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Susan Green

Of Special Interest to Women

(26 February 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 9, 26 February 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The mountain labored and brought forth a mouse. This is the saying that came to mind on reading the new WPB-OPA program regarding textiles and clothing.

The first aspect of the plan that hits one smack in the face is that it will be April before new supplies begin to come in, in dribbles, and it will take until September before the plan is “wholly operative.” That means that for the rest of the winter and for spring and summer buying, pretty much the same condition will probably prevail, both as to supplies and as to prices.

Yet the plan of the WPB and OPA glosses over this period and does nothing about reducing prices on existing supplies.

When the price cuts do come in, they will amount to only SIX OR SEVEN PER CENT. Yet OPA Administrator Bowles himself admits that the cost of clothing has increased ELEVEN PER CENT in the last eighteen months. Just why Mr. Bowles picked the number “eleven” out of the hat is hard to say, when every housewife knows that she is paying as much as 100 per cent more, on many items of textiles and other clothing. But even on his own basis, Mr. Bowles does not hold the line.

Another loophole is the ever-present question of quality. Though the WPB-OP A order has many words on this subject, it winds up with the conclusion that “quality controls will be imposed WHERE FEASIBLE” – and you know what that means in practice!

Indefinite indeed are the benefits to accrue to the consumer. But very definite was Mr. Bowles on the subject of profits. He was very emphatic that the textile and clothing business all up and down the line – WHICH HAS MADE AS MUCH AS TEN TIMES PRE-WAR PROFITS – will continue to make more profits than in pre-war days. It is easy to understand why the working people can’t really go into rhapsodies over the profit system.


Has anyone ever stopped to think what would become of our vaunted “civilization” – such as capitalist civilization is – if all the workers in the service trade would refuse to do “menial” labor? Restaurants, hotels, office and apartment buildings, stores, subways, laundries, dry-cleaning establishments all are kept clean or “serviced” or operated by the “menial” workers. Without them, dirt would so clog the wheels of modern life that it would come to a standstill. Food could not be served outside the home; hotels could not be run. But why go on? The point is amply made.

These so important service jobs are “manned” to a great extent by women, white and black. Indispensable as is their labor, they are treated like the scum of the earth. The measure of this is the wages they receive.

The Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor recently made a survey showing that wages of women workers in service trades scrape a bottom of TWELVE AND FIFTEEN CENTS AN HOUR. For a forty-hour week, the munificent reward is $4.80 and $6.00!

The survey pertained to eleven states which have no minimum wage laws. Of course, male workers also come in for all the “benefits” of unrestricted exploitation. But there is nothing like the exploitation to which women workers are subjected. Restaurant, hotel, laundry and store workers average eighteen cents an hour in eighty-eight cities. Waitresses get less than twenty-five cents an hour. And so all along the line.

Pressure is being exerted by organized labor to get minimum wage laws passed in these unspeakably backward states. This is good. But it does not mitigate the real need to give these women workers a sense of the importance of their labor and of their belonging to the whole body of labor – and above all to help to organize them into powerful unions through,which to fight for their rights as useful workers and as human beings!


Eleanor Fowler, secretary-treasurer of the Women’s Auxiliaries of the CIO, writes a column in the CIO News. Her column in the January 22nd issue begins as follows: “It is significant that four of our eight women members of Congress have been chosen to serve on the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Representatives. Their appointment emphasizes the very great concern which American women have with building a secure peace.”

The first mistake Mrs. Fowler makes is in the word “our.” How come that the eight women in Congress who are all either Democrats or Republicans, having run on capitalist party tickets, committed to a capitalist government – how come that they can be called “our,” meaning belonging to LABOR? The mere fact of womanhood has nothing to do with classes or with politics.

But the great error Mrs. Fowler falls into is the old bewhiskered one that women are somehow better equipped than men to bring about a better world and lasting peace. In her own column Mrs. Fowler proves how false this assumption is. She states her belief that “The groundwork [for peace] has been laid in the Bretton Woods and Dumbarton Oaks agreements.” Her belief in these scraps of paper only show that a woman can be just as deluded about the capitalist system and its international machinations as a man.

While the great nations are competing for world power and jockeying for position in a mad game that can only prepare the ground for the next war, Mrs. Fowler – along with other well-intentioned people of both sexes who refuse to see world capitalism for what it is – clutch frantically at agreements already discredited by the very ones who made them.

Neither sex nor color nor race nor creed has anything to do with the qualifications of people to represent labor in the struggle for a better world and lasting peace. The best qualified people of both sexes to speak for the working masses are the revolutionary socialists. They look at capitalism with the eyes of realists. They see that it holds no future but of more devastation and more wars. They are fighting to sweep capitalism off the stage of history, to make way for a socialist world based on human needs and aspirations. MEN AND WOMEN ALIKE WORK FOR THIS END.

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