Co-Operative Housekeeping: Ii


LET us suppose that in some town — there are from twelve to fifty women who desire to associate themselves in housekeeping, for the double purpose of lessening their current expenses and of employing their time profitably in a given direction, their husbands being willing that they should try the experiment. How shall they go to work ?


The first step will be to hold a meeting of those interested, and, after some one has called the meeting to order and stated the general object that has brought them together, namely, the hope of devising a better system of housewifery than the expensive and unsatisfactory one now prevailing, — one of the housekeepers present should be elected to the chair, and another chosen as secretary; and the remainder of this meeting, as well as every subsequent one, should be conducted according to strict parliamentary rules.

It should next be moved and seconded, that an organizing committee of not less than twelve housekeepers, be chosen for the purpose of drawing up a constitution and by-laws for the proposed Co-operative Housekeeping Association, and of preparing the working-plans for its different departments. I f this motion be approved, and the committee chosen, all the business possible to the preliminary meeting will be over, and it may be adjourned.

The burden of the whole undertaking now falls upon the organizing committee. Its first work, after electing its chairman and secretary, will be to draw up a constitution and by-laws ; and this, fortunately, has lately been rendered very easy by the publication of a work on “ Co-operative Stores,”which gives the latest and best result of the movement in England and Germany. In this may be found a model for the constitution of a Co-operative Store Society, which, with a few additions and alterations, would serve perfectly, it seems to me, for the organization of an association of co-operative housekeepers.


Should such a body as this organizing committee ever come into being, I suppose, of course, that they will all provide themselves with copies of this work1 and, after studying it thoroughly, will draw up their plan for themselves. But as I regard their future existence as highly problematical, lest co-operative housekeeping should never boast even a “paper constitution,” I will give here, in small type, my own modification of the one set forth in the book, with explanatory remarks, many of which also are copied.

ARTICLE I. - Genera: Objects.

The Co-operative Housekeepers’Society of-has for its object to furnish the households of its members, for cash on delivery, with the necessaries of life, unadulterated and of good quality, and accurately ■prepared, both as to food and clothing, for immediate use and consumption, and from the profits of this sale to accumulate capital for each individual housekeeper or her family.


Several general and indispensable principles are embodied in this declaration.

1st. That the association is to sell only to its “members.” This excludes trade with outsiders (which would complicate the business indefinitely) and in consequence induces more housekeepers to become regular members.

2d. No goods or meals being delivered except for “cash,” the pernicious credit system of our present domestic economy, by which good and trustworthy customers are made (through overcharging) to pay the bad debts of the unthrifty and dishonest, is swept away; and, moreover, :r check is put upon the inevitable extravagance which the credit system fosters by postponing the day of settlement.

3d. The article sold being of “good quality,” every housekeeper would be sure of getting her money’s worth.

4th. As they would be “ accuratelyprepared for immediate household use and consumption,” she would be saved all the expense and house - room of separate cooking and washing conveniences ; all the waste of ignorant and unprincipled servants and sewing-women ; all the dust, steam, and smell from the kitchen, and all the fatigue and worry of mind occasioned by having the thousand details of our elaborate modern housekeeping and dress to remember and provide for.

5th. As all the clear “profit” on the goods the housekeeper buys is to be paid back to her, — and this profit is about a third on everything consumed by her household, — even if she take no active part whatever in the executive duties of the association, she will, by merely being a member, receive again $300 from every $900 she lays out. Nowit costs hundreds of town and city families of moderate means for food, kitchen fuel, and servants’ wages from S 900 to $1,000 a year ; nor can a woman dress with mere neatness in these times for less than $200 a year. Then, under our present system, about $1,200 a year passes through the hands of those among us who live with what is called moderation and economy. But in co-operative housekeeping a third of this sum would be saved, and we should have as much for $800, and get it more easily and comfortably, than we do now for $1200. If, however, the co-operative housekeeper were qualified to fill one of the offices of the association, and chose to do so, then, beside her dividend of profit, she would have also the salary of her office; both salary and dividend, remember, being clear gain, since her expenses are provided for along with those of her husband and children.


Since the association would, of course, buy everything at wholesale, like any other store, it may be asked why, instead of buying at the usual retail prices, and receiving back again the third that constitutes retail profit, the housekeepers should not simply pay to the association the cost price of their family food and clothing, — as the saving in the end would be about the same. I answer, because in Germany and England both systems have been tried, and the one proposed has been found by far the most successful. It gives greater zeal and interest to the co-operator to feel that, without the trouble of thinking about it as an economy, a little comfortable sum is accumulating for him or her which, at the end of the quarter or the year, can either be used for some household comfort or invested in some of the enterprises for the benefit of the association that, as in Rochdale, would very soon make their appearance in connection with it.

To the five general principles of the first article of our constitution should be added two others of hardly less importance which I will embody in the second article.

ARTICLE II.—Salaries and Wages.

The Co-operative Housekeeper’s Society ofwill accept no voluntary labor, but will, as far as possible, fill its offices with its own members or their female relatives and friends, at fixed salaries ; and these salaries, as well as the wages of all its clerks and Servants, shall be the same as would be paid to men holding similar positions.


