Marguerite Stockman Dickson.

Vocational Guidance for Girls online

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intervened between her school training and her final settling in a
home of her own making?

This double question must find answer in consideration of vocations
from each of several viewpoints. We may classify occupations open to
girls (1) from the standpoint of the girl's fitness, physical and
psychological; (2) from the standpoint of industrial conditions, the
sanitary, mental, and moral atmosphere, and the rewards obtainable;
(3) as factors increasing, decreasing, or not affecting the girl's
possible home efficiency or the likelihood of taking up home life; (4)
from the standpoint of the girl's education; (5) from the standpoint
of service to society.

Our first classification concerns the girl's fitness for this or that
work. The everyday work of the world in which our girls are to find a
part may be separated into three fairly well-marked classes: making
things, distributing things, and service. The first question we must
ask concerning a girl desirous of finding work is, then: Toward which
of these classes does her natural ability and therefore probably her
inclination tend? Natural handworkers make poor saleswomen; natural
traders or saleswomen are likely to be uninterested and ineffective
handworkers. The girl whose interests are all centered in people must
not be condemned to spend her life in the production of things; nor,
as is far more common, must the girl who can make things, and enjoys
making them, spend her life in merely handling the things other people
have made, as she strives to make connection between these things and
the people who want them. Then there is the girl who is efficient and
who finds her pleasure in "doing things for people." Service - and we
must remember that service is a wide term, and that no stigma should
attach to the class of workers which includes the teacher, the
physician, and the minister - is clearly the direction in which such a
girl's vocational ambition should be turned.

It would be idle to assert that all women are suited to marriage,
motherhood, and domestic life, although there is little doubt that
early training may develop in some a suitability which would otherwise
remain unsuspected. When, however, early training fails to bring out
any inclination toward these things, we may well consider seriously
before we exert the weight of our influence toward them.
Home-mindedness shows itself in many ways, and it should have been a
matter of observation years before the girl faces the choice of a
vocation. It is usually of little avail to attempt to turn the
attention of the girl who is definitely not thus minded toward the
domestic life. On the other hand, the girl who is naturally so minded
will respond readily to suggestions leading toward the occupations
which require and appeal to her domestic nature. The great majority of
girls, however, are not definitely conscious of either home-mindedness
or the opposite. They are in fact not yet definitely cognizant of any
natural bent. It is these girls who are especially open to the
influence of environment, of what may prove temporary inclination, or
of false notions of the advantage of certain occupations in choosing a
life work. These are the girls, too, who are likely to drift into
marriage as they are likely to drift into any other occupation, and
whose previous vocation may have added to or perfected their
homemaking training or, on the other hand, may have developed in them
habits and traits which will effectually kill their usefulness in the
home life. These, then, are the girls who are most of all in need of
wise assistance in choosing that which may prove to be a temporary
vocation or may become a life work. The temporary idea must be
combated vigorously in the girl's mind. Many an unwise choice would
have been avoided had the girl really faced the possibility of making
the work she undertook a life work. The temporary idea makes
inefficient workers and discontented women.

There is in most cases, especially among the fairly well-to-do, no
dearth of assistance offered to the young girl in making her choice.
Much of the advice, unfortunately, is not based on real knowledge
either of vocations or of the girl. Knowledge is absolutely necessary
to successful judgment in this delicate matter.

From a large number of letters written by high-school girls let me
quote the following typical answers to the question: Why have you
chosen the vocation for which you are preparing?

"Ever since I could walk my uncle has been making plans for
me in music."

"My first ambition was to be a stenographer, but my father
objected. My father's choice was for me to be a teacher, and
before long it was mine too."

"My ambition until my Junior year in High School was to be a
teacher. From that time until now my ambition is to be a
good stenographer. My reason for changing is due partly to
my friends and parents. My parents do not want me to be a
teacher, as they consider it too hard a life."

"I have been greatly influenced by my teacher, who thinks I
have a chance [as a dramatic art teacher]. I am willing to
take her word for it.".

"Mother says it is a very ladylike occupation"

"My music instructor wishes for me to become a concert
player, or at least a good music teacher, and I now think I
wish the same."

These answers all show the customary ease of throwing out advice, and
also the undue significance attached by girls to these probably
inexpert opinions.

Parents often fail in their attempts to launch their children
successfully. Sometimes they attempt unwisely to thrust a child into
an occupation merely because "it is ladylike," or the "vacation is
long," or "the pay is good," regardless of the child's aptitude or
limitations. Quite often they await inspiration in the form of some
revelation of the child's desires, regardless of the demand of society
for such service as the child may elect to supply or the effect of the
vocation upon the child's health or character. Undue sacrifice on the
part of parents has without question swelled the ranks of mediocre
physicians and lawyers and clergymen. It has doubtless produced
thousands of teachers who cannot teach, nurses who are quite unsuited
to the sick-room, and office workers who have not the rudiments of
business ability.

