August Bebel. Woman and Socialism
Woman at the Present Day
The endeavor of women to earn their own living and to attain personal independence is, to some extent at least, regarded as a just one by bourgeois society. The bourgeoisie requires an unhampered release of male and female labor power in order that industry may attain its highest degree of development, The perfection of machinery and the division of labor, whereby each single function in the process of production requires less strength and mechanical training than formerly, and the growing competition, not only between individual manufacturers, but also between entire manufacturing regions, states and countries – causes the labor power of woman to be sought more and more.
The special causes which lead to an increased employment of female labor in a growing number of trades have been set forth in a previous chapter. One reason why employers resort more and more to the employment of women beside men, or instead of men, is, that women are accustomed to require less than men. Owing to their nature as sex beings, women are obliged to offer their labor power cheaper than men. They are, as a rule, more subjected to physical derangements that cause an interruption of their work, and owing to the complication and organization of modern industry, this may lead to an interruption in the whole process of production. Pregnancy and child-birth lengthen such periods of interruption. The employer makes the most of this fact and finds ample indemnification for these occasional interruptions by the payment of considerably lower wages. Moreover the woman is tied to her particular abode or its immediate environment. She cannot change her abode as men are enabled to do in most cases. Female labor, especially the labor of married women workers – appears particularly desirable to employers in still another way, as may be seen from the quotation from “Capital,” by Karl Marx on page 129. As a worker the married woman is “far more attentive and docile” than the unmarried one. Consideration for her children compels her to exert her strength to the utmost in order to earn what is needful for their livelihood, and she therefore quietly submits to much that the unmarried working woman would not submit to, far less so the working man. As a rule working women rarely combine with their fellow workers to obtain better working conditions. That also enhances their value in the eyes of the employers; sometimes they even are a good means to subdue rebellious male workers. Women moreover are more patient, they possess greater nimbleness and a more developed taste, qualities that make them better suited to many kinds of work than men.
These womanly virtues the virtuous capitalist appreciates fully; and so, with the development of industry, the field of woman’s work is extended each year, but – and this is the decisive factor – without materially improving her social condition. Where female labor power is employed, it frequently releases male labor power. But the displaced male workers must earn their living; so they offer their labor power at lower wages, and this offer again depresses the wages of the female workers. The depression of wages becomes a screw set in motion by the constantly revolving process of developing industry, and as this process of revolution by labor-saving devices also releases female workers, the supply of “hands” is increased still more. New branches of industry counteract this constant production of surplus labor power, but not sufficiently to create better conditions of labor. In the new branches of industry also, as for instance in the electrical, male workers are being displaced by female workers. In the motor factory of the General Electric Company most of the machines are tended by girls. Every increase in wages above a certain standard causes the employer to seek further improvement of his machinery, and to put the automatic machine in the place of human hands and human brains. In the beginning of the capitalistic era only male workers competed with one another on the labor market. Now sex is arrayed against sex, and age against age. Women displace men, and women in turn are displaced by young people and children. That is the “moral regime” of modern industry.
This state of affairs would eventually become unbearable if the workers, by organization in their trade unions, would not counteract it with all their might. To the working woman, too, it is becoming a sheer necessity to join these industrial organizations, for as an individual she has still far less power of resistance than the working man. Working women are beginning to recognize this necessity. In Germany the following numbers were organized: in 1892, 4,355; in 1899, 19,28o; in 1900, 22,884; in 1905, 74411; in 1907, 136,929; in 1908, 138,443. In 1892 women constituted only 1.8 per cent. of all members of trade unions; in 1908 they constituted 7.6 per cent. According to the fifth international report of the trade union movement the numbers of female members were in Great Britain, 201,709; in France, 88,906; in Austria, 46,401.
The endeavors of employers to lengthen the work day in order to extract larger profits from their workers is met with little resistance by women workers. That explains why in the textile industry, for instance, in which more than half of the workers are women the work day is longest. It was necessary therefore that government protection by limiting the hours of work should begin with this industry. Women being accustomed to an endless work day by their domestic activity, submit to the increased demands upon their labor power without offering resistance.
|PERSONS EMPLOYED IN GAINFUL OCCUPATIONS.|
employed in percentage
|England and Wales||1901||15,728,613||16,799,230||32,527,843||10,156,976||4,171,751||14,328,727||64.6||24.8||44.1|
|Great Britain and Ireland||901||20,102,408||21,356,313||41,458,721||12,962,107||5,313,249||18,275,356||64.5||24.9||44.1|
|United States of America||1900||39,059,242||37,244,145||76,303,387||23,956,115||5,329,807||29,285,922||61.3||14.3||38.4|
* These figures include 91,219 persons of the army and navy who were absent from the country while the census was taken.
In other trades, such as millinery, manufacture of artificial flowers, etc., they reduce their own wages and lengthen their own workday by taking home extra work. They frequently do not even notice that thereby they become their own competitors and do not earn more in a sixteen hour day than they might in a well regulated ten-hour day.