It is one of the cherished dogmas of the modern lady, that she must not do anything for pay; and this miserable prejudice of senseless conventionality is at this moment the worst obstacle in the way of feminine talent and energy. Let the co-operative housekeepers demolish it forever, by declaring that it is just as necessary and just as honorable for a wife to earn money as it is for her husband; let them, moreover, resolve that time and skill is what they will pay for, and not sex, and the age will soon sec what efforts women can make after excellence when there is hope of a just reward for it. Then alone shall we begin to walk in selfrespect, and the poor, wronged workwoman throughout the world to raise her drooping head.

ARTICLE III. —Admission.

Any housekeeper may be received as a member, and all members shall be in equal relation to the society.


Women being at present essentially aristocrats, many may demur to this article as tending to introduce into their companionship those who are not “of their own set.” But, in the first place, co-operative housekeeping, being intended largely to supplant the retail trade, must succeed, if it succeed at all, on sound business principles; and, in business, social distinctions are not recognized. Money is money, whether it come from the poor or the rich ; and if a mechanic’s wife wishes to be a co-operative housekeeper, though she may buy less and simpler food and clothing than a broker’s or a lawyer’s wife, yet, if she pay as punctually for it, she has as good a business standing in the association as they. In the second place, co-operative housekeepers, even if rich and cultivated ladies, will find themselves largely in need of the practical assistance of the, middle and lower classes of women, — of the former for matrons, dress-makers, confectioners, etc., and of the latter for servants. Now it is often and justly urged in apology for the low wages given to women, that they do not, as a rule, know their trades and occupations well, and will not take pains to master them, simply because none of them expect to “work for a living ” longer than the time between girlhood and marriage. To get skilful servants and workwomen then, it is necessary to make them feel that their occupation is not the business of a few months or years, but their lifelong vocation, which, the better they understood and practised, the higher would be their pay and their importance ; and of course there is no way of doing this, except by making it possible for them to continue it after marriage, instead of giving it up, as they now must do, in order to cook, wash, and sew for their husbands and families. Admitting them into the association as co-operative housekeepers, however, would solve the whole problem ; for then their cooking, washing, and sewing would all be done for them as for the richer members, leaving them free to give to the association their working hours, and their skill in that special branch of household duty to which they had devoted themselves in their unmarried years. But, after all, the amount of the admission fee, like the pew-rents of our churches, will decide the character of each co-operative association. Birds of a feather have never hitherto found any difficulty in flocking together quite exclusively; and all that would arrange itself, like the different quarters of a city, without the necessity of invidious clauses in the constitution.

ARTICLE 1V. — Resignation.

A housekeeper may resign her membership after the third settlement subsequent to her written notice of intention to resign. An immediate resignation may be accepted by a vote of the society, either in case of sudden removal, or in case of some violation of the housekeeper’s obligations to the society, or in case there is some other housekeeper who is ready to become a member, and assume all the rights and obligations of the one resigning.


The first clause of this article is necessary in general, in order to prevent housekeepers from suddenly and unexpectedly resigning, and thus withdrawing their share of stock when the association may be unprepared for it. The second clause modifies this somewhat, by making it, in peculiar cases, depend upon the vote of the society. The reason why a housekeeper who wishes an immediate resignation cannot transfer her stock to any but a new member coming in is, that if she transferred it to a member already holding a share, the latter would then have two, and the regulations concerning the amount to be held by each, and the dividends to be declared on the stock, would be impracticable; and one of the first principles of the society, which requires that there shall be an equality among members in their representation by votes, would be overturned.

ARTICLE V. — Payments.

Each housekeeper shall pay the sum of $10 per week, till the payments amount to a.share of $100. The first payment shall be made on entering the society.2

ARTICLE VI. — Balancing Accounts,

A balancing of accounts shall take place four times per annum, on the first Saturday after the end of the quarter.

ARTICLE VII. — Distribution of Profits.

The profits, as ascertained on balancing the books, shall be divided into two parts as follows: I. (Say 2) per cent on the amount of all the capital standing to the credit of each housekeeper at the last quarterly settlement shall be credited to such housekeeper’s account. If the profits are not large enough to admit of 2 per cent quarterly (which is of course 8 per cent per annum) being thus credited, there shall be a credit given of such smaller percentage as will consume the entire profits. II. If, after crediting 2 per cent on the capital of each housekeeper as ascertained at the last quarterly settlement, any portion of the profits shall remain undisposed of, such remaining portion shall he credited to all the housekeepers in proportion to the amount of each housekeeper’s purchases during the quarter in which said profits were accumulated.

ARTICLE VIII.—Apportionment of Losses.

If, on balancing the books, loss shall appear to have occurred, it shall be charged to all the housekeepers equally ; and if such charge shall make the balance standing to the credit of any person less than the amount required for permanent share of stock ($100), she shall at once begin weekly payments in the same manner as a new member, and shall continue them until the balance to her credit shall equal the amount required for a permanent share of stock ($100).

ARTICLE IX. — Returns.

Whenever a housekeeper’s share lias doubled itself, and reached the amount of $200, its holder shall receive, three months after the settlement next ensuing, the sum of $100. When a housekeeper resigns, not transferring her stock to a new member, the full amount of her stock shall be paid to her, if her resignation was caused by any urgent necessity ; but if otherwise, 25 per cent of her stock shall be retained to the society’s capital.


