Popular Science Monthly/Volume 33/October 1888/Correspondence

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CORRESPONDENCE.
 

WOMEN IN BUSINESS.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

I NOTICE a communication, in your July number, from Mrs. L. D. Morgan, of Baltimore, and, as it is on a subject in which all women are more or less interested, I beg the kindness of space in your columns for a reply. Mrs. Morgan opens her letter with the assertion, referring to the Women's Parliament recently held in Washington, that "one point seems to have been clearly developed, viz., that women are no nearer the ballot-box than they were fifty years ago." Fifty years ago such a gathering of women from all parts of the world as was seen at the Women's Parliament would have been utterly impossible, and had such a state of things been predicted it would have been received with as much incredulity as a prediction of the electric light or the telephone. Not only does the fact that such a gathering is now possible demonstrate that women are nearer the ballot-box than they were fifty years ago, but there is another fact which Mrs. Morgan seems to have entirely overlooked or forgotten, which is that in some of the States and Territories women are not only nearer but have actually reached the ballot-box, and are voting on State and municipal questions.

In the next paragraph of her letter Mrs. Morgan says: "The ladies who are acting in behalf of their sex are decidedly hasty and incautious in demanding, without limitations, equal pay for equal work. At first sight, indeed, the proposition seems a fair one," etc. Wherein or how these ladies are hasty and incautious, or wherein or how the proposition differs in appearance at second sight from what it was at first, Mrs. Morgan fails to show. Men, competing with men, demand equal pay for equal work, and why the same demand can not logically be made by women competing with men I fail to see. A little further on Mrs. Morgan says: "That a woman can acquire the routine of almost any mercantile pursuit may be admitted beyond a doubt; in fact, the quickness of her mind and her rapid if superficial grasp of a subject will give her the advantage, in many branches, over her brother workers." I respectfully ask. What is the routine of mercantile pursuits? If there is any special part or division of mercantile pursuits to which the word routine can be applied to distinguish it from any other part or division, then Mrs. Morgan may be correct, and women may have business capacity superior to men; but, until that fact is established, I will adhere to my conviction, produced by a life of work with both business men and women, that women are in no respect superior to men. Despite of this pathetic description of "life as it is—the rough, every-day work of the world, where weakness means failure, strength success, where sentiment counts for nothing, and money is the paramount object"—I think Mrs. Morgan's knowledge of business life and business men is rather fanciful and theoretical than real. Is there not a contradiction between her assertion here that sentiment counts for nothing, and the one made a little further on in the same paragraph that "no man, who is worthy of the name, can quite bring himself to treat a woman clerk as he would a man, even in this ungallant age"? What but sentiment should prevent him from treating a woman clerk as he would a man?—the sentiment that women are made to be protected by men, and he will protect his, and those who have no protector must go unprotected. Had Mrs. Morgan's experience of business men been real instead of fanciful and theoretical, she would have known that "the employer who has expressed his disapprobation or impatience, without much regard to his p's and q's, would be much more dismayed to find he had insulted a male than he would to find he had insulted a female, as the male would in all probability resent the insult with a blow, to be followed, where the employer is anything of a politician, by his adverse ballot at the next election, while the female would have no resort except in the employer's sentiment, which, as Mrs. Morgan truly says, "counts for nothing." To discuss this part of the question, however, is mere waste of words, as the vast majority of business men, being gentlemen (a fact of which Mrs. Morgan does not seem to be aware), pay the strictest regard to their p's and q's in expressing impatience or disapprobation either to men or women.

For fear of infringing too much on your space, I will notice only one other point which Mrs. Morgan makes, on what she terms the "transitory nature of woman's work." She makes the old and oft-repeated but never proved assertion that women never remain long in any one business, for the reason that they marry, after which they retire to strictly domestic life. We have no statistics on this subject that I know of, but my personal experience goes to disprove this view of the matter. Five years ago I obtained work in an establishment where at the time were employed, besides myself, and in the same room, six men, two boys, and five women. Of these six men and two boys only one man remains, their places having in some instances been filled by men who are also gone, and have been succeeded by others: where they were succeeded by women, those women are there yet. Of the five women who were there then, three remain, one having quit on account of ill health, the other for what cause I do not know. What does this record show of the "transitory nature" of woman's work as compared with man's? Mrs. Morgan might pleasantly spend her leisure time in gathering statistics on this subject in her own city; it would probably give her subject for thought, and would beyond doubt dispel her illusion that "woman is an anomaly in a business office among business men," or show her that the anomaly occurs so often that it has grown to be the rule.

Respectfully,
Lucy S. V. King.
25 First Street, Chattanooga, Tenn.
 

