Three Visits to America (7)

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CHAPTER XIX.


A woman switchman—Laundry work—A steamboat captain—Mrs. Maxwell, of Colorado—Inconsistencies—Book agents—Stock-brokers—Copyists—Librarians —Incomes earned by shorthand writers—Employment afforded by the type-writer, the telegraph, and the telephone—The manicure—American disapproval of women as barmaids—The force of habit—Objections raised at first against women hair-dressers— Factory life-American and English operatives contrasted —Miss Jennie Collins, of Boston—Various industries—Tobacco factories—Ladies on school boards and as poor-law guardians—The condition of the needle-women in New York—The late Leonard Montefiore—Hamilton & Co.'s co-operative shirt-making—Watch-making in the United States—A visit to the National Elgin Watch Factory—Waltham factory.


"A WOMAN SWITCHMAN" certainly sounds extraordinary, but one who appears quite contented with her lot has been employed in that way for many years at the railroad junction at Macon, Ga., and has never been known to misplace a switch.  When asked how she liked the work, which occupies her from 6 A.M. to 6 at night, she replied, "Far better than the wash-tub.  I am never sick, and I know when my work is done."  Perhaps there is a general dislike to "the wash-tub" in America; anyhow the heads of the laundries are invariably men, and a great deal of money is made, as machinery is far more generally used than in England, but which, with the preparations used in washing, often play sad havoc with the clothes.

    A steamboat captain seems an equally singular employment for a woman to adopt, but Mrs. Mary S. Miller has received a license from the New Orleans Board of United States Inspectors of Steam Vessels to run the Mississippi steamboat Saline, together with permission to navigate on the Red, Ouachita, and other Western rivers.  She holds that a woman can manage a boat as well as a sewing-machine, and having passed her examination and proved her capacity, the inspectors were bound to grant her certificate, for they had submitted Mrs. Miller's application to the Secretary of the Navy, being at a loss to know what to do in such an unprecedented case.  That official gallantly replied, "If she demonstrated her competence for the position the license was to be granted."  Mrs. Miller is accordingly now in full exercise of a calling which demands exceptional energy, nerve, and discretion.  Every one acquainted with Mississippi steamboat navigation will endorse the opinion expressed by an official, that "no business pursuit compels more contact with the rough-and-tumble" of life than this; but Mrs. Miller of Louisiana feels equal to the task, having come, as she describes it, of "a steamboat family."  But when it is borne in mind that 30,000 women are employed in England in driving and steering canal boats, Mrs. Miller's new departure is perhaps not as strange as it at first appears.  For many years we had in London a woman teacher of navigation.  The late Mrs. Janet Taylor was well known to our mercantile marine.  She received the recognition of the Board of Admiralty and the Trinity Brethren, and medals from foreign powers for her improvements in nautical instruments.  As a mathematician of the first class she deserves to be remembered with Mrs. Somerville.  Her logarithmic tables were acknowledged to be correct and complete in no ordinary degree, and her occupation was to prepare young men for the sea.

    Mrs. Maxwell, of Colorado, struck out in a novel direction; by her own personal efforts she collected a vast number of birds and animals, which she shot, and afterward skinned and stuffed for sale.  Bears, antelopes, and elks from the Rocky Mountains, prairie dogs, squirrels and beavers which fell a prey to her gun, and all sorts of birds, have been thus utilized for business purposes.

    Mrs. Maxwell's pursuit will probably be condemned by some people as "most unfeminine," but what is the difference between a woman doing certain things for nothing and doing them for money, that makes the first proper and the second unwomanly?  Many a girl, without actually carrying a gun, follows her brother and his friends grouse-shooting, tramps over rough moors, and assists the sportsman in many ways, and admiring friends exclaim, "A good, healthy exercise—she is a sensible girl"; another is applauded for a glowing account of a capital day's salmon-fishing.  Another presides at pigeon matches, and sees a battue in which defenceless birds are simply butchered, and it is called an exciting pastime.  Ladies have been known to break-in their own horses, to ride after hounds, to leap five-barred gates, hunt helpless foxes; if "in at the death" they receive the homage of the field, and perhaps "the brush."  But when the other side of the picture is turned, very different sentiments are expressed.  The lady who becomes a riding mistress and "breaks-in" horses for her living, has chosen a most unfeminine career.  The woman-farmer in the colonies, who fetches in her own cattle and keeps her "hands" in order, must be "half a man."  The very ladies who take part in theatricals "for charities" are shocked at the boldness of a lady lecturer, who can face an audience and take a fee like Mr. Matthew Arnold, Professor Huxley, or any other gentleman who undertakes to speak on subjects with which he is familiar.  We see everything from our own "point of view."  Five years ago I even heard an actress exclaim at the notion of a woman lecturing in public.  "I should die of fright if I attempted it," was the remark of the best known artist on the London stage, who has appeared behind the footlights nightly ever since she was a mere child.  At a recent "tea" given for the benefit of "the ladies of the ballet" a discussion arose about tricycles.  A member of the corps de ballet expressed her disapproval of their use as "indecorous," inasmuch as a lady would "show so much of her legs."  Her own nightly performances in scanty garments had evidently never struck her in the same light!

    Many women are employed throughout the States as book agents.  The manager of Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co. told me of a school-teacher who had adopted this mode of living, and started out to obtain subscribers for the "American Encyclopædia."  She has never netted less than five thousand dollars a year, and only works for eight or nine months, and travels in a carriage from door to door with introductions from previous customers.  Messrs. Appleton, by whom she is employed, consider her one of their best canvassers, as she is not only successful in her work, but particularly methodical in her accounts; while her success is exceptional, there are large numbers of women who earn a living for themselves and others in this way.  At Baltimore two sisters have become most successful newspaper canvassers.  Women who understand what they sell, and are not only simply looking to the immediate commission, find a line of great activity open to them in this direction.

    Some American ladies have become stock-brokers, but their record has not been altogether satisfactory.  A very serious complaint was being raised when I left America about the head of the Ladies' Investment Bureau.

