A NEW CONSCIENCE AND AN
AUTHOR OF "THE SPIRIT OF YOUTH AND THE CITY STREETS," ETC.
CHAPTER II. ECONOMIC PRESSURE AND ITS INEVITABLE RESULTS
IT may be possible to extract some small degree of comfort from the recent revelations of the white slave traffic, when we reflect that at the present moment, in the midst of a freedom such as has never been accorded to young women in the history of the world, under an economic pressure grinding down upon the working-girl at the very age when she most wistfully desires to be taken care of, it is necessary to organize a widespread commercial enterprise in order to procure a sufficient number of girls for the white slave market.
Certainly the larger freedom accorded to women by our changing social customs, and the phenomenal number of young girls who are utilized by modern industry, taken in connection with this lack of supply, would seem to show that the chastity of women is holding its own in that slow-growing civilization which ever demands more self-control and conscious direction on the part of the individuals sharing it.
Our Constantly Increasing Army of
Successive reports of the United States census indicate that self-supporting girls are increasing steadily in number each decade, until fifty-nine [percent] of all the young women in the nation between the ages of sixteen and twenty years are now engaged in some gainful occupation. Year after year, as these figures increase, the public views them with complacency, almost with pride, and confidently depends upon the inner restraint and training of this young multitude to protect it from disaster. Nevertheless, the public is totally unable to determine at what moment these safeguards, evolved under former industrial conditions, may reach a breaking-point, not because of economic freedom, but because of untoward economic conditions.
For the first time in history, multitudes of women are laboring without the direct stimulus of family interest or affection, and they are also unable to proportion their hours of work and intervals of rest according to their strength; in addition to this, for thousands of them, the effort to obtain a livelihood has fairly eclipsed the meaning of life itself. At the present moment no student of modern industrial conditions can possibly assert how far the superior chastity of women, so rigidly maintained during the centuries, has been the result of her domestic surroundings, and certainly no one knows under what degree of economic pressure it may give way.
In addition to the monotony of work and the long hours, the small wages these girls receive have no relation to the standard of living which they are endeavoring to maintain. Discouraged and over-fatigued, they are often brought into sharp juxtaposition with the women who are obtaining much larger returns from their illicit trade. Society also ventures to capitalize a virtuous girl at much less than one who has yielded to temptation, and may well hold itself responsible for the precarious position into which, year after year, this multitude of frail girls is placed.
Six Thousand Dollars the Capitalized
Value of the Average Working-Girl
The very valuable report recently issued by the Vice Commission of Chicago leaves no room for doubt upon this point. The report estimates the yearly profit of this nefarious business, as conducted in Chicago, to be between fifteen and sixteen millions of dollars. Although these enormous profits largely accrue to the men who conduct the business of the social evil, the report emphasizes the fact that the average girl [page 2] earns very much more in such a life than she can hope to earn by any honest work. It points out that the capitalized value of the average working-girl is six thousand dollars, as she ordinarily earns six dollars a week, which is three hundred dollars a year or five per cent that sum. A girl who sells drinks in a disreputable saloon, earning in commissions for herself twenty-one dollars a week, is capitalized at a value of twenty-two thousand dollars. The report further estimates that the average girl who enters an illicit life under a protector or manager is able to earn twenty-five dollars a week, representing a capital of twenty-six thousand dollars. In other words, a girl in such a life "earns more than four times as much as she is worth as a factor in the social and industrial economy where brains, intelligence, virtue, and womanly charm should be worth a premium." Of course, the argument is specious, in that it does not reckon the economic value of the many later years in which the honest girl will live as wife and mother, in contrast to the premature death of the girl in the illicit trade.
Yet, in spite of all this difference in the immediate earning capacity of a girl in the two situations, the supply of girls for the white slave traffic so far falls below the demand that large business enterprises have been developed, throughout the world, in order to secure a sufficient number of victims for this modern market. Over and over again in the criminal proceedings against the men engaged in this traffic, when questioned as to their motives, they have given the simple reply, "that more girls are needed," and that they were promised big money for them.
