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a grievance discussed in terms of abstract rights; every case
was discussed not as an ethical but as a technical problem.
For example, a worker reported to a shop chairman that her
foreman was treating her unfairly. In the trade union
office, it was not the foreman's fairness or unfairness but
his technical competence that came under review. What
was the technical difficulty behind the grievance? The
union representative went to the shop. He found that the
sleeve-lining trimmers were making insufficient allowance
for the fold-over at the armhole seam and as a result, the
lining stitcher had been pulling the lining so that it gathered
and wrinkled the sleeve. He called this fact to the fore-
man's attention. With the correction of faulty technique,
the grievance disappeared.

Let me transcribe a note or two from the union files :

The under-collar basters in Nash Company Shop Number 2
were having a little trouble with their work. Not being able
to find the cause of it, the shop chairman asked the business
agent to look into this matter. Upon investigation, the business
agent found that the collars were too long so that the workers
could not baste them. He suggested that the collar pattern
be shortened and sitting down with the workers, basted a
few of the collars in order to show them the correct way to
baste them. The collars are now coming out O.K. . . .

In the vest shop, the pocket-tackers complained that they
were blamed for the pockets not being well made, having
holes in the corners, and the lining showing at the end of the
pockets. Upon investigation, business representatives found
that the section before them, i.e., the pocket-setters, were
cutting pockets in too deep, which the welt could not cover
when tacked. The pocket setters were shown how to avoid
this error. . . .

In the pants shop, the right fly-stitchers complained that
there was not enough work for the two workers that made
up that section. This was a complaint of long standing. The
union was called in and we suggested that this work be com-
bined with the lining sewing section, thereby eliminating extra
handling and having four people doing the combined opera-
tions instead of five. The fifth worker was placed on other
work where she could earn as much or more than in her
old job.

EVERY day for a week, I dropped in at the union's
office and never did I fail to find them discussing tech-
nical problems the solution of which would obviate griev-
ances, eliminate waste, improve quality, increase skill and
justify maximum wages. The effect of the union's in-
sistence upon sound technique is observable not only among
the workers but also in the president's office.

There lies before me a letter written by a "humble
worker" and inspired by the falling off in demand for Nash
clothing which, for the first time, occurred during the winter
of 1926-27. It reveals both the hold of Arthur Nash's per-
sonality upon his employes and, more particularly, the moral
effect of the union's insistence that the success of the busi-
ness, from both owner's and workers' points of view, de-
pends upon good workmanship. A passage in the letter
runs :



There is a former Nash salesman located in a mid-western
Ohio city of 65,000 people who, because of poor workmanship,
felt compelled to give up his agency and take on the line of
another tailoring house. In telling me about it, his eyes fairly
blazed with wrath as he said: "I believe that Arthur Nash is
a religionist hypocrite. He has succeeded in advertising his
business from one end of this country to the other by preach-
ing the Golden Rule, yet he is not Golden Ruling the cus-
tomers who wear Nash clothing. . . .

Well, in defending Mr. Nash against this man's unjust
accusation, I think that I convinced this man that Mr. Nash
was absolutely sincere, but that the fault lay with his sub-
ordinates whom he must trust to look after the details of
putting the work out right. . . .

There is the case of the Methodist Episcopal minister who
purchased a two-pants sack suit with the leg seams of both
pair of pants so twisted around to one side that no pressc'
could make them look presentable. He was wearing the suit
when he told me about it and I know it was right. . . .
We must not forget that every time a special order job is
rejected, we are losing a customer. And it doesn't end there.
Each one of these dissatisfied customers has friends who get
to know about it. . . .

There will come a time, no telling how soon, when our
reputation for inferior workmanship will make it exceedingly
difficult to obtain orders. Then there will be curtailed pro-
duction, shorter work weeks and shorter pay all the time.
This thing I am discussing inferior tailoring is unquestion-
ably the one weak spot in our whole business organization,
especially since Mr. Nash now has our other affairs well in
hand. No one knows this better than Mr. Nash. . . .