    Girls are employed in the Boston Title Company in copying deeds, and in a similar way at Baltimore and elsewhere.  Numbers throughout the country are engaged as librarians.  At Harvard, girls commence at a salary of £100 a year and rise to £200.  In a library in Chicago, where twenty-six people are employed, I found the chief officer was a lady.  Shorthand enables many to make a good living, especially in connection with type-writers, which are found invaluable to stenographers.  I visited several offices started by lady stenographers where from six to a dozen girls were busily employed copying legal documents and authors' manuscripts' by means of these marvellous machines.  Girls quickly learn to use the type-writer, and seem quite to enjoy manipulating the keys.  A few months' practice enables them to write with it three times as fast as with a Pen, and with perfect neatness and accuracy.  It is probable an effort will shortly be made in London to open a well-appointed office for the employment of women in this direction.  A shorthand writer at Utica is said to earn £1,600 a year, another at Rochester £1,000 and a Mrs. Sarah Grasby travels through seventeen counties with the assize courts and earns £1,800.

    American shop girls are called salesladies; while the heads of departments are often very superior women, having been thoroughly well educated.  I can not say that I was favourably impressed with some who stand behind the counter.  By way of proving their independence and equality, they continually carry on conversations with each other while attending to their customers, and act as if they were conferring a great favour in supplying the goods required.  Excellent arrangements are made by the best establishments for the comfort of their employees, but the same trouble exists as at home, about the absence of seats for proper rest during the long hours the girls are obliged to work.  American shopping is on an unsatisfactory basis, and certainly taxes the patience of a Londoner to the utmost.  Ladies seem to make a daily practice of visiting the "stores," as shops are called, to inspect the goods, without the remotest intention of buying anything at all.  They are very much amused with the idea which prevails here, that we have no business to give a tradesman the trouble of showing his wares without making some corresponding purchase in return for his expenditure of time and trouble, and they undoubtedly excite a great deal of remark in English shops, where their home practice is neither understood nor appreciated.

    The girls employed as telegraphists and telephonists have plenty to do in America.  Here we have hitherto regarded the telephone as the rival to the telegraph, and a foolish restrictive policy for some time retarded the development of the most marvellous invention of the nineteenth century.  In America they both run hand in hand, and the returns of each advanced half a million of dollars last year.  The telephone is considered there quite an indispensable adjunct to all places of business, and is generally to be found in well-appointed private houses also; as Herbert Spencer remarked, "The extensive use of telephones in the United States is an indication of the intelligence of the people"; but, in spite of this, telegrams are sent much more freely than in England.  Both these great adjuncts of civilization afford a suitable employment for women; a telephonist requires a clear voice and a good ear, and owing to the timbre, of the ordinary female voice, girls are more adapted for the work than boys.

    The manicure is as well known in the States as the chiropodist, and earns an excellent living by the novel employment of beautifying the finger-nails of American ladies; sometimes the manicure's own office is the scene of operation, but many customers require to be called on at their own houses once or twice a week; thither she repairs with her various tools in the shape of scissors and file, with their accompanying powder, paste, chamois pad, and polisher.

    The one employment from which Americans turn their faces in righteous horror is that of the barmaid.  They consider it a degrading position, and can not understand how English people reconcile with their professions of Christianity the barbarous practice of exposing women to the atmosphere of a liquor bar at a railway station, where they must often run the gauntlet of the insolent attentions of the "half-intoxicated masher," endure vulgar familiarity, and overhear low conversation.

    People who strain at the gnat swallow the camel.  When it was first proposed in London to employ women as hair-dressers, [1] it was regarded as an unfit occupation for women, "which would revolutionize the trade," though it was only suggested that they should wait upon ladies.  When the importance of placing women in positions of trust and responsibility in our factories is urged, people still express a fear it will "unsex them," quite oblivious of the fact that women and girls are already in the lower departments of labour under deplorable conditions.  They are obliged to work in some cases in a half-naked condition to accommodate themselves to the high temperature.  The refuse of cotton mills—the sweepings—full of dust and filth, which are bought up by certain dealers, are put through machinery in the process of cleaning.  The women and girls employed have to work in such fearful clouds of dust, that they are forced to fill their mouths and nostrils with rags and cotton to avoid suffocation; and when they leave work, they are literally covered with a layer of greasy dirt and dust.

    All who have studied the painful problem of Women's work know that some of the hardest and worst paid work in this weary world falls to their lot.  There is a story told of a Massachusetts School Committee, who actually in their printed report, in allusion to a certain appointment, observed, "As this place offers neither honor nor profit, we do not see why it should not be filled by a woman."

    Of course there are factories and factories in both countries, and many afford pleasant, wholesome occupation.  We have seen some "mill hands " starting for a day's holiday in the green fields of England, looking as intelligent and as neatly attired as any women in their own station of life.  Lowell and Lawrence and their operatives have a world-wide fame.  It would be hard to find a more prosperous, happy, and respectable set of people anywhere.

    No one could desire to see women looking more healthy than the operatives in some of our factories in Manchester, Bradford, and Halifax.  I shall long remember going through Messrs. Birchenough's silk mills at Macclesfield.  Certainly the occasion was an exceptional one.  The eldest son had been married the day before, and the entire place had been decorated by the operatives to commemorate the event.  The walls were adorned by appropriate mottoes, even unique representations of the bridal ceremony had been devised, and everything betokened the happy understanding existing there between labour and capital.  It can no longer be said with justice, that while "we blanch cotton, strengthen steel, refine sugar, and shape pottery, it never enters into our estimate of advantages to lighten, to strengthen, and to rejoice a living spirit."  Both countries are now fully alive to the wisdom as well as the duty of developing our workers as human creatures, rather than as mechanical wealth producers, and of giving less time to labour, and more to education of head, heart, and hands, before the serious work of life begins.

    Visitors to recent exhibitions have had opportunities of seeing women working at various machines, and can therefore judge in some measure without going over our factories of the effects of this labour on the physical condition of the workers.  At the Crystal Palace I was watching, not very long since, some bright specimens of Lancashire operatives, who were busily employed making that beautiful fabric, nonpareil velveteen, which even rivals the productions of the Lyons looms.  Mrs. Livermore, in her excellent brochure, "What shall we do with our Daughters?" speaks of a woman engineer at the Philadelphia exposition, "a comely maiden with pleasant face, refined manners, and dainty dress, who, amid the heat, dust, smoke, and noise, preserved her neatness, and yet did all the work from starting the fire in the morning to blowing off the steam at night.  The girl herself said her labor was not so exhausting as taking charge of an ordinary cook-stove, while her pay was twelve dollars a week." [2]

    Miss Jennie Collins, who has done untold good among the working-women of Boston, repudiates the assertion that there are any superfluous women in Massachusetts.  She declares that there is not one woman who is not needed in that commonwealth.


