Location: Google Books Date: 1897
American women have always worked, but until the twentieth century most occupations available to them were simply extensions of their traditional domestic roles. Frances Willard, educator, suffragist and temperance reformer, strongly believed that a woman was capable of achieving any occupational goal she chose and wrote Occupations for Women to encourage those endeavors. You might be a little surprised, given the period when the book was written, of the types of occupations Willard addresses. The selection I have chosen is a chapter comparing the number of women in 1870 and those in 1890 engaged in different types of work. It was obvious to Willard that the times were a changin’. This book is one of my personal favorites.
A CHAPTER OF FACTS
POSSIBLY some of you girls who prefer romance to reality may feel inclined to turn up your noses at this chapter, but I assure von you will find very much of interest and profit in it, and will be paid by a careful study of the statistics which it contains. Figures aren’ t always interesting, to be sure, but a study of them is almost certain to be helpful, and this is submitted to you that you may know for a fact what women already are doing in the world of labor, and the many opportunities there are for you in whatever field you may think you will excel.
The detailed table of occupations just issued from the Census Office gives many interesting facts in relation to the entrance of the American woman into various branches of trade and industry, and also throws light upon her advent into the professions.
The totals of the occupation tables were published a year or two ago, and from them it was learned that the number of women engaged in the gainful occupations increased between 1880 and 1890 nearly 48 per cent, while the number of men engaged increased about 28 per cent. During this period professional women increased 75 per cent, and those engaged in manufacturing and mechanical pursuits nearly 63 per cent, while in trade and transportation the increase was 263 per cent and over — two and a half times as great as in 1880. These were figures to make one think and they naturally awakened curiosity as to what particular professions, trades and industries women had selected as a means of earning a livelihood.
To satisfy this curiosity and reply to the inquiries the Census Bureau made a comprehensive inquiry as to the occupations in which women find a means of support and usefulness. The inquiry included also the comparative work and wages of men, women and children. The information elicited is just given to the public.
Broadly speaking, it would appear that the American woman, like her British kin beyond the sea, has taken a dip into every occupation. The advance of woman has been complete, and, with the exception of the United States army and navy, there are no blanks. She labors in the field and dairy, and thrives as a farmer, planter and overseer. She goes forth in a boat and braves the wind and sea in fishing, and drags the bed of the ocean for oysters. She may be found in lumber camps, doing duty as wood-chopper and lumberman, and even as a raftsman woman has tried her hand, and is not afraid to own up to the census man. With pick and dynamite she quarries stone and delves into the earth in search of the common minerals and the precious metals.
In the professional world woman has made here appearance in every occupation save that of marshaling armies and conducting war. Her progress in professional life has been as marked as in trade and industry. Here we have it with all the authority of the government official:
|Artists and teachers of art||412||10815|
|Authors and literary||159||2,725|
|Chemists, assayists and metallurgists||0||39|
|Dentists, draughtsmen and inventors||13||305|
|Engineers (civil, mechanical, electrical and
|Musicians and teachers of music||5753||34518|
|Physicians and surgeons||527||4557|
|Professors and teachers||84047||246066|
|Theatrical managers, showmen, etc||100||634|
|Other professional service||8||479|
Isn’t that an interesting story told in figures? A story of advance, of endeavor, of actual accomplishment. It is full of suggestion to the bright girl who needs only a hint to set her in the way in which success will be found.
Beside all the old occupations, we find women planning houses and decorating them; in the chemical laboratory; administering gas and pulling teeth; designing and inventing; and grappling with the difficult problems of civil engineering. They are on the road as theatrical agents and managers, and in the roll of veterinary surgeons, administering to the ailments of dumb animals. Notice, if you please, the increase of newspaper women—that is so much better term than journalists—from 35 in 1870 to 888 in 1890, and as authors, from 159 to 2725. There are six times as many women on the stage in 1890 as in 1870; three times as many professors and teachers; ten times as many women government officials; nine times as many women physicians and surgeons; more than forty times as many women lawyers; six times as many women musicians and teachers of music; twenty-five times as many artists and teachers of art; while the number occupying the pulpit has increased from 67 in 1870 to 1143 eleven years later. Summed up, we find an army of over 300,000, or about one-third of all persons engaged in professional services in the United States, to be women. This is not only a large actual increase, but, relatively to the men, the number of women is greater than in 1870.
