Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(6 September 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 36, 6 September 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Every housewife will be just too, too delighted to learn that the V campaign of the bosses on the domestic front is doing very well. Here are a few indications:

The professors on the OPA have been replaced by business men. This augurs very well for the profits of the big four farm organizations and of the food industry – though not for the housewife. Even the restrictions of the very mild and absent-minded professors will now be removed.

The latest reports have it that the 1944 “plans” for food administration will be about what they were for 1943. The status quo of rising prices is being maintained because the big four farm organizations and the food industry prefer it that way, according to Samuel B. Bledsoe in the New York Times of August 22.

Starting August 5, you have been paying more for eighty food items and a trifle less for thirty-five – the balance being all in favor of the food bosses. This increase to the consumer reflects more allowances by the OPA to the food dealers. In New York City the landlords have been upheld by the OPA, which, for some occult reason will not place ceilings on rents because New York City is not a “defense area” – whatever that may mean, since the city is full of defense workers.

The only light on the horizon is that here and there the housewives are waking up and taking action. In Coney Island the gypping was so bad that the housewives formed a committee, for reporting ceiling violations. In Brooklyn the women of an apartment house where rents are being raised, picketed the property, carrying slogans such as “Pay Frozen – Why Not Rent?”

Such action is the real McCoy. It must become much more extensive and much better organized – and kept free of the deadly Stalinist influence.


Mrs. Helen Robar, working in Baltimore for the Koppers Co. and producing piston rings for the “war effort,” is almost as good at having babies as the proverbial oriental peasant women, who have their babies in the fields and continue working as if nothing happened. This, by the way, is not necessarily an indication of womanly prowess, but rather of a condition of servitude leading to physical exhaustion at an early age – as evidenced by the way most peasant women get wizened and old before their-time.

But to return to Mrs. Robar. She gave birth to a child at four in the afternoon, and eight hours later was at work on the midnight shift. Of course, this could not be kept secret from the other women on the job. They talked, and finally company officials heard the story. Whereupon the latter insisted on Mrs. Robar going home to get a doctor’s examination and perhaps to stay there for two months – to rest up.

But it isn’t rest. Mrs. Robar is worried about. “I can’t just sit around and do nothing, with all these kids to support ... I can’t get another job without a release from the company, so what am I to do?”

Some women have illegal abortions – take the chance of ruining their health that way – in order to continue supporting their dependents. Mrs. Robar emulated the female slaves of the Orient.

What a shame and disgrace! The government, which spends $265,000,000 EVERY DAY, and the bosses, who reap fantastic war profits, make no provision for the millions of women workers so they can have their babies as civilized women should.

Every company should be compelled to grant maternity leave with pay so dependents won’t suffer and so their jobs will be there for them when the women get back. Who’s going to make the bosses do this?



Not only are practically no new protective measures being taken for women workers, but the reactionaries are aiming to weaken or remove such laws for women as now exist.

These reactionary forces working for the bosses are so wily about this that they seek to accomplish their aim under the benevolent guise of what is called the Equal Rights Amendment, now pending in the Senate.

Those equal rights that working women now want they will not get by this amendment nor by any law on the statute books. Women should get equal pay for equal work, equal conditions of labor, equal priority rights. They will get such equal treatment on the job only by becoming active, militant union members arid influencing the unions – in the interest of all labor – to raise the level of the women workers.

What this Equal Rights Amendment, if passed, would do is to give the boss-controlled judges the opportunity to declare unconstitutional every existing law that requires sanitary protection for women, limits their night work, compels certain industrial safety devices. For if women have equal rights with men, there should, of course, be no laws giving women these “special privileges.”

See the point – an Equal Rights Amendment to allow the bosses unhampered exploitation of womanpower.

Laws regulating night work for women and the like have, as it is, been “suspended for the duration.” The bosses would delight in extending the “duration” into peacetime.

The whole labor movement must be up in arms against the passage of this fake Equal Rights Amendment.


A union militant who is a devoted reader of Labor Action writes in about “wife trouble” in the labor movement. He is alarmed by the inactivity of rank and file unionists and points to the small percentage of union members who attend their meetings. He thinks that the wives of union men discourage their husbands’ activity – and to keep peace in the family the men stay home.

Wives of union men, hear ye, hear ye! You are being called by that old term of endearment: “Ball and chain!” But this is not in jest and is indeed no laughing matter.

Being a ball and chain on the labor movement is a serious matter indeed. Whatever progress the working people have made has been through union strength. Don’t forget that. And because the matter is so serious, Labor Action is going to give some attention to the question of the relation of workers’ wives to the labor movement.

Susan Green Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 14 June 2015