The table on page 212 shows to what extent female labor has grown among various civilized nations, both in relation to the other sex and in relation to the entire population. Our table shows that the number of women employed in gainful occupations constitutes a considerable percentage of the entire population. The percentage is largest in Austria, France and Italy. This may be partly due to the manner of census-taking, as not only those female persons are counted, whose principal occupation is a gainful employment, but also those who perform incidental work for wages. The percentage is lowest in the United States. It is also important to compare the growth of the laboring population with former periods. Let us begin with Germany:
|Entire Population||Persons gainfully
percentage of population
|Of 100 person
This table shows firstly, that the number of persons gainfully employed increases more rapidly than the population; secondly, that the growth of female labor still exceeds this increase; thirdly, that the male laboring population is relatively stationary, while the female laboring population shows a relative and absolute growth, and lastly, that female labor at an increasing rate displaces male labor. The number of persons gainfully employed has increased from 1882 to 1895 by 16.6 per cent.; the number of men, by 15.8 per cent. and 19.35 per cent.; the number of women by 18.7 per cent. from 1882 to 1895, and by 44.44 per cent. from 1895; to 1907. The increase of the population from 1882 to 1895 was only 19.8 per cent., and from 1895 to 1907 only 19.34 per cent. So the entire number of persons gainfully employed has increased; but as the growth of the number of men gainfully employed has approximately kept pace with the growth of the population, the number of women gainfully employed has grown mostly. This shows that the struggle for existence requires greater efforts than formerly.
From 1882 to 1895 and from 1895 to 1907 we find the following increase (+) and decrease (-) among the population of Germany:
|From 1882 to 1895||From 1895 to 1907|
|Female persons gainfully employed|
|+ 1,005,290 = 23.60 per cent||+ 2,979,105 = 56.59 per cent|
|Male persons gainfully employed|
|+ 2,133,577 = 15.95 per cent||+ 3,077,382 = 19.85 per cent|
|+ 31,543 = 2.46 per cent||- 64,574 = 4.91 per cent|
|- 17,151 = 40.35 per cent||- 9,987 = 39.38 per cent|
The following table shows the number of persons gainfully employed in various trades:
|Industry and Mining||5 269,489||1,126,976||6,760 102||1,521,118||9,152,330||2,103,924|
|Commerce and Traffic||1,272,208||298,110||1,758,903||579,608||2,546,253||931,373|
|Various kinds of wage labor||213,746||183,836||198,626||233,865||50,791||320,904|
|Public service & learned professions||373,593||115,272||615,335||176,648||799,025||288,311|
|Army and Navy||542,282||-||630,978||-||651,194||-|
The following table shows the increase and decrease in various trades:
|From 1882 to 1895||From 1895 to 1907|
|Agriculture and Forestry||+218 245||8.60||+162,049||2.80||+1,845,832||67.04||-255,267||4.61|
|Industry and Mining||+394,142||35.00||+1,490,613||28.30||+582,806||38.31||+2,392,228||35.39|
|Commerce and Traffic||+281,498||98.40||+486,695||39.30||+351,765||60.69||+787,350||44.76|
|Various kinds of wage labor||+50,029||27.20||-5,120||7.10||+87,039||37.22||-47,835||24.08|
|Public service and learned professions||+61,376||53.25||+154,295||33.25||+111,663||-||+18.60||-|
|Army and Navy||-||-||+17,153||39.65||-||-||+20,216||-|
Among the persons gainfully employed there were:
|Laborers, etc., excl. servants||3,745,455||77.09||9,071,097||64.6||6,422,229||-||11,413,892||-|
|Total||4,853,880 =100.00||14,058,543 =100.00||7,634,283 =100.00||16,982,854 =100.00|
The following shows the increase and decrease of women holding independent positions from 1895 to 1907:
|Industry (domestic industry)||477,290||519,492 - 42,202||= 8.10|
|Commerce and traffic||246,641||202,616 + 44,025||= 21,77|
|Agriculture||328,237||346,896 - 18,659||= 9.04|
The greatest number of female persons were employed in the following trades:
|Clothing and cleaning||883,184||713,021|
|Restaurants and cafés||339,555||261,450|
|Articles of food and luxury||248,962||140,333|
|Stone and pottery||72,270||39,555|
|Wood and carving industry||48,028||30,346|
The following are the trades in which more women than men are employed in Germany:
|Restaurants and cafés||266,930||139,002|
These figures clearly show us the prevailing state of affairs in Germany. Although the number of persons gainfully employed has increased more rapidly than the population, the growth of female labor still exceeds this increase. The employment of women is rapidly growing in all lines of industry. While the male laboring population is relatively stationary, the female laboring population shows a relative and absolute growth. In fact the increase in female labor constitutes the chief portion of the general increase of persons gainfully employed in the entire population. The number of female members of families supported by men rank from 70.81 per cent. in 1895 to 63.90 per cent. in 1907. Woman has become such, a powerful factor in industry that the Philistine saying, the woman’s place is in the home, seems utterly void and ridiculous. In England the following numbers of persons were industrially employed:
|For every 100 persons gainfully employed|
Within thirty years the number of men gainfully employed increased by 1,886,790 persons = 22.8 per cent.; the number of women gainfully employed increased by 848,471 = 25.5 per cent. It is especially noteworthy that during 1881, the year of a crisis, the number of men emparent one [sic.], since most of the wives and daughters of number of women employed increased by 80,638. The relative decrease of female labor in 1901 is only an apparent one, since most of the wives and daughters of farmers are now counted as having no profession. Besides, during the last twenty years those industries have grown mostly in which male labor is chiefly employed, while the textile industry has relatively, and since 1891, positively declined.
