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Children who have not been to a secondary tech-
nical school have to attend classes at least twelve
hours a week. Certain minimum sanitary condi-
tions are exacted, and inspectors are appointed to
see that the law is obeyed. At the present day some
of these inspectors are women.

In 1895 was passed a Workmen's Protection Act,
by which employers are compelled to compensate
workmen for injuries received while in their em-
ployment. In case such injuries should result in
permanently unfitting the injured person for work,
or in death, the employer is required to guarantee
his ability to pay the necessary compensation by in-
suring his workmen with approved companies. By
a law passed in 1902, sailors on board Finnish ships
are placed in a similar position. Sickness insurance
is not compulsory.

It must be admitted that Finnish industrial legis-
lation requires much improvement. But the fault
lies not with the Finns but with the Russian Govern-
ment, which has refused to sanction many Bills
passed by the Finnish Diet with the object of bet-
tering the position of the working classes. What
Finland is aiming at in this respect may be seen
from the Bakeries Law of 1908, which is one of the
very few pieces of legislation the Single Chamber
Diet has succeeded in getting through. This law,
confines work to weekdays and forbids night-work,
i.e., between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. ; establishes a forty-


eight hour week; permits of not more than 120
hours* overtime per annum, overtime being paid 50
per cent above the usual rate; provides for the in-
spection of bakeries ; prescribes strict sanitary con-
ditions, and makes offenders against all these pro-
visions liable to fines of from 10 to 700 marks.
Hotels and pensions come under the operation of
this law, as well as bakeries. The law is thus an
excellent piece of work, and as soon as Finland is
free to carry out her own wishes in the matter she
will doubtless pass more industrial legislation on
the same lines.

Meanwhile she does what she can. A permanent
exhibition has been established for the showing of
all the latest inventions for the protecting and safe-
guarding of workmen in the workshop, factory and
mine, and Miss Vera Hjelt, its chief promoter, looks
forward to the day when factory-life shall be made
so safe that " there need be no danger that we
should not be prepared to share with the manual
labourer." At the same time a considerable social
reform literature is growing up in Finland, typical
of which are such books as Miss Hjelt 's investigation
of the standard of living among the industrial
workers, with its rich statistical material, and the
same writer's study of seamstresses. Although of
great interest to residents in Finland, these books
are too detailed to attract the foreign reader who
is not something of an expert, and therefore will
not be described here. "With reference to the former
book, however, it may be of general interest to
point out that the average income of the 350 families


investigated was about 65, of which about four-
fifths was earned by the head of the family. The
main items of expenditure were as follows :

Per Cent.

Food 55.4

Housing ... ... ... ... ... 12 .4

Clothing ... 11.8

Heat and light 4.1

Prices are rising here as elsewhere, and usually at
a higher rate than wages. Two hundred and fifty-
nine of the families managed to live on their earn-
ings, while 91 families were forced either to bor-
row or to encroach on their savings not a very sat-
isfactory state of things.



IN many ways the year 1899 marks the beginning
of a new era in the history of Finland, and will
be looked upon by future chroniclers as a turning-
point in the national life. Not only was it the year
in which the russianization of the country seriously
began, with its profoundly disturbing effect on the
entire nation, but it was also the year which saw the
birth of a self-conscious Labour movement which
seems destined to influence in a far-reaching manner
the whole future development of the country. It is
true that a number of working men's associations
existed as early as the eighteen-eighties, but it was
only in 1899 that an organized Labour party came
into being, as the result of a congress at Abo. A
Finnish Socialist explains the late development of
the movement by saying that it could not arise before
the National movement had " paved the way of edu-
cation for the lower ranks of the nation. . . . The
rise of the social question is nothing but the second
step in our nation's great process of awakening and
development which the National movement began."
But if the Labour movement came into being late,
it has made up for this by the rapidity of its growth.