The worker who finds that his tendency is to speed up his
work, just to slap it through anv old way, in order to handle
as many .garments as possible for what it may mean to him
on pay day, should realize that extreme selfishness prompts
such an act. ... I cannot ignore the fact that foremen and
their assistants are largely responsible for the inferior tailor-
ing of the past. . . . There is little doubt but that Mr. Nash
suspects that the responsibility for inferior work is to be
shared by the foremen and production workers alike. This
is indicated by his talks which were directed to every one con-
cerned. He has not picked out the foremen for direct cervsure
any more than he has picked upon we workers. In this, he
has played fair, just as was to be expected of him. At the
same time, Mr. Nash knows that it is we workers who handle
and perform the actual operations on these garments. Might
it not, therefore, be perfectly natural for him to entertain a
private opinion that the greater blame should lay against we
workers? . . .

Now that we know just what is wrong and the cause of
it, there is no use for anyone to attempt passing the buck. . . .
The first essential is one that may be termed our "attitude
stunt." Knowing that if the person has the right attitude
toward what he is trying to accomplish he will make far
more speedy progress than when a wrong attitude of mind
is working against him all the time .... the first step is for
each of us to find an honest answer to this one question:
What is it that I have formed the habit of doing what are
the temptations to which -I have been yielding that could
possibly cause me to do imperfect work?

Our union manager has truthfully said that it is just as
easy to run a straight seam as a crooked one. . . . The second
essential follows naturally enoueh. It is for every man worker
to say to himself when he picks up a garment: "Here I am
now working on something that I, myself, will own and
wear. Now that all these other xvorkers are putting quality
into every move they make, all I need do is to see that my
work is right, then I will have a garment of which I need
not be ashamed when I step out in well-dressed company."
Every woman worker should say to herself: "I am now
helping to make a garment for my father, husband, sweet-
heart, or brother, as the case may be, and I must do my little
best to have this job right." How many dissatisfied cus-
tomers do you suppose we would have if all our workers
assumed this sort of an attitude toward their jobs? . . .

And here is something that should concern every one of
us very much, both as individual (Continued on page 184)




Adventures

in
Philanthropy

By OLIVE A. COLTON



the age of twelve I resolved to be a phil-
anthropist. My sister and I had a nurse
who was in love with a turnkey, and quite
unknown to my parents she would walk us
over to the jail. While she cast her charm
over her suitor we children carried on happy
little chats with the prisoners. One old woman always
began to cry when she saw me, until a girl would swear
at her, quite unpleasantly it seemed to me, and then she
would continue munching burnt cornbread off a tin plate.
This may not have been an ideal playground, but I have
never regretted those few afternoons behind the bars, and
by my father reading aloud Dickens every evening, a little
of the meaning of the word poverty was dawning upon me.
So much so, in fact, that a compelling interest forced me
to pay stolen visits to the spot known as "Smoky Hollow,"
where children lived with whom I was not allowed to
play. My admiring acquaintance with them was limited
to a long absorbing stare, as I stood on the corner ready
to make the best possible use of my feet should ogres issue
forth to grab me.

One Sunday I heard a sermon, The Greatest of These is
Charity, and afterward I noticed through the open window
a dirty, ragged girl carrying a dirty, ragged baby. Instantly
the minister's words flashed upon me. Here was my op-
portunity to emulate the philanthropists he had praised for
giving money to the poor, and opening my shell-purse,
a valued souvenir of Niagara Falls, I left the penny for
the contribution-box and drew from my riches the remain-
ing nickel, which I tossed to her. My heart swelled with
pride: I was Benevolence at full-tide. Fancy my consterna-
tion when she hurled it back at me with fury. My pomposity
instantly collapsed. I was no longer a Philanthropist:
I was a frightened, humiliated, little girl who was learning
the beginning of that long, baffling lesson, "the righteous
considered! the cause of the poor."

