot 0£ t ime outlining
what they think are the absolute necessities for an adequate American standard o:f li£e. We hear 0£ all kinds 0£ standards which will
be brought about by various wages, such as a " saving " wage, a
" health and decency " wage, a " £amily " wage, or a " subsistence "
wage. No one o:f these standards has yet been generally adopted,
but there are certain fundamental needs which form a part 0£ every
estimate and which constitute in a way the minimum requirements
:for the basis of any acceptable standard. This is particularly true
in the case 0£ women's wages, and there have been many outlines
made 0£ the items which should be covered by a minimum wage for
women. Do you know what the items are which a woman's wage
must buy? Make out a budget for yoursel£ some day and see what
the result is. Make it out carefully, thinking 0£ the things you
need all your li£e through, not just for one year or one month. . You
will be sur prised at the result.. You will find that a budget must
cover the cost 0£ many things besides food and lodging.
In a number 0£ States it is illegal to pay women in certain industries less than a wage fixed by law . . These wages are decided on
a£ter a careful study 0£ budgets and the cost 0£ living, and sometimes bitter controversies arise over the amounts estimated for certain expenses. One winter not long ago in Kansas when the owner
0£ a department store proposed . a budget in which he allowed only
$96 a year for a woman's clothes there was a great outcry among the
women wage earners. They flocked to his shop and demanded to
see the articles 0£ clothing he thought they could buy so cheaply,


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



and they scorned the cheap clothes they would have had to wear
if they had followed his recommendations.
The Women's Bureau has studied many budgets. It has made
studies of t he cost of certain necessities for wage-earning women and
has outlined those things which are accepted by almost every authority as minimum requirements for a woman's budget. H you want
to be a :fair judge of wages take out your pencil and put down the
First write down in big black letters the word "Food." That
means 21 meals a week; for whether meals are eaten at home or in a
rest aurant they cost money. Then comes another big item," Rent";
for most women either have a rent bill to pay directly or else help
their families to pay one. Next comes" Clothing," and if you are a
man you h ad better tread carefully here, and get your wife to help
you out in making up your mind as to what clothing a woman must
have and how much it should cost. H you haven't a wife ask your
friends to help you, because you can't do it alone; some woman must
help you. When you are through with the clothing the next item is
easier. It is " Car fare," and all you must know to estimate for that
is the price of a fare in your town and whether you think a working
woman should have a wage which allows her to ride to and from
work, or whether she should have to add to the fatigue of the day by
walking to save car fare. Then comes" Laundry." Are you going
to allow a certain amount for laundry, or do you think it is all right
for a woman to finish her day's work in the factory and then come
home to do her own washing and ironing? Now, what about" Recreation "? Don't forget to allow something for that, for it costs
money even to go out in the park on Sunday. "Sickness," doctor,
dentist, and oculist must not be forgotten either, and they all are
costly items. A " Vacation " must be included, for few women are
given a vacation with pay. Other necessities are "Insurance" and
"Savings" for old age and incapacity, contributions to "Church"
and "Charity," and a certain allowance for "Self-improvement,"
such as buying newspapers, joining the library, going to an occasional lecture, or to a night school.
That seems to be enough items to begin with. Have you got them
all? Food, rent, clothing, car :fare, laundry, recreation, sickness,
vacation, insurance and savings, church and charity, self-improvement? Which ones do you think should be left in, and which taken
out? Estimate how much should be spent each week for each item.
Then add up your estimates, and the result will give you some idoo;.
of the problem which the average woman wage earner has to meet.
Think over the items carefully. Measure them by yo_u r own standards. Don't measure them by standards which you think are good
enough for some one else, but not good enough for yourself.
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And a:£ter you have made up your budget look around you, see
what the women of your community are earning, and make up your
mind whether you think the women who work in stores, factories,
and laundries are receiving .enough to get the necessities of life.
You know what jt costs to live. Keep that in mind when you try
to estimate the smallest amount of money which an individual person
can get along on weekly. In States where minimum wage rulings
have been made this amount varies greatly. In California and
Arizona the weekly rate is $16; in North Dakota it is from $14 to
$14.90; in Massachusetts from $11 to $15.40; in the State o:£ Washington from $13.20 to $14.50; in Minnesota from $10.25 to $12; in
Kansas from $10.50 to $11, with as little as $7 and $9 a week for telephone operators; in Arkansas from $7.50 to $11 ~ and in Utah the
minimum is only $6 a week.
In comparison with those last figures the $16.50 wage which was
in force for women in retail stores in the District of Columbia before
the Supreme Court declared the minimum wage law unconstitutional
may seem high, but it seems smaller when we analyze what it must
buy. As this is the largest budget which has been accepted by any
commission, it seems worth while to look at the details and see how
the money was allocated. Of the $16.50 it has been estimated that
$9.30 a week goes for food and lodging. Remember, this means that
$9.30 must pay for 21 meals a week and a place to live in. I:£ $3 is
paid for a room, there is left an
I T001'11P~TE I
average of 30 cents for each J~1tir. I
meal. Immediately comes the
idea that if a working girl lives
with her family she can get
along on less; but we know that
a working girl must contribute
her share for the upkeep of the
home, and that frequently she
must give•more than her share to support
members of her family who are too old, too
young, or too ill to earn their own living.
Because of these facts we realize that a
working girl does not save much money by
living at home.
The next item in the $16.50 budget is $4
a week for clothes. This means $208 a
year which a woman must stretch to buy
all the necessary wearing apparel-suit,
coat, waists, skirts, dresses, hats, shoes,
s t o c k i n g s, underclothes, handkerchiefs,
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aprons, kimono, purse, umbrella, rubbers, toilet articles; and to pay
for the repairing o:f shoes and clothes.
Food, rent, and clothing take $13.30 o:f the $16.50, leaving a remainder o:f $3.20 a week to cover all other items. This sum must
provide for car fare, laundry, doctor's and dentist's and oculist's care,
for amusements, vacations, savings, insurance, sel:f-improvement,
church, charity, and incidentals. This is a long but necessary list.
Few people can get along without most o:f the items on it, and the
difficulty o:f procuring all these essentials o:f li:fe even for $16.50 a
week is apparent. The thousands of working women who are
struggling along on :from $6 to $12 a week are a challenge both to
those employers who would assure themselves o:f a supply of alert)
efficient workers, and to those communities which appreciate the
social possibilities o:f a. citizenship whose standard of living is not
below the safety line.
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Each one of you
knows how important your wage, or
salary, or income is
to you.
you get a pay en-


