MASSACHUSETTS GIRLS DECIDED ON TWELVE
FIFTY PER WEEK AS A MINIMUM
BY JANE WHITAKER
"I get $9 a week, and I know I have to live awfully stingy to get along
on that, and I buy my cloth at the factory and make all of my own clothes.
B I am laid off for a few weeks I get back so far that it takes me all season
to pay my debts."
She was a little girl of about nineteen, dark, pretty and very serious.
She had timidjy arisen to make this statement after Mrs. Glendower Evans,
a member of the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Board, had asked an au
dience of working women to tell her how much they thought the girls in
Massachusetts had decided was the lowest wage on which they could live
Mrs. Evans smiled at the little girl sympathetically, then she smiled
, again, as Miss Agnes Nestor, president of the Woman's Trade Union League
suggested $12 a week as the-lowest amount.
"It was more than that," Mrs. Evans said. "It was $12.50, and it was
estimated at the lowest possible cost, including education and amusement.
'When the girls gave us this list we took it up with the employers on
"The girls had allowed for one newspaper a day, a Sunday newspaper
and a Saturday Evening Post for educational purposes. We decided that
they must dispense with the Satur
day Evening Post, and that if they
bought a Sunday paper they must do
without the weekly ones.
"Then we found fifty cents put
aside for. a show every two weeks,
and we cut that down to one fifty
cent show a month.
The girls had allowed $150 a year
for. their clothes.
" 'That is absurd,' an employer
said. 'They do not need to spend $20
for a suit. If they watch the bar
gains at the time of the year the
stores have sales they can get a suit
for $12.50,' as though working girls,
girls who work in a factory, could go
to the stores whenever they pleased.
But we cut down the clothes, after
the gentleman had said he was sure
they could supply their year's ward
robe for $74.
"We also eliminated one nickel
show a week and made it one nickel
show in two weeks.
"The matter of a room and board
we also curtailed, after we had
thrashed out the fact that it was not
fair to consider rates at places 'like
the Y. W. C. A., which are run on a
defiicit and supported by public con
"And after we had done all of this,
the figure we decided upon, and
which I am not at liberty to tell you
until it has been accepted, was more
than 95 per cent of the girls working
at that trade, the trade of brush
making, were then receiving."
It is appalling to be confronted
with figures like these, compiled and
given to us by a woman who knows
whereof she speaks, and to realize
that the amount arrived at as the
minimum wage on which a woman
could live, making no allowances for
medical attendance, for dentistry, for
sickness or idle time, is away beyond
what girls in factories and depart
ment stores right here in Chicago,
where the living cost is as high if not
higher than in Massachusetts, are re
ceiving. It makes so much more appalling
the fight that the shopkeepers and
factory owners put up last spring at
Springfield against the enactment of
a minimum wage law that placed the
minimum wage at $8 a week.
That sum is not a living wage. Yet
the union of employers prevented the
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