Several of these provisions, it will be seen, have special reference to guarding the permanent capital of the association from diminution. Consisting, as it does only of the hundred-dollar admission fees of its members, it is so small (for an association of fifty families being only $ 5,000) that these precautions will commend themselves to the good sense of everybody. The seventh and ninth articles, containing the rules for the disposal of the profits of the association, provide that no money shall be paid over to the co-operative housekeeper until her dividend equals the amount of her share ($100). This is in accordance with the expressed object of the soctety as laid down in the last clause of Article I., “to accumulate capital for each housekeeper out of the profits of the business.” If the dividends were paid over to the housekeeper in small sums as last as they came in, she would be likely to spend them, as she went along, in gratification of her needs or fancy. Whereas, receiving them always in sums of'not less than $100 would dispose her to turn them towards the formation of a steady capital, to be invested for her own support in old age, or for the benefit of her husband and children, should they survive her,


How often do we see women who have lived for years in liberal comfort and wedded state — the mistresses of pleasant homes, whose varied range oi floors and apartments made them little worlds in themselves, and with the assured and dignified position in society that nothing but “ one’s own house ” can give — suddenly stripped by widowhood of all their ample surroundings, and portioned off into one room, or at the most two, in some son or daughter s house, there to live as a supernumerary all the rest of their days. No doubt these grandmothers, saintly and subdued, often exercise a precious influence on all the members of the families they live with. But it is none the less hard for them ; and if women could save and invest all the profits on the supplies and clothing consumed by their families that now slip through their fingers into the pockets of the retailers, thousands of lavish housekeepers who are marching straight to such a life-end as this would be spared its deprivations and humiliations. In my opinion, a woman that has once had a house of her own, in which she has borne and reared children, regulated servants, and played her part in society, should never be thrown out of it into the corner of somebody’s else family except from choice, and I wonder that women are not oftener apprehensive of this than they seem to be.

It may be said, that as men furnish all the means for our housewifery, so, if we are able to save anything, it ought properly to return to them. This is the doctrine of the old Roman law in regard to the peculium, or savings of the slave from the allowance made him by his master. In law it belonged to the latter, because it was his in the first place, and the slave was his also ; hence he could at any time resume it. And, in my opinion, this would be tenable ground in regard to the savings of cooperative housekeepers ; if men insisted upon our giving such savings to them we could not help ourselves. But this is so opposed to the indulgent American spirit toward women, that it is more than probable they would pass a law makingsuch savings by any housekeeper her own. Of course, the contrary action would crush all independence of enterprise among us, and thus injure masculine business interests as well as feminine. But, this aside, would it not be almost an amusement to the men to see how women would go to work ? I think there would then be no lack of something to talk about every day at the table between the husband and his wife and daughters, or in society between the gentlemen and ladies who now are so often at a loss for some common interest upon which to interchange ideas and experiences.

ARTICLE X.— The Council.

The highest authority of the Co-operative Housekeepers’ Society of - shall be a COUNCIL of all the male heads of the families whose housekeepers are members of the society. The Council shall be called by sending a printed notice to each of its members, four weeks after the second and fourth quarterly settlements of each year.

ARTICLE XI.—Privileges of the Council.

The Council shall have absolute power of veto in all the moneyed transactions of the society. It shall hold its meetings in the presence of the co-operative housekeepers or of their chief officers. It may choose from its own number Certain auditors for each half-yearly settlement of accounts ; but these gentlemen, before reporting, must: lay their statements before the executive committee3 for correction and verification. The Council may not elect or displace any officer or employee of the society, but it may pass votes of approbation or censure upon the regulations of the different departments or their divisions. Finally, it shall be the highest tribunal for cases of difficulty, inextricable by the other governing bodies of the society, and from its decision there shall be no appeal.

ARTICLE XII.— The Convention.

The Convention shall consist of the whole body of co-operating housekeepers. It shall be called by sending printed notices eight days beforehand to all the co-operative housekeepers, which shall contain the hour and date of the meeting and a statement of the matters to be discussed. In the Convention, every housekeeper present has a vote, and a majority of votes decides a measure.

ARTICLE XIII. — Executive Committee.

The Convention shall intrust the management of affairs fora year to an. executive committee of not less than twelve housekeepers chosen by ballot from its own number.

ARTICLE XIV. —Matters requiring the Action of the Convention.

The Convention shall deliberate overamendments or alterations of the constitution ; allotment of profits and losses ; number of divisions in the different departments investments of capital; receipts and expenditures of more than $500 ; unperformed contracts ; amount and conditions of loans received; the cautions to be observed by the treasurers ; and indemnification of the members of the committee for all trouble.

ARTICLE XV.—Privileges of the Convention.

The Convention has supreme control of the business, subject to the veto of the Council, and, except in extraordinary cases, is the highest tribunal for all complaints. It chooses, for the first and third quarterly settlement of accounts, certain auditors, who must lay their reports before the executive committee before presenting them to the Convention,

ARTICLE XVI. — Committee and Officers.

One half of the members of the executive committee shall constitute a quorum, and a majority of votes shall decide. It shall choose a president and vice-president. It shall be the president’s duty to call a meeting of the committee at least once every month, and, in addition, as often as any three members may desire it.

ARTICLE XVII.— When Conventions are to be coiled.

The executive committee shall issue the call for the Convention, and the president of the executive committee shall preside. The call must be within three weeks after the close of the last settlement, and as often besides as twenty-five ordinary members, or five members of the committee, shall express a desire for such meetings.

ARTICLE XVIII. — Boards of Directresses.