|Female workers among these|
|Stone and pottery industry||582,474||805,185||53||5,006|
|Metal works and manufacture of machinery||812,915||1,228,504||52||61,233|
Nevertheless female labor has again increased at the expense of male labor. Only the share in increase of female labor that was 12.6 per cent. from 1851 to 1861 and 7.6 per cent. from 1871 to 1881 was reduced to 1.8 per cent. from 1891 to 1901. In the year 1907 the following numbers were counted in the textile industry: 407, 360 men = 36.6 per cent. and 679,863 women = 63.4 per cent. In the clothing trades and in commerce female labor has increased much more. But it is furthermore seen that older women are displaced by younger ones, and as women under 25 are mostly unmarried and the older ones are mostly married, or widowed, it is seen that women are displaced by girls.
The following are trades in which more women than men are employed in England:
|Among these cotton||328,793||193,830|
|wool and yarn||153,311||106,598|
|hemp and jute||104,587||45,732|
In almost all the branches women receive considerable less pay than men for the same amount of work. A recent inquiry showed that the average weekly wage in the textile industry was 28 shillings 1 penny for men, and only 15 shillings 5 pence for women. In the bicycle industry where female labor has rapidly increased as a result of the introduction of machinery, women receive only from 12 to 18 shillings per week, where men received from 30 to 40 shillings. The same conditions are met with in the manufacture of paper goods and shoes and in binderies. Women are paid especially low wages for the manufacture of underwear; 10 shillings per week is considered a good wage. “As a rule a woman earns half or one-third of a man’s wage.” A similar difference in remuneration between men and women is met with in the postal service and in teaching. Only in the cotton industry in Lancashire both sexes working an equal length of time earned almost equal wages.
In the United States we find the following development of female labor:
|Domestic and personal service||1,181,300||1,667,651||2,095,449|
|Commerce and transportation||63,058||228,421||503,347|
|Total, women||2,647,157 14.7||3,914,571 17.4||5,319,397 18.8|
|Total, men||14,774,942 85.3||18,821,090 82.6||23,753,836 81.2|
|17,422,099 100.0||22,7.35,661 100.0||29,073,233 100.0|
Here we see that the number of women gainfully employed has grown from 3,914,571 in 1890 to 5,319,397 in 1900. It has increased more rapidly than the population which increased from 62,622,250 persons in 1890 to 76, – 303,387 in 1900; only by 21 per cent. In the same inexorable way the number of employed men is decreasing, since they are being displaced by women. Now for 100 persons gainfully employed there are 18.8 women, while in 1880 there were not more than 14.7 per cent. Of 312 occupations there are only 9 in which no women are employed. According to the census of 1900, we even find among them 5 Pilots, 45 engineers and firemen, 185 blacksmiths, 508 machinists, 11 well-borers, 8 boilermakers. “Of course these figures are not of great sociological importance, but they show that there are very few occupations from which women are absolutely excluded, either by their natural capacity or by law. Women are especially numerous in the following occupations: Servants and waitresses, 1,213,828; dressmaking, 338,144; farm labor, 497,886; laundresses, 332,665; teachers, 327,905; independent farmers, 307,788; textile workers, 231,458; housekeepers, 147,103 ; salesladies, 146,265 ; seamstresses, 138,724; nurses and midwives, 108,691; unqualified trades, 106,916. In these 12 occupations 3,583,333 = 74.1 per cent. of all bread-earning women have been counted. Besides there are 85,086 stenographers; 82,936 milliners; 81,000 clerks; 72,896 bookkeepers, etc., together 19 occupations, comprising over 50,000 women = 88.8 per cent. of all women breadwinners. Women predominate in the following trades:
|For every 100 persons employed.|
|Manufacture of underwear||Women 99.4||Men 0.6|
|Millinery||" 98.0||" 0.6|
|Dressmaking||" 96.8||" 3.2|
|Manufacture of collars||" 77.6||" 22.4|
|Weaving||" 72.8||" 27.2|
|Manufacture of gloves||" 62.6||" 37.4|
|Bookbinding||" 50.0||" 49.5|
|Textile trades||" 50.0||" 50.0|
|Housekeeping||" 94.7||" 5.3|
|Nursing||" 89.9||" 10.1|
|Laundry work||" 86.8||" 13.2|
|Domestic service||" 81.9||" 18.1|
|Boarding||" 83.4||" 16.6|
|Stenographers||" 76.7||" 23.3|
|Teachers||" 73.4||" 26.6|
|Music teachers||" 56.9||" 43.1|
