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great women-employing industries of Worcester. Accordingly, visits were made to 11 clothing factories, representing all the largest establishments and employing about 1,200 workers; to the 3 largest corset factories (of a total of 6), employing more than 2,000 women and girls; to 3 out of 7 shoe factories, employing about 225 workers; to 6 out of 18 textile mills, employing 800 women; to 1 of the 39 or more wire and metal factories, employing about 150 women; to 3 of the 10 envelope and paper goods factories, employing over 600 women; and to a biscuit factory.

A more comprehensive study of the trades offering a higher grade of work was attempted, and visits were made to 19 dressmakers (1 of whom was conducting the department for custom wear in the largest department store), employing some 200 women, and to 16 millinery establishments (4 of which constituted the millinery department of the 4 largest department stores), employing some 200 women.' Worcester is, however, primarily a city of factory industries, which have shown a very rapid growth in the last few years. In 1908, for instance, 4 corset factories, employing 1,029 women workers, are reported, as compared with 6 corset factories in 1910, employing about 2,000 women and girl workers. The growth of this industry, undoubtedly, partially explains the increase in the number of 14- to 16-year-old girls who are leaving school to go to work.

The problems which concern us in this discussion of the need and opportunity for trade training for women will follow four main lines: (1) The annual exodus of young girls from the grammar schools, with a study of their age, schooling, nationality, and results gained from their early entrance into industry; (2) the industries which these young girls enter; (3) the kinds of work which the young girls do in these industries; and (4) the great women-employing industries in Worcester.


A. Number of girls leaving school.—The number of girls under 16 years of age who leave school to go to work has increased 40 per cent in the past five years. From September, 1909, to September, 1910, more than 700 girls 3 took out age and school certificates. Five years ago only 513 girls“ applied for these certificates, an increase of about 200 in all.

1 Total numbers of employees or of establishments for industries as a whole are based on the factory inspector's reports, which can be accepted only as indicative rather than statistical.

* Twenty-third Annual Report on Statistics of Manufactures, 1908, p. 25.

• Number of certificates issued to girls within the past year and preserved in the office of the truant officer. This number probably includes some certificates taken out for temporary work, such as for the Christmas rush in the stores or for the summer vacation. Of 200 girls visited, however, less than half a dozen had taken out age and schooling certificates for temporary employment.

• This number is based on the figures given in the Report on Industrial and Technical Education, 1906, p. 70.

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The significance of this increase in the number of girl workers becomes apparent when it is discovered that there was an increase of only 10 per cent in the population during these five years. The increasing number and size of the great factories manufacturing corsets, textiles, and paper goods undoubtedly explains to some extent this increase in the number of girl workers, although the study of three cities, Worcester, Cambridge, and Somerville, seems to reveal a universal increase in the number of girls who go to work under 16.

Is this exodus of physically and mentally immature workers an economic necessity? Is it an ultimate benefit to the child ? Is it an economic advantage to the employer? In fact, what is the effect of the large number of girl workers leaving school as soon as the law allows? Such are the questions these data force us to meet.

B. Age of girls leaving school.These facts concern us all the more when we discover that about 60 per cent of the girls who left school to go to work in the past year were only 14 years of age.?

Let us stop for a moment to see what this annual outgo of more than 700 girls under 16 years of age means to the community as well as to the girls. Are they prepared to take their place in the labor world, where approximately 10,000 women exclusive of home workers were employed last year, and what sort of preparation might have been given them?

C. Schooling.-Only 6 per cent of these girls have gone beyond the grammar grades; 8 per cent left school before reaching the sixth grade; about one-third dropped out in the sixth and seventh grades alone, and over one-half left school before reaching the ninth grade. If all statistics, however, were complete, the proportion in all these groups would probably be larger, as the base used is the total number considered rather than those reporting.

D. Nationality.It is the natural assumption after visiting the factories to suppose that the exodus of young girls from the schools into the factories can be explained by the fact that large numbers are of southern European birth or descent. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, to find that 31 per cent of the girls who left school without special economic pressure were of Scandinavian, 20 per cent of American, and 20 per cent of Irish descent."

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1 Population of Worcester, 1905—128,135. (Census of Massachusetts, 1905, I.) Population of Worcester, 1910--145,986. (Special statement from Bureau of Labor, December, 1910.)

2 Seven hundred and twenty-seven age and schooling certificates issued in the year September, 1909– September, 1910.

Age, under 14, 7: 14 and under 15, 431; 15 and under 16, 177; 16 and under 17, 24; 17 and under 18, 4; unclassified, 84; total, 727.

Under 14 years of age, 7: 11 years and 10 months; 13 years and 2 months: 13 years and 5 months; 2 of 13 years and 10 months; and 2 of 13 years and 11 months.

8 Statistics from reports of factory inspection, together with data gathered from a personal study. See p. 56.

See p. 57. No data were secured on such a large number that the percentages are based here on the number reporting.

The northern European nationalities were also the predominating social elements leaving the schools of Cambridge and Somerville, which seems to indicate that for some reason the children of southern European descent are not found in large numbers through the publicschool records. This can probably be explained in three ways. A large number of the children of southern European birth or descent probably receive their schooling in the parochial schools. Some of the young girls observed in the industry were probably 16 or over at the time of their immigration to this country. Finally, there is reason to believe that some children get into industry without certificates, a fact which is also noted in the Government study of women in industry made in 1907.1

E. Economic and intellectual status of families.-Sixty-six per cent of the girls from 214 homes chosen from typical sections of the city might in the opinion of the visitor have gone on to school. Taking every factor into consideration, however, such as irregularity of parents' work, or father or mother dead, fully one-half, on a very conservative estimate, might have had longer schooling. Fully 55 per cent of the girls who left school in the past year came from really comfortable homes, and 58 per cent from intelligent families.