The executive committee shall choose three boards of directresses corresponding to the three principal divisions of co-operative housekeeping. These boards shall severally consist of four directresses, — two to be chosen from the executive committee, and two from the Convention ; and this choice shall be subject to the approval of the Convention.4 The first two shall be called, respectively, Directress and Vicedirectress, and the last two Assistantdirectresses.

ARTICLE XIX. — Functions of Directresses, and Functions reserved to Committee.

The committee shall intrust to the boards of directresses the practical management of the different departments of co-operative housekeeping, but shall reserve to itself the final decision in, I. The expulsion of housekeepers, which shall require a unanimous vote ; 2. Receipts and expenditures of over $ 250; 3Unfulfilled contracts; and, 4. The methods of keeping the books of the society.

ARTICLE XX.—Further Functions of the Committee.

The executive committee shall exercise superintendence over the boards of directresses, and decide all appeals from them. It can at any time institute an investigation of all business operations, and is empowered to remove directresses from office, subject to the decision of a convention to be immediately called, and to appoint members from its own body for the occasional performance of current business. In the decision of matters not herein mentioned the committee shall take no part.

ARTICLE XXI. — Special Duties of Directresses.

The boards of directresses shall meet twice a week in the counting-room of their several departments, and shall decide, by majority of votes, orf the receiving and distribution of goods, on all receipts and expenditures arising, not already determined or brought before the convention and committee ; OR the admission of housekeepers, and the carrying out the details of their respective departments, whether by themselves or bypersons appointed by them tor the purpose ; subject, however, in case of the higher officers, to the decision of the executive committee.

ARTICLE XXII. — Legal Signature of the Association,

The legal signature of the association shall consist of the signatures of the Directress and Vice-directress, or of one of these with that of one of the Assistant-directresses.


In regard to Article X., some feminine readers may wonder why I have placed the husbands of the co-operative housekeepers as the highest authority of the whole society. For one thing, because it is perfectly evident that, in this world at least, “the man is the head of the woman,” and will probably continue so for some time to come. Being our governors, no such enterprise as co-operative housekeeping could be started or sustained without their sympathy and consent; and as they have now the power of veto on our housekeeping arrangements by virtue of being also our bread-winners, so, as their funds alone would sustain co-operative housekeeping, they should have the same power there. We should simply have to trust, as we do now, that our reasonableness and good judgment and study to please them would, in general, be such as to shield us from blame and opposition; and as “ in the multitude of counsellors there is safety,” we should be much more likely to find out the best and cheapest ways of doing everything than we are now, when each must experiment upon the whole range of housewifely duties for herself.

But, beside these, I will admit, rather slavish and material grounds, there is a higher that would influence me, even if these did not exist. It is that I believe all human undertakings would be much more perfect if the direct judgment and energy of both sexes were brought to bear upon them. This, of course, is not the opinion of men ; for they ask our advice and assistance in nothing but what they hate to do themselves,— i. e. religious and charitable work. But I should be sorry to have women repeat what I am sure is their mistake. Everybody knows how much sweeter and easier it is to do something for the opposite sex than if is for one’s own ; and co-operative housekeepers, by having the direct masculine influence present in their undertaking through the half-yearly investigation of their husbands, would act with greater zeal, energy, and accuracy, give way to fewer jealousies among themselves, and take much more genuine pleasure in their work, than if they alone were the sole arbiters of it.


It may be thought, that, to allow the executive committee, which consists of only twelve members, to expel housekeepers by unanimous vote, is a function that only belongs to the Convention, or whole body of housekeepers. But a housekeeper who ceases to paycash for everything she daily receives violates the vital business principle of the society, besides entailing upon it the risk, in the end, of her not paying at all. She ought, then, if upon reminder she does not pay up at once, to be expelled at once. But, as the Convention only sits quarterly, this could not be the case if expulsion were left with it. This power, then, properly resides with the executive committee, which can at any time be convened with ease; and, by Article XV., the expelled housekeeper can appeal to the Convention, at its next sitting, for readmission. For similar reasons, it is proper that the directresses, though only four in number, should be able to admit housekeepers as members of the co-operative society; for if they wish to enter immediately, to wait three months for a sitting of the Convention would entail loss both on the housekeeper and on the society.


At this point ends all the help that the organizing committee of our housekeeping association can gain from the book on co-operative stores. The fundamental principles of co-operation have been laid down for us by a successful masculine experience of twentyfive years ; but its application to housewiferywe must develop for ourselves. To prepare the working plans of the different departments of the association, then, will be the hardest task of the committee ; but, if the hardest, also the most creditable, since it will be all their own.

The race being considered as one great family, and woman the mistress of its home, what more beneficent enterprise can be imagined than one which seeks to organize that home so perfectly, that not alone the few in its drawing-rooms, but also the many in its garrets and cellars, will be clothed, fed, and sheltered in the manner most conducive to their moral and intellectual progress ? For, while observation of the rich shows that superfluity and satiety make men unprincipled and women worthless, the study of the criminal classes proves that physical comfort and well-being have, of themselves, a vast influence in predisposing both sexes to virtue. The body must be satisfied before the mind and soul can rise above it into free and vigorous action ; and when we think of the intellectual and artistic and moral wealth of which mere bodily need and suffering have probably deprived the world, it ought to be enough for women, even if no higher good were to be attained by co-operative housekeeping, that it would enable them to give to so much larger proportion of their fellow-beings at least physical comfort, cleanliness, and health. And, formidable though the undertaking looks, it really simplifies very rapidly when one begins to examine into it. I believe I could choose from my acquaintance an organizing committee of able and experienced housekeepers, who, in a few weeks or months, could produce almost perfect working plans for co-operative housekeeping. But, as in the case of the constitution, lest no organizing committee should ever exist, I will, without attempting details that could only be decided upon in consultation, give a rough sketch of the manner in which I suppose the organizing committee would proceed, and of the working plans which they would probably suggest.


