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The Path of Labor
Christianity and The World’s Workers
“I am among you as he that serveth”
M. KATHARINE BENNETT
JOHN E. CALFEE
A. J. McKELWAY
L. H. HAMMOND
MIRIAM L. WOODBERRY
WALTER C. RAUSCHENBUSCH
COUNCIL OF WOMEN FOR HOME MISSIONS
New York, N. Y.
Council of Women for Home Missions
Hope. Inspiration. Trust.
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All Rights Reserved, Including The Right To ReproduceThis Book Or Portions Thereof In Any Form Whatever.
I. The Call To Service by M. Katharine Bennett
II. In City Industries by Grace Scribner
III. In Mountains & Mills by John E. Calfee & Alexander J. Mckelway
IV. Among Negro Laborers by Lily Hardy Hammond
V. In Lumber Camps & Mines by Miriam L. Woodberry
VI. Justice And Brotherhood by Walter Rauschenbusch
About Crossreach Publications
More From Walter Rauschenbusch
Family of Cotton Pickers, Oklahoma
Women Packing Salmon
A Road in the Mountains
Worker in Modern Cotton Mill
Model Teacher’s Home
School Farm, Brunswick County, Virginia
Development of a Lumber Camp
Mining in the Streets of Nome
Courtesy of Nat. Child Labor Com.
Family of Cotton Pickers, Oklahoma
Those who labored with such desire and earnestness for the selection of a theme for the textbooks for 1918–1919, that should present not only a vital but a paramount issue to the church at this time when only great realities and issues claim serious thought, chose better than they knew when they elected Christianity and the World’s Workers.
It is generally conceded that the most decisive single factor in the world contest today is that of Labor. That there is always danger of over emphasis by any group having the power in the body politic is axiomatic.
It becomes therefore even more important now than when the theme was suggested (nearly two years ago) for our church constituency to address itself to such a study of economic relationships as shall open the way for a more complete understanding of the fundamental rights and facts involved, that a basis of thinking may be attained whereby the mutual welfare of all society may be advanced along the line of a Christian democracy.
“Christian” because the body of influence set in motion by Christ is the greatest spiritual force in the life of humanity, and upon it depends the world’s hope for redemption from oppression, injustice and war.
At the outset of our thinking on this theme we might profitably seek a definition of the term “Christianity,” for this word which calls so inspiringly to millions of people carries a sinister reminder of pogroms and persecutions to millions of others. The Rev. Dr. Charles Jefferson of New York City, says:
“Christianity is a large word, and it cannot be defined in a sentence for the reason that it is used in different meanings by different persons, and also by the same person on different occasions, and for different purposes. In one sense Christianity is the example and teaching of Jesus Christ. What he is and what he taught constitutes pure and undefiled Christianity. To know what Christianity is we must look at Jesus Christ and study his fundamental principles.
“But the religion of Jesus Christ has been in the world 1900 years and has worked itself out into a mass of institutions and ceremonies and creeds. All of these taken together are often called Christianity. For instance, the Christianity of the United States would include the whole universal church in the United States, with its worship and its achievements.
“While Christianity in the narrower sense must commend itself to everybody’s heart, Christianity in the larger sense has many imperfections, and is capable of many reformations and improvements.”
The rapidly increasing participation of women in all forms of industry is apparent to everyone. Mrs. Hilda Richards, Chief of the Woman’s Division of the Federal Department of Labor, says: “Assuming that the duration of the war is three years, it is safe to say that the increase of women in industry will be doubled and amount to three millions in this country.”
The Council of Women for Home Missions in sending forth this latest volume of its Mission Study Books does so with the eager hope that it may serve to interpret women in their various forms of service to each other, and be another influence in making Christianity the keystone of the changing social order.
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.”—Genesis 3:19.
“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”—2 Thessalonians 3:10.
“What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”—Ecclesiastes 1:3.
“Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?”—Ecclesiastes 3:22.
“The labour of the righteous tendeth to life.”—Proverbs 10:16.
“For we are laborers together with God.”—1 Corinthians 3:9.
“Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”—Matthew 11:28.
“While we are fighting for freedom we must see, among other things, that labor is free; and that means a number of interesting things. It means, not only that we must do what we have declared our purpose to do—see that the conditions of labor are not rendered more onerous by the war—but also that we shall see to it that the instrumentalities by which the conditions of labor are improved are not blocked or checked.”—President Woodrow Wilson in his speech before American Federation of Labor, November, 1917.
