A New Avenue of Employment and Investment
for Business Women
May 1893 — The Congress of Women, Woman’s Building, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago IL
While in 1836 only six occupations were open for women bread-winners, viz., teaching, millinery, sewing, tailoring, factory labor, and domestic service, now over three hundred are open, and women are successful in all these, with new avenues opening every day. Women entered four hundred applications for patents last year. Women are everywhere, in colleges, banks, stores, and counting-houses, as clerks and capitalists, managing with distinguished success both small and large affairs.
An avenue which has only recently been open to women, and which promises to her wonderful opportunity, is life insurance, which appeals to women as strongly as to men. Leading companies are among the greatest institutions of finance in the world. Thirty companies possess assets of over nine hundred and three million seven hundred and thirty-four thousand five hundred and thirty-seven dollars, and their total income for 1892 was two hundred and thirty-two million twenty-four thousand nine hundred and ninety-three dollars. The number of policies in force in these thirty companies is one million five hundred and thirty-two thousand eight hundred and twelve; of these policies the number carried by women is estimated at only seventeen thousand. Policy holders were paid in 1892 one hundred and two million six hundred and twenty-one thousand eight hundred and twenty-one dollars, and in the last fifty years one billion five hundred million dollars has been paid to beneficiaries. This provision when realized by women must appeal peculiarly to them. What homes this has kept unbroken! We must acknowledge life insurance to be a safety-bridge that even death can not break.
The largest insurance carried by a woman in the United States is four hundred thousand dollars, one hundred thousand dollars being taken for charity. Several women carry two hundred thousand dollars each, and a number, one hundred thousand dollars; many carry from seventy-five thousand dollars to fifty thousand dollars, and great number carry policies to the amount of five thousand, ten thousand, and twenty thousand dollars.
The same appeals come to women as to men for protection, investment, annuities, and guaranteed incomes. In many cases the reasons hold even more strongly, because women are more timid and less confident, from lack of experience in manipulating money, hence absolute securities appeal more strongly to them.
The wives of to-day are the widows of to-morrow, and a few hours make one the head of the family with sudden responsibilities and moneyed interests. In New York City alone women control five hundred million dollars in money and property. For years women were not recognized as desirable “risks,” and only recently have they been permitted by companies to carry large amounts. Now the maximum of one hundred thousand dollars, in the three large companies writing that amount, can be carried by women.
Hitherto women have been sought only in special cases, the majority of women knowing nothing of its benefits and provisions as applicable to themselves. It must occur to the thinking woman that financial investment held in such esteem by businessmen is well worth investigation. Investigation will dispel prejudice and doubt. The same business principles which apply to men apply equally to women. If policies of one thousand dollars and upward were carried universally by working-women, seeds of thrift and foresight would be sown among a vast part of the population that now accumulates nothing. An investment of from twenty-five to forty dollars a year, according to age, would carry one thousand dollars, and could be afforded by the earners of even low wages. This would give a sense of security, and would provide in case of sickness better care, which could be paid in any case, whether health returned or death ensued. Such insurance would also secure the return in cash of moneys paid out, with added dividends at the end of ten, fifteen, or twenty years, according to contract.
All insurance companies, recognizing the great possibilities for the future in insuring women, are seeking to engage women as insurance agents, believing that a woman can approach people and work in this special field as no man can do. Insurance companies give women as agents every liberty accorded to men — of writing men as well as women.
The first women engaged as insurance agents have found that pioneer work in this business, as in all others, is beset by difficulties, but the success which women have met in the business of insurance has opened a new and lucrative industry to them.
Source: The World’s Congress of Representative Women, ed. May Wright Sewall (Chicago: Rand, McNally & Company), 1894, pp. 559-561.