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About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (March 14, 1913)
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MARCH 14, 1913
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Vice and Low Wages
Following is an Associated Press dispatch:
Chicago, March 7. "The employers think low
wages havo nothing to do with immorality
among women. The women who havo fallen
think low wages have everything to do with
it." That was the way a momher of the state
senate vice committeo summed up the comflict
Ing testimony given at the hearing today.
Arrayed on' one side were Julius Rosenwald,
president of Sears, Roebuck & Co.; James Simp
son, vice president of Marshall Field & Co.;
E. F. Mandel, president of Mandel Bros., and
Roy Shayne, president of John T. Shayne &
Co. Their firms employ many thousands of
girls and women. On the other side were half
a dozen denizens of the "tenderloin," brought
before the committeo on "Jano Doe" warrants.
The committee explained to the employers
that it wished information bearing on a bill
now pending in the legislature establishing a
minimum wage scale of $12 a week for women.
The employers held this figure to be excessive
and declared the law an impossibility.
It developed that practically all the women
employed in the retail stores live at home and
much time was consumed in discussing a proper
wage for those so situated. The employers took
the position that they are under no obligation
to pay errand girls and other unskilled help
classed as "juvenile" a living wage, as such
employes are assumed to be entitled to a liv
ing at the expense of their parents.
Senator Nels Juul of the committee insisted
that the other members of a working girl's
family earn no more than enough to support
themselves, and that if any member of such a
family earns less than a living wage the family
Mandel and Rosenwald expressed the opinion
that a girl's character and her environment
shape her life. Wages have little to do with It,
they said. They laid stress on environment.
"But does not a living wage or a wage under
that have much to do with environment?"
queried Lieutenant Governor O'Hara, chairman
of the committee. This was admitted.
"If a girl can not live on her income, don't
you think that with the pitfalls which surround
a young woman, an immoral life offers the
easiest way out?" Mandell was asked.
"Not if she is the right kind of a girl; if
she is starving and immorality is repugnant to
her, as it should, be, she can go into domestic
"What?" exclaimed Senator Juul, "do you
think there" are enough places for domestics
to take care of all the underpaid girls and
women working in stores and factories?"
"Those servants are mighty scarce," smiled
Mandel expressed the opinion that $8 is a liv
ing wage for a girl dependent on herself alone.
Juul asked him to show how this should be
spent to provide the necessities of life. After
Mandel had enumerated $1 for clothes, 25 cents
for laundry, $4 for board and room, 60 cents
for sickness, 70 cents for lunches, 60 cents for
carfaro and 10 cents for the collection box In
church, Juul declared that these Items included
only about half the girls' necessary expenses.
Mandel Insisted, however, that the com
mitteeman should not disregard the fact that
most employes Jive at home and are not en
tirely dependent on themselves.
Mr. Simpson presented figures which showed
that the Marshall Field retail store employs
4,222 females whose "average wage Is $10.76.
Of these 440 are short hour employes, who
work during the rush hours and while the
regular clerks are at lunch. All live at home,
It developed that the short hour employes are
paid on a basis of $8 a week, so that a clerk
working but four hours a day would receive
"This latter class is composed mostly of mar
ried women, who wish to earn a bit of pin
money and of students who do not depend upon
us for a living," explained Simpson.
Simpson was asked to state the net profits
of the Field business, but he declined to
answer. The same question was .put to the
other employers. Its purppse was to learn 'if
tho salaries of girls earning $4 and $5 could
not bo doubled without materially affecting
Simpson detailed tho welfare work of his
firm, speaking of tho rest rooms, vacations, a
compulsory school maintained In the store,
where those who have had no advantage in
childhood are forced to acquire tho rudiments
of an education, of salaries paid during sickness
and the like.
Tho last witnesses of the day, tho women of
tho tenderloin, talked In whispers. All said that
they had been unable to make a living at
"A. R." was a woman of thirty-eight. She
worked in a laundry at $4.50 a week after her
husband died and loft her with two childron.
"You could not support a family on that,
could you?" inquired O'Hara.
"No, I found out that I could not even sup
port myself on it, so I went wrong."
"How old were you, then?"
"Whore are the children now?" she was
"Well, you may bo sure they aro not in
"B. P. B." worked In a St. Louis shoe factory
from the ago of fourteen to eighteen and never
got more than $5 a week. Then sho answered
tho call of tho underworld and had been there
for five years. Like tho others she placed her
earnings at about $25 a week.
"R. M." worked for $3 a week, but her
parents seemed dissatisfied with her contribu
tions to the general fund and sho found another
"R: R." wore a wedding ring, the only piece
of jewelry about her.
"Married?" asked O'Hara.
The girl looked at the ring, hesitated and
then answered: "No, it belonged to my
mother; it's the only thing of hers I have."
Those close enough to hear the testimony
were reminded of Mandel's testimony anent
girls going into domestic service when "J. H."
took tho stand.
"Why did you go wrong," asked Senator
Juul; "too little money?"
"Well, yes, that was it."
"What did you work at before that?"
"What were you paid?"
"Two fifty. I got up at 5 o'clock in tho morn
ing and worked until through, generally about
8 o'clock at night. I had enough to eat, but I
did not want to work so hard. I got to running
around. with fellows and then I'd want to be de
cent and would go back to work again, but it
was too hard. I began housework after my
parents died, and I was ten years old. I stuck
to it until I was seventeen.
Rosenwald testified that he was at one time
chairman of the Chicago vice commission which
conducted an investigation of vice conditions
in this city. A portion of this report was sup
pressed by the committeo.
"Did not your company within the last few
years conduct a private investigation to ascer
tain the minimum wages necessary for a girl to
support herself without assistance?" asked
"I don't recall there may have been but I
don't remember now. Perhaps Mr. Miller "
The latter promptly entered the breach and
said that such an investigation had been held
by a committee composed of department heads.
"The committee reported the minimum re
quirements of girls 'adrift not living at home,
"Now, I want to ask you," said O'Hara, "as
a man of wide philanthropy, if you think that
low wages induce inmorality in women."
"I will answer that as I havo answered be
fore there is practically no connection be
tween them. Prostitution is as likely to come
to a woman who earns $100 as to a woman who
earns less. A girl earning a' small wage might
use that as a subterfuge to account for her
"Do you consider $5 enough for any woman
to live upon?"
"Yes, if she lives at home."
"And $8 is enough for one who supports her
self?" "That Is what our Investigation showed."
"How much did your corporation earn in
"Could you rniso wages and still pay your
stockholders a legitimate profit?"
Tho witness said that tho stock of tho cor
poration pays 7 per cont on both common and
preferred stock. Thoro was a surplus of $12,
000,000 at the end of 1912 out of profits and
still pay Bomo dividends.
Stato Senator Noils Juul asked tho witness
If ho thought stockholders wero fajr judges of
what compensation tho girls should recoivo and
if ho didn't think tho stato would bo a fairer
Thoro was a poriod of npplnuso when Roson
wald replied that ho would bo glad to moot tho
wishes of tho stato so far as competition will
Asked if ho would object to disclosing his
own incomo, ho replied in tho negative.
"Well, then," said O'Hara, could you live on
$8 a week?"
There was a tittor when the witness said ho
had never tried it.
O'Hara asked if thoro wore "drivers" In 'his
employ. Tho witness had never hoard of them.
"Havo you an employe called 'the scolder?' "
"Not so far as I know."
Senator Juul took tho witness and wanted to
know if tho corporation took pains to learn if
tho wages received by a girl was sufllciont in
each individual case.
"No" was tho slow roply.
"You stand on tho theory that tho girls must
live on what you pay them?" commented Juul.
Then ho asked it tho witness thought any
woman should be asked to live on less than any
"Competition might account for tho dif
ferences," roplied tho witness.
"To pay 1,000 girls $5 a weok more than you
do would cost you $260,000 a year," stated the
senator. "Would that make much differences
to your dividends?" t
"I would say that tho earnings of ono year
might not bo those of other years, mid Rosen
wald. Tho small room where the sessions aro be
ing held was packed with a well-dressed crowd,
most of them women.
A woman, clad in black and answering to
tho name of Emily, took her seat in front of
tho inquisitors and by the side of Rosenwald.
Sho had beon employed by Sears-Roebuck, but
left thoro, to take a better position. Hor only
criticism of the firm was that tho forewoman
"scolded" and made somo of tho luckless cul
prits guilty of some infraction of tho rules or
making a mistake cry. This did not occur every
Suddenly attention became acute as Lieuten
ant Governor Barrett O'Hara, a young man,
leaned over, and with blushes asked the wit
ness such a question as ho found difficulty in
"Wo havo had a great deal of philosophy hero
today from men; now let's find out what yours
is. If a girl wais getting $8 a week (tho mini
mum paid by Sears, Roebuck & Co. to girls liv
ing alone) and had to support a widowed
mother, would you blame that girl if she if
she she committed suicide?"
The witness looked puzzled for a moment and
then, comprehending, looked up frankly and
said: "No, I would not."
"And would you blame her If she committed
a greater crime?" ''
The young lieutenant governor's words were
in embarrassed tones and blushes, and by now
the girl was the more composed of tho two.
She paused a moment and then repeated dis
tinctly, "No, I would not."
The room had been painfully quiet, but at
this there was a round of applause, largely by
"Emily" was then dismissed.
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