This is mainly due to the unquiet period which gave
it birth, though it may also be remarked that ideas
and movements seem to spread through small na-
tions with a rapidity far above what is usual in large
nations. Both the russianization and the resistance
to russianization added fuel to its fire. Bobrikoff
prepared a way for it by his contempt for law and
tradition, which helped to destroy old sanctions in
the minds of the people. On the other hand, the pas-
sive resisters, by initiating the great national ad-
dress of protest to the Tsar and other movements in
which the people as a whole shared, did much to
make the masses of the people politically conscious.
To these two factors must be added a third
namely, the growth of the revolutionary movement
in Eussia during the Eusso-Japanese War, which,
in this stormy period, inevitably reacted on Fin-
land. Both in Eussia and Finland the autumn of
1905 brought a crisis to a head, and in either case a
General Strike was the deciding factor. The strike
in Eussia forced the Tsar to concede the Duma ; the
strike in Finland induced him to restore the Con-
stitution and enlarge its basis.

The General Strike in Finland had a double char-
acter. It was aimed primarily against the Eussian
oppressors of the country, but it also took on the
aspect of a rising of labour against capital, and was
followed by a considerable bitterness of class feel-
ing, which was accentuated by the occurrence of an
outbreak in which a few persons were killed. The
success of the strike, in which the Labour leaders
naturally had a large share, together with the mil-


lennial hopes that floated in the air both in Eussia
and Finland during that wonderful time, brought
the Labour cause forward with a rush. The adop-
tion of universal suffrage deepened the class-con-
sciousness of the manual workers, and the result
was a Socialist triumph at the polls in the first elec-
tion under the new system. 1

But although the circumstances we have men-
tioned account for the suddenness and the rapid de-
velopment of the movement, they could not have had
such an effect if the soil had not been ripe for them.
The real cause of the hold taken by Socialism lies, as
we saw, in the conditions prevailing in the country-
side the existence of a large number of persons
who own no land and the precarious position of
many of the torpare, or tenants. It follows from
this that Finnish Socialism has its chief strength not
in the towns but in the country. Of the 48,000 mem-
bers of the party in 1912, only about one quarter
were town-dwellers. From this, again, it follows
that trade unionism has had less to do with the
movement than in most other countries. It stands
to reason that there will be comparatively little
trade union organization where there are few towns
and few factories. As industry develops, however,

1 The rapid growth of the movement may be illustrated by a
few figures. In 1899 the membership of the Social Democratic
party was 9,446. In 1908 it had risen to 71,266. It is true that
by 1912 it had sunk to 48,406, but this does not imply a corre-
sponding loss of influence in the countrry, as is proved by the
fact that the percentage of Socialist votes to the total poll has
risen steadily, since the election of 1907, from 36.7 to 40.1 per
cent., and the deputies elected from 80 to 86 in a House of 200.
In 1912 the party had no less than 1,450 branches.


this state of things is being modified, and there is
every reason to think that trade unions have a prom-
ising future. The working classes in Finland realize
instinctively how important the solidarity of the
people is in their struggle for better conditions, and
this is the best of bases for the common action which
trade unionism implies.

The capacity of the Finns for common action is
strikingly shown by the success of the Co-operative
movement, which flourishes especially among the
Finnish-speaking population. In 1899 some enter-
prising persons founded Pellervo, a society for the
propagation of the co-operative principle among
the peasantry. Thus, co-operation in Finland did
not, as in most other countries, originate from the
independent initiative of the working classes, but
was the result of a deliberate propaganda. Pellervo
did a great work of education in preparing models
for co-operative societies, training and sending out
lecturers, publishing books, issuing tracts, insti-
tuting travelling libraries and helping the peasants
to start co-operative associations. Moreover, some
of its members had previously paved the way for
the success of the movement by agitating for a law
of co-operation, which was sanctioned in 1901.