Our households contain three departments at least in which co-operation is possible and desirable,— the Kitchen, the Laundry, and the Sewingroom. Our greatest trouble being, that we try to do too many different kinds of things, and our next greatest, the inefficiency, insubordination, and fickleness of our servants, the ruling idea of co-operative housekeeping — the aim and end, indeed, of the whole movement — should be, THE DIVISION AND ORGANIZATION OF FEMININE Labor, as men have everywhere divided and organized, and, in consequence, control theirs.


To this end the organizing committee must recommend the association to consolidate its twenty-five or fifty kitchens and laundries into one central establishment, and all its sewing interests into another. The committee will then divide itself into three smaller bodies, corresponding to the three departments of co-operative housekeeping, and assign each of its members to that one wherein her special taste and skill would most naturally place her. The duties of these minor committees will now be to gain, from all possible sources, the information necessary for the organization of each division of their several departments, and to prepare their reports accordingly.


It is evident that the committee on the Co-operative Laundry will have the easiest task of the three, since all it will have to do will be to copy just what it has before it in the establishments of that kind which already exist for individual profit.


As for the Co-operative Sewing-room, so many women of means and position have, of late years, been in the habit of organizing and sustaining sewing-circles, and of acting as saleswomen and waiters at promiscuously crowded fairs, that the wonder is, not that they should co-operate in clothing themselves and their families, but that they have not long ago done so. A co-operative sewing-room or clothing-house would be in effect a dry-goods store, owned on shares by the customers, instead of by one or several individuals, officered throughout by ladies, and where all the piece-goods sold could be made up into the desired garments more tastefully, perfectly, and at least as cheaply, as they can now be done at home.

Should the association consist cf no more than twelve families, three rooms would perhaps afford all the accommodation necessary for the above purposes, namely, a salesroom, a fittingroom, and a work-room. But I am so convinced that if in any community it were known that twelve responsible housekeepers were actually about to take the plunge into co-operative sewing their numbers would rapidly swell to fifty at least, that I shall sketch a plan for a sewing-house suitable for supplying the yearly clothing of two hundred persons, since the mistresses, servants, children, and infants of fifty families would probably count up to that number, to say nothing of the gentlemen’s shirts and their mending.


It should occupy, it seems to me, a good-sized building as follows : on the first floor should be the counting-room, salesroom, consulting-room, and fitting-room ; on the second floor should be the working-rooms ; and on the third a dining-room (with dumb-waiter), a gymnasium, and a reading-room : all of these being so connected that they could be thrown open in one suite, when the co-operative housekeepers wished to give their workwomen a ball. The two lower floors should each have a comfortable dressing-room, with lounges, easy-chairs, and toilet conveniences ; and not only health, but beauty and cheerfulness, should be consulted in the arrangement of the whole establishment.


The meals of these latter should be sent them from the co-operative kitchen, and laid upon a plain but well-appointed table. During working hours they should be required to dress in some modification of the gymnastic costume adopted by Dr. Dio Lewis for the pupils of his boarding-school, — a dress which can very easily be made as pretty and coquettish and modest as any, and which, not having the weight or pressure of corset and crinoline, leaves the circulation unimpeded, and therefore lessens, very much the fatigue of working. Being loose, and short also, it would permit them, once or twice a day, to take a little exercise in the gymnasium. In my opinion, this latter should be insisted on as a condition of their employment: for constant sewing, as we all know, is the most killing of all feminine employments to youth, health, and spirits. As a class, sewingwomen grow prematurely old, both in face and figure. Their’chances of marrying favorably seem as few as those of the schoolmistresses in the ranks above them. Hand-sewing predisposes them to lung diseases, and machine-sewing to affections more pitiable still; and their pay for it all is miserable,—a shame to the whole race, since'all its clothing and adorning come through their defrauded fingers. It is high time that the free and favored of the sex — the women.who have comfortable homes provided for them by their husbands or fathers — should feel a solicitude for these victims of the needle, and should take active measures for their relief. Benevolent associations cannot reach them, for they are too numerous. Nothing can reach them, save some device of profitable co-operative action, which shall bring the whole moneyed and employing class among women into direct and responsible relations with the whole employed or industrial class.


