By Di Vernon.
How to help working girls is a problem that agitates the soul of the professional reformer, and taxes the minds and hearts of the truly philanthropic. It is hard to help those who do not wish to be helped, still harder to help those who rightly resent the air of superiority, and of patronage that many of our society ladies assume when they become active members in a leading charity.
For every woman who is engaged in an honest attempt to earn her own living, there should be the warmest sympathy and a hand outstretched to give the hand clasp of fellowship, or the firm sustaining grip of an upholding encouragement I do not mean that women who work should be aided by charity as that word is now understood. No working women wishes to receive anything in that way. I am perfectly safe in saying that when a woman earns her own living, she becomes more independent that is the man who earns his. She resents receiving gifts from more fortunate women; she prefers to walk by her own efforts. All she asks is to be given a fair chance and a clear field to take care of herself, and she will do it. But a woman is always fair prey in the business world. She has to take less pay than a man receives, not because her work is performed less acceptably, but simply because she is a woman. When it comes to business transactions, many presume upon her supposed ignorance of business forms and try to take advantage of that ignorance. The world is full of those who devour widows houses, and for a pretense make long prayers, and at the same time reach out after the orphans scanty substance.
How can working girls be helped? If they will not receive well-meant charity, how shall they be assisted? There are many ways of solving this problem. A woman can work until sickness robs her of her ability. But who ever heard of expenses shrinking to accommodate themselves to a contracted income? The out-go never stops. The Native Daughters of the Golden West have gone bravely to work to meet this emergency. Their parlors, particularly those in this city, are composed of girls who earn their own living, and who, when sickness comes, are left without a cent. As soon as the numerical strength of a parlor warrants the assumption of the responsibility, it pays sick benefits to its members, not a large sum, it is true, from five to seven dollars a week. Besides, they pay the funeral expenses of a deceased member. To many a woman the thought of not becoming that last great tax upon poor relatives or sympathizing friends removes one element of worry.
One of the
most direct ways of helping these working girls who are trying to help
themselves is to aid them when they are trying to raise funds to carry
on their work. The public grows tired of taking tickets for benefits, but
when a charitable society or a sick-
It is evident that any idea that will help a working woman to continue her work with the best results to herself is a worthy one. In the East they have worked out this problem with such success that it well may encourage philanthropic California to emulate their excellent example. The Working Girls Vacation Society presents facts to show what can be done under the inspiration from George MacDonald: Nothing makes a man so strong as a call upon him for help. In all, the society has sent away about nine hundred girls, giving all of them a vacation of two weeks in the country, and in some cases four weeks, and in three instances two months. One of these, says E. Anna Buchanan, the Assistant Treasurer of the Working Girls Vacation Fund, was a young dressmaker, who was very feeble and had a bad cough. She was sent to the mountains, where she not only gained strength, but her cough disappeared, and she came home comparatively well, and ready for her winters work. This noble enterprise needs but to be mentioned to enlist the active support of many a staunch friend. The Christian Union of New York plunged into the cause by opening the Christian Union Vacation Fund, and by keeping the subject before its readers, as been able to turn over donations to the amount of $1,826 to the Working Girls Vacation Fund.
this fund contributes proof to the assertion that it is difficult to help
The distinctions which people make as to what they may receive as a gift from strangers, without offending their own sense of dignity, is sometimes very funny. When I went hospital visiting, on a committee of the Flower Mission, this was often demonstrated to my own irritation and annoyance, for no one likes to be repulsed when trying to do a kind act. In the paid wards the patients would refuse the proffered fruit with grand airs and accept a bunch of flowers in gratitude. The distinction seems to be without foundation, as if what could be enjoyed by one sense was more of a humiliation to receive than that which could be enjoyed by another.
In the ardor
of the Flower Missions desire to do good, we decided to distribute flowers
to the girls cooped up in large cloak and dressmaking establishments, under
the mistaken idea that those girls would be pleased with our bouquets.
Permission to enter the workrooms was gained from the proprietors, on condition
that we should not stop to talk with the girls or otherwise interrupt them
in their work. So the tour was begun. Some of the loveliest flowers were
reserved for this purpose. With what results? Some of the girls refused
them from the first, others took them with effusive thanks, while not a
few received them as if their love for flowers had done violence to their
self respect. The next time the girls went with their flowers fewer bouquets
were received, and several visits more convinced the zealous members of
the Flower Mission that their efforts were unwelcome. I never blamed those
San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser
October 31, 1891
Author: Coolidge, Mary Elizabeth Burroughs Roberts Smith, 1860-1945.
Title: Almshouse women; a study of two hundred and twenty-eight women in the city and county almshouse of San Fransisco. [Palo Alto] Stanford University, 1896.
Author: Englander, Susan.
Author: Historical Carnival (1896 : San Francisco, Calif.)
Author: International Brotherhood of Bookbinders of North America. Local 125, San Francisco.
Author: Matthews, Lillian Ruth, 1880-
Author: Old Nurenberg (1893 : San Francisco, Calif.)
Author: San Francisco Girls Union.
Author: Womans Congress (1895 : San Francisco, Calif.)