Girls Who Succumb to Economic Pressure
Although economic pressure as a reason for entering an illicit life has been brought out in court by the evidence in a surprising number of white slave trials, there is no doubt that a girl prefers to think that economic pressure is the reason for her downfall, even when the immediate causes have been her love of pleasure, her desire for finery, or the influence of evil companions. In a very real sense her diagnosis is correct, but economic stress given as a reason for entering the life sounds better than any other, and it is easy for all of us to deceive ourselves as to our motives. In addition to this, the wretched girl finds the experience too terrible to be faced day by day, and she endeavors to shelter her broken life with the excuse that the money she earns is needed for the support of some one dependent upon her, following the habits established by generations of virtuous women who cared for feeble folk. One such girl living in a disreputable house had adopted a delicate child afflicted with curvature of the spine, whom she boarded with respectable people, and kept for many weeks out of each year in an expensive sanatorium, that it might receive medical treatment. The mother of the child, an inmate of the house in which the ardent foster-mother herself lived, was quite indifferent to the child's welfare and also rather amused at such solicitude. The girl has persevered in her course for five years, never, however, allowing the little invalid to come to the house in which she and the mother live. The same sort of devotion and self-sacrifice is often poured out upon the miserable cadet who in the beginning was responsible for the girl's entrance into this life and who constantly receives her earnings. She supports him in the luxurious life he may be living in another part of the town, takes an almost maternal pride in his good clothes and general prosperity, and regards him as the one person in all the world who understands her plight.
Most of the cases of economic responsibility, however, are not due to chivalric devotion but arise from a desire to fulfill family obligations such as would be accepted by any conscientious girl. This was clearly revealed in conversations recently held with thirty-four girls who were living at the same time in a rescue home, when twenty-two of them gave economic pressure as the reason for choosing the life which they had so recently abandoned. One piteous little widow of seventeen had been supporting her child, and had been able to leave the life she had been leading only because her married sister had offered to take care of the baby without the money formerly paid her; another had been supporting her mother, and only since her recent death was the girl sure that she could live honestly because she had only herself to care for.
The Typical Story of a Fifteen-Year-Old
The following story, fairly typical of the twenty-two giving economic pressure as a reason, is of a girl who had come to Chicago, at the age of fifteen, from a small town in Indiana. Her father was too old to work and her mother was a dependent invalid. The brother who cared for the parents, with the help of the girl's own slender wages earned in the country store of the little town, became ill with rheumatism. In her desire to earn more money, the country girl came to the nearest large city, Chicago, to work in a department-store. The highest wages she could earn there, even although she wore [page 3] long dresses and was "experienced," was five dollars a week. Such a sum was, of course, inadequate even for her own needs, and she was constantly filled with a corroding worry for "the folks at home." In a moment of panic for more money, a fellow clerk who was "wise" showed her that it was possible to add to her wages by making appointments for the noon hour at downtown hotels; and having earned money in this way for a few months, the young girl made an arrangement with an older woman to be on call in the evenings whenever she was summoned by telephone, thus joining that large clandestine group of apparently respectable girls, most of whom yield to temptation only when hard pressed by debt incurred during illness or non-employment, or when they are facing some immediate necessity. This practice has become so established in the larger American cities as to be systematically arranged for. It is perhaps the most sinister outcome of the economic pressure, unless one cites its corollary -- the condition of thousands of young men whose low salaries so cruelly and unjustifiably postpone their marriages. For a long time the young saleswoman kept her position in the department-store, retaining her honest wages for herself but sending everything else to her family. At length, however, she changed from her clandestine life to an openly professional one because she needed enough money to send her brother to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where she maintained him for a year. She explained that he was now restored to health and able to support the family once more, and she had left the life "for ever and ever," expecting to return to her home in Indiana. She suspected that her brother knew of her experience, although she was sure that her parents did not, and she hoped that, as she was not yet seventeen, she might be able to make a fresh start. Fortunately, the poor child did not know how difficult that would be.
