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Susan Green

Of Special Interest To Women

(20 October 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 42, 20 October 1941, pp. 3 & 4.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

This column has been urging working class housewives to organize militantly to fight the ever-rising cost of living.

What should be the functions of such organizations?

  1. They should, cooperate in every way with the union movement and help union workers gain their demands for higher wages to meet the towering prices.
  2. They should use their power as consumers to. organize demonstrations and boycotts against profiteering companies which increase prices on the pretext of higher wages.
  3. They should act to force the government to take REAL measures against the war profiteers.

In a word, the organizations of housewives must be PART AND PARCEL OF THE ORGANIZED LABOR MOVEMENT – adding their strength to it.

This warning is occasioned by the formation of “Organized Housewives” in the city of Syracuse, N.Y. There are indications that this new organization is built on the very false notion that high wages are responsible for the high cost of living.

As the newspapers reported it, the Syracuse housewives “were aroused” by the strike of drivers and dairy plant workers for higher wages. They opposed the workers’ demands because they feared higher milk prices would result.


It is not true that high wages are the cause of high prices. Housewives must get rid of this dangerous notion.

A government survey for the year from August 1940 to August 1941 shows that price increases DEFINITELY ARE NOT DUE TO WAGE INCREASES.

For instance:

Cotton goods have gone up 39.7 per cent, WHILE WAGES ROSE ONLY 5.5 PER CENT.

Lumber costs mounted by 29.6 per cent, BUT WAGES WENT UP A MERE 2.8 PER CENT.

Petroleum prices increased by 23 per cent, WHEREAS WAGES DID NOT GO UP AT ALL.

These are only a few illustrations which, however, MAKE IT VERY OBVIOUS WHAT THE BOSSES ARE DOING.

Organized working class housewives must direct their fight against the real enemies – THE PROFITEERING BOSSES AND THE GOVERNMENT WHICH ALLOWS THEM TO FLOURISH.

Otherwise they will become the pawns of the anti-labor and fascist forces in the country. Otherwise, they will allow their organizations to become a boomerang – INJURING THEMSELVES AND HELPING THE WAR PROFITEERS.

Lieut. Gen. Delos C. Emmons, head of the air force combat command, has made the significant announcement that the army air corps will soon call for 25,000 women volunteers for enlistment in the regular army in connection with an air-raid warning system.

Army service for women is not going to be a bed of roses. In fact, Emmons warns that volunteers will have to be able to “STAND THE GAME OF WORKING UP TO TEN HOURS A DAY UNDER WAR CONDITIONS.”

In return the women will get an “attractive uniform” and A BUCK PRIVATE’S PAY. Whether that means the $21 coolie wage of the drafted soldiers or even less than that because they are “mere women,” is not stated.

Thus the unadorned facts are that the United States Army is about to acquire – through capitalizing on the misdirected patriotism of 25,000 women – that great number of SHAMEFULLY UNDERPAID ARMY WORKERS.

In New York City, and perhaps in other parts of the country, the mothers of drafted soldiers are organizing to get better pay for their sons.

Through Parent-Teacher Associations or through newly-formed committees – as in Harlem, where the Permanent Committee for Welfare of Negro Soldiers has been organized – women are preparing to campaign for their boys.

These mothers complain that not only have they been deprived of whatever financial help their sons were able to contribute when in civilian work, but they are now compelled to send money to their sons.

It is impossible for young men to live on $21 or $30 a month – even in the army. They must get money from home for all kinds of necessary expenses as well as for fare to make occasional visits to their folks.

MORE POWER TO THESE WOMEN IN THEIR FIGHT FOR THEIR BOYS WHOM THE GOVERNMENT IS EXPLOITING – while permitting the capitalists to fatten on war contracts.

However, there is one point these embattled women must not miss.


Why should they be lesser citizens, poor relations, so to speak?

Workers outside the army have the right to demand increases in wages and improved conditions. WORKERS IN THE ARMY SHOULD HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS!

It is very easy for us to fall victim to the tricks of our masters.

I am thinking of the way in which this colossal war is being reported in the capitalist press.

You hear of tanks, planes, guns. It is all a matter of so and so many mechanized divisions, of so many miles traversed, of this river crossed, of that city taken. All cut and dried and ordinary.

Of the millions – yes millions – of squirming, shrieking, shattered human beings who are uselessly annihilated, we hear very little. YET THIS IS WHAT THE PRESENT WAR MEANS TO US. This kind of one-sided reporting has a purpose. If the actualities of the war were daily put before our eyes from the human angle, the horror of it would make us rise up in rebellion.

Working women must not fall for this trick. They should bear well in mind what the war means to human beings.

When they read about the stupendous battles being fought, they should think of them in terms of people piled high in ditches, on roads, in bombed houses – in terms of mashed, mangled, mutilated bodies in the million-mass.

They should remember also that this greatest of all crimes against humanity has been committed alike by the imperialist rulers of all the warring countries – AND CAN BE STOPPED BY THE WORKING CLASSES OF THESE COUNTRIES.

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