As the custom of our co-operative housekeeping establishment, by our constitution, is limited to members, it would be no object to keep the salesroom open from morning until night for the convenience of every chance buyer that came along. Women, like cats, love their ease and their own comfortable and peculiar belongings ; and to many, as I confess to myself, the greatest objection to co-operative housekeeping would be that, in case one held an office in the clothing-house or kitchen, one would be obliged to leave home at a stated minute, and for a stated time, everyday. If-co-operation could begin, as it eventually will, with the young girls just leaving school, it would not be so great a hardship in after life, as the habit of going out daily at a particular time is already formed. But to many of us, with our unsystematic habits and our national disinclination to facing the weather, the loss of our present freedom of choice as to what we shall do from hour to hour would be irksome in the extreme. Of course, however, in an organization, this must be done; and the only way to manage it is to limit our hours of business strictly to three, — say from nine to twelve, or from ten to one in the morning, — which is just about the time every woman now expects to devote to her household duties. All orders then would be received, sales made, business transacted, and garments fitted within those hours, after which the rooms on the first floor should be closed, and the officers at liberty to return to their families. I should further recommend that every officer be allowed to have an assistant, in case she desired it, chosen and paid by herself (but subject to the approval of the board of directresses), who could take her place in absence or illness, and also fill it temporarily in case of her resignation ; and, for the rest, we must only hope that the excitement and interest of working together, and the solid satisfaction, now sooften missed, of having something to show for every day, would compensate the housekeepers for the matutinal bore of having to be punctual and unfailing at their offices.

The hours for the workwomen, I hope, would not exceed eight. No man or woman should be so overworked that he or she will not have time and strength every day for a little self-culture and social culture. If women, by means of co-operative housekeeping, should “ go into business,” as the phrase is, and begin making and saving money, I trust they may be preserved from that greed and fury of selfishness, that unholy eagerness to grasp more than a fair share of the comforts and luxuries of life, that in all ages have made men so willing to grind down their fellow-creatures into starvation of body and brutishness of mind, that they may reap the fruits of their prolonged and unrequited toil. Indeed, is not the typical American gentleman himself rather a melancholy object,— with his intense and unremitting devotion to dollars and cents, which leaves him no time for reading, drawing, or music, none for the love and study of out-door nature, none for communion with himself or with his fellows, so that every night he is tired to death with his day’s work, and hates society because the faculties which properly come into play in company are in him wholly undeveloped? “Society?” In this country there is none. Boys and girls meet together, dance and flirt until they are married, and that is all there is of it.


The goods of the co-operative sewing-rooms must, of course, be bought at wholesale; and at first,’while the capital is small, investment will be made only in the few standard kinds more or less of which every family uses, — such as shirtings, nainsooks, jaconets, linen and flannels for underclothing, and for dresses, black silks and black alpacas, white piques and white alpacas, linsey-woolsey, thibets, calicoes, lawns, and a few plaids for children. Numbered dress - linings should be kept ready cut and basted, so that when a customer buys a gown in the salesroom, she can go to the fitting-room and have the lining, corresponding to her size, shaped to her figure at once. The dress-makers and seamstresses who have been hitherto employed by the co-operative housekeepers should be consulted, and if possible taken into the service and membership of the association, so they may not lose, but rather gain, by the new order of things. As there will be rich women and old-established housekeepers in town who will not, and farmers’ wives in the country who cannot, give up their private kitchens and laundries, but who would probably take great interest in a co-operative clothing-house, the constitution might provide for admission to partial membership, thus allowing each housekeeper to choose what branch of co-operation is to herself most convenient.


Of course the four directresses stand first, charged with the functions specially allotted to them by Article XXI. of the constitution. The post of the directress and vice-directress should be on the first floor, that they may receive business calls and answer business letters in the counting-room, and also keep a general eye upon the salesroom. The other officers of this floor will be a book-keeper and a cashier for the counting-room, buyers and saleswomen for the salesroom, a costumeartist for the consulting-room, and a dre ss-maker for the fitting-room. All of these, excepting the latter, should be chosen from among the co-operating housekeepers themselves, or from their widowed and unmarried relatives and friends; for remember, it was as a means of enabling “ladies” in a perfectly unobjectionable way to carry on the retail trade, that co-operative housekeeping was at first proposed.

The post of the two assistant directresses should be on the second floor. One of them will superintend the dress-making and the other the plain-sewing department. In the former, I suppose, there would be two dress-cutters, — one for women and one for young girls and children ; and, in the latter, two plain-sewing cutters, — one for boys’ and men’s shirts and one for women’s and children’s underclothing. The fitting and shaping of all dresses, cloaks., etc. would be done in the fitting-room down stairs, by one or two accomplished dress-makers, who also could oversee the work-rooms after the officers had retired for the day. How many trimmers, embroiderers, seamstresses, and machines would be needed I can form no idea ; for ladies are so fond of sewing, that probably many of them would choose, after their garments were cut out, to take them home and make them themselves ; though it is to be hoped that this would disappear more and more, since, as I have said elsewhere, the true function for educated women is the superintendence and organization of manual labor, not the doing it themselves.5 Finally, when the establishment was complete, it would include many minor departments, each of which would be superintended by its own lady officer, — such as a baby-clothing department, a fancy-work department, a tailoring department for boys’ clothes, a cuff and collar department, where, too, not only these, but lace waists, lace sets, and all the “airy nothings” could be made up, a millinery department, and a hair-dressing department. Gloves and shoes, if not made, should be kept in the salesroom as part of the regular stock ; and, in short, a perfect co-operative clothing-house should be one wherein a woman might enter, so far as dress was concerned, a fright, and 'come out a beauty.


