I was flipping through some older newspapers and saw a suffrage cartoon that gave me the idea of searching for old news items with the phrase “woman’s place is.”
Boy! There is a lot to pick from. I will have to revisit this set of documents from time to time, but this item jumped out at me and introduced me to a woman I had never heard of by the name of Jeannette Bates.
It was in the Chicago based The Day Book in 1917:
Chicago, January 10, 1917: Bosh! It was Jeannette Bates, woman lawyer, just appointed assistant attorney general of Illinois, who “boshed” a smiling “bosh” across a paper-Uttered desk in answer to the question: “Do you agree in the argument that woman will never attain an important place in law?”
Miss Bates has just taken a place
beside Congressman Jeannette Rankin in the political procession.
“Woman’s place is wherever she makes good,” said Miss Bates. “Some women will make good in the court; some in the kitchen.
“I know Clarence Darrow has just said the woman lawyer may not make a living in the law. Well, I know some, men lawyers whose living – made in the law is rather lean.
“Mr. Darrow said, ‘Women are too kind to succeed as corporation lawyers, they cannot fight the soulless trusts.
“But women have fought trusts,” declared Miss Bates. “Ida Tarbell’s heart never weakened her fighting qualities.
“To go back to this matter of making a living in the law. When I was teaching I made $1,200 a year. The first year I practiced law I made more than $1,200. Since I have been practicing I have acquired a comfortable, seven-room bungalow, a garden and chickens.
“As women are gaining more political power,” continued the woman who has the state of Illinois for a client, “the law rather than medicine or teaching is attracting women. We used to be told the ‘legal mind’ was a man monopoly. Women seem to be proving there are no monopolies in the professions.”
via The Day Book, January 9, 1917
In retrospect, many social advances seem like no-brainers. Slavery? Yeah, that was wrong. Disenfranchisement of women? Yeah, wrong again. Letting little kids work in mines and mills? Yeah, let’s not do that.
However, no matter how simple something seems in hindsight through the filter of our modern sensibility, there were always people or organizations that opposed the progress we were making as a culture.
Child Labor in the 1900s & 1910s
By the time the 1900 census was tabulated, approximately 2 million children were reported to be working in mills, mines, farms, factories, shops, and on the streets of American cities. The 1900 census report helped spark a national movement to end child labor in the United States. To help better illustrate the scale of the problem, the National Child Labor Committee hired the photographer Lewis Hine to criss-cross the country photographing and reporting on the use of child labor in many different industries.
Initially, social reformers condemned child labor because of its detrimental long-term effects on the health and welfare of children. One of the most famous individuals helping to drive public opinion was already dead by the beginning of the 20th century.
The writings of Charles Dickens [1812-187], who had performed factory work himself at age 12, were used to highlight the dangers — both physical and spiritual — of children working instead of attending school. One of the most effective attacks came from his novel Oliver Twist. Widely read in both Britain and the United States, his masterwork portrayed an orphan boy raised in poorhouses and workhouses and by street criminals in industrialized London in the 1850s.
The first successful passage of a child labor bill was the Keating-Owen bill of 1916. Based on Senator Albert J. Beveridge’s proposal from 1906, it employed the government’s ability to regulate interstate commerce as a tool to regulate child labor. Known popularly as the Keating Bill, the law banned the sale of products from any factory, shop, or cannery that employed children under the age of 14. It also outlawed the products of any mine that employed children under the age of 16, and from any facility that had children under the age of 16 work at night or for more than 8 hours during the day.
The Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) began as a collaboration of working class and well-off women that began in 1903 to support the efforts of women to organize labor unions and to eliminate sweatshop conditions.
The WTUL played an important role in supporting many strikes in the first two decades of the 20th century. They also played an important role in establishing the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.
The Women’s Trade Union League began to work actively for women’s suffrage. The organization worked in coalition with the National American Woman Suffrage Association in the years before passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
The WTUL saw suffrage as a way to gain protective laws and regulations for women to better provide them with the dignity and other (less tangible) benefits come with political equality.