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A TRADE SCHOOL FOR GIRLS: A PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION IN A TYPICAL MANUFACTURING CITY, WORCESTER, MASS.
The movement for trade training for girls has been growing rapidly in Massachusetts since the first commission on industrial and technical education made its report to the legislature in 1906. In the fall of 1911 three cities- Worcester, Cambridge, and Somerville—were seeking State aid in the establishment of a public trade school for girls." The board of trustees of the independent industrial schools in Worcester and the superintendents of schools in Cambridge and Somerville headed the movement in their respective cities.
The State board of education, as well as the local boards, realized the necessity of knowing local conditions and needs in each individual city before definite action is taken in establishing such a school. They faced three main questions when contemplating the establishment of a trade school: First, what is the need of a trade school for girls ? Second, what kind of a trade school should be established? Third, what would be the probable number and the personnel of the prospective students of such a school? The answer to the first question necessitated a study of what girls are doing after they leave school, and the corresponding home conditions. The second question could be answered only after discovering where and what were the demands for young girl workers. The third question required a knowledge of social conditions of the home, ambitions of the parents, and educational advancement of the children.
The State board of education, therefore, called in the aid of a department of research for information along these lines. It was arranged that one investigator should spend the month of November in each of the three cities, believing that enough information could be secured within one month to meet the immediate problems which confronted the school authorities. Delays in securing the cooperation of the various assisting agencies, and the large field to be covered extended the study to 5 weeks in Somerville, 6 weeks in Cambridge, and 9 weeks in Worcester.
1 An act to establish the commission on industrial education, 1906, ch.503, provides for State aid in the establishment of local public trade schools under certain required conditions of cooperation. 82453°_13_2
The field work of the investigator had two phases-visits to industrial establishments and visits to the homes of 14 to 16 year old girls who had left school to go to work in the past year. The short time allotted to the investigation necessitated the employment of shortcut methods, which might not be advisable in a more extensive study, but which proved sufficient to supply the needed information for the problems at hand. The knowledge of industrial conditions was obtained by visits to a representative number of typical establishments in the various industries of each city. The knowledge of social and economic conditions necessary to explain the large annual exodus of girls from the schools was obtained by the study of home and school conditions of one year's outgoing group, or only a part of the group in the larger city of Worcester. Moreover, the limited time did not permit interviews with the girl herself. The home was visited, but the desired information was secured from the parent.
The first step in the study of industrial conditions was to secure a knowledge of the women-employing industries and to choose representative establishments. This task was greatly simplified by the courtesy of Chief Whitney, of the district police, who granted access to the reports of the factory inspectors. Through these records it was possible to gain some conception of the size and importance of various establishments and to make corresponding selections. With such a basis, the type study may be said to represent conditions fairly
The initial stages of the investigation of 14 to 16 year old girls leaving school were worked out in the public schools. Several hundred individual schedules drawn up by the deputy commissioner of education were sent to the schools to be filled out by the teachers from the school records, in accordance with directions issued by the deputy commissioner. The investigator completed the schedule by visits to the homes.
The reports of the investigation in the three cities reveal certain points of similarity and certain points of dissimilarity. The points of similarity seem to prove that certain uniform conditions exist, and may, therefore, be accepted as typical of the educational and industrial situation throughout the State, especially as they are distinctly confirmatory of the conclusions reached by the commission on industrial and technical training in 1906. The points of dissimilarity prove the imperative need and value of local studies wherever trade training is contemplated.
The fundamental facts which the similarity of conditions proves may be stated as follows:
The large factories or mills are receiving the great majority of 14 to 16 year old girls who are leaving school to go to work in our State.
The number of 14 to 16 year old girls leaving school to go to work is increasing. The records of Worcester and Somerville 1 show a marked increase in the past five years. The percentage of girls going to work is much greater than the percentage of increase in population.
The majority of young girls who leave school to go to work are only 14 years of age. They are dropping out, therefore, as soon as the law allows. Sixty per cent of such girls in Worcester, Cambridge, and Somerville in the school year of 1909-10 were 14 years of age.” Does this mean that the majority have completed the work of the grammar school ? Does it mean that severe economic pressure is driving 14 year old girls to work ?