The Department-Store -- the High-Pressure
Point of Temptation
It is perhaps in the department-store more than in any other situation that every possible weakness in a girl is detected and traded upon. For, while it is true that "wherever many girls are gathered together, more or less unprotected and embroiled in the struggle for a livelihood, [nearby] will be hovering the procurers and evil-minded," no other place of employment is so easy of access as the department-store. No visitor is received in a factory or office unless he has definite business there, whereas every purchaser is welcome at a department-store, and even a notorious woman, well known to represent the demi-monde trade, is treated with marked courtesy if she spends large sums of money. The primary danger lies in the fact that the young saleswomen are thus easy of access. The cadet constantly passes in and out, making small purchases from every pretty girl, opening an acquaintance with complimentary remarks; or the procuress, a fashionably dressed woman, buys clothing in large amounts, sometimes for a young girl by her side, ostensibly her daughter. She condoles with the saleswoman upon her hard lot and lack of pleasure, and, in the role of a kindly prosperous matron, invites her to come to her own home for a good time. The girl is also subjected to temptation through the men and women in her own department, sometimes higher up, who tell her how invitations to dinners and theaters may be procured. It is not surprising that so many of these young, inexperienced girls are either deceived or yield to temptation, in spite of the efforts made by the management and by the older women in various departments to protect them.
The department-store has brought together, as has never been done before in history, a bewildering mass of delicate and beautiful fabrics, jewelry, and household decorations such as women covet, gathered skillfully from all parts of the world; and in the midst of this bulk of desirable possessions is placed an untrained girl, with careful instructions as to her conduct for making sales but with no guidance in regard to herself. Such a girl may be bitterly lonely, but she is expected to smile affably all day long upon a throng of changing customers; she may be without adequate clothing, although she stands in an emporium where it is piled about her literally as high as her head; she may be faint for want of food, but she may not sit down lest she assume "an attitude of inertia and indifferent," which is against the rules; she may have a great desire for pretty things, but she must sell to other people at least twenty-five times the amount of her own salary or she will not be retained. Because she is of the first generation of women that have stood alone in the midst of trade, she is clinging and timid; and yet, the only person, man or woman, in this commercial atmosphere who speaks to her of the care and protection which she craves, is seeking to betray her. Because she is young and feminine, her mind secretly dwells upon a future lover, upon a home adorned with the most enticing of the household goods about her, upon a child dressed in the filmy fabrics she tenderly touches; and yet, the only man who approaches her there, acting upon the knowledge of this inner life of hers, does it with the [page 4] direct intention of playing upon it in order to despoil her. Is it surprising that the average human nature of which young girls are made so often can not endure this strain?
Of fifteen thousand women employed in the downtown department-stores of Chicago the majority are Americans. We all know that the American girl has grown up in the belief that the world is hers "from which to choose," that there is ordinarily no limit to her ambition or to her definition of success. She realizes that she is well mannered and well dressed and does not appear unlike most of her customers. She sees only one aspect of her countrywomen who come "shopping," and she may well believe that the chief concern of life is fashionable clothing. Her interest and ambition most inevitably become thoroughly worldly, and from the very fact that she is employed downtown she obtains an exaggerated idea of the luxury of the illicit life all about her, which is barely concealed.
