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HF1755 .A26 18889


TUESDAY, September 18, 1888. Mrs. J. Ellen Foster appeared before the subcommittee, accompanied by the following women wage-workers: Miss Minnie Dempwolff and Miss Hannah Gallagher, from Browning, King & Co., manufacturers of men's clothing, New York City; Mrs. Mary Studd, Miss Jennie Cheever, and Miss Mary Clark, from the Otis Company, of Ware, Mass., manufacturers of cotton and knit underwear, etc.; Mrs. Bahher, Miss J. White, Miss Pitts, and Mrs. Stanfield, from the mills at Rockville, Conn., of John T. Plummer & Co., of New York.


The CHAIRMAN. We will hear what you have to say, Mrs. Foster. Mrs. FOSTER. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I have sought this opportunity of presenting to you, as representing the Senate of the United States, some matters which concern, it seems to me, the women wage workers of the country. I have been for years connected with philanthropic and Christian work, which has included in its scope the relation of women to the home, to the charities, to indus trial conditions, and to political relations. I am at this time president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of the State of Iowa. The organization has under its care an institution-a home for unfortunate women who need protection and care-and in connection with that, as well as with other philanthropies, I have come to feel very much the needs of women-of a great class of women-who are outside the protection of homes. They are dependent upon their own individual labor for their daily bread; not protected by husband or brother, they must rely upon their own efforts for sustenance.

I have believed that whatever woman needed in this country would be supplied when she should come to possess equal political relations with man. I believe there should be equality in political relations; women can never be secured a fair and even chance in this world without these equal political relations.

About a year ago I went to Europe and there studied these questions. I felt at first that the degradation which we see both on the Continent and in the British islands was due in the main to political conditions, just as I had supposed that the exalted position which American women occupy is due to their educational advantages; and being daughters, wives, and sisters of freemen-as our men are free-they unconsciously reap the benefit which must come from breathing free air. On the Continent I saw women harnessed with beasts of burden on the common road and performing the most menial service, or at work in the field, their little children at home or sleeping in the grass, while the mothers used the plow or hoe.

The military system of Europe, which is really a part of the political system-being always necessary in monarchial government-helps to degrade labor, and the degradation of labor brings degradation to woman; for when men go down, women go just a little lower; when men have a hard time, women have a little harder time. In this terrible contest, this struggle for existence, for the bare necessaries of life, woman goes to the wall first.

Then in England, Scotland, and Ireland I studied the question still more. 1 expected to be relieved when I went there; I said, "Surely in good old England things can not be so bad as they are on the Continent; it is not possible that Scotch women and English women will be found as degraded in their manner of living and in their whole condition as are these women on the Continent." Americans think of England as the old home. We know whence we came. But I was as much distressed in England as I had been on the Continent by the condition of the laboring women; in Scotland it is no better.

In Ireland it is worse. I studied her history as it is written in the hearts of the people, and as one gets it from their lips. I sat in the cottages of the poor. I talked to the men and to the women and found out from this association, and from authoritative statement, that the polit ical subjection of Ireland to England was not accomplished until its industrial condition had been destroyed; that the factories, the looms, and the workshops of the manufacturing districts were almost wholly destroyed by England's industrial policy, and that when England had made Ireland a beggar it was very easy to make Ireland a slave.

With all these feelings in my heart I came home, and felt, as every American feels when first he arrives here, as if I could stoop and kiss the very soil of my native country. Passing through New England, Massachusetts presented to me, as it does to every passer by, a picture of comfortable homes, beautiful homes, and bright and happy women. It seemed one gala day, as if this State of factories and mills were rejoicing in a holiday. I am a Massachusetts-born woman. In my girlhood I knew our manufacturing towns. I know how Massachusetts women live in the home and in the factory.

Then, later on, going West, I saw the American women on the farm and the comforts of their homes. Then I asked, "Why is all this?" I began to realize that our industrial system is a cause of our prosperity. I knew that it was a feature of that prosperity, but that it was a cause I had never understood until I came to compare our condition with that abroad. Just at that time the great controversy came on concerning

our protective system, which had been attacked by the President's message; the more I thought the more I realized that the best we can do for the world is to make the most of ourselves by building up a country to which the world's toilers can come.

Then came the popular discussion of this great question, and in common with every true country-loving citizen I was stirred, for I love my country; I have warm blood in my veins. My father came from Bunker Hill and my mother from good old Miles Standish stock, and to me there is no emblem so beautiful, except the cross, the symbol of our holy religion, as is the flag of our country. I looked to you as the representatives of that which is best in our nation; I read the discussion which went on under this dome, and it seemed to me that the industrial change proposed by the House of Representatives would bear terribly on the women; and I said, "Will no woman go before those committees? Will no woman speak for the women of the country?'

In these discussions affecting wages, men wage-workers were always the subject of inquiry; it was the man in the mines and mills and fac tories, it was always man, man, man, everywhere. The relation of the industrial system to women was considered as merely incidental, she being known as the wife or daughter of some wage-earner; but, gentlemen, one-third or one-half of the wage-earners in this country are women who are not supported by husbands or fathers, but stand in mills or factories, at the shuttle, and the loom and earn their daily bread. If they did not they would starve, they and their little children, their aged parents, or other dependents would starve.

This is the condition which confronts us to-day; to speak for these unvoiced wage-workers am I here. I do not come to discuss the tariff technically; I am not a specialist on this line, though I may be on others, but I can talk to you out of my heart and beg you to consider these women. They should be considered as actual wage-earners, not as being incidentally and secondarily affected by the wage system. The womanhood of this country must not be brought down to the level of the womanhood of Europe. If it is, gentlemen, you will all be brought down, for the history of the world shows that the type of civilization is set by the position which woman occupies in the nation. If our women must clean the streets, must work at starvation wages, as the women across the water do, for bare necessaries, food, and clothing for their children-if that condition is forced upon them, with their degradation the American home will lose its essential position in our national life. So, gentlemen of the committee, as an American woman I ask you to remember these working women. I never saw one of them here before you till they came to me yesterday morning. I took them as average American working women. When I asked them, "What are you going to say?" they answered, "What do you want to know?" I said, "Do you know anything as to what you are here for?" "Well, we were told we are here to testify about our wages." One of the women said, "I asked our superintendent what we were to do, and he said that we were to go to Washington and tell the truth and that he had no instructions to give us." These are not instructed witnesses, gentlemen. They are average mill operatives, who come from the spindles and the looms. Two of them have taught school and now have certificates of scholarship from their States; others play the piano. We have women here also who take the current magazines of the country, to whom the Century and Harper's find their way every month. They are regular attendants upon our churches; they take their part in everything that is good and beautiful and grand in this country, and yet they are only

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