It would seem that truly successful guidance in a girl's search for a
vocation can come, like much of her training, only from wise
co√ґperation of school and home. Teacher and parent see the girl from
different angles. Their combined judgment will consequently have
double value.

As the time of vocational choice approaches, school records should
cover larger ground than before, and should be made with great care,
with constant appeal to parents for confirmation and additional facts.

The record should cover:

1. _Physical characteristics_: Height; weight; lung capacity; sight;
hearing; condition of nasal passages; condition of teeth; bodily
strength and endurance; nerve strength or weakness.

2. _Health history_: Time lost from school by illness; school work as
affected by physical condition when the girl is in school; probable
ability or inability to bear the confinement of an indoor occupation;
any early illness, accident, or surgical operation which may affect
health and therefore vocational possibilities.

3. _Mental characteristics_: The quality of school work; studious or
active in temperament; best suited for head work, handwork, or a
combination; ability to work independently of teacher or other guide;
studies most enjoyed; studies in which best work is done; evidences,
if any, of special talent, and whether or not sufficient to form basis
of life work.

4. _Moral characteristics_: Honesty; moral courage; stability; tact;
combativeness; leader or follower.

5. _Heredity_: Physical statistics in regard to parents, brothers,
sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts; occupations followed by these,
with success or otherwise; family traditions as to work; special
abilities in family noted.

6. _Vocational ambitions_.

7. _Family resources for special training_.

Without some such record as this - and it need scarcely be said that
the one given here is capable of wide adaptation to special
needs - teachers, parents, or other friends of the girl are poorly
equipped for giving advice as to the girl's future. And yet it is
common enough for such advice to be thrown out in the most casual
manner, with scarcely a thought of the ambitions awakened or of the
future to which they may lead.

"You certainly ought to go on the stage," chorus the admiring friends
of the girl who excels in the work of the elocution class. And
sometimes with no other counsel than this, from people who really know
nothing about the matter, the girl struggles to enter the theatrical
world, only to find that her talent, sufficient to excite admiring
comment among her friends, has proved inadequate to make her a
worth-while actress.

"Why don't you study art?" say the friends of another girl; or, "You
like to take care of sick people. Why don't you train for nursing?"
or, "You're so fond of books. I should think you would be a
librarian" - quite regardless of the fact that the girl advised to
study art has neither the perseverance nor the health to study
successfully; that the one advised to be a nurse lacks patience and
repose to a considerable degree; or that the one advised to be a
librarian is already suffering from strained eyes and should choose
her vocation from the great outdoors.

Knowledge of the girl must, however, be supplemented by a wide
knowledge of vocations to be of real value to the teacher or parent
who is preparing to give vocational counsel. Final choice may be
reached only after the girl and the vocation are brought into
comparative scrutiny, and their mutual fitness determined. In rare
cases the choice may be made by the swift process of observing a great
talent which, in the absence of serious objections, must govern the
life work. Oftener the process is one of elimination, or of building
up from a general foundation of the girl's abilities and limitations,
and her possibilities for training sufficient to make her an efficient
worker in the line chosen.

A knowledge of vocations presupposes, first of all, a grasp of the
essentials of the work, and hence the characteristics required in the
worker to perform it. What sort of girl is needed to make an efficient
teacher, nurse, saleswoman, or office worker? How may we recognize
this potential teacher without resorting to a clumsy, time-wasting,
trial-and-error method? These are matters with which schools and
vocational guides all over the country are occupying themselves.
Perhaps we cannot do better than to examine somewhat these
requirements for some occupations toward which girls most often


The girl who is by nature a maker of things may be a factory worker, a
needlewoman, a baker, a poultry farmer, a milliner, a photographer, or
an artist with brush or with voice, or in dramatic work. She is still
one who makes things. We see at once how wide a range of industry may
open to her.

How shall we know this type of girl? First of all, by her interest in
things rather than in people. With the exception of, the singer and
the dramatic artist, whose production is of an intangible sort, the
girl who makes things is a handworker by choice. The extent to which
her handwork is touched by the imaginative instinct of course measures
the distance that she may make her way up the ladder of productive
work. The girl's school record will usually show her best work with
concrete materials. She draws or sews well, has excellent results in
the cooking class, works well in the laboratory. At home she finds
enjoyment in "making things" of one sort or another. She displays
ingenuity, perhaps, in meeting constructive problems. If so, that must
be considered in finding her place.

Handwork for women includes a wide range of occupations. Let us now
examine some of these kinds of work.

