The Canadian Girl at Work A Book of Vocational Guidance
(click on an icon to download eBook)
The object of The Canadian Girl at Work is to assist girls in finding satisfactory employment. The further aim of showing them what constitutes a right attitude toward work and toward life through work, underlies the account of each occupation. The book is meant for girls, and for the assistance of fathers and mothers, of teachers, and of those who are interested in questions of training and employment.
The life of the average woman is divided, generally, into two periods of work, that of paid employment and that of home-making. No adequate scheme of training for girls can fail to take account of this fact. They should be equipped with knowledge and skill for home-making, and assisted in making the best use of their years in paid work. Happily, it appears from an investigation of the conditions affecting girls as wage-earners that the knowledge which helps them to be good home-makers is necessary to their well-being in paid employment. Technical training and skill are not more helpful to a girl at work than specialized knowledge in matters of food, clothing, health, and daily regimen. Lack of training in home-making is probably the greatest drawback which a girl in paid employment can have. Her business during her first years of paid employment may not require much skill or experience, but her living conditions require all the specialized woman's knowledge that training can give her.
To bring about in the life of a girl a satisfactory connection between paid employment and home-making, and to show the home employments in their rightful place as occupations of the first importance, are necessary objectives in any book of this character.
When considering the employments of to-day as part of their own lives, girls of the twentieth century may well look back through the long ages to women's work in the past. The study of anthropology appears to indicate that in primeval ages women began the textile industry and, possibly, agriculture. There seems to be no doubt that they were primitive architects, and that they tamed some of the smaller domestic animals. They had most to do with the preparation of food and may have introduced the use of herbs and medicines. They were spinners, weavers, upholsterers, and sail-makers. Most of these employments were taken up by men and specialized and developed almost past imagination. It is evident that women have always worked, and worked hard. If they had not done so, the race would not have reached its present position, and women themselves would have remained undeveloped, without a realization of their own possibilities.
The history of Anglo-Saxon times shows women engaged in spinning, weaving, dyeing, and embroidering, carrying on these industrial arts in the home, side by side with the work of the house. The work of women in home manufactures was a by-industry, not occupying the worker's whole time, but nevertheless an important occupation. Later, women were employed in many kinds of industrial work as assistants to their husbands and fathers. It is doubtful if wages were paid for such work. Employment of this kind is not to be thought of merely as a romantic or picturesque accompaniment of home life. Houses and comforts centuries back were not such as they are to-day; and the work of women was toil, side by side with men who toiled also.
The modern factory did not originate industrial work. The factory carried many industries away from the home where they had originated; and women followed their work to large establishments where they were trained to work collectively. The statement can be made with truth that machinery has made it possible for women to perform work for which their strength would otherwise have been insufficient. Through the industrial revolution brought about by factory work, the general body of women workers became wage-earners, rather than unpaid workers who contributed to the financial earnings of their fathers and husbands.
In Canada, the process of development of women's work in the past fifty years has been rapid. The grandmothers of the women of this generation carded wool and used spinning wheels within the memory of workers of less than middle age. One old woman who died not many years ago told how she used to bake in an oven out-of-doors and had dyed homespun with butternut. The soap cauldron stood on the levelled stump of what had been once a forest tree. Candles were moulded in iron moulds. Household industries were carried on expertly in the homes of pioneers by the women of the family.
When these days had gone, there followed other days in which the children of the pioneers devoted themselves to the schooling so highly esteemed but rarely enjoyed by their parents. The boys, after school life, turned to business, railway employments, teaching, banking, farming, became ministers, lawyers, doctors, or gave their thoughts to politics....