velope once a week,
or a check once a
month, or cut coupons twice a year
' the money that comes
in stands for the
same thing. It determines whether
you have enough to
eat, and whether
you have a comfortable place to live in.
It determines how
well you can dress, whether you can keep in good health by having
proper medical att~ntion and vacations; and finally, whether you will
have time and energy enough to take an intelligent interest in community affairs and to raise the standards of community life. The
size of the weekly pay envelope is responsible for a lot of things, but
unfortunately it can not always carry all of its responsibilities. This
is true especially among women, for women work, as a rule, in lowpaid occupations, and the sums they earn are apt to be pitifully small.
The Women's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor
makes many studies of women's earnings, and it very seldom finds
the majority of women to be earning anything like a wage which is
adequate to maintain a satisfactory standard. Much publicity has
been given to the expensive dresses and fur coats of the working
girl, and people are too ready to accept this publicity and to be
convinced that women wage earners are really earning much more
than they need. But if you study the facts you will find that
women's earnings do not agree with the publicity which has been
given to some of their purchases.
~~ ~-





Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



If you want to know those facts, listen to a few figures which show
real conditions as we have found them in 10 different States. Let
us take three Southern States first-Georgia, South Carolina, and
Alabama-which employ large numbers of women, chiefly in mills
making cotton cloth. vVe found out about the earnings of more than
6,000 women in Georgia, and we discovered that half of these women
made less than $12.95 during one week. In South Carolina the record
was even poorer, for of more than 8,000 women, half made less
than $9.50; and in Alabama half 0£ nearly 5,000 women earned less
than $8.80 in one week. In Arkansas the median wage for nearly
1,800 women was $11.60.
Now, come a little farther north and see how conditions are there.
In Kentucky we studied the earnings of more than 7,000 women,
and we found that half of those women made less than $10. 75 in
one week. In Missouri the record was better, with a median wage
of $12.65 for 15,000 women; and in Ohio tlie median was $13.80
for 30,000 women.
In the Middle West, Kansas was the State investigated. We
found that half of more than 4,000 women earned le~s than $11.80
in that State. Going farther north we found that Rhode Island
had the best record of all, with half of nearly 8,000 women earning
as much as $16.85. But the figures in Rhode Island were taken at
at a time when wages were unusually high and everyone had work,
so that they do not represent present-day conditions. In New Jersey
half of about 35,000 women earned less than $14.95 in one week.
Now, think what it means to have half of the women who work
in the industries of a State earning less than nine, ten, eleven, or·
twelve dollars; think what it means in lowered standards of health,
of efficiency, of education, of family welfare. For these women are
. parts of families. They are not isolated cases that have no relation
to any one else. The effect of the health and happiness and general
standards of these groups of women reaches out to1 the farthest
limits of community life and to the life of the next generation, and
the menace of low wa.ges for them is a serious cine.
I suppose most of you who are listening-in to-night will agree
with us about this, and I suppose also that most of you will say,
But what have I got to do with it~ I have a hard enough time
holding down my job. I can't even get my own wages raised." That
may be true, but you must remember one thing-the force of public
opinion. A good many years ago no one thought it particularly
awful to let women ·drag cars in a mine, era wling on their hands- J:..i
and knees, harnesssed up like horses. Nor was it unusual to have u
little boys and girls 5 and 6 years old sorting coal in a mine for lOv·,v

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



hours a day or spending their little stunted lives in dusty cotton
mills. That does not happen any more. It has stopped because
· public opinion will not stand :for it. Every one knows now the
horror of that kind of industrial exploitation. The next step is to
realize the menace of wages which are too low to secure the necessities of life. If we are to do this, we must refuse to accept without