“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” is a condition common to mankind: the few who in comfortable dependence may stand aside careless of the work-a-day world do not alter the truth that for most of the human race life is made up of days of toil and hours of weariness; for the many the struggle for food, clothing and shelter is the issue of paramount and pressing importance; it drags at life’s larger impulses, hampers and stifles the yearning for higher things. Those who work for wages that allow no margin of ease so outnumber the well-to-do that their problems are significant of the constant modifications in the life of the nation; they are the basis of its economic and political structure and on their welfare rests its permanency. Their misfortunes may strike at the root of social institutions; their prosperity will be reflected in the whole political organism; their standards will permeate the ethical life of the nation. Fifty million of the people in the United States, one-half of its population, live in communities of less than 2,500 inhabitants. Labor’s problem is, therefore, not a sectional one, confined to any part of the country, but is the problem of the city, of the small town, of the rural region.
During 1916 and 1917 questions relating to labor have been scarcely second in public interest to those connected with the war, for the problems that beset those who strive in the economic warfare are more widespread than ever, while at the same time labor’s unrest becomes of ever keener importance to the country as a whole. The overwhelming need of production, the necessity for adaptation of service to new accomplishment would of themselves emphasize labor’s importance, but when to these is added a general dislocation of labor, the result is of bewildering effect. Then, too, the path of labor is being trodden by feet unaccustomed to its roughness and its steeps are being climbed by a great new and untried army of workers. Economic and patriotic pressure alike are drawing into the industrial group many whose activities have been bounded by the home, or who have rendered unremunerated service. As the Army and Navy have been recruited from among all the people of the country, so labor is recruiting itself from all ranks and from all parts of the land, and the readjustments necessary to the new economic conditions will be felt in isolated communities and among secluded peoples who may fail to connect their vexing uncertainties with the great events of the national life.
But the working through of time-long plans goes on, and more and more comes the realization that “the frustrations of circumstances are but episodes” that must be met by the peoples of a period as they contribute their share to world making.
Unfortunately the word “labor” is today being so generally translated in terms of organization that many fail to associate problems of sweeping scope, presented by great bodies of workers, with the daily difficulties of small communities or isolated individuals. The swift current of the world’s great movements, however, drives back eddies which reach into remote coves and bays and which engulf many who are ignorant of the source or sweep of the irresistible forces at work.
Highly organized labor has a strength and power that scattered and unorganized units cannot have, but in this very strength lies a menace to labor itself. The American Federation of Labor alone reported in 1917 a membership of 2,371,434. The official co-operation of so large a group is decidedly well worth the winning, and agencies of all kinds exert pressure to assure themselves of the sympathy and the votes of a body that is representative of labor throughout the United States. The endorsement of the Federation carries with it a countrywide, although unofficial, propaganda and it therefore attracts the most active effort on the part of those desiring endorsement. For example: “The liquor problem is being considered by organized labor as never before, largely because of the industrial situation produced by the war, and also because the question of food supply makes the liquor problem of supreme importance. For some time the liquor men have been trying to capture the labor movement. Already quite a number of State central labor unions have voted in favor of the liquor traffic because of the urgent request of bartenders and brewery workers.” Great numbers of the members of the Federation are opposed to the liquor traffic, and the American workingman is on the whole sober, yet a sectional question involving one type of workers can be made to misrepresent American labor and to seem to secure a backing for a great agency of evil.
Since the outbreak of the Great War the attitude of organized labor has been the subject of much discussion, for it has found in its hands the power to so clog the wheels of industry as to greatly impede, if not to stop, the war. “They form the army behind the battle line,” and when a testing time comes, no one need doubt that labor will meet its opportunity finely and splendidly with that devotion that is characteristic of American manhood. Among the disturbing rumors and discussions of the day it may be well to remember the fair summing up of the case made by John A. Fitch, who forbids that organized labor in its motives be differentiated from other groups. He says: “Labor is patriotic, but its patriotism is like that of nearly everyone else. Most of us are patriotic at heart, but we seldom are willing to make anything less than a supreme sacrifice for our country. It doesn’t seem worth while. Short of that we go about our business in the usual way.” Organized labor alone can express itself concretely; it vocalizes the ambitions not only of its own group but of labor in general, and those outside of its ranks share in the results of its efforts. During 1915–1917 the demands of labor increased wages greatly; this increase raised the cost of production; the increased cost of food, clothing, etc., led to new requests on the part of labor. In the summer of 1917, “The Department of Labor at Washington estimated that, as compared with January, 1915, the average daily wages per man had increased 38 per cent in the cotton-manufacturing industry and 53 per cent at the iron and steel mills. These industries were typical in this respect of many others.”