The work offered in the grammar schools has been completed by only a small proportion of the 14 to 16 year old girl workers in each of the three cities. Thirteen per cent of the girls from the Somerville schools graduated. Seventeen per cent, so far as the Worcester records enlighten us, completed the ninth year. Twenty-three per cent of the girls from the public schools of Cambridge had graduated, but total returns, including girls from the parochial schools, would probably lower this percentage. The proportion of girls who left school having completed the grammar grades in these three cities in 1910, therefore, agrees very closely with the proportion, one-sixth, discovered throughout the State in 1906.3
There is a large loss of girls in the sixth and seventh grades. A large number have then reached the age of 14 and can secure working papers. One-third of the girls who left the public schools of Cambridge and all the schools of Worcester dropped out in the sixth and seventh grades. A much larger proportion, two-thirds, dropped out of the sixth and seventh grades of the Somerville schools. Fortythree per cent dropped out of the sixth and seventh grades throughout the State in 1906, according to the State study based on 5,447 children. The length of schooling or the completion of the grammar grades, therefore, is not necessarily the determining factor in the large outgo of girls from the grammar schools.
Who decides that the child shall leave school? Is economic pressure in the home driving the girls of 14 to 15 into the factories and mills? Because of the limited time for the study, it was deemed impracticable and unnecessary to go into details regarding the economic status of the family. Questions as to exact incomes and
Comparative statistics could not be secured for Cambridge, as the age and schooling certificates previous to September, 1909, had not been preserved.
* This percentage is, however, based on different figures in each of the three cities. The total number of certificates issued to 14 to 16 year old girls in Worcester was about 700, Somerville, 251. The percentage for Cambridge considered 236 girls reported by the public schools. Certificates were issued to 452 girls from 14 to 16, of whom 243 were from the public schools and the remainder from parochial schools. The records had not been kept and hence were not available.
* Report of the Commission on Industrial and Technical Education, 1906, p. 85. *Ibid., 103.
rents were not attempted. Questions, however, were asked regarding the occupation of father, mother, and other members of the family, character of these occupations, illness, home conditions, and the opinion of the parent—which was checked up by that of the investigator—as to ability to give the girl longer schooling. These detailed statistics were secured for the State in 1906 by the commission on industrial and technical training. The investigation of 1906 was a more statistical study, and it covered a much wider area. The present studies were less statistical, but intensive in particular local areas. By carefully checking up conclusions deduced from the present study with those gained from the study of 1906, the director of the investigation has felt justified in presenting the conclusions reached.
Fully 50 per cent of the 14 to 16 year old girls studied in each of the three cities did not leave school because of economic pressure. In 1906 it was found that 76 per cent of the children studied in all parts of the State were economically able to have had further schooling, if persuaded of the advantage. The percentage which has been deduced in the present studies is very conservative for two reasons: First, because the conclusion was based on general rather than detailed statistical information; second, because it was deemed advisable to report a conservative number of possible prospective students."
The 14 to 16 year old girls who go to work, with very few exceptions, enter unskilled industries which offer little or no opportunity for rise or development. The instability of these young workers is a universal problem in all three cities. The elementary processes which occupy young or inexperienced workers are purely mechanical. The work of the beginner, even in the better trades, does not afford training or working knowledge of the more skilled work. The work in unskilled trades points to nothing higher or better. The work is monotonous, easily learned, and the maximum pay, which is small, is soon reached. The beginner becomes discouraged with the lack of opportunity for advancement and determines to try something else. She drifts from place to place and never becomes proficient in any one thing. “One-half the girls,” remarked the superintendent of the largest corset factory in Worcester, "get discouraged before they reach the point of maximum speed, and quit when they are probably just about to strike a paying point.” A large rubber factory in Watertown (adjoining Cambridge) which employs 1,600 workers at any one time reports that 4,500 were enrolled on the pay
1 Worcester-314 of the total 727 were followed up; 214 were located and interviewed. Cambridge--236 of the total 243 leaving the public schools were followed up; 187 were located and visited. Somerville--146 of the total 251 were located and visited.
2 Report on Industrial and Technical Education, p. 92.
8 For this reason the total number studied, rather than the number reporting on a specific question, has been used througbout as the basis for computing percentages.