It has been even more difficult for women isolated by domestic happiness, in conditions of comfort and ease, to meet in the spirit of mutual sympathy, and to respect the minds opposed to their own in method and product, than it has been for women accustomed to isolated labor to unite in trades and labor unions. Perhaps the effect of such separateness of interest, such concentration of affection, such individualization of effort as are witnessed and experienced within family life, could not have counteracted had changes in industrial conditions and in material circumstances first forced women out of their homes into the competitive struggle for bread and butter. Side by side as neighbors in their respective homes, the home of each separated from the home of the next by walls of both, it was difficult for women to recognize any community of interests excepting such as are implied by similarity of domestic and social position. More than this, it was almost impossible that each should not regard the other in the superficial life of society as her rival, and in the business and official life represented by the men of their respective families as antagonist.
When the family washtub was ejected from the family kitchen, and a portion of the women of a community came out of isolated kitchens into public laundries to do this part of domestic labor, suddenly all women engaged in laundries realized that they had common interests; that among them cooperation was wisdom, antagonism was suicide. Similar changes in other industries, and the comprehension of them, has brought about all the labor unions which exist among women. The circumstances which have forced women to become independent earners have taught them to become independent savers. From this second lesson of necessity have resulted mutual benefit associations, of which the “Rathbone Sisters” and the “Ladies of the Maccabees” may be considered types. In a modified degree the modern feminine counterparts of the ancient and medieval orders established by men represent this same tendency toward cooperation. Of these
the “Order of the Eastern Star” and the daughters of Rebekah” may be cited as examples. The feminine complements of military and patriotic orders, which in various countries of Europe and in the United States have grown apace during the last quarter of a century, illustrate the same tendency and are dependent upon the same changes in conditions which have modified business and industrial enterprises. The very charities which these orders all include as branches of their work are induced by the same causes.
Little by little women associated together in doing one kind of work have perceived that there are larger interests underlying those of the vocation; interests in behalf of those engaged in all vocations can cooperate; therefore strikes, lock-outs, etc., occurring at the same time in different occupations, have been of distinct value, since through them workers have discovered that the same causes which unite women following one calling may unite at least all women who follow non-domestic callings. This ability to cooperate with one another, gained first by non-domestic workers, is not limited to them.
Society has been molded to new ideals under the indirect and unconscious influence of this class of orders and societies. While one tendency of such associations has been to increase the acquaintance of women with one another, and to diminish their dependence upon men, not only for pecuniary support, but also for protection and for social pleasures; on the other hand, their influence has been to make women more largely or generally acquainted with men outside of their own households. Society has suffered some loss
from which may be accounted women’s new opportunity to become acquainted with men in business relations; but it has also gained somewhat; more reality, more truthfulness, more sincerity, and a clearer comprehension of one another has resulted to both sexes.
There are numerous social movements, falling under non of the preceding divisions, which, although not suggested by the title given to this division, seem to belong to any other group. Of these the Grange and all other agricultural societies may be considered representative. Through such organizations the most isolated members of society, viz., farmers’ wives and daughters, find themselves related to the outside world. Such societies have been like a common roof, giving to agricultural districts the spiritual aspect of a camp, within which each separate home becomes a tent.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.