 
POPULATION AND THE FOOD-SUPPLY.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

In Prof. Huxley's article, "The Struggle for Existence," he states the obvious fact that "so long as the natural man increases and multiplies without restraint, so long will peace and industry . . . necessitate a struggle for existence as sharp as any that ever went on under the regime of war." But this promptly suggests the important modification that all classes of men do not increase equally. "Punch's" humorous statistics a quarter of a century ago gave to the well-to-do quarters of the town an average of only half a baby to each house! More serious observation shows, from the yeast-plant up, a steadily diminishing rate of increase, pyramid-like, until the cap-stone is reached—an average human family consisting of five persons, the three children replacing the parents, with only one to spare. But the cap-stone itself diminishes to a point. The human race differs in fecundity—the worst nourished and most emotional being the most prolific, and the best fed and the best poised intellectually producing not enough to maintain their own numbers. The Dutch numbered about two millions. They created their country largely out of the ocean, and survived a mud avalanche of cruelty and brute force. In South Africa, Java, New York, and elsewhere, they have been a permanent force, as well as in science, literature, arts, and arms. But their numbers have not greatly increased. On the other hand, the natives of the south of Ireland have been decimated by famines and chronic insufficiency of food They have founded no distinctly Irish colonies anywhere, but contented themselves with adhering closely to Anglo-Saxon communities in all parts of the world, which contact they declare to be injurious to them. It is claimed that their numbers have increased in recent times from about six millions to thirty millions, more or less. Eminent men, like George Washington, leave few or no descendants. Napoleon, as the fruit of two marriages, had one child. Hardly any of the peerages in the House of Lords, consisting of some four hundred members, are more than two hundred years old, and if, as proposed, no new peerages should be created, the hereditary legislators would become extinct—the object aimed at by the proposal. The present tendency of civilization referred to by Huxley, to sacrifice the best to the worst perpetually, would seem at first sight to reduce the whole to a dead level of the worst possible. But further reflection shows the effect to be to raise the whole mass from the bottom. If the mass can be well fed, refined, and intelligent. Nature will no longer throw off such frightful numbers of rudimentary men, but will be as niggardly of human beings as she now is chary of perpetuating great intelligences. In this direction there is hope that the problem may be solved.

The possible food-supply is encouraging. The census of 1860 showed that the maize-crop of the Mississippi Valley, if turned into its equivalents of beef and bread, would feed sixty millions of people. The food-resources of the sea have hardly been touched. All the fish known to have been caught by man's device would not make one school of the most numerous kinds. The position of the human race in regard to the visible but unavailable food-supply resembles that of hungry young children surrounded by square miles of ripe, waving grain and countless herds of beef-cattle.

S. H. Mead.

Eustis, Fla.
 

 
THE EARNED DECREASE.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

The argument of Mr. Joel Benton, in his article in the June number of the "Monthly," on "Earned Decrease vs. Unearned Increment," seems to be in several places quite defective. It scarcely touches the weakest points of Mr. George's theory at all.

It is argued by Mr. Benton: "If society has a claim upon this profit" (the "unearned increment") "in the socialistic way, which George and his followers claim it has, then, to make the equities right and even, it ought to shoulder, without a whimper, the losses which have befallen the land-owners who have suffered from the 'earned decrease.'" Really, however, if the matter is looked at in the proper light, it seems that the "earned decrease" offers, so far as land in the economic sense is concerned, no complication at all. Suppose that society asserts its claim to all the land, and becomes the owner de facto. Then, as to subsequent gains or losses in land-values, it is plain that society must enjoy the one and suffer the other, for, wherever social aggregation should bring increased value to land, society, under the George plan, would experience the benefit through greater rents; and wherever social dispersion should lower the value of land, society would sustain the loss through decreased rents. As to previous gains or losses, there would be two cases to consider—one in which society gives compensation to private holders, and the other in which it reclaims the land by outright confiscation. In the first case it would plainly be unjust to ask society to assume the burden of any "earned decrease." Suppose, for example, that A and B each own land of which the maximum value has been one hundred dollars, and that when society, or the state, buys the land, A's is at its maximum, while B's has fallen to fifty dollars. Can B claim that he should receive as much as A because his (B's) land has once been worth as much as A's, when it is now worth to the buyer only half as much? But in the second case—where confiscation is the hypothesis—it would be clearly inconsistent in society to assume the loss of the "earned decrease." Using the same example as above, if A gets nothing, can B, whose land is worth fifty dollars less, claim that he ought to get fifty dollars because the said land has fallen that much in value? The truth is, that what Mr. Benton calls the "earned decrease" is in most cases only a reduction, according to its size, of the "unearned increment"; that the former is nearly always less than the latter, and serves only to cancel part of it. Sometimes, however, social fluctuations destroy values which have been produced by actually expended labor. This fact, it seems to me, Mr. Benton should have brought more prominently into view; it affords the best foundation for his argument.

The deduction drawn by Mr. Benton from the example which he gives to show how worthless land is in some parts of New England is a very peculiar one. He says: "A friend of mine bought a productive farm of one hundred and sixty acres in Massachusetts a few years ago, with a good house, barn, and other fixtures upon it—and he did not pay the price that the barn alone cost. . . . This means getting the land itself for less than nothing, which is on better terms than Henry George's creed calls for." Has it not occurred to Mr. Benton that his friend may have paid for the land, and got the barn and other improvements for nothing? "Surface improvements" may, and often do, become absolutely valueless; but it is hard to conceive, so long as they have not reached this condition, that the ground on which they are fixed should be worth nothing.

The statement that neither Mill nor Spencer has offered any solution of the problem of dealing with the "unearned increment" is scarcely justified by the facts. Mr. Benton should read Mill's "Principles of Political Economy" and Spencer's "Social Statics" a little more closely. In the former he may refer to Book V, Chapter II, section 5. As to the latter, I am sorry to say that I haven't the book at hand, and can not give him the exact reference, but if he will have the patience to search for it he will find that Spencer also has a plan.

George P. Garrison.
Austin, Texas, July 10, 1888.