due more or less to historical causes outside industry.
The absence of any system of control over industrial
INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION 73
and sanitary conditions undoubtedly left many factories
to become centres of disease, overwork and moral
corruption, and the victims of this misgovernment and
neglect are a reproach that can never be wiped out.
On the other hand, later experience has shown that
decent conditions of work are easier to secure in factories
than in small work places, owing to greater publicity
and facility for inspection. The very fact of the size
of the factory, its economic importance, and its almost
dramatic significance for social life, caused attention
to be drawn to, and wrath to be excited by, evil con-
ditions in the factory, which would have been little
noticed in ordinary small work places.
The initiation of the " great industry " resulted in
a kind of searchlight being turned on to the dark places
of poverty. State interference had to be undertaken,
although in flat opposition to the dominant economics
of the day, and the better sort of masters were impelled
by shame or worthier motives to get rid of the stigma
that clung to factory employment. Now the girl-
worker has profited by this movement in a quite
remarkable degree. Domestic service is no longer her
only outlook, and the conditions of domestic service
have probably considerably improved in consequence.
Her employment is no longer bound up with personal
dependence on her own family, or personal servitude
in her employer's.
The wage contract, though not, we may hope, the
final or ideal stage in the evolution of woman's economic
position, is an advance from her servile state in the
mediaeval working class, or parasitic dependence on
the family. The transition thus endows her with
greater freedom to dispose of or deny herself in
marriage, and is an important step towards higher
74 WOMEN & THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
racial ideals and development. Grievously exploited
as her employment has been and still is, the evolution
of the woman wage-earner, her gradual achievement
of economic individuality and independence, in how-
ever limited a degree, is certainly one of the most
interesting social facts of the time. The remarkable
intelligence and ability of Lancashire working people
was noticed by Mrs. Gaskell in Mary Barton, as long
ago as 1848. And to this day the Co-operative Move-
ment and the Trade Union Movement flourish among
Lancashire women as they do not anywhere else. The
Workers* Educational Association draws many of its
best students from these women who toil their ten
hours in the mill and use their brains for study in the
evening after work is over.
STATISTICS OF THE LIFE AND EMPLOYMENT
No very detailed or elaborate statistics will be here
employed, the aim of this chapter being merely to
draw attention to certain broad facts or relations
disclosed by the Census and the Registrar-General's
The Surplus of Women. It is a well-known fact <
that in this country women exceed men in numbers.
The surplus increased slightly but steadily from 1851 to
1901, and remained almost stationary from 1901 to 1911.
In 1901 and 1911 there were in every 1000 persons 484
males and 516 females. The excess of females varies
at different ages. The number of boys born exceeds
the number of girls in a proportion not far from 4 per
cent, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.
But boy infants run greater risks at 'birth and appear
to be altogether more susceptible to adverse influences,
for their death-rate is usually higher up to 3, 4 or 5
years old. The age-group 5 to 10 varies from time to
time ; in 1901-1910 the average mortality of girls was
the higher : in 1912 the average mortality of boys was
very slightly higher. From 10 to 15 the female death-
rate is higher than the male.
76 STATISTICS OF THE LIFE
The age-group 15 to 20 shows very curious variations
in the relative mortality of males and females. From
1894 onwards the males of that group have had a higher
mortality than the females, whereas previous to that
date the female mortality was the higher, in all years
of which we have a record save two 1876 and 1890.
The Registrar-General can suggest no explanation of
this phenomenon. 1 It may be remarked, however, that
girls generally now obtain more opportunity for fresh
air and physical exercise than in former years, which
may account for some of their comparative improvement
in this respect ; also that in the industrial districts a
great improvement has taken place in the administra-
tion of the Factory Act since the appointment of
women inspectors and the general raising of the
standard after the Act of 1891, and girls may naturally
be supposed to have profited more by this improved
administration than have youths of the other sex, who
are not included under the Act when over 18 years,
and in many cases pass into industries unregulated by
The following table shows the death-rates per 1000
of male and female persons in England and Wales,
1913, and the ratio of male per cent of female mortality
at age periods, as calculated by the Registrar-General.
1 Registrar-General's Report for 1912, p. xxxvii.
AND EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN
DEATH-RATES AT AGES, 1913.