    "What the gold mines are to California and the rice swamps to Louisiana, the working-women are to Massachusetts.  What Italy is to the artist and Germany to the musician, Boston is to the gifted tradeswoman.  The variety of occupations, and the boundless enterprise of this city, presents a grand career to a capable young woman.  A glance at the shop window will show they improve it; combining, as they do, the solidity of the English, fine taste of the French, and the economy of the American,-without the latter quality, no worker can be a success.  Boston is like a niche that can take in a giant or a dwarf, so the very poorest come here as well as the best."


    With the view of testing the position of the Massachusetts factory operatives and shop girls, Miss Collins examined the State books, and found only one pauper in fifty belonged to either class.

    I saw American women employed in all kinds of ways—in staining and enamelling glass, cutting ivory, pearl, and tortoise shell, as well as weaving carpets, working the looms for furniture and carriage draperies; they are press feeders as well as type-setters, they make and pack candles, and cut glue in sheets.  The manufacture of umbrellas and parasols, and the hat trade, give employment to vast numbers.  There are thousands of women tailors in New York, and in the button trade the proportion of women to men is six to one; in fact, the openings in the lower departments of labour are too numerous to mention here.  I found women employed in the tobacco factories, in "stemming" the weed, and preparing it for the market.  Girls were packing chewing tobacco in tin-foil at the rate of thirteen gross a day, and judging from the extent to which this pernicious habit is practiced in America, it must be still difficult to keep the supply in due proportion to the demand.  I saw no factory better managed than Cope's famous tobacco works at Liverpool, where the arrangements made for the employees deserve the highest encomiums.  The rooms are spacious, and the girls look very contented with the work of rolling up the leaves, the best workers making from ten to twelve hundred cigars a day.

    At a recent Trade Union Congress at Manchester the appointment of women as factory inspectors was urged.  Many people resent the action of the Legislature in regard to the employment of women, as it sometimes inflicts a grievous wrong on women able and willing to work.  Night-work, however light and suitable in its character, is interdicted; and, in many cases where women were employed, the labour of men or machinery has been substituted, and women are thus deprived of occupations well suited to their strength and organization.

    Why the Factory and Workshop Act interferes with women who work for dressmakers and in factories, and yet leaves the shop girls free and unfettered as to the hours they serve, no one can say.  Perhaps if ladies of experience and sound judgment were appointed, like the late Mrs. Nassau Senior, to look after the interests of their working sisters as factory inspectors, some light might be thrown upon the subject.  However, we are already moving in the right direction; women are not only elected on our School Boards, but this year there are thirty-six ladies serving as Poor Law guardians in England, eight in Scotland, and ratepayers are evidently beginning to appreciate the advantages of having ladies to represent them.

    "I doubt if anywhere on earth a more wretched, poverty-stricken lot of women can be found than the shirt-makers in our large cities," said a New York philanthropist to me one day; "they receive a miserable pittance for their toil."  Various efforts have been made to improve their condition, but no such success has been achieved as that accomplished in London by the enterprise of the two ladies who eight years ago opened an establishment under the name of "Hamilton & Co.," to obviate the action of the "middle men," well described as "sweaters."

    My attention was first called to "co-operative shirt-making" by Leonard Montefiore—a high-spirited, noble-hearted worker in social reform—whose memory is still cherished by many on both sides of the Atlantic, and whose early death, while he was visiting the United States, in order to see for himself what could be learned from the political and social condition of the people, must ever be deplored.  The world can ill afford to lose men of such deep thought and energetic action.  The firm was then in its infancy, the partners working at a loss, but paying the employees in full; but, after many a struggle, it succeeded in obtaining a secure commercial basis, outgrew the small premises it commenced in, and latterly has blossomed out into an extensive place in Regent Street, paying a dividend of eleven per cent.  It has also become a genuine co-operative business, the old firm being submerged in a limited company, one thousand £1 shares furnishing the increased capital necessary, of which not less than ten are allotted to any but the work-people.  Miss Hamilton and Miss Edith Simcox have done much to awaken the conscience of an English public to the consequences of "starvation wages."  A woman's love of "a bargain" has passed into a joke, but if ladies knew how these are obtained at the cheap outfitting establishments, they would surely shrink from advantages purchased at the cost of the very heart's blood of their fellow-creatures.

    When I was leaving America at the conclusion of my first tour in 1873, during the luncheon given to me by the White Star Steamer Company, on board the Oceanic the day before I sailed, a representative of the Elgin Watch Factory presented me with a package containing a handsome gold watch, on which my name was engraved, and the following unexpected letter:


    "Please accept this little time-keeper as a token of regard and good wishes from the women of the National Elgin Watch Factory.  The hands of the many working-women who have been busy in its fashioning are thus extended to you in sincerest appreciation of the work you are doing 'in helping others to help themselves.'  May the future bring you again amongst your many American friends."


    The watch bearing this kind inscription has ever since been my constant companion, and I naturally resolved that if I ever revisited America a journey to Elgin should form part of my programme.

    On the 21st of March, 1884, I was able to carry out this intention.  Accompanied by some friends, and a member of the firm, I left Chicago by an early morning train, and spent a very pleasant day in going through that vast factory.

    The introduction of the labour-saving contrivances by which the watch trade was wrested from Switzerland and England is due to the promoters of the Waltham Company, who started in Massachusetts a factory which now employs about 2,500 operatives, and turns out watches which not only command a great sale in America, but also in Europe.  The success of this concern induced some Chicago capitalists to open a Western factory at Elgin, and in a comparatively short time they were producing five hundred watches a day, which were sold as fast as they were produced.

