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/y j 'Slate Teachers College Library

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
WOMEN’S BUREAU
Bulletin No. 158

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON
RELIEF IN CHICAGO




1937

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
FRANCES PERKINS, Secretary

WOMEN’S BUREAU
MARY ANDERSON, Director

♦

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF
IN CHICAGO, 1937
By
HARRIET A. BYRNE
and

CECILE HILLYER

-i^TES 0»
Bulletin

of the

Women’s Bureau, No. 158

UNITED STATES
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON: 1938

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




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CONTENTS
Letter of transmittal____________
Introduction
Scope and method of study
Summary
Personal history
Illness
Employment
Employability
Relief experience8
Amount of relief issued in January 1938_________
Case-work services
How the women live
10
Living conditions________________
Amount of rental
10
Voluntary moving and evictions___________________
In conclusion
11
Recommendations
12
Introductory
12
Inadequacy of relief
12
Inadequacy of C. R. A. staff
13
Classification of employability
14
Housing conditions______________________________________________
Medical care
15
Incapacity of women __________________________________________
Health insurance
16
Unemployment compensation for household employment___________
Training and retraining of these women
18
Work projects under private auspices
19
Work projects under public auspices_______________
In conclusion
20
Personal information_________________________________
Age-----------------------------------------Marital status ________________________________________________
Nativity
23
Length of residence in Illinois
24
Schooling
25
Citizenship
25
Illness___________________________
Diagnosis and complaint _______________________________________
Classification of disease
27
Physical and mental diseases__;__________________________ _______
Mental diseases_____________________________________________
Physical illness
_______________________________________
Dental needs
30
Illness and age____________________________________
Diagnosed cases____________________________
_ _______
All women with diseases specified___
Incidence of disease among whites and Negroes________________
Estimated extent of incapacity__ . .
Illness and extent of incapacity
38
Type of medical care received in January 1937________________
Employment
Women with own business________________________
Women employed by others_______________
Industry of usual occupation
41
Years worked
42
Age and occupation
42
Years in usual occupation
43
Schooling and occupation___________________________
Incapacity and occupation_______
Time since last employed_______________




in

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44
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45

IV

CONTENTS
Page

Women reporting their principal job since 1929-------- ---------Relation between usual occupation and principal job----Principal job and age-----------------------------------------------Principal job and nativity------------------ ----------------------Duration of principal job------------------------------------------Cause of leaving principal job------------------------------------Earnings on principal job------------------------------------------Employability--------------------------------------------------------- ------Women considered employable on records of C. R. A---Women considered employable at time of survey (W. B)
Relation between employability and illness (W. B.)-----Employability and extent of incapacity----------------------Cause of seeking relief-----------------------------------------------------Relation of age, education, and period of dependency---Usual means of support______________________________
Adjustments before application for assistance--------------Duration of dependency--------------- ----------------------------------Year of first application for relief—--------------------------Number of years on public relief--------------------------------Intermittency of relief----------------------------------------------Family status during dependency-------------------------------Relief issued in January 1937------------------------------------------Amounts allowed-----------------------------------------------------Variation in amounts issued in January 1937---------------Items of relief----------------------------------------------------------Case-work services______________________________________
Medical care-----------------------------------------------------------Arrangement for special diets------------------------------------Work relief as a tool in treatment------------------------------Vocational training-------- -----------------------------------------Living conditions-----------------------------------------------------------How the women lived_______________________________
Type of dwelling-----------------------------------------------------Details of housing facilities---------------------------------------Amount of rental-----------------------------------------------------Appendix—Schedule inquiries-------------------------------------------

46
46
48
48
48
49
49
51
51
52
54
56
57
58
59
60
65
65
66
68
69
71
71
72
72
75
75
76
77
78
79
79
80
82
83
84

TABLES
1. Unattached women—white and Negro—on relief in Chicago, Novem­
ber 1936, by district--------------------------- ------------ ---------------2
2. Unattached women—white and Negro—included in the study, by
district-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------4
3. Age, by nativity and color-----------------------------------------------------------22
4. Marital status, by age-----------------------------------------------------------------22
5. Diseases affecting the women—diagnosed cases, by age------------------30
6. Diseases affecting the women—all cases, by age-----------------------------31
7. Diseases affecting the women, by nativity and color of women--------35
8. Estimated extent and cause of incapacity, by age--------------------------37
9. Industry of usual occupation, by nativity and color of women---------41
10. Industry of usual occupation, by age of women--------------------- - — -43
11. Time unemployed between last job since 1929 and date of study, by
industry of usual occupation--------------------------------_--------------------45
12. Principal job since 1929, by industry of usual occupation----------------47
13. Employability, by age (W. B.)----------------- ----------- ------- -------------14. Employability of women, bydisease from which suffering (VV. B.)-----55
15. Adjustments made before seeking relief, by age----------ol
16. Duration of public relief, by age---------------------------------------------.
. b7
Map of C. R. A. districtsFrontispiece




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

Washington, March 25, 1938.
I have the honor to transmit the report of a study of un­
attached women on relief in Chicago made by this Bureau in coopera­
tion with the Chicago Relief Administration and the School of Social
Service Administration of the University of Chicago.
The study was requested by Commissioner Leo M. Lyons, of the
Chicago Relief Administration, who realized the importance of know­
ing, in regard to the 12,500 nonfamily women on relief in Chicago in
the fall of 1936, their industrial and economic backgrounds, the
causes of their being on relief, and their employability. With such
facts made available, Mr. Lyons hoped to develop a program that
would restore a large number of these women to a condition of self­
support and that would make more effective the administering of
relief.
The survey was made in the spring of 1937. Data were secured
from the case records of the Relief Administration and from home
interviews with the 600 women taken as a representative sample.
An advisory committee, appointed by Mr. Lyons, was composed of
the following persons:
Edwina M. Lewis, Council of Social Agencies of Chicago, chairman.
Grace Abbott, professor, Public Welfare Administration, School of
Social Service Administration of the University of Chicago.
Leo M. Lyons, Commissioner of Relief, Chicago Relief Adminis­
tration.
Lillian Bennett, director of clinics, Northwestern University Medical
School.
E. E. Ferebee, chief statistician, Chicago Relief Administration.
Louise W. Gilfillan,. statistician, Chicago Relief Administration.
Clara Paul Paige, division director, Chicago Relief Administration.
Lucille Smith, director of medical service, Chicago Relief Adminis­
tration.
Most of the report has been written by Harriet A. Byrne, of the
Women’s Bureau, who directed the survey. The sections on relief
and the living conditions of the women were written by Cecile
Hillyer, graduate student of the School of Social Service Adminis­
tration of the University of Chicago.
Respectfully submitted.
Mary Anderson, Director.
Hon. Frances Perkins,
Secretary oj Labor.
Madam:




CHASE
IRVING
784 women

NORTHERN
626 women

HUMBOLDT

_OWER

WICKERX

north

4 7 I women

STANFO
747women

332 women

MIDWEST

LAWNDALE

334 women

558 women

CANAL
549 women

HALSTED

ARCHER *V744women
WASH­
068women
INGTON
JAKWOOD vV|,03lwomen
WOODLAWN
794 women

545 women

SOUTHEAST
SOUTHWEST

477 women

Districts of Relief Administration and numbers of Chicago unattached women on active relief rolls
February 1, 1937




UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN
CHICAGO, 1937
INTRODUCTION
Prior to 1930, opportunities for employment among women in
Chicago had been steadily increasing—from 1920 to 1930 the advance
in the number of gainfully-occupied women was more than one-fourth
(26 percent)—and women’s independence was accepted without ques­
tion. Since the beginning of the depression in the autumn of 1929,
short-time work and unemployment, caused in many cases by tech­
nological changes in industry, have been the lot of very large numbers
of women able and anxious to work. Industrial workers were the
first to be affected, but as time went on women in business and the
professions likewise fell victims of the depression.
Some of the unemployed women on relief in Chicago are members
of family groups, wives, daughters, or sisters, but many fall in the
category called variously the homeless, the unattached, woman-oneperson families, or nonfamily women. In addition to the group of
women who have been employed, there are some homeless or un­
attached who never have been employed. They are widows or
members of families who had been supported by other persons until
the death or illness of such persons prevented their further help. In
many cases these women lack training and experience to fit themselves
into a job, were a job available, so they too are among the large
group of unemployed unattached women. Others in this category
are those who formerly had independent incomes, who have lost
their resources through collapse of the stock market, closed banks,
and so forth, though before these reverses they considered themselves
secure for life. Viewed from their present position, all these women,
regardless of their previous economic condition, have two attributes
in common—they are unemployed and dependent.
During the past half century or more in which women have been
employed outside the home to a considerable extent, the organizations
under private auspices that aided women unemployed and destitute
in Chicago were the Young Women’s Christian Association, the Relief
and Aid Society as it was first called (now the United Charities),
the Chicago Home for the Friendless, the Sarah Hackett Stevenson
Memorial Home, the Chicago Woman’s Shelter, and various protec­
tive agencies under religious auspices.
The earliest record of public aid to women without funds or re­
sources is found in reports of the Chicago Police Department, 1902
to 1904. Over 1,000 women each year were lodged over night in
jail. Under the stress of depressed conditions in industry in 1914,
an ordinance was passed creating a city department of public welfare
in Chicago. Authorization was given for the establishment of a
municipal lodging house for unattached women under the department,
but no funds were appropriated.




X

2

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON BELIEF IN CHICAGO, 19 3 7

From the number of women applying for aid, it became apparent
in the early winter of 1930 that there were many out of work and in
need of assistance. The protective committee of the girls’ work
section of the Council of Social Agencies, conscious of the everincreasing problem of this group of unattached women, decided that
a central bureau was needed to give them adequate care.
To meet the needs of these women the Service Bureau for Unem­
ployed Women was organized as a central registration bureau in the
first winter of severe unemployment. It operated from December
1, 1930, to April 1, 1931, at which latter date it was disbanded, since
it was considered that there was no further need for its existence.
This bureau was a forerunner of the Service Bureau for Women that
was organized in October 1931 and continued under various auspices
until August 1935. From its beginning as a central registration and
referral bureau it grew to be a complete case-working agency, except
that it gave no clinical care. Its offices were closed in August 1935,
due to financial pressure, and active cases were assigned to the various
district offices of the family service division of the Cook County Board
of Public Welfare. Since that time the woman-one-person families
have formed a part of the case load of one or the other agencies dis­
bursing relief funds.
Table 1.— Unattached women—white and Negro—on relief in Chicago, November

1986, by district
Women in specified districts
Negro

White

District ofiices
Total
number

Number

Percent of
total

Number

Percent of
total

12, 529

6,916

55.2

5,613

44.8

11,982

6,550

54.7

5,432

45.3

744
777
549
784
545
471
520
558
839
334
626
1,031
477
408
332
747
1,068
378
794

38
72
270
782
340
365
517
165
702
325
626
76
401
325
319
647
123
326
131

5.1
9.3
49.2
99.7
62.4
77.5
99.4
29.6
83.7
97.3
100.0
7.4
84. 1
79.7
96. 1
86.6
11.5
86.2
16.5

706
705
279
2
205
106
3
393
137
9

94.9
90.7
50.8
.3
37.6
22. 5
.6
70.4
16.3
2. 7

955
76
83
13
100
945
52
663

92.6
15. 9
20.3
3.9
13. 4
88. 5
13.8
8d. 5

547

Total------- ------------------------------------

366

66.9

181

33.1

In December 1936, when this study was proposed, unattached women
were on the rolls of the Chicago Relief Administration. At that time
Mr. Leo M. Lyons, commissioner of relief of the Chicago Relief
Administration, conferred with Miss Mary Anderson, Director of the
Women’s Bureau of the United States Department of Labor, and
Miss Grace Abbott, professor of public welfare administration of the



INTRODUCTION

3

School of Social Service Administration of the University of Chicago,
concerning the problem of these women. Statistics then available
showed that more than two-fifths (42 percent) of the entire case load
of the Relief Administration was one-member-families, of which
approximately one-half (12,529) were women.
Due to the enormousness of the problem and with a view to develop­
ing a definite plan of treatment, Mr. Lyons made a request to the
Secretary of Labor that a thorough study of these woman-one-person
families be undertaken. The Secretary directed that such a study
be made by the Women’s Bureau, cooperating with the School of
Social Service Administration of the University of Chicago and the
Chicago Relief Administration. Throughout this report the abbre­
viation S. S. A. will be used in referring to the school and C. R. A.
in referring to the Chicago Relief Administration.
Scope and method of study.
Since the survey was to be a cooperative one carried on by three
agencies, the schedule to be used was planned tentatively by the
Women’s Bureau and was revised after conferences of persons inter­
ested in the study. The approved schedule was a composite one for
which the Women’s Bureau, the S. S. A., and the C. R. A. were
responsible.
The schedule consisted of six sections (see appendix). The first
inquired into personal facts regarding the women—date of birth, mar­
ital status, nativity, citizenship, time of residence in State, county, and
at present address, as well as the number of removals during the year.
In section II, facts were secured as to the education and training the
women had had, their ability to speak, read, and write English or
some other language, their membership in professional, social, or
labor organizations, and other related matters. In addition, inquiry
was made as to any desire on the part of the women for further
training. Section III was concerned entirely with relief. In an
attempt to secure all pertinent facts, questions were asked as to their
support previous to relief, the adjustments they made before seeking
relief, and the specific cause of seeking relief. Factual data regarding
the type of relief, its duration, and the reason relief was discontinued
were recorded on the schedule from records at the C. R. A. offices.
In addition to these, data on the relief budget for January 1937 were
secured. Section IV covered the housing conditions under which the
women lived. Facts in section V regarding illness, both physical and
mental, were copied from the records at the C. R. A. offices and addi­
tional data were secured at time of interview.
Data concerning the employment of these women formed the facts
in section VI. The employability of the women, their usual and
alternate occupations, as well as a complete work history since the
autumn of 1929, were incorporated here. Any skills that the women
reported were mentioned also in this section.
A committee appointed by Mr. Lyons to serve in an advisory
capacity was composed of the following:
Edwina M. Lewis, Council of Social Agencies of Chicago, chairman; Grace
Abbott, professor, Public Welfare Administration, School of Social Service
Administration of the University of Chicago; Lillian Bennett, director of clinics,
Northwestern University Medical School; E. E. Ferebee, chief statistician,
C. R. A.; Louise W. Gilfillan, statistician, C. R. A.; Leo M. Lyons, Commissioner
of Relief, C. R. A.; Clara Paul Paige, division director, C. R. A.; Lucille Smith,
director of medical service, C. R. A.




4

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

At a meeting of this committee with the Women’s Bureau agent
assigned to direct the study, the schedule form was approved and the
base of the study was decided upon as 600 women, or about 5 percent
of the total group. This was considered to be a representative sample.
At the time of the study the administration of relief in Chicago was
carried on through 19 district offices. To facilitate the matter of
securing the data, it was agreed to include only those districts in winch
there were 500 or more unattached women on relief. In 13 of the 19
district offices there were reported to be at least 500. These 13 dis­
tricts and one other with almost 500, selected because of its proximity
to the university and the fact that it had been used for trying out the
schedule, were covered in the survey. The 13 districts were Archer,
Bridgeport, Canal, Chase Park, Halsted, Irving Park, Lawndale,
Lower North, Northern, Oakwood, Union Park, Washington Park,
and Woodlawn. The fourteenth district was Southeast.
The size of the districts varied considerably, but it is worth noting
that eight of them combined extended along Lake Michigan from
the northern end of the city to Sixty-first Street on the south. The
fourteenth district, in which few cases were studied, extended from
Sixty-first Street to the southern limits of the city. (See frontispiece.)
The proportion of Negro cases reported in the 13 districts was
greater than that of white, 53 percent as against 47 percent. How­
ever, for the purpose of this study it was decided that a somewhat
larger proportion of the women were to be white, 350 of the 600.
From the summary table following, showing the distribution by
district, it will be seen that the number of white and Negro women
included in the study varied slightly from this plan. As mentioned
previously, a few women were covered from a fourteenth district,
Southeast, though they were not included in the base set.
Table 2.— Unattached women—white and Negro—included in the study, by district
Total

White women

Negro women

District
Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Total________________
Percent distribution _______

604
100.0

100.0

355
58.8

100.0

246
40.7

100.0

Archer. ____ _________ _
Bridgeport__________ ________
Canal_______ ________
Chase Park.. ______ _________
Halsted____________ ____
Irving Park ______
Lawndale.. ___________ .
Lower North___ _______
Northern ____
Oakwood. ___________ _
Southeast_______ _
Union Park______
Washington Park. _____ _
Woodlawn____ ____ _____

36
38
36
62
37
37
30
60
49
52
11

6.0
6.3
6.0
10.3
6.1
6.1
5.0
9.9
8. 1
8.6
1.8
9.1
8. 9
7.8

14

5.7

10

4.1

45

18 3

37

Color not
reported

15.0

55

54
47

6
22
62
37
11
55
6
10
48
10

10.4
3 1
15. 5
l! 7

2.0

Number
3
0.5

----------- -

13. 5
2.8

Though more than three-tenths of the 12,529 unattached women
on relief were 65 years of age and over, it was decided at the beginning
of the study to eliminate women in this age group, since many of
them would be receiving an old-age pension and most of those not so
provided for could not be adjusted to become self-supporting. For
this study, the women included were 21 but less than 65 years of age.




INTRODUCTION

5

To make the group studied as representative as possible of the whole
number, the distribution in the three age groups 21 and under 26,
26 and under 45, and 45 and under 65 was kept the same as the dis­
tribution in the districts as a whole.
Other than these two controls, age and color, none was established—
the cases being selected at random from the district offices. It was
hoped that in this way the sample of about 5 percent of the women
classed by the C. R. A. as woman-one-person families would prove
representative of the group as a whole. Mention should be made
here that early in the study the question of who was and was not con­
sidered a woman-one-person family was inquired into. A number of
the records of unattached women copied at the district offices proved
to be of a different character from the others; that is, two sisters
living together, each on relief as a one-person family (not a com­
posite case), or that of a mother—a one-person family—living with a
married son. In other words, from the standpoint of the adminis­
tering of relief they were woman-one-person families, but from the
point of view of the study they were not unattached women, and no
case similar to those cited was selected for interview. Because of the
fact that the 12,529 relief cases classed as woman-one-person families
by the C. R. A. were not in all cases unattached women as interpreted
in this study, the sample of 600 forms an even larger proportion of
unattached woman-one-person families than was originally planned.
The plan of the survey differed considerably from that of the usual
Women’s Bureau study in that it was conducted in cooperation with a
public welfare agency and through home interviews with the women.
Case histories of the unattached women who were on the active relief
rolls in the district offices of the C. R. A. on February 1, 1937, were
read, and significant facts were entered on the schedule forms. Due
to the volume of factual material available on some of the case his­
tories, copious notes were made on separate sheets to serve the agent
in forming as complete a picture as possible before interviewing the
woman. completion of the record copying, visits were made to the
_
_ _
After
women in their homes. This work was begun early in February and
was completed at the end of April. In passing it should be men­
tioned that in some cases several visits were made before the client
was found at home. Occasionally this was due to an incorrect
address (inevitable with the all-too-heavy case load of the relief
workers) and frequently it was due to the fact that the client was
away from home, rarely, however, at a place of employment. All
facts entered from the records were checked at time of interview, and
corrections were made wherever necessary. After the completed
schedule was turned in, the data were reviewed critically to eliminate
inconsistencies before tabulation was begun.
The Women’s Bureau provided the director of the study and two
field agents, the C. R. A. gave the services of several persons for read­
ing and recording the case histories on the schedules, and the S. S. A.
supplied students for this work and for interviewing the women in
their homes. The statistical editing and coding and the planning
of the correlations were supervised by the director of the study. The
coding and punching of the cards and the tabulation of the material
were done by the C. R. A.




SUMMARY
Twelve thousand five hundred woman-one-person families on relief
in Chicago in November 1936 presented a picture far from satisfactory.
The Chicago Relief Administration was eager for more information
regarding these women than appeared on its records, so it enlisted the
help of the Women’s Bureau. The relief officials desired to know
more about the personal histories of the women, their work experience,
their former means of support, their reasons for being on relief, and
their employability. With such facts at hand the Relief Administra­
tion hoped to develop a program of treatment benefiting the women
themselves as well as making more effective the administering of relief.
The Women’s Bureau, cooperating with the C. R. A. and the S. S. A.
of the University of Chicago, made the study. A representative group
(604 women), comprising about 5 percent of the total and selected
almost at random in 14 relief districts, were interviewed in their homes.
Personal history.
The women were not young—three-fourths of them were at least 40
years of age. None were so much as 65, for that group was purposely
omitted from the study. Four-fifths of the women were native-born,
about equally divided between white and Negro. Two-fifths were
widowed, close on two-fifths were separated or divorced, and just
over one-fifth were single. Well over one-half of the women had lived
in Illinois 20 years or longer, one-fourth of these all their lives. As
would be expected, a much larger proportion of whites than of Negroes
had resided in the State for a long time. More than two-fifths of the
foreign-born were not citizens.
Illness.
The need of health insurance is well illustrated by the extent of ill­
ness of these 604 women. There is shown also the need of more ade­
quate effort on the part of the community in attending to their
immediate wants.
When the C..R. A. records of these women were examined, there
was found mention of a diagnosis in the case of only 289, though almost
nine-tenths of the entire group had made a complaint on matters of
health to the C. R. A. Of the 67 making no complaint, 49 still reported
their health as good at time of survey, but the other 18 complained of
some disability to the interviewer.
The records for the 240 women who had made complaints to the
C. R. A. but whose condition as to whether or not their diseases had
been diagnosed was not reported, showed that 117 had been referred
to some health agency, 17 had refused the proffered care, and 13 had
been treated by their family physicians. There was no record of a
referral to a health agency in the case of 93 women who had made
complaints.
Diseases oj total group.—In classifying the diseases from which the
women suffered, whether diagnosed medically or merely complained
of to the C. R. A. or the interviewer, the Standard Classified Nomen 6




SUMMARY

7

clature of Disease has been the guide. This information was available
for 529 women.
Almost one in seven of the women were reported as having a mental
illness. More than three-tenths had some disease of the body as a
whole, syphilis being most frequently reported and disability due to
menopause being the next largest group. Diseases of the musculo­
skeletal system, mostly arthritis or rheumatism, were reported for
not far from three-tenths; and illnesses of the cardiovascular system
affected the same number, most of this group having heart trouble.
About one-seventh of the women had some disease of the urogenital
system, a majority of them of a gynecological nature. One-tenth of
the women had a disorder of the nervous system, almost one-half the
cases being neuritis. Approximately one-fifth of the women reporting
had diseases of the organs of special sense, most of them affections of
the eye.
Cases with medical diagnosis.—The 289 women whose mental or
physical disabilities were recorded in the C. It. A. files as having been
diagnosed by a medical agency comprised 55 percent of the women
with specific diseases reported. When grouped by type of disability,
the cases of disease were found to comprise 555, indicating the presence
of more than one disease for a very large proportion of the women.
The largest group of diagnosed cases, comprising 100 of the women,
were those affecting the body as a whole, with syphilis the disease in
39 cases.
Diseases of the cardiovascular system, what may be called “heart
trouble” greatly outnumbering the others, ranked second, the number
of women being 88. Musculo-skeletal disorders and mental diseases
or deficiencies ranked third and fourth, with respectively 73 and 57
women so reported; arthritis and rheumatism caused three-fifths of
the group first named, but no one condition dominated the mental
group. Diseases of the respiratory system were chiefly bronchitis; of
the Urogenital system, gynecological complaints; of the organs of
special sense, affections of the eye.
Of the 591 women for whom the degree of incapacity was estimated,
almost one-fourth were totally disabled, more than five-eighths were
partially so, and only about one-eighth were in good physical condition.
Employment.
Of the 601 women reporting as to their usual occupation, the largest
part, about seven-eighths, had been employed women, close to onetwelfth had been in business for themselves, and the remainder, about
one-twentieth, never had been gainfully occupied.
One-half of the 46 women in business on their own account had
kept rooming houses, 10 had been dressmakers, and 3 had been
hairdressers.
.
For the 521 women in employment, the usual occupation of the
majority (60 percent) had been domestic and personal service. About
two-thirds of these women had worked in private families and the
remainder in hotels, restaurants, or kindred establishments, laundries,
beauty parlors, and so forth. Well over one-half of those who had
worked in private families had been so employed for 10 years or more,
close to three-tenths for as long as 20 years. One-half of those whose
work had been domestic and personal other than in private families
had worked as long as 10 years, almost one-fifth for 20 years or more.