The most important branches of co-operation in
Finland are dairies, banks and stores. All these
have proved very successful. There are also many
other kinds of co-operative undertakings, such as
societies for the purchase of thrashing machines and
moss litter, for the buying and selling of eggs, for
the procuring of telephones, for the acquisition of


land, the securing of steamboats for inland traffic,
etc. In the towns there are co-operative bakeries,
restaurants, etc. In addition to the local societies
there are four large central societies, including one,
named Valio, for the sale of the members' butter.
In 1906 20 per cent of the butter exported from
Hango came from Valio, and in 1909 the amount had
risen to 42 per cent. It is interesting to note that
banks are relatively few where big properties exist,
relatively numerous where small holdings are com-
mon. Some idea of the extremely rapid growth of
the movement may be gained from the figures given
in the footnote. 1 Of its importance to the country
there can be no question, and its value is not merely
economic but educational and ethical. Punctuality,
orderliness and business habits are fostered. The
principles of scientific farming are learned and the
mind is brought to bear on problems of organization
and management. The sense of responsibility is

1 The co-operative dairies in 1903 numbered 75, with a mem-
bership of 5,500 and a sale of 3V2 millions of marks. In 1908
there were 343 dairies, 33,200 members and the sales had risen
to 29 millions.

No. of No. of Loans in Millions

Banks. Members. of Marks.

1903 ... 24 500 .04=
1908 ... 308 11,900 3.10

No. of No. of Sales in Millions

Stores. Members. of Marks.

1903 ... 71 13,000 6

1908 ... 495 100,000 52

The central societies show a similarity rapid growth.
In 1909 87 per cent of all the co-operative societies were in
the country, only 13 per cent in the towns. The membership is,
however, relatively greater in the towns. The number of co-
operators per 1,000 inhabitants is about 50 for the entire pop-


developed, and the sense of social solidarity. The
peasant through co-operation enters into a wider
mental and moral life, and is led to realize how
ultimately he may come to be the master of his own

The Finnish Socialists are strictly Marxist, and
their programme is based on the Erfurt programme
of the German Socialists, from which it differs but
slightly. The movement is still crude in many re-
spects, having developed far too rapidly. Many
who profess Socialism most eagerly can hardly be
supposed to have grasped its implications. Its
Parliamentary representatives have sometimes put
forward schemes which showed an incapacity to
grasp the actual conditions of Finnish economy. It
seems, moreover, to an outsider, that class hatred
has been preached to an extent that mny endanger
Finland's unity of action and blind people to an
objective view of things. Class hatred was suf-
ficiently embittered in the days following the Great
Strike, and it is surely a dangerous policy to further
play on this feeling. It may also be suggested that
the movement would not suffer by developing the
spirit of poetry alongside the spirit of economics,
and by insisting on the responsibilities of the
workers as well as on their rights. Nevertheless,
however much one may regret certain developments
among the Socialists, the movement has much to its
credit side. Its organization is wonderfully good
and its enthusiasm for education inspires confidence.
The "People's Houses" which exist in many Fin-
nish towns are a real tribute to the solid qualities of


those from whom they have sprung. That in Hels-
ingfors is particularly fine. It is the headquarters
of the Socialist party and also of the trade unions,
most of which have their head-offices there. There
is a fine spirit of comradeship about the place. In
the great hall, one of the largest in Helsingfors,
first-rate concerts can be heard at a very low price.
The party has instituted all over the country a great
many societies for spreading popular enlightenment,
including libraries and reading-rooms, dramatic and
musical societies and sports clubs. It also owns a
considerable Press, including six dailies, the most
important of which is Tyomies (The Working Man).
Previous to 1905 there were but few Socialist
papers, while to-day their combined circulation is
over 135,000.