Turning from this brilliant advent into professional life, we will follow woman’s progress in what the dry tables of the census office generally term “domestic and professional service.” Beside the old stand-by occupations— lodging-house keepers, laundresses, nurses and servants—we find the nineteenth century woman pushing into heretofore unheard-of avocations; as a barber, her dexterous fingers lightly remove man’s grizzly beard; 19 women brave the wilds of forest and mountain as hunters, trappers, guides and scouts; while, more . singular still, perhaps, 28 evince no fear of ghosts and spirits in the somewhat mournful occupation of sexton. There are three times as many women hotel keepers as in 1870; nearly twenty times as many janitors; while entirely new occupations have been discovered for women as engineers, watchmen and detectives, under which last head 279 are returned.
It is in trade and transportation that woman has made her most tremendous record in these years. Over 200,000 intelligent, industrious, capable women have found a sure and honest way of making a living. As bookkeepers, clerks, typewriters, stenographers, cashiers, telegraph operators, women have found a profitable field of labor and occupation for which they are as well fitted as men, if not better. In the largest class—bookkeepers, clerks and saleswomen—the increase has been phenomenal. As agents and collectors, the number of women has increased from 97 to 4875. There are five times as many women returned as merchants and dealers, and over thirty times as many under the head of ” packers and shippers”—aggregating in 1890, 6520 women. From 355 operators in 1870, women telegraph and telephone operators increased to 8474 in 1890, and probably number over 10,000 now. Women seem to flourish and increase and multiply in trade, transportation, as bankers and brokers, commercial travelers, dairymen, peddlers, weighers and gangers, as bank officials; yet as sailors, undertakers, auctioneers, boatmen and pilots, they have met with no success.
In manufacturing and mechanical pursuits women have found new and important industries and have not been slow in availing themselves of the opportunity thus offered for bread-winning. The census shows five times as many women bookkeepers, nearly four hundred times as many engaged in making boots and shoes, seven times as many employed in box making, as there were in 1870. In 1890 clock and watch making gave employment to nearly 5,000 women, and in 1870 to only 75. The increased demand for confectionery of all kinds brought the number of women employed in that industry from 612 to 5674. About one third was added to our cotton operatives. The tremendous increase in dressing the women and children of our country may be studied in the fact that our army of dressmakers, milliners and seamstresses multiplied more than five times in the period mentioned. Pottery, photography, lithography—all now give employment to nearly 10,000 women. The printing office, the rope and rubber factories, the shirt, collar and cuff manufactories, the silk mills, are employing more than 50,000 women.
In the industries American women are literally taking a hand in all branches. As blacksmiths they ply the hammer on the anvil and make the sparks fly. They bind books, and make bottles; as contractors, they build houses. They work in all the metals, including gold and silver. They cut stone, lay brick and plaster walls. And one woman has returned herself to the census man as a well digger.
A study of the figures given above not only suggests the intense fight for existence which has been going on for the last quarter of a century and has made it necessary for the women of the family to do something for themselves, but it likewise brings out the fact that they have not been slow in taking advantage of opportunities afforded them for a wider range of employment. While they have taken up some peculiar occupations, the satisfactory feature of the inquiry lies in the fact that they have made greatest headway in the occupations which are best fitted for them, namely, the professions and trades and many branches of manufacture. Upon the whole, the 4,000,000 women bread-winners of the United States may be congratulated on the headway they have made on the road to independence, and still more are they to be congratulated at the reputations they have won for themselves as workers. In almost every case those who employ women speak of their honesty, their sobriety, and above all their extreme faithfulness. They obey not only the letter, but the spirit of the unwritten rules that are set for the guidance of every employee. With these qualities, it is no wonder that women have come so well to the front and that the positions which they occupy are constantly increasing in importance.