question statements that wages are too high. We must instead find
out the true conditions, tell them to our neighbors, and make our
opinions for ourselves. Anyone who wants definite information on
wage conditions £or women should go to the authorities in his own
State or study the Women·'s Bureau reports, where are given det'ailed
figures £or wages of women in many different localities.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


Next to wages, the length of the working hours is perhaps the most
important factor in the life of a working woman, and I am now going
to tell you the story of two working girls who led very different lives,
because I want you to see what it was that made one so happy . and
efficient while the other was dreary and careless and tired.
These two girls ~ere friends; they were named Betty and Nell;
they did the same kind of wor:k, but they worked in different :factories, and their lives were not at all alike. Nell was a big strong
girl, but she had a thin face, with hollow cheeks and circles under her
eyes, and she slouched when she stood up. Betty was not so big, but
she was bright and vivacious, with two deep dimples in her cheeks
and with igor in her step. You will understand why there was such
a great difference between these two when you hear the details of
their Ii ves.
Nell started her long day's work by rushing from home at 6 in the
morning, because she lived on the edge of town and had to get to work
by 7 o'clock. Betty did not have to do this. She always slept until
half past 6, and got to work comfortably at 8, and so she wasn't tired
the way Nell was almost before the day had started. As a result,
Betty, cheerful and rested, could work faster and better and actually
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



turned out more than Nell did. At the end of the day, Nell, who had
started tired and had worked for 10 hours, came home with a headache and went to bed. But Betty, who had started fresh and had
worked 8 hours, still had some energy left. She went out after supper
and played a good game of basket ball, got her circulation stirred up,
and her muscles exercised, and went to bed normally tired but not
dull with fatigue. The next day Nell, who had not slept well because of her headache, did not pay much attention to her work, her
hand slipped on the machine, and she mashed her finger so badly that
she had to stop work for a while, which of course meant loss of pay.
Betty was almost never sick because she did not get overtired in the
factory and because she had time and energy to keep herself in good
shape by fun and exercise.
Nell did not even get Saturday afternoons off, while Betty got
through at 12 on Saturdays and was able to do some shopping and
sewing for herself. Nell kept on at work through the long afternoon and wished she had some time during the week which she
could call her own. When Sunday came-the one whole day of
rest either of them had-can you picture .what the two girls did
with it? Nell rested some of the day and worked hard the rest
of the time mending and washing her clothes and tidying up her
room. Often on Sundays she worked so long over these things for
which she had had neither time nor energy during the week, that
she did not get out at all. But Betty had had her Saturday afternoon free, and some evenings during the week she had been able to
catch up with those personal needs, so Sunday could be used for a
real holiday. She could take a hike in the woods or join her friends
in some expedition without feeling that she was neglecting things
which should be done at home. And when Monday morning came
around again the two girls found themselves very much as they
had been before--Nell, tired and discouraged, Betty with energy
and enthusiasm enough to make her a real asset to her employer.
It will not take you long to discover that girls like Betty can make"
more money than girls like Nell. Plenty of energy and enthusiasm,
good health and interest make for a large pay envelope. But do you
realize what is back of Nell's weariness, lack of interest, low production and small pay? The long hours she works are chiefly responsible for all of this. No woman can be like Betty if she works such
long hours that she has no time :for recreation or outside interests,
and not enough time for rest. An eight-hour day and a half holiday on Saturday make it po~ible for a woman to escape over-fatigue
and to keep up outside interests and activities. In other words they
make it possible for women to become responsible, valuable citizens.
This is wh~t all wage-earning women ~hould be, but in many Stat~~
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