There is a good deal of indignation and pessimism
among the upper classes on account of the startling
development of the Socialist movement and the
acutness of its class feeling. One cannot help the
reflection, however, that in the Socialist movement
the upper classes are to some extent reaping what
they have themselves sown. The violence of party
feeling between the Fennomans and Svekomans in
the past caused both of them somewhat to neglect
the material well-being of the people, while their
preaching of hate against each other paved the way
for the preaching of hate between class and class.
Probably, however, the situation is not so bad as
people fear. The Finnish peasant moves very
slowly, and, although there may be some Syndicalist
feeling in parts of the country, Labour unrest is not


likely to break out seriously, unless stimulated by
some outside event, such as a revolution in Russia.
Meanwhile, future trouble might be saved if Labour
and Capital would try to meet, not as opposing
parties in a law-court but as human beings. No
lasting agreement can be reached where the two
parties do not make a genuine attempt to under-
stand one another and to enter into each other's
lives and difficulties. This is unusually difficult in
Finland, owing to the obstinacy of the national char-
acter and the extreme self-righteousness of the
opposing parties, unsoftened by any feeling which
might prompt them to regard each other as men and
brothers. To say that a thing is difficult, however,
is not to say that it is impossible, and there are
among the upper classes of Finland plenty of peo-
ple who have the welfare of the working classes
genuinely at heart and love the people, not merely
as statistical units, but for their own sake and be-
cause they know their lives. From such people the
basis of an understanding might arise. Only an
unimaginative person will discern in the Labour
movement nothing but the crudities of its green-
sickness and remain blind to the inspring idea of
the manual workers of a nation alive to their com-
mon interests, united in pursuing them and deter-
mined to avoid, if possible, the grosser evils of
industrialism as existing in most other countries.

We may conclude by quoting Snellman's aphor-
ism: "Every loosened bond at first brings the froth
to the surface of a nation's life. It is through the
exercise of freedom that people learn its use."



THE Feminist movement in Finland has not been
without its heralds in literature, and before
speaking of it in its practical aspects it may be
well to glance at the life of the 'remarkable woman
who in her novels and plays best embodied the new
ideals and aspirations of women.

Minna Canth was born in 1844 at Tammerfors.
Her father, who some years later moved to Kuopio,
where he kept a store, was comfortably off. Minna
was educated at a Swedish school in Kuopio, with
the intention of becoming a schoolmistress. In 1863
she went to Jyvaskyla, where the first Finnish col-
lege for the training of elementary teachers had
just been opened. Two years later, at the age of
twenty-four, she married one of the teachers. At
this point a life which had hitherto been happy was
overclouded. Her husband proved to be a narrow-
minded tyrant, without the slightest perception of
his wife's character and abilities. She was not
allowed to have a servant or even to see people
freely, and she had to dress according to her hus-
band's instructions. In 1874, however, her husband
became editor of a paper, and Minna did most of the



work on it, developing a fine literary talent. But
when she wrote an article against the misuse of
brandy, the proprietor of the paper, who owned a
distillery, dismissed her husband. An important
event in her life about this time was the visit of a
theatrical company to Jyvaskyla, which filled her
with the desire to write plays she had never seen
a play before. In 1879 her husband died. She was
left a widow with seven children, the youngest of
whom was born nearly seven months after the hus-
band's death. She returned to Kuopio and took to
the business her father had formerly carried on.
She served behind the counter and meanwhile did
as much writing as she could. As her business
prospered for she was a most capable woman
she devoted more and more time to literature and
the drama. As a Finnish writer says: "When she
stood in her shop busied with her daily toil to earn
her bread, the visitor did not guess, unless he knew
it beforehand, that he had before him one of the
most important personalities in Finnish literature.
But if he crossed the threshold of her hospitable
home he was met by a breath of real culture of ideal-
ism and of European civilization. "

