« ForrigeFortsett »
Sixth Biennial Report of the Indiana Labor Commission, 1907 and
In 1827, after the repeal of the Combination Laws, when the Grand General Union of the United Kingdom was being started by the cotton spinners, the women and girls were urged to form separate organizations; and though these organizations did not last, it seems appropriate that one of the earliest indications of women's trade unions should be found in the cotton textiles trade, which on the lines of united enrollment now includes in its membership three-fourths of the organized women of Great Britain. Anyone who has seen a Lancashire demonstration with its audience of thousands of trade unionists and file after file of women and girls among the men's ranks, each wearing the badge of her union—the cotton bud-has had an object lesson in the possibilities of organization among female workers.
In spite of this early effort among the cotton textile operatives and several sporadic attempts in Scotland, it was not until 1874 that a successful attempt was made to organize the women in industries in Great Britain. On September 12 of that year “the first society formed for women," what is now known as the “ Women's Trade Union League,” was started.
The organizer of this society had worked in the bookbinding trade in London, and out of her experience had come the desire to formulate some scheme to help the working women of England to help themselves. Yet in those days even in England none dared speak openly of trade unionism among women.
To have attempted a militant organization of women wage-earners would have meant disaster, since it would have awakened the fear
of competition in the men's unions, thus incurring their opposition, and would also have aroused public opinion which was averse to women's self-assertion in any form. Furthermore, at that time trade unionism in itself meant to the average person the use of illegal methods, and to the more educated it was an irremissible sin against the inspired ordinances of political economy.
Strangely enough the model for the first women's trade union in Great Britain was found in America. A casual attendance upon a meeting of the Female Umbrella Makers' Union in New York in 1873 revealed to the founder of the British movement the success and force of a body of women workers banded together to accumulate a sick benefit fund, and on her return to England she started an organization under the title of the “ Women's Protective and Provident League.”
The title, “ Women's Protective and Provident League," was considered safe in that it did not suggest to the casual hearer any offensive and defensive character of union, but the decisive tenor of the organization may be gathered from the following resolution adopted at the first meeting:(a)
That one of the objects of the association shall be to enable women earning their own livelihood to combine to protect their interests."
And the last resolution offered at this meeting was:
“ That it shall be one of the objects of the association to provide a benefit fund for assistance in sickness and other contingencies.”
The abstract of rules by which these early societies were governed furnished a more specific disclaimer of any intention to establish a hostile alignment of employers and women workers:
1. Women 16 years of age and upward working at any branch of the trade shall be eligible to become members.
2. After the society shall have been formed 6 months a candidate for membership shall be recommended by two members, who shall vouch that she is a competent workwoman.
3. Entrance fee from 2s. to 1s. [49 to 24 cents], varying in different societies, payable by installments of 4d. [8 cents) per week; and subscription 2d. [4 cents) per week.
4. A member when out of work or in sickness (excepting confinements) shall receive 5s. [$1.22] per week for not more than 8 weeks in 1 year and for not less than 1 week.
5. If any member be found to have been in any way imposing on the funds of the society, or defrauding an employer, she shall be suspended from all benefits until the next quarterly meeting.
This sick-benefit fund was the salient feature in the propaganda in the different trades, and it was not until 1889 that sufficient courage was gathered to substitute the words “Trade Union” for “Protective," and several years elapsed until “ Provident” was abandoned
. First Annual Report of the Women's Protective and Provident League, 1875.