[Illustration: _In the packing room of a wholesale house. The
untrained girl finds it easy to obtain factory work_]

_Factory work._ This term covers many departments of manufacturing
industries. In the main, however, they may be classed together, since
in practically all of them the worker contributes only one small
portion of the work incidental to the making of candy, or artificial
flowers, or coats, or pickles, or shoes, or corsets, or underwear, or
anyone of a hundred different products, some one or several of which
may be found in nearly every American town.

The great advantage of factory work, as the untrained girl sees it, is
that it is usually easy to obtain and that it promises some return
even from the start. Hence a large proportion of untrained girls who
leave school as soon as the law allows enter the factories near their

The great disadvantages of factory work, laying aside for a moment
many minor disadvantages, are that it not only requires no skill in
the beginner, but that it produces little if any skill even with years
of work and offers practically no advancement for a large proportion
of the workers. It should therefore, be reserved for girls of less
keen intelligence, and other girls should if possible be guided toward
other occupations.

Teachers must make themselves thoroughly familiar with working
conditions in local factories, since there will always be girls who,
because of their own limitations or the limitations of their
environment, will find themselves obliged to take up factory work.
Under the teacher's guidance girls should make definite studies and
prepare detailed reports of local conditions with respect to working
hours, character of work, wages, possible advancement, dangers to
health, moral conditions, advantages over other occupations open to
girls with no more training, and disadvantages. Girls should at least
go into factory work with their eyes open, that they may pass their
days in the best surroundings available.

_Dressmaking_. The possibilities for the girl entering upon work
connected with dressmaking with the ultimate object of becoming a
dressmaker herself are far wider than in the case of the machine
worker in shop or factory. The immediate return for the untrained
girl is far less, but the farsighted girl must learn to look beyond
the immediate present. Not all girls, however, will make good
dressmakers. Not all, even of the producing type of girl, will do so.
Certain definite qualities are required. The girl who would succeed as
a dressmaker must possess ingenuity, imagination, and the visualizing
type of mind. She must see the end from the beginning, and must be
able to find the way to produce that which she visualizes. She must be
a keen observer. She must have confidence in her own power to create.
She must possess manual dexterity, artistic ideas, and, if she aims at
a business of her own, a pleasing personality and keen business sense.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
A millinery class. Millinery requires of the girl a certain degree of
creative ability]

_Millinery_. Millinery requires in its workers the same general type
of mind required for dressmaking, and in addition a certain millinery
faculty or creative ability. The girl who can make and trim hats
usually discovers her own talent fairly early in life.

_Arts and crafts._ This somewhat elastic term we use to include a wide
range of occupations which have to do with articles of use or ornament
which are handmade and which require skill in designing or in carrying
out designs. Embroidery, lace making, rug and tapestry weaving,
basketry, china painting, wood and leather work, handwork in metals,
bookbinding, and the designing and painting of cards for various
occasions are familiar examples of this kind of work. Photography, map
making, designing of wall paper and fabrics, costume designing and
illustrating, making of signs, placards, diagrams, working drawings,
advertising illustrations, book and magazine illustrating, landscape
gardening and architecture, interior decorating, are other lines
offering work to men and women alike.

The range of work here is no greater than the range of qualities which
may be happily and usefully employed in arts and crafts. All branches
of the work, however, are alike in demanding a certain degree of
artistic sense and deftness of manual touch. An accurate, observant
eye is an absolute essential, and, for all but the lowest and most
mechanical lines of work, imagination, originality, and an inventive
habit of mind make the foundation of success. In some lines a fine
sense of color values must underlie good work, in others the ability
to draw easily. All work of this sort requires the ability to do
careful, painstaking, and persevering work. Given this ability and the
artistic sense before mentioned, the girl's work may be determined by
some special talent, by the special training possible for her, or by
the openings possible in her chosen line of work within comparatively
easy access.

[Illustration: Photograph by C. Park Pressey
A youthful farmer. The Census figures for the year 1910 report
one-fifth of all women employed in gainful occupations as engaged in
the pursuit of agriculture and animal husbandry]

_Agriculture._ The Census figures which report one-fifth of all women
gainfully employed as engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry are
somewhat startling until we observe that southern negro women make up
a very large number of the farm workers reported. Even aside from
these, however, there are many women who are finding work in
gardening, poultry raising, bee culture, dairying, and the like. The
girl who is fitted to take up work of this sort is usually the girl
who has grown up on the farm or at least in the country and who has a
sympathy with growing things. She is essentially the "outdoor girl."
She must be willing to study the science of making things grow. She
must be able to keep accounts, that she may know what she is doing and
what her profits are. Above all, she must have no false pride about
"dirty work." Properly such a girl should have entered upon her career
even before she has finished her formal education, so that "going to
work" means merely enlarging her work to occupy her time more fully
and to bring in as soon as possible a living income.