Ratio M. per
As might be expected from these figures, the Census
shows that males are in excess of females in very early
life, but are gradually overtaken, and in later years
especially men are considerably outnumbered by
women. The disproportion of women is mainly due
to their lower death-rate, but also in part to the fact
that so many men go abroad for professional or com-
mercial avocations. Some of these are accompanied
by wives or sisters, but a large proportion go alone.
The disproportion of women is more marked in town
districts than in rural ones. This may be partly due
to the lower infant death-rate in the country, for a high
rate of infant mortality on an average affects more
boys than girls. But no doubt the large demand for
young women's labour in factories and as domestic
78 STATISTICS OF THE LIFE
servants is another cause of the surplus of women in
towns. In rural districts there is a surplus of males
over females up to the age of 25. The disproportion
of women does not show any marked tendency to
increase except among the elderly, the preponderance
becoming increasingly marked towards old age. It
would overload this chapter too much to give figures
illustrating the changes in the last half century ; those
who wish to make themselves acquainted with the
matter can refer to the very full and interesting tables
given near the end of Vol. VII. of the Census, 1911.
Marriage. The preponderance of young women,
though not very considerable in figures, is, however,
in fact a more effective restriction of marriage than
might be expected, because women are by custom more
likely to marry young than men, and thus the numbers
of marriageable young women at any given date ex-
ceed the corresponding numbers of men in a proportion
higher than the actual surplus of young women in
The old-fashioned optimistic assumption that women
will all get married and be provided for by their
husbands, cannot be maintained. It is possible, how-
ever, to be needlessly pessimistic on this head, as in a
certain weekly journal which recently proclaimed that
" two out of every three women die old maids.'* If
we are to regard marriage as an occupation (an idea
with which, on the whole, I disagree), it is still the most
important and extensively followed occupation for
women. In 1911 over 6| millions of women in England
and Wales were married, or rather more than one-half
the female population over 15 ; and considerably more
than one-half of our women get married some time or
other. In middle life, say from 35 to 55, three-fourths
AND EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN
of all women are married. In early life a large pro-
portion are single ; in later life a large proportion are
widows. Or we might put it in another way. From
the age of 20 to 35, only two out of every four women
are married, nearly all the rest being still single, and
a very small proportion widowed ; from 35 to 55, three
in every four women are married ; over 55, less than
two in every four are married, most of the others having
become widows. The proportion of women married
has increased since the previous Census, but has de-
creased slightly at all ages under 45.
The following table displays the proportion married
and widowed per cent of the different age-groups.
55- 6 5
If the figures were drawn in curves, it would be seen
that the proportion of single women falls rapidly from
youth onwards, and is quite small in old age ; that the
proportion married rises rapidly at first, remaining
high for 20 or 30 years, and falls again, forming a broad
mound-shaped curve ; while the proportion widowed
rises all the way to old age.
It will be seen that, even on the assumption that all
wives are provided for by their husbands, which is by
80 STATISTICS OF THE LIFE
no means universally true, a very large proportion of
women before 35 and after 55 are not thus provided
for, and that an unknown but not inconsiderable pro-
portion never marry at all. In the case of the educated
middle class, as Miss Collet pointed out in 1892, the
surplus of women over men is considerably above the
average, and consequently the prospect of marriage is
less in this than in the working class. " Granted an
equal number of males and females between the ages
of 1 8 and 30, we have not therefore in English society
an equal number of marriageable men and women.
Wherever rather late marriage is the rule with men
that is, wherever there is a high standard of comfort
the disproportion is correspondingly great. In a dis-
trict where boy and girl marriages are very common,
everybody can be married and be more or less
miserable ever after : but in the upper middle class
equality in numbers at certain ages implies a surplus
of marriageable women over marriageable men/' 1
In some quarters the adoption of professions, even
of the teaching profession, by women, is opposed on the
ground that women are thereby drawn away from
marriage and home-making. It is difficult to under-
stand how such an objection can be seriously raised
in face of the facts of social life. The adoption of
occupations by women may in a few cases indicate a
preference for independence and single blessedness ;
but it is much more often due to economic necessity.
It is perfectly plain that not all women can be main-
tained by men, even if this were desirable. The women
who have evolved a theory of " economic independence"
1 " Prospects of Marriage for Women," by Clara Collet, Nine-
teenth Century, April 1892, reprinted in Educated Working Women,
P. S. King, 1902.
AND EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN 81
are few compared with the many who have economic
self-dependence forced upon them. Human nature is
far too strong to make it credible that any large number
of women will deliberately decline the prospect of
husband, home and children of their own for the sake
of teaching little girls arithmetic or inspecting in-
sanitary conditions in slums. If a woman has to
choose between marrying a man she cares for and
earning her own bread, I am sentimental enough to
believe that nearly all women would choose the former.