The best introduction to her works is to be found
in her comments upon her own life: "When, as a
young mother, I stood before life's most sacred
claims, irresolute, more ignorant than any so-called
uneducated woman, I learned profoundly to despise
and condemn the miserable thing which is called
woman's education, that delusion which goes by the
name of woman's culture. I place the responsibility


for every bad mistake I made in looking after the
children, for every dearly-bought experience, on the
wretched system of education which, instead of pre-
paring woman for life, drives her helplessly astray.
And when at last I had succeeded in acquiring the
power to fulfil the duties that a quiet life in a secure
position demands of a mother, I and my children
were suddenly deprived of our support. Then once
more I stood irresolute, unprepared, alone respon-
sible for a large family, although my mind had never
been made to realize such a possibility, still less been
given an insight into it, while, to v crown all, I found
most of the sources of income which are open to men
were closed to me as a woman. With a body very
weak from the birth of many children following
closely one upon the other, ill, miserable, weighed
down by trouble and anxiety, I saw before me a life
of poverty and need, perhaps meanly sustained by
humiliating alms and charity, and this not only for
myself but for the many little ones to whom I had
given life. In desperation I grasped instinctively
at the first best expedient, or rather, the only pos-
sible one I could find, and thus took to trade, with-
out capital and without knowledge. In spite of this,
I was successful, owing to a combination of favour-
able circumstances and the gradual return of my
health and strength. The crisis was past, but I had
issued from it with my eyes open not only to what is
false in woman's position in society, but also to
various other social injustices and wrongs. It is
not any light-headed lust of destruction, but the
hard serious realities of life, that urge woman and


the workman to opposition against society as it now
is. And as the cause lies deep, they will not know
of any retrogression or reaction before they have
reached the goal of their striving. No reference to
'existing conditions/ i historical evolution' or 'politi-
cal wisdom' can compel them to continue to endure
injustices, so long as they are not given the right,
by participating in legislation, to try to reshape
these conditions and themselves to exercise influence
on the course of historical evolution."

It is easy to see from the above what was the con-
tent of Minna Canth's novels and plays. The titles
alone are enough to indicate it "Poor Folk," "The
Workman's Wife," "Voices of the People," "The
Unfortunate." Her themes are that there is one
law for the rich and another for the poor, one law
for the man and another for the woman. She gave
voice to the awakening social consciousness of the
time and thus acted as a powerful inspiration both
to the woman's movement and, in a lesser degree,
to the Socialists. Women, especially, speak of her
in terms of the utmost veneration and affection.

Judged purely as literature, her work must be said
to suffer from the intensity of its propagandist
spirit, which causes her at times to strike a false
note and sacrifice considerations of art. Neverthe-
less there is a power about her and a sincerity and a
sanity which makes her characters and situations
vividly alive and caused her plays to arouse a bitter
fury of opposition.

Such is the woman who typifies the more serious,
determined and large-hearted side of Finnish worn-


anhood. We may now take a leap over intervening
years and consider the harvest that sprang in part
from the efforts she inspired.

On July 20, 1906, was promulgated in Finland the
new law of the Diet which gave women the political
franchise on the same terms as men ; and in March,
1907, the first election took place on the basis of
the new law. Finland was thus the first country in
Europe which made the experiment of women's suf-

To understand the motive that induced Finland to
make this experiment, both general and particular
circumstances must be taken into account. The main
general circumstance is to be found in the unusually
large share taken by women in the life of the nation.
This, in its turn, is chiefly due to the fact that Fin-
land is a poor country, and has hitherto been unable
to afford the luxury either of a large non-producing
class or of a large number of idle women. When
Nature is niggardly and the struggle for existence
hard, both men and women must work. The women
of the lower classes do their full share, whether on
the farm or in the factory, though especially on the
farm, where they not only tend the cattle and help at
haymaking and harvest, but often do such rough
work as ploughing and hedging and ditching, besides
taking part in such different pursuits as fishing and
building, and burning the forests to make fields. If
we turn from lower to middle class women, we find
the same principle in operation. It is regarded as
natural and right for them to earn their living, and
an idle woman is apt to be looked at askance. Of


middle-class women a large number are engaged in
commerce. They hold positions in banks and busi-
ness houses as clerks and cashiers to an extent that
astonishes the foreign visitor, who also learns with
surprise the number of women who are doctors,
dentists, architects. Women have also thrown
themselves with enthusiasm into the work of educa-

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Online LibraryArthur ReadeFinland and the Finns → online text (page 16 of 22)