8

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 19 3 7

The “principal” jobs, as those of longest duration during the 7-year
period from the autumn of 1929 until February 1937 are designated,
were very similar to the “usual” jobs. For over three-fifths of the
464 women reporting on this, the principal job had been in domestic
and personal service, twice as many in private families as in other
lines of such work. Though reporting specified jobs as their principal
occupations over a 7-year period, less than one woman in 8 reported
that the job lasted as long as 5 years. For well over one-half (55
percent) it was of less than 2 years’ duration, for three-tenths it was
of less than 1 year’s.
Employability.
Only three-tenths of the 604 women were considered by the C. R. A.
to be employable, that agency making no distinction, in its immediate
relief program, between temporary and permanent unemployability.
In a very complete analysis, weighing all the determining factors
secured at time of survey, a much larger proportion were considered
employable. Of the 589 women for whom employability was esti­
mated by the investigators, about one-sixth were considered fully
employable, another one-sixth employable but handicapped, and
almost three-tenths unemployable only temporarily. In other words,
more than three-fifths of the group were immediately employable or
would be employable if temporary difficulties were removed.
This difference is due largely to the fact that the Women’s Bureau,
being concerned chiefly with the possibility of rehabilitating these
women, included as employable the women whose unemployable con­
dition was only temporary. For purposes of relief, the Chicago
Relief Administration, on the other hand, could class as employable
only the women actually capable of working at the time. (For table
showing Women’s Bureau findings, see p. 52.)
Relief experience.
.
The majority of this group of nonfamily women on the C. R. A.
rolls had been self-supporting and financially independent for most of
their adult lives. Illness, accident, unemployment as the result of
industrial conditions, or the advance of old age had changed their
normal way of living. Slightly more than 10 percent of these women
had never worked outside of their own homes; unemployment of the
other women was due, in the main, to illness or difficulty in finding
work that they were physically able to do. While inexperience was
the major factor in the unemployment of only a small proportion of
women, lack of training or educational qualifications was a contribut­
ing factor in the inability of many women to find work
About 25 percent of the group had been wholly dependent on
relatives or friends for support; 12 percent had been accustomed to
work to supplement the family income, so had been partially inde­
pendent; and 63 percent had been entirely independent from a financial
point of view.
Low earnings allowed no margin for times of unemployment or
illness on the part of the majority of these women. Loss of employ­
ment meant almost immediate application for assistance, though in
few cases was relief sought without a preliminary struggle to manage
on savings, securities, insurance, or proceeds from the sale of furniture,
clothing, or other property. This period of adjustment further in-




SUMMARY

9

eluded efforts to find work, taking jobs with no cash wages, and
acceptance of loans from relatives and friends.
For most of this group, the time elapsed since first application for
public or private assistance had been a comparatively short one.
About one-fourth had applied for the first time in 1936 or in the first
month of 1937, and nearly one-half had applied less than 2 years before
the survey. The average time since the first application was 26
months. Younger women tended to be more recent additions than
older women to the relief rolls.
A large proportion (27 percent) of the women had received public
relief for less than a year. Because younger women found it easier
to secure work and, in addition, seemed able more frequently to call
on their families in an emergency, as the age of the women increased
the time on public relief increased.
Negro women had applied for relief more recently than had white
women. Somewhat more than one-third of the Negroes had received
relief from public funds for less than a year, about two-fifths for periods
of 1 and under 3 years. The average length of dependency was about
2 years.
The relief period was unbroken by stops in relief of more than 2
weeks’ duration in 71 percent of the cases. Of the cases with such
breaks in relief, three-fourths had had only one break. In threetenths of the cases, the chief cause of the interruptions of 2 weeks or
more was private employment; placement of the woman or her rel­
atives on the Federal works program also was important in one-fifth
of the cases.
Amount of relief issued in January 1938.
Though a maximum of $23.05 a month was allowed by administra­
tive regulation for a woman living alone, only 34 percent of the women
received $23 and under $24. Less than $23 was issued in 52 percent
of the cases, and 14 percent, under special circumstances, received at
least $24. The average amount of relief issued was $22.44.
For 69 percent of the women the district offices paid in January what
was, from the administrative point of view, “full rent”; 11 percent re­
ceived partial rent allowances, and 15 percent received no rent allow­
ance, in spite of the fact that only 25 women were living where no rent
was charged and only 5 owned their homes, and for more than 4 per­
cent some special arrangement was made. Only about one-half of the
women classed as employable received full rent; but not to all the un­
employable women, either, was full rent allowed.
On the whole, the women were poorly dressed, and clothing allow­
ances did not begin to take care of their needs, either for warm out­
door clothing or for presentable outfits that would enable them to
compete with better dressed women in applying for work.
Case-work services.
Restriction on the amount of administrative expenditures has re­
sulted in large case loads and tremendous pressure on the case-work
staff. Careful reading or keeping of case records, so essential to good
case work, has been impossible; few home visits could be made, either
for investigation or for the rendering of specialized services. In spite
of the general recognition that prompt and continued treatment of
illness is necessary if health and the ability to work are to be regained,




10

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

arrangement for medical care or cooperation with the medical agencyresponsible for treatment had to be neglected, both case worker and
medical worker having too heavy a case load. Though one of the
major policies of the C. R. A. has been based on a classification of
persons according to employability, in only 48 percent of this group
of nonfamily women were there found diagnoses or reports of physical
condition that would justify such a classification.
How the women live.
About 75 percent of these women had the exclusive use of a room,
in some cases of an apartment or cottage. Well over half lived in
rooming houses or light-housekeeping rooms, and 39 percent in family
homes as lodgers. A few had homes of their own.
Living conditions.
Only one-third of these women had taken unfurnished rooms; the
others either had lost or had never had any furniture. In many
cases the supply of bedding in furnished rooms was inadequate,
expecially in cold weather.
Most of the living quarters had central heat, though in the cheapest
rooming houses this was no guarantee of warmth, for some landlords
heated their buildings very inadequately. Many of the women living
in their own homes had coal stoves, and the lack of kindling wood and
difficulty in making the coal supply last worked great hardship.
Electricity was the most common form of artificial lighting; some
women used kerosene lamps, gas, candles, or did without. Utility
allowances were not often included in the budgets, so many women
were forced to use part of their food allowance to pay electricity bills.
The majority of the women lived in places with complete bathrooms,
though 14 percent lived where bathing facilities and running hot water
were lacking. Cleanliness of bathrooms was difficult to achieve where
large numbers used them.
Cooking and eating in the single room originally designed for sleep­
ing purposes was the most common arrangement; inadequate cooking
equipment prevented many of these women from making the greatest
use of their food allowances.
Overcrowding was not a serious problem among this group, the
greater majority of whom had separate rooms or apartments. Base­
ment rooms involved some danger to the health of a few women,
though the lower rental was an attractive feature that offset the handi­
caps of dampness and lack of sunlight.
Amount of rental.
With $12 stipulated as the maximum allowed for rent, including
heat, light, and gas, for a single woman, it was necessary for many to
use part of their food allowance for rent. While 40 percent of the
women who were paying rent were living in homes costing $12 a
month, 28 percent were paying less than $12 (often because of lack of
central heat and sanitary conveniences), and 33 percent were living
where the rental exceeded $12. The range was broad, from $2 to $40,
with $12.57 as the average amount. In terms of absolute rentals,
there was little difference between those charged Negro and white
women, though the former had decidedly inferior homes.




SUMMARY

11

Voluntary moving and evictions.
Though not far from one-half of the women had lived in their present
rooms for at least a year, irregular rent payments had resulted in
frequent enforced moving, and many women had moved to escape
verminous rooms, leaky roofs, filth, or undesirable neighbors. Threat
of eviction was especially serious to those women living in furnished
rooms, as eviction could be accomplished by simply locking the door
during their temporary absence.
In conclusion.
This group of nonfamily women was composed of those in the older
groups, for three-fourths of them were over 45 years of age. More
than one-half were white women, who had been dependent, on the
average, for about 2 years. The majority had been self-supporting
or financially independent before loss of employment, ill health, or
other misfortune had made application for relief necessary. Living
conditions were, on the whole, wretched, for they had difficulty in
finding homes for rentals that the C. R. A. could pay, and were con­
stantly forced to use money intended for food to buy other necessities.

61957“—31




■2

RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Introductory.
Though the number of women in gainful occupations in the United
States was greater in 1930 than in 1920, the unemployment problems
of unattached women assumed serious proportions only in the depres­
sion that began in 1929. These problems, naturally, increased in
severity as the depression increased.
Among the factors, economic and social, that are responsible for the
large proportion of unattached women on relief are the weakening of
the family group, technological and other forms of unemployment, and
the increasing length of life coupled with a lowering of the age at
which employability ceases. As a result of these and other changes,
the problem of the unattached woman continues and threatens to
become permanent. For all those who can benefit by a rehabilitative
program, such a program should be set up; in the case of women for
whom such a program is not possible, a system of permanent relief
is the only solution.
Persons interested in having a study made of the 12,500 unattached
women on relief in Chicago in 1936 were conscious of the inadequacies
in the existing program. The one great difficulty in Illinois is that
relief is still treated as a temporary problem and a long-time program
has not been evolved. In Chicago there has been one relief crisis
after another when funds were not available for rent, food budgets
were cut, the staff went unpaid, and so forth.
To obtain relief in Chicago a person must prove that he is destitute
by signing an affidavit that he is in need, that he has no savings, and
that the relatives legally responsible for his support are unable to meet
such responsibility. In addition to the original affidavit signed with
the first application for relief, the relief recipient in Chicago has been
required to sign several successive affidavits of destitution within the
past 2 years, when heavy loads of case workers’ jobs precluded their
keeping up with changing circumstances. The last dates of complete
review were April and May 1937. All employable cases were reviewed
in October 1937.
2. Inadequacy of relief.
The public thinks of the relief load as made up of able-bodied
unemployed who could work if employment were available, and the
idea is current that relief clients are living in comfort and hence do
not want to work. Both of these are wide of the truth. In the first
place, physical disability of a greater or less extent was found to be a
common condition among these Chicago women. In the second
place, anyone sufficiently interested to inquire into the matter knows
that $23.05 a month, the maximum allotted to a nonfamily woman in
Chicago with the exception of those so ill that some additional needs
must be met, is a very meager amount and one that any self-respecting
individual would spurn if she could become self-supporting. Condi12




RECOMMENDATIONS

13

tions under which many of the women are living are wretched, the
amount needed for shelter often taking more than the $12 allotted for
rent, and the $9.25 for food allowance precluding the buying of nourish­
ing food for over so long a period as a month. The clothing allow­
ance does not permit of the purchase of clothes suitable to wear
when making application for a job. The ambition of these women
to become self-supporting is destroyed by the general hopelessness of
their situation.
For nonfamily women in Chicago, the practice of issuing relief on
the basis of need as budgeted, an accepted case-work procedure, has
almost disappeared. While it may be assumed that unattached
women who live alone have much the same needs, it is essential that
the agency be aware of, and make allowance for, special needs of the
individual women.
3. Inadequacy of C. R. A. staff.
Though the appointments to the staff of the C. R. A. are not
political in nature and the quality of the workers in general is high,
the number of case workers is not adequate to the demands made
upon them. During the course of the survey, women were visited
who had not seen a case worker for months, in some instances for a
year or more. The cases of these unattached women are thought by
some persons to require less time on the part of the relief worker than
family cases, but this is not true in most instances. A worker too
overburdened with a large number of cases has limited opportunity
to learn of changing needs, to render special services, such as arrange­
ment for medical care that might eventually restore the relief recipient
to health and independent living, or arrangement for vocational
training that might accomplish the same end. Neither periodic
reviews of the case loads, with the requirement of new affidavits of
destitution, nor special investigations can be expected to take the
place of adequate case-work service, where small case loads and
reasonable flexibility of procedure permit the establishment of a
constructive working relationship between the family and the case
worker. Such a relationship would mean that earnings or income
insufficient for total support would become known to the worker and
be deducted from the total relief needs, instead of the assumption
that all persons physically able to work had succeeded in finding
employment. Reapplication procedure would be simplified, so that
recipients of relief would be less reluctant to leave the relief rolls
when they obtained temporary employment, secure in the feeling
that reinstatement on the relief rolls would be possible as soon as they
again were in need.
To perform the individualized service that these unattached women
need in the form of a program of rehabilitation and reemployment, an
enlarged staff is a necessity. With so inadequate a staff, current
information regarding the economic status of these women is not
available, but even more serious is the failure to develop some program
of rehabilitation.
Pressure should be exerted, therefore, to remove the legislative
restrictions on the proportion of relief expenditures allowed for
administrative purposes. Experience up to the present time has not
resulted in any standards of the relation that administrative costs
should bear to total expenditures for relief. In Chicago the size of



14

UKATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

the case loads has been a heavy burden on case workers, who have been
unable to devote sufficient time to the cases under their care.
4. Classification of employability.
As pointed out in the body of the report, the C. K. A. had classed
as unemployable, for purposes of immediate relief, 70 percent of the
unattached women in the present study. Interviewers in the survey,
however, estimated that though 67 percent of the women were unem­
ployable, less than 40 percent were unemployable permanently. That
so large a proportion fall in the group unemployable only temporarily
shows the need of an adequate program of rehabilitation. The esti­
mates of the Women’s Bureau based on facts secured at time of
interview were determined on the woman’s apparent ability to work,
disregarding such factors as education, training, or experience. To
make the classification of employability a more practical one, it will
be necessary to have definite knowledge regarding the woman’s
physical condition.
5. Housing conditions.
While recognizing that the setting of maximum amounts for various
items of relief facilitates the administration of relief on a large scale,
it must be remembered that lives of human beings are involved. Maxi­
mum rent allowances should be established only after careful con­
sideration of rent levels in various communities.
_
Though raising maximum amounts of rent for relief clients un­
doubtedly would enable them to live in slightly better homes, where
the food allowance might be used to better advantage and where
sanitary facilities were more adequate, and might allow landlords
more margin for repairs and general upkeep, still more important is
regularity in payment of the rent for those families for whom the relief
agency has assumed responsibility.
_
....
The total amount of rent should be paid. The practice of issuing
only partial rent or of making spasmodic payments does not insure
maximum returns from that part of the relief funds spent for shelter
of dependent families. Irregular payments result in a feeling of
insecurity on the part of both landlord and client, and give rise to
distrust and resentment of the agency in the general community.
Experience has shown that shelter is of greater importance even
than food, that relief recipients will go without eating to keep a roof
over their heads. Kegular payments of rent will go far to erase the
chief reason for discrimination of many landlords against relief
recipients, so that indirectly the housing level will be raised by
making available more homes for relief clients.
Living in condemned buildings should be discouraged; a public
agency should not condone, by its lack of activity or refusal to pay
rent, such hazardous living conditions.
The utmost cooperation should be given to the development ol
housing projects under public authority, in order that housing stand­
ards for low income groups may be raised as rapidly as possible. Until
the erection of such facilities for low-income groups, there is little
hope of materially improving the housing of dependent families.
Ordinarily, the practice of paying maximum amounts of rent lor the
doubtful privilege of sleeping in the living room or dining room should
be discouraged. Some women visited were found sleeping m rooms
that were used for these or other purposes during the day. Such



RECOMMENDATIONS

15

arrangements afforded the women no privacy nor any possibility of
resting at odd hours. For the maximum rental, at least a single room
should be available. Intimate knowledge, on the part of the worker,
of living arrangements implies a smaller case load, frequent visits, and
a relationship of confidence.
Greater supervision should be exercised over those women for whom
the agency has assumed the responsibility of paying room and board.
That form of care is actually boarding-home care, and should be
subject to minimum standards set up for the protection of the client.
While progress has been made in evolving minimum standards for
foster-home care of children, little has been done in the field of home
care for the aged, convalescent, or disabled.
Some inquiry into the use of boarding-home care for the aged and
sick persons should bo made, preferably in cooperation with the
Council of Social Agencies. Setting of uniform standards of care and
supervision on a community-wide basis seems essential. Insistence
on conformity with local sanitary and health regulations is necessary,
but more detailed supervision to prevent exploitation of the relatively
helpless client should be exercised. For aged women, still on relief
rolls because of inability to establish their eligibility for old-age
assistance, and totally incapacitated younger women, this type of care
might be used where either home relief or institutionalization seems
unsuitable.
6. Medical care.
Medical examinations and care should be given to relief recipients
on a case-work basis and according to need. Facts secured during
the course of the study show that the available sources are not ade­
quate. In the past, private medical agencies have been expected to
meet the needs of the ambulatory sick poor. Demands on these
established clinics have more than doubled since 1929, with resultant
overcrowding of clinics. There is great need for an out-patient
department at Cook County Hospital and for branches of this service
in various sections of the city.
For only 289 of the 549 women with some disability was there a
diagnosis of disease on file at the C. R. A.; for the remainder there
was no diagnosis recorded at the relief office. Of the latter group
(260), 240 women had made a complaint to the Chicago Relief Admin­
istration, but only 117 of them were recorded as having been referred
to a health agency.
Recommendations for special diets have been disregarded, and often
months have elapsed before the allotment of a larger food allowance
has been renewed. Mention must be made of the fact that all the
financial assistance allotted by the C. R. A. for medical purposes has
been used and that the clinics report not only that they are taxed to
capacity but that they are forced to deny admission to some persons
chronically ill and others with minor disabilities. In some instances
clinics have been closed for short periods to all new patients but real
emergencies. In the case of certain specific difficulties for certain
racial groups, appointments were being made in the fall of 1937 for
as far ahead as February 1938.
Psychiatric examinations should be given also on a case-work basis
wherever needed. However, the majority of the women visited gave
no indication of behavior problems.



16

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEE IN CHICAGO, 19 3 7

In reviewing the data secured in this study regarding the physical
disabilities of women, the situation is recognized as a serious one. As
shown in the following paragraphs, large proportions of the women
were ill.
Illnesses of the body as a whole, with syphilis reported most fre­
quently; those of the cardiovascular system, in most cases heart
trouble and high blood pressure; and those of the musculo-skeletal
system, chiefly arthritis and rheumatism, were reported for respec­
tively 35 percent, 30 percent, and 25 percent of the 289 women with
diagnosis reported. Mental diseases or deficiencies; diseases of the
digestive system; and those of the urogenital system, a large part of
which were gynecological complaints, were reported for respectively
20 percent, 15 percent, and 15 percent of the group. Diseases of the
nervous system were 12 percent of the total, flhe other disease
groups reported averaged each less than 12 percent of the diagnosed
cases. the distribution of diseases for all the 529 women—diagnosed
In
and undiagnosed together—the groups rank much as they do for the
diagnosed alone, the chief exceptions being that mental diseases rank
much higher, and diseases of the organs of special sense rank much
lower, for the diagnosed group than for all women interviewed.
In the present drive of the United States Public Health Service in
cooperation with State and city health authorities to stamp out
venereal disease, every effort should be put forth to cooperate in
accomplishing this end. Every suspected case should be referred to
some health agency and every referral should be followed up.
7. Incapacity of women.
To establish some facts as to the invalidity of the women studied, an
effort was made to determine the extent of their incapacity. All the
pertinent data for each individual were evaluated by the director of
the study and the agent responsible for the interview, and each
woman was classed in one of the groups following:
1. Totally incapacitated:
Can care for self.
Cannot care for self.
2. Partially incapacitated due to—
Age.
. .
Physical condition.
Mental condition.
Mental and physical condition.
Mental condition and age.
3. Not incapacitated.
Of the 591 women for whom incapacity has been estimated , approx­
imately one-fourth were totally disabled; not far from two-thirds were
partially so, and only about one-eighth were physically fit.
8. Health insurance.
Though no health-insurance system has been established under the
Social Security Act, the findings of this study indicate the great need
of some plan of invalidity insurance and to a less extent of insurance
against unemployment due to sickness.
In 1916, Dr. I. M. Rubinow, in his book on “Standards of Health
Insurance”, advocated two separate systems of insurance—one of



RECOMMENDATIONS

17

health and one of invalidity. He pointed out that it is not possible
always to distinguish from sickness such disability as is consequent
upon old age, and that between these two lies the entire field of per­
manent invalidity. Further, he showed that it is not easy to dis­
tinguish between sickness and invalidity. Included under sickness
are so-called acute attacks, while under invalidity fall permanent
(or at least chronic, prolonged) illness and disability, or disability
due to previous illness. Sickness carries with it total disability for
the time being, while invalidity as usually interpreted means a sub­
stantial reduction of earning capacity, due to failing health and
strength. In this way invalidity may be likened to old age.
_ It was Dr. Rubinow’s opinion that as an economic problem invalid­
ity is of equal importance with sickness, and, as far as the individual
cases are concerned, is of even greater importance. There can be
no question as to the desirability of the insurance method of provision
against it. The question is whether, for insurance purposes, invalid­
ity should be merged with sickness, on which it borders on one side,
or with old age, on which it borders on the other.
In Barbara Nachtrieb Armstrong’s “Insuring the Essentials” it is
stated that old age and invalidity have one important quality in
common—both involve a cessation, rather than a mere interruption,
of earnings. This element of permanence (which in fact is coupled
with increased disability as time goes by) is in marked contrast to
the temporary illness or accident that causes a period of disability
from which the patient recovers and after which he resumes his em­
ployment. In many cases invalidity is very like old age and often
precedes it. This quality of permanence common to invalidity and
old age makes their problem a similar one from an insurance stand­
point. _ Frequently, invalidity has been linked with old age rather
than with sickness in social insurance schemes.
The term invalidity has various interpretations in the countries
that make systematic provision for it. Social provision for inva­
lidity, for the most part, has been undertaken only since the World
War. Australia and Germany, because of their long-established
systems, offer the longest and most reliable records of the incidence
of invalidity. In Germany, under the General Workingmen’s Insur­
ance, invalidity pensions are granted to persons who are no longer
capable of earning one-third of the sum usually earned by workers
similarly trained, while the Commercial Employees’ Insurance Act
has a more liberal definition, persons unable to earn one-half of the
ordinary earnings of a similarly trained worker being termed invalids
entitled to a pension.
The laws governing invalidity in other countries vary greatly. In
Great Britain the act requires complete incapacity for work, as does
the Australian law. In Bulgaria persons may qualify when a 50-per­
cent reduction of earning capacity is noted, as may commercial
employees in Poland. Italy requires that persons must show more
than a two-thirds loss of earning capacity to qualify for invalidity
benefit. France and Denmark require reduction of earning capacity
of at least two-thirds.
Since the results of this study reveal that old age begins before 65,
that at all ages some women are victims of chronic disease, and that
others have suffered long illnesses, some form of invalidity assistance
should be made possible. In addition to the women studied, there



18

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON BELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

are women likewise in great need who have been unwilling to apply
for relief but who should benefit under an invalidity program.
A program of invalidity assistance similar to that for old-age assist­
ance, rather than a contributory invalidity pension system, is to be
desired. The objections to a contributory system, or its limitations,
are these:
1. It restricts its benefits to an employed group and does not provide for those
outside the system who are equally in need. For example, women who are home­
makers, small independent owners, casual labor, farm labor, and so forth.
2. The tax is not based on ability to pay.
3. A fixed amount or certain percentage of wages does not meet the need of
the insured in many cases.

The points in favor of an assistance program are these:
1. The scheme would be financed out of the general treasury.
2. The population in general would benefit on the basis of need.
3. Payment would be contemplated in relation to need.

Furthermore, invalidity assistance will be needed if a compulsory
contributory scheme for invalidity pensions is part of the Federal
old-age benefits system, since not half the population needing it would
be covered. If grafting invalidity benefits on Federal old-age insur­
ance is inadvisable at this time, there would seem to be no reason
for delay in initiating some plan of invalidity assistance.
9. Unemployment compensation for household employment.
Though the Social Security Act does not establish any unemploy­
ment compensation systems, by the provisions of the act relating to
unemployment compensation in the various States domestic service
in private homes is excepted from the benefits of the act. In this
study, the largest proportions of the women reporting usual occupa­
tion and principal job since 1929 had been employed as domestic
workers in private families, which would prevent their inclusion
under the present set-up of unemployment-compensation legislation.
Should not the fact that large proportions of women on relief have
been domestic workers give impetus to a drive for intensive study of
household employment with a view to its greater security?
10. Training and retraining of these women.
Involuntary unemployment, of which many of these women are
victims, has a very demoralizing effect. It is not so much the lack of
employment as the inevitable consequences of its lack. These show
themselves in enforced lowering of living standards and in the uncer­
tainty and worry over not finding a job. The unemployed become
oversensitive in their fruitless search for work.
.
To serve intelligently the interests of the employable women it will
be necessary to make a study of the vocational opportunities afforded
them. In undertaking such a study the cooperation of the various
agencies interested in the women and their employment is of first
importance. The Illinois State Employment Service, the State
Department of Labor, the Women’s Trade Union League, the Ameri­
can Association of University Women, the Women’s City Club, the
Council of Social Agencies, and any other groups likely to be of service
should be called upon in this cooperative undertaking. After such a
survey is made and the opportunities for these employable women are
known, all facilities in the city of Chicago should be made available
for instructing the women.



RECOMMENDATIONS

19

During the interviews with the women the subject of vocational
training that might lead to future employment was discussed. The
majority of the women who were ill or had reached the age where
employment was no longer a possibility were hopelessly apathetic
about future training. Younger and more ambitious women often
expressed a desire for a stenographic course, sure that ability to type
would secure them a job; many Negro women were anxious for a
chance to learn power-machine sewing, for it seemed easy in compari­
son to their years of heavy household work.
The retraining of the women whose skills have become outmoded or
displaced entirely, or who have deteriorated in health and morale, is
of prime importance; all who have possibilities of rehabilitation as
judged by their work records, attitudes, and personalities should be
given the advantage of a training or retraining program. After this
training period is finished, efforts should be put forth to secure the
cooperation of private employers in finding work for these women on a
part-time if not a full-time basis.
The factors of color and nativity influence to a great extent the
employment opportunities for household employees. Fifty-seven
percent of the Negroes, 40 percent of the foreign-born, and 18 percent
of the native whites had been engaged in domestic work in homes.
Considering the large proportions of women whose usual occupation
had been in this type of work, strong effort should be made to retrain
these women so that they may be employed again, especially as their
work is in a field where the demand for competent help exceeds the
supply.
.
_
.
Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that household workers comprise
one of the largest occupational groups in the country, very little has
been done toward standardizing household employment in respect to
wages, hours, health and safety conditions, and training facilities.
The issue of educating the community to a realization of these prob­
lems cannot be dodged if the destitution of women in this country is
to be relieved.
11. Work projects under private auspices.
Various agencies have been established in local communities to
meet the demands of groups of women such as those with which the
present study is concerned. Some are helping the employable group
and others are reaching those classed as unemployable.
Self-Help Cooperatives.—Self-Help Cooperatives have been tried in
various localities. In some cases they were started with Federal
funds and are continuing under these auspices, while in other cases
they are self-supporting.
Under this scheme unemployed employables are able to barter their
services in one line for a commodity needed in another. There is no
payment in cash, but for a certain amount of work a scrip coupon
stating the number of hours to be credited is given. Services that
women give include sewing, tailoring, laundry work, beauty-parlor
service, cleaning, cooking, and so forth. In the Self-Help Coopera­
tives under the Citizen’s Service Exchange in Richmond, Va., for
example, brooms, chemical products, mattresses, toys, farm products,
confectionery, and articles made from the by-products of factories—
such as blankets, sweaters, and lumber jackets from discarded felt,
rugs from scrap rope, and floor coverings from cotton fabrics—all
have been given in exchange for services rendered.