Of 4,833,630 women employed in gainful occupations aged 16 years and more, 3,143,712 were single, 769,477 were married, 857,005 were widowed, 63,436 were divorced. The American report says: “The increase in the percentage of persons gainfully employed was greatest for the married women, since it was by one-fourth greater in 1900 than in 1890. In 1890 there was only one married working woman among 22; in 1900 there was one among 18.” The number of widowed and divorced women is very great, both relatively and actually. In 1900 among 2,721,438 widowed women 857,005 = 31.5 were earning their living, and among divorced women the percentage was still greater. Of 114,935, of these 49 per cent. were earning their own living in 1890 and 55.3 per cent. in 1900. Thus more women became self-supporting each year. Among the 303 occupations in which women are employed there are:
|79 with less than||100 women|
|59 " " "||100 to 500 "|
|31 " " "||500 to 1000 "|
|125 " more "||1000 "|
|63 " " "||5000 "|
Among 100 persons from 16 years up we find the following wage-scale:
|Less than 7 dollars||18.0||Less than 7 dollars||66.3|
|7 to 9 dollars||15.4||7 to 9 dollars||19.6|
|9 to 20 dollars||60.6||9 to 15 dollars||13.2|
|20 to 25 dollars||4.8||15 to 20 dollars||0.8|
|More than 25 dollars||2.0||20 to 25 dollars||0.1|
|Average weekly wage||$11.16||$6.17|
We see that 60.6 per cent. of the men earn more than $9, while only 13.2 per cent. of the women earn more than $9, and more than two-thirds (66.3 per cent.) earn less than $7. The average weekly wage for men is $11.16; the average weekly wage for women $6.17, almost, half of the man’s wages. Among government employes the difference is equally great. Among 185,874 persons engaged in civil service there were 172,053 men = 92.6 per cent., and 13,821 women – 7.4 per cent. In the District of Columbia, the seat of the national administration, the percentage of female labor amounts to 29 per cent. And yet 47.2 per cent. of the women earn less than $720, while only 16.7 per cent. of the men earn less than $720.
In France, according to the census of 1901, the laboring population amounted to 19,715,075 persons, 12010,565 men and 6,804,510 women. They are distributed among various trades as follows:
|Men.||Per Cent.||Women.||Per Cent.|
“The female laboring population amounts to one-half of the male laboring population." As in all other countries, fewest women are employed at those occupations that require greatest physical strength (In mining 2.03 women for 100 men; in quarries 1.65 in metallurgy, 1.06). The greatest number of women are employed in the textile trades, 116 women for 100 men – in the clothing trades, in laundries, 1,247 women for 100 men, and in the manufacture of underwear 3,286 women for 100 men. It generally holds true, as Mme. C. Milhand states, that the greatest number of women are employed in those industries where the hours of work are particularly long and wages particularly low. “It is a sad fact that while the industries, where the hours of labor are short, only employ a few thousand women, those where the hours of work are long, employs hundreds of thousands of them." In regard to the wage scale E. Levasseur says that a woman’s wage rarely amounts to two-thirds of a man’s wage and more frequently only to one-half.
Married women form a large percentage of working women and their number is steadily increasing, which means a serious problem in regard to the family life of the working class. In 1899, German factory inspectors were instructed to investigate the work of married women and to inquire into the causes which lead them to seek employment. This investigation showed that 229,334 married women were employed in factories. Besides 1,063 married women were employed in mining above the ground, as was shown by the report of the Prussian mining authorities. In Baden the number of married working women increased from 10,878 in 1894 to 15,o46 in 1899, which is 31.27 per cent. of all adult female workers. The following table shows the distribution of married women factory laborers among the various trades:
|Articles of food and luxury||39,080|
|Stone and pottery industry||19,475|
|Clothing and cleaning trades||13,156|
|Wood and carving industry||5,635|
|Manufacture of machinery||4,493|
Besides the textile industry, the manufacture of articles of food and luxury, especially the manufacture of tobacco, gives many married women employment. Then comes the paper industry, especially employment in work shops for the assorting of rags, and employment in brick yards. Married women are mainly employed in difficult occupations (quarries, brick yards, dyeing establishments, manufacture of chemicals, sugar refineries, etc.), implying hard and dirty work, while young working girls under twenty-one find employment in porcelain factories, spinning and weaving mills, paper mills, cigar factories, and in the clothing trade. The worst kinds of work, shunned by others, are taken up by the elder working women, especially the married ones.”