The importance of these facts becomes apparent when it is discovered that almost one-half of those going to work without special economic pressure were 14 years of age; that 25 per cent had not reached the seventh grade, and 60 per cent could not have passed the ninth-grade test. The surprising fact that one-quarter of those who left school without special economic pressure had not reached the seventh grade emphasizes the need of some kind of training which will capture these motor-minded girls and offer incentive for longer schooling

Some 30 girls said they did not like school, could not get along with the teacher, were not promoted, or wanted to go to work. Two were working to help pay for a piano. One of these was a cash girl of 14 years who had left the ninth grade to go to work in a department store for $2, later $2.50 a week. The other was a girl of 15 from the eighth grade who went to work in a corset factory for $1 and rose to $4.82. Another girl was taking music lessons and contributing to the payment on the piano.

Twenty-seven girls were staying at home. In some cases they had left to help at home, while a few had left at a time of temporary stress and then had not returned to school. Four girls had changed places with the mother, who worked in a corset factory, laundry, or some such place, while the girl, whose wage-earning power was small, kept house for the mother or the children. A few were at home

1 Report on Condition of Woman and Child Wage Earners in the United States, I. Cotton Textile Indus. try, 1910. (61st Cong., 2d sess., S. Doc. No. 645, 156-162.)


because they could not get along at school, but need not necessarily work.

The standard of living and ambitions of the family are, after all, the determining force. The mother of a family of 8 children living in apparently direst poverty would have been glad to make sacrifices and pinch still further to have her daughter stay in school longer, if she would do so. The mother of another family of 6, living in a nice apartment house, with hardwood floors, piano, and other luxuries, said her daughter wished to stay in school longer, but the burden of supporting the family was too heavy for the father to bear alone; so the girl was taken out of school to go to work. A visit to a Swedish family revealed a carpenter and his wife, a washerwoman, who had just built and owned a nice new three-story apartment house. Yet the 15-year-old daughter with a seventh grade education had been sent to work in a paper-goods factory at $2 a week.

The question “Why did you leave school?” was put to some 336 more mature workers in the corset trade. Ninety-one per cent of these women had left school between the ages of 13 and 16, and fully 50 per cent because of their dislike of school or because they wanted to go to work. Of 74 workers in a clothing factory, 85 per cent had left school between the ages of 13 and 16, 25 per cent of their own volition.

Such facts emphasize the large demand for training which gives opportunity for manual combined with mental development. During these years between the ages of 13 and 15 there is a marked desire for manual or physical activity, a characteristic natural to this stage of physical development, which must find expression in the actual doing of things. The parents of these children leaving school, in many oft-repeated instances, were willing, and, as has been shown, fully one-half were economically able, to have the daughter stay in school longer, but when she takes a notion in her head, there's no doing anything with her,” so she goes to the mill, the factory, or the store at $1, $1.50, or $2 a week, which in many cases is more than she is worth to her employer.

Visits and talks with the families as well as the girls, therefore, reveal a situation which quite contradicts the usual impression that the parent takes the child out of school or forces her to go to work at an early age.

F. Summary.—The foregoing statistics show several most significant facts: (1) That more than 700 girls under 16 years of age took out certificates to go to work in the past year, and that this number is increasing at the rate of 40 per cent, or about 200 girls in five years.

1 These percentages are very conservative statements. Many workers did not specify whether volition or necessity was the cause of their leaving school, merely answering to go to work,” None of these answers were included in either group in determining the percentages.

(2) That 60 per cent leave at the earliest age the law allows, at 14 years of age. (3) That 8 per cent could not pass the fifth-grade test, one-third could not pass the seventh-grade test, and one-half could not pass the ninth-grade test. (4) That this exodus does not indicate economic necessity. Of 214 families studied, fully one-half the girls were not forced to curtail their education, and 55 per cent were living in really comfortable homes. Furthermore, almost one-half of those children who might continue in school were only 14 years of age, and one-fourth had not reached the seventh grade.


A popular supposition seems to prevail in Worcester that the majority of young girls who leave the grammar grades go into mercantile establishments. But only 22 per cent, or less than one-fourth of the total number, entered that industry last year. The factories and mills claimed more than three-fourths of them.

Of the latter, the corset factories and the textile and knitting mills, drew 56 per cent of the girls, the corset factories getting 28 per cent, or the largest proportion of the whole. Five other industries claimed the majority of the remaining girls--the manufacture of metal goods, 10 per cent; paper goods, 6 per cent; shoes and slippers, 4 per cent; women's clothing, factory product, 5 per cent; and food and drug products, 3 per cent."

But two determining forces appear to decide what industries the most of the girls enter. The young girl who lives in the neighborhood of a large factory or mill is likely to work in the nearest factory during the first few years, but distance from home is a less important factor as she becomes older. The occupation of an older member of the family, primarily the mother or older sister, is a very apparent determining factor. Of the 214 girls visited, about 25 per cent were working in factories where their mothers or sisters were working or had worked.


A. Unskilled industries. In all these factory industries(excluding dressmaking and millinery) the girls of 14 to 16 perform unskilled work. This may assume different forms, as boning corsets or tending machines in the corset factory; running errands; folding waists, dresses, or shirts in a clothing factory; dofling in the textile mills; putting pasteboard sheets into a machine in the paper box factory.

1 See p. 58.

: This term has been used throughout the report to indicate those industries which are in the process of developing an advanced stage of industrial evolution. Such industries, whether employing a large or small number of workers, show a fairly high subdivision of labor, specialized and repetitious work, use of artificial mechanical power and also that peculiar characteristic which differentiates them from large highly skilled industries—a standardization of process or product.

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