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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/379

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The Physical Effects of Wage Work

WOMEN'S efforts to obtain a vote have directed attention to other problems which confront members of their sex. Long hours of work in factories and stores and the evils of the sweat shop have been investigated, but little has been written upon the effect that working may have on women's ability to bear children.

It is said that the hue and cry over the work of women in industry is misplaced and overemphasized. Women have always been employed at the very same things for which they now draw wages. Since history has been recorded they have woven cloth, prepared food and borne burdens. The only difference between former times and the present is that most of this work was once done individually in the home, whereas now it is carried on collectively in a factory. Women are not doing men's work. They can not, for they are smaller, less agile, less strong. Rather it is true that men in spinning, weaving and sewing are invading women's sphere and crowding out the women. It is claimed that the work in mills is for no longer hours, nor under worse sanitary and hygienic conditions, than women's tasks have always been. A parallel argument is that scarlet fever is not a dangerous disease because it is no worse than smallpox. If it is true that there are 156 women sick for every 100 sick men in the cotton mills; if the sick-insurance societies of England, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and France report that women are ill oftener and for a longer duration than men; if medical authorities report that 40 per cent, of married women who have been factory girls are treated for pelvic disorders before they are thirty years old; then it must also be true that factory work has in it something that is more injurious to health than similar employment at home. When the labor is performed away from the domestic hearth new elements enter into it that make it dangerous. In the home the woman prepared the raw material for spinning, twisted it into thread and then wove the cloth. Each of these operations called for a change of position. In the factory the whole task has been so subdivided that each woman does only a very small share of it, and so she must stand or sit continually in one place. Such intense specialization permits no variety in the motions of the work, thus producing a monotony that is deadening. Furthermore, the number of machines to which a woman