    The Elgin factory is built in the form of a block T.  The wings stretch east, west, and south, and are each a hundred feet long.  I confess I found the minute inspection of that great building about as hard a day's work as I could well accomplish.  Passing from the room where the designers were busy in draughting machinery, we entered the machine shop, and from thence into the plate room, where a number of women were at work at small lathes, some drilling the holes required in each plate, and others inserting the various steady pins in the bars and bridges.  The department in which the wheels and pinions are manufactured interested me the most.  There the girls were turning and shaping the various pieces, others making "barrels"—the technical name of the mainspring boxes.

    One set gives a rough shape to the barrel, the next cuts to size the rim on which the teeth are cut, the third "making place for the stop-work," while others receive the barrels from "the tooth cutters," and give them a final touch with a sapphire cutter.  The making of pinions is a very interesting branch of the work to the visitor.  A little piece of wire, after a move or two of the lathe, comes out beautifully pointed; the next lathe trims it to the required shape.  "The triumph of mechanism" is said to be reached in this series of automatic lathes.  The operative places the work in the tool, and sets it running; and when the cut is made, she removes that piece and substitutes another with such rapidity that more than 2,000 pieces are made in a day of about one two-hundredths of an inch diameter, a size which a hand watch-maker could not make without the aid of a strong glass.  Other girls take blank wheels and place them in a stack under a bolt.  A lever arm, which works a traversing bar, in which is a flying cutter, shaped like a tiny bird's claw, enables the operative to cut the necessary groove, another stack of blank wheels is advanced, and at last the whole circumference is filled with grooves, and you find twenty-five complete wheels with finished teeth; and each girl can make about 1,500 in ten hours.

    This work is then polished and finished by marvellous machines, which imitate the hand-worker's motions with accuracy and rapidity, and without ever making any mistakes.  The manufacture of screws is an attractive branch of the work; 20,000 of the smaller ones only weigh one pound.  In the escapement department we found girls cutting and polishing ruby, garnet, and chrysolite with absolute accuracy.  In London it takes an apprentice seven years to learn what a girl machinist becomes a proficient in after the first twelve months' work.  The shaping and polishing of the pallet stones require to be done with great precision, but the perfection of the Elgin machinery calls for nothing from the operative but a due appreciation of the finish necessary to the acting planes and angles of the stones.  The girls are also employed in the steel work of the pallets, levers, and rollers, and have lately been entrusted with some delicate details of the work which it was once thought would be beyond their capacity.  They also fit dials and hands, match the wheels and pinions, get the watch ready for the gilder, make the hairsprings, put the trains into the movements, time the watches after they are set going, and, in fact, adjust the finished parts.  In the painting of the dials the girls do not need a long apprenticeship, and are said to be able to equal masculine work both as regards rapidity and precision.  The bookkeeping department is entirely confided to female hands and heads.  They are earning good wages.  The workrooms are quiet, clean, and well ventilated, and a pretty apron covers the dress of the operatives, and gives them quite a pleasing appearance.  About a hundred yards from the factory, a capital, well-organized hotel has been built for the benefit of the employees.  The large dining-room is common property, but half of the rest of the house is assigned to the men, and the women have their own separate parlour, and a matron who looks after their welfare generally.  Here they can live in comfort for a very moderate expenditure, and are close to their work.  At Waltham there is not only a large boarding-house attached to the factory, but many of the operatives have been able to build some neat residences of their own on the company's land.

    No cases are made at Elgin for the watches; that is regarded as a separate business; the movements are packed in little boxes, and thus purchased by the trade; but as they are numbered, he knows at once what case to order.  One advantage of this practice is, that a poor man is able to purchase the best movements, and place them in a silver case; when he grows richer, he orders a good case, which he substitutes for the one which first did service.  Americans are of course able by their process to produce good watches at a cheaper rate than we can in England; for while it takes about seventy hours of skilled hand labour to manufacture a watch here, it can be produced there in thirty hours by girl operatives; and such is the exactitude of the machine-made watch, that any part to which an accident may happen while in use can be replaced.  The dealer has only to send to the factory and purchase its duplicate, and the watch is as good as new.  In England, the different parts of a watch are made by different persons living far apart, and are purchased by the watch-makers and put together ready for purchase.  In America the machines I have described manufacture every plate, wheel, pinion, and screw used under the same roof.  The Swiss, from the low price of labour, and the extensive employment of women and children, have always triumphed over all European competition in the matter of cheapness; and they have lately availed themselves to some extent of American machinery, by which it is said they are regaining some of the ground they lost when the Waltham and Elgin factories were first started.  The American consul at Geneva recently reported to his government the result of a recent test of English, Swiss, and American watches, under circumstances which forbid any idea of fraud or error.  "It was found," he writes, "that the Swiss watches were superior to all others, and the English, in point of merit, came next.  The Swiss watches were the cheapest as well as the best."  They have taken American machinery and supplemented it by a manual skill and system of technical training, which is said not to exist elsewhere.  On the other hand, an English watch-maker, in a paper read before the London Horological Institute describing the results of a visit he had paid to the watch factories of America, stated: "I felt at once that the manufacture of watches on the old plan was gone."  He considered that American enterprise had made an epoch in the trade, and beaten Europe in one of her oldest and most difficult productions.  Certainly the national watch has a claim to be considered "as the true republican heirloom, a triumph of industry in an age of industry, a product of American enterprise, moderate in cost, and accessible to the body of the people."


 
CHAPTER XX.


The American girl—Oscar Wilde's definition—A group at St. Louis—Girl graduates—Other types—The liberty accorded to girls—A collegiate's affronted dignity at the suggestion of a chaperon—English and French restrictions—America the paradise of married women—The deference paid by gentlemen to ladies—A report of a woman's meeting excites a "Tit-for-Tat" policy in a lady reporter—Changed spirit of the press—A skit on a woman's rights lecture contrasted with the dignified utterances of Mrs. Howe, Mrs. Stanton, and Mrs. Livermore—Grace Greenwood on "sufferance"—Queen Victoria as a politician, wife, and mother—Mr. Woodall's Bill.


WHEN Oscar Wilde returned from the United States he gave London the benefit of "his impressions," in a lecture delivered at Prince's Hall, in which he described the American girl as "the most fascinating little despot in the world; an oasis of picturesque unreasonableness in a dreadful desert of common sense."

