Mathew Carey (transcription in progress)
"Sir, We Ought Never to Forget . . . ." Broadside published in Philadelphia, 1830
"We must never forget that the LOW RATE OF WAGES IS THE ROOT OF THE MISCHIEF, and that unless we can succeed in raising the price of [their] labor, our utmost efforts will do little towards effectually bettering their condition. The distribution of alms, &c. may be useful in their way; but they do not reach the sources of the evil."--Excerpt from 1830 Carey broadside
"To Be Victims of Pain and Misery . . . ." Broadside published in Philadelphia, 1832"
"It is impossible for any person, not destitute of humanity, to consider the case of the generality of the seamstresses in our large cities, in all its bearings and aspects, without strong sentiments of compassion for the sufferers, and regret for the honour of the country--a country more prosperous than any other under the canopy of heaven . . . . These women, of whom no small portion are aged widows, who formerly lived in affluence, are among the most oppressed of the human species."--Excerpt from `1832 Carey broadside
To the Humane and Charitable . . . ." Broadside published in Philadelphia, 1833
"There are in the four great cities some thousand females, whose utmost exertions, when constantly employed, and without children, will barely suffice to secure them the common necessities of life."--Excerpt from 1833 Carey broadside
Note: You may also find it worthwhile to consult Beecher's Educational Reminiscences and Suggestions, published in 1874 (available online at Making of America).
Treatise on Domestic Economy: For the Use of Young Ladies at Home, and at School. Chapter One: "The Peculiar Responsibilities of American Women"
"And it is by forming a habit of regarding the apparently insignificant efforts of each isolated laborer, in a comprehensive manner, as indispensable portions of a grand result, that the minds of all, however humble their sphere of service, and be invigorated and cheered. The woman, who is rearing a family of children; the woman, who labors in the schoolroom; the woman, who, in her retired chamber earns, with her needle, the mite, which contributes to the intellectual and moral elevation of her Country; even the humble domestic, whose example and influence may be moulding and forming young minds, while her faithful services sustain a prosperous domestic state;--each and all may be animated by the consciousness, that they are agents in accomplishing the greatest work that ever was committed to human responsibility. It is the building of a glorious temple, whose base shall be coextensive with the bounds of the earth, whose summit shall pierce the skies, whose splendor shall beam on all lands; and those who hew the lowliest stone, as much as those who carve the highest capital, will be equally honored, when its top-stone shall be laid, with new rejoicings of the morning stars, and shoutings of the sons of God." --from Beechers' Treatise on Domestic Economy
The True Remedy for the Wrongs of Woman
"In the most cultivated and influential class of society, to live so as not to perform any family work, and to be totally ignorant of both the science and practice of Domestic Economy, is not only very general, but often is boasted of as the particular claim to the character of "a lady." Meantime, those who really are rendering the most service to society by performing these labors, are despised as the lowest class. Even the teachers of young children, as the general rule, receive poorer wages than are paid to the higher class of domestics, and are regarded as an inferior caste by those who consider themselves the nobility of society."--Beecher, from The True Remedy for the Wrongs of Women
Women's Benevolent Associations for Working Women
The Society for Employing the Female Poor, Excerpt from 1824 Report
The Ladies' Depository, Excerpt from 1834 Report
"In every large city, a numerous class of persons is found, whom the vicissitudes of fortune have reduced from a state of ease or affluence to the necessity of gaining a subsistence by their own personal exertions. The sufferings of females are, in most cases, greatly augmented by a natural feeling of delicacy, which leads them to shrink from observation, and from encountering the rough and unkind treatment to which they are frequently exposed in their efforts to obtain employment."--from Report for 1834
The Needlewoman's Friend Society, Excerpts from Selected Annual Reports 1848-1897
"A very worthy woman, who some years since was gradually reduced from a state of comfort and competence to poverty, said to me, in speaking of this establishment: "If there had been such a place when we began to go behindhand, my daughter and I would never have been so poor." That is often the want, something to take hold of at the first step downwards,--something to keep up those whose resources are beginning to fail, but who by a timely aid might be enabled to sustain themselves until some favorable turn of the tide might lead to better fortune. It is believed that much good has been done in the way alluded to. Instances cannot with propriety be pointed out; but it may be said, that, through the facilities offered by our Society, many have by their skill and industry preserved their independence, to whom the necessity of seeking other assistance would have been felt as deep humiliation."--from Report for 1851
The Woman's Union for Christian Work, Lynn, MA, 1871 Report
"The numbers of young women who frequent the Reading Room continue to increase. While some who visited this room when first opened, soon learning to prize the home-like privileges here offered, still make it a frequent resting place, new faces are seen here every day, to re-appear and gain the home feeling. Many a young girl has expressed deep gratitude, that upon arriving in the city, a homeless stranger, unable to find employment, she found at our Reading Room sympathy, encouragement and practical aid in her time of trouble."-- from Report for 1871
The Lowell "Mill Girls"
Lowell National Historical Park - Mill Girls
Modern History Sourcebook: Harriet Robinson Lowell Mill Girls
Robinson published an autobiography in which she discussed her years as a Lowell factory hand (1834-1848). What follows is a passage from Robinson's comments in which she describes the economic position of women in those times.