The choices of real life are seldom quite so simple.
When a woman has to choose between an uncongenial
marriage and fairly well-paid work, it is quite likely
that nowadays she frequently chooses the latter. In
former days the choice might easily have been among
the alternatives of the uncongenial marriage, the
charity, willing or unwilling, of friends and relations,
and sheer starvation, not to mention that even the
bitter relief of the uncongenial marriage, usually avail-
able in fiction, is not always forthcoming in real life.
The case grows clearer every year, that women need
training and opportunity to be able to support them-
selves, though not all women will do so throughout life.
Occupation. If we have any doubt of the fact that
there is still " a deal of human nature " in girls and
women, we have only to compare the Census statistics
of occupation and marriage. We have already seen
that the numbers married increase up to 45. As the
number married increases the number occupied rapidly
falls off. The percentage of women and girls over 15
who are occupied was, in 1911, 35.5 ; an increase of
i.o since 1901.
This does not, however, mean that only a little
more than one-third of all women enter upon a trade
STATISTICS OF THE LIFE
or occupation. In point of fact a very large pro-
portion are workers in early youth, as the following
tables show. In order to illustrate the relation of
occupation to marriage, we place the two sets of figures
side by side.
2 4 -2
35-45 24-1 75-3
45-55 23-1 70-9
55-65 20-4 58-4
The highest percentage of employment therefore
occurs at the age of 18.
The next table shows the proportions of workers in
AND EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN 83
WOMEN AND GIRL WORKERS OVER TEN YEARS OLD.
Per cent of Total.
Over 49 per cent of the total are under 25, and are
therefore in ordinary speech more commonly termed girl
than women workers. The rise in the proportion
married compared with the drop in the proportion
occupied as age advances, indicates how strong the
hold and attraction of the family is upon women.
Conditions in factories are undoubtedly improved ;
many a girl of 20 or 22, perhaps earning i8s. a week,
with her club, her classes, her friends, and an occasional
outing, has by no means a " bad time." On the other
hand, the life of the married woman in the working
class is often extremely hard, taking into account the
large amount of work done by them at home, cooking,
cleaning, washing, mending and making of clothes, in
the North also baking of bread, tendance of children
and of the sick, over and above and all but simultane-
ously with the bringing of babies into the world. More-
over, the working girl is not under illusions as to the
facts of life, as her better-off contemporary still is to
some extent. Taking all this into consideration, the
Census results shown above form an illuminating
STATISTICS OF THE LIFE
testimony to the strength of the fundamental human
The distribution of women in occupations illustrates
both the deeply rooted conservatism of women and,
at the same time, the modifying tendency of modern
industry. The largest groups of women's trades are
still their traditional activities of household work, the
manufacture of stuffs, and the making of stuffs into
clothes. Two-thirds of the women occupied are thus
Per cent of
Domestic offices and service
It is convenient to picture to oneself the female
working population as three great groups : the
domestic group, the textile and clothing group, and
the other miscellaneous occupations, which also form
about one-third of the total. Now, while it is true
that the two former groups, the traditional or con-
servative occupations of women, are still the largest,
they are not, with the exception of textiles, increasing
as fast as population, whereas some of the newer
occupations, the non-textile industrial processes that
have been transformed by machinery and brought
within the capacity of women, are, though much
smaller in numbers, increasing at a rapid rate. The
following table shows the change from 1901 to 1911
in the most important industrial groups including
AND EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN
women. It should be read bearing in mind that the
increase Of the female population over 10 in the same
period is 12.6 per cent.
ENGLAND AND WALES, 1901-1911.
Occupations of Women
Domestic offices and
Dress . .
Food, drink, and lodg-
Paper, books, and sta-
tionery . .
Metals, machines, etc. .
Increase of female popu-
lation over 10
But even with the occupations I have dubbed
" conservative," or traditional, modern methods are
transforming the nature of the work done by women.