    Doubtless many maidens sat at the feet of the apostle of the sunflower, and yet subjected him to delightful tyrannies while pleading for "a smile of sad perfection" from the "purple-eyed poet."  The other-day I read a description of the American girl, which called her "champagny—glittering, foamy, bubbly, sweet, dry, tart, in a word, fizzy!  She has not the dreamy, magical, murmury loveableness of the Italian, but there is a cosmopolitan combination which makes her a most attractive coquette, a sort of social catechism—full of answer and question."

    There are, however, "girls and girls" in America as elsewhere, and perhaps more rarities than even England's representative æsthetic ever dreamt of can be found there.  There are girls after the type of Miss Alcott's Joes and Dolly Wards, Bret Harte's Miggles and M'liss, and Mr. James's Daisy Miller.  Indeed, I feel more and more bewildered as I try to think which should be taken as strictly typical—save the one


                          "So frankly free,
 So tender and so good to see,
     Because she is so sweet."


    In that connection my mind reverts to a bevy of fair girls in St. Louis, fresh from that characteristic American institution, "a young lady's lunch," from which parents and guardians had been rigidly excluded.  Twenty maidens—none of them "love-sick," like Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's damsels, if I could judge by their buoyant spirits and ringing laughter—who, unfettered by the restraining presence of any one whose age exceeded their number, had enjoyed a real "elegant time," before they joined the pleasant circle bidden to welcome me at Mrs. Pulsifer's.  Visions then arise of girl graduates engrossed in struggles for academic honours, with definite plans of "a future career" well mapped up already; others flit before me who appeared only to live for dress and pleasure; whose chief anxiety was the preservation of delicate complexions by manifold artifices; whose meat and drink was the poisonous flattery always within the reach of the frivolous and the vain; whose most intellectual exercise was the discussion of dress trimmings, with equally idle blasé female friends, and whose most serious pursuits were flirtations accompanied by a thousand petty jealousies, mercenary matrimonial ambitions, and dime-novel reading.  Then there are the girls who know everything, and talk on all subjects with equal volubility and incorrectness.  I saw too the languid specimen, with pallid face and phantom delicacy of outline, who can not "walk a block" or pass a day without the aid of a rocking-chair, and a softly-cushioned sofa, supplemented by an afternoon's repose in her own chamber.  There is the strait-laced New England girl, and the wild but good-hearted Western product, endowed with a healthy frame and muscles which beat time to the music of nature, but full of wayward fancies, and given to the use of strange words and phrases.  Her existence is one never-ending round of sensational and mental shocks, which keep her in a nervous quiver, and allow no time for any quality save that of energy to develop itself symmetrically.  But it did not seem to me that American young ladies are by any means fashioned after the same pattern as certain novelists would have Europeans imagine; nor can they be simply summed up as independent, self-reliant, intelligent, frank, bright, generous, or impulsive beings, who can go anywhere or do anything.

    An American girl is happily not yet hampered by the arbitrary red-tape regulation which weighs down the souls of some of her less fortunate European sisters.  Pleasant social intercourse with other girls' brothers is not fenced in with French or even English rigorous restrictions.  She may receive an "afternoon call" from a gentleman without having gone through, or even thought of, the formality of a definite engagement to marry him.  He asks at the door for her—not for her mother or chaperon—and she proceeds to the drawing-room for a tete-a-tete in the most natural matter-of-fact way possible.  In some circles she still goes out driving or sleighing, or even to the theatre, with the young men of her acquaintance, without getting herself "talked about," or becoming the scandal of the neighbourhood as she would for similar freedoms in Great Britain.

    But the well-bred American girl does not act in the outrageous fashion, or enjoy the wild liberty painted in highly-coloured pictures of life across the Atlantic.  Gradually European etiquette has obtained a hold in the Great Republic, and in good society the girls of to-day do not go about with even the freedom they exhibited during my first visit ten years ago.

    But I had a curious illustration of how such restrictions are sometimes regarded.  A frank, manly specimen of a New England College man, who was home for a week's vacation, asked his mother, in my presence, for the loan of her brougham, if a certain young lady accompanied him on the following night to the theatre.  "I shall not take her," he added with stern dignity, "if she has these new-fangled English notions of needing a chaperon."  His mother afterward explained to me, that he still regarded the necessity of a chaperon as casting a direct suspicion on his behaviour, and resented it accordingly.

    Although greater liberty than English girls possess is still accorded in certain American circles in the case of bachelor friends, a girl is not allowed by the unwritten law of society to go out alone with any married gentleman.  While staying at the New York Hotel I was much amused at finding a girl, who had gone to the theatre a few nights previously with a young man to whom she had only been introduced the day before, show considerable surprise, mixed with a little righteous indignation, when an Englishman she knew very well asked her to accompany him to Wallack's in the place of his wife, who had "seen the play and did not care to go."  To be escorted by a married man would be considered incorrect in New York, while the very reverse holds good with us in London; a married friend of the family, under such circumstances, might be admissible, but no English girl could go to a play alone with a bachelor, without affording food for unpleasant gossip, and outraging conventional propriety.

    Miss Kate Field, who has spent a great deal of time in London, wrote, during one of her first visits there, a letter to the New York Christian Union, in which she said:

    "Unmarried women in Europe are suppressed to an intolerable extent.  To me, they and their dreadful maids are the most forlorn as well as the absurdest of sights.  German and English girls have often come to me complaining of their fate, saying that it was well-nigh maddening, and that they envied me my liberty.  'But why not strike out for yourselves?' I have asked.  'It is all very well to say "strike out," but suppose your parents won't let you?  Or suppose, if they do, all your acquaintances talk about you and take away your character?  What is there left but submission?'  What can one say in reply?  I feel sorry for them, deplore with them, and remain silent, for it takes more than ordinary courage to brave public opinion, however idiotic it may be, and from ordinary persons you can not expect extraordinary deeds. . . . But the absurdity of the whole thing is, that the morals of these people are so elastic as to rather like in strangers what they condemn in their own young women!  To receive, to entertain, seems to them comme il faut in me.  They come—men and women—quickly enough when they are asked, and exclaim 'How nice!'  Young men say, 'Why can not there be the same freedom and friendliness of intercourse between unmarried English men and women here as in America?  You can not imagine how refreshing it is to enjoy a woman's acquaintance without fear and without reproach.  The repression system renders English girls, if not stupid, at least self-conscious and uninteresting, and they are simply intolerable as companions until after marriage, when, if there be anything clever in them, an assured position and contact with the world brings it out.'  This is what liberal Englishmen say because they are Anglo-Saxon, and believe in women.  Of course continental men think the freedom of American women either immoral or indelicate. . . . . I do not think that American men are naturally better than other men.  They happen to be born in a more enlightened hemisphere, and are surrounded by purer influences, that is all.  While the learned professors of Harvard University are shaking their wise heads and predicting all sorts of horrible results from the association of the sexes, Oberlin and Antioch Colleges in Ohio, and Michigan University, demonstrate, by practical experience, how utterly foolish are these mediæval nightmares.  What Cambridge is to the West, Europe is to Cambridge.  The East seems to be a synonym for whatever is retrograde.  Wyoming Territory sets an example to States founded before it was dreamed of."


    Certainly, outside the fast set in the cities, I believe there is no country which holds woman's honour more sacred than America.  A girl's reputation is neither a matter to be talked about, nor guarded day by day by watchful mothers and chaperons.  The happy medium course, in this as in most things, is what is required, and this perhaps neither country has as yet achieved.  Prudish barriers lead to much misunderstanding in the one case, and in the other there is a freedom which can easily be distorted into license.

    It seemed to me that American girls were more sprightly and far cleverer than boys of their own age and many of them managed to take the lead without being pert, fast, or unfeminine; while wandering where their fancy took them, in a manner which would make every separate hair on the head of the conventional English mother stand on end, they evinced a dignity and self-respect which surrounded them with a protection far more valuable than any which could be extended by parents and guardians.

    I wonder what American girls would think of the woes just confided to me by a young English friend I chanced to meet the other day.  She is supposed to have "outraged propriety," because a young gentleman who is paying great attention to her, used to meet her in her walks and sometimes accompany her to her brother's door.  She is considered old enough to keep his house, but the right of choosing her own friends is denied her, and accordingly she is forbidden to walk abroad under pain of being dismissed from her honorary position of housekeeper to a brother about the same age as herself!  This is of course an exceptional case, almost approaching the French system of surveillance, which is as utterly wrong from beginning to end as any idea that ever took possession of a sagacious people.  The continental idealization of angelic virtue does not compare with the English or American girl for either firmness of purpose or high principle.  Nature revenges herself in morbid and unhealthy growths.

    The rich American woman has undoubtedly "a good time," and I am prepared to maintain that, on the whole, America is a paradise for married women.  I do not mean "that wives are pampered, or husbands put upon," far less that there are no such things as unhappy marriages and tyrannical husbands in the United States, but generally speaking a chivalrous courtesy accords a wife far greater liberty of action than can be found in middle-class English families, and I do not think that American husbands have had any cause to regret it.  Ladies who live in magnificent houses of course find their household cares reduced to a minimum, and they have absolute command over their own time, society, and amusements, while life in hotels deprives a wife of all domestic burdens, and sometimes acts in anything but a beneficial way; for instance, as there is no "family breakfast" to be arranged, the husband unheeded will forage for himself as he goes past the breakfast-room on his way to his office.  I have sometimes seen several members of one family having meals at different times throughout the day—a great convenience for special occasions, but somewhat destructive of the family gathering we prize so much in England.  "Going into housekeeping" is the strange phrase which continually meets one's ear in an American hotel, when a growing family or increasing banking balance suggests the establishment of a home.  Young married couples generally begin their career in hotels where they can obtain all they require on moderate terms, and escape that terrible "servant question."

    The labour difficulty in America has forced people to build houses with far better appliances than can be obtained in those of the same calibre here.  For instance, the dining-rooms are always furnished with a lift, so that everything steals up quietly through the walls, instead of being carried by human hands on heavy trays up long flights of stairs.  Bath-rooms abound, and marble washing-stands with hot and cold water taps, and a waste pipe in each bedroom diminish the housework.  The mode of heating the houses dispenses with grate-cleaning, fire-making, and taking heavy scuttles of coals throughout the house.  I was altogether struck with the handsome houses in America, the beautiful doorways, the massive woodwork and carved panellings, and the unusual depth and length of the reception rooms.

    The polite deference shown by American gentlemen to ladies outside the family circle, certainly deserves the very cordial recognition of an Englishwoman who has travelled unattended, with only another lady, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and received in all these long journeys every kindness and consideration which could be offered by strangers.  At the same time it is impossible to resist a smile at the national politeness which compels an American to lift his hat and remain bareheaded if a lady enters the hotel elevator, and yet permits him to spit in front of her before they reach the next landing, and also throughout the Pullman cars, which are duly provided with spittoons for that unpleasant necessity of Yankee existence.

    In private houses of the best sort the use of the spittoon is fortunately becoming a "lost art," but it must be urged in defence of this repulsive habit that the climate without doubt affects the throat and produces an irritation from which Europeans are wholly free, unless they have some special complaint.

    The consideration paid to ladies by an American gentleman in his private capacity is not always accorded to them in the exercise of his journalistic capacity.  Those who were first in the field of social reform had to encounter the same kind of treatment which early English workers experienced.  It must be admitted that by eccentricity of dress, an utter want of humour, and violence of language, some ladies brought it on themselves, but in many cases it was wholly undeserved.  But it is not very difficult to raise a laugh by introducing personal descriptions of dress and appearance into the reports of meetings held for sober purposes and conducted with proper dignity and decorum.