The fifth volume of the report of "Woman and Child Wage-Earners in the United States" gives the result of a careful inquiry into "the relation of wages to the moral condition of department-store women." In connection with this, the investigators secured "the personal histories of one hundred immoral women," of whom ten were or had been employed in a department-store. They found that, while only one of the ten had been directly induced to leave the store for a disreputable life, six of them said that "it was easier to earn money that way." The report states that the average employee in a department-store earns about seven dollars a week, and that the average income of the one hundred immoral women covered by the personal histories ranged from fifty dollars a week to one hundred dollars a week in exceptional cases. It is of these exceptional cases that the department-store girl hears, and the knowledge becomes part of the unreality and glittering life which is all about her. It is one of her disadvantages as compared to the life of a factory girl, who is much less open to direct inducement and to the temptations that come through sheer imitation. The factory girl also has the advantage of working among plain people who frankly designate an irregular life in harsh, old-fashioned terms. If the factory girl catches sight of this vicious life at all, she sees its miserable victims in all the wretchedness and sordidness of their trade in the poorer parts of the city. As she passes in the opening doors of a disreputable saloon, she may see, for an instant, three of four listless girls urging liquor upon men tired out with the long day's work and already sodden with drink. As she hurries along the street on a rainy night, she may hear a sharp cry of pain from a sick-looking girl whose arm is being brutally wrenched by a rough man; and if she stops for a moment, she hears his muttered threats in response to the girl's pleading that "it is too bad a night for street work." She sees a passing policeman shrug his shoulders as he crosses the street, and she vaguely knows that the sick girl has put herself beyond the protection of the law and that the rough man has an understanding with the officer on the beat.
An Industrial System that Destroys the
Nerves of Workingwomen
Yet, in spite of all this corrective knowledge, the increasing nervous energy to which industrial processes daily accommodate themselves, and the "speeding up" constantly required of the operators, may at any moment so register their results upon the nervous system of a factory girl as to overcome her powers of resistance.
Many a working-girl at the end of a day is so hysterical and overwrought that her mental balance is plainly disturbed. Hundreds of working-girls go directly to bed as soon as they have eaten their suppers. They are too tired to go from home for recreation, too tired to read, and often too tired to sleep. A humane forewoman recently said to me, as she glanced down the long room in which hundreds of young women, many of them with their shoes beside them, were standing: "I hate to think of all the aching feet on this floor. These girls all have trouble with their feet; some of them spend the entire evening bathing them in hot water." But aching feet are no more usual than aching backs and aching heads. The study of industrial diseases has only this year been begun by the federal authorities, and doubtless, as more is known of the nervous and mental effect of over-fatigue, many moral breakdowns will be traced to this source. It is already easy to make this connection in definite cases. "I was too tired to care," "I was too tired to know what I was doing," "I was dead tired and sick of it all," "I was dog tired and just went with him," are phrases taken from the lips of many reckless girls who are endeavoring to explain the situation in which they find themselves.
Only slowly are laws being enacted to limit the hours of workingwomen; yet the able brief presented to the United States Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Oregon Ten-Hour Law for Women based its plea upon the results of overwork as affecting women's health, the grave medical statements constantly broken into by a portrayal of the disastrous effects of [page 5] over-fatigue upon character. It is as yet difficult to distinguish between the results of long hours and the results of overstrain. Certainly the constant sense of haste is one of the most nerve-racking and exhausting tests to which the human system can be subjected. Those girls in the sewing industry whose mothers thread needles for them far into the night that they may sew without a moment's interruption during the next day; those girls who pack and seal forty-three hundred and twenty boxes of candy a day, not even taking a drink of water unless it is brought to them, because they can lose no time when they are paid at the rate of three fourths of a cent a dozen boxes, are striking victims of the over-speeding which is so characteristic of our entire factory system.
One Girl Who "Sold Out for a
Pair of Shoes"
Yet, factory girls who are subjected to this overstrain and overtime often find their greatest discouragement in the fact that, after all their efforts, they earn too little to support themselves. One girl said that she had first yielded to temptation when she had become utterly discouraged because she had tried in vain for seven months to save enough money for a pair of shoes. She habitually spent two dollars a week for her room, three dollars for her board, and sixty cents a week for carfare, and she had found the forty cents remaining from her weekly wage of six dollars inadequate to do more than resole her old shoes twice. When the shoes became too worn to endure a third soling, and she possessed but ninety cents toward a new pair, she gave up her struggle; to use her own contemptuous phrase, she "sold out for a pair of shoes."