the prevailing working hours for women are so long that there is
left very little time for outside activities or for rest. In 23 States
women may work legally 10 hours a day or longer, and in 42 States
it is legal for them to work 50 hours a week or longer. In five
States-Iowa, Indiana, West Virginia, Alabama, and Florida-there
is no limit to the number of hours a woman may work during the
week or during the day.
Fortunately, however, in many of these States the standards in
the manufacturing establishments are better than the laws themselves. Nevertheless, the Women's Bureau has found -through its
investigations that many thousands of women are working longer
hours than are recommended by modern, progressive standards. In
South Carolina, for instance, 95 per cent of the women investigated
by the Women's Bureau were scheduled to work more than 48 hours
a week; in Alabama 87 per cent; in Arkansas 88 per cent; in Georgia
89 per cent; and in Virginia 80 per cent. Even in the more northern
States were found a considerable group of women whose normal
working hours were more than 48 a week-67 per cent in Missouri,
62 per cent in Ohio, 46 per cent in Rhode Island, 44 per cent in New
Jersey, and 42 per cent in Maryland.
Figures such as these s~ow that there must be many Nells working
in the industries of this country, and draw a.ttention to the need for
higher standards in regard to hours, if the health of women and the
welfare of the community are to be safeguarded.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Many women do not know much more about a :factory than the
sound of the shrill early morning whistle which punctures their sleep
for a few minutes and the noon whistle by which they set their clocks,
and the sight of thick black smoke belching out of big stacks and
showering soot upon their white lace curtains. It may be that some
time in your lives some of you have visited a cotton mill to see how
cloth was made. Probably you were bewildered by the terrific noise
and movement of the machinery and sometimes oppressed by the heat
and humidity of the atmosphere. It was an interesting sight, of
course; but it is likely that if you went into some establishments you
felt you could not stay for more than a few minutes. You probably
wondered how anybody could ever stand it, but as apparently they
did not seem to mind, that ended the matter so far as you were concerned.
Or you may have gone into a :factory where a food product was
being made and marveled at the speed with which the work was done.
The pla.ce looked fairly clean, perhaps not quite so clean and shining
as your own kitchen, but you shrugged your shoulders and guessed
everything was all right. Yet because a place looks clean superficially, conditions are not necessarily satisfactory. For instance,
sometimes the girls who handle food in factories have almost no
washing facilities--only cold water, no soap, and a common towel in
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