    I was much amused by a reprisal termed "Tit for Tat," which appeared in an American paper, purporting to be written by a lady reporter, describing a gentlemen's meeting in the same facetious style:


    "The New York Geographical Society held a meeting in Cooper Institute, the occasion being the reception of the survivors of the Polaris Expedition.  There were present the usual well-known veterans of the cause, together with a few raw recruits.  The proceedings were opened by judge Daly, the President of the Society.  This venerable member of the shrieking brotherhood was attired in black of a sombre and dismal cut, enlivened somewhat by a checkered waistcoat.  His gray hair, which he wore unusually long, was combed back, and his plain face looked worried and anxious, as if he were oppressed with the responsibilities of the occasion.  He read from a paper a restatement of the usual arguments employed at such meetings, which were received with applause by some of the more aggressive of cackling roosters present.  Mr. Conkling then rose to read the list of new members.  This gentleman, who is not so young as he was forty years ago, was tastefully attired in dark blue with a fascinating pair of eye-glasses perched on his shapely nose; his hair and beard, of a charming whiteness, were dressed in the newest style, and he read off the list of prominent pantaloon politicians with evident gusto.  Dr. J. L. Hayes, the orator of the evening, was then introduced.  This well-known scolder is of thin and wiry figure, with sharp features and deep-set eyes.  He was dressed in black, with a white collar and a very small necktie.  His hair, which is dark, was somewhat dishevelled—his whole appearance wild.  He began his would be lecture with the usual rehash of sailors' wrongs, going back a thousand years for instances of what men have suffered and the prowess they have exhibited, winding up with the well-worn denunciation of the tyrant Nature.  The doctor was very lively during portions of his discourse, waving his arms, and at times gesticulating nimbly, to the evident delight of the weak-minded fraternity, who faithfully applauded every point which seemed to advocate their favorite aims.  After remarks by the guests of the evening, not worthy of note, as they presented nothing new, and were none of them young and handsome, Mr. Bradford, the artist, was introduced.  This personage, who is, like all the rest of the shrieking brotherhood, in the sere and yellow leaf, was also attired in a sober suit of melancholy black.  Why will all the men wear black in public?—as Mark Twain says, it really is 'monotonous.'  Mr. Bradford reasserted the arguments already advanced, his fine blue eyes rolling madly as he grew eloquent over the woes of the down-trodden sex."


    A great change, however, has come over the spirit of the press in both countries since those lines were penned.  Meetings now held by women are, for the most part, reported in a generous and courteous spirit.

    It is popularly supposed in England that the advocacy of woman's suffrage in the United States meets at least with the ready sympathy of the entire sex; but I found myself constantly in circles where it was regarded as the most "serious revolution which could be imagined."  Singular suspicions of the lady lecturers on this subject are still entertained by other wise well-informed intelligent people.  I am not sure if some do not really believe that the peculiar address attributed to one Mrs. Rose Skinner is a true sample of "women's rights "arguments.


    "Miss President, feller-wimmen, and male trash generally.  I am here to-day for the purpose of discussing woman's rights, recussing her wrongs, and cussing the men.

    "I believe sexes were created perfectly equal, with the woman a little more equal than the man.

    "I believe that the world would to-day be happier if man never existed.

    "As a success man is a failure, and I bless my stars my mother was a woman. (Applause.)

    "I not only maintain those principles, but maintain a shiftless husband besides.

    "They say man was created first—Well, s'pose he was.  Ain't first experiments always failures ?

    "If I was a betting man, I would bet 150 dollars they are.

    "The only decent thing about him was a rib, and that went to make something better. (Applause.)

    "And they throw into our faces about taking an apple.  I'll bet five dollars that Adam boosted her up the tree, and only gave her the core.

    "And what did he do when he was found out?  True to his masculine instincts, he sneaked behind Eve, and said, 'Twant me; 'twas her,' and women had to father everything, and mother it too.

    "What we want is the ballot, and the ballot we're bound to have, if we have to let down our back hair, and swim in a sea of gore," (Sensation.)


    If the opponents of the movement had ever taken the trouble to listen to the earnest and dignified utterances of Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, Mrs. Stanton, and Mrs. Livermore, they would have arrived at a very different conclusion.  But the force of prejudice is so strong that they dismiss the matter without even condescending to give it a fair hearing.

    People who carelessly turn from the subject with a laugh at its "absurdity," or a hasty condemnation of it as "unwomanly," are not likely to understand the intimate connection between political representation and the higher educational and industrial employments of women, and therefore they fail to see that it is a matter of urgent necessity, rather than mere abstract justice.

    Nor has perfect unity prevailed among the leaders of the agitation itself.  The same personal dislikes and jealousies which have retarded the suffrage party in England have made themselves felt in America, and for some time the split in the camp, Boston versus New York, represented by Mrs. Lucy Stone on the one side, and Miss Susan B. Anthony on the other, seemed likely to mar the usefulness of both.

    In America the most valid argument advanced by the opponents of the movement is that even now the suffrage is too widely extended; that in some places American votes are swamped by the hordes of easily naturalized immigrants, and that "to give the suffrage to women is to send all the ignorant imported cooks and chambermaids to the ballot-box."

    In England no such difficulty would arise, and it is an absurd inconsistency that women, who may not only vote for vestrymen, guardians of the poor, and members of the School Board, but sit on the School Board and become Poor Law guardians themselves, may not vote for members of Parliament.  Quite recently a lady was appointed to the office of overseer in a Lincolnshire parish, and Mrs. Gossett was elected churchwarden in a parish in Wales.  A Constitution which forbids a woman to vote, and yet places on the throne a woman who affords a splendid example of female capacity for politics, certainly presents a strange anomaly.  I remember once hearing Lord Houghton say: "The only political equality yet granted to women is the equality of the scaffold."  "What would you do in time of war if you had the suffrage?" said Horace Greeley to Mrs. Stanton.  "Just what you have done, Mr. Greeley," replied the ready lady, "stay at home, and urge others to go and fight!"

    After many years of work in behalf of the industrial and educational interests of English women, I feel bound to say that not only do I consider women entitled to a political status, but I fear without it they will remain grievously overweighted in all their efforts to obtain work and justice.  In 1875 a discussion took place in the House of Commons on the Bill for allowing the Universities of Scotland to admit women to degrees; the leading London paper remarked the next morning: "The House did not trouble itself to be very much in earnest."  This has been the general attitude of Parliament regarding questions relating to the welfare of women, and it is this very indifference which has given point to the complaint that "the unrepresented do not get justice at the hands of legislators."  There is an inseparable connection between political power and the redress of social grievances.

