Representative women of New England/Boston Women's Educational and Industrial Union
BOSTON WOMEN'S EDUCATIONAL AND INDUSTRIAL UNION.—From the present plane of woman's activity in affairs it is difficult to appreciate the courage and prescience of a small band of women who in 1877, under the leadership of Dr. Harriet Clisby, organized the Boston Women's Educational and Industrial Union " for the purpose of increasing fellowship among women in order to promote their educational, industrial, and social advancement." Dr. Harriet Clisby was elected President, Miss M. Chamberlin Secretary, and Mrs. S. E. Eaton Treasurer. These officers, with four directors, adopted a constitution whose foundation was so broad and deep that during the past quarter of a century the Ihiion has always found an open door for any work that "advanced the Interests of women."
"A union of all for the good of all," there was in its inception a deep vein of ethical purpose, a tremendous initial impulse of faith, religious fervor, and enthusiasm. It was born in the days of few organizations and of limited opportunities for women. The force of self-expression was beginning to stir, but had to force its way against the inertia of conservatism.
In the faith of the founders of the Union appeared a regenerating force to touch the community to higher life. The Union came into the world hampered by no preconceived methods for future development: it simply stood ready to respond to the opportunity for service. This very lack of definiteness, this plastic form, was at the outset, and continues to be, a source of strength, insuring a sensitive response to the needs of the hour. Constant through all these years, the Union's ideal has been the uplift of women through the character-building forces of association and responsibility; through the inspiration and privilege of service.
"The Union aspires to be that common meeting-place where every woman stands on the same level, and must therefore look straight into the eyes of every other woman, seeing the essential thing—character apart from material or social conditions—a ground so level that there can be no looking up or looking down, where the permanent bond is that spiritual one which blesses him who gives and him who takes."
The successful progress of the Union has been uniform. While rich only in ideals, its financial credit was early secured by a rigid adherence to a very primitive rule of "keeping absolutely out of debt." The Union has never asked help to meet an obligation already incurred.
At the outset the work itself, not yet grown to unwieldy proportions, was well adapted to claim the interest of volunteer committees, whose living spirit and enthusiasm in those early days was priceless; and they accomplished what paid workers, untouched by their tire, could never have done, in laying for the Union deep and lasting foundations.
The magnitude of the changes in conditions which have necessitated changes in methods is indicated in the following figures: In 1879 the assets of the Union were about one hundred dollars, with no paid workers. In 1904 the assets are two hundred and fifteen thousand, five hundred and eighteen dollars, with a payroll of one hundred and one. In the Industrial Departments alone the change is enormous. To-day (1904) the Union presents the unique spectacle of a business that employs about seventy-five paid workers, with annual receipts of one hundred and twenty-four thousand, seven hundred and forty-seven dollars, the whole practically distributed to producers.
The Educational Department has charge of the Perkins Lecture Course, where each year varied and valuable lectures are given free to Union members, and of other methods of instruction calculated to stimulate intelligent thought and a high standard of work; and each year it adopts such industrial class work as shall best "help women to help themselves."
The ethical side of the Union work has fairly kept pace with the other departments. The Committee on Ethics has during the past two years aroused an interest which has resulted in an Association for Promoting the Interests of the Adult Blind in Massachusetts.
In the Employment Department is conducted the work of the Domestic Reform League, whose object is to emphasize the business relation of employer and employee, and to promote by careful investigation a better knowledge of present conditions and to suggest possible readjustments.
The Business Agency receives applications for all employments other than domestic service—as book-keepers, stenographers, nurses, attendants, governesses, etc.
The Protective Committee investigates claims for wages unjustly withheld from women, and gives much needed counsel and advice on legal matters. The Befriending Committee gives friendly advice, sympathy, and aid to all women who come to them in perplexity or need. The province of the Social Extension Committee is to provide facilities for the comfort and convenience of Union members and to express the genuine, democratic Union spirit of fellowship and good-will. And thus an ever-lengthening vista of opportunity for service lies open before the Boston Women's Educational and Industrial Union.
The present officers (1904) are: President, Mrs. Mary Morton Kehew; Secretary, Miss H. I. Goodrich; Treasurer, Mrs. Helen Peirce; with four Vice-Presidents and twelve Directors. There is a membership of twenty-five hundred.
264 Boylston Street, August, 1904.