"As late as 1840 there were only seven vocations outside the home into which the women of New England had entered. At this time woman had no property rights. A widow could be left without her share of her husband's (or the family) property, an " incumbrance" to his estate. A father could make his will without reference to his daughter's share of the inheritance. He usually left her a home on the farm as long as she remained single. A woman was not sup posed to be capable of spending her own, or of using other people's money. In Massachusetts, before 1840, a woman could not, legally, be treasurer of her own sewing society, unless some man were responsible for her. The law took no cognizance of woman as a money&SHY;spender. She was a ward, an appendage, a relict. Thus it happened that if a woman did not choose to marry, or, when left a widow, to re&SHY;marry, she had no choice but to enter one of the few employments open to her, or to become a burden on the charity of some relative."-- from Harriet Robinson's "Early Factory Labor in New England"
Women in the Workplace, Labor Unions - Cover Page Women's History Feature
"The most successful union at the turn of the twentieth century was the AFL. Unfortunately for women workers, Samuel Gompers, its first president, shared society's belief that a woman's place was in the home. It was the union's stand that "it is wrong to permit any of the female sex of our country to be forced to work, as we believe that men should be provided with a fair wage in order to keep his female relatives from going to work." If women engaged in paid work, it was felt, respect for them would diminish and they would 'bring forth weak children who are not educated to become strong and good citizens.'"--from Women in the Workplace Homepage
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A History of American Sweatshops 1820-Present at the Smithsonian Museum
Note: Be sure to see the "History" section.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
"Ought Women to Learn the Alphabet?" an essay published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1859 and reprinted in 1881 as part of Women And The Alphabet: A Series of Essays (Higginson also wrote an essay on "The Other Side of the Woman Question" when the North American Review held a forum on that topic in its November, 1879 issue. Other essays were contributed by Julia Ward Howe, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Wendell Phillips.)
"If an extraordinary male gymnast can clear a height of ten feet with the aid of a springboard, it would be considered slightly absurd to ask a woman to leap eleven feet without one; yet this precisely what society and the critics have always done. Training and wages and social approbation are very elastic springboards; and the whole course of history has seen these offered bounteously to one sex, and as sedulously withheld from the other. Let woman consent to be a doll, and there was no finery so gorgeous, no baby-house so costly, but she might aspire to share its lavish delights; let her ask simply for an equal chance to learn, to labor, and to live, and it was as if that same doll should open its lips, and propound Euclid's forty-seventh proposition."--from "Ought Women to Learn the Alphabet?"
Caroline Wells Healy Dall
"Woman's Right to Labor, or Low Wages and Hard Work: In Three Lectures," delivered in Boston, November, 1859
Miss Virginia Penny
"American Characteristics," published in The Ladies' Repository, 1863
The Employments of Women; A Cyclopaedia of Woman's Work, 1863
"It is very easy to obtain book after book on "The Sphere of Woman," "The Mission of Woman," and "The Influence of Woman." But to a practical mind it must be evident that good advice is not sufficient. That is very well, provided the reader is supplied with the comforts of life. But plans need to be devised, pursuits require to be opened, by which women can earn a respectable livelihood. It is the great want of the day. It is in order to meet that want that this work has been prepared. . . . Woman as she now is, save in fiction and society, is scarcely known. . . . I know of no work giving a true history of woman's condition in a business capacity. Socially, morally, and religiously she is written about; but not as a working, every-day reality, in any other capacity than that pertaining to home life."--from the Preface of Virginia Penny's Cyclopedia of Women's Work
You may find it interesting to compare Penny's Cyclopedia with A Dictionary of Employments Open to Women, published by The Women's Institute (1898) in London.
"A Comparison of Men and Women" published in The Ladies' Repository, 1865 (at MOA)
Think and Act: A Series of Articles Pertaining to Men and Women, Work and Wages, 1869 (at MOA)
Jane Addams and Working Women
Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe, 1819-1910, Vol. I., a Biography by Laura E. Richards and Maud Howe Elliott assisted by Florence Howe Hall
The Women of The Hall - Julia Ward Howe
Excerpts from Julia Ward Howe's Modern Society, 1881
"The reason why education is usually so poor among women of fashion is, that it is not needed for the life which they elect to lead. With a good figure good clothes, and a handsome equipage, with a little reading of the daily papers, and of the fashionable reviews, and above all, with the happy tact which often enables women to make a large display of very small acquirements, the woman of fashion may never feel the need of true education. We pity her none the less, since she will never know its peace and delight." --from Julia Ward Howe's Modern Society
An announcement that Helen Campbell would be writing a regular column for Good Housekeeping Magazine on "Woman's Work and Wages." (at MOA)
A review of Campbell's Prisoners of Poverty in Overland Monthly (at MOA)
"Certain Forms of Women's Work for Women," The Century, New York, June, 1889.
"Worker and Trade," Chapter One of Prisoners of Poverty
"The better-paying trades are filled with women who have had some form of training in school or home, or have passed from one occupation to another, till that for which they had most aptitude has been determined. That, however, to which all the more helpless turn at once, as the one thing about the doing of which there can be no doubt or difficulty, is the one most overcrowded, most underpaid, and with its scale of payments lessening year by year. The girl too ignorant to reckon figures, too dull-witted to learn by observation, takes refuge in sewing in some of its many forms as the one thing possible to all grades of intelligence; and the woman with drunken or otherwise vicious husband, more helpless often than the widow who turns in the same direction, seeks the same sources of employment."--from "Worker and Trade"
Other Types of Background Information on the Topic of Women and Work Available on the Web:
Women's History - Cover Page Spring-Summer '96 Women's History Feature
Equal Wages for Equal Work, October 25, 1873
Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl: Immigrant Women in the Turn of the Century City
Home Page for Lucia Knoles
Department of English, Assumption College
The Search for Improvement in Antebellum America
Project in Progress