Of the many replies in regard to the causes which lead married women to seek work only a few need to be mentioned. In the district of Potsdam the main reason given for the factory labor of married women was, that the earnings of the men were insufficient. In Berlin according to the reports of two inspectors 53.62 per cent. of the women who helped to support their families stated, that the earnings of their husbands were insufficient to support them. Similar information was given by the factory inspectors for the districts of western Prussia, Frank fort, on the Oder, Franconia, Wurtemberg, Elsatia, etc. The inspector for Magdeburg gives the same cause for the majority of married working women, but also states that some married women must work because their husbands are dissolute and spend all their earnings on themselves. Others again, it was reported, worked as a matter of habit and because they had not been trained to be housekeepers. It maybe true that these causes hold good in a minority of cases; but the great majority of these women work because they must. The factory inspector for Alsace states as the main cause for gainful employment of married women in modern industry, the demand for cheap labor, created by the means of transportation and by unrestricted competition. He furthermore states that manufacturers like to employ married women be cause they are more reliable and steady. The factory inspector for Baden, Dr. Woerishoffer, says: “The low wages paid to women workers is the main cause why employers resort to female labor wherever it can be made use of. Ample proof of this assertion can be found in the fact, that wages are lowest in those industries in which the greatest number of women are employed. As female labor can be employed to a great extent in these industries, it becomes a necessity to the working class families that the women should seek employment.” The factory inspector for Coblentz says: “Women usually are more industrious and reliable than young girls. Young working girls generally have an aversion against disagreeable and dirty work, which is accordingly left to the more unassuming married workers. Thus, for instance, dealers in rags frequently employ married women.”
That the wages of working women are lower everywhere than those of workingmen, even for equal work, is a well known fact. In this respect the private employer does not differ from the state or community. Women employed in the railroad and postal service receive less than men for the same kind of work. In every community women teachers receive a lower salary than men teachers. This may be explained by the following causes: Women have fewer needs and are, above all, more helpless; their earnings are in many cases only additional to the incomes of fathers or husbands, the main supporters of the families; the character of female labor is amateurish, temporary and accidental; there is an immense reserve force of female workers which increases their helplessness; there is much competition from middle class women in dressmaking, millinery, flower and paper goods manufactory, etc.; women are usually tied to their place of residence. All these causes make the hours of work longest for women unless they are protected by legislation.
In a report on the wages of factory laborers in Mannheim in 1893 the late Dr. Woerishoffer divides the weekly wages into three classes. The lowest class comprises weekly wages up to 15 marks ($3.75), the middle class from 15 to 24 marks ($3.75 to $4), and the high class above 24 marks ($6). These wages were distributed among the workers as follows:
|Low class||Middle class||High class|
|All the workers||29.8 per cent||49.8 per cent||20.4 per cent|
The majority of the working women were paid starvation wages, as the following table shows:
|A weekly wage of||less than 5 marks ($1.25)||was paid to 4.62||per cent|
|" " from||5 to 6 ($1.25 to $1.50) " "||5.47||" "|
|" "||6 to 8 ($1.50 $2.00) " "||43.96||" "|
|" "||8 to 10 ($2.00 $2.50) " "||27.45||" "|
|" "||10 to 12 ($2.50 $3.00) " "||12.38||" "|
|" "||12 to 15 ($3.00 $3.50) " "||5.30||" "|
|" "||more than 15 ($3.75) " "||0.74||" "|
An inquiry by the department of factory inspection of Berlin showed that the average weekly wages of working women was 11.36 marks ($2.82); 4.3 per cent. received less than 6 marks; 7.8 per cent. 6 to 8 marks; 27.6 per cent. 12 to 15 marks; 11.1 per cent. 15 to 20 marks, and 1.1 per cent. 20 to 30 marks. The majority (75.7 per cent) earn from 8 to 15 marks. In Karlsruhe the average weekly wages of all working women amounts to 10.02 marks.
Wages are lowest in the domestic industries for both men and women, but especially for women, and the hours of work are unlimited. Also domestic industry frequently implies the so-called sweating system. A sub-contractor distributes the work among the workers and receives for his remuneration a considerable amount of the wages paid by the employer. How wretchedly female labor is paid in these sweated trades, may be seen from the following reports on conditions in Berlin. For men’s colored shirts, manufacturers paid from 2 to 2½ marks in 1889. In 1893 they obtained them for 1.20 mark. A seamstress of medium ability must toil from dawn to darkness to finish from 6 to 8 shirts daily; her weekly wages amounts to from 4 to 5 marks. An apronmaker earns 2½ to 5 marks weekly, a tiemaker 5 to 6 marks, a skillful shirt-waist maker 6 marks, a very skilled worker on boys’ suits 8 to 9 marks, a worker on coats 5 to 6 marks. An experienced seamstress on fine men’s shirts can earn 12 marks per week if the season is good, and if she works from 5 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night. Milliners who can copy models independently earn 30 marks monthly; experienced trimmers who have been working at their trade for years earn 50 to 60 marks per month during the season. The season lasts five months An umbrellamaker earns 6 to 7 marks weekly with a twelve-hour day. Such starvation wages drive working girls to prostitution, for even with the most modest requirements no working girl can live in Berlin for less than 9 to 10 marks per week.
