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Women as Wage Earners

October 1, 1891 — To an assembly of female factory workers, Indianapolis IN


[She pointed out that female workers were paid half as much as men, that their wages often did not cover the cost of living, and that the respect women may once have been afforded as industrious members of a small community was gone. Women were denied the right to vote, and treated as cheap and dispensable labor.]

Life is simply a tug and a struggle to keep the wolf from the door, with none of the sunbeams to drive out the shadows. When my grandma was a girl, she was accounted the belle of the little village in which she lived, because she had the reputation of spinning three miles of flax a day. What round of the social ladder could her granddaughter occupy today if she worked in a factory, no matter if she spun 1000 miles of flax a day? Society has no round for the working girl of today, not even a bottom round. There is no economic reason why women should be forced into the factory or shop. Employers argue they can obtain the services of women for less money than they can that of a man. I don’t doubt that, and I don’t blame employers for wanting to have their labor done at the cheapest cost. But the more I study this labor question, the greater am I impressed with the fact that human machinery is ever on the decrease. If an old loom wears out or a wheel breaks, it costs $20,000 probably to repair the damage, but if a woman breaks down, she is cast out and twenty fresh others step up to take her place at the same old starvation wages.



Source: Indianapolis Journal, Oct. 1, 1891.