    At present, while women are excluded from the privileges of taxation, they bear all its penalties.  A little town in Somersetshire was guilty of bribery and corruption at an election some ten years ago.  An investigation was ordered, and subsequently a fine of three shillings in the pound was imposed on the ratepayers for the malpractices of Bridgewater voters.  That fine was imposed on the women ratepayers as well.  These ladies naturally complained of this unjust taxation, inasmuch as, not exercising the franchise, they had in no way been guilty of the malpractices thus punished.  They sent up a formal petition to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, but that worthy dignitary was forced to reply "that it was not in his power to exempt women owning property from the local and imperial taxation to which property is liable."

    Mrs. Gold, a widow lady, holding property in Montgomeryshire, sixty years of age, was appointed overseer by the justices of the county. She appealed to the Court of Queen's Bench, on the ground that there were fifty men in the parish better qualified for the office, but the application was rejected, and the lady was forced to serve against her will.

    Owing to a lack of fair Parliamentary representation women have suffered many injustices; the educational endowments left for the benefit of both sexes alike have been appropriated for boys.  It took years to obtain a hearing with regard to the property of married women and their earnings, and many landlords have ejected female tenants because they required tenants who could vote.  In a conversation I had with Horace Greeley I mentioned the latter fact, and although he was then opposed to female suffrage in America, he said such a practical and weighty result of political disability would prevent him from again saying that "the franchise was not required for English women."  A widow on the Yorkshire estate of Mr. Sotheron Estcourt, M.P., was this year evicted from the holding of her late husband, as "the rule of that estate is that widows shall not remain tenants."  As she was not inclined to yield to this arbitrary law, an attempt was even made to confiscate her property!  The exigencies of the Civil War in the United States alone procured women admission into the Civil Service, and "even then," exclaimed Grace Greenwood, with a flash of indignation in her keen bright eye, "they were constantly reminded that they were kept there on sufferance.  We women gave brothers, husbands, sons to the war by sufferance.  We toiled in sanitary bazaars, made shirts, knitted stockings, picked lint, rolled bandages, carried fruit, and nursed wounded soldiers by sufferance; we pay taxes by sufferance; perhaps, on the whole, we live by sufferance!"

    To remove the disabilities English women share with criminals, idiots, lunatics, and minors, will inevitably, say the opponents of suffrage, "destroy their womanliness and love of domesticity."  A very remarkable proof to the contrary is afforded by the public and private life of Queen Victoria.  It is allowed by all that few women have such a profound insight into politics, or have led such a laborious life in connection with public business.  Every important question has to be brought before Her Majesty, and she has watched over the Poor Law administration with the greatest care and womanly zeal.  Even the Saturday Review freely acknowledges that her aptitude and immense experience have been of the greatest benefit to the nation.

    "The Queen now knows probably more of the proper course of public business, and is more thoroughly acquainted with the history and traditions of every department than any other person in England," says this authority.  It is equally safe to affirm that no woman of modern times has shown herself more thoroughly "womanly and domestic."  A truer wife or more devoted mother could not be cited.  She has laboured conscientiously to discharge her public duties, although since her widowhood she has shrunk from the Court balls and social entertainments which she thinks can be reasonably left to other members of her family.  But she has never failed to manifest the tenderest sympathy for her subjects.  Even in the earliest hours of her own bereavement, Queen Victoria's womanly heart betrayed her deep interest for the fate of the men buried in the Newcastle colliery, and realized the agony of the wives and children who were waiting with breathless anxiety at the pit's mouth to hear the fate of their nearest and dearest.  Nor did she fail to listen to and relieve the privations of the Lancashire operatives.  Politics have not deadened one chord of that womanly nature; they have neither chilled the depths of her love, nor diminished the reality of her grief.  Our widowed sovereign has proved that womanhood is even greater than queendom.

    The world has indeed moved since the time when Voltaire said, that "ideas are like beards, women and young men have none," and Lessing remarked, that, "the woman who thinks, is like the man who puts on rouge—ridiculous."  When the franchise for women was first advocated in England it was pronounced "a too visionary for serious consideration," and others stigmatized it as a "female fancy for forbidden fruit."  To-day it ranks as a great Parliamentary question.

    It is true that Mr. Woodall's amendment to the Franchise Bill, which has caused the recent contest between the House of Lords and the Commons, was excluded by a majority of 136 votes, but it may now be truly said, the building is erected, the coping-stone adjusted, and the song of victory will, before long, be sung.  The most distinguished ladies in art, science, and literature,—women remarkable for good works and common sense, are actively engaged in the movement; petitions have been signed by hundreds of clergymen of the Church of England, members of the School Boards, mistresses of schools, and students at our Universities; the Conservative party has expressed its willingness to adopt what must be termed "a liberal movement," and under the wise and able guidance of Mr. Woodall, the question will again shortly come before Parliament to be discussed on its own merits.

    It was not found good for man to live alone in the garden of Eden, and it is not good for him to work alone in anything which relates to the social progress of the world.  While politics may be looked at on one side from a hard and even a low point of sight, it must never be forgotten that they also include all those subjects of deep intellectual pleasure, and that participation in social reforms, which alone make life worth living, and from which women can no longer be excluded with impunity.  Every effort for the good of the general commonwealth requires the joint co-operation of men and women.  In the terrible calamity at Cincinnati, I watched brave hearts and stout arms rescuing many from watery graves; wealthy men came forward with generous supplies of money in that hour of need, but equally necessary was the noble, unselfish devotion of the women, who were untiring in their efforts to feed the hungry, relieve the sick, and provide the requisite clothing for the victims of that unprecedented flood.  We require the help of women in our prisons, reformatories, and schools, and those who urge that their practical work is needed in every movement which concerns the welfare of the human family, have alone realized what the poet meant when, in speaking of his ideal knight, he exclaimed:


                                                          "Could he but find
 A woman in her womanhood as great
 As he was in his manhood, then
 The twain together well might move the world!"



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NOTES.

 
1.    Mr. Douglas, of Old Bond Street, was the first in London to introduce women hair-dressers.  Mr. Truefitt followed; and now both here and in America women are very generally employed in this suitable occupation.
 
2.    "What shall we do with our Daughters?" By Mary A. Livermore.  Lee & Shepard, Boston; and Trübner & Co., London.

 


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