The statistical changes in the so-called domestic group
are an interesting illustration of the changes we can
see going on in the world around us. Note especially
the tendency towards a more developed social life
outside the home indicated by the large percentage
increase in club service, hotel and eating-house service ;
the tendency to supersede amateur by expert nursing,
shown in the large increase in hospital and institutional
STATISTICS OF THE LIFE
service ; and the slight but perceptible tendency for
household work to lose its domestic character. Not
only do the charwomen show an increase much larger
than that of the group total, while the domestic indoor
servant has decreased, but a new sub-heading, " day
servants," has had to be introduced. The laundry is
fast becoming a regular factory industry, and shows a
decrease in numbers, no doubt due to the introduction
of machinery and labour-saving appliances.
CHANGES IN EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN IN CERTAIN
Hotel, eating-house, etc.
Other domestic indoor -\
servants . . . !
Day girls . . '
College, club, etc. .
Cooks, not domestic
Textiles, which as a whole have increased exactly
in proportion to population, show a great variety in
movement. The following shows the movement in
the numerically more important groups.
AND EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN
Winding, warping .
Spinning . . .
Hosiery . ...
Lace . . *.
In " Dress " the most noticeable feature is that in a
decade of rapidly increasing wealth and certainly of no
diminution in the feminine tendency to adornment
and display, the numbers of dressmakers decreased
by a few hundreds. Tailoresses, on the other hand,
increased considerably more than the increase in
the whole group, and " Dealers " also show a large
increase. The Census unfortunately throws very little
light so far on the development of the various factory
industries for making clothes, and the Factory Depart-
ment statistics are now so considerably out of date as
to be of little value. In default of further information
we may guess that a very considerable economy of
methods has been effected in the making of women's
clothes by the introduction of machinery and the
factory system, and that some of the large mass of
customers of moderate incomes are tending to desert
the old-fashioned working dressmakers and buy ready-
made clothes, which have noticeably improved in
88 STATISTICS OF THE LIFE
style and quality in recent years. But the older-
fashioned methods probably hold the larger part of the
field, even now.
The increasing employment of women in metal
trades is certainly a very remarkable feature of the
present Census, the numbers having jumped up from
63,000 to 101,000 in ten years. The cycle and motor
manufactures, which employed less than 3000 women
in 1901, employed not far short of 7000 in 1911. Nearly
all the small groups and subdivisions of metal work
show an increase of female employment. For instance,
women employed in electrical apparatus-making in-
creased from 2490 in 1901 to over 9000 in 1911.
The whole subject is one of great interest, as illustrat-
ing the progress of the industrial revolution in the trades
affected, but is impossible to treat here at length.
The Reaction of Status on Industry. In spite of the
increased range of occupations open to women, it must
be added that the position of woman is a highly in-
secure one, and that she is considerably handicapped
by the reaction of status on occupation. We have seen
that while most women work for wages in early life,
their work is usually not permanent, but is abandoned
on marriage, precisely at the time of life when the
greatest economic efficiency may be looked for. On
the other hand, the superior longevity of women and
the greater risks to which men are exposed, leave many
women widows and unprovided for in middle or even
early life. Some women are unfortunate in marriage,
the husband turning out idle, incompetent, of feeble
health or bad habits, and in such circumstances women
may need to return to their work after some years'
cessation. But factory industries and indeed nearly
all women's occupations make a greater demand for
AND EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN 89
the young than for the middle-aged or old. Wages are
supposed to be based upon a single woman's require-
ments. Even if the destitute widow or the deserted
wife can succeed in obtaining fairly well-paid work,
there emerges the difficulty of looking after her home
and children simultaneously with doing work for wages.
The ordinary view of the subject is that a woman
need not be paid as much as a man, because her require-
ments are less, and she is likely to be partially main-
tained by others. The question of wages will be dis-
cussed in a later chapter, but it may here be pointed
out that the facts revealed by the Census show that
the status of women is a very heavy handicap to their
economic position. Normally, women leave their
occupation about the time when they might otherwise
expect to attain their greatest efficiency, and those
who return to work in later years are under the dis-
advantage of having spent their best years in work
which by no means helps their professional or industrial
efficiency, though it may be of the greatest social
usefulness. If a woman cannot expect to be paid more
than the commercial value of her work when she has
children entirely dependent on her, it seems incon-
sistent that she should be expected to take less than
the value of her work when she is partially maintained
at home ; surely the wiser course would be to strive
to raise the standard of remuneration so as to benefit
those who have the heavier obligations.
The same kind of thoughtless inconsistency is seen