20

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON BELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

Goodwill industries.—A form of service that affords remunerative
employment to older women is the Goodwill Industries. Mending
and remodeling discarded clothing, as well as the sorting of articles
donated, are carried on by older women. Data regarding the employ­
ment of such women in Washington show that women 50 but under
65 years of age have been employed on such projects for a 44-hour
week. The branch of the Goodwill Industries in Chicago could serve
as an outlet for employment of some of the women on relief, if con­
ditions under which the women work were improved as recommended
in a recent study.
12. Work projects under public auspices.
Some provision should be made for the unemployables, who cannot
be of use in private industry, to become partially self-supporting.
For this group a work program that is therapeutic in character is
greatly needed.
During the past few years, camps for young men under the Civilian
Conservation Corps and camps for young women, only those under 25
being eligible, have been organized under the National Youth Admin­
istration. In the fall of 1936 work projects were started in these camps
by means of which girls earned $5 a month in cash and their mainte­
nance. Projects included the making of recreational equipment and
supplies for public-health nurses and public hospitals, sewing for fami­
lies on relief and for public institutions, the making of simple articles
of furniture and the repairing of furniture, the cultivation of gardens
and plant nurseries, and the production of visual aids for use in public
schools.
With the variety of projects listed, it would seem possible to develop
a similar program for this group of older women not capable of em­
ployment in private industry but still able to accomplish something
that would make them at least partially self-supporting. The money
derived from the sale of the products made or from the services ren­
dered would assist the women in supporting themselves to some extent.
If it did not seem advisable to have any exchange of money, the
workers could barter the products they made for those made by others,
using scrip coupons as is done in the Self-Help Cooperatives.
Though any such plan as this would not make the women entirely
self-supporting, it would be a great help to their morale. The plan
would have to be worked out with public funds under public auspices.
13. In conclusion.
In view of the fact that only 24 percent of the group of nonfamily
women under study were under 40 years of age, and that about 50
percent were 50 years old or more (23 percent were 60 but under 65
years), it would seem that the majority of these women could scarcely
be absorbed by private industry, regardless of their physical condition.
Moreover, it will be remembered that 31 percent of the total of 12,529
nonfamily women on relief rolls in November 1936 were 65 years of
age or over. Though many of these women have since been trans­
ferred to old-age assistance, a considerable number may be expected
to remain on the general relief rolls because of inability to establish
age, citizenship, or residence. Some provision for long-time care for
this group,_ largely composed of prematurely aged women and those
with chronic disabling illness, who in all likelihood will be dependent




RECOMMENDATIONS

21

On society for the rest of their lives, seems essential. Certainly the
existing system of relief, under local responsibility and subject to
many crises, is not adequate to meet their needs.
A vital necessity in dealing with these women is that the plan be
sufficiently elastic to permit of the type of adjustment best suited to
their individual needs. The unemployables—the aged and the
chronically ill—must be referred to the agencies equipped to serve
them best, thus confining the rehabilitation to those whom it will be
possible to send forth with renewed courage and ability to work to
support themselves.
Unless some intelligent planning is done, the result must be that
the burden of caring for this group will increase in exact ratio to the
inadequacy of the facilities for their care.




PERSONAL INFORMATION
As someone has said, the very condition of being unattached—of
having no relatives or, as is often the case, of being separated from
them, and of not having made a place for one’s self in the world—is a
problem in itself.
With a view to determining their fitness to care for themselves,
inquiry was made into personal facts regarding the women. These
included the following: Age, mother tongue and color, marital status,
length of residence in the State and county, citizenship, ability to use
English or some other language, extent of schooling, and, in addition,
all pertinent facts relating to the women’s work history, health, relief,
and housing.
Age.
As already mentioned, no woman as much as 65 years of age was
included in this study. Such women were omitted purposely, since
any plan of possible rehabilitation for the group as a whole must
eliminate these older women. Then, too, many of those of 65 years
and more had been granted old-age assistance. In spite of this, the
group remaining was not a youthful one, as more than three-fourths
of the women were at least 40, and 40 is known to be “old” when one
is seeking a job. Somewhat less than one-fourth were 60 but under
65 years old; somewhat more than one-fourth were 50 but not yet 60
and the same proportion were 40 but not yet 50. Only about 1 in 14
were less than 30 years old.
Table 3.—Age, by nativity and color
Nativity and color

Age (years)

Women reporting
age and nativity

Native-born
Foreign-born
White

Negro

Number
Total
Percent distribution.
21,
30,
40,
50,
60,

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Number

• 595
100.0

100.0

241
40.5

100.0

242
40.7

100.0

112
18.8

100.0

43
101
158
158
135

7.2
17.0
26.6
26.6
22.7

10
35
62
58
76

4.1
14.5
25.7
24. 1
31.5

33
56
81
53
19

23.1
33.5
21.9
7.9

10
15
47
40

8.9
13.4
42.0
35.7

under 30
under 40
under 50
under 60
under 65___ ____

Percent

i Age not reported by 6 women, nativity and color by 3 women.

The native-white and Negro women—groups of practically the same
size, 241 and 242—show very different age distributions. Twice as
many Negroes as native whites—89 in contrast to 45—were under
40 years, and four times as many whites as Negroes—76 in contrast
to 19—were 60 years or more. That three-eighths of the Negro
22




PERSONAL INFORMATION

women unable to support themselves were less than 40 years of age
suggests, among other things, the possibilities of training. The 112
foreign-born differed greatly from the other groups, having much the
smallest proportion of women below 40 and the highest proportion so
old as 60.
Marital status.
Unattached women on relief are not, for the most part, single women.
All but 1 of the 604 women reported their marital status, and of these
two-fifths were widowed, somewhat less than two-fifths were separated
or divorced, and somewhat more than one-fifth were single.
The district with the largest proportion of widowed had seventenths of its women thus classified. In this district all the women
were white and nearly one-half were 60 years or older. The smallest
proportion of widowed—about one-fourth—was in a district where
five-sixths of the women were Negroes and less than one-twelfth
were as much as 60 years old. The proportion of single women ranged
from 8 percent in one district to 35 percent in another.
Separated and divorced considered as one group (women living
apart from their husbands) varied from 16 percent to 65 percent, the
former in a district in which only white women were included and the
latter in one mainly Negro.
A correlation with age shows that the widows were the oldest of the
groups. Close to two-thirds were 50 years old or more, as compared
with about one-third of those not living with their husbands and some­
what more than two-fifths of the single women. Almost two-fifths of
the single women, about one-third of those separated from their
husbands, and somewhat less than one-tenth of the widows were
under 40 years of age.
Table 4.—Marital status, by age
Women report­
ing age and
marital status
Age (years)
Num­
ber
Total
Percent distribution-- ---- --------

100.0

21, under 30__------30, under 40
40, under 50___ __
50, under 60
60, under 65 _ _____

43
101
159
158
136

Per­
cent

i 597

100.0

Marital status
Single
Num­
ber
132

Widowed

Per­
cent
100.0

22.1
7.2
16.9
26.6
26.5
22.8

16
35
23
26
32

Num­
ber
244

Per­
cent
100.0

40.9
12.1
26.5
17.4
19. 7
24.2

5
16
62
78
83

Separated
Num­
ber
162

Per­
cent
100.0

27 1
2.0
6.6
25.4
32.0
34.0

19
38
52
41
12

Divorced
Num­
ber
59

Per­
cent
100.0

9.9
11.7
23.5
32.1
25.3
7.4

3
12
22
13
9

5.1
20.3
37.3
22.0
15.3

1 Age not reported by 6 women, marital status by 1 woman.

Nativity.
As mentioned in the introduction, though the proportion of Negroes
among the unattached women on relief was greater than that of whites,
a somewhat larger proportion of whites—seven-twelfths as compared
with five-twelfths—was decided upon for this study.
No statistics were available as to the proportion of foreign-born
among the women on relief, but according to the United States Census




24

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193?

of 1930 almost one-third of the women in Chicago who were 20 but
under 65 years of age were foreign-bom. Thus the proportion of
foreign-born among the women included in the present study (19 per­
cent) was much below their average in the woman population. The
opposite is true of Negroes, who constituted less than one-twelfth of
the total according to the census but were just over two-fifths of the
women included in this study.
Of the total group reporting mother tongue and color, four-fifths
were native-born, about equal numbers white and Negro. The three
largest groups of foreign-born were classed broadly as English and
Celtic, Slavic and Lettic, and Germanic.
The foreign-born were confined to certain districts. Seven of the
14 districts covered had considerable numbers, ranging from about
one-fourth to three-eighths of the total. No district was entirely
without foreign-born, though five districts had three or fewer such
women.
The proportion of Negroes in the 10 districts that had Negroes
ranged from about one-eighth to almost nine-tenths.
There were considerable differences in marital status according to
nativity and color. These differences were least among the widowed,
but even in that group were almost one-half of the foreign-born as
compared to just over two-fifths of the native whites and somewhat
under two-fifths of the Negroes. Half of the Negro women were
separated or divorced, in contrast to something below one-third of the
native whites and only one-fifth of the foreign-bom. The foreignborn had a larger proportion of single women—just over three-tenths—
than appeared for the other racial groups. This was followed by
somewhat over one-fourth among the native whites, but only oneseventh of the Negroes were single.
Length of residence in Illinois.
The women as a whole were long-time residents of Illinois. More
than one-half of the 597 women reporting had lived in the State for
20 years or longer, and about one-fourth of these had lived there all
their lives. Practically one-third had lived in the State 10 and under
20 years, and the remainder, only about 1 woman in 7, for less than
10 years. Though no tabulation was made of the time in Cook
County, a review of the schedules shows that the time in the State
and that in the county was in many cases the same.
Three-tenths of the native-white women, as compared with only
about one-twentieth of the Negro women, had lived all their lives in
Illinois. More than one-third of the native whites, as compared with
less than one-fourth of the Negroes, had lived there 20 years or more;
and only about one-tenth of the whites, as compared with more than
one-fifth of the Negroes, had lived there less than 10 years. Of the
foreign-born, practically two-thirds had lived 25 years or longer in
the State; more than nine-tenths had been there at least 10 years.
Judged by the small number of times they had moved during the
scheduled year, the group was not a mobile one. Somewhat under
one-half (45 percent) of the 584 women reporting on this had not
moved at all. Nearly three-tenths had moved once, about one-seventh
twice, and close to one-eighth had moved three or more times. The
foreign-born were more stable than the others, 53 percent not having
moved during the year. The proportions of native whites and Negroes




PERSONAL INFORMATION

25

who had moved three or more times were about the same as for the
group as a whole, roughly one-eighth, but only about one-twentieth
of the foreign-born had moved so often.
Schooling.
Of the 578 women reporting as to amount of schooling, about 1 in
16 stated that they had had none. Five in eight of the total group
had attended grammar school in this country, completing various
grades from 1 to 8; more than one-fourth of these had finished some
grade from 1 to 4 only. One-eighth of the women had attended high
school and about 1 in 25 had had some college training. About oneeighth of the whole group had had some education in a foreign
country.
When nativity and color are correlated with education, some in­
teresting differences are disclosed. Less than 1 percent of the nativewhite women reporting, in contrast to 9 percent of the Negroes and
11 percent of the foreign-born, had had no education.
For this group of women, composed of native and foreign-bom,
white and Negro, inquiry as to their ability to read and write English
was considered important. This information was secured from the
case records and from interviews, no tests being given. All the
native-born, whites and Negroes, spoke English, and about onetwelfth of the white women spoke another language as well. Of
those whose literacy was reported, less than 1 percent of the whites
could not read and write, but 17 percent of the Negroes were unable
to write and 15 percent were unable to read.
Ninety-five percent of the foreign-born spoke English; practically
two-fifths of them spoke another language as well. One-fourth of
the foreign-born whose only language was English could not read,
and two-fifths could not write. However, more than one-third of all
the foreign-bom were able to speak, read, and write the language
of their adopted country.
A number of women were making use of their free time by taking
courses given through a governmental agency. For some this school­
ing consisted of training in primary subjects, while others took more
advanced courses.
Citizenship.
It was surprising to find so many women (45) who were not American
citizens. Of the'44 reporting on nativity and citizenship who were
not citizens, all but 1 were foreign-born. The exception was a nativeborn white woman who married an Englishman before 1922 and so
lost her citizenship. More than two-fifths of the foreign-born were
not citizens. The highest proportion of any of the foreign groups
falling in this class was that of the Slavic and Lettic, more than
three-fifths; the lowest was that of the English and Celtic, less than
three-tenths.
As already pointed out, a large proportion of the group of foreignborn were older women (almost four-fifths were at least 50) and
seven-tenths had been married, so for the most part they had been
interested in matters other than their citizenship. A new con­
sciousness in regard to this had been awakened recently, since
citizenship is one of the requirements for becoming a beneficiary of
old-age assistance. Many women had taken out their first papers so
as to become eligible for such benefits.



ILLNESS
Though the state of the public health is one of the most serious
problems of the time, and though the social and economic effects of
illness were well known to the experts responsible for the plan of social
security evolved and now in operation in this country, no plan for
health insurance, an extremely important phase of social security,
has been worked out as yet. It would seem that the serious conse­
quences of illness, resulting in unemployment and poverty, would
have given rise to plans for alleviating this great burden so common
to the race.
In the present scheme of things there are for individual care the
private doctor, whom only a small portion of the population can afford
to employ, and clinics and kindred institutions especially for the care
of the needy. The individual who is ill is cared for either at home or
in an institution where groups of physically or mentally ill are treated.
In addition to the need for curing ill persons there is the more im­
portant phase of the problem, that of preventing illness. To accom­
plish such prevention, health departments, from the United States
Public Health Service to those of the smallest localities, were estab­
lished and have been functioning for a long time. All these govern­
ment agencies protect the communities that they serve by adopting
and maintaining health standards. In addition to these public agen­
cies are private health organizations that are constantly striving to
improve the conditions under which people must live.
Since unemployment caused by illness is followed frequently by
poverty, all too often those seeking relief are totally disabled or
seriously ill at the time of application. For thos: whose illnesses can
be cured, immediate medical attention should be secured; for the
totally disabled, some form of rehabilitation should be provided.
To secure reliable data regarding the health of the clients in the
present study, every statement on file in the relief offices was examined
and recorded. In some cases a medical diagnosis had been filed and
in other cases only a statement that such diagnosis had been made was
recorded. Where no record of diagnosis of the case was available,
facts were secured from the record as to any complaint made by the
client to the case worker and the disposition of such complaint. In
some cases the client had been referred to a health agency at a date
long previous to the study, in other cases only a recent referral had
been made. In other instances a private doctor was known to be
treating the client, and occasionally medical attention, though needed
and offered, had been refused. Some clients had no complaint to
make—their health was good; certain others had made no complaints
to the C. R. A. but did report illnesses to the investigator at time of
interview.
Diagnosis and complaint.
For 289 of the women with specific diseases reported, a medical
diagnosis was recorded. All but four of these women, those not
reporting age, are shown by age and type of disease in the table on
26




ILLNESS

27

page 30. Of the women who had complained to the C. R. A., but for
whom no diagnosis was recorded, a large proportion (117 of the 240)
had been referred to a health agency, three-tenths of them very
recently.
Some report as to their health was available for all the 604 women,
only 49 of whom had no disability. Of the 555 women who were said
to have a physical or mental disability of some sort, the nature of the
disorder was reported in all but 26 cases. The 529 women whose
diseases were specified may be considered further according to whether
or not the diagnoses of their diseases were medical—that is, profes­
sional -or were simply the women’s own statements or the observa­
tions of personal interviewers. Obviously, such statements and ob­
servations, though not without value, are less authoritative than
medical diagnoses.
While this study was in progress, it was believed that some follow-up
of the women reporting illnesses could be made at the clinics, but this
plan had to be abandoned. A second plan, suggested by a medical
social worker, that a number of the women in the study be brought
to the clinics for examination, likewise could not be put into effect.
Though such procedure would have been ideal from the point of view
of completeness of the data in regard to the physical condition of the
clients, its cost, and the impracticability of getting the women to the
clinics, made it prohibitive. Further, some of the illnesses reported
by the women had long since passed the stage where they could have
been cured.
Classification of disease.
In any analysis of medical records by a layman, the guide followed
must be one of undisputed authority. The one used in this study is
the standard nomenclature of disease compiled by the National Con­
ference on Nomenclature of Disease and published by the Common­
wealth Fund. The topographical classification of this nomenclature
has the following main divisions:1
Diseases of—
The
The
The
The
The
The
The
The
The
The
The

body as a whole, including diseases of the psyche.
integumentary system.
musculo-skeletal system.
respiratory system.
cardiovascular system.
hemic and lymphatic systems.
digestive system.
urogenital system.
endocrine system.
nervous system.
organs of special sense.

The only irregularity in using this classification for the purposes of
the present study was that mental diseases—those of a psychobiological nature—were given a separate division, and that hemic and
lymphatic and endocrine were combined. With these exceptions, the
analysis of the diseases that the women in this study reported, those
known to have been diagnosed medically and those not recorded as
diagnosed, has been made according to the foregoing classification.
1 Standard Classified Nomenclature of Disease. Compiled by the National Conference on Nomenclature
of Disease. New York. The Commonwealth Fund. 1935. p. 1(5,

@1957°—38----- ^



28

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 19 3 7

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL DISEASES
So many of the 529 women with specific disabilities are in more than
one disease group, a few appearing more than once even within a
group, that the total number of cases, as distinct from women, is 1,010.
Mental diseases.
Seventy-three of the women were said to have some mental disorder,
the total "number of cases of disease being 75. The largest number of
women (20) had some psycho-neurosis, such as hysteria, neurasthenia,
psychasthenia, and so forth; 17 of these 20 had been diagnosed as
such. One had been referred recently to a clinic, and two had been
referred at an earlier date. Next in number were the mental defec­
tives, 17 of the total; 12 of these had been so diagnosed, and others
had been referred. Psychopathic personalities, including women who
were emotionally unstable, eccentric, or paranoid or schizoid in type,
numbered 15; 12 of these had been diagnosed, 1 of the others was
receiving medical care from a private physician, and 1 had refused
proffered medical care.
Senility or senile dementia had affected eight of the women and nine
were classed as victims of alcohol. In these groups six and seven
cases, respectively, had been diagnosed, and, in addition, one of the
alcoholics had been given a referral. In the case of one of the senile
women no complaint had been made to the C. R. A. and of course
there was no diagnosis on the record; complaint of disability was
made to the agent at time of survey.
Six women were classed as having paresis, paranoia, dementia
praecox, or manic-depressive psychosis. Five of these cases had
been diagnosed, and the sixth had been referred recently to a health
agency.
Physical illness.
Body as a whole.—When disorders of the body as a whole were
investigated, it was found that 165 women (167 cases) had diseases
falling in this category. Syphilis was the disease occurring most
frequently, 53 such cases being reported. Of the 53 cases, 39 had
been diagnosed, 3 had been referred only recently, and 11 had been
referred previously. When added to syphilis as a disease of the body
as a whole are syphilis of the central nervous system and tabes dorsalis
(locomotor ataxia), the number of cases becomes 62, or slightly over
one-tenth of the number of women reported. Gynecological diseases,
classed under urogenital, some of which were gonorrhea and disorders
resulting from venereal disease, were 52 in number.
Considering That, a large number of the women were in the late
forties, it is not surprising to find many suffering from the menopause.
Thirty-four were so reported. Of these 34, only 8 had been diag­
nosed. Eleven, though they had complained to the C. R. A., had
not been referred to a health agency; 5 had been referred recently, 5
earlier; 3 had refused proffered medical care; and 2 were being treated
by a private physician.
Tuberculosis and obesity were reported for 18 and 17 women,
respectively. Of the cases of tuberculosis, 13 had been so diagnosed
and the remaining 5 had been referred to a health agency. Nine of
the obese had been diagnosed; 1 had refused care; 3 had been referred;
and 4 the C, R. A. had failed to refer.



ILLNESS

29

Malnutrition was reported to be present in 15 cases, for 12 of which
a diagnosis had been made. The other three had refused medical
care, were receiving care from a private doctor, or had been referred
to a medical agency.
Integumentary system.—Diseases of the skin and breast were reported
for 14 women. Nine of these cases were recorded as diagnosed.
Musculoskeletal system.—Disorders of the musculo-skeletal system
were almost as frequent in occurrence as those of the body as a whole;
153 women reported diseases falling in this category, and the cases of
disease numbered 161. By far the largest number of women, 100, had
arthritis or rheumatism. Forty-four of these cases had been diag­
nosed, 14 had been sent to a health agency, and 26 had never been
referred to such an agency.
Fractures and deformities not of recent origin were reported in 27
cases, 11 of which had been diagnosed. In five cases the relief office
had failed to refer the client to a health agency.
Respiratory system.—Respiratory diseases were not so common as
might be expected; only 60 women reported such maladies, and the
cases numbered only 63. Bronchitis (27 cases) and asthma (12 cases)
occurred most frequently. More than one-half of the ailments of
the 60 women had been diagnosed, and about half of the remaining
cases had been referred to a health agency.
Cardiovascular system.—As many women as had diseases of the
musculo-skeletal system had some disease of a cardiovascular nature;
153 women were in this group, and the cases of disease numbered 158.
Ninety-three women had some cardiac condition, of which 60 had been
diagnosed medically and 15 had been referred to a health agency.
Twenty-four of the cases were complaints of cardiac trouble combined
with hypertension (high blood pressure) and 31 cases reported hyper­
tension alone. Only 5 cases of hypotension (low blood pressure) were
reported.
Hemic, lymphatic, and endocrine systems.—Diseases of the hemic,
lymphatic, and endocrine systems were fairly numerous, 41 such cases
being reported. Twenty-two of these were thyroid troubles, of which
14, or practically two-thirds, were known to have been diagnosed
medically.
Digestive system.—Digestive disturbances of many varieties, includ­
ing gastritis, gastro-enteritis, colitis, cholecystitis (gall-bladder dis­
ease), hemorrhoids, fistiila, hernia, and others, were reported for 84
women, the cases of disease numbering 86. One-half of the cases
were recorded as diagnosed and others had been given a referral.
Urogenital system.—Of the 78 women with diseases of the urogenital
tract, 52 were of a gynecological nature. The diseases grouped here
included gonorrhea, salpingitis, cervicitis, fibroid uterus, ovarian cyst,
and so forth. Of the 52 cases of this nature, 31 were recorded as
diagnosed and 12 others had been referred (5 of them recently).
Nervous system.—Twenty-five of the 53 diseases of the nervous sys­
tem were characterized as neuritis. Nine cases of locomotor ataxia
and syphilis of the central nervous system were reported and all had
been diagnosed as such.
Organs of special sense.—As many as 107 women had diseases of the
organs of special sense, the cases of such illness numbering 114.
Eighty were eye troubles. N ot far from one-third of the eye cases had
been diagnosed, and another one-third had been referred to a health
agency.



30

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

Dental needs.
This condition was reported on for less than two-fifths of the 604
women. Only one-seventh of the women with such a report required
no dental work; two in three should have had dental care and almost
one in five needed dentures.
Table 5.—Diseases affecting the women—diagnosed cases, by age
Number of women with diseases diag­
nosed as specified whose ages were—
Disease as diagnosed

number1

21, under 40, under 50, under 60, under
40 years 50 years 60 years 65 years

Number of women reported.

2 285

70

75

69

71

Mental diseases or deficiency:
Number of women reported--------Percent this group forms of totali *
3-

57
20.0

15
21.4

17
22.7

10
14.5

15
21.1

11
5
17
5
12
5

7
2
3

1
2
7
3
2
1
1

2

1
1
4
2
5
1
1

s 99
34.7

32
45. 7

30
11
12
11
9
8
12

10
1
9
4
2
2
4

9
3.2

2
2. 9

9

2

1

8 72
25.3

11
15.7

15
20.0

21
30.4

25
35.2

39
7
11
7
8

1
2
3
3
2

10
1
2
2

11
1
5
4

17
3
1
2
2

32
11. 2

6
8.6

11
14.7

8
11.6

7
9.9

5
13
14

1
3
2

8
3

3
2
3

6

8 85
29.8

9
12.9

22
29.3

22
31.9

32
45.1

39
16
16

7
2

9
5
5
]
2

11
6
4
1

12
5
5
5
6

4
5.7

10
13.3

4
5.8

11
15.5

Mental deficiency-----------------------------------Psychosis.................-.............. .......................—
Psycho-neurosis.................... ...............................
Alcoholism......... .................. ................................
Psychopathic personality.......... ............ ..........
Senility and senile dementia---------------------Other and combination of 2 or more of above4. * 6
Body as a whole (physical):
Number of women reported---------------------------Percent this group forms of total 3_.---------------Syphilis (exclusive of central nervous sys­
tem)....... ................................................... ..........
Diabetes..................-....................... .............. —
Tuberculosis------------------------------------------Malnutrition..................... ......................... ..........
Obesity............................. —.........-......................
Menopause........._ -............................... - - -..........
Other and combination of 2 or more of above4.
Integumentary system:
Number of women reported---------------------------Percent this group forms of total3-------------------Ulcers and other skin diseases 4-----------------Musculo-skeletal system:
Number of women reported---------------------------Percent this group forms of total3-------------------Arthritis and rheumatism------------------------Practures
—...________________ __
Old conditions and deformities-----------------Feet------------------------------------------- --------­
Other and combination of 2 or more of above 4.
Respiratory system:
Number of women reported---------------------------Percent this group forms of total3------------------Asthma______________________ __________
Bronchitis
Other and combination of 2 or more of above 4.
Cardiovascular system:
Number of women reported------- -------------------Percent this group forms of total3------------------Cardiac (exclusive of following)-----------------Cardiac and hypertension------------------------Hypertension (exclusive of foregoing)---------Varicose veins------------- ---------............ ...........
Other and combination of 2 or more of above 4.
Hemic, lymphatic, and endocrine systems:
Number of women reported---------------------------Percent this group forms of total3-------------------

i

8
29
10.2

2
3
21
30.4

12
16.9

8
3
1
2
3
3
1

34 3
45.—

2
2

16
6
2
2
3
3
3




3
1
4
6
8.5

1
1.3

6

5
2
12
3
2
14
a
3
Details aggregate more than totals because many women had more than one disease.
Of the 289 women whose diseases had been diagnosed, 4 did not report age.
Based on number with disease and age reported.
Groups with less than 5 women have been combined.
Excludes 1 woman with age not reported.
Excludes 3 women with age not reported.
Anemia and secondary anemia.
Thyroid disturbances--------------

3
3
4
*
6

3

3

3
i

1

5
6

ILLNESS

31

Table 5.—Diseases affecting the women—diagnosed cases, by age—Continued
Number of women with diseases diag­
nosed as specified whose ages were—
Disease as diagnosed

Total
number
21, under 40, under 50, under 60, under
40 years 50 years 60 years 65 years

pigestive system:
Number of women reported_________
Percent this group forms of total3__________

®43
15. 1

10
13.3

13
18.8

5
2
1

2
4

2

42
14.7

20
28.6

14
18.7

6
8.7

7
31
4

1
19

3
10
1

2
1
3

35
12.3

7
10.0

12
16.0

10
14. 5

6
8.5

5
11
5
14

3

2

4

6

4

1

5 31
10.9

4
5.7

6
8.0

16
23.2

7.0

22
9

Gastritis, gastro-enteritis________
Colitis____________________
Chronic constipation........................
Ulcers_____________________
Hernia____________ ______ _
Cholecystitis___________________ _
Other and combination of 2 or more of above 4_
Urogenital system:
Number of women reported_______
Percent this group forms of total 3-_..........

9
12.9

1
3

0

13
3

2
3

7
5
7
8
5
7
4

Cystitis. .....................................................
Gynecological complaints_____________
Other and combination of 2 or more of above4
Nervous system:
Number of women reported.. _
Percent this group forms of total 3.__..............
Tabes dorsalis___ ______________ .. .
Neuritis
Other and combination of 2 or more of above4
Organs of special sense:
Number of women reported_______________
Percent this group forms of total3
Eye...........................
....................... ......... ...
Other and combination of 2 or more of above <.

15.5

1
2.8

3 Based on number with disease and age reported.
4 Groups with less than 5 women have been combined.
5 Excludes 1 woman with age not reported.