As the idea of this officer is a favorite one with me, in closing my remarks about this branch of co-operation I should like to enlarge upon it a little. All women know, by irritating experience, the countless days and hours we spend in wandering from shop to shop to find things a few cents cheaper or just a shade prettier, — the indescribable small tortures of doubt and anxiety we suffer in long balancing between what is more or less becoming, or better or poorer economy, — the exasperating regrets that rend us when we find (as in five cases out of ten we do find) that we have made a mistake. Now, all this could be saved if we could go to a person for advice, who, from talent, study, and experience, knew better what we wanted than we do ourselves. Some women possess the special instinct for, and insight into, dress that others enjoy as regards cooking. Its combinations and results are as much a matter of course to them as are those of his formulae to the mathematician. With unerring judgment they select the right stuffs, the right shapes, and the right colors ; the effect they see in their mind’s eye they reproduce to the eyes of others, and it is delicious and satisfying in proportion as with the boldness of originality they unite the refinement and taste diffused by culture through the educated classes of society. Such women I would make Costume-Artists, for they in truth possess, in this direction, the creative quality of genius. They use their talents now only for themselves, and within very narrow and conventional limits, while the comprehensive glance they are very apt to give one from bead to foot is enough to make them dreaded by the whole circle of their acquaintance. But let one utilize this glance ; convert it from an involuntary mental comparison between what one is and what one ought to be, into a kindly professional summing up and decision of what one can be, and dress for most of us would become a very different matter.

The post; of the costume-artist would be in the consulting-room, on the first floor of the co-operative clothing-house, whither whoever wanted a dress could go, if she chose, and be advised as to the fabric she had best select for her purpose, and in what mode it should be made and trimmed. But as every woman might not care, or in every case be able to afford, to pay for the finished artistic touch or “ air ” in dress, the costume-artist, as such, need have no regular salary, but should ask so much for every consultation. Thus the establishment would avoid the mistake made by fashionable dress-makers who irritate their customers by overcharging them for the “ trimmings,” instead of having it understood that a consultationfee of from three to fifty dollars, according to the brain-work required in designing a dress, will be charged to begin with. There is no fear but that the costume-artist would make a handsome income, when we consider the need women have of dress to heighten their charms and to palliate their defects, and the little knowledge or instinct that many of them possess for the successful accomplishment of these results.


For the whole subject of the aesthetics of dress is in a crude, and in some respects positively savage, state among us. What, for instance, docs the clerk who urges the stuff upon the buyer, or the dress-maker who cuts and trims it, know about that harmony of texture, color, and form which should subsist between the wearer and her robe ? What about the grace of outline which should control its fashion ? the effectiveness of inline and crossline winch should guide its ornamentation, and manifold other subtile considerations ? Nothing ; and therefore nothing could better repay the co-operative housekeepers than to offer inducements and facilities to those two or three in every circle who are distinguished for taste and elegance in dress to make a study of the whole matter, with a view to elevating it into one of the finer arts, instead of perpetuating the coarse, often vulgar, apology for beauty and fitness that it is at present. The imperfect adaptation by women of the means of dress to its true ends is a never-failing subject of complaint and ridicule against us by the other sex ; but it is not surprising that the fashions are so often grotesque, exaggerated, inconvenient, and even physically and morally injurious, when it is known who sets them. Not the ladies of the French Court, not even the “ queens of the demi-monde ” that the newspapers so love to talk about, design the things that destroy our peace ; but French and German men, in the employ of the manufacturers, and for their benefit make water-color drawings of every novelty and extravagance that comes into their heads, and send them, with the new stuffs and trimmings that another set of men have invented, to the Parisian modistes, who, in conjunction with their rich patronesses, the court ladies and courtesans, contrive to modify them into something wearable, but still absurd enough, as a suffering sex can testify. Toilets at once healthful, suitable, and beautiful for women of every age, of every grade of means and position, and on every occasion, will never be attempted nor so much as dreamed of, until cultivated ladies, uniting that special talent for dress which is one of the most belied and abused of the feminine attributes to an accurate knowledge of the structure and requirements of the feminine physique, a fine perception of the ideal possibilities of all its types, and a historical and artistic mastery of all the resources for its adornment, shall make the attiring of their fellow-women their special vocation. One or two such costume-artists in every co-operative sewing-room would in the end effect an entire revolution in the whole idea of fashion ; for within certain limits every woman would have a fashion of her own. Such distressing anomalies as blond hair smoothed and pomatumed as it was twenty years ago, and dark hair curled and frizzed as jt is now, with a thousand others equally melancholy, would disappear, and every assemblage of women, instead of presenting a monotony at once bizarre and wearisome, would afford the variety and beauty that now is only attempted at a fancy ball.