Usually the phrases are less graphic, but, after all, they retain the same dreary meaning: "Couldn't make both ends meet"; "I had always been used to having nice things"; "Couldn't make enough money to live on"; "I got sick and ran behind"; "Needed more money"; "Impossible to feed and clothe myself"; "Impossible to feed and clothe myself"; "Out of work -- hadn't been able to save."
Very often, all that is necessary effectively to help the girl who is on the edge of wrong-doing, is to lend her money for her board until she finds work, provide the necessary clothing of which she is in such desperate need, persuade her relatives that she should have more money for her own expenditures, or find her another place at higher wages. Upon such simple economic needs does the tried virtue of a good girl sometimes depend!
The Cynicism of the Overworked
Here, again, the immigrant girl is at a disadvantage. The average wage of two hundred newly arrived girls of various nationalities, Poles, Italians, Slovaks, Bohemians, Russians, Galatians, Croatians, Lithuanians, Rumanians, Germans, and Swedes, who were interviewed by the Immigrants' Protective League, was four dollars and a half a week for the first position which they had been able to secure in Chicago. It often takes a girl several weeks to find this first place. During this period of looking for work the immigrant girl is subjected to great dangers; she is almost always exploited industrially, and often the attempt is made to exploit her virtue. A Russian girl quite recently took a place in a Chicago clothing factory at twenty cents a day, without in the least knowing that she was undercutting the wages of even that ill-paid industry. This girl rented a room for a dollar a week, and all she had to eat was given to her by a friend in the same lodging-house, who shared her own scanty fare. Such a desperate strait in regard to wages can be ameliorated only through the establishment of a minimum wage below which payment for services in a given trade may not fall. In the clothing industry trade-unionism has already established this limit for the wages of thousands of women who are receiving the protection and discipline of trade organization and responding to the tonic of self-help. Low wages will doubtless in time be modified by minimum wage boards for women such as have been in successful operation for many years in certain English colonies and are now being instituted in England itself, although as yet Massachusetts is the only State that has appointed a commission to consider this establishment for America. In the meantime, the average girl is subjected to temptations to which society has no right to expose her. A dangerous cynicism regarding the value of virtue, a cynicism never so unlovely as in the young, sometimes seizes a girl who because of long hours and overwork has been unable to preserve either her health or spirit and has lost all measure of joy in life. Often this premature cynicism may be traced to an unhappy and narrow childhood; for unless we have had much happiness then we can never be certain of a faith in life and a sense of security. This may have something to do with the experiences of the officers of the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago, who are constantly surprised at the large number of young girls who come from families in which there has been a lack of warm affection and the poor substitute of parental tyranny. [page 6]
Girls Who Dare Not Go Home a Nickel
Short in Their Wages
A little Italian girl who earned four dollars a week in a tailor shop by pulling out bastings, when asked why she wore a heavy woolen gown on one of the hottest days of last summer, replied that she was obliged to earn money for her clothes by scrubbing for the neighbors after hours; that she had found no such work lately, and that her father would not allow her anything from her wages for clothes or for carfare, because he was buying a house. This control, sometimes exercised in order to secure all of a daughter's wages, is often established with the best intentions in the world. I recall a French dressmaker who had frugally supported her two daughters until they were of working age, when she quite naturally expected them to conform to the careful habits of living necessary during her narrow years. In order to save carfare she required her daughters to walk a long distance to the department-store in which one was a bundle-wrapper and the other a clerk at the ribbon counter; they dressed in black as being the most economical color, and a penny spent in pleasure was never permitted. One day a young man who was buying ribbon from the older girl gave her a yard, with the remark that she was much too young and pretty to be so somberly dressed. She wore the ribbon at work, never of course at home; but it opened a vista of delightful possibilities, and she eagerly accepted a pair of gloves the following week from the same young man, who afterward asked her to dine with him.
