The Factory Movement
March 6, 1908 — The Colony Club, New York City
The object of this committee shall be to use its influence in securing needed improvements in the working and living conditions of women and men wage earners in the various industries and governmental institutions.
All of use have an influence and some of us are the wives or sisters of employers of large numbers of factory operatives, or perhaps ourselves are owners and stockholders in companies. Should not the woman who spends the money which the employees help to provide, take a special interest in their welfare, especially in that of the women wage earners?
Should we not frankly recognize our own ignorance of the conditions under which they live and work and seek from those whose knowledge can be relied upon to guide us intelligently to a better understanding of the existing conditions and difficulties? Neither emotional philanthropy nor ignorant indifference must influence us. This we can do by taking the trouble to acquaint ourselves with things as they really are, by coming into contact with those whose weakness is a call upon our strength.
We will learn to know from actual experience what should be done for the betterment of conditions among wage earners, and then we will not use coercive methods, undertaking to secure improvements, but will try to find opportunities to offer friendly suggestions to those in power.
Of course we can only do this by going slowly and after educating ourselves. One way of doing the latter is to hear from leaders in their specific trades. Some of them will speak to us today and I understand will be willing to tell us of the surroundings and conditions of the workers whom they represent. This welfare work is not in fact simply a matter of charity. A decent, wholesome environment for the worker has come in this progressive age to be a part of the social and civic obligation of the modern employer.
The frank recognition of the obligation on the part of employers in general, whether managers, directors, or stockholders, not only restores a large measure of the old personal contact which was the best feature of the earlier industrial systems unfortunately lost sight of too often in the tremendous growth of commercial enterprises but it also goes far to remove the estrangement and want of sympathy out of which so much social prejudice, distrust, and class feeling have grown. There is perhaps no better antidote for radical attacks upon present institutions than intelligent, genuine, and wisely directed welfare work.
Source: “For, By, and About Women.” Atlanta Constitution, March 9, 1908, p. 6.
Also: “Women in Society United to Help Labor,” The New York Times, March 7, 1908, p.3.
Also: American Women Speak: An Encyclopedia and Document Collection of Women’s Oratory, 2 Volumes, ed. Mary Ellen Snodgrass (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO) 2016, pp. 339-340.