their wash room. Things like this escape the notice of the average
visitor to a factory, yet they are an important item -in the manufacture of many products.
When stores are mentioned, if you are an average woman you
probably feel that you know all about them, because you h ave
shopped in hundreds of them. You know that you never go jnto
a certain store in your town if you can possibly help it, because it
is so stuffy and smelly and· crowded. Of course, if you want to get
a bargain there you will venture in and hurry out as fast as possible. You probably never think of the sales girls who spend eight
hours or more a day in that place. You prefer to shop at a store
across the street because the aisles are so wide, and the girls so
pleasant when they wait on you. You do not notice that the girl
at the glove counter who gets up to show you the latest thing in
gauntlets may have been sitting on an uncomfortable little flap seat.
Nor do you notice whether the girl who is selling hair nets at a
table in the aisle stands there all day, with no seat available even
when she has a lull in her sales. Yet in some stores these conditions
Ventilation, cleaning, seating, lighting, and service facilities
are all important factors in the organization of any plant. Industrial experts decree that an excellent investment for any plant
is money spent on good lighting and good ventilation, on scjentific and comfortable seats for us~ whenever possible, on safety
devices for the prevention of accidents, on service facilities such as
sanitary drinking and washing arrangements; on a satisfactory
lunch room, rest room, cloak room, and first-aid equipment.
'What do these things mean in human lives and health and happiness ~ You have to know the stories of individual working women
if you are to appreciate their full significance. You have to know in
terms of human experience what it means to a woman to work in a
factory where the workroom is not clean; the floor caked with dirt;
the corners cluttered with debris and papers; the walls festooned with
cobwebs; and the windows speckled with dirt; where the men who
chew tobacco spit on the floor; and where the workroom is never
systematically cleaned, but instead a porter sweeps when he "gets
around to it," and the workers help when they have time. You
have to know in terms of headaches and eye-strain what it means to
face the window as you sit at work, and on dark days to have an
unshaded electric light glaring in your eyes.
These condition~ are not unusual, but they are not by any means
inevitable, and in many factories a very different situation exists.
I once saw a plant where everything was so neat and clean and shining that I felt ~mre the employees· in it felt better and cou,ld work
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




better. The foreman said it was not
a hard job to keep the place so nice.
"We just have a couple of men come
in each evening after work hours.
They clean thoroughly, scrub the
floors twice a week, and use a
vacuum cleaner ever so often. I
don't think there's a cleaner place in
town." And I agreed with him.
Another thing of interest was the
ventilating system. The air in the
workroom seemed fresh, and yet
there were not any drafts. By the
system used, stale air was carried
off and washed air brought into the
workroom through ventilators. Although there was a s1'eaming process
going on in one end of the room
there was a hood over the machine
to catch the steam and an exhaust
fan to carry it off.
The workroom was bright and
cheery, and yet' there was no glare.
There was frosted glass in the large
factory windows, and on the sunny
side of the room the top sections of
the windows were of a restful shade
of green glass. There were adjustable shades at all the windows ; none
of the girls faced a glare. The artificial lighting was excellent too.
There was an indirect lighting system·throughout, and for close work
at machines, individual bulbs with cuplike shades attaches to machines by adjustable brackets.
The means for attaining such conditions are usually very simple;
the methods are not a secret process. All who run may read, that is,
all who run industrial plants may read the ways and means of securing satisfactory working conditions therein. Despite the general
knowledge about these matters, some managers linger either from
indifference or from ignorance in the rear guard of the movement
for maintaining health and efficiency. Since women have become
such a definite and necessary fa~tor in the industrial world the
social consciousness of the Nation is becoming aroused to the necessity for establishing and enforcing high standards for them. Working women themselves are learning to expect comfortable conditions
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




for their hours of industrial labor. Progressive employers, realizing
the importance of such condition·s, maintain them in their plants.
There is still a long way to go, however, before working women
will be guaranteed an ideal working environment everywhere.
In general, many groups of women have adopted an industrial
platform one plank of which is the furtherance of good standards :for
working conditions for women in industry.
O:f course, no such reforms can be effected easily, but public
opinion is a great :force, and when enlightened public opinion gets
behind education it can be a mighty :force :for reformation. Remember that public opinion is made up of the opinions of individuals
and that you as an individual can help to make public opinion. But
remember, also, that you must definitely inform yoursel:f about the
kind o:f working conditions necessary for the health o:f wage-earning
women if you are to help, through educational methods, to guarantee
satisfactory conditions :for them.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Do you stand, sit, or stoop at your work? And whichever you do,
how do you like it and how do you feel after the day's work is over?
Wha,t do you think about factory chairs? Perhaps you agree with
the Army officer who said during the war, "The average factory
chair reminds one of the description of a coffin-the man who made it
didn't want it; the man who bought it didn't use it; and the man who
used it didn't have anything to say about it."
How many of the women who are listening-in to-night have ever
got a backache from bending over the kitchen sink? Did you ever
think that you could prevent this backache by having the sink built
higher or by having some sort of a seat made so that you could adjust
your height to the height of the sink and not have to bend over? It
is the same way in an industrial establishment, only the standing or
stooping caused by failur~ to provide chairs or by badly arranged
worktables goes on for eight or nine hours a day, and the backaches
and fatigue are that much more severe.
Listen to some of the stories which have been told to the bureau by
women working at various jobs and see if their testimony does not
give you a pretty good idea of what posture at work means to women
in industry.
The first to give her experience is an 18-year-old girl who stands
all day in a store. without a seat available. She say~: "I sure do
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