This was the beginning of a winter of surreptitious pleasures on the part of the two sisters. They were shrewd enough never to be out later than ten o'clock, and always brought home so-called overtime pay to their mother. In the spring the older girl, finding herself worn out by her dissipation and having resolved to cut loose from her home, came to the office of the Juvenile Protective Association to ask help for her younger sister. It was discovered that the mother was totally ignorant of the semi-professional life her daughters had been leading, and she reiterated over and over again that she had always guarded them carefully and had given them no money to spend. It took months of constant visiting on the part of a representative of the Association before she was finally persuaded to treat the younger girl more generously.
While this family is fairly typical of those in which over-restraint is due to the lack of understanding, it is true that in most cases the family tyranny is exercised by an old-country father in an honest attempt to guard his daughter against the dangers of a new world. The worst instances, however, are those in which the father has fallen into the evil ways of drink, and not only demands all of his daughter's wages, but treats her with great brutality when those wages fall below his expectations. Many such daughters have come to grief because they have been afraid to go home at night when their wage envelops contained less than usual either because a new system of piece work had reduced the amount, or because, in a moment of weakness, they had taken out five cents with which to attend a show or ten cents for the much-desired pleasure of riding back and forth the full length of an elevated railroad, or because they had in a thirsty moment taken out a nickel for a drink of soda water, or, worst of all, had fallen a victim to the instalment plan of buying a new hat or a pair of shoes. These girls, in their fear of beatings and scoldings, although they are sure of shelter and food and often have a mother who is trying to protect them from domestic storms, have almost no money for clothing, and are inevitably subject to moments of sheer revolt, their rebellion intensified by the fact that after a girl earns her own money, and is accustomed to come and go upon the streets as an independent wage-earner, she finds unsympathetic control much harder to bear than do school-girls of the same age who have never broken the habits of their childhood and are still economically dependent upon their parents.
Eighty-four [Percent] of Working-Girls
Turn All Their Earnings into
the Family Fund
So long as home control is sympathetic and the family affection and loyalty maintained, all goes well. Any one who has lived among working-people has been surprised at the docility with which the grown-up children give all of their earnings to their parents. This is, of course, especially true of the daughters. The fifth volume of the governmental report upon "Woman and Child Wage-Earners in the United States," quoted earlier, gives eighty-four [percent] as the proportion of working-girls who turn in all of their wages to the family fund. In most cases this is done voluntarily and cheerfully, but in many instances it is as if the tradition of woman's dependence upon her family for support held long after the actual fact had changed, or as if the tyranny established through generations when daughters could be starved into submission to a father's will continued even after the roles had changed and the [page 7] wages of the girl child supported a broken and dissolute father.
An over-restrained girl from whom so much is exacted will sometimes begin to deceive her family by failing to tell them when she has had a raise in her wages. She will habitually keep the extra amount for herself, as she will any overtime pay that she may receive. All such money is invariably spent upon her own clothing, which she of course can not wear at home, but which gives her great satisfaction upon the streets.
The girl of the crowded tenements has no room in which to receive her friends or to read the books through which she shares the lives of assorted heroines, or, better still, dreams of them as of herself. Even if the living-room is not full of boarders or children or washing, it is comfortable neither for receiving friends nor for reading, and she finds upon the street her entire social field. The shop windows with their desirable garments hastily clothe her heroines as they travel the old roads of romance; the street-cars rumbling noisily by suggest a delectable somewhere far away; and the young men who pass offer possibilities of the most delightful acquaintance. Is it to be marveled at that she insists upon clothing that conforms to the ideals of this all-absorbing street, and that she will unhesitatingly deceive an uncomprehending family which does not recognize the importance of "proper dressing"?