From an aristocrat in her best frock, sitting of a Sunday
morning in the best church, I became a democrat on the
afternoon walk with my beloved father, which always ended
in a visit to his freighters at the docks. His policy of treat-
the-men-like-men-and-they'11-be-men or like-dogs-and-they'll-
be-dogs made him welcome among the longshoremen and
down-and-outers, whose perennial joke was his comment in
a dull season, "Well, here comes the Gault with only half
a cargo and two kinds of pie." As we sat on the piles
waiting, I overheard those rough men exchange such
remnants of wisdom as floated up from the wrecks of their
lives and their discussions impressed but puzzled me.

151



MISSOURI LIBRARY CC




The Visiting Nurse 1890 style



So-called charity work interested me more every year,
and I served on several relief committees where, like
Atropos, I wielded confident shears over the lives of the
destitute. At Christmas we wanted everybody to be happy
and thought having lots to eat on one day in the year would
make them so. In a True Charity Society I carried a lily
to what was later found to be an opium den ; and I per-
suaded the guests of a summer hotel to furnish a shack for
a tubercular family in spite of the fact that I knew they
had put their contaminated mattress on top of the clean one.

I was much impressed by an English charwoman, who
"broomed the 'alls at Banker Davis'" and who wished to
be laid out in the decent crape brought from Birmingham
forty years before. In giving me her alley address she ex-
plained, "It's not a 'ome Miss, it's just a shelter," and her
dignity and courage gained by comparison with some of her
employers whose torpid minds rested in the belief that all
honest, industrious workers have enough to live on if they
are thrifty. She was living proof of the reed of old-age
pensions, though at the time no one in Ohio had even
dreamed of them.

Once a week I visited hospital wards, and there lingers
in memory a wretched creature, bedridden five years, who
asked eagerly for a fashion-sheet as she did want to see
what the styles were; and at the Old Ladies Home, a
victim of spinal trouble who, amid the chronic complaints
of those able to be up and about, repeatedly assured me
that she had every comfort.

THROUGH trying to help individuals I soon progressed
to organized charity with card indexes, and my maiden
venture on a board of charity was with a Day Nursery.
A company gave us the use of an abandoned house near
the factory. I helped tack down the carpet so zealously
that I was in bed for a week. We begged tables and chairs,
while clocks came from far and near, the fact not deterring
the gift that they had not gone at home and probably would
not get a new start merely by change of scene. As a
member of the house committee, my part was to go over
the matron's accounts with another member who scrutinized
every cent. Perceiving my lack of attention as to whether
the matron had or had not spent a dime too much in Mis-



152



ADVENTURES IN PHILANTHROPY



cellaneous, she exclaimed: "My husband says I save him
many a penny." This I did not doubt, and as he was
head of the company which had given the house, we
bore like sycophants her daily criticisms. At that time
it seemed a beautiful thought to have the children
watched over while "the poor mothers" went to work.
The army of them starting out every morning ^f
seemed part of the regular order of the universe.

Eighteen friends came to my home in 1902 to
form the Nurses' Aid Society, that the King's
Daughters' visiting nurse might be supplied
with comforts for the sick poor. This group J
grew so rapidly that it was soon able to have
its own nurses, but later, to avoid confusion
in the public mind and to make for efficiency,
it united with the King's Daughters and then
with the Thalians, whom it had persuaded to
start a nursing service for the tubercular. The
organization is still prospering as the District
Nurse Association. Instead of being mere !
angels of mercy caring for the sick, they soon
came to be expected to teach hygiene and
diagnose the family trouble. This enabled them
to do the preventive work that would afterward
lift more families to the level of normal living. In
those early days I had an instant solution for
every problem and it is just possible that much
of the Association's success was due to its not tak-
ing all the advice so freely offered. Three ex-
periences of those years linger vividly etched on my mind.

I recall going with the nurse to the hovel of a woman
who was cruel to her blind, crippled mother. She refused
to let me in, and for some time we shouted through the
door. Finally she opened the door into as filthy a room
as Victor Hugo ever described. Her defense was that her
mother was "an awful chore" ; my contention that a mother
had an "inherited right" to a daughter's care.