We are yet too near the economic uncertainties of 1917 to have the perspective for a final word, but it is possible to suggest a few of the forces that, combining with the immense demand for war production, are magnifying in the national life the place and attitude of labor.
One of the first effects of the war felt in the United States was the cutting down of the number of immigrants arriving at her ports. The warring nations of Europe in 1914 and 1915 called home the reservists of their armies, and, by the tens of thousands, able-bodied workmen laid down the pick and shovel, stopped the looms, drew the fires and answered the call of their mother country. In 1913 there were 843,000 more aliens admitted to this country than departed; in 1915 “the arrivals of European aliens in this country, immigrant and non-immigrant, were exactly 16,900 short of departures”; in the year ending June 30, 1917, the official figures show a total of aliens admitted of 362,877; the net gain for that year was, however, only about 200,000.
The peoples furnishing the largest number of immigrants for 1917, in numerical precedence, were:
It is interesting to make a few comparisons with 1914 as follows:
The economic life of this country has, for years, been built on the basis of a large and ever-increasing supply of unskilled labor; the newer immigrants have mined the coal, laid the railroads, felled the forests, built the subways, tunneled the mountains; as each group has pushed its way to a larger economic independence, its work has been taken over, not by its own Americanized sons, but by a group of more lately arrived strangers from over the sea. Man labor has seemed inexhaustible in supply and of small value. Suddenly all this has changed; the source of supply has been closed. Southeastern Europe needs her own men, and industry in the United States finds itself facing a shortage of that type of labor which has been doing the fundamental work that made other labor possible.
Off to the Front
While industry was trying to readjust itself to the difficulties caused by a curtailed immigration, the United States entered the war, and approximately a million young men were called to the camps; these came from every form of labor; the farm, the shop, the mine, transportation, offices, colleges shared alike in the embarrassment of necessary readjustments. A walk about the business sections of any city or large town where service flags are displayed, suggests the widespread shiftings occasioned by the calling of the men to the colors. In some cases 50% of the employees of a business have been taken. In readjusting the work to such conditions those remaining who have had some experience and who show adaptability are necessarily pushed upward to man the more important positions, thus again tending to emphasize the shortage of unskilled labor.
Simultaneously with the lessening of immigration and the formation of the new United States Army, industry became greatly stimulated and especially along certain lines. These later became of paramount importance and it became of immediate necessity that labor should be recruited for their equipment. Huge munition and gun plants sprang into existence as though by magic and demanded thousands and tens of thousands of workers, skilled and unskilled; the need of clothing and equipment for a million men stimulated factories to the nth degree of production; food supplies, not only for this country but for its allies in Europe, called for increased agricultural forces; lumber for great cantonments and for a fleet of wooden vessels sent new forces to the forests—everywhere an inordinate activity has resulted. But labor is needed not only for these new, or freshly stimulated lines of work; they in turn must be supplied with raw material, and there has resulted a great chain of awakened industries; food must not only be produced, it must be conserved; factories call for metals and for coal, and mining becomes a vital part of the whole process; cotton and wool pass into the insatiable maw of looms and the work of the farm increases; yet the demand is ever for “more, more.” The raw material must reach the factory or workshop; the finished product must go to the consumer; transportation, by land and sea, requires large groups of workers. Directly and indirectly an uncounted multitude must serve if the needed supplies shall reach those who have taken on themselves the grim responsibility of soldierhood.
No large group of unemployed existed in the country in 1914; the withdrawal of those who returned to Europe and of those who have gone to form the National Army brought about an acute labor situation. The usual activities could not continue and the new ones be supplied with workers; there became necessary the transference of labor from the less necessary forms of production and its replacement in new groups. Such a change must come—in many instances plants will be altered to meet the new needs arising daily because of the war, and labor thus remain fixed in location while producing essential rather than non-essential articles; in other cases there will be necessary the diversion of labor geographically as well as industrially. “There is no reason for a decrease in the total value of goods manufactured, but they must be products having a direct or indirect relation to the present necessities of the nation.” The result has been a serious dislocation of labor; the shiftings and realignments have caused general confusion, bringing new social as well as economic problems.