get tired of standing all day. My first two weeks of it were awful;
my feet ached so badly that I could hardly wait to reach home at
night to take off my shoes." ,Whereupon a woman who stands all day
in a factory speaks up: "Of course," she says, "standing all day is
tiresome, but the thing I mind most is that I have to stand on a concrete floor. It wears my shoes out so fast, and the flo01,.- is so cold and
damp in winter that I have to put newspapers under my feet."
There are two points here. It is not only hard to stand all day, but
it makes a lot of difference what you have to stand on.
Of course for some jobs women must stand; for example, when
they are waiting on customers in a store or when they are tending
spindles or looms in a mill. Nevertheless, comfortable seats with
backs should be provided for use whenever there is a -lull in the
work. A lull is likely to come now and then in every kind of work.
'There are certain times of the day in most stores when the stream
of customers slackens. There are periods in a mill when the machines are running well and operatives can sit and watch. There are
intervals in factories when machines get out of order. At such times
women in some plants lean against counters or window sills, sit on
cans, boxes, or trucks, for lack of seats. In other establishments
when women have no work they rest on the seats provided; sometimes they are comfortable and sometimes not. To be sure any kind
of seat is better than no seat at all. Women sometimes work in
plants for 8, 9, or 10 hours a day with no seats of any sort in sight.
The other side of the story is given by a girl who sits steadily all
day long on an uncomfortable seat. "Well," she remarks, "it's awfully hard sitting all day even when you take along a couple of
towels to sit on." That is another point, constant sitting is also very
taxing. Of course, there are certain jobs at which women must sit
all the time. In such cases their chairs should. be carefully adjusted,
so that the workers may be in just the right position. Some manufacturing establishments have already forged ahead in this respect.
The type of chair recommended is one with a supporting back, a
slightly saddle shaped seat rounded in front, and a foot rest when
necessary. Such seats greatly reduce the sum total of backaches.
An occasional rest period for women who sit constantly has been
found advisable. Some authorities recommend 10 minutes in the
middle of the morning and 10 minutes in the middle of the afternoon, while others recommend more frequent rest periods. Short
rests such as these give the women who sit all day a chance to get up,
relax, and shake the twists out of their muscles; and the relaxation
acts like a tonic in restoring flagging energies.
Now listen to the .testimony of a bright-faced girl who works in
a progressive plant in which the girls can do their work either sitting
or standing. Comfortable seats are provided, and the girls are urged
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



to sit as much as possible in order to save their
energies. The testimony of this one girl indicates
that a consideration of the comfort of employees
is a paying policy. "You couldn't find a better
place to work than mine," she exclaims with enthusiam. "I never worked at a place before
where the boss wanted you to sit and save yourself. And we have chairs with backs. I sure
_ l•.
would recommend , this place to my best friend.
There is such a homey feeling, and they make you
interested in the business, and you want to work."
A girl at work in a knitting mill has something
of the same story to tell. "I like my job~ too,
because I can change about from sitting to stand•.
ing. I sit to transfer and walk about to tend the
machine. So I get some exercise.'" In contrast ~
to these glowing accounts is the experience of an
older woman who stands at her work, although
apparently she could just as well sit if a seat were 1• _. ' · .,pl
provided. "Well," she says, "we have no seats,
but I just have to sit sometimes, so I get an empty box and stand
it on end."
It is important to realize that arrangements can often be made for
workers to sit or stand at work, according to preference, also that
when seats are furnished, they must be comfortable. Fortunately,
there are many establishments in which satisfactory seats are provided for women with standing jobs to use for an occasional rest.
Even so, there is sometimes trouble, as is illustrated by the following
comments of several other girls. " Well," says one, " it takes nerve
to sit in our plant, even when we have time. The foreman doesn't
like it." A girl who works in a factory where there are also plenty
of seats in view has not had a much happier experience. "Nothing is
said if you sit, but the boss sort of makes a face at you, if you do,"
is her version of the situation. Still another worker testifies in
similar fashion, " I£ they see a girl has time to sit, they give her more
to do. You don't dare lean against a. window sill if you see the boss
coming." It seems hardly necessary that such comments as these
should be needed to convince anyone that seats should not only be
supplied for w9men who stand at work, but that their use should be
encouraged. It is a mistake to think that seats in such cases are a
liability, that they destroy plant discipline by encouraging laziness.
On the contrary, seats are asset, since they restore the energies of
the workers and serve as ounces of prevention against weary bodies
and aching feet.



Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


The time has come when facts not fancies · must regulate the posi•
tion of wage-earning women. Women are in industry to stay1 for
industry needs women to produce the world's goods, and women
need industry to enable them to earn a living. It is the Women's
Bureau's job to present the truth about these wage-earning women,
so that they will get a fair and square deal in the busy, bustling,
industrial world. And you can help!
Among the first great troubles to be fought a!'e the false ideas
and old prejudices about women in industry that are firmly rooted
in the minds of many people. These old-fashioned ideas are a
hangover from several scores of years ago when a few scattered
women first ventured to work outside the home. Now, when there
are more than eight and a half million working women, when onefifth of the earners in the United States are women, these old
theories are fast being exploded, for antiquated traditions about
women in industry
are as much out of
place as hoop skirts,
and_ are just as useless and cumbersome.
If these prejudices
are cluttering up
your minds like cobwebs, there is no better time than the
present for a good
mental housecleaning.
The first prejudice
to d i s c a r d · is the
"pin-money theory."
What mischief it has
wrought in keeping
women's wages low !
Are you g u i 1 t y ~
H a V e you believed
that women work in
order to get money
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



for feminine fripperies 1 Or have you realized that the great bulk
0£ women who work in stores, factories, mills, laundries, and
r~staurants must earn money for .the bare essentials of life 1 Cold,
hard :fach! and statistics collected by the Women's Bureau and by
many other organizations prove that women have to work to buy
food tlfiti pay rent and frequently to support dependents as well,
and that the size of their earnings is of real social significance.
Following closely on the heels of the. pin-money theory is the, idea
that girls who live at home can get along on very low wages, since
their families will help to support them. This idea is not only
wrong-it is vicious. When unscrupulous employers offer it as an
excuse for low pay the public is satisfied and the girls themselves
suffer. Frequently, instead of the family income serving to supplement the girl's wage, it is the girl's wage that must supplement the
family income to make ends meet. Daughters living at home must
often support invalid or old parents or younger brothers and sisters.
Another theory to be discarded-the sooner the better- is that
all women are transients in the industrial world. Are you one of the
many people who believe that girls go into stores and factories only
until they marry 1 The truth is a number of women never marry,
but work 40 or 50 years in industry. Furthermore, many married
women must continue to work after marriage to keep the wolf from
the door. As one married worker said, "We have five children and
find trouble making ends meet; it takes all my husband makes to
feed us and what I earn clothes us." Also, in the ranks of industrial
toilers are many widows- who must be fathers as well as mothers to
their children, who must be breadwinners as well as home-makers.
One wrong theory leads to another wrong one. Thus the idea that
women are in industry for a few short years before marriage is
largely responsible for their lack of vocational training. Such a
lack is naturally a drawback in their industrial progress. Thousands
of girls go into blind-alley jobs. They must begin to work for H.
living. Because they have no training they must take the first thing
that offers, even though it is a deadly monotonous job with no
future. The fact that women do stick at a. trade, often for years, is
a plea for preliminary training for such a trade, so that women
can get ahead.
There is another mistaken theory that glibly falls from the lips
of those who don't know. · Those folks who call themselves oldfashioned and are alway$. harping on the idea that woman's place is
in the home, believe that women go into stores, factories, and mills
because they prefer that kind of labor to housework. If these same
old-fashioned theorists could take a peep into the homes of most
wage-earning women they would discover these sa.m~ women, after
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