One such girl had for two years earned money for clothing by filling regular appointments made for her by a cadet in a saloon between the hours of six and half past seven in the evening. With this money, earned almost daily, she bought the clothes of her heart's desire, keeping them with the saloonkeeper's wife. She demurely returned to her family for supper in her shabby working-clothes, and presented to her mother her unopened pay envelop every Saturday night. She began this life at the age of fourteen, after her Polish mother had beaten her because she had "elbowed" the sleeves and "cut out" the neck of her ungainly calico gown in a vain attempt to make it look "American." The mother who had so conscientiously beaten her daughter who was "too crazy for clothes" could never, of course, comprehend how dangerous a combination is the girl with an unsatisfied love for finery and the opportunities for illicit earning afforded on the street. Yet many sad cases may be traced to such lack of comprehension.
Looking for a Job
Another experience during which a girl faces a peculiar danger is when she has lost one "job" and is looking for another. Naturally, she loses her place in the slack season and pursues her search at the very moment when positions are hardest to find and her unemployment is therefore most prolonged. Perhaps nothing in our social order is so unorganized and inchoate as our method, or rather lack of method, of placing young people in industry, whether we consider this from the point of view of their first positions when they leave school at the wayward age of fourteen, or from the innumerable places they hold later, often as many as ten a year, when they are dismissed or change voluntarily through sheer restlessness. Here, again, the girl's difficulty is often increased by a lack of sympathy and understanding on the part of her parents. The girl is often afraid to say that she has lost her place, and pretends to go to work each morning while she is looking for a new one; she postpones telling them at home day by day, growing more frantic as the usual pay-day approaches. Some girls borrow from loan sharks in order to take the customary wages to their parents; others fall victims to unscrupulous employment agencies in their eagerness to take the first thing offered.
The majority of these girls answer advertisements in the daily papers, as affording the cheapest and safest way to secure a position. These out-of-work girls are found, sometimes as many as forty or fifty at a time, in the rest rooms of department-stores, waiting for new editions of the newspapers, after they have gone the rounds of the morning advertisements and have found nothing.
In the "Rest Room" of the
Of course, such a possible field as these rest rooms afford is not overlooked by the cadet, who finds it very easy to establish friendly relations through the offer of the latest edition of the paper. Even pennies are precious to a girl out of work, and she is also easily grateful to any one who expresses an interest in her plight and tells her of a position. Two representatives of the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago, during a period of three weeks, arrested and convicted seventeen men and three women who were plying their trades in the rest rooms of nine department-stores. The managers of the stores were greatly concerned over this exposure, and immediately arranged both for more intelligent matrons and greater vigilance. One of the less scrupulous stores voluntarily gave up a method of advertising carried on in the rest room itself, where a demonstrator from the 'beauty counter" made up the faces of the [page 8] patrons of the rest room with the powder and paint obtainable in her department below. The out-of-work girls especially availed themselves of this privilege, and hoped that their search would be easier when their pale, woe-begone faces were made "beautiful." The poor girls could not know that a face thus made up enormously increased their risks.
A number of girls also came early in the morning, as soon as the rest rooms were open. They washed their faces and arranged their hair, and then settled themselves to sleep in the largest and easiest chairs the room afforded. Some of these were out-of-work girls also determined to take home their wages at the end of the week, each pretending to her mother that she had spent the night with a girl friend and was working all day as usual. How much of this deception is due to parental tyranny and how much to a sense of responsibility for younger children or invalids, it is impossible to estimate until the number of such recorded cases is much larger. Certain it is that the long habit of obedience as well as the feeling of family obligation established from childhood is often utilized by the cadet.
Difficult as is the position of the girl out of work when her family is exigent and uncomprehending, she has incomparably more protection than the girl who is living in the city without home ties. Such girls form sixteen [percent] of the workingwomen of Chicago. With absolutely every penny of their meager wages consumed in their inadequate living, they are totally unable to save money. That loneliness and detachment which the city tends to breed in her inhabitants is easily intensified in such a girl into isolation and a desolating sense of belonging nowhere. All youth resents the sense of the enormity of the universe in relation to the insignificance of the individual life, and youth, with that intense self-consciousness which makes each young person the very center of all emotional experience, broods over this as no older person can possibly do. At such moments a black oppression, the instinctive fear of solitude, will send a lonely girl restlessly to walk the streets, even when she is "too tired to stand," and when her desire for companionship in itself constitutes a grave danger.