Table 6.—Diseases affecting the women—all cases, by age

Total
ber i

Women with disease and age reported_________ _
Cases of disease..........................................................
Mental diseases or deficiency:
Number of women reported
Percent this group forms of total3
Mental deficiency................................................
Psychoneurosis.______ _______ ___________
Psychopathic personality...................................
Other4
Body as a whole (physical):
Number of women reported_____ _______ _____
Percent this group forms of total 3-_..................... .
Syphilis (exclusive of 4 cases in central nervoussystem)®____ ____________________
Diabetes. __________ ______________ ______
Tuberculosis ................. ....................................
Malnutrition __________________________
Obesity__ __________ _____________ ______
Menopause...........................................................
Other4_________ ______ __________________

i
3
3
5

Number of women with diseases reported
as specified whose ages were—
21,

under 40, under 50, under 60, under
40 years 50 years 60 years 65 years

3 523
1.001

120
195

140
292

142
282

121
232

73
14. 0

18
15.0

23
16.4

12
8.5

20
16.5

17
20
15
23

9
3
3
3

3
9
4
8

3
3
2
4

2
5
6
8

8 163
31.2

46
38.3

58
41. 4

42
29.6

17
14.0

52
18
21
11
2
2
13
5
4
2
18
10
5
3
15
5
3
3
4
17
4
4
7
2
33
3
17
2
11
17
5
4
3
5
Details aggregate more than totals because many women had more than one disease.
Of the 604 women, 49 had no disease; for 26 the disease was not reported; for 6 the age was not reported.
Based on number with disease and age reported. 4 Groups with less than 10 have been combined.
Excludes 2 women with age not reported. 01 under 40 years; 1, 40 and under 50; 2, 50 and under 60.




32

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7
Table 6.—Diseases affecting the women—all cases, by age—Continued

Disease as reported

Total
num­
ber

Number of women with diseases reported
as specified whose ages were—
21, under 40, under 50, under 60, under
40 years 50 years 60 years 65 years

Integumentary system:
Number of women reportedPercent this group forms of total8-........................

14
2. 7

Ulcers and other skin diseases3
4-----------------Musculo-skeletal system:
Number of women reported---------------—
Percent this group forms of total3--------------------

14

2

3

2

7

3 151
28.9

16
13.3

38
27.1

50
35.2

47
38.8

99
27
15
18

6
5
3
3

25
5
4
4

34
12
2
5

34
5
6
6

7 59
11.3

9
7.5

22
15.7

14
9.9

14
11.6

12
26
24

1
3
5

2
12
10

7
3
4

2
8
5

8 150
28. 7

17
14.2

37
26.4

52
36. 6

44
36.4

Cardiac (exclusive of following).......................
Cardiac and hypertension------------------------Hypertension (exclusive of foregoing)
Varicose veins------------------------------------------

68
24
30
20
13

11
2
2
2

15
7
7
5
5

24
8
12
6
3

18
7
9
7
5

Hemic, lymphatic, and endocrine systems:
Number of women reported---------------------------Percent this group forms of total3. ------- —

40
7.6

6
5.0

13
9.3

8
5.6

13
10.7

Thyroid disturbances..........................................

15
22
4

2
3
1

8
4
2

7
1

Digestive system:
Number of women reported...... ...............................
Percent this group forms of total3------ -------------

7 83
15.9

19
13.6

22
15.5

22
18.2

Arthritis and rheumatism. _ ------- ------------Old conditions and deformities.......... ..............
Feet----- ------- -----------------------------------------Other4----------- -------- ------------------------------Respiratory system:
Number of women reported
Percent this group forms of total >-------------------Asthma------ -------------------- --------- ------------Bronchitis...---------- ------- -----------------------Other4. ----------- --------- ------------ --------------Cardiovascular system:
Number of women reported------------------------Percent this group forms of total8--------------------

Ulcers------ -------- -------------------------------------Cholecystitis................ ................. .............. .........
Other4---- ------------ ------------------------- -----Urogenital system:
Number of women reported........ ................. ..........
Percent this group forms of total3...........................
Urinary complaints. ................................ .........
Gynecological complaints______ ____ ______
Other4
Nervous system:
Number of women reported.. --------------------- .
Percent this group forms of total3...........................
Neuritis_________ _______________________
Other4------------------------------------------ ------Organs of special sense:
Number of women reported---------- ------ ---------Percent this group forms of total3------------ ----Eye............................................................................
Ear--------- -------------------------------------- --------

3 Based on number with disease and age reported.
4 Groups with less than 10 have been combined.
6 Excludes 2 women with age not reported.
7 Excludes 1 woman with age not reported.
8 Excludes 3 women with age not reported.




2
1.7

20
16.7

3
2.1

2
1.4

7
5.8

5
8

13
22
18
32

5
3
12

4
6
3
7

6
6
4
7

3
5
8
6

78
14.9

34
28. 3

20
14.3

14
9.9

10
8.3

15
52
11

3
29
2

3
14
3

7
5
2

2
4
4

53
10. 1

7
5.8

19
13.6

17
12.0

10
8. 3

25
28

3
4

9
10

6
11

7
3

f 106
20.3

16
13.3

31
22. 1

41
28.9

18
14.9

79
21
10
3

9
3
5
1

26
2
4
1

30
12

14
4
1

1

ILLNESS

33

ILLNESS AND AGE
Certain illnesses that befall the human race are closely related to
age, while others may occur at any time in the life of the individual.
Many of the ailments of which these women were victims are diseases
°f. youth as well as of age. Medical attention of the proper sort, ad­
ministered with little or no delay, would have prevented some of the
disabilities found existing in these women.
Diagnosed cases.
For all but 4 of the 289 women the diagnoses of whose diseases were
recorded m the C. R. A., the patients’ ages were reported. The corre­
lation of disease and age is given in table 5. The distribution of the
women in the various age groups is surprisingly even, ranging only
from 69 women at SO and under 60 to 75 at 40 and under 50.
The aggregate of the disease-group totals is large (534), indicating
that very many women appear in more than one group.
Diseases of the body as a whole constitute the largest group, with
age reported for all but 1 of the 100 wqmen. Only one-third of’them
were as much as 50 years of age, not quite one-eighth being as much as
60. Seven in 10 of the women with syphilis—much the most frequent
disease—were under 50; 3 in 4 of these with tuberculosis were under
40, and none were so much as 60.
The disease group second in size—the cardiovascular, with a total of
88 women—had age reported for 85. Only 9 women under 40, in
contrast to 32 of those as much as 60, had diseases in this group. Heart
trouble was the most common disorder, followed by high blood pressure
(hypertension).
As might be expected, the musculo-skeletal group (73 in all, 72
reporting age) were chiefly women at least 50 years old. Arthritis
and rheumatism, much the most common diseases in this group
affected only one woman of less than 40 years.
The 57 women with mental disorders were fairly evenly distributed
as to age. The largest group of cases—17—were diagnosed as
psycho-neurosis.
Diseases of the urogenital system—nearly three-fourths of them
gynecological—decreased with age, only 8 of the 42 women being as
much as 50.
The digestive-disease group contained 44 women, but for 1 of them
age was not reported. More than one-half the women (24) were at
least 50 years old. All the 7 with gastritis or gastro-enteritis were 50
or more, but none of the 5 with colitis were so much as 40.
The other disease groups ranged in size from 35 to 9 women. (For
details see table 5.)
Among the women of 50 and over, diseases of the cardiovascular
system ranked first and those of the musculo-skeletal system ranked
second. Among the women of under 50 years, diseases of the body as a
whole—chiefly syphilis and tuberculosis—ranked first, followed by the
urogenital group among the youngest women and by heart diseases
aiming the women of 40 and under 50. It would appear, from the
indications of these fairly small numbers, that diseases affecting the
body as a whole decreased with age and ceased to be important at 60
years, and that diseases of the cardiovascular and the musculo­
skeletal systems, which increased steadily with age, were unimportant




34

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 19 3 7

among women under 40. A multiplicity of diseases, with the diag­
nosed disabilities of one woman appearing in more than one disease
group, were slightly more common among the women of 40 and under
50 than among the others.
All women with diseases specified.
The much larger groups that include all women, instead of only the
cases professionally diagnosed, are shown by age in table 6. All but
six of the women reporting diseases also reported their ages.
Nine of the 17 women with mental deficiencies were not yet 40 years
of age, but 5 were at least 50. Eight of the 20 with psycho-neurosis
were 50 or older, as were 8 of the 15 with psychopathic personality.
One-third of the 52 women who reported that they had syphilis,
and 10 of the 18 with tuberculosis, were under 40. Five of the 15
suffering from malnutrition and 4 of the 17 victims of obesity were
under 40, but more than one-half of the latter group were at least 50.
Not many of the younger women had diseases of the musculo­
skeletal system. Nearly seven-tenths of the 99 women with arthritis
and rheumatism were at least 50 years old. Diseases of the respira­
tory system likewise -were more common among the older women.
Only 3 of the 26 women having bronchitis were under 40 years; 8
were at least 60.
Heart trouble also was found to be more prevalent among the older
women. More than three-fifths of the 92 women with a cardiac
affection were 50 years or older. Fifteen of the 24 with heart trouble
and high blood pressure, 21 of the 30 with high blood pressure alone,
were at least 50.
Diseases of the hemic, lymphatic, and endocrine systems were not
especially afflictions of age, though 15 of the 22 cases of thyroid dis­
turbance were at least 50 years old. Ten of the 15 cases of anemia
were women below 50.
More detailed figures for digestive disorders show that 5 of the 8
cases of colitis and 3 of the 8 of chronic constipation were women not
yet 40. Fifteen of the 18 with some gall-bladder ailment and 17 of
the 22 with certain gastro-intestinal illnesses were 40 or more.
Not far from three-fifths of the 52 women with some gynecological
complaint were under 40.
Diseases of the central nervous system were not common among
the young. Only 1 of the 4 suffering from syphilis of the central
nervous system, only 3 of the 25 who had neuritis, and only 1 of the
6 with neuralgia were under 40.
Only 9 of the 79 women with eye trouble, and only 3 of the 21 with
a disease of the ear, were below 40 years, but 5 of the 10 with a nose
and throat affection were not yet 40.
Incidence of disease among whites and Negroes.
Table 7 correlates disease with nativity and color of the women
studied.
_
.
When mental diseases and deficiencies were examined as to their
frequency among the women, about the same proportion, approxi­
mately one-fifth of the native whites and one-sixth of the foreignborn, in contrast to only about one-twentieth of the Negroes, fell in
this group.




ILLNESS

35

In diseases of the body as a whole, nearly two-fifths of the Negroes,
about three-tenths of the native whites, and about one-sixth of the
foreign-born were so classed. These great differences were due to a
large extent to the number of cases of syphilis reported.
Only small proportions—1 in 40 of the whites, about 1 in 60 of the
Negroes, and 1 in 25 of the foreign-bom—had a disease of the integu­
mentary system.
More nearly similar proportions—roughly one-fourth of the native
whites and of the Negroes and one-third of the foreign-born—had
some disease of the musculo-skeletal system. This larger proportion
of the foreign-born may be due to the fact that these women were
older than the others.
. Roughly one-ninth of each of the three racial groups had some
disease reported as respiratory.
Heart trouble and its respective ills were reported for nearly onefourth of the native-white women and for one-third of the Negroes
and of the foreign-born.
Diseases of the hemic, lymphatic, and endocrine systems, mainly
thyroid trouble and anemia, were reported for about one-tenth of the
native whites, for only about one-twentieth of the Negroes, and about
one-fourteenth of the foreign-born.
The proportions of the three groups of women who were victims of
digestive diseases varied less; roughly one-sixth of the native whites
and of the foreign-bom and about one-seventh of the Negroes, had
some ailment thus classified.
Urogenital diseases, a large part of which were gynecological com­
plaints (more common to the Negroes than to the whites), were
reported for one-fifth of the Negroes, about one-eighth of the native
whites, and about one-twelfth of the foreign-born.
About one-eighth of the native-white women and almost as large a
proportion of the Negroes, as compared with only about 1 in 20 of
the foreign-born, had some nervous disease. The largest numbers of
these cases bad neuritis.
Practically one-fourth of the foreign-bom and the Negroes, and
about one-seventh of the native-born whites, had some disease of the
organs of special sense. For the most part, the eye was the organ
affected.
Table 7.—Diseases affecting the women, by nativity and color of women
Number of women with diseases reported
as specified
Disease as reported

Native-born
Total
women 1
White

Women with disease and nativity reported______
________
Cases of disease-.
__________________ _________
Mental diseases or deficiency:
Number of women reporting.......... ........................... .....
Percent this group forms of total *__________________
Mental deficiency_____ ___________ ____ __
Psycho-neurosis_ ____________________
_
Psychopathic personality ________________
Other 6_______________ ____ _________________
For footnotes see end of table.




Negro

Foreignborn

2 526
1,000

215
403

210
408

101
189

3 71
13.5

41
19.1

12
5.7

18
17.8

16
20
15
22

8
12
9
14

3
6
2
1

5
2
4
7

36

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON BELIEF IN CHICAGO, 19 37

Table

7.—Diseases affecting the women, by nativity and color of women—Continued
Number of women with diseases reported
as specified
Disease as reported
Total
women 1

Body as a whole (physical):

Native born
White

born

Negro

63
29.3

82
39.0

19
18.8

53
13
17
15
17
34
17
Integumentary system:

8 164
31.2

17
4
9
10
4
14
6

35
7
5
3
8
16
9

1
2
3
2
5
4
2

14
2.7

6
2.8

4
1.9

4
4.0

14

Organs of special sense:
Percent this group forms of total4 - --------------- ---------------Other8-.................................................... .................................

21
10
3
3

8 59
11.2

24
11.2

23
11.0

12
11.9

5
12
9

4
8
12

2
7
3

153
29.1

49
22.8

70
33.3

34
33.7

24
7
6
7
6

28
16
16
7
5

17
1
9
6
3

40
7.6

23
10.7

10
4.8

7
6.9

10
13
1

2
5
4

4
4

84
16.0

38
17.7

29
13.8

17
16.8

3
11
12
13

7
8
3
12

3
4
3
7

78
14.8

27
12.6

42
20.0

9
8.9

7
16
4

6
30
6

2
6
1

53
10.1

26
12.1

22
10.5

5
5.0

25
28

Nervous system:

39
6
7
6

15
52
11

Urogenital system:

39
10
6
9

13
23
18
32

Digestive system:

34
33.7

12
22
9

Hemic, lymphatic, and endocrine systems:

4

56
26.7

69
24
31
20
14

Cardiovascular system:

4

62
28.8

11
27
24

Respiratory system:

6

^ 152
28.9
99
26
16
18

Musculo-skeletal system:

11
15

12
10

2
3

107
20.3
73
16
19

33
15.3
20
8
6

50
23.8
37
1
12

24
23.8
16
7
1

1 Details aggregate more than totals because many women had more than one disease.
2 Of the 604 women, 49 had no disease, for 26 the disease was not reported, for 3 nativity was not reported.
3 Excludes 2 women with nativity not reported.
4 Based on number with disease and nativity reported.
6 Groups with less than 10 have been combined.
6 Excludes 1 woman with nativity not reported.




37

ILLNESS

Estimated extent of incapacity.
To serve as a means of determining how incapacitated these women
were, all the pertinent data for each individual were evaluated by the
director of the study and the agent responsible for the interview.
Significant categories were set up and nearly all the women were
classified in one of the following:
Totally incapacitated (permanently or temporarily):
Can care for self.
Cannot care for self.
Partially incapacitated due to—
Age.
Physical condition.
Mental condition.
Mental and physical condition.
Mental condition and age.
Not incapacitated.

The task was not a small one and the results are far from perfect,
but the conclusions should be of some value and they are presented
for what they are worth. Attention is called to the fact that the
categories have been labeled “estimated extent of incapacity.” It was
thought at first that some percentage basis could be worked out on
which all the women could be scored, but the difficulties in this were
insurmountable.
Of the 591 women for whom incapacity has been estimated, ap­
proximately one-fourth were considered to be totally disabled, about
five-eighths partially so, and only about one-eighth were estimated as
physically fit.
Naturally, the proportion of those totally incapacitated increased
with age. Of the 142 women who were under 40 years old, 17, or
about 1 in 8, were totally incapacitated; however, none of these 17
were physically unable to care for themselves. Twenty-three, or
more than one-seventh, of the 155 women 40 and under 50 years of age
were completely disabled; 3 of these 23 could not care for themselves
physically. One in 4 of the 153 women 50 and under 60 years old,
were wholly incapacitated; 2 of these 38 were unable to care for
themselves. An even larger proportion, exactly two-fifths, of the
135 women who were 60 and under 65 were entirely incapacitated,
9 of the 54 being unable to care for themselves in any respect.
Table 8.—Estimated

Extent and cause of
incapacity

extent and cause of incapacity, by age

Women with
age and
incapacity
reported

Women whose ages were—
21, under
40 years

40, under
50 years

50, under
60 years

60, under
65 years

Num­
ber
Total
Total incapacity_______ ____
Can care for self
Partial incapacity.....................
Physical.............. ................
Mental and physical
No incapacity apparent..........




Per­
cent

Num­
ber

Per­
cent

Num­
ber

Per­
cent

Num­
ber

Per­
cent

Num­
ber

585

100.0

142

100.0

155

100.0

153

100.0

135

100.0

132
14
118
375
80
224
19
42
10
78

22.6
2.4
20.2
64. 1
13.7
38.3
3.2
7.2
1.7
13.3

17

12.0

17
83

12. 0
58.5

70
9
4

49.3
6.3
2.8

38
2
36
102
23
60
3
15
1
13

24.8
1.3
23.5
66.7
15. 0
39.2
2.0
9.8
.7
8.5

40.0
6. 7
33.3
57.0
40.7
3.0

29.6

14.8
1.9
12.9
72.9
1.3
58. 1
4.5
8.4
.6
12.3

54
9
45
77
55
4

42

23
3
20
113
2
90
7
13
1
19

10
8
4

7.4
5.9
3.0

Per­
cent

38

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON BELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

Close to three-fifths of the 142 women under 40 years of age were
partially incapacitated due to physical or mental causes—or both—a
little more than 5 in 6 of these to physical causes alone, 1 m 9 to mental
causes alone, and the remainder to both causes. Not far from
three-fourths of those 40 and under 50 years old were partially disabled,
about 4 in 5 of these due to physical conditions only and most of the
remainder to mental or a combination of mental and physical causes
Two-thirds of the 153 women of 50 and under 60 years fell in the
group of partial incapacity. Among these women the first significant
indication of age as a disabling factor is seen. Two in 9 of the 102
partially incapacitated were in that condition due to age, almost 3 m 5
due to physical handicap alone, and the remainder to causes that
included a mental ailment.
Almost three-fifths of the 135 women in the oldest group, 60 and
under 65 years, were partially disabled, more than 7 in 10 of them by
age. About 1 in 8 were disabled by a combination of mental and
physical conditions, and just over 1 in 10 by mental condition and age.
Great differences were noted in the proportions of the various
nativity and color groups reported as having some incapacity Over
three-tenths of the foreign-born—a group considerably older than the
native-born—were totally incapacitated, as compared with about
one-fourth of the native whites and slightly more than one-sixth of the
Negroes. Though totally incapacitated as far as self-support was
concerned, large numbers in each of the three groups could care for
themselves physically.
. , ,
The largest proportions of the women were partially disabled due to
physical causes; about three-tenths of the foreign-born, one-third of
the native whites, and somewhat under one-half of the Negroes were
in this condition due to physical ills only. Much smaller proportions
of the Negroes than of the other races were disabled due to physical
conditions coupled with mental causes or age. Somewhat under onetwentieth of the native whites, in contrast to about one-fortieth of the
foreign-born and of the Negro women, were incapacitated by mental
causes only.
.
.
.
About 1 in 8 of all the women reported had no incapacity. One in
14 of the native whites, 1 in 4 of the Negroes, but only about 1 m 35
of the foreign-born were so reported.
Illness and extent of incapacity.
Though an illness prevents an individual from deriving the most out
of life, the degrees of disability resulting vary greatly. Sometimes the
victim is totally incapacitated but not permanently so, and m other
cases a partial disability may be permanent. In the present study,
many of the women who were incapacitated could be so improved by
proper medical attention that they would be able to care for them­
selves, and those with temporary partial disability could be completely
cured.
Of the 26 women victims of psychoses or psychoneuroses, 5 were
totally incapacitated and the remainder were partially so. Eight of
the 17 mental defectives were completely disabled. _ Three of the 15
with a psychopathic personality fell in the totally disabled group.
Total disability was suffered by one-third of the 50 women suffering
from syphilis, exclusive of that of the central nervous system. A much
smaller proportion, 4 in 34, of the women whose illness was attributed




ILLNESS

39

to the menopause were completely incapacitated. Varying propor­
tions of the women whose illness was some other disability of the body
as a whole—for example, 3 of the 13 with diabetes, 8 of the 18 with
tuberculosis, 4 of the 14 with malnutrition, and 5 of the 17 with
obesity—were totally disabled. It must be remembered that a few
of these women had more than one ailment.
Diseases of the integumentary system, the incidence of which was
much less than that of most other classes, incapacitated one-half of
the women affected.
A large proportion, more than one-fifth, of the 99 women suffering
from arthritis and rheumatism were totally incapacitated. Two of
the 7 women suffering from fractures, 7 of the 26 who had some
deformity not of recent origin, and 4 of the 16 with some disease of
the feet were completely disabled.
Asthmatic and bronchial conditions were disabling to some of the
women. Three of the 11 victims of the first named and 2 of the 27
suffering from the latter were so classified.
Large proportions of those suffering from heart trouble and its allied
ills were completely disabled. Thirty-one of the 92 who had heart
trouble only, 12 of the 23 who had heart trouble and high blood pres­
sure, and 9 of the 29 for whom only high blood pressure was reported,
fell in this group.
Seven of the 17 who had anemia and 9 of the 24 suffering from some
thyroid disorder were totally incapacitated.
Women suffering from diseases of the digestive system were totally
incapacitated in one-fifth of the cases.
Of the 60 women with gynecological complaints for whom extent of
incapacity was noted, 10 were totally disabled. Six of the 21 with
urinary diseases also were completely incapacitated.
All 6 of the women with locomotor ataxia and 1 of the 4 with syphilis
of the central nervous system were totally disabled. Seven of the 25
with neuritis were so classified.
Approximately one-fifth of the 79 women with some disease of the
eye were totally disabled, and 5 of the 21 suffering from an affection
of the ear likewise were wholly incapacitated.
Type of medical care received in January 1937.2
An examination was made of the type of medical care received by
these women during January 1937. Though great stress has been
laid on the urgent need of medical care for those ailing, only slightly
more than one-half of the 529 reporting some illness were receiving
such attention during that month. Seven-tenths of these 274 were
being cared for at private clinics, paid for by the C. R. A., and about
one-fifth were being served by some governmental health service. Of
the large group needing medical care but not receiving it (250), about
three-fifths had never been referred by the C. R. A., approximately
one-fourth had failed to use the referral given them, and slightly more
than one-tenth had refused care.
3 For a detailed account of relief in January 1937 see p. 71.




EMPLOYMENT
In the hope of securing valuable data as to the employment history
of these women on relief, questions were asked as to the duration of
their total work history; their usual occupation—the one at which
ordinarily they had worked the most steadily; their alternate occupa­
tion—the one to which they turned when they no longer could find
employment at their usual work; and a detailed work history from the
autumn of 1929 to the date of study, February 1, 1937, a period cover­
ing more than 7 years in the lives of these women and including one of
the worst depressions in the history of this country. For this detailed
work history, questions were asked the clients as to the exact types of
work pursued, the dates of employment, the earnings per month,
the names and addresses of employers, and the reasons for leaving jobs.
Needless to say, these facts concerning the employment of the women
were most difficult to secure.
When the usual employment was analyzed—that is, the work in
which they made a living before reverses altered their lives—the 601
women (3 women did not report as to usual occupation) fell in three
distinct classes. The largest group, comprising about seven-eighths
(521) of the total reporting, had been employed women; 46 women,
close to one-twelfth, had been in business for themselves; and 34,
somewhat more than one-twentieth, had not been gainfully occupied.
Number

Women with own business
Rooming-house keeper
Dressmaker 10
Hairdresser
3
Miscellaneous 10

Percent

46

100.0

23

50.0
21.7
6.5
21.7

Women employed by others. 521
Manufacturing 86
Transportation and communication_____________
Trade 42
Professional service 29
Domestic and personal service 312
In private families 202
Not in private families 110
Clerical service 31
Miscellaneous________________________ ,_______
Two occupations concurrently
4

100.0
5

12

16. 5
1. 0
8. 1
5. 6
59. 9
38. 8
21. 1
6. 0
2. 3
.8

Women with own business.
The small group of women who had been in business for themselves,
with a past history obviously very different from that of the employed
women, may be described briefly as follows:
As their usual occupation, 23 of these women reported that they had
kept rooming houses, 10 had been dressmakers, and 3 had been hair­
dressers. The remaining 10 had operated some sort of shop or res­
taurant, had managed their own building, or had been a caterer,
chiropodist, embroiderer, canvasser.
40




EMPLOYMENT

41

They were not a young group. Twenty-nine, or nearly two-thirds,
were as much as 50 years old, more than one-fourth being 60 or more.
Nineteen were native whites, 17 were Negroes, and 10 were foreignborn. Most of the 37 women who reported on education in this coun­
try had gone no farther than grammar school; only 6 had attended
high school.
Of the 36 who reported the time they had been engaged in their
own business, more than two-fifths had been so occupied for 20 years
or longer. Eleven of the 15 who reported the time elapsed since they
had given up business gave such time as at least a year. (For employ­
ment on principal job since 1929, see p. 46.)
WOMEN EMPLOYED BY OTHERS
Industry of usual occupation.
Three-fifths of the 521 women who had been employed by other
persons reported that their usual occupation had been in domestic and
personal service. Nearly two-thirds of this group had worked in
private families, while the remainder had been employed in restaurants,
hotels, cafeterias, laundry or dry-cleaning establishments, beauty
parlors, and so forth. The next group, about one-sixth, had been in
manufacturing plants, the largest number in clothing factories and
the next in food factories, including meat-packing plants. Trade
pursuits had given employment to the next largest group, one-half as
many as in manufacturing. By far the largest number of those in
trade had been saleswomen in stores. Practically the same numbers
had been engaged in clerical pursuits and professional service, 31 in the
former and 29 in the latter.
Table 9.—Industry of usual occupation, by nativity and color of women
Native born

Women re­
porting

Foreign born
White

Industry of usual occupation

Negro

Num­
ber
All industries______ _______ ___
Manufacturing____ ______ _____
Transportation and communication..........
Trade_______________ _ _
Professional service_______
Domestic and personal service____
In private families____
Not in private families_____ _ _ _
Clerical..._______________
M iscellaneous .............
Two occupations concurrently...

Per­
cent

i 519

100.0

204

100.0

221

86
5
41
29
311
201
110
31
12
4

16.6
1.0
7.9
5.6
59.9
38.7
21.2
6.0
2 3
.8

43
5
27
21
76
37
39
26

21.1
2.5
13.2
10.3
37.3
18.1
19. 1
12. 7

22

1

.5

Num­
ber

Per­
cent

Num­
ber

Per­
cent

Num­
ber

Per­
cent

100.0

94

100.0

4
4
180
126
54
3

1.8
1.8
81.4
57.0
24.4

10

10 6

55
38
17

40.4
18.1

1

.5

2

2.1

1 Excludes 2 women with nativity not reported.

When nativity and color were correlated with the usual occupation
of the women, it was found that close to three-fifths of the Negroes,
two-fifths of the foreign-born, and less than one-fifth of the native
whites had worked, for private families. Approximately one-fifth of
the native-born whites and the foreign-born, and almost one-fourth of
the Negroes, reported their usual work to be in hotels, restaurants,




42

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

laundries, beauty shops, and so forth. More than one-fifth of the
native-born whites and the foreign-born, but only one-tenth of the
Negroes, usually were engaged in some manufacturing pursuit. No
other industry had occupied more than 2 percent of the Negroes, but 11
percent of the foreign-born gave trade as their usual occupation and
from 10 to 13 percent of the native whites were in professional service,
in clerical service, and in trade.
Of the women whose usual occupation was in private homes, fiveeighths were Negroes, the remainder being about equally divided
between foreign-born and native-born whites. Of those in other
domestic and personal service, about one-half were Negroes; more than
two-thirds of the remainder were native-born whites. Of the manu­
facturing group, one-half were native-born whites, the others being
about equally divided between Negroes and foreign-born. Twothirds of the women in trade were native whites; less than one-tenth
were Negroes. In clerical service five-sixths and in professional
service seven-tenths were native-born white women.
Years worked.
Three-fourths of the women who had been employed reported how
long they had worked. For the most part they had had long work
histories. Practically three-tenths had worked 25 years or more and
a similar proportion 15 but under 25 years. About one-sixth had a
work history of 10 and under 15 years, and the remainder, about onefourth, one of less than 10 years.
All but two of the women who reported number of years worked
reported age also. Naturally the older women reported the longer
work histories. Close to two-fifths of the 36 women below 30 years
.of age had worked under 5 years; less than one-fourth had been em­
ployed as long as 10 years. About one-sixth of the 68 who were 30
and under 40 had a work history of less than 5 years; close to threefifths had worked 10 but under 25 years. Seven-tenths of the 102
women who were 40 and under 50 had a work history of 10 years or
longer, more than two-fifths reporting 20 years or more. Well over
one-half of the 102 women of 50 and under 60 years had worked 20
years or more, two-fifths of them as long as 25 years. The majority
of the 82 women as much as 60 years old had worked 25 years or
longer.
Age and occupation.
The age distribution of women whose usual occupation was in domes­
tic and personal service was much the same for the group who had
worked in private families as for the group who had not worked in
families. The only significant difference was among the oldest
women, with less than one-sixth of the women from private families
but more than one-fifth of those from elsewhere. Roughly one-fourth
of each group were under 40 years old and were 50 and under 60, and
about three-tenths of each group were 40 and under 50.
For the 86 women whose usual occupation was in a manufacturing
pursuit, the age distribution was fairly uniform; but of the 42 who had
been in trade, only 5 were under 40 and 14 were as much as 60. In
professional service, more than three-fifths of the women were at least
50. Clerical workers, on the other hand, had their largest group—
one-third—among the women under 40.




EMPLOYMENT

43

Table 10.—Industry of usual occupation, by age of women
Women whose ages weroWomen re­
porting
Industry of usual occupation
Num­
ber
All industries.
Manufacturing_______ _____
Transportation and com­
munication
Trade___________ ____ _____
Professional service
Domestic and personal serv­
ice______________ _______ _
In private families
Not in private families...
Clerical____________ _
Miscellaneous
Two occupations concurrent­
ly......................... ..................

21, under 40
years

40, under 50
years

50, under 60
years

60, under 65
years

Per­ Num­

Per­
cent

1515

100.0

25.0

86

100.0

25.6

22.1

26.7

25.6

5
42
29

(1
2)
100.0
100.0

11.9
27.6

23.8
10.3

31.0
20.7

33.3
41.4

307
199
108
30

100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

25.7
27.1
23.1
33.3

30.6
30.2
31.5
23.3

25.7
26.6
24.1

17.9
16.1
21.3
23.3

12

cent

(2)

ber

129

Num­
ber
143

Per­
cent
27.8

Num­
ber
132

Per­
cent
25. f

20.0

Num­
ber
111

Per­
cent
21.6

(2)

1 Excludes 6 women with age not reported.
2 Percents not computed; base less than 25.

Without, exception, in each age group the largest number of women
had been m domestic and personal service in private homes, the next
largest had been in domestic and personal service elsewhere, and the
third largest had been in manufacturing. Trade stood next in all
age groups but under 40 years, where clerical work and professional
service both outranked it.
,.Jn sPite of this agreement in the rank of industries, their proportions
differed considerably with age groups. For example, only 29 percent
of the oldest women, in contrast to 40 or 42 percent in the other groups
had worked chiefly in families; the proportion in manufacturing ranged
from 13 percent among the women of 40 and under 50 years to 20
percent among those of 60 and over; the proportion in trade, from 4
percent among the youngest women to 13 percent among the oldestand the proportion in professional service, from 2 percent among the
women of 40 and under 50 to 11 percent among the oldest women.
Years in usual occupation.
Of the 412 women who reported their usual occupation and the time
spent in such work, close to three-fifths (236) had been engaged in
some domestic or personal pursuit. Of these, 149 had been employed
m private families, mainly as general houseworkers by the week or
month or as day workers such as laundresses or cleaners. Well
over one-half of these women (56 percent) had worked for 10 years or
longer, and close to three-tenths (29 percent) for 20 years or more, in
their usual occupation. Among the 87 whose usual work was domestic
and personal but not in private families, a somewhat smaller proportion
(51 percent) had worked as much as 10 years, and less than one-fifth
(18 percent) had worked 20 years or more.
Practically one-half of those whose usual occupation was in some
manufacturing line had been so employed for 10 years or more, ap­
proximately one-fifth for as long as 20 years.
61957°—38----- i




44

UKATTACHED WOMEN ON BELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

Over three-fifths of the 34 women in trade had worked in this line
for 10 years or more, close to three-tenths for as long as 20 years.
Almost'one-half of the 27 in clerical work had been employed as long
as 10 years, but only 2 of them for as long as 20. More than one-half
of the 24 in professional wrork had been employed at least 10 years,
and 1 in 3 had been so engaged for at least 20 years.
Schooling and occupation.
Of the 434 women with education and usual occupation reported,
32 had had no schooling. Seven-tenths had been to grade school
only, between one-sixth and one-seventh had attended high school,
and a small number (almost 6 percent) reported some college training.
Two-thirds of the women with no schooling had been domestic
workers in private homes and one-sixth had been in other domestic
and personal service.
Of those with grade schooling, just over 41 percent had been house­
hold employees and 23 percent bad been in other domestic and per­
sonal service. Manufacturing industries had employed 17 percent,
and trade most of the remainder.
.
The women with high-school training, and the small group with
some college training, were widely distributed industrially, but only
in clerical work—with 16 percent of the high-school group and 17 per­
cent of the college group—was the representation similar. Twentyeight percent of the high-school women, in contrast to 4 percent (1
woman) of the college group, were household employees, but 16 per­
cent of the first named and 21 percent of the second named had been
in other kinds of domestic and personal service. A larger proportion
of the high-school group than of the college group had been in manu­
facturing industries, but the opposite was true. of trade; and 2 in 7 of
the college women, but only 2 in 15 of the high-school women, had
_
.
been in professional service.
Glancing at the distribution by schooling of the women in the various
industries, it is apparent that just over three-fourths of those from each
branch of domestic and personal service and from manufacturing,
more than four-fifths of those from trade, and one-half of the clerical
workers had not gone beyond grade school. Three-eighths of the
last named had not gone beyond high school and more than seventenths of the women who had been in professional service reported
college or high-school training.
Incapacity and occupation.
With the idea in mind that the usual occupations pursued by these
women might have some relation to their incapacities, as evident at
time of study, these two factors have been correlated.
Only 13 percent of the 508 women reported had no incapacity.
These comprised from one-sixth to about one-eighth of the women
who had been in household employment, professional service, clerical
service, and trade, and one-tenth or one-eleventh of those who had
been in manufacturing and in domestic and personal service other
than in households.
_
.
Twenty-two percent of the women were totally incapacitated.
This condition was most common in the manufacturing group—not
far from three-tenths of the women being totally incapacitated—but
in both trade and clerical service more than one-fourth were so re­
ported. In the household-employment group more than one-fifth of



45

EMPLOYMENT

the women, and in other domestic and personal service and profes­
sional service just over one-sixth, were said to be wholly incapacitated.
Almost _ two-thirds of the women (65 percent) were reported as
partially incapacitated, the proportions ranging from 61 percent of
the clerical workers to 73 percent of those in domestic and personal
service not in households. In most cases, much the largest proportion
of these women—from one-half in trade to almost four-fifths in house­
hold employment—had a physical disability, a number of them having
a mental ailment as well. For two-fifths of the women who had been
in professional service and who were partially incapacitated, the cause
was age. For almost one-half of those who had been in trade the same
was true, some of these cases being a combination of age and mental
disorders.
Time since last employed.
In an endeavor to determine the relation between the usual occupa­
tion and unemployment, the time elapsed since the loss of the most
recent job since 1929 has been correlated with usual occupation.
Though not quite one-half of the women whose usual occupation was
in employment for other persons reported the time elapsed since the
loss of their latest job in the years since 1929, an analysis has been
made of these data.
Table

11.—Time unemployed between last job since 1929 and date of study, by
industry of usual occupation
Women reporting time unemployed since last job

Industry of usual occupa­
tion

Total re­
porting

Under 1
year

1, under 2
years

2, under 3
years

3, under 4
years

4 years and
over

Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­
ber cent ber cent ber cent ber cent ber cent ber cent
All industries
Manufacturing
Transportation and commuriication
Trade_____ ..
...
Professional service
Domestic and personal
service
In private families___
Not in private families
Clerical___________ ____ _
Miscellaneous
Two occupations concurrently- . ______ .

1256 100.0

78

30.5

57

22.3

47

18.4

33

12.9

41

37 100.0

12

32.4

8

21.6

6

16. 2

7

18.9

4

2
20
11

(2)
(2)

(?)

162 100.0
101 100.0
61 100.0
17
(2)
(’)
5
2

(!)

1
4
2
46
31
15
9
3

3
3
28.4
30.7
24.6

42
31
11
1

3
5
25.9
30.7
18.0

32
19
13
1

6

1
19.8
18.8
21.3

16
11
5

16.0

9.9
10.9
8. 2

26
9
17
3

16.0
8.9
27.9

1

1 Excludes the women who had not worked since 1929 and those who could not supply the detailed in­
formation.
2 Percents not computed; base less than 25.

Close to one-half of the 256 women reporting had been unemployed
for 2 years or more. Almost one-sixth had had no work for at least 4
years. For only about three-tenths was the unemployed period less
than a year.
Of the 101 women whose usual employment was in private families,
close to two-fifths had been unemployed for at least 2 years, more than
one-twelfth for as long as 4 years. As in the case of all women re­
ported, approximately three-tenths had been out of work less than for
a year.



46

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

Among the 61 women who had been in domestic and personal serv­
ice not in private families, almost three-fifths had been unemployed
for 2 years or longer, approximately three-tenths for 4 years or more.
About one-fourth had been without work for less than a year
Of the 37 women whose usual employment was in some manufactur­
ing line, not far from one-half had been out of work for as long as 2
years, 1 in 9 of them for 4 years or more.
Of the groups of any size, the 20 women m trade employments had
the largest proportion unemployed for at least 4 years, 6 of these
women being so reported.
WOMEN REPORTING THEIR PRINCIPAL JOB SINCE 1929

Since it was not possible to examine in detail all the jobs reported
since the autumn of 1929, the job of longest duration in this period,
characterized for the purposes of this study as the principal job, has
been selected for analysis. The industry of such principal job was
reported by 464 women, comprising 425 of those who usually were
in the employ of others and 39 of those who usually had their own
business. As many as 65 women had had no employment since 1929
that could be dignified by the term “principal job,” and for 41 the
information was not reported.
. .
, ,
Sixty-three percent of the women reporting their principal job had
been in domestic and personal service, twice as many in private,
families as elsewhere. Almost three-tenths, fairly equally divided,
had been in manufacturing, in some trade line, or in their own busi­
ness. The group last named, composed of 45 women, included 27
who formerly had been self-employed and 18 who had entered busi­
ness on their own account since 1929. The remaining one-tenth
were in professional service, clerical work, and the miscellaneous
class, and the group holding two occupations concurrently.
Relation between usual occupation and principal job.
Were the jobs that the women had held longest in the period since
1929 the same as their usual occupations, or had they been forced
during the depression years to take jobs other than those lor which
their ability and training fitted them? This question can be answered
for all but 1 of the 464 women whose principal job was reported.
Approximately seven-eighths (149) of the 174 women whose usual
occupation was in service for private families reported their principal
job since 1929 as the same. Of the remaining 25, 16 had gone into
other lines of domestic and personal service, 4 had been in some manu­
facturing line, and 3 in business for themselves.
Seven-tenths of the 93 women reporting their usual occupation
as in domestic and personal service not in private families had been
in such work on their principal job since 1929. Not far from one-filth
had found work with private families, three had worked in some trade,
one had done clerical work, and five had gone into private business.
Well under three-fifths (55 percent) of the 62 whose usual occupation
was in manufacturing reported their principal job since 1929 also m
manufacturing—a smaller proportion than that shown for any other
group but the clerical. Twelve women had secured jobs in private
families and five had done other domestic and personal work, hour
women had been in some trade line, one had done clerical work, and
four had gone into business.



47

EMPLOYMENT

Almost two-thirds of the 37 women whose usual occupation was in
trade reported such as their principal job also. Three of these women
had done domestic work in private families and four had been employed
in other domestic and personal pursuits. Two had gone into clerical
work, one into manufacturing, and one into own business.
Two in three of the 21 women whose usual occupation was in pro­
fessional service reported their principal job also in such work. Three
had gone into some domestic and personal pursuit, and one each into
manufacturing, trade, and own business.
Table 12.—Principal

job since 1939, by industry of usual occupation
Women whose principal job since 1929 was as specified

Industry of usual
occupation

Total re­
porting

Manufac­
turing

Profession­
al service

Trade

Domestic and personal
service
Total

In private
family

Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­
ber cent ber cent ber cent ber cent ber cent ber cent
All industries

i 463 100.0

41

8.9

42

9.1

291

62.9

193

41.7

62 100. 0

34

54. 8

4

6. 5

17

27.4

12

19.4

24
1

64.9

2
7
3

18.9

3
2

3.2

165
83

94. 8
89 2

Manufacturing _____ _
Transportation and communication
Trade____
_ __............
Professional service
Domestic and personal
In private family____
Not in private family.
Clerical_____
________
Miscellaneous________
Two occupations concurrently... ______ ..

(?)
3
37 100.0
(2)
21
267 100. 0
174 100.0
93 100.0
(2)
21
9
(2)
4
39 100. 0

1
1

2.7

4
4

15

3.2

2.3

14

8.1

149

85 6
18.3

3
1

2. 6

1
7

17. 9

1
7.7

5.1

Women whose principal job since 1929 was as specified
Domestic
and per­
sonal serv­
ice
Industry of usual occupation

Clerical

Miscella­
neous

Two-occu­
pations con­ Own busi­
ness
currently

Not in pri­
vate family
Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­
ber cent ber cent ber cent ber cent ber cent
All industries___ ______________
Transportation and communication___
Professional service. _
Domestic and personal service
Not in private family
Clerical_______________ ____
Two occupations concurrently____ ...
Own business... _______

98

21.2

12

2.6

9

1.9

5

8.1

1 6

2

3.2

4
1
82
16
66
3
2

10. 8

1
1
2

30. 7
9. 2
71. 0

1

.4

1
7

1.1

1

2.6

8

45

9.7
6.5

5.4

1

1
5

1.7

1
1

2.7

1.1

5 4

1
2.6

27

69.2

1 Excludes 34 women never gainfully occupied, 65 with no principal job since 1929, and 42 not reporting
complete data.
2 Percents not computed; base less than 25.




48

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON BELIEF IN CHICAGO, 1937

Of the 21 whose usual occupation was clerical, only 1 in 3 reported
this as their principal job since 1929. Five had done household work
and three some other line of domestic and personal service, two had
found jobs in trade, and two had gone into business.
Of the 39 women formerly in business for themselves who reported
as to their principal job since 1929, 27 had still been in private busi­
ness, 7 had been in some trade employment, 3 had entered domestic
and personal service, and 1 manufacturing.
Principal job and age.
A correlation of principal job with age indicates for certain of the
larger groups the changes due to loss of employment in the usual
occupation.
Of the women who were at least 50 years of age, a considerably
larger proportion had done household work since 1929 than reported
such work as their usual occupation. Trade had employed somewhat
more of these older women than formerly. Manufacturing, clerical
work, and professional service, on the other hand, all had employed
during the depression smaller proportions of women as much as 50
years old than had been in these lines of work in earlier years. There
were only slight changes in own business and domestic and personal
service not in private families.
Of the women under 40, larger proportions than before had been m
trade and in both types of domestic and personal service. The pro­
portion in professional service remained about the same, but manu­
facturing, clerical work, and own business employed smaller propor­
tions than before.
Principal job and nativity.
A considerably larger proportion were native whites among the
women in household employment during the depression than among
those who reported such work as their usual occupation.
...
. Not far from one-hall' of the native-white women had their principal
job during the depression in domestic and personal service, fiveeighths of them in private families and three-eighths in other places so
classed. Something over one-lialf of the Negro women reported
their principal job since 1929 as in private families, as did two-fifths
of the foreign-born women.
.
Manufacturing had given work to one-tenth of the native-white and
foreign-born women and to less than one-twelftli of the Negroes.
About 1 in 6 of the native-born white and 1 in 8 of the foreign-born,
as compared to only 1 in 50 of the Negro women, reported a trade
occupation as their principal job. Practically one-eighth of the
native-white women, one-tenth of the foreign-born, and about onetwelfth of the Negroes had been in business for themselves.
Duration of principal job.
Since these principal jobs, so called, were those of longest duration
in a period of more than 7 years, inquiry was made as to how long they
lasted. Of the 258 women reporting the time worked at their prin­
cipal job, less than 1 in 8 reported that it lasted as long as 5 years.
For well over one-half of the women (55 percent) the duration was less
than 2 years, for three-tenths it was less than 1 year.
For just under two-fifths of the women supplying the information,
the principal job had been in household employment, and for over




EMPLOYMENT

49

one-fourth it had been in other domestic and personal service. Besides
these, only manufacturing was reported by as many as 25 women. Of
these three lines of employment, work in private homes had the highest
proportions, and manufacturing the lowest, of jobs that lasted less than
1 and less than 2 years.
Cause of leaving principal job.
As would be expected, for the great majority of the women the
cause of leaving the principal job was industrial in nature. Of the 392
women who reported the reason for loss of job, almost two-thirds
gave an industrial cause. In almost one-half of these 251 cases the
business shut down, in more than one-fifth the force was reduced, and
about 1 woman in 16 left because the wages were too low.
About seven-tenths of the 141 women who quit their principal jobs
for personal reasons did so because of illness. Among the largest
groups of women reporting on cause of losing job, the proportions
quitting, their jobs because of illness ranged from one-fifth of the
women in own business to almost one-third of those in trade. Only
five women left the job because they secured a better one.
About one-sixth of the women engaged in some manufacturing pur­
suit, as compared with practically one-fifth in trade and two-fifths in
domestic and personal work, left because of the closing of the business.
More, than one-half of the women who had been employed in private
families, but less than one-fourth of those in other domestic and per­
sonal service, left their jobs because the jobs themselves no longer
existed. More than one-fourth of the domestic and personal workers
employed elsewhere than in private families lost their jobs due to a
reduction in force. Close to two-fifths of those in manufacturing lost
their jobs because of a reduction in force, as did about one-eighth of
those in trade. Well over three-fourths of the women in their own
business gave up this work for industrial reasons.
Earnings on principal job.
Earnings on the principal job were reported for well over threefifths of the women. Of the 292 women for whom earnings were
recorded, 18 (all but 1 of them in private families) had worked for
room and board only and had received no cash wage. More than
one-third of the remaining 274 reported an addition to the cash wage
in the form of meals, lodging, or both; practically all of these were in
domestic and personal service.
About one-sixth of the 274 women had earned less than $15 a month
in cash wages 1; one-fifth had earned $15 and under $30, and one-fifth
$30 and under $45; and one-seventh in each case had earned $45 and
under $60, $60 and under $75, and $75 and over. The average
(median) earnings for the whole group were $40.
Of the 195 women in some domestic and personal work who had
received a cash wage, more than one-sixth had earned less than $15practically one-fourth in both cases, $15 but under $30 and $30 but
under $45; almost one-sixth, $45 but under $60; and approximately
one-tenth in both cases, $60 but under $75 and $75 and over. For
the whole group the average earnings were $34. Not quite one-half
of the 195 women had had some addition to their cash wage.
i In cases where week's earnings were secured at time of interview, they were converted to month's earn-

inas hv milltmhnnrr htr




AlA

°

“

50

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

Large proportions of the 117 women who had done domestic work
in private families had been paid small amounts in cash, but well
over one-half (56 percent) had received, in addition, room or meals
or both. More than one-half had earned below $30, and less than
one-fifth had earned as much as $45. The average for the group
was $25.
In contrast to these large proportions with such low earnings, less
than one-fifth of the women in domestic and personal service other
than in private families had earned below $30, and well over onethird had earned $60 or more. The average earnings of this group
were $52. Somewhat under two-fifths of these women, compared
to well over one-half of those in private homes, had been given sup­
plements to their cash wages.
When month’s earnings in all the industries were correlated with
nativity and color, it was found that not quite one-third of the native
whites, as compared with close to two-fifths of the Negroes and well
over one-third of the foreign-born, had earned less than $30. Almost
identical proportions, about three-tenths, of the native whites and
of the foreign-born, in contrast to more than two-fifths of the Negroes,
had earned $30 and under $60. For practically two-fifths of the
native whites, a little over one-third of the foreign-bom, but less
than one-fifth of the Negroes the earnings had been $60 or more.
The highest average was $44, that for the native-white women; the
next was $40, for the foreign-born group; and the lowest was $38,
for the Negroes.




EMPLOYABILITY
Within the past few years the question of employability has become
one of recognized importance. Due to the long depression that began
in the fall of 1929 and brought with it such enormous declines in
employment, much attention has been focused on the factor of employ­
ability of men and women.
An “employable person” as defined by the C. ft. A. is one who is
working or is able to work, is 18 but less than 65 years of age, is not
engaged in the care of a family nor attending school, and whose health
or behavior habits are of such a nature that employment would not be
detrimental to his health or safety or to the health or safety of others.
For certification for W. P. A. employment in Chicago, the definition of
employability is much stricter: It excludes those who are needed at
home to care for small children or invalids, and those who have had
no previous paid work experience, except young people who have had
no opportunity for work experience.
Available on every case record reviewed at the C. R. A. district
offices was a statement as to whether or not the client was employable.
This diagnosis, made to establish the client’s relief status, obviously
was confined to the existing condition without reference to a possible
improvement in the future, and no one even temporarily too disabled
to work could be considered employable. This being true, large
numbers of women besides all those of 65 years or more were considered
by the C. R. A. to be unemployable.
The Women’s Bureau, on the other hand, was concerned particu­
larly with the prospects of rehabilitation in the hope that eventually
most of the women might be restored to a self-supporting status.
Consequently, there was added to the schedule a question as to
whether the client was considered by the interviewer to be employable,
handicapped but still employable, or unemployable. In tabulating
and analyzing the material, the women reported as unemployable
have been divided into those temporarily and those permanently
unemployable.
The classification by the C. R. A. thus comprises two groups—
employable and unemployable; that by the Women’s Bureau comprises
four- - employable, employable but handicapped, unemployable tem­
porarily, and unemployable permanently. To distinguish between
these two classifications, the data copied from the office records are
characterized in this section of the report as C. R. A. and those
secured at the time of the interview by the Women’s Bureau as W. B.
Women considered employable on records of C. R. A.
Of the total group of 604 women included in the study, only threetenths were recorded as employable by the Chicago Relief Administra­
tion. When the records of the women in the various districts were
compared, the proportion of employable women was found to range
from less than one-tenth in one district to one-half in another district.
In only 4 of the 14 districts were as many as 40 percent of the women
considered employable.



51

52

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

As would be expected, the unemployables were more numerous
among the older women. Almost three-tenths of the unemployables
were at least 60 years old, and more than one-fourth were 50 and under
60. However, a surprisingly large proportion, almost 1 in 20, were
less than 30 years old. In contrast to these figures, less than onetenth of the employables were as much as 60 and about 1 in 8 were not
yet 30.
Women considered employable at time of survey (W. B.).1
Of the 589 women whose employability status was reported by the
interviewers, one-sixth (17 percent) were considered wholly employ­
able, almost as many (16 percent) were employable but handicapped,
and practically three-tenths (29 percent) were unemployable only
temporarily. Though the largest group of the women, almost twofifths, were considered permanently unemployable, a combination of
the proportions just cited shows that three-fifths (61 percent) of the
total were estimated at the time of interview as being immediately or
potentially employable. This is a challenging fact that should provoke
thinking and planning to provide employment for the one-third who
are able to work, and to so improve the condition of the large group
who are only temporarily unemployable—almost three-tenths—that
they too may become self-supporting.
Age of these women (W. B).—Only about 7 percent of the 583 women
with age and employability reported were less than 30 years old, but 21
percent of the women obviously employable, in contrast to a little
over 1 percent of the permanently unemployable, were under 30.
Though practically one-half of the total group were at least 50 years
old, less than one-fourth of those wholly employable and almost fourfifths of those permanently unemployable were women of 50 or more.
The direct relation between age and employability as measured by
physical and mental condition is apparent. Practically without ex­
ception, employability declined and permanent unemployability
increased with increased age. For the five age groups in table 13,
the proportions of women who appeared to be quite employable as far
as physical or mental condition was concerned were very roughly,
from youngest to oldest, 1 in 2, 1 in 4, 1 in 6, 1 in 8, and 1 in 23; and
the proportions who were permanently unemployable ranged down­
ward from 1 woman in 14 of the youngest group to 3 in every 4 of
the oldest.
Table 13.—Employability, by age (W. B.)

Women with employability estimated by interviewers

All women

Age (years)

Employable

Employable
but handi­
capped

Temporarily
unemploy­
able

Permanently
unemploy­
able
Per­
cent

Num­
ber

Per­
cent

Num­
ber

Per­
cent

Num­
ber

Per­
cent

Num­
ber

Per­
cent

Num­
ber

-----

583

100. 0

99

100.0

92

100.0

167

100.0

225

100.0

60, under 65 _______________

43
100
152
153
135

7. 4
17. 2
26. 1
26. 2
23. 2

21
27
27
18
6

21.
27.
27.
18.
6.

4
9
24
31
24

4.3
9.8
26. 1
33.7
26. 1

15
52
66
30
4

9.0
31.1
39. 5
18.0
2. 4

3
12
35
74
101

1.3
5. 3
15. 6
32.9
44. 9

Total reported...

2
3
3
2
1

1 For definitions of various degrees of employability, see footnotes on pp. 67 and 68.




EMPLOYABILITY

53

Marital status (IT. B.).—When marital status and employability
were inquired into, it was found that a somewhat larger proportion of
the separated women than of the other groups were employable.
More than one-fifth of the separated women were in this group. The
largest proportions of every group but that of the separated were
classed as unemployable permanently, the range being from about
one-fourth of the separated women to about one-half of the widowed.
Nativity and color (W. B.).—When nativity and color were corre­
lated with estimated employability, some interesting facts were dis­
closed. _ More than 1 in 4 of the Negroes and about 1 in 8 of the na­
tive-white women, in contrast to only about 1 in 25 of the foreignborn, were considered to be employable; when to these were added
the handicapped and the temporarily unemployable, the proportions
for whom employment seemed practicable were respectively 75
percent, 56 percent, and 42 percent.
The permanently unemployable group formed the largest propor­
tion of the foreign-born, nearly three-fifths being so classed. In this
employability group were more than two-fifths of the native whites
and about one-fourth of the Negroes.
The proportions of the three nativity groups considered employable
by the C. R. A. were about two-fifths of the Negroes, one-fourth of
the native-white women, and somewhat more than one-fifth of the
foreign-born.
The facts presented illustrate the need of greater efforts on the
part of relief officials, in cooperation with the employment service, to
place these women in jobs.
Usual occupation (IT. B.).—With a view to determine whether one
type of occupation had had a more serious effect than others in making
the individual woman unemployable, a correlation was made of the
factors of employability and usual occupation.
Of the 508 women (including 45 with own business) for whom usual
occupation was reported and employability was determined, almost
three-eighths were unemployable permanently, just under three-tenths
were unemployable temporarily, and almost exactly one-third—prac­
tically equally divided as to those with and those without a handi­
cap—were employable. Excluding only the permanently unem­
ployable, employment was considered possible for 64 percent of the
total.
The groups considered to be permanently unemployable ranged
from 32 percent of the clerical workers, of the professional workers,
and of the household employees to 49 percent of those whose usual
occupation was in trade. Thirty-seven percent of those in other
domestic service were considered as in this class, as were 45 percent
of the women from manufacturing industries, and 40 percent of the
self-employed. It is obvious that the remaining women in each
industry—68 percent of the clerical workers, of the professional
workers, and of the household workers, 63 percent of those in domestic
and personal service other than in households, 60 percent from own
business, 55 percent from manufacturing, and 51 percent from trade—
were considered to be eventually employable.
In contrast to this, 20 percent of the household workers, 16 to 18
percent of those from professional, trade, and clerical employments,
and 13 percent from manufacturing and from domestic and personal




54

TIN ATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193?

service not in private families were considered to be immediately
employable.
Of the 45 women who had not been employed by others but had
worked on their own account and whose employability was reported
on, two-fifths were said to be unemployable permanently, somewhat
under one-third wrere unemployable temporarily, and about threetenths were employable, not quite one-half of the last named being
handicapped.
Schooling {W. B.).—Though schooling, like several other factors,
undoubtedly had much less influence on employability than age and
physical disability had, a correlation has been made as a matter
of interest.
Of the women whose highest grade completed was in grammar school,
less than one-third were considered employable; the largest proportion,
more than one-third, were unemployable permanently and a slightly
smaller proportion were unemployable temporarily. Of the women
who had attended, high school, close to two-fifths were employable,
with or without a handicap, and the remainder were unemployable,
temporarily or permanently. Exactly one-half of the women with
college training were employable, the remainder being unemployable,
nearly three-tenths of them permanently so.
Relation between employability and illness (W. B.).
In correlating illness and employability, data concerning specific
diseases as judged by the Women’s Bureau are shown on the accom­
panying table, but only the various classes of disability will be dis­
cussed in the text. The 49 women with no disability are excluded from
this discussion.
The women considered employable by the C. R. A. ranged from
about one-twelfth of those with a mental disease or deficiency to
about three-tenths of those with digestive disorders, with diseases of
the urogenital system, and with affections of the eye, ear, nose, or
throat. As would be expected from the statements already made
as to the higher proportion considered employable by the interviewers
at time of survey, much larger numbers of those affected by various
illnesses were considered employable by the W. B. investigators than
had been so classed by the C. R. A. Not far from one-fourth of those
mentally ill or defective were considered employable by the investi­
gators, and an even larger proportion were considered only temporarily
unemployable. For diseases of the body as a whole, the proportions
considered employable by the C. R. A. and the W. B. were identical,
but close to two-fifths of these illnesses were considered by the W. B.
to render the client unemployable for only a temporary period. For
illnesses of a cardiovascular nature, of the hemic, lymphatic, or
endocrine systems, of the digestive system, of the urogenital system,
and of the organs of special sense, the proportions were not very
different, though in the judgment of the investigators on the study
considerable proportions m each group—from about one-fourth to a
little more than two-fifths—were only temporarily unemployable.
Especially among the women with diseases of the respiratory system
and with nervous or mental disorders were much larger proportions
considered employable in the opinion of the investigators than were
recorded as employable by the C. R. A. Obviously, these are types
of disorders the severity of which fluctuates greatly from one date
to another.



EM PLOY ABILITY

55

Table 14.—Employability of women, by disease from which suffering (W. B.)

Disease as reported

All
women 1

Employ­ Tempo­ Perma­
Employ­ able but
rarily
nently
able
handi­
unem­
unem­
capped ployable ployable

Women with one or more disabilities—Number
PercentCases of disease—Number___________________
Percent.......................................

2 515
100.0
988
100.0

53
10.3
82
8.3

84
16.3
160
16.2

158
30.7
290
29.4

220
42.7
456
46.2

Mental disease or deficiency:
Number of women reported______________
Percent distribution_____________________

3 71
100.0

2
2.8

14
19.7

18
25.4

37
52.1

17
19
15
22

2

2
2

6
5

9
10

7

3

12

* 161
100.0

18
11.2

21
13.0

63
39.1

59
36.6

51
13
18
14
17
33
17

9

4
4
2
1
2
5
3

17
4
12
7
3
15
5

21
5
4
6
11
7
7

Mental deficiency___________________
Psycho-neurosis________ ______ _______
Phychopathic personality____________
Other4___________ ____ _____________
Body as a whole (physical):
Number of women reported______________
Percent distribution_________ ____ _______
Syphilis (exclusive of 4 cases in central ner­
vous system).......... ..... .....................................
Diabetes—_________ ___________________
Tuberculosis
Malnutrition_____________ _______________
Obesity__________________________ _______
Menopause_____________ _____ ___________
Other4
Integumentary system:
Number of women reported 4
Percent distribution
Musculo-skeletal system:
Number of women reported.______ ___________
Percent distribution
Arthritis and rheumatism....................... ..........
Old conditions and deformities
Feet______ ____
Other 4._._______________________________
"Respiratory system:
Number of women reported
Percent distribution
Asthma_______________ _______ __________
Bronchitis________ ____ __________________
Other4____ ____ ________ _________________
Cardiovascular system:
Number of women reported
Percent distribution
Cardiac (exclusive of following)____________
Cardiac and hypertension
Hypertension (exclusive of foregoing).............
Varicose veins__________________ _____ ___
Other 4................ .................. .................................
Hemic, lymphatic, and endocrine systems:
Number of women reported
Percent distribution_____________ ____ _
Anemia and secondary anemia
Thyroid disturbances_____________ _______
Other4............................................................ .........
Digestive system:
Number of women reported
Percent distribution_____________ ____ _______ _
Gastritis, gastro-en teritis______________ ___
Ulcers________________ _____ ______ ______ _
Cholecystitis__________________ __________
Other4...................................................................
Urogenital system:
Number of women reported____________ ______
Percent distribution
Urinary
Gynecological complaints
Other 4.._____ _________________ ______ ___

(•)

1
6
2

14
<*>

6
<«)

7 150
100.0

10
6.7

31
20.7

32
21.3

77
51.3

98
25
16
18

7
1
2

19
9
4
1

19
2
3
9

53
13
7
8

»59
100.0

9
15.3

12
20.3

18
30.5

20
33.9

11
26
24

4
5

3
4
5

2
9
9

6
9
5

7 150
100.0

7
4.7

18
12.0

39
26.0

86
57.3

68
24
29
20
14

1

12
3
1
2

20
5
5
5
6

35
16
22
8
8

6
15.4
1
4
1

11
28.2
5
6
1

22
56.4
10
10
2

14
17.1
2
4
1
7

24
29.3
2
5
7
10

33
40.2
8
7
10
9

1
5

s 39
100.0
16
20
4
3 82
100.0
13
23
18
29

11
13.4
1
7
3

3 76
13
7
33
23
100.0
17.1
9.2
43.4
30.3
15
2
3
4
6
11
51
3
27
10
10
1
2
7
1 Details aggregate more than totals because many women had 2 or more diseases.
2 Excludes 49 women with no disability and 40 with nature of disability or employability status not
reported.
3 Excludes 2 women for whom employability was not reported.
4 Groups having less than 10 women have been combined.
6 Excludes 4 women for whom employability was not reported.
6 Percent not computed; baseless than 25.
7 Excludes 3 women for whom employability was not reported,
s Excludes 1 woman for whom employability was not reported.




56

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

Table

14.—Employability of women, by disease from which suffering (W. B.)—Con.

Disease as reported

Nervous system:
Number of women reported............ ............... .........
Percent distribution_______ _______ ______
Neuritis__________ ____ ___________ ______
Organs of special sense:
Number of women reported__________________
Percent distribution. __ ------------------------------Eye------------------ ------ -----------------Ear. _____
Nose and throat.................................................

All
women

Employ­ Tempo­ Perma­
Employ­ able but
rarily
nently
able
handi­
unem­
unem­
capped ployable ployable

53
100.0

2
3.8

9
17.0

10
18.9

32
60.4

25
28

2

5
4

5
5

13
19

8 106
100.0

10
9.4

23
21.7

27
25.5

46
43.4

79
21
10
3

7
1
2

19
5
1

17
3
6
3

36
12
1

4 Groups having less than 10 women have been combined.
8 Excludes 1 woman for whom employability was not reported.

Employability and extent of incapacity.
Facts were available concerning the estimated employability and
extent of incapacity of 582 women. Of the 99 women who were
judged wholly employable, practically four-fifths had no apparent
incapacity. The majority of the employable women for whom some
partial incapacity was recorded suffered from a physical ill. More
than one-half of the 93 women considered employable but handicapped
were partially disabled due to physical ills only.
Of the 166 women classed as unemployable temporarily, close to
one-tenth were considered totally incapacitated and the remainder
were partially so. From the standpoint of rehabilitation, the 16
women totally incapacitated but eventually employable should be
given intensive care. Of these 16, 4 had tuberculosis, though there
was no diagnosis as to the stage of the disease, nor was there a prog­
nosis; 2 were suffering from menopause; and 2 had tumors. The
remainder had various ills, venereal disease, heart trouble, bronchitis,
and so forth. Among the 150 women who were partially incapacitated
the disability was a physical one in the great majority of cases.
The majority of the most unfortunate group, those permanently
unemployable, were totally incapacitated. More than one-tenth of
the 117 who were in this group could not care for themselves. Well
over two-fifths of the 107 women who were partially incapacitated
were rendered so by age. For this whole group of women who were
permanently unemployable some provision should be made.
Of the 589 women whose employability was determined by both
the C. R. A. and the W. B. investigators, three-tenths were recorded
as employable and seven-tenths as unemployable by the C. R. A.
In contrast to this, in the judgment of the interviewers at the time
of survey and after due deliberation on this most important factor,
one-sixth of the women were considered employable, another onesixth employable but with a handicap, and nearly three-tenths unem­
ployable only temporarily. It should be pointed out that this appar­
ent difference may be explained almost entirely by the fact that no
break-down as to the temporary or permanent nature of the unem­
ployability was made by the C. R. A.




CAUSE OF SEEKING RELIEF
Because of rapidly changing circumstances affecting the life of
every individual in the United States, conditions that contribute to
the present status of dependency of the women in this study are not
in all cases the same as the conditions that caused their original
application for relief. For purposes of classification in this report of
the principal causes of seeking relief, immediate causes such as
exhaustion of resources, inability of friends or relatives to support,
and the failure of adjustments made in each case to postpone appli­
cation for relief were disregarded. The cause of application for relief
made when the woman was unattached was the one considered;
reasons for her destitution as a member of a family group were not
included in the analysis.
To determine the principal cause of seeking relief, the women under
study were divided into two groups: (1) Those who had worked
habitually and therefore might be considered as gainful workers out
of employment; (2) those who had never worked, or whose work experi­
ence had been followed by years of marriage and homemaking, so that
they could not have been included in any recent count of gainful
workers.
Among the women who had not been employed, illness was the
chief cause of seeking relief when loss of property, or death, desertion,
or incapacity of the breadwinner, forced them to apply for assistance.
Next in numerical importance was lack of training or work experience,
while old age was another principal cause of seeking relief.
Among the women habitually employed, the chief cause of seeking
relief was illness or physical handicap, accounting for 46 percent of the
604 women scheduled. Advancing age was a factor in the unemploy­
ment of about 10 percent of all the women, and mental disorder or
deficiency was the cause of inability to secure a job for about 8 percent.
Failure to find work suited to their abilities or in sufficient amount
to keep them alive was the cause of seeking relief in 21 percent of the
cases. Many women had found it hard to do the heavy types of work
that had constituted their former occupations. Examination of the
usual occupation of those women unable to find work revealed that
66 of the 128 (52 percent), had been in some form of domestic and
personal service, the majority in private families. Lack of work was
marked also in the case of women who had operated their own business,
such as a rooming house, a store, a beauty parlor, or work as a seam­
stress. Difficulty in getting work in factories was almost as great.
Of the 294 women habitually employed who reported their usual
occupation as some form of domestic or personal service, 55 percent
had sought relief because of illness, 12 percent because age made such
heavy work out of the question, and 22 percent because of inability
to find a job. Of those who had worked in manufacturing occupa­
tions, proportions were similar for each cause of seeking relief.




57

58

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

Relation of age, education, and period of dependency.
Among the women under 30 years of age, lack of work and illness
were the most common causes of seeking relief. For the women of 30
and under 40 years, physical illness was the chief cause, with inability
to find work also a significant factor. Among women in the forties,
illness far outweighed any other cause, and it was an even greater
factor in the group of 50 and under 60 years. For the women of 60
and over, old age and illness were the chief causes of seeking relief;
together they accounted for more than 70 percent of the cases.
In addition to age, mental or physical disorders, and general ina­
bility to find work, reasons for unemployment and final dependency
were inexperience and lack of training. While it may be conceded
that education, in the ordinary sense, does not always prepare one for
earning a living, the educated individual has certain advantages over
the person who is illiterate or has had only 3 or 4 years of grade-school
education. Lack of education was thought to be one factor in the
difficulty of finding employment. Altogether, 153 women had
applied for relief because of lack of training, inexperience in indus­
try, or a general dearth of work opportunities that made it impossible
to live without assistance. Of the 136 who had lived in the United
States while of school age, 5 had had no schooling of any kind, 27 had
completed less than the fifth grade, and 75 others had never reached
high school. Twenty-one women reported some high-school educa­
tion, and eight had attended college for various periods. Two of the
women living in a foreign country while of school age had received
no education.
The fact that educational standards for all kinds of work but
unskilled labor have risen rapidly in recent decades leaves little
doubt of the difficulty these women have in competing successfully
for jobs with younger, better educated women.
The relation between the cause of seeking relief and the duratior
of the period of dependency is not easy to determine. Women
whose physical condition made it impossible to work may be expected
to remain on the relief rolls until health is regained or the situation
of legally responsible relatives has changed. Those whose mental
condition made the securing or holding of a job unlikely may be
expected to remain dependent indefinitely; many of these women are
not committable and can get along fairly well in the community if
only slight supervision is provided. The majority of those women
whose age was the chief factor in their unemployment may be expected
to remain dependent upon general poor relief until their eligibility for
old-age assistance is established. Women applying as a result of
unemployment probably will leave the relief rolls as soon as employ­
ment conditions improve, unless the dependency period has had
unfortunate effects. Frequently an insufficient food allowance and
substandard living conditions give rise to health problems that reduce
the possibility of reemployment.
,
In contrast to the 20 percent of the total group who had received
relief for 2 and under 3 years, 39 percent of the habitually employed
women applying because of old age had been dependent for that
time. Many of the women whose illness had led to unemployment
and then to the relief rolls had been dependent for a relatively short
time, 56 percent having been on relief less than 2 years. About




CAUSE OE SEEKING RELIEF

59

three-fourths of those whose mental illness or deficiency had resulted
in unemployment had received relief for periods varying from 1 to 4
years. Inability to find work was responsible for a number of the
newer cases, as 46 percent of this group had received relief for less
than a year.
Though the group of women not gainful workers had been on relief
slightly longer than the gainful workers out of employment, illness
being the principal cause of their seeking relief, 74 percent even of
this group had been dependent for less than 3 years.
Usual means of support.
Case histories and interviews with the women showed clearly that
the great majority of these women had been self-supporting or finan­
cially independent for most of their adult lives. Crushing blows of
illness or accident, unemployment as the result of industrial conditions
over which they had no control, or the inevitable advance of old age
had changed their normal way of living. In an examination of the
woman’s history before unemployment, estrangement, desertion, or
death had forced her to make readjustments, only the way of living
accepted as normal by society and the woman herself was considered
as the usual means of support. Help from friends, or any other make­
shift in the readjustment period, was excluded from the definition of
usual means of support.
About 63 percent of the women had been wholly self-supporting
during their adult lives. An additional 12 percent usually had worked
to supplement the family income, so that their earnings made them
partially independent. Many women in this group had worked
throughout their married lives. Those wholly dependent on relatives
such as husbands, parents, brothers, sisters, or children comprised
26 percent of the group under study. The two women classed as
having other usual means of support had been cared for so long by
social agencies that relatives were not in the picture at all.
Differences in the usual means of support were apparent as between
age groups and between racial groups. In contrast to the majority
of the entire group who had been financially independent, only 42
percent of the women under 30 had been self-supporting and 33 per­
cent had been completely dependent on relatives or friends. Financial
dependence on a husband had been the usual means of support in 19
percent of the cases. One-fourth of these women under 30 had been
partially independent; many had worked to supplement their hus­
bands’ incomes.
For the women of 30 and under 40 years, the percentage of entirely
independent women was much higher than in the age group just
below—57 percent as compared to 42 percent. The proportion
depending on relatives or friends was lower, as was that of women
who had attained partial independence.
In the age group 40 and under 50 years, the percentage of women
who had been financially independent was still higher, 67 percent,,
and that of partially and of wholly dependent women lower, than
among the younger group. From the age of 50 on, the proportion
remained fairly constant.
For the most part, differences in the usual means of support as
between native-born white women and those born in foreign countries.
61957°—38----- 5




60

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

were small, and they were still smaller as between native-white and
Negro women. Sixty-four percent of the American-born white
women, 57 percent of the foreign-born, and 65 percent of the Negroes
had been financially independent. The custom of working to supple­
ment the family income seemed slightly more common among the
Negroes and the foreign-born women, largely because both groups
had in general only unskilled labor to offer in the employment market
and the prevailing wage rates were so low that one breadwinner could
not support a family. Complete financial dependence on relatives
was found most frequently among the foreign-bom women, for
tradition kept them in the home; it was found least frequently among
the Negro women, where only 22 percent were so reported.
In view of the fact that well over three-fifths of the women in the
sample group had been entirely independent from a financial stand­
point, savings from jobs held since 1929 might be expected to have
constituted a resource in a time of unemployment. Actually, however,
loss of employment meant, for most of these women, almost immediate
application for assistance. Few earned wages high enough to carry
them through a long period of unemployment.
In an analysis of their work history since 1929, the job in private
industry held for the longest time was regarded as the “principal job.”
Employment on work-relief projects or in the Federal works program
was excluded from consideration. Ninety-nine women (16 percent)
had done no work since 1929, 212 could not remember the amount of
their earnings, and 18 had worked for board and lodging and had
received no cash wage. Data were secured, therefore, on the monthly
earnings of only 275 women. These women had been chiefly in
domestic and personal service, as 73 percent of them had secured that
type of job.
_
Nineteen women (8 percent) had received cash wages of less than
$10 a month. Thirty-six percent had worked for less than $30, and 85
percent for less than $70. For the 275 women the average monthly
wage was $43.
In general, then, most of the women composing the sample group
were accustomed to financial independence, so that acceptance of
help from relatives, friends, and finally public relief was not an easy
matter. The majority of these women, even before the depression,
probably had never earned large salaries and were able to accumulate
very little reserve for sickness, old age, or a time of unemployment.
For the women long accustomed to remaining at home and being
supported by relatives, the termination of that support was a blow
that implied a readjustment of their whole lives. It is little wonder
that work was hard to get or that they did not always make satis­
factory employees.
Adjustments before application for assistance.
In this study the period between loss of the usual means of support
and application for assistance has been termed the adjustment period.
During this time the women lived on savings, sold property, securities,
furniture, surrendered insurance policies, sought aid from relatives
and friends, threw themselves on the mercy of their landlords, and
even begged from door to door or on the street. Nearly all sought
employment—some for the first time; and many had to adapt them­
selves to a type of work entirely different from any they had done




CAUSE OF SEEKING RELIEF

61

before. Some found employment in domestic service and even
worked for board and lodging only. The length of this adjustment
period varied with the amount of resources on which the wonian could
draw, her physical ability to work, the ability of relatives to support
her, and the kindness of friends.
Obviously the low wages referred to as monthly earnings in the
principal job since 1929 would not allow of much saving for times of
even greater emergency. On the whole, resources were quickly
exhausted and application for relief was made relatively soon after the
loss of the usual means of support. This adjustment period meant,
for the woman, a general reduction in expenditures, insufficient food’
a cheaper room, all manner of inconveniences, no new clothing with
which to present a good appearance in order to compete success­
fully for employment, and, from the emotional standpoint, tremendous
insecurity and strain.1
Table 15.—Adjustments made before seeking relief, by age
Women whose ages wereAll women
21,

under
30 years

Adjustments before seek­
ing relief

30, under
40 years

40, under
50 years

50, under
60 years

60, under
65 years

Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num­ Per­ Num- Per- Num- Per- Num- Perber cent ber cent ber cent ber cent ber cent ber cent
Total1.......................
Assistance from—
Relatives
Friends

102

159

100.0

158

100.0

136

100.0

17
64

10.8

40.5

28
49

36.0

17

12.5

80
229

13.2
37.9

7.0
44.2

9.8
42.2

20

12.6

50

31.4

Landlords
Debts____ _____
Gifts

97

16.1
11.3
4.8

27.9
20.9
7.0

17.6
12.7
4.9

29
19

18.2
11.9
6.3

20

15
5

12.7
9.5
3.2

12

5

3.7

Used resources3________
Business loans_____
Substitute work 4_ _____
Worked for room and
board
Begged-----------------------Other

191
5
114

31.6

18.6

19.6

42

26.4
1.3
18.9

60

38.0

61

29

18. 4

35

44.9
1.5
25.7

50

8.3
1.3
4.8

7.5
1.3
56.6

15
3
7

9.5
1.9
4.4

5

3.7

8

5.9

68

29

8

29

.8

18.9

10

2

9.3~

30
13.7
2.9
4.9

12
2

9

1

.6

2

20.6

8.8

l SeJal1? e?c®ed totals, as many women reported more than one means of adjustment
i 1 otal includes 6 women for whom age was not reported.

Includes sale of property, securities, use of savings, cash, and insurance adjustments.
w}lS^w-ho worked for the first time after loss of property or means of support, as well as those
who did work differing markedly from their usual or alternate occupations.
3

That relatives not previously considered as a normal source of
support were able to help for a time was indicated by 80 women (13
percent). To an even greater extent, friends were influential in post­
poning the application for relief, for 38 percent of the women had
received help from friends in the way of food, shelter, clothing, loans,
and even complete support. Sixteen percent had been allowed credit
by their landlords. A small number of this group had received gifts
from kind-hearted landlords. A few women had begged quite regu­
larly and consistently, from door to door or on the street.
*Was
de to class^'tde adjustments made by an entire family. Therefore, if a woman had
been accepted for relief as a member of a family group and had received relief continuously from that time
even after becoming unattached, she was considered to have had no adjustment period.
*




62

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

About one-third of the women reported that they had used their
savings, sold their furniture, property, or securities, or surrendered
their insurance policies to tide them over the period of unemployment
or illness. The number who had borrowed money on their furniture
or insurance policies was very small, as the majority could not have
offered sufficient security for a commercial loan.
During this period 19 percent of the women worked for the first
time in their lives or were able to get only work that differed markedly
from that done in the past. Usually this meant work in unskilled
occupations for women who had done skilled work; most often semi­
professional women could get work only in domestic service; and those
who had previously been regular houseworkers descended to the ranks
of the day worker. Eight percent of the women worked for their board
and lodging; their application for relief followed the loss of even this
means of support. The women 50 years of age or more had been
given help by relatives more generally than the women under 40 had,
the respective proportions being 15 percent and 9 percent. Help from
friends and from landlords, on the other hand, was reported by con­
siderably larger proportions of the women under 40 than of those as
much as 50. More of the younger women had been allowed by their
landlords to stay on when they could no longer pay their rent, or had
received gifts from landlords. A few employers, included with friends
in the tabulation, had given small dismissal wages.
There were some differences in the types of adjustment made by
the racial groups represented among these women. Negro women
received much less help from relatives, chiefly because, as members
of a race with a low economic status, most relatives were little better
off than the women themselves. White and Negro women seem to
have been helped by friends to about the same extent. A larger pro­
portion of the Negro women were allowed to accumulate rent debts
or to live rent-free than was the case with the white group, especially
the native-born. The long residence of many foreign-bom women in
one neighborhood probably was responsible for their being allowed to
remain in their homes without paying rent.
Lack of resources upon which to draw in times of emergency was
clearly illustrated in the case of the Negro women. Only 24 percent
had resources to use in order to postpone application for relief, in
contrast to 47 percent of the foreign-born women and 32 percent of
the American-born white women who had converted their property
into cash or had used savings before appealing for help from other
sources.
.
.
,
A substitute form of work, or employment for the first time in their
lives, had been the means of support used in this period of readjust­
ment by about 23 percent of the native-born white women in contrast
to only 14 percent of the Negro women. This difference may be
explained in several ways: (1) The depression released a greater num­
ber of white workers to fill the unskilled jobs that Negroes had held
in Chicago since their migration in large numbers during the world
war; (2) employers preferred white workers if they could get them as
cheaply as Negro labor; (3) Negroes, for the most part, had been
employed in the most unskilled types of work, so that loss of that kind
of employment gave them little alternative to go into other forms of
work; and (4) the white women were weighted heavily by those who
had always been homemakers and had never previously worked out


CAUSE OF SEEKING RELIEF

03

side the home, while Negro women had been accustomed to support
themselves.
The customary means of support was an important factor in the
types of adjustment made by these women. To women who normally
were self-supporting, relatives gave aid in only 11 percent of the cases,
in contrast to 17 percent of the dependent women who were helped by
relatives. On the other hand, proportionately more of the self-sup­
porting women than of the dependent women had received help from
friends or had resources to fall back on. In contrast to the 39 percent
who had been independent and had used their resources to postpone
applying for relief, only 21 percent of the dependent women had sav­
ings or property to use after the loss of their usual support. The
question of substitute work is interesting, especially in regard to the
employment of women who had never before worked outside the home.
Thirty-two women (24 percent of those who had been wholly depend­
ent on relatives) worked for the first time as a means of adjustment or
did substitute work, and 65 women (17 percent of those customarily
employed) accepted some substitute for their usual types of work.
Both percentages might have been higher h<ad the group been composed
of younger women, but inexperience combined with advancing age
made new or substitute work hard to find.
Because so large a proportion of the women had been accustomed
to work to support themselves, and others had gone to work when their
usual means of support had failed them, reasons for the loss of more
recent employment are closely connected with the cause of seeking
relief. Exceptions were those who had not worked at all since 1929
and those whose last job had extended into the relief period. The
majority of these jobs last named were irregular or occasional day work
when an employer reemployed a woman; only a few were irregular
saleswoman jobs during rush seasons.
Though few women remembered their history well enough to report
details of working conditions, rates of pay, hours, and duration of the
job, as many as 391 women (96 percent of those who reported that they
had worked since 1929) were able to report the reason for loss of em­
ployment. Of the 391, 64 percent had lost their jobs because of indus­
trial reasons such as the closing of the business, reduction of force,
racial discrimination, middle age, and others. The remainder, 36
percent, had left because of personal reasons such as illness of self or a
relative, marriage, or other family situations.
Nearly two-thirds of these women, therefore, had been forced out of
private employment for reasons peculiar to industry, and one-fourth
had been forced to stop working because of illness.
The length of the period of readjustment can be determined in only
the most general way, and for only about one-third of the cases studied.
Using the lapse of time between the end of the last job and the woman’s
application for relief, it is evident that the majority of the women
had been able to exist less than 6 months on their savings, credit, loans,
and gifts from friends and relatives. About 80 percent had postponed
their application for a period of less than a year by a series of make­
shifts, and 66 percent had been forced to apply for relief in less than 6
months. That 10 percent had postponed seeking relief for 2 years or
longer can be explained only by the existence of relatives able to
support, the kindness of friends, greater initial resources, and fewer
health problems.



64

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 19 3 7

The fact that much of this more recent employment was itself a
form of adjustment makes it even less possible to determine the length
of the period of adjustment, unless each case could be considered
individually. Failure of the various attempts to maintain independ­
ence usually was the immediate cause of applying for relief. When the
adjustments are distributed by the principal cause of seeking relief,
some interrelation is evident. For those women whose condition of
unemployment and dependency was due to physical illness, help from
friends and the use of savings or sale of property were the chief types
of adjustment made. As might be expected, less than one-fifth of
these women were able to seek work as a means of remaining independ­
ent, and about one woman in six received help from relatives.
In proportion to their numbers, those women who were dependent
because of lack of work seem to have made more types of adjustment
than any other group. Help from friends and landlords, the use of
resources, substitute forms of work, and working for room and board
were practiced by this group to a greater extent than was the case for
the total group.
Old age was the cause of unemployment in 63 cases. For this
comparatively small group, the chief types of adjustment ranked in
importance as follows: Use of resources (reported by 35 percent of the
women), help from friends (32 percent), substitute work (29 percent),
help from relatives (19 percent), work for board and lodging (10
percent), and help from landlords (8 percent).
Women habitually not employed made relative^ fewer adjustments
than did the gainful workers out of employment. The chief forms
were help from friends and use of resources. Instances might be cited
of great privation on the part of these women unequipped to earn a
living for themselves. Their efforts to postpone asking for “charity”
invariably included a serious lowering of their standard of living.




DURATION OF DEPENDENCY
For a group of women who had been economically independent and
self-supporting, or had considered their dependence on other members
of their families a normal thing, resort to public relief or private charity
was a bitter experience. Continued dependence on organized assist­
ance has operated in various ways: To reduce the feeling of guilt
over acceptance of relief; to emphasize a feeling of personal inade­
quacy in meeting the daily problems of life; to reduce the possibility
of reemployment in private industry; or to increase the resentment
over the unfairness of the world in general and relief agencies in
particular.
Inadequate, relief has meant to many women a steady decline in
their health, in their stock of clothing, and in general living stand­
ards. The woman who has only recently applied for assistance is
much better equipped in the competition for jobs, for she has not
been weakened by an inadequate and poorly balanced diet; she has
a few presentable clothes, and she has not lost her skills and habits
of work.
In this inquiry the duration of dependency was considered from
two aspects: (1) The number of years that had elapsed since the
woman first applied to a public or private relief agency; and (2) the
actual number of months during which relief had been given her by
a public agency. In the first connection, private family welfare and
relief agencies, or protective agencies for women, that had been active
at one time on the case were included with the public agencies pro­
viding relief to needy persons; agencies that had rendered only service
were excluded. For the second aspect of dependency, the number
of months of actually receiving relief was computed by determining
the length of time the case was open for relief, after deducting all
periods when relief had been stopped. In all these months relief may
or may not have been the sole support of the family; frequently only
partial relief was issued because of part-time employment or some
income that partially met the woman’s needs. Until fairly recently,
too, rent was almost never allowed.
Year of first application for relief.
Measuring the period of dependency from the year of first applica­
tion for aid, it was apparent that the bulk of the cases were com­
paratively new ones, and that, this group of women was composed
largely of those who had been independent of charity until recently.
Of the sample group of women on the relief rolls on February 1, 1937,
25 percent had first applied in 1936 or in the first month of 1937, 22
percent had first applied in 1935, and 17 percent had made their
original application in 1934. Thus in 47 percent of the cases appli­
cation for relief had been made within 2 years of the date of the
survey, and in 64 percent the first appeal had been made within 3
years. Only 23 percent of the women had become dependent on
public aid or private charity as much as 4 years before.




65

66

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 19 3 7

That age is a significant factor in the length of dependency is indi­
cated, for well over two-fifths of the women under 30 years of age,
in contrast to only 10 percent of the women of 60 and over, had
applied for relief as recently as 1936.
For the entire group of women the average (median) time that had
elapsed since first application to public or private agency was 26
months. The following tabulation shows the variation by age
group:
Average number
Age (in years)

21,
30,
40,
50,
60,

under
under
under
under
under

of months since fust
application

30______________________________
40
50
60
65

22
23
30
32

14

It is evident that women in the older groups had, on the average,
been dependent for longer periods.
Eleven women, varying in age from 30 to 64 years, had applied to
a relief agency before 1929. Constituting less than 2 percent of the
group under study, they may be considered as dependency cases that
antedated the depression period.
On the whole, Negro women tended to be more recent applicants
for assistance than the white women. In comparison to one-fifth of
the white women who applied as recently as 1936, one-third of the
Negro women had received relief for 1 year or less. Less than 2 years
had elapsed since the first application for relief in 44 percent of the
American-born white cases, in 40 percent of the foreign-born, and in
53 percent of the Negro cases.
The average (median) time elapsed since the first application was
about the same for native-white women (27 months) as for the whole
group (26 months). Foreign-born women tended to have applied
earlier, the average period being 32 months; and the average for
Negro women was as low as 22 months.
For the majority of these unattached women the period of depend­
ency had been a comparatively short one. From the standpoint of
retention of skills and work habits, then, the majority of these women
might conceivably be capable of reentering private industry should
their physical condition and the state of the labor market permit.
Number of years on public relief.
In considering the actual time during which relief from public funds
was issued to these women, it was evident that a large part of the
sample consisted of recent cases. On February 1, 1937, 160 women
(27 percent) had received relief for less than a year.1 Fifty-four per­
cent had received relief for less than 2 years and 73 percent for less
than 3 years. An additional 15 percent had been dependent for 3
and under 4 years, and 11 percent had received relief for 4 years or
longer. Three women had been dependent for 6 years or more, but in
those cases there were unusual instances of family behavior problems,
illness, and mental deficiency, as well as the problem of dependency.
Though women 60 years of age and over constituted 23 percent of
the entire sample group, they comprised 32 percent of the women
who had received relief for 2 years or more. The 138 women underi
i 62 women (11 percent) had received relief for less than 3 months.




67

DURATION OF DEPENDENCY

40 years of age, though forming 24 percent of the total, comprised 49
percent of those who had received relief for less than 3 months. It
is evident, therefore, that as the age of a woman increased, the likeli­
hood of remaining on relief became greater. The younger woman,
unless seriously ill, found it easier to secure work and maintain her
independence; in addition, she seemed able more frequently to fall
back on her family in an emergency.
Table 16.—Duration of public relief, by age

under
years

2,

under
3 years

3, under
4 years

4, under 5, under 6 years
5 years 6 years or over

1

579

100.0 2

11

1.9
5.4

31
35 6.0
61 10. 5
67 11. 6
88 15. 2
91 15.7
61 10. 5
134 23. 1

156

100.0

114

100.0

2

1.3
4.5
8.3
7. 1
13.5
19.2
14. 1
10.9

1

.9
4.4
4.4
9.6
7.9
16.7
13.2
10.5
32.5

7
13

11
21

30

22

17
33

21.2

5
5

11

9
19
15
12

37

88 100.0
1
2

5
9

10
10
20

9

22

Percent

Number

Percent

j

100.0

7 4.5
17 10.9
9 5.8
25 16.0
22 14. 1
21 13.5
26 16.7
13 8.3
16 10.3

156

Number

Percent

Number

Percent

Percent

Percent

N umber
Total reported..
21, under 25___ ...
25, under 30___ ____
30, under 35
35, under 40
40, under 45................
45, under 50. _ . ...
50, under 55
55, under 60
60, under 65__ ___

Number

1,
2

Number

Under 1
year

.

Total
reported

Number

Age (in years)

Number

Women with relief period specified

100.0

3 14

n

1

2.1

1

1

5
5
4
7
9
17

10. 4
10. 4
8.3
14.6
18.8
35. 4

3

1

48

1.1

2.3
5.7
10. 2

11.4
11. 4
22.7
10.2

25.0

1
1
8

1

i Age not reported for 6 women and relief period for 19 women of total 604.
s Includes 62 women who had received relief for less than 3 months. 10 were under 30 years old; 19 were 30
and under 40; 13 were 40 and under 50; 11 were 50 and under 60; 6 were 60 and under 65; and for 3 women age
was not reported.
3 Base too small for computation of percents.

Variation in the period of dependency on public relief of white and
Negro women is especially apparent. Little difference was noted in
the duration of relief of native- and foreign-born white women, but
Negro women tended to have received relief for much shorter periods.
Ten percent of the native-white women as compared to 14 percent of
the Negro group had received relief for less than 3 months. Twentytwo percent of the white women, but 36 percent of the Negro women,
had been dependent for less than a year.
The duration of dependency is in many cases a significant factor in
the employability of a person, for lack of employment often results in
loss of skill and work habits, while illness, if allowed to go uncared for,
may change a temporary disability into a permanent one. The sum­
mary following presents a classification of employability of this
group of women in relation to the duration of dependency. Of those
classed by the interviewers as employable,2 52 percent were found to
have received relief for less than a year, 26 percent for less than 3
months. Not quite one-third had been on relief as much as 2 years.
2 Employability, as determined after reading the case records, consulting medical reports, and interview­
ing the women, was the physical and mental ability to work without danger to themselves or others, either
in private employment or in some form of work project or sheltered employment. Lack of education or
training for specific occupations or of work experience was not considered, for it was felt that determination
of employability on those terms required a high degree of familiarity with the labor market and employ­
ment service procedure. The classification of employable is a very liberal one; for example, women over
50 years of age who were not ill were classed as employable. Careful vocational classification undoubtedly
would reduce considerably the number of women who could qualify for a job in private industry or who
would be useful even on a work relief project.




68

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON BELIEF IN CHICAGO, 19 3 7

Women of specified degree of employability *
Unemployable

Duration of public relief (in years)
Total re­
ported

Total reported.
Under 1...................
1, under 2________
2, under 3________
3, under 4________
4, under 5............
5, under 6________
6 or over_________

Employ­
able

Employ­
able with
handicap

569

97

90

160

222

154
155

50
16
15
13

19
25

48
57
19

16

22
11
2
1

37
57
57
35
29

2

111
86

48

2

3

1

12

20

6

4

Tempo­
rarily

Perma­
nently

6
1

1 Employability as determined by the investigators during the survey, after reading case history, consult­
ing medical reports and diagnoses, and interviewing the woman.
2 Degree of employability not reported for 16 women and duration of public relief for 19 women of total
of 604.

Those who were considered employable within the limits of a
physical handicap 3 had been receiving relief for a longer time, for 51
percent had been on the relief rolls 2 years or more and only 21 percent
had received relief for less than a year.
Of those considered unemployable permanently,4 a large proportion
were found to have been dependent for relatively long periods. Only
17 percent had been dependent for less than a year, and 58 percent
had received relief for 2 years or more, 32 percent for at least 3 years.
Most significant of all the classes, however, was that composed of
women suffering from an illness temporary 6 in character, which ulti­
mately would allow them to work if proper medical attention were
provided. Of this group, 30 percent had been on the relief roils for
less than a year. The average time on relief was 19 months.
Almost one-half (46 percent) of the women studied had received
relief for 1 and under 3 years. The average number of months for
the 585 women reported was 21. It is probable that the actual cases
of nonfamily women are constantly changing, and that dependency
on relief is temporary and intermittent for all but those whose physical
or mental incapacity makes even short-time employment impossible.
As these nonfamily women grow older, they will tend to remain on
the relief rolls for longer periods, so that both actually and in propor­
tion to the total case load the number of nonfamily cases may be
expected to increase.
Intermittency of relief.
Periods of dependency were not always continuous. .Relief was
stopped when private employment was obtained, when the Federal
works program offered employment to the woman or to relatives re­
sponsible for her support, or when insurance adjustment or sale of
securities made possible a few months of independent living. Hos-* I
3 Employable within the limits of a handicap included those women whose bodily functions were impaired
by loss of an arm or a leg, who had lost the use of some part of the body through paralysis, whose activity
had been restricted because of some cardiac difficulty, or who had some mental deficiency or disorder, but
who still were capable of doing some work. Generally speaking, they would not quality for employment in
private industry, but many, under close supervision, might benefit from part-time work.
I Classed as unemployable were the women physically incapacitated for work of any sort. Unemploya­
bility on a permanent basis included those whose physical condition, in all probability, would never improve
sufficiently to allow them to be self-supporting.
_
.
»Included in this class were women whose illness, in all probability, might be cured, hractures, sprains,
post-operative conditions, acute illnesses, conditions where surgery had been recommended (hernia, tumors),
were some of the conditions responsible for this classification.




DURATION OF DEPENDENCY

69

pitalization for serious illnesses meant a stopping of relief, though the
case usually was not closed. Relief was stopped as a matter of agency
routine when a client failed to keep an office appointment, to return
a new affidavit of need at the prescribed time, or to notify the district
office of a change in address, or “refused to cooperate” in the investi­
gation of her resources. Transfers from one administrative unit to
another usually were accomplished without a break in relief, for the
last check given by the transferring agency covered the period of
transition.
For 431 women (71 percent) the relief period had no breaks in relief
of more than 2 weeks’ duration; in many instances relief may have
been stopped for a few days, but reinstatement took place in less than
2 weeks. In 29 percent of the cases relief had been stopped one or
more times for more than 2 weeks. One hundred and thirty-three
women had gone off the relief rolls once during their period of de­
pendency; in 27 cases relief had been stopped twice; and in 13 cases
relief had been stopped three or more times. The maximum number
of breaks was six, in the case of an irregularly employed woman whose
earnings were so low that each period of unemployment forced her
immediately to reapply for relief.
For the 173 women whose months on relief had been interrupted,
231 stops in relief were reported. In 20 percent of the closings, Federal
works had employed either the woman or her relatives; private em­
ployment was responsible for 30 percent of the stops in relief; agency
procedure for 23 percent; while miscellaneous reasons, temporarily
leaving town, adjusting insurance or selling property, and hospitali­
zation accounted for an additional 18 percent. The largest number of
stops in relief were the result of employment in private industry
secured by the women themselves.
The 231 cases of relief being stopped for more than 2 weeks are
shown by cause of such stoppage in the following:
Reason for stopping relief

Total reported
Employment on Federal works
program____
_
____

Number
of stops

Percent
of total

1231

100.0

46

19.9

Private employment..................

69

29.9

Relatives_____ ________
Income from roomers ____ ...
Support by relatives.____
Insurance or property adjustment ____________________
In hospital________ _ _
Out of town . _

21

9.1
1.7
4.8

4

11

15
16
10

6.5
6.9
4.3

Reason for stopping relief

Number Percent
of stops of total
53

Transfer of case_____ ___
Failure to report change of
address. ___
Failure to return affidavit..
Failure to keep office appointment_______
‘ ‘Refused to cooperate’ ’___
Investigation for suspected
fraud___________
Refusal of work or W. P. A.
employment___ ______

23.0

6

2. 6

16
3

6.9
1.3

8

3. 5
3.9

9
2
6

3

1. 3

27

3.0

1 Relief was intermittent for 173 women; in 40 cases the period of dependency was broken more than once.
2 Incudes 3 cases of sufficient income" as the only reason given for closing the case; 1 of a woman who
deserted her family; 1 of separation from the husband; 1 of a jail sentence; and 1 of a woman supported by a

Family status during dependency.
Though all the women included in the group under study were non­
family persons on February 1, 1937, examination of their case records
revealed that not all had been unattached throughout their period of




70

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 19 3 7

dependency. Some had been married and received relief with their
husbands; others had lived with children and various close relatives.
Twenty-two percent had lived in a family group at some time since
their application for aid, but the great majority (78 percent) had been
unattached since before receiving relief. Death of the husband
during the dependency period was a frequent cause of loss of family
status. Employment of brother, sister, parent, or child on the Federal
works program was followed in some cases by their refusal to con­
tribute to the woman’s support, so that she was compelled to reapply
for direct relief as a nonfamily person. A long period of low wages
and inadequate relief had strained many family ties to the breaking
point, so there is little wonder that work-relief earnings were used for
an adjustment of living arrangements. For some families, even a
security wage may have been too small to support a dependent rela­
tive, especially an aging or sick woman who was none too pleasant to
live with under the best conditions. Some of these family difficulties
might have been adjusted, if not prevented, by case-work service.




RELIEF ISSUED IN JANUARY 1937
Knowledge of the actual amounts of relief issued during the month
of the study was considered essential for an understanding of the
living conditions of this group of nonfamily women. Data concern­
ing the amounts of semimonthly checks, the items for which the
amounts were issued, and the period of time the amounts were ex­
pected to last were obtained from the relief departments in the various
district offices. Early in the study it was found that budget sheets
filed in the case records gave little indication of the amount actually
issued, though theoretically the budget sheet was planned as the form
on which case workers listed the needs of the individual or family,
reported any income of which they knew, and computed the amount
of relief necessary for the period. Stipulation of maximum amounts
for almost every item, however, had resulted in the practice of making
what amounted to flat grants for one-person-family cases, for so often
even the prescribed maxima failed to meet the needs of the individual.
Amounts allowed.1
According to the monthly budget allowances, the amount of cash
allowed for food for a woman was specified, at the time of the study,
as $6.85; if she was living alone, an additional allowance of 35 percent
was permitted, bringing the total for food to $9.25. The maximum
amount allowed for rent for a single person was $12, with heat, light,
and gas included in the rental. Clothing for a working woman might
be budgeted as $2; for a woman at home, $1.80 was allowed.
Fuel allowances included one ton of coal at $5.20, or a half ton at
$3.20, depending on the weather. To this fuel allowance might be
added the carry-in charge, which, based on the location of the bin,
varied from 75 cents to $1.20 a ton. Small electric and gas bills
might be paid. For lighting purposes a maximum of five gallons of
kerosene was allowed; under existing prices this amounted to 52 cents.
For single persons with special difficulties, room and board was al­
lowed, though a maximum of $25 a month was specified.
Under normal conditions, then, a maximum budget for a woman
living alone might be:
Food_________
Rent 12.
Clothing 1.

$9. 25
00
80

Total23. 05

Occasionally there might be added the expense of a special outlay
of clothing, additional food if recommended by a clinic, or carfare if
regular trips to a hospital or clinic were necessary. Special diets in
the case of diabetes, tuberculosis, pernicious anemia, or malnutrition
were issued on request of the physician or clinic, but requests had to
be renewed periodically. Amounts allowed for a diabetic diet ranged
from $3.25 to $4.50 a month; the customary amount for a tuberculous
person was $1.75; while high-caloric diets for women suffering from
anemia or malnutrition varied from $1.75 to $3.50.i
i Chicago Relief Administration. “Monthly Budget Allowances.”




Form CW-28.

71

72

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

On the other hand, budgets might be somewhat smaller if the
woman were living in a home whose rental was lower than $12, or if
no allowance were made for clothing needs. At the time of the
study, cases classed as employable by the Chicago Belief Administra­
tion received rent irregularly. In 1 month, if a surplus existed in the
district office after needs of unemployable cases had been met, the
employable cases might receive 2 weeks’ rent, but in the next month
no rent would be issued. Attempts were made to distribute such
surpluses as evenly as possible through the entire case load by issuing
partial rent on successive due dates.
Variation in amounts issued in January 1937.
In the following paragraphs, the amounts of relief cited include only
cash or disbursing orders issued to the women. No attempt has been
made to include commodities distributed by the Federal Surplus
Commodities Corporation, nor clothing from the American Bed Cross
or W. P. A. sewing projects, nor to estimate the expenditures for
medical care of these women.
The amount of relief most frequently reported was $23 and under
$24, issued to 34 percent of the women under study. Next in nu­
merical importance was $21 and under $22, received by 17 percent.
Thirteen percent received $15 and under $20, and 14 percent received
at least $24. Of the 45 women who received less than $10, the
majority had received $9.25, the amount allowed for food.
For the city as a whole, the unattached women included in the study
averaged $22.44; actually the concentration, as stated, is higher. Very
small amounts, as well as very high ones, were the result of unusual
circumstances. A small check usually was due to a new case or to
some break in relief in January; large ones were issued only in special
or temporary circumstances.
AMOUNT OF RELIEF RECEIVED IN JANUARY 1937
Women

Women

Amount
Number

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

1

Percent
of total

603
$22.44

100.0

Amount
Number

$23, under $24_____________ _
$25, under $26. _

$15, under $20
$20, under $21....... ......................
$22, under $23__________ ____

45
52
81
10

103
24

7. 5

8.6

13.4
1.7
17.1
4.0

$28’ under $21)

205
19

12
12

9

8
10

13

Percent
of total
34.0
3. 2
2.0
2 0

1. 5
1.3
1.7
2. 2

^Excludes 1 woman with amount not reported.
2The median or midpoint, with half the amounts above and half below the figure shown.

Items of relief.
To analyze more closely the relief issued in January 1937, the various
items for which relief was issued were scrutinized in detail. The
budget set up most frequently (41 percent of all cases) contained
amounts for shelter, food, and clothing. For women living in unheated
homes, a fuel allowance was a necessity, and utility allowances were
made in some instances. Various types of other expense, such as
extra clothing, special needs because of illness, carfare, and special
diets increased some of the budgets.



73

RELIEF ISSUED IN JANUARY 193 7

For purposes of classification, the allowances for rent were divided
into three types: (1) “Full rent” (the payment of the total rental if the
total was $12 or less, or of $12 if the monthly rental exceeded the
maximum prescribed for living quarters for a single person); (2)
“partial rent” (the payment of less than 1 month’s rent in January);
and (3) no rent issued for the month of January. A few additional
cases fell into the class of “special arrangements,” where an effort was
made to meet some extraordinary need arising in the month not likely
to happen again.
ITEMS FOR WHICH RELIEF WAS ISSUED IN JANUARY 1937
Women

Women

Items
Num­
ber

Percent
of total

i 603

Total
Full rent_____________________ _

100.0

69.0
Plus food —----- —
74
12.3
Plus food and clothing
249
41. 3
21
Plus food, fuel, and clothing___
3.5
Plus food, clothing, fuel, and/or
6.0
utilities_ ____ ________
_
Plus food, clothing, special ex­
penses___ ____ ________
Room and board

1
2

Items

416

8

1.3

Num­ Percent
ber
of total
Partial rent___

68

11.3

Plus food_____ __________
Plus food and clothing_____
Plus food and other items. __.
No rent________

29
23
16
93

4.8
3.8
2.7
15.4

Food only
Food and clothing..
Food and fuel. _. ______
Food and other items
Special arrangements 2. _.

39
19
15

6.5
3.2
2.5
3.3
4.3

20

26

Excludes 1 woman with items of relief not reported.
To meet some extraordinary need arising in the modth.

To 69 percent of the women the relief office paid what from the
administrative point of view was full rent ;2 11 percent received partial
rent; and 15 percent received no rent at all for the month of January,
though most of these women were living in homes requiring the pay­
ment of rent. In about 4 percent of the cases some special arrange­
ments for relief were made.
Amounts paid for room and board were in the groups $23 and under
$27, with 4 of the 8 women for whom this type of care was deemed
necessary receiving $26 and under $27.
The classification of employability as made by the relief adminis­
tration was a significant factor in the items of relief issued in the
month of January, though it was by no means always followed. As
many as 419 women (69 percent of the total) had been classed as un­
employable by the district office and therefore were entitled to receive
complete relief, including rent, food, and clothing. Actually, only 88
percent of the women considered unemployable received allowances
including full rent; the remaining 12 percent received only partial rent
or no rent allowance at all. On the other hand, 39 percent of the
women classed as employable received full rent allowances in January;
to 29 percent partial rent was issued; and 32 percent received no rent
allowance. Failure to issue rent to women classed as unemployable
can be explained only by the supposition that they were living in
rent-free homes.
This partial and incomplete relief raises a serious question of case­
work procedure. After computing a budget based on individual needs,
failure to issue relief according to need is a serious matter. If relief
1 In many eases the payment of “full rent” was insufficient to meet the monthly rental, and the client
was compelled to make up the deficiency in other ways.




74

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

is to supplement underemployment or low wages paid in private in­
dustry in the community, the philosophy behind this practice should
be fully understood by the planning body. The consequences of such
subsidization of private industry should be carefully weighed.
The foregoing discussion of the items of relief issued in January has
been confined to the first necessity, shelter. Food allowances were
given uniformly to all women on the relief rolls; the amount was the
same in all cases but the few where special diets were authorized.
Clothing, as an important factor in the happiness and success of
every woman, deserves special consideration. In January, clothing
allowances were irregularly issued, regardless of the employability
classification. For the group of women as a whole, 67 percent received
allowances for clothing varying from $1.50 to $2, with the majority
receiving $1.80. Only 35 percent of the women classed as employable
received an allowance for clothing, in contrast to the 82 percent of the
unemployable women who received such allowances.
During the course of the interview, the subject of clothing was
almost certain to come under discussion. The period of readjustment
usually had included great economies in amounts spent for wearing
apparel, with the result that the average woman applied for relief
with a very scanty stock of clothing. Months on relief had not im­
proved the supply of clothing; many women lacked sufficient to make
a presentable appearance or even to keep warm. The lack of a winter
coat, of outdoor shoes and galoshes or gloves, created difficulties for
the woman who wished to look for work, or even to go to work if she
succeeded in getting a job. As one woman said to the interviewer,
“When your clothes get gone, and your shoes get gone, how can you
get a job?” Notes from three of the schedules follow:
One woman, though suffering from a chest condition, had neither rubbers nor
galoshes. When she went out she was forced to borrow her landlady’s shoes.
Her only coat was bought in 1929.
Though she had two house dresses in good condition, her street dress was torn
and her coat ragged. She had one pair of pumps but could not go outdoors in
cold weather because she had no rubbers nor galoshes.
A Negro woman whose only shoes were completely lacking in soles, wore her
dead husband’s shoes, though they had no heels and the laces had long since
worn out.

Inadequate underclothing and stockings were reported by many
women. Several women had only one suit of underclothing, so the
problem of laundry loomed large in their lives. Clothing made on
the W. P. A. sewing projects and issued from the distribution center
was difficult to obtain in the size desired, and many women were dis­
satisfied with the style of the garment. Ability to sew and remodel
their old clothing naturally was of great value to these women in
keeping up their appearance, while the clothing of women untrained
in this respect deteriorated rapidly.
Some women searched Salvation Army or second-hand shops for
cheap clothing. One woman spoke of buying a pair of shoes for 25
cents. Another had remodeled a winter coat that she had found on
a rubbish heap.
In view of the fact that personal appearance is such an important
factor in successful competition for employment, it would seem desir­
able to issue clothing allowances to women classed as employable as
well as to those whose inability to supplement the relief allowance by
earnings is recognized.



CASE-WORK SERVICES
A case-work service set up within a relief organization has wide
responsibilities to applicants and recipients of relief, and to other
social agencies within the community. From the time an applicant
makes his first appeal for help in supporting himself or his dependents,
the case worker must take an active part in investigating his resources,
verifying employment records, planning budgets, and interpreting
the functipn of the agency. After acceptance of the case for relief,
the case worker must make frequent visits to keep in touch with
changing family situations and to make possible a constructive rela­
tionship with the dependent family. As family needs become ap­
parent during the period of dependency, the contributions of the case
worker may broaden into wider areas of family discord or behavior
problems. Specialized services, such as arrangement for medical
care, dental care, or provision for special diets, or placement on work
relief projects, or certification for W. P. A. employment, or arrange­
ment for vocational training, are rendered to almost all dependent
families.
Though personnel standards of the Chicago Relief Administration
have been high and appointments free from political interference,
statutory restriction on the amount of administrative expenditures
has resulted in large case loads and tremendous pressure of work.
Careful reading of case records has been neglected, services have been
reduced to a minimum, and frequent visiting has become impossible.
Numerous changes in workers have prevented any continuity of rela­
tionship between the client and the worker, with a resultant increase
in the feeling of insecurity on the part of the dependent person.
In many of the interviews with these women, there was an urgent
request to see a worker or a sorrowful complaint of the length of time
since a worker had last visited. Most of the case records read in
the spring of 1937 contained only one or two entries since the reopen­
ing of the district offices after the 1936 crisis. One record, read on
March 1, 1937, had no entry later than May 1, 1936; in another,
read on March 20, 1937, the latest visit was dated January 1936.
Medical care.
Since it was essential to learn as much as possible concerning the
physical condition of this group of nonfamily women, the case records
were read carefully for all references to illness and medical care. In
almost half the cases (289) a diagnosis of recent date was found in
the case record or in the files of the medical department, but in 309
cases there was no report of the woman’s physical condition on which
could be based a real classification of employability.
Of the women having no recorded diagnosis, 67 (11 percent of the
group) had never complained of ill-health to their case workers; how­
ever, 18 of these did report some physical disability at the time of
the interview.
61957°—3S-




6

75

76

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

Complaints of ill-health had been made by 242 women for whom no
diagnosis had been secured. Clinic referrals had been given to 117
of these women, but referrals had not been given to 93 women report­
ing some illness; in the case of the other 32 women, no diagnosis had
been secured because the women had refused out-patient care or were
under the care of private physicians. In six cases the status of the
medical record was not determined.
Status of medical record
No diagnosis in record
Duration of public relief
(in years)

Women
reported

Diagnosis
filed

Complaint of illness
No com­
plaint

Referred
to clinic

No referral

Other

Number reported - - - - - -

i 579

277

64

114

93

31

40
82
63
54
27

39

31
30
24
15

39

under 2__________________
2, under 3

159
155
114

10
12

16

4
3

1,

i Excludes
reported.

86

48
14
3

4, under 5__

6

10

7
6
1

11

1

12
1
1

21

8

7

1

2

1

______
women with medical record not reported and 19 women with duration of public relief not

One of the chief reasons for failure to issue a clinic referral to a
woman complaining of illness would certainly be that the case was
a new one or that the complaint was recent. Distribution of the
status of medical records by the number of months on public-relief
rolls indicates, however, that of the 93 women who had complained
of illness but had received no clinic referral, 58 percent had been on
relief for a year or longer.
Arrangement for special diets.
Meeting the needs of persons with health problems has long been
considered a vital function of the case worker. After arranging for
medical care, an important phase of cooperation with the doctor or
health agency in adjusting the social situation so that medical treat­
ment may proceed with as few hindrances as possible is the provision
of special foods for the dependent person. Adjustment of the diet
in gastrointestinal and thyroid disturbances usually can be accom­
plished without additional expense, but the restricted diet in diabetes
and the high caloric diet in tuberculosis, anemia, and malnutrition
require a larger food allowance.
_
Among 61 women with diseases of the four types last mentioned,
clinics had recommended special diets in 34 cases, but in only 17 cases
in January had such special diets been allowed.
Failure to cooperate completely with clinic suggestions for treat­
ment is especially unfortunate because the relief agency pays directly
for that medical care. Large case loads and the resultant pressure
of work make it impossible for the case-work staff to be aware of
health problems, to arrange for treatment, or to secure reports of the
physical condition of the women for whose care the relief adminis-




CASE-WORK SERVICES

*

*

77

tration is paying. Perhaps some immediate economies are effected
by disregarding clinic requests for special diets, but from the long­
time point of view the public probably must foot a larger bill than
would have been necessary had the period of dependency been
shortened.
Work relief as a tool in treatment.
The use of work relief as a device in raising morale, maintaining
skills and work, habits, and producing goods or rendering services
beneficial to society has been defended by many groups in the field
of social work and in the community at large. The work projects of
the Service Bureau for Women, with their definitely vocational
aspects, were regarded as one of the most valuable phases of its
program of aid to needy women.
In view of the fact that 69 percent of the women included in this
sample group were classed as unemployable in January 1937, it is not
surprising that very few women had ever been employed on a workrelief project or had been placed in a Civil Works Administration or
Works Progress Administration job. Examination of the relief
history of the 604 women revealed that 15 had been assigned to a
work-relief project conducted under the auspices of the Illinois Emer­
gency Relief Commission, 5 women had secured C. W. A. work, and
15 had been employed on W. P. A. projects. Because 4 women had
been assigned, during their period of dependency, to both local work
relief and the newer Federal relief work projects, only 31 different
women (5 percent of the total group) may be said to have been
employed on relief work.
Types of work available under relief projects included sewing,
laundry, nurse’s aide in private and public hospitals, and clerical
and stenographic work, while W. P. A. added power-sewing-machine
projects and group-work activities.
Some early placements on work relief were most unhappy, because
of the types of work or the previous history of the women.
One woman, now 53 years old, had never worked outside of her own home.
She was assigned to a C. W. A. housekeeping service, but the work was hard
and she felt that her “employers” imposed on her. Placed in a sewing room, she
was still unhappy, for she disliked sewing. Finally she was assigned to work
assisting nurses in the Cook County Hospital, where she remained 9 months
enjoying her work thoroughly.

Another hospital job, happy while it lasted, had terminated abruptly.
■
'

„ A woman now 52 years of age had enjoyed 7 months as nurse’s aide in Cook
County Hospital, where she worked 3 days a week, 6 hours a day, for $6 30 a
week. The project ended without notice and she was returned to direct relief.

Including as work relief employment on projects of the Works
Progress Administration, it was found that 15 women had been placed
on W. P. A. at some time before the date of the interview. Of this
number, 6 had received assignments after February 1, 1937, so that
at the date of the study they were counted as receiving direct relief.
Most of these women were enthusiastic about their work and a chance
to be independent of relief.
• A 49-year-old woman, whose severe burns had resulted in several years of
invalidism and three painful surgical operations, was delighted with a clerical job
m the office of a public school.
A 61-year-old woman was pleased with her assignment as housekeeper to a
friend, also on relief, who was in the hospital for an operation and needed someone
to care for her children. A room was supplied, and she worked overtime (Satur­
days and Sundays) for her meals.




78

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON BELIEF IN CHICAGO, 1937

Not all placements, however, worked out satisfactorily.
A 46-year-old Norwegian woman who had received 2 months of work relief as
long ago as 1935 was placed on a W. P. A. project as game-room supervisor. A
psychiatric examination had revealed no psychosis, though her personality was
admittedly eccentric. Because of her difficulty in getting along with others, she
lasted only 6 weeks on the project.

In another case, faulty vocational classification resulted in an
unfortunate placement.
A German-born woman, now 50 years of age, had come to the United States
hoping to be an opera star. She had sung in the Metropolitan Opera chorus in
New York. In addition to speaking, reading, and writing German, she was able
to speak and read English. Assignment to a W. P. A. job as translator was an
utter failure because of her inability to write English; after 9 months of being
shifted around from one department to another, she was released because of
“inefficiency.”

In some instances, illness resulted in the termination of W. P. A.
work.
A 35-year-old Negro woman was most enthusiastic over her 10 months’ ex­
perience on W. P. A., but a bad cold resulted in the removal of her name from
the pay roll.
An automobile accident ended one woman’s 6 weeks of W. P. A. work as time­
keeper on a demolition project.

It was clear from the interviews that most of the women were
eager for work, either in private industry or on some project of
W. P. A. The therapeutic values of a carefully planned work program
can scarcely be overestimated.
Vocational training.
A comprehensive case-work service undoubtedly would consider
provision for vocational training essential in a program of rehabilita­
tion. Inadequate funds for administrative purposes and absence of
planning on a long-time basis have resulted in an evasion of this
responsibility, and almost no facilities for retraining have been
developed.
_
_
,
. .
At some time during the interview the subject of vocational training
that might lead to future employment was discussed. The majority
of the women who were ill or had reached the age where employment
was no longer a possibility were hopelessly apathetic about future
training. Younger and more ambitious women often expressed a
desire for a stenographic course, sure that ability to type would
enable them to get a job; many Negro women were anxious for a
chance to learn power-machine sewing, for it seemed easy in com­
parison to heavy household work.
_
A W. P. A. project for training household employees is one of the
few means of vocational training open to destitute women in Chicago.
One young Negro woman had been persuaded by her case worker to
enroll. Absolutely unskilled, for her previous employment had
included only housework and seasonal work in a nut factory, she was
untrained for any work that would make her self-supporting. At the
time of the interview only 1 week of the course remained,_ though she
said that she disliked the work and apparently had no intention of
doing housework; she wanted to “sew and sing.” No other instances
of attempts at vocational training were found in the group under
study.




LIVING CONDITIONS
In an inquiry into living conditions of a dependent group, confusion
usually exists with regard to standards of housing, for minimum hous­
ing requirements are not easy to formulate without considering the
facilities available to low-income groups in general. But adequate
housing certainly should have such essentials as a neighborhood re­
moved from vice areas, a building constructed in accordance with the
building code, regular repairs, sufficient light and air, warmth in
winter, well-lighted halls, and cleanliness. If cross ventilation is not
possible, each room should have at least an outside window, not
merely one opening on a court, air shaft, or alley. Sanitary conven­
iences should be clean, dry, well lighted, and in keeping with the
regulations of the board of health. If the housing facilities in the
community are below living standards of health and decency, an
agency assuming responsibility for dependent persons necessarily must
make compromises with existing conditions, but its responsibility for
the future includes the pointing out of the necessity of remedial
measures.
Budgetary limitations also are important in considering the living
conditions of a dependent group. An ideal budget includes, in addi­
tion to food, allowances for shelter, fuel for cooking and heating, light,
ice in summer, cleaning supplies, carfare, and replacement of such
household supplies as bedding, dishes, and kitchen utensils. Fur­
nished-room accommodations obviate the need of some of these items,
insofar as they are included in the rent; but, in general, failure to
provide any one of these necessities means that it must be secured at
the expense of another item, usually food.
How the women lived.
In view of the budget restrictions, it is interesting to find that
75 percent of the women lived alone; that is, had the exclusive use
of a room in a rooming house or in some cases of an apartment or
cottage. This generally advisable arrangement undoubtedly made the
situation more bearable for the women concerned, especially the older
women.
About 14 percent of the women lived in a family group not related
to them. Usually they had separate rooms for sleeping purposes, but
they also had the privilege of sitting in the family living room, cooking
in the family kitchen, and participating in the family life. Sometimes
they were accustomed to eat with the family, to share the housework,
and to assist with the care of the children. In other households they
ate separately, cooking at times when the kitchen was not otherwise
in use, and felt less free to use the living rooms of the household.
Twenty-three women reported that they had no room of their own,
but were sleeping in living rooms, dining rooms, or kitchens. These
women were, for the most part, sharing the homes of friends or living
in a family group as the only lodger.
The women sharing a friend’s home and having the use of all the
rooms in the house or apartment were few in number (7 percent).




79

80

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 193 7

In some cases the friend was another woman on public relief, but in
many cases she was employed and wholly self-supporting. _ Strong
ties of friendship bound many of the women, and the interviews dis­
closed instances of great sacrifices made to postpone application for
assistance. Usually the friend was able to supply free lodging but
could not afford to feed and clothe the client indefinitely. On the
other hand, the most frequently reported reason for sharing living
quarters with a friend was to reduce the amount spent for rent.
Of the 20 women classed as living in other ways, 15 were those who
had their own apartments and rented rooms to other persons. Since
they were landladies, they probably had more freedom and inde­
pendence, in spite of some overcrowding, than women living in other
persons’ homes. One woman, though technically not a landlady be­
cause she was living in a condemned building where no rent was paid,
had taken in a homeless family after they had been evicted. The
remaining four women lived respectively in a community dining room,
in a convalescent home, in a Negro Y. W. C. A. home, and in a small
institution for women.
Though there was no striking variation in the mode of living at­
tributable to age, in general the practice of living alone increased, and
that of living with friends or in family groups decreased, among the
older groups. Many women in their late fifties and their sixties were
found to be alone in the world, with family ties broken by death or
estrangement. In many cases the relative quiet of a single room in a
rooming house spelled comfort for a nervous, sick, or prematurely
aged woman, where family life might have proved distasteful and
nerve-racking. On the other hand, some women, too ill to care
adequately for themselves, were found living alone when they should
have had the care of a sympathetic person.
Number of women living as specified
Age (In years)
Total

Women reported---------- ------ .-----Under 35------- -------- ...
35, under 50.
50, under 65.

----- ------------------ -

Alone

With a
family

With a
friend

i 598

454

80

44

82

59
168
227

14
31
35

8
22

222
294

14

Other

20
1
9
10

i Excludes 6 women with age not reported.

High rentals in Negro areas make necessary the taking-in of lodgers
if the family rent is to be paid. This doubling-up of families and con­
sequent overcrowding was apparent in the study of this group of
women, for about one-fifth of the Negro women lived with families,
though less than 10 percent of the white women did so.
The cases of overcrowding were comparatively few, but some were
very serious—especially where persons in desperate circumstances
had been given shelter by families almost as badly off as themselves.
Type of dwelling.
No attempt was made to distinguish between houses as detached,
semidetached, row house, flat building, or tenement. Dwellings are
divided into five groups: Eesidence, hotel, rooming house, building




LIVING CONDITIONS

81

providing light-housekeeping apartments of various sizes, and miscel­
laneous types.
All cottages and apartments in which the woman lived either alone
or as the only lodger in the family group were classed as residences, for
the privilege of using the living room and kitchen had values in creat­
ing a feeling of home life, in contrast to hotel or rooming-house atmos­
phere.
“Hotel” was defined as a building with five or more sleeping rooms
available for guests who paid by the day or week. Only a small per­
centage of women included in this sample were living in this type of
dwelling, because of the greater expense involved.
“Rooming house” was defined as any house or apartment having
two or more lodgers. Often it was a large single house converted into
a multiple dwelling with either a community kitchen or provision for
cooking in the sleeping rooms. Many of the rooming houses were
six- or eight-flat buildings with individual rooms sublet to tenants.
In each apartment, bathrooms and kitchens would be used in common
by all the tenants; occasionally the former dining room, if used as a
passageway to the kitchen, would be set aside as a common sitting
room.
_ A variation of the ordinary rooming house was seen in those build­
ings where apartments in units of one room or more were rented for
light-housekeeping purposes. Light-housekeeping facilities usually
consisted of the installation of wash bowls with running water, twoburner gas plates, and a few cooking utensils, though more pretentious
apartments had small gas stoves in kitchenettes. With the installa­
tion of cooking facilities in each room of many rooming houses, the
distinction between them and buildings providing light-housekeeping
rooms was less marked.
Frequently the filth and disorder were distressing to the women with
previous high standardsof cleanliness, though the tendency to sink into
the general apathy of rooming-house life was marked. Usually clients
cared entirely for their rooms, including the laundering of bedding and
curtains, in spite of the inadequacy of laundry facilities for such heavy
work. Furthermore, the relief allowance does not permit much
expenditure for soap and other cleaning materials; and the lack of
security in meeting rent payments creates a hesitancy in demanding
repairs or even the maintenance of minimum standards of cleanliness
and decency.
Basement rooms and apartments usually offer certain advantages to
women on relief, even though they lack fresh air and sunlight and have
obvious handicaps of cold and dampness in winter. Thirty-three
women (5 percent of the entire group) were living in basement rooms
or apartments.
In general, rentals of_ basement apartments are lower than those of
other apartments of similar size. A few women, in spite of the exhaus­
tion of resources that culminated in their application for relief, still
retained their household furniture. They preferred to move to a
place that would accommodate their furniture, even though it meant
living in damp, dark, and airless rooms.
Convalescent care in boarding homes or small institutions, or foster­
home care for the aged, are common methods of care for women too ill
or too old to provide for themselves comfortably in separate establish­
ments. Only one woman included in this group was found living in a



82

UNATTACHED WOMEN ON RELIEF IN CHICAGO, 1937

convalescent home. Managed by a practical nurse, the home housed,
besides her and her two small daughters, five women and nine men,
recipients either of old-age assistance or of relief. The monthly rate
for board and lodging was $25.
Successful use of convalescent-home care implies, of course, ade­
quate supervision on the part of the agency in order to prevent exploita­
tion of the relatively helpless client and to insure compliance with
local building-construction laws, fire-prevention ordinances, and city
standards of sanitation.
Practically two-fifths of the women (39 percent) lived in cottages or
apartments of their own or shared the home of a family or friend as
the only lodger. Almost the same proportion lived in rooming houses;
while 17 percent were living in buildings providing single rooms and
light-housekeeping apartments, 4 percent lived in hotels, and 2 percent
found it necessary to find other types of living quarters.
Details of housing facilities.
Measured by crowded city standards, the majority of the women
were living in light and airy rooms. In many cases there was more
than one window; unless the building was old or in violation of the
newer tenement laws, conditions of natural light were good. Where
conditions were bad, however, they were very bad, windows close to
adjacent walls making some rooms almost pitch-dark.
Almost 90 percent of the women lived in houses lighted by electric­
ity; about 9 percent used kerosene lamps; and a small number used
candles, gaslight, or did without artificial light.
A central furnace was the means of heating most frequently found.
Of all homes visited, about two-thirds had central heating. Other
means showed great variety.
About one-fourth of the women studied had no running hot water
in connection with their living quarters, a serious problem for anyone,
and especially for the older women suffering from chronic illness.
More than 70 percent of the women had the use of complete bath­
rooms, with running hot and cold water available. An additional 10
percent had bathrooms, though running hot water was lacking.
Only 53 women had exclusive use of their bathrooms, and 102 women
(17 percent of the group) had no bathing facilities, and 2 women had
no sanitary conveniences of any sort.
The most common way of cooking and eating was using cooking
equipment in the single room originally intended for living and sleep­
ing purposes. About 35 percent of the women cooked and ate alone
in their sleeping rooms. More than one-fourth of the women cooked
in the kitchen or kitchenette of their own apartment, and almost
one-fourth, living in rooming houses where the number of roomers
was not large, used the family kitchen for cooking and eating.
Difficulty in stretching over the required time the food allowance
of $9.25 a month for a single woman was mentioned by nearly every­
one interviewed. The retail sales tax was a heavy burden on those
with low incomes, for they bought in small quantities and the percent­
age of tax amounted to a considerable figure. Several women seemed
able to have only one meal a day; others reported two as the maxi­
mum, and the majority were “hungry all the time.”
Some of these women still had personal possessions from more
prosperous days. Seven-tenths of the women furnished their own




LIVING CONDITIONS

4

*

1

83

rooms. However, only one-half of the women furnished them com­
pletely. In many instances, to be sure, much of the furniture, dishes,
linens, and bedding had been sold, and only a few pieces kept to fur­
nish a small apartment or even a single room.
In spite of the irregularity in paying rents and the general low stan­
dards of many of the homes, this group of women tended to remain in
the same community and in the same rooms. Forty-five percent had
lived for a year or longer in the home where the investigator found
them. Twenty-eight percent had moved once in the year preceding
the inquiry; 14 percent had moved twice; and 12 percent had moved
three or more times. One woman, ill with tuberculosis, had moved
10 or 12 times in the past year.
The danger of eviction without notice was serious to those living in
furnished rooms,, rendering even short trips to the grocery store a
hazard, for eviction can be accomplished by simply locking the door
so that the tenant cannot reenter her room. Cases were reported of
evicted women sleeping in parks and hallways. Loss of personal
property was an inevitable accompaniment of many evictions.
Amount of rental.
Because the women studied are dependent on public relief, the
problem of finding adequate housing for a limited sum is especially
difficult. A relief agency usually is forced to make administrative
rulings with regard to the amount of rent it can pay for families of
various sizes. The Chicago Relief Administration, at the time this
study was in progress, had set $12 as the maximum amount of rent
allowed for the housing of a single person in quarters where both heat
and light were provided. Slightly lower maxima obtained in those
districts where rents were lower because of the presence of dwellings
without central heat.
Landlords have become wary of accepting recipients of relief as
tenants because of the irregularity of rent payments that has marked
the history of relief administration since 1931. The majority of these
women, therefore, were forced to seek shelter in the most deteriorated
areas, unless they were fortunate enough to find lodging in the home
of a friend or in the apartment of some family anxious to supplement
its income by taking in a single lodger.
Almost two-fifths of the women who were paying rent were living in
quarters renting for $12 a month; 28 percent were paying less than
that, and 33 percent were paying more. In several cases monthly
rentals of more than $12 were paid by the district office because of
serious physical or mental problems that made moving to less expen­
sive rooms undesirable at the time. In general, however, the woman
who wished to live in rooms renting for more than $12 paid the surplus
out of her food money.
The practice of allowing buildings to stand after being condemned
permits them to be occupied by persons unable to secure more suitable
shelter. This inquiry showed that several women were living in
condemned dwellings, with other individuals sharing the same quar­
ters and the same danger. Crumbling walls, sinking foundations,
treacherous stairways, lack of water, light, and sanitary conveniences
are serious hazards common to life in condemned buildings. Usually
they are the last resort in cases of eviction.




i

APPENDIX
SCHEDULE INQUIRIES
I. Personal data:

Name and address; marital status; age and date of birth; nativity, color,
citizenship; time in State, county, at present address; removals during
year.

J-

II. Education and training:

Grade of school completed; other training; English or other language
spoken, read, written; membership in professional, social, or labor
organization; occupational therapy; further training desired.

III. Relief:

Support previous to relief; adjustment before seeking relief; cause of
seeking relief; relief budget in January 1937; surplus food, medical
care; type and duration of relief, with dates; reasons for stoppages of
relief.

IV. Living conditions:

.

.

How woman lives (alone, in family, with friends, etc.); description of
living quarters (size, location, kind, heat and light, sanitary facilities,
furnishings, etc.); arrangement for meals; amount of rent or board.

V. Health:

_

Physical condition: Diagnosis, treatment, etc., according |to_ medical
record and/or statement of client or investigator; description of
disability; handicap; appliances used.
Mental condition: Same as foregoing.

VI. Employment history:

Employment status February 1, 1937 (employed full time, part time,
not employed); registered or not at Employment Service Office-,
estimated employability; special skills; total years employed; duration
of employment in usual occupation and industry and m alternate
occupation and industry; detailed work history from autumn of 1929
to date (with occupation and industry, employer’s name and address,
monthly earnings, and reason for leaving).

84




i

f

O