The second experience was with a woman whose drunken
husband terrorized the neighborhood as Jack the Peeper.
After much delay she was persuaded to swear out a warrant
against him, and the humane officer was to be at the police
station to help her. That afternoon each informed me the
other had not kept the appointment, and this happened
a second and a third time. En route to the woman's home
I composed a particularly fine speech of reproof. But it
was never delivered, for when I found her in bed and asked




Miss Co/ton

starts for
Smoky Hollow




They organized "to comfort the sick poor" of Toledo and grew into



why she had not kept her word, she merely turned down
the cover over a new-born babe. Finally securing the war-
rant, she refused to testify against her husband and he was
discharged. Fear of his threats made her prefer the old
evil to new terrors. Later one child lost two fingers play-
ing on the railroad track, in the absence of city play-
^k. grounds, and when another developed typhoid I
took it, with her consent, to the hospital. Though
I knew she had good care and it seemed her only
chance of recovery, her sudden death was laid
at my door, and I became in that neighborhood
a kind of friendly murderer. In those days,
victims of typhoid died by God's will or the
machinations of the Devil, I being the lat-
ter's emissary.

The third experience was with a grateful
washwoman whose invalid husband had long
been under the nurse's care. Her youngest
child was an epileptic and as he required
constant attention, the nurse finally took him
to the State Institution. There the mother paid
him happy visits, and though my part had been
but to write the letter for his admission, the
mother remained under the misapprehension that
I had unlocked the door and kept the bread and
cake in his mouth there, and every year on the an-
niversary of his departure she left at my door a
bouquet from her little garden, my absence in
Europe not deterring her.
Lest any one think that my youthful connection with the
Social Service Federation was that of a pioneer, allow me
to record that I was not in the preface or the first chapter,
and when I entered at the end of the second chapter it was
not, I regret to admit, to help the organization but to wish
upon it my particular troubles.

At six one morning in 1904, I was phoned by St.
Vincent's Hospital that a patient whom I had asked them
to take from the Infirmary the day before, had died, and
as the mortuary chapel was being painted they asked me
to make immediate disposal of the remains. An hour later
the woman's brother insisted that she was very much alive
at the Infirmary, from which she had long begged to be
taken. But the ambulance-men, to the consternation of that
institution, had removed in her stead a dying woman, who
quickly passed away and just escaped being buried under
the wrong name. Having seen in the newspaper that a
group of charity workers was to meet that
afternoon, I went to ask what could be
done to prevent the repetition of such hor-
rors. While waiting to speak my own
little piece, I heard them explain that the
purpose of the meeting was to establish
a central clearing-house for all the charities,
and then and there I resolved to let the
dead bury the dead and to remain to hear
about their plans for the living. When
I joined them they had given up two of
their customs, the opening prayer and the
concluding refreshments, so you can judge
for yourselves what had been the advan-
tage of being a pioneer.

Whatever my titles, my real role was
that of Official Worrier. I rose early with
plans for the Federation, and I thought



ADVENTURES IN PHILANTHROPY



153



of them in the hours around midnight. I talked anxiously meeting, for in addition to the salary, which seemed



to my friends about them and like the Ancient Mariner
I told the story to whom ever would listen.

There is no time to tell of the disappointments, the hopes
deferred, and the growing pains of our many mistakes. It
was "uphill all the way," a la Christina Rossetti, but
the spirit of some of the workers made it an enlarg-
ing experience. The first president was equally
loved by rich and poor and her pocketbook was
a kind of Federal Reserve to stabilize the credit,
for the Federation had banked first in a bureau-
drawer. A friend gave the use of a room in
her building, partly from generosity and partly
to keep us from talking to her any more on
the subject, and there a charity worker was
installed at the princely salary of fifty cents

morning. The rounds of the furniture



stores were made so successfully that there
were forty chairs to rest on until our laurel:-
should be ready. But at regular intervals there
was a rumor that the Federation was dying,
and the financial breath of life was kept with
difficulty in its frail body. When its vitality wa>
particularly low and there was only $1.69 to pay
the month's bills of $150, the women gave. a fair.