Shall the State Protect Girls until They
Certainly, during those trying times when a girl is out of work she should have much more intelligent help than is at present extended to her. In the first place, she should be able to avail herself of the state employment agencies much more successfully than is now possible, and the work of the newly established vocational bureaus should be enormously extended. One dreams of the time when the interest and capacity of each young person shall be studied with reference to the industry about to be undertaken. When vocational bureaus are properly connected with the public schools, a girl will have an intelligent point of departure into her working life and a place to which she can turn in time of need. A royal commission has recently recommended to the English Parliament that some sort of supervision be kept over children from the time they leave the ward schools until they are twenty-one years old, that the nation may thereby save them from premature exploitation and ruin. Unquestionably the average American child has received a more expensive education than has as yet been accorded to the child of any other nation. The girls working in department-stores have been in the public schools on an average of eight years each, while even the factory girls, who so often leave school from the lower grades, have yet averaged six and two tenths years of education, at the public expense, before they enter industrial life. Certainly the community that has accomplished so much could afford them help and oversight for six and a half years longer, which is the average length of time that a working-girl is employed. The state might well undertake this, if only to secure its former investment and to save that investment from utter loss.
When once we are in earnest about the abolition of the social evil, society will find that it must study industry from the point of view of the producer in a sense which has never been done before. Such a study with reference to industrial legislation will ally itself, on the one hand, with the trade-union movement, which insists not only upon a living wage and shorter hours for the workers, but upon an opportunity for self-direction, and, on the other hand, with the efficiency movement, which would refrain from over-fatiguing the operator as it would from over-speeding a machine. In addition to legislative enactment and the historic trade-union effort, the feebler and newer movements on the part of the employers being reinforced by the welfare secretary, who, in addition to devising recreational and educational plans, is placing before the employer much disturbing information upon the cost of living in relation to the pitiful wages of working-girls. Employers are growing ashamed to use the worn-out, hypo-critical pretense of employing only the girl "protected by home influences" as a device for reducing wages. Help may also come from [page 9] the consumers; for an increasing number of them, with compunctions in regard to tempted young employees, are not only unwilling to purchase from the employer who underpays his girls, and thus to share his guilt, but are striving in [diverse] ways to modify existing conditions.
As working-women enter the new fields of labor which ever open up anew as the old fields are submerged behind them, may society not hope speedily to protect them by an amelioration of the economic conditions which are now so unnecessarily harsh and dangerous to health and morals? The world-wide movement for establishing governmental control of industrial conditions is especially concerned for working-women. Nine of the great European powers prohibit all night work for women, and almost every civilized country in the world is considering the number of hours and the character of work in which women may be permitted safely to engage. Although amelioration comes about so slowly that many young girls are sacrificed each year under conditions which could so easily and reasonably be changed, nevertheless it is apparently better to overcome the dangers in this new and freer life which modern industry has opened to women than it is to attempt to retreat into the domestic industry of the past. A careful history of the social evil gives the largest number of recruits for this life as coming from domestic service, and the second largest number from girls who live at home with no definite occupation whatever.
Perhaps, on the whole, in the economic aspect of the social evil more than in any other do we find ground for despair, and at the same time we discern, as nowhere else, a stubborn power of resistance in the young girl. There is no room for doubt, however, that even the most superficial survey of her surroundings should convince society of the necessity for ameliorating, as rapidly as possible, the harsh economic conditions which now environ her.
MISS ADDAMS' THIRD ARTICLE, WHICH WILL APPEAR IN JANUARY, WILL DEAL WITH "THE MORAL EDUCATION AND LEGAL PROTECTION OF CHILDREN"