Beneficent and important as co-operative sewing-rooms would be to all of us, however, to my view, they are secondary in dignity and usefulness to the COOPERATIVE KITCHEN, since good, abundant, and varied food, accurately cooked and freshly served, lies at the very foundation of family health and happiness, and doubtless has an incalculable influence both on physical perfection and intellectual activity. Probably the easiest way for the co-operative housekeepers to organize their kitchen would be to send for Professor Blot, and place themselves under his direction. Failing in this, the committee on the cooperative kitchen must have recourse to hotels, restaurants, bakeries, and provision stores, and from these will, no doubt, be able to judge what kind and how large a building will be needed, whether the kitchen can be combined with the laundry, and what its stoves, ranges, ovens, boilers, general arrangement, and accompanying cellars and storerooms must be. These large establishments will also enable the committee to report on the number of divisions, officers, assistants, servants, carts, and horses that would be necessary. For the method of conveying the meals hot and on time to the different families of the association they will probably have to go to France or Italy, where cook-shops have long been an institution, — though whether it would be quite fair to take from a hundred Yankee wits the delicious chance of inventing a Universal Heat-generating Air-tight Family Dinner-Box I do not know. How many of the co-operative housekeepers would choose to be connected with the kitchen of course themselves alone could decide. Obviously it must have a superintendent, a treasurer, a book-keeper; a caterer to contract with butchers, gardeners, farmers, and wholesale dealers ; a stewardess to keep the storerooms and cellars and give out the supplies ; and an artist-cook or chiefess with her assistants, a confectioner, a pastry-cook, and a baker, to preside over their preparation. As all of these would be positions of peculiar trust and responsibility, demanding superior judgment, ability, and information, as the salaries connected with them would be large, and the persons filling them necessarily of great weight and consideration in the community, I cannot imagine any woman, except from indolence, ill health, or a preference for some other employment, unwilling to accept of either of these offices. Regarding cookery, I believe that, like dress, it will never be what it can and ought to become, until women of social and intellectual culture make it the business of their lives, and, with thoughts unfettered by other household cares, devote themselves, like lesser providences, to its benign necromancy. Being one of the great original functions of woman, likeclothesmaking and infant-rearing, there is no doubt that she has a special gift or instinct for it; while the superior keenness of her senses and fastidiousness of her taste must fit her peculiarly for all its finer and more complicated triumphs. All the Paris letters lately have mentioned Sophie, cook of the late Dr. Veron of Paris, — only a woman, and probably an uneducated woman at that. Nevertheless, she is said to be the most consummate culinary artist of the day; looking down with unspeakable contempt on Baron Brisse, and even on Rossini and Alexander Dumas. Ministers, bankers, artists, men of letters, paid obsequious court to this divinity of the kitchen, who ruled despotically over her master’s household and diningroom, and who had made it a law that no more than fourteen guests should ever sit together at the doctor’s table.”6 If such is her success, what an artist was lost to the world in the New England housekeeper I attempted to describe. Delicate to etherealness, accurate to mathematical severity, she might have wrought marvels indeed, had she been initiated into the mysteries of the modern cuisine. Therefore, above all things, let the co-operative housekeepers appoint one of their number, at a liberal salary, to the office of cook-inchief. If possible, let them afford-her every advantage of gastronomical education, such as go through the great French chefs, who learn sauces from one master, entrees from another, confection from a third, and so on. If the co-operative kitchen should ever become universal, we shall probably see American ladies by dozens going out to Paris to study under just such artists as the great Sophie above mentioned, and then returning home to benefit the whole country with their accomplishments. It is a well-known fact that no nation in the world has such a variety and abundance of the best food that Nature gives as we ourselves. She teems with such bounty to her adopted children that it has often seemed to me a misnomer to call our country Fatherland,”— Mother - land she is for the whole earth, with her broad lap of plenty sloping from the Rocky Mountains down to the very Atlantic shore, as if inviting the hungry nations to come over to it and be fed. What feasts fit for the immortals might grace every table, if we only knew how to turn our treasures to the best advantage, — and to think that millions of us live on salt pork, sour or saleratus bread, and horrible heavy pies!7


When the co-operative housekeepers have heard the reports of their various committees, have adopted their constitution and decided upon their working plans, they should call the Council of their husbands, and submit the whole to them for approval of final amendment. These gentlemen must also decide whether they will advance the funds wherewith to start the enterprise, or whether, like the Rochdale Pioneers, their wives shall save up small sums from their current expenses, — say ten dollars a month each, — until a capital is accumulated sufficient for their purposes.

The last step of all will be, immediately after the ratification of the constitution by the higher powers, to proceed to the elections under it of the executive committee, the board of directresses, and the officers and agents of the different departments. All the persons elected, who do not perfectly understand the duties to which they are assigned, will have to qualify themselves for them as thoroughly as possible ; and it would be better to spend two years in fitting every officer perfectly to her post, than to attempt so great a revolution with any chance of failure.


Here, now, dear friends and fellowsufferers in housewifery, ends my plan for your and my relief. Excepting one, I will freely admit any criticism you may pass upon it. It is vague, sketchy, unpractical, extravagant,— any adjective you choose. But what can you expect of a single mind ? Like the German in the story, I might as well attempt to evolve a camel out of my inner consciousness as to construct even a tolerable plan of anything so complicated as housekeeping for a whole community must be. Every single clause of the constitution, every detail of every department, would have to be discussed in committee, submitted to the Convention, carried before the Council, perhaps sent back again, and, after all, could not be said to be fairly decided until it had been put into practice and tested by experience. But, in making out my plan, I have consulted nobody, and, in truth, I submit it only to provoke your minds to action. One only charge against the conception I will not suffer, — that it is impossible. I will not consent that this first-born bantling of my brain be murdered before it has had a chance to live. Two things only can make co-operative housekeeping impossible : —

1st. That women cannot work together.

2d. That men will not let them. or. at least, will not encourage them to do so.

The first does not trouble me. Let the world slander as it will, I know that the frivolous, the violent, the obstinate, the mean, the malicious, constitute but a small minority of the sex. The great mass of women have both Christianity and common sense, and these are the only two influences needed to make any human corporation work smoothly and successfully. As for the second, that men will not promote it, here, indