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wares. For the Court of Appeals of New York held, in the Hawkins case, that under the Constitution, a state may not require that contract convict goods must be, when shipped into it, so labeled as to warn the purchaser that they were made in prisons.
In the Wisconsin State Reformatory, at Green Bay, 85 to 90 boys are employed in making overalls and "brownies." Surely mothers who ignorantly buy these goods ought to have an enforcible legal claim to know what they are getting. But until the Booher bill becomes a law, the New York decision in the Hawkins case will effectively bar the way to such knowledge.
In the Michigan state prison at Jackson, a cannery has recently been opened, and there is nothing to prevent other prisons from following this example. These goods are sold extensively in Indiana and Wisconsin under labels disguising their origin. Indeed, the prison-made garments and foods distributed throughout the country, without distinguishing labels or with misleading ones, constitute a distinct peril to the health of consumers.
Nor can a state protect free labor within its borders from the competition of prisoners working unpaid in the service of contractors; and this in branches of manufacture in which the prisoners are often unable, after their release, to maintain themselves. Manufacturers who use the label of the Consumers' League have frequently complained that this utterly anti-social competition makes it impossible for them to pay generous wages to their employes. Some 7,500 prisoners are employed in Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin in making shirts, overalls, hosiery, brooms, buttons, brushes, shoes, etc. For the work of the boy "brownie" makers and overall workers in the State Reformatory at Green Bay, Wisconsin receives a nominal return of about $.70 a day. In practice this amounts to about $.50 and if a fair charge should be made for rent, heat, water, power, light, etc., the net return might fairly be stated at $.30.
These are all conspicuously women's industries. The average labor price in all these prisons is about $.55 a day. The Wisconsin State Board of Control estimates the value of overhead itemsrent, heat, light, power, etc.-at about $.20 to $.25 a day. The average net price of convict labor in these industries is, therefore, about $.30 a day or $1.80 a week.
Wage-earning women in these occupations must obviously face this cut-throat competition. Not merely do the 7,500 prisoners displace free self-supporting women outright, their labor, concentrated within a limited range of production, profoundly depresses the wage of practically all the women employed in these branches. Manufacturers testify at public hearings before legislative and Congressional committees that the prison price rules the market price, that they cannot sell their products until the prison goods have been disposed of; that in times of depression they are forced to give the right of way to the prison factory and slacken their own output or shut down entirely. This pressure was especially in evidence in the summer of 1914.
Convict contract labor is due chiefly to the inability of wageearning women to defend their own interests on the political field. In the hundred years' struggle between free labor and convict labor in men's industries, men, as they improved their economic and political status, exerted upon legislatures pressure which slowly eliminated prison competition from their field. Such industries as stone cutting, foundry work, etc., are today practically eliminated from contract prisons. (In the prisons conducted under the state use system, the inmates are naturally employed at work required by the state, but their products do not come into competition with the products of free labor in the open market.)
In the place of industries normally employing men there have come the needle trades which, in the outside world, are practically all women's industries. Wage-earning men have thus, through their political power, shifted the burden of prison competition upon the women workers.
Convict contract labor gives rise to other evils. It tends to compel prisoners to return to crime as soon as they are released, for if the prison has taught them women's trades, they find all factory doors closed. It is unjust to the prison administration, for the prisoners know that they are learning no useful trade and resent the enforced labor. Wardens testify that they have far more trouble in shops where the inmates are employed at needle trades than in other shops. Only when convict contract labor is utterly banished from an institution is any effective effort made to keep prisoners employed in the greatest possible variety of ways, as Dr. Katherine
Davis has always done at Bedford Reformatory, to substitute for the sake of physical health, in the place of monotonous, indoor manufacture, agriculture, horticulture, roadmaking, cement work and every available outdoor occupation. Yet it is thus alone that prisoners can be helped in body, mind, character and ability for self support.
Since the National Consumers' League began its agitation for this legislation, the Booher bill has twice passed the House-unanimously in 1912, and by a vote of 302 to 3 in 1914. On August 25, 1914, the Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce reported it favorably, and it is now on the Senate calendar. It has been amended to exclude paroled convicts and eleemosynary institutions for minors, and to take effect in 1916. There is no hope of its passage in 1914, but it should pass at the short session. Under the chairmanship of Julian Leavitt, the Committee on Prison Contract Labor of the National Consumers' League will agitate for the Booher bill until its efforts are crowned with success.
Safety at Sea
We who are the great nation of travelers might reasonably be expected to care for safety at sea. Such is, however, not our record. In advocacy of Senator La Follette's bill intended to make sea travel safer for both passengers and seamen, no passenger has ever appeared before any Congressional committee save only the writer of this article.
This bill passed the Senate in March, 1914, and was held in the House Committee on Mercantile Marine and Fisheries until August, when a substitute bill passed the House and was sent to a committee in the Senate where it now rests. Until the Consumers' League, at its annual meeting in November, 1913, endorsed the La Follette bill, the struggle for safety at sea had been left, for full twenty years since its beginning, to the seamen. Even the loss of the Titanic caused only a ripple of interest in social legislation of this character. Following that monstrous destruction of human life, Congress contented itself with requiring continuous wireless service with two certificated wireless operators on board ships leaving our harbors. There is unceasing influential effort to relax even this slender im
provement; and this nation will be fortunate beyond its deserts if, at the close of the present Congress, our statutes do not assure us less safety at sea rather than more.
There is a certain grim irony in a joint effort for safety legislation carried forward by seamen who, by reason of their calling, cannot impress their wishes effectively upon their senators and representatives, and by women who have no votes!
The writer having, throughout a quarter century, striven, not altogether fruitlessly, to promote social legislation feels increasingly with each passing year that the position of a voteless woman thus occupied is discouraging and a little ridiculous. She, therefore, especially welcomes the publication of the present issue, being convinced that the readers of The Annals can, if they will, obtain the passage by the present Congress of the Bristow-Mondell resolution. After that the relation of women to social legislation will enter upon a new and immeasurably more hopeful era.
WOMEN IN MUNICIPAL ACTIVITIES
BY NEVA R. DEARDORFF, PH.D.,
Department of Public Health and Charities, Philadelphia.
Someone has described the evolutionary progress of humanity as the migration of a great unorganized horde, sometimes wandering this way, sometimes that, but always keeping in a general forward direction. From the mass appear a few individuals, who, by reason of their ability to see ahead, assume the guidance of and give a certain bent to the migration. But women have seldom enjoyed the exercise of such leadership. It is true, in times of confusion, a woman here or there has found herself in the front ranks, as did Joan d'Arc or Queen Elizabeth, but however well she acquitted herself, her achievements failed to open the way for women. She was an accident and regarded as such.
Woman's place in the crowd of a generation ago was immediately back of her masculine kinsfolk. Here she enjoyed protection from the rough elbowing of the crowd, though in return for this shelter she forfeited her liberty and was expected to devote all of her physical strength and mental energy to pushing some particular masculine protector to the front. Sometimes her efforts were appreciated, frequently they were taken for granted, since etiquette favored a covert manner of pushing. But the rules of the game have changed. Partners and co-laborers are taking the places of lords and masters. Farmers, professors, clergymen, politicians, in fact, husbands of every calling are coming to see the advantage of having a wife beside, instead of behind, them. They now take pride in the wife who enjoys an outlook on the world which enables her to help far more intelligently and effectively than did the wife of a generation ago.
It is a very similar change that has taken place in the work of women out of the home. As long as they were the hard-working secretaries or deputies of public officials, the phenomenon of women in public life was scarcely noticed. Now that they are emerging from obscurity and are becoming visible in the front ranks, their appearance is hailed as a radical change in the order of things. Such an assumption is, of course, absurd. It is a very short, though con