Probably the masculine mind cannot comprehend
why through all the ages women have given fairs for
the lost causes that they wanted to find again. Per-
haps it has been because until recently so few women
have had their own check-books that they just had to get
out their needles and rolling-pins. That fancy-work and
delicatessen sale nourished the cause for a few months
longer. The astonishment when there were two more
dollars in the bank than the treasurer could account for
is still reflected in the minutes for that day, and when the
Shriners sent the Federation a check for $375 it seemed
we had become a world power.

If the public was loath to accept the new plan, the
charities themselves were no less reluctant. They feared
to lose control, and races and religions looked askance at
each other. Perhaps there is strength in union because in
the difficult process of uniting, all the latent weaknesses
arise and must be overcome. However, some of the most
unwilling societies saw the benefit when the Thalians
proposed a joint tag-day, the money to be divided equally
among the enrolled organizations. There were so many
diverse opinions that the meetings were
never dull, for the representative of the
Adams Street Mission could be counted
upon to maintain the affirmative on all
questions painfully slowly, but no less
painfully persistently, while the delegate
from the Day Nursery upheld the negative
tart retorts. It was after, one such
prolonged dialogue that a member re-
marked that it was easy to have charity
for the poor the hard part was to be
charitable toward the other workers.

As the work became better understood
some thought they could rest on their
laurels but, alas, this turned out to be rue.
The president had visited the Federation
in Baltimore and suggested that a trained
worker be engaged. This broke up the




\V orrier



staggering sum, there was the added difficulty of under-
standmg just what a trained worker was. Hadn't th-
supermtendent given her life blood to the work? Didn't
she know personally every man, woman and child in
loledo? Did we expect to put charity on a cold busi-
ness basis, and instead of bread for the hungry ask
them questions about their ancestry? While as
for records, was it not in the Bible you should
not let your right hand know what your left
was doing? It was well and good in theory
but there was too much red tape. Yet here it
must be told that the faithful service given
by that superintendent can never be forgotten
by those who saw it year after year. With
her own troubles unspoken, she heard so
patiently and so kindly all day long those who
came, and she tried to help them so wisely,
that she actually seemed to make her own
burdens less by taking those of others upon
her. One swallow may not make a summer,
but one little frail woman tor many a weary
month made a Federation.

Then a rumor grew that a wealthy citizen had
been making inquiries about the Federation, and
some business men thought that, as in Cleveland,
the Commerce Club should elect representatives to
the board. When they eventually did that and the
big financial worries of that little group were over,
we had the sensations of mothers and fathers when they
see the offspring they struggled to raise and could scarcely
afford to educate, come down the aisle on the arm of a
good man able to support her.

By this time I was promoted, or demoted, from my usual
office of vice-president of various associations, to their ad-
visory boards. I was glad to help establish the Luella
Cummings Home for Girls. One winter a Child Welfare
Exhibit required much of the thought and time of an old
maid, expected to plan it from the standpoint of both mother
and child, and naturally the Red Cross enlisted my sym-
pathies to do a bit during the War. But two incidents had
made a decided change in my ideas and the evolution of
thought, or what I like to believe was evolution, turned
my attention to preventive measures.

First, Mrs. Florence Kelley of the National Consumers'
League, pointed out in an address in Toledo the respon-




the District Nurse Association



efficient in 1927



154



ADVENTURES IN PHILANTHROPY



sibility of consumers for the working conditions of those
\vho make and distribute the things we use, and she spoke
of the prevention of sickness and misfortune through good
wages, shorter hours and wholesome surroundings. Her
description of the benevolent woman who gave much of
her income to help children in New York, when the
dividends really came from child labor in the cotton mills
of the South, would not go out of mind, particularly as
I was enjoying just then a little extra from some coal stock
of a company that had refused to give its miners a living
wage.

SECOND, the seeds of woman suffrage were germinat-
ing. One day I had gone to a mysterious office in the
Court House to appeal to the relief agent for needy families.
This official drank, and according to his condition each day,
he would give the bread of life or withhold it. Much
disturbed, the District Nurse Committee had returned
home to ask fathers, husbands, brothers and sons why they
had voted to put such a man in office. It then developed



Online LibrarySurvey AssociatesThe Survey (Volume 58) → online text (page 35 of 130)