But shifting of labor has not been enough to meet the new situation—an added supply of labor has become necessary if the wheels of industry are to turn.
We are apt to feel that the entrance of women into gainful employment is a new factor brought about by Nineteenth and Twentieth Century conditions. Women have, however, always been a part, and an important part, of the industrial system of this country. They not only have not been “doing men’s work” or “driving men out,” but have been urged and pressed into this service. As colonial records show, the colonist fathers, economists and political leaders, believed it better for women to be employed in factories than to live in even comparative idleness, and their pressure, as well as that of necessity, began a system that has grown and developed with the years.
“In 1794 when Trench Coxe found it necessary to reply to the argument that labor was so dear as to make it impossible for us to succeed as a manufacturing nation and that the pursuit of agriculture should occupy all our citizens, he at once called attention to the fact that the importance of women’s labor must not be overlooked, since manufactures furnished the most profitable field for its employment. And in the early part of the last century, a new factory was called a blessing to the community among other reasons, because it would furnish employment for the women of the neighborhood. Later it was said that women were kept out of vice simply by being employed, and, instead of being destitute, provided with an abundance for a comfortable subsistence.”
From colonial days to the present there has been a steady growth both in the numbers of women employed and in the list of occupations open to them. This increase, before the present war “has been only normal, considering the rate of increase in population, in the group of industrial occupations designated in the census as manufacturing and mechanical pursuits, while there has been a disproportionately large increase only in the occupational group trade and transportation.”
The statistics of women who in 1910 were employed in gainful occupations is of interest, especially as showing a generally unguessed distribution in the various forms of labor. The census of that year showed 8,075,772 women employed, as follows:
Agriculture, animals, etc
The group that has principally attracted legislative attention is the second—manufacturing. This is because those thus employed work in groups, and thus become officially articulate, and also because they compete to some extent at least with men, both organized and unorganized. The first and third groups, while numerically rivaling the second, are made up of those whose work is more individualistic. The workers in these groups do not, in their capacity as workers, mingle with large groups similarly employed, and their relations to their employers have remained of a much more personal character than is the case in the factory.
The influences causing readjustment in man labor will of necessity bring about changes in the woman group. The demands of the war will more and more curtail the production of luxuries and cause the concentration of labor on things vital to present conditions. In the manufacturing group this fact will bring many shiftings; but as large numbers of men will be withdrawn from this group, the women remaining therein will be subjected to a disproportionate amount of readjusting. Even then, however, it is probable that there will not be found within the group enough workers to supply the demand. This will probably be equally true of group 3, “Agriculture, Animals, etc.,” because of the food demands. The present tendency would indicate that group 1, “Domestic Service,” will lose large numbers who will go to fill the vacancies in groups 2 and 3. An interesting by-product of the war is thus suggested, as much shifting in this direction would necessitate vital changes in the customs and manners of social life. Personal comfort and desire will, however, give way before national need, and American womanhood, whether served or serving, will cheerfully readjust itself to changed conditions.
But there will come—is coming as we write—not only regroupings among those already employed in gainful occupations, but an entrance into the field of profitable employment by large groups of women who have heretofore remained outside the ranks of labor, many being of those who have served in volunteer work. European countries have had to call on their women to aid largely in work specifically allied to the war, and to share in service outside of the homes. There is, perhaps, to be no more interesting by-product of the Great War than this larger entrance of women into industry and all that it may presage of social and economic change.
In England there are today about 1,256,000 women who have taken work formerly done almost wholly by men, raising their employment total from about 3,282,000 to 4,538,000. This total employment does not include domestic servants, women in small shops or on farms, or nurses in military, naval or Red Cross hospitals. Over 200,000 are now engaged in agricultural labor. Still more are employed in the great war-time industry of munitions-making. How vast that industry has become is indicated by the fact that the Ministry of Munitions is now employing 2,000,000 persons and is spending nearly $3,500,000,000 a year.