8 or 10 hours of industrial work, toiling in the home, at the stove,
dish-pan, wash-tub, or sewing machine. Housework must be done
before and after factory work each day, even though women get up
at 4 a. m. and go to bed at midnight.
There are many more fallacies about women in industry, enough
to fill a volume or two-they can not ~11 be given in a short radio
talk. Instead, everyone must be constantly on the lookout for themselves, to be sur~· that they are not encouraging theories: based on
prejudices rather than on facts.
There is one other error, however, which is so general that attention must be called to it now. This is that women are only able to
do a few types of work. The war showed us that women could do
things well which no one had dreamed they would be able to do at
all. Don't forget the experiences of those years, remember the
women you know, or know of, who to-day are filling responsible positions of all sorts, and discard forever the well-exploded theory that
women should be relegated to any limited types of occupation. Opportunity for individual development is a great need for all persons,
and there is little chance that women will be given this opportunity
unless they are also given recognition of their actual and potential


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



No. 1, Proposed Employment of Women During the War in the Industries ol
· . Niagara Falls, N. Y. 16 pp. 1918.
.No. 2. Labor Laws for Women in .Industries in Indiana. 29 pp. 1918.
No . . 3. Standards for the Employment of Women in Industry. 7 pp. 1919.
No. 4. Wages of Candy Makers in Philadelphia in 1919. 46 pp. 1919.
No. 6. The Eight-Hour Day in Federal and State Legislation. 19 pp. 1919.
No. 6. The Employment of Women in . Hazardous Industries in the United
States. 8 pp. 1919.
No. 7, Night-Work Laws in the United States. 4 pp, 1919.
No. 8. Women in the Government Service. 37 pp. 1920.
No. 9. Home Work in Bridgeport, Con.necti<:ut. 35 pp. 1920.
No.10. Hours and Conditions of Work for Women in Industry 'in
82 pp. 1920.
No. 11. Women Street Car Conductors and Ticket :Agents. 90 pp. 19'~0.
No. 12. The New Position of Women in American Industry. 158 pp. 1920.
, No.13. Industrial Opportunities and Training for Women and Girls. 48 pp.
No.14. A Physiological Basis for the Shorter Working Day for Women.
20 pp. 1921.
No.15. Some Effects of Legislation Limiting Hours of Work for Women. 26 pp.
No.16. S_tate Laws Affecting Working Women. 51 pp. 1921. (Supplement,
No.17. Women's Wages in Kansas. 104 pp. 1921.
No.18. Health Problems of Women in Industry. (Repdnt of paper published
in the Nation's Health, May, 1921.) 11 pp. 1921.
No.19. Iowa Women in Industry. 73 pp. 1922.
No. 20. Negro Women in Industry, 65 pp. 1922.
No. 21. Women in Rhode Island Industries. 73 pp. 1922.
No. 22. Women in Georgia Industries. 89 pp. 1922.
'No. 23. The Family Status of Breadwlnning Women. 43 pp. 1922.
96 pp. 1922.
..1. .,.o_ 24. Women in Maryland Industries.
No. 25. Women in the Candy Industry in Chicago and St. Louis. 72 pp. 1923.
.,.o, 26. Women in Arkansas Industries. 1922.
No. 27. The Occupational Progress of Women. 37 pp. 1922.
No. 28. Women's Contributions in the Field of Invention. 51 pp. 1923.
No. 29. Women in Kentucky Industries. 114 pp. 1923.
No. 80. The Share of Wage-Earning Women in Family Support. 170 pp. 1928.
No. 31. What Industry Means to Women Workers. 10 pp. 1928.
No. 82. Women in South Carolina Industries. 128 pp. 1923.
No. 33. Proceedings of the Women's Industrial Conference. 100 pp. 1928.
No. 34. Women in Alabama Industries. 86 pp. 1924.
No. 35. Women in Missouri Industries.
No. 36. Radio Talks on Women in Industry. 34 pp. 1924.
No. 87. Women in New Jersey Industries.
No. 88. Married Women ln Industry. 8 pp. 1924.
No. 89, Domestic Workers and Their Employment Relations.
First Annual Report of the Director. 1919. (Out of print.)
Second Annual Report of the Director. 1920. (Out of print.)
Third Annual Report of the Director. 1921.
Fourth Annual Report of the Director. 1922.
Fifth Annual Report of the Director. 1928.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis