July 19, 2010
On Chicago: It's a Job
There was an oppressive atmosphere of dull, stupid endurance, and the faces of most of the women were pitifully blank. There was abundant evidence of lack of opportunity for promotion, of ceaseless mechanical work, of colorless, uneventful lives, and all this with good physical conditions and fairly good wages. "Girls are unreasonable," said the employer; "what more can they want?" They want an absence of fines for imperfect work for one thing, and the employer to furnish thread and needles for another. But he does not see the force of these old contentions. The buying of thread or needles or both is a constant source of irritation to the more intelligent workers of the needle trades in the West as in the East. In several Chicago establishments, this was found to amount to about $2 a week for those using one-needle machines, and it falls heavier on the two- and three-needle operators, who pay sometimes from $2.50 to $3 a week for their thread. It is the old, old story heard in various parts of the country, and filling the worker with a revolutionary spirit whenever it is told. The girls insist that the garment is sold with the thread, and the profit goes to the employer. An added grievance is that employees are required to buy thread from the firm. When questioned about this one girl smiled satirically and answered : " Sure, that's the way they make their money. We could get it much cheaper at a store."
From: Wage-Earning Women by Annie Marion MacLean Ph.D. (1910)
Annie Marion MacLean was a feminist and sociologist who spent 30 years teaching at the University of Chicago. She was only the second woman to receive a doctorate from that school (1900). Annie authored several books on women in the workplace and worked tirelessly for social reform.
Women's Labor History Links
Posted by Chicagobookbabe
Labels: working women