Thousands of women work in the mines of Belgium, England, and Cornwall. In the first-named country they formerly worked from twelve to sixteen hours a day, with no Sunday rest. The linen-thread spinners of New Jersey, according to the report of the Labor Commissioner, are "in one branch of the industry compelled to stand on a stone floor in water the year round, most of the time barefoot, with a spray of water from a revolving cylinder flying constantly against the breast; and the coldest night in winter, as well as the warmest in summer, these poor creatures must go to their homes with water dripping from their underclothing along their path, because there could not be space or a few moments allowed them wherein to change their clothing." Yet women are "exempted" from labor attended by hardship!
Despite these washerwomen, miners, and linen-thread spinners, we are told "it is woman's privilege generally to be exempted from the care of earning her livelihood and that of her offspring."
It would seem to be time that this libel upon woman should be scorned by fair-minded men. From all antiquity the majority of women have been faithful workers, rendering a full equivalent in labor for their scanty share of the world's goods. The origin of every industry bears testimony to this. In our own era, while women were still homekeepers, did they not earn their livelihood? What was the weaving, the sewing, the cooking, the doctoring, the nursing, the child-care, "the work that was never done," if it was not earning a subsistence? Even in these days, when woman goes forth and receives the reward of her labor as publicly as man, she is no more worthy of her hire. Her ancestress—sweet and saintly soul!—did not dream of recompense. But was it not her due; and shall we refuse to credit it because man was then a self-sufficient ignoramus who deemed himself the only one fit to acquire property?
One by one the old industries have been transplanted from the home, and still man constructs new schemes of enterprise from the little tasks that once rounded out woman's day of toil. In the
- Census of England and Wales, 1891, vol. cvi, table 6. Miners, female—coal, 3,267; copper, lead, tin, and ironstone, 1,425.
- Vide Report of Reichstag, 1889, forbidding women to work in the mines of Belgium on Sunday and at night.
- Report of Bureau of Labor, State of New Jersey, 1888.
- "The never-ceasing industry of the women was the principal factor in the development of a manufacture that was probably contributing more directly to the personal prosperity and comfort of the people than any other then in existence in 1790" (Industrial Evolution in the United States, p. 20). Carroll D. Wright.
- Women colonists rarely worked for wages; . . . they carded the wool, spun the yarn, and wove the cloth for the male members of the family. In many instances they worked on the land, and did their share in every way to enable the family not only to secure a livelihood but to build itself upon stable lines (Industrial Evolution in the United States, p. 112).