Popular Science Monthly/Volume 83/July 1913/Women Teachers and Equal Pay
|WOMEN TEACHERS AND EQUAL PAY|
ITHACA, N. Y.
ARGUMENTS opposing the progress of women are apt to begin with a praise of "typical, sweet" femininity, continue with a retailing of the fixed and inherent failings of women, add instances of selfish action on the part of individual women, such as taking away a man's seat, obstructing a man's view, getting in front of him in a ticket or bank line (forgetting that women have been carefully educated to consider themselves as creatures of privilege), and end with visions of race-extermination.
Arguments opposing the equal remuneration of women with men, where the services rendered are of equal value, have not escaped contamination from this kind of logic, in witness whereof we can point to two articles published in the Educational Review, in the past year, entitled "The Monopolizing Woman Teacher," by C. W. Bardeen, and "Women and 'Equal Pay,'" by Arthur C. Perry, Jr.
It was in 1869, forty-four years ago, that J. S. Mill wrote:
After nearly half a century's progress of civilization and thought, it remains for an educator to speak out this very sentiment in the following words, apropos of the granting of equal salaries to men and women in the schools of New York City:
This strain immediately gives us our clue, for we have heard it often before, as when we laid claim to souls and to minds, and though the gods of nature and of economics are appealed to, we know that we are dealing with the ancient sex prejudice, conscious or unconscious, which the present day is gradually overcoming with the increasing realization of the sanctity of human personality irrespective of sex.
It was still longer ago that Wendell Phillips said, in 1851:
What is the clear and natural justice of paying women teachers equally with men? Two persons are expending an equal amount of energy in rendering services of equal value. In exchange a return energy is given in the form of financial reward. There is no reason why the return energy should diminish in quantity, the moment the recipient is a woman, but retain its normal volume if the recipient happens to be a man. Is it not an ancient principle of justice that the laborer is worthy of his hire?
The immediate reply to this will be: It is just that a man receive more, because he has to support a family. And Mr. Perry, whose argument rests on the ethics of not violating the principle of the "market-value" of teachers, unmindful of the principles of the bargain counter, says:
This is plainly an economic fallacy, since wages and salaries are not a result of a nice adjustment to personal and family needs. A man supports his family in accordance with his wages; he does not receive wages in accordance with his family. And does the man who has no family receive less and the woman who has a family receive more? Is it the custom to arrange salaries on a sliding scale in accordance with celibacy or marriage among men? Why is it that late marriages are so common? Is it not because the incomes earned are thought not to be sufficient for the support of a family? Does any one know of a scheme like the following? An instructor in a university receives a salary of $1,000 a year, and manages to be fairly comfortable on it. He marries, and the trustees grant him an additional $100. He has a child, and his income is increased again by $100, and again for every succeeding child. We leave it to the trustees to estimate the proper value of a child on the basis of a full professor's salary. Now the wife dies, and $100 are subtracted from his salary, and as his children become self-supporting the salary is reduced in proper measure, leaving him, when all his children have departed in the status quo with his original salary, for as a single person he requires no more. No doubt such a sliding scale would be most acceptable to college instructors so long as it went up and would encourage early marriage. The only bitter pill would be to have the scale slide down. In the actual world, however, the bachelor does not receive less because he has no family and the married man does not receive more because he has. The woman teacher still generally receives even as high as fifty per cent, less than a man, whether she has a family to support or not.
But, it is replied, the single man expects to have a family in the future for which he must lay a financial foundation now. Is then the young woman not expected to have a family? Will her savings be less of a help to the future family because they are feminine? Or will they go farther for the same reason and do they therefore not need to be so great? Is not the family the ultimate loser by this principle of stinting women, since the family funds are derived from one source alone? After marriage, if both father and mother are capable of earning, is the family not the gainer if the earnings of the mother are at the same rate as those of the father? If the father dies, is the family not the gainer by having full support instead of two thirds or thereabout?
The highest expediency that attaches to natural justice is brought out by an economic principle that few will dispute. Women who are discriminated against in the matter of pay immediately become a cheap labor class, and cheap labor is bound to injure the cause "of well-paid labor. This injustice bears within itself the germ of that economic vengeance that has wrought such harm in the profession of teaching, and has been so conducive a factor in driving men out of the ranks. This principle has been brought home to the laborers in industry, and in the ranks of labor the feeling is becoming wide-spread that men and women have a common cause, and all movements that make for economic improvement for women are apt to find there much greater support than in the so-called higher ranks of society. The world of trade could easily appreciate the principle also. If a woman set up a successful business with a margin of profit 25 per cent, or 50 per cent. less than that of her masculine competitors in the same business, would the men not immediately protest and combine to force her to sell at their terms or to wreck her trade?
It has been stated that where men and women teachers receive equal wages the men will vanish. This assertion, however, seems to rest on the implication that the wages are low, for when it has been suggested that women receive the high wages of men, opening the way for a natural competition irrespective of sex, the answer has frequently been that the natural result of this competition would be that the men would be chosen and the women would be left. Now certain qualities excellent in a teacher have been conceded to women. For instance:
The woman is quite as apt as the man to establish that connection between her mind and the child's which is the foundation of instruction.
Even a woman's knowledge is apt to be sufficient, at least for the high school. But it is possible that these virtues exist only at a low rate of wages and take wings at an equal high rate. It is one of the characteristics of arguments springing from the traditional view of women that quite opposite assertions are made to fit the same theory. Thus women are better than men and they haven't so pronounced a moral sense; they have no time for professions, and they waste time in frivolity; they are thrifty, and they are extravagant; they are physically weak, and do the physical work of the household; in the case of women teachers, they drive men out of the profession of teaching, and they can not compete with men; and again: they are not worth so much because they leave teaching to marry, and they are not worth so much because they do not marry. Perhaps it would be safest to adopt the high and equal rate of salaries even if it leaves man, as the superior teacher, victor in the field, since in education we are concerned with the best results obtainable. We sincerely trust and believe, however, that even at an equal high rate of pay it will be realized that men and women are needed in the schools as in the home. Woman is as much a factor in human life as man, and her interpretation of life and knowledge is just as necessary for a complete view. If there is no difference between the masculine and the feminine viewpoint surely there is no reason for discrimination. But the very possibility of a difference of conception is of immense potential value educationally, and forbids a lessening in value because of sex. Surely if we need the feeling for and interpretation of the "Arma virumque cano," the destructive elethe feeling for and interpretation of the
Prima Ceres unco glaebam dimovit aratro,
Prima dedit fruges alimentaque mitia terris,
Prime dedit leges: Cereiis sunt omnia munus.
Ilia canenda mihi est
of the constructive element of civilization by representation through fostering womankind, especially as arms are beginning to lose some of their prestige. But as long as we regard education as a thing to be provided, in large measure to be sure, but at as low an expense as possible, we shall encourage the cheap labor of women teachers and the proportion of men and women will not be normal. As soon as we realize that education is an investment whose returns are to be measured in quality and diversity of knowledge and of character, we shall be glad to invest capital in that enterprise, though for intangible and indirect returns, and we shall recognize that woman's share in the product is as important as man's.
As far as the theory goes, held by Mr. Perry, that a budget permitting the expenditure of only a certain fixed amount for teachers' salaries forces a reduction of the men's salaries because of the necessary averaging, it is a matter of fact that a budget can always be increased where the need is felt to be actual. Even the "practical administration difficulties" of a huge system like that of New York City should not prevent meeting actual needs. In smaller systems, the budget can always bear an increase when a man teacher is needed who will not come at the salary allotted to women. In women's colleges the principle of exclusive femininity is inevitably disregarded through the crying need of some masculinity, possible naturally only on the teaching staff. A certain proportion of men is felt to be absolutely necessary either for the sanity of the educational process or for the protection of the masculine teachers themselves from the danger of feminization. When that proportion is threatened the budget does not stand in the way. And thus it is possible for a new-fledged doctor of philosophy, untried and without teaching experience, simply because he is a man, to obtain a salary 25 to 50 per cent, higher than that of a woman professor who may have greater knowledge, greater experience and every requisite for a successful teacher. Is it a wonder under such conditions that we do not find women stimulated to do more productive work? It is quite possible, too, that the youth has no obligations whatever, and that the woman has financial and family obligations. It is possible that the case of obligations may be vice versa. It is certainly wrong for us to assume that the man has always the financial burdens to bear, the woman never. Can we, who have taught in college and high school, not name numerous cases of that kind? Do we not also know of men teaching in the high schools who were merely taking advantage of the relatively good salaries they could obtain as teachers until they could get a foothold in another profession, thereupon to leave the teacher's calling forever? And have we not seen in the same schools women teaching at lower salaries, some of whom were supporting relatives, sending brother or sister to college, and some even husbands?
As far as the theory of the market value of the teacher goes, we need only point to Germany to be covered with shame for our mercenary attitude towards education. In that land swarming with Ph.D.'s despite the enormous supply, the teacher, masculine, to be sure, receives a very fair salary and generous pension provision, without regard to a market value determined by the laws of supply and demand.
The same principle and view of life that reduces the pay of the woman teacher reduces the pay of women in whatever field. It forces girls in factories and department stores into lives of shame, and gives the washerwoman who supports a family (and who ever hears of a washerwoman who has not a family and sometimes a husband, too, to support?) for labor that is by no means unskilled $1.25 a day, while the unmarried Italian who digs ditches gets $1.75 or $2.00.
There are other causes, to be sure, besides sex discrimination, which have encouraged unequal wages. Foremost among these is that women have not realized their own worth, have not demanded equal wages, have not been able to do so, in fact, through lack of organization. Moreover, in the past, women were crowded into a very few callings, among which teaching was a very prominent one, and thus they competed with each other. In the past, too, when women left the home to work, it was because they were forced to. Any addition, however meager, to the family income was welcomed. In the higher walks of life, again, women were content to earn the luxuries, depending on their families for the home and necessities. The parents, meanwhile, took pride in the fact that their daughters did not "have to'"' work. The effect on the worker, on the profession and on the family was bad. You got cheap labor, poor and half-hearted labor, and the family was out something, too. With modern times has come the realization that labor and self-support are necessary for the dignity, the character and the development of women, and that the welfare of society and of the family demands that she become a contributor of wealth rather than a mere consumer. But we shall not have the best efforts from women in professions until professional rewards are open to them. That increase of salary, with advance in position, based on merit alone is a necessary stimulus no one can deny. It will be well when all women realize the harm that is done, not only to their sisters, but to their profession, when they permit themselves to be stamped as cheap labor.
And as for the man, we fear that it is not chivalry that fails to recognize the equal value of woman's labor with his own. "We fear that it is not chivalry that frowns upon the married woman teacher. And BO we hope that he will be moved to a more generous spirit when he realizes that woman's loss is his own. The modern marriage is a halving of resources, whereas the colonial family was a doubling of resources. That the wife formerly actually produced by the labor of her hands in the way of food, clothing and household supplies, in a personal field of industry, quite free from competition either with her own sex or with the other, she must now produce in the form of the wherewithal to buy the food, clothing and household supplies. Her field has become wider, she must compete with others, but her capabilities have also grown wider, and must increasingly grow as she, with her husband, progresses farther and farther from that rude and simple life that was enclosed by four walls and called forth only a few of the manifold potential powers of hand and mind. Men must come to an insight of the economic waste of an unproductive life for their women, or of production without fair returns. But perhaps they will also begin to realize forms of waste that are not so material. When women, through motherhood, have that insight into the growing mind that no one else can possess, we prefer to have them withdraw from the profession of teaching. Is there no sense of a tremendous pedagogical loss? Because women alone can be mothers is that a reason that they should be nothing else? Shall their souls and their minds be refused their proper occupations even after motherhood is past, and shall they be condemned to atrophy because of a great though not exclusive function? Is there no insight into this spiritual waste? Does not society suffer from all these forms of waste? When we demand that a woman sacrifice her talents and ambitions, in other words, her natural powers, in order to become a wife and mother, we must not close our eyes to the fact that it is a sacrifice, and that sacrifice means waste. Our marriages rest upon a wasteful basis, and must become increasingly wasteful as civilization takes away more and more woman's former productivity in the home, unless she is granted a free field for her energies outside of the home. The young woman teacher must look forward, then, to contributing her share to the establishment of the home by her earning powers before she is married and afterwards when she can. The more she earns, the better. With this earnest view of the necessity of contributing to the family support, her profession will become something more than a means of occupying durance vile. It follows as the night the day that early marriage will be encouraged where two are contributing, and when marriage does not mean sacrifice and dependence on one side, and sacrifice and a heavy burden on the other side. Men, while necessarily bearing the financial burden alone for some of the time of married life will yet not be sacrificing more of their individual energy to the family than the mother who is giving of her life substance. For the woman a life of development and service will be added to motherhood, as a life of development and service are added to the fatherhood of the man. For we conceive of fatherhood as something more and nobler than the occupying of all one's time and energies with earning money for the children. Will there not be more time for fatherhood when the pressure of financial responsibility is lessened? And who knows what rich rewards of womanly forces future society will reap from allowing women to develop according to the divine promptings from within rather than by rule of man. For the full honors and rewards of effort, whether in the household or in scientific academies, have never yet been granted to women. They have never yet been permitted to drink freely of the cup of life. Let the men who openly or covertly regard women as their inferiors consider this, and for the sake of the future give her an equal chance. It was Schopenhauer who said, in quite a different connection, we may be sure, "First they bind our arms, and then they sneer at us because we are impotent." And it was Wilhelm von Humboldt who wrote of "the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity." If women are to develop humanly, they must not be arbitrarily cut off from the inspirations and the rewards that stimulate the growth of human mind and character.
A discussion of this general nature seemed necessary, because it was felt that prejudice against remunerating women teachers equally with men was mere prejudice based on a failure to grasp the wide bearing of the forces at work in the natural and historic evolution of women. We have still to consider the fact that there will always be some women in the profession of teaching who no longer look forward to marriage, though the terminus ad quem of this hope is nowadays very problematical, and who have no dependents whatever. This will be true, even after women have become large factors in all the professions, in most of which they already are represented, and after they have invented some new ones. But their number will not be very much greater than that of the single men in like circumstances unless women preponderate immeasurably in the population. If there were an injustice in giving them the full return for their labor, it would yet be less than the sum total of injustice of the old system. Moreover, dare we not hope, with the special penchant of women for charity and philanthropy, with the noble roll of "old maids" who are milestones in the progress of civilization, Frances Willard, Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, Jane Addams, that the surplus energy earned will go for the improvement of society? Society needs the development of all its latent energies for its own purification and advance. Who dares, unless he was present when the foundations of the earth were laid, brand woman's energies as inferior because proceeding from a woman, and say to her, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further"?