In this sort of work the girl possessing initiative and an independent
spirit will naturally do best, since there are comparatively few
opportunities for such work under supervision. Care must, however, be
exercised by vocational guides in suggesting, and by girls in
choosing, the independent career. Usually it is the girl who has shown
promise in independent work at school or at home that will make a
success of such work later in life. The girl who relaxes when the
pressure of compulsion is removed will not be a success as "her own
boss." It goes without saying that the girl who does well as her own
superior officer will be happier to do work upon her own initiative
than merely to carry out the plans made by others. Agricultural work
will sometimes offer her exactly the conditions she desires. Many
successful farm-owners are women, and their work compares favorably
with that of men.

_Food production_. It is common, in these days, to meet the assertion
that the preparation of food, once woman's undisputed work, has been
almost if not quite removed from her hands; and that, even where she
may still contribute to this work, she must do so in the factory, the
bakery, the packing house, or the delicatessen shop. There are,
nevertheless, still many women who are fitted for cooking and kindred
pursuits who will not find an outlet for their abilities in any of the
places mentioned. In the main, factory production of food is like
factory production of other things - a highly differentiated process,
in which the individual worker finds little satisfaction for her
desire to "make things" and little, if any, opportunity to contribute
from her ability to the final result.

In the canning factory she may sit all day before an ever-moving
procession of beans or peas, from which she removes any unsuitable for
cooking. Or it may be an endless procession of cans, upon which she
rapidly lays covers as they pass. In the pickle factory she may pack
tiny cucumbers into bottles. In the packing house she may perform the
task of painting cans. None of these occupations is more than mere
unskilled labor. None is suitable for the girl who likes to cook, and
who can cook. The number of such girls is already fairly large and
will undoubtedly increase as the domestic science classes of our
schools do more and better work.

[Illustration: An up-to-date factory. In the factory the work is
necessarily routine, and the individual worker finds very little
satisfaction for her desire to make things]

Opposed to the theoretical statement that food is or at least
to-morrow will be prepared entirely in the public-utility plants
outside the home is the practical fact that home-cooked food,
home-preserved fruits and jellies, and home-canned vegetables and
meats find ready sale and that women who can produce these things do
find it profitable to do so. There is, consequently, a field for some
girls in such work.

[Illustration: Cooking class at Benson Polytechnic School for Girls,
Portland, Oregon. In spite of the statement that foods will be
prepared in the public utility plants, the trained, accurate worker
may find a ready sale for home-cooked foods]

Not all girls, on the other hand, who have taken the domestic science
course are fitted to take up this work, even if a market could be
found for their work. Only the expert, that is, the precise, accurate,
painstaking cook, can secure uniform results day after day. Only the
rapid worker can do enough to insure pay for her time. Only the girl
with a keen sense of taste can properly judge results and devise
successful combinations. Only a business woman can buy to advantage
and compute ratios of expense and return. This combination, of course,
is not to be found every day.


_Salesmanship_. Passing from the class of work which has to do with
making things to that group of occupations which has to do with the
distribution of various products to the consumer, we shall naturally
consider, first of all, the saleswoman. In any given group of young
and untrained girls drawn as in our schools from varying environment
and heredity, the _natural_ saleswomen will probably be in the
minority. I do not mean that girls may not often express a desire to
"work in a store" as apparently the easiest and most immediate
employment for the untrained girl. This may or may not indicate that
the girl has a commercial mind. The girl who is really interested in
commercial undertakings is easily distinguished from her fellow
workers in any salesroom. She is not the girl who lingers in
conversation with the girl next to her while a customer waits, or who
gazes indifferently over the customer's head while the latter makes
her choice from the goods laid before her. To the real saleswoman
every customer is a possibility, every sale a victory, and every
failure to sell distinctly a defeat. The fact that we see so few girls
and women of this type behind the counters in our shopping centers is
sufficient indication that many girls would have been better placed in
other occupations.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
Hardware section of a department store. Salesmanship offers large
opportunities to the real saleswoman, who considers every customer a

We find, however, in 1910, the number of saleswomen reported as
257,720, together with 111,594 "clerks" in stores, many of whom the
report states are "evidently saleswomen" under another name. There are
also about 4,000 female proprietors, officials, managers, and
floorwalkers in stores, and 2,000 commercial travelers. This gives us
a large number of women who are engaged in the sale of goods. For the
girl of the commercial mind, salesmanship in some form presents
certain possibilities, although there is far less chance for her to
rise in this work than for a boy. She must begin at the most
rudimentary work, as cash or errand girl, and her progress will
necessarily be slow. She will require an ability to handle with some
skill elementary forms of arithmetic, an alert and observing mind, an
interest in and some knowledge of human nature, and good health to

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Online LibraryMarguerite Stockman DicksonVocational Guidance for Girls → online text (page 10 of 14)