All these facts show that the modern development of industry draws away women more and more from the family and the home. Marriage and the family are being disrupted, and so from the standpoint of these facts also it becomes absurd to relegate woman to the home and the family. Only they can resort to this argument who go through life blindly and fail to see the trend of development, or do not wish to see it. In many branches of industry, women are employed exclusively; in a great many they constitute the majority of workers, and in most of the remaining branches women find more or less employment. The number of working women is steadily growing and new lines of activity are constantly being opened to them.
By the enactment of the German factory laws of 1891 the work day of adult women workers in factories was limited to eleven hours, but a number of exceptions were permitted. Night work for women was also prohibited, but here too exceptions were made for factories that run day and night, and for manufactures limited to certain seasons. Only after the international convention at Bern on September 26, 1906, determined on a night’s rest of eleven hours for factory workers, and after Socialists for many years energetically demanded the prohibition of night work for women and the establishment of an eight-hour day, the government and the bourgeois parties are yielding at last. The law of December 28, 1908, limits the hours of work for women to ten hours daily in all factories where no less than ten workers are employed. On Saturdays and on days preceding holidays the limit is eight hours. Women may not be employed for eight weeks prior to and after their confinement. Their readmission depends upon a medical certificate stating that at least six weeks have elapsed since their confinement. Women may not be employed in the manufacture of coke, nor for the carrying of, building materials. In spite of the energetic opposition of Socialists, an amendment was accepted that the controlling officials may permit overtime work for 50 days annually. Especially noteworthy is the clause which constitutes a first interference with the exploitation by domestic industry. This clause determines that women and minors may not be given work to take home on days when their hours of work in the factory have been as long as the law permits. Regardless of its imperfections the new law certainly means progress compared to the present state of affairs.
But women are not only employed in growing numbers in those occupations that are suited to their inferior physical strength, they are employed wherever the exploiters can obtain higher profits by their labor. Among such occupations are difficult and disagreeable as well as dangerous ones. These facts glaringly contradict that fantastic conception of woman as a weak and tender creature, as described by poets and writers of novels. Facts are stubborn things, and we are dealing with facts only, since they prevent us from drawing false conclusions and indulging in sentimental talk. But these facts teach us, as has been previously stated, that women are employed in the following industries: The textile trades, chemical trades, metallurgy, paper industry, machine manufacture, wood work, manufacture of articles of food and luxury, and mining above the ground. In Belgium women over 21 are employed in mining underground also. They are furthermore employed in the wide field of agriculture, horticulture, cattle-breeding, and the numerous trades connected with these occupations, and in those various trades which have long since been their specific realm – dressmaking, millinery, manufacture of underwear, and as salesladies, clerks, teachers, kindergarten teachers, writers, artists of all kinds, etc. Tens of thousands of women of the poorer middle class are employed in stores and in other commercial positions, and are thereby almost entirely withdrawn from housekeeping and from the care of their children. Lastly, young, and especially pretty women, find more and more employment as waitresses in restaurants and cafes as chorus girls, dancers, etc., to the greatest detriment to their morals. They are used as bait to attract pleasure-seeking men. Horrible conditions exist in these occupations from which the white slave traders draw many of their victims.