The same process of substitution of female for male labor has naturally obtained in Germany, while France, also, now depends largely upon her women in the factories, as well as on the farms.
These women will go in large numbers into kinds of work that have heretofore been mainly in the hands of men. As we go to press, a few women street car conductors and taxi drivers are taking the places of men; some cities are trying women as postmen; elevator boys are being replaced by girls; railroad yards are finding women satisfactory as workers, while factories of all kinds are utilizing ever larger groups of women. There seems at this time no line of employment that per se is closed to women because of sex, and the possibilities of another twelve months are beyond prophecy.
This situation is not peculiar to any one part of the country; the stress of national life is drawing the people of all parts and those of all races into the maelstrom. The ever-widening circles of demand are reaching into the retired village, into the mountains and the valleys; all of life is being stirred by the new national consciousness that is springing from a common danger and a common aim. The South, that fifty years ago was forced to adjust itself after an upheaval of the foundations of its social and economic life, is again face to face with a need of readjustment. Negro labor, feeling the present unrest, is moving in great groups to the North and West; New England is feeling the cutting off of immigrant labor and is calling women to man its factories; the West finds its labor seized with a new restlessness and looks forward with uncertainty. The Government sends out over the country its call for 10,000 trained women for service in the departments—everywhere are stirrings, shiftings, readjustments.
In all of this there is a wide and an interesting field for economic discussion; we are, however, especially concerned with that phase as it relates to the moral and spiritual life of the workers. From the marvelous shiftings and realignments of the time there must evolve new spiritual values as well as new social and economic situations. The church of Christ cannot stand aside from a situation of such grave importance. Its relationship to individuals in the great groups affected insures an abiding interest in the perplexities that beset those individuals in their work-a-day lives, as well as in the final solution that may evolute from the turmoil of the day.
Christian women may well study deeply and think carefully of the changing lives of hundreds of thousands of workers, many of whom are women, and those mostly young women. Many of these are bewildered and distressed by the enforced absence in the army or navy of the breadwinner, by a new necessity of self-support, or because this support must be gained under new conditions; others are excited and exhilarated by the break in the routine of life. Both groups are uncertain, tentative: they are in an impressionable and therefore precarious attitude. The very natural reaction to new environments and new conditions will be that they shall free themselves from the past, and that they shall make for themselves lives unhampered by customary restraints, and therefore they need to receive a message which will make clear to them the seeming chaos of the present-day world.
One industry alone may illustrate the new situation: munition works have been built in communities where existed only a small margin of extra labor; to supply workers for these plants operatives have been drawn from a wide circle of towns; in most cases no provision for housing or caring for these new workers was provided before they appeared—the result has been difficult for the men; for the girls there has been a situation fraught with real danger. The Y. W. C. A., by a few experimental boarding houses and recreational centers, has shown the need and possibilities of caring for these groups of unassimilated workers who may be drawn into a community, but neither the Association nor any organization can meet all the needs. Christian people who live adjacent to such problems must study them and find the solutions therefor.
A virile Home Missions may well concern itself with the problems of labor; it has ever been its responsibility to search out the lonely or the neglected, to minister to those whose way is difficult, and to those who are facing new and untried conditions. Home Missions has also an ever-widening conception of the scope of its service in a new cooperation with the economic and social life of men, with their physical as well as their spiritual well-being. It preaches a gospel that presages a broader and truer interpretation of the brotherhood of man. There is no greater service for Home Missions than that it shall interpret the Fatherhood of God to those whose feet often stumble as they pass on the path of labor.
A Call to Church Women
In January, 1917, the Council of Women of Home Missions, composed of the representatives of sixteen Woman’s Boards of Home Missions, feeling keenly the alienations that were recognized, placed itself upon record in the following statement:
“The Council of Women for Home Missions wishes to bring to the attention of its Constituent and Corresponding Boards the urgent and increasing need of a more intelligent and sympathetic understanding between the women of the church and the women in industry. It is happily true that many women in industry are at the same time women of the church and that many of the women who are members of the church are already deeply interested in the social and economic problems which especially affect women; but we must admit with heartfelt sorrow that a division into classes along this line exists among the women of our country and that it is difficult to bridge the gulf that separates them, since there is good reason to fear the women in industry believe that a lack of comprehension of their problems and a failure to co-operate in solving them mark the attitude of the women of the churches.