Among the above-named occupations there are many dangerous ones. Thus danger from the effects of alkaline and sulphuric fumes exists to a great degree in the manufacture and cleaning of straw hats. Bleaching is dangerous owing to the inhalation of chloral fumes. There is danger of poisoning in the manufacture of colored paper, the coloring of artificial flowers, the manufacture of metachromatypes, chemicals and poisons, the coloring of tin soldiers and other tin toys, etc. Silvering of mirrors means death to the unborn children of pregnant workers. In Prussia about 22 per cent. of all infants die during their first year of life; but among the babies of working women employed in certain dangerous occupations we find, as stated by Dr. Hirt, the following appalling death-rate; mirror makers, 65 per cent, glass cutters, 55 per cent.; workers in lead, 40 per cent. In 1890 it was reported that among 78 pregnant women who had been employed in the type founderies of the government district of Wiesbaden, only 37 had normal confinements. Dr. Hirt asserts that the following trades become especially dangerous to women during the second half of their pregnancy; the manufacture of colored paper and flowers, the finishing of Brussels laces with white lead; the making of metachromatypes (transfer pictures), the silvering of mirrors, the rubber industry, and all manufactures in which the workers inhale poisonous gases, such as carbonic acid, carbonic oxide, sulphide of hydrogen, etc. The manufacture of shoddy, and phosphoric matches are also dangerous occupations. The report of the factory inspector for Baden shows, that the average annual number of premature births among working women increased from 1039 during the years 1882 to 1886 to 1,244 during the years 1887 to 1891. The number of births that had to be preceeded by an operation were on an average 1,118 from 1882 to 1886, and 1,385 from 1887 to 1891. More serious facts of this sort would be revealed if similar investigations were made throughout Germany. But generally the factory inspectors in framing their reports content themselves with the remark: “Particular injuries to women by their employment in factories have not been observed.” How could they observe them during their short visits and without consulting medical opinion? That furthermore there is great danger to life and limb, especially in the textile trades, the manufacture of explosives and work at agricultural machinery has been shown. Moreover a number of enumerated trades are among the most difficult and strenuous, even for men; that can be seen by a glance at the very incomplete list. It is very easy to say that this or that occupation is unsuited to a woman. But what can she do if no other more suitable occupation is open to her? Dr. Hirt gives the following list of occupations in which young girls ought not to be employed at all on account of the danger to their health: Manufacture of bronze colors, manufacture of emery paper, making of straw hats, glass cutting, lithographing, combing flax, picking horse hair, plucking fustian, manufacture of tin plate, manufacture of shoddy and work at flax mills.
In the following trades young girls should be employed only if proper protection (sufficient ventilation, etc) has been provided: Manufacture of wall paper, porcelain, lead pencils, lead shot, volatile oils, alum, prussiate of potash, bromide, quinine, soda, peraffine and ultramarine (poisonous), colored paper (poisonous) colored wafers, metachromatypes, phosphoric matches, Paris green and artificial flowers. Further occupations on the list are the cutting and assorting of rags, the assorting and cutting of tobacco leaves, assorting of hair for brushes, cleaning (with sulphur) of straw hats, sulphurizing of India-rubber, reeling wool and silk, cleaning bed-feathers, coloring and printing of goods, coloring of tin soldiers, packing of tobacco leaves, silvering mirrors. and cutting steel pins and pens. It is certainly no pleasant sight to behold women, even pregnant women, working at the construction of railways, together with men and drawing heavily loaded carts, or helping with the building of a house, mixing lime and serving as hod-carriers. Such occupations strip a woman of all womanliness, just as, on the other hand, many modern occupations deprive men of their manliness. Such are the results of social exploitation and social warfare. Our corrupted social conditions turn the natural order upside down.
It is not surprising that workingmen do not relish this tremendous increase of female labor in all branches of industry. It is certain that the extension of the employment of women in industry disrupts the family life of the working class, that the breaking tip of marriage and the home are a natural result, and that it leads to a terrible increase of immorality, degeneration, all kinds of disease and infant morality. According to the statistics of the German Empire, infant mortality has greatly increased in those cities that have become centers of industry. As a result infant mortality is also heightened in the rural districts owing to the greater scarcity and increased cost of milk. In Germany, infant mortality is greatest in Upper Palatine, Upper Bavaria and Lower Bavaria, in some localities of the government districts of Liegnitz and Breslau and in Chemnitz. In 1907 of every 100 infants the following percentage died during the first year of life: Stadtamhof (Upper Palatinate) 40.14 per cent.; Parsberg (Upper Palatinate) 40.06; Friedberg (Upper Bavaria) 39.28; Kelheim (Lower Bavaria) 37.71; Munich 37.63; Glauchau (Saxony) 33.48; Waldenburg (Silesia) 32.49; Chemnitz, 32.49; Reichenbach (Silesia)), 32.18; Annaberg, 31.41, etc. In the majority of large manufacturing villages conditions were still worse, some of which had an infant mortality of from 40 to 50 per cent.
And yet this social development which is accompanied by such deplorable results means progress. It means progress just as freedom of trade, liberty of choosing one’s domicile, freedom of marriage, etc., meant progress, whereby capitalism was favored, but the middle class was doomed. The workingmen are not inclined to support small trades people and mechanics in their attempts again to limit freedom of trade and the liberty of choosing one’s domicile and to reinstate the limitations of the guild system in order to maintain industry on a small scale. Past conditions cannot be revived; that is equally true of the altered methods of manufacture and the altered position of women. But that does not preclude the necessity of protective legislation to prevent an unlimited exploitation of female labor and the employment in industry of children of school age. In this respect the interests of the working class coincide with the interests of the state and the general humane interests of an advanced stage of civilization. That all parties are interested in such protective measures has frequently been shown during the last decades, for instance, in Germany in 1893, when an increase of the army made it necessary to reduce the required standard, because our industrial system had greatly increased the number of young men who were unfit for military service. Our final aim must be to remove the disadvantages that have been caused by the introduction of machinery, the improvement in the means of production and the modern methods of production, and so to organize human labor that the tremendous advantages machinery gave to humanity and will continue to give may be enjoyed by all members of society. It is preposterous and a crying evil that human achievements which are the product of social labor, should only benefit those who can acquire them by means of their power of wealth, while thousands of industrious workingmen and women are stricken by terror and grief when they learn of a new labor saving device, which may mean to them that they have become superfluous and will be cast out. What should be joyfully welcomed by all thereby becomes an object of hatred to some, that in former decades frequently led workingmen to storm factories and demolish the machinery. A similar hostile sentiment prevails to some extent at present between working men and working women. This sentiment is unnatural. We must therefore seek to bring about a state of society in which all will enjoy equal rights regardless of sex. That will be possible when the means of production become the property of society, when labor has attained its highest degree of fruitfulness by employing all scientific and technical improvements and advantages, and when all who are able to work shall be obliged to perform a certain amount of socially necessary labor, for which society in return will provide all with the necessary means for the development of their abilities and the enjoyment of life.
Woman shall become a useful member of human society enjoying full equality with man. She shall be given the same opportunity to develop her physical and mental abilities, and by performing duties she shall be entitled to rights. Being man’s free and equal companion no unworthy demands will be made upon her. The present development of society is tending in this direction, and the numerous and grave evils incidental to this development necessitate the introduction of a new social order.
1. A number of lists from sick-benefit funds, compiled by the factory inspector Schuler, showed that female members were ill 7.17 days annually, while male members were ill only 4.78 days annually. The duration of each illness was 24.8 for female members and 21.2 for male members. O. Schwartz, “The results of the employment of married women in factories from the standpoint of public hygiene.” – “German quarterly gazette for public hygiene.”
2. “This is especially the case in the clothing trade, but also in other industries such as the manufacture of toys, underwear, cigarettes, paper goods etc.” R. Wilbrandt – “Protection of working women and domestic industry”. – Jena 1906.
3. “Encyclopedia of Social Sciences.” – H. Zahn, “Statistics of professions and trades.”
4. “Textile Trades in 1906.” London, 1909.
5. E. Cadbury C. Matheson and C. Shaun – “Women’s work and wages.” London, 1906.
6. E. Cadbury and F. Shaun – “Sweating.” London. 1907.
7. “Statistics of women at work”. Washington, 1908.
8. “Earnings of wage-earners.” “Bulletin 93,” page 11. Washington, 1908.
9. “Executive civil service of the United States.” Washington, 1908,
10. C. Milhand – “L’ouvriere en France.” Paris, 907.
11. E. Levasseur – “Questions ouvrières et industrielles en France sous la troisième république.” Paris, 1907.
12. C. Milhand – “L’ouvriere en France.” Paris, 1907.
13. E. Levasseur – “Questions ouvrières et industrielles en France sous la troisième république.” Paris, 1907.
14. Employment of married women in factories. Compiled from the annual reports of factory inspectors, for the year 1899 in the Home Department. Berlin, 1901.
15. “In the centers of the weaving industry the percentage of Married women among factory workers rises far above the average 26 per cent; for instance, in Saxony-Altenburg to 56 per cent, and in Reuss to 58 per cent.” – R. Wilbrandt, “The weavers at the present time.” Jena, 1906.
16. Wocrishoffer – “The social status of factory workers in Mannheim.”
17. Mary Baum – “Three classes of women wage-earners in industry and commerce of the city Karlsruhe.” 1906.
18. Industrial activity of women.
19. By an international agreement between Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland on Sept. 26, 1906, the use of white phosphorus in the manufacture of matches will be forbidden from January 1, 1911. In Germany the manufacture of these goods has been prohibited since Jan. 1, 1907, and since Jan. 1, 1908, they may neither be sold nor otherwise distributed. In England a similar law was enacted in 1909.
20. The following percentage of men examined were found fit for military service: 1902, 58.5; 1903, 57.1; 1904, 56.4; 1905, 56.3; 1906, 55.9; and 1907, 54.9. The following percentage had to be discharged owing to disability after they bad been enrolled: from 1881 to 1885, 2.07 per cent; from 1891 to 895, 2.30 per cent; from 1901 to 1905, 2.47 per cent. W. Claassen – “The decrease of military efficiency in the German Empire.”
21. In December 1871, factory inspector A. Redgrave delivered a lecture at Bradford in which he said among other things: “My attention has recently been called to the changed appearance in the wool mills. Formerly they were full of women and children; now the machines seem to do all the work. Upon my inquiry a manufacturer gave me the following information: ‘under the old system I employed 63 persons; after the introduction of improved machinery I reduced my hands to 33; and recently, as a result of further great improvements, I was able to reduce them from 33 to 13’.” Within a few years then the number of workers was reduced by almost 80 per cent while the same amount of goods were produced. – Further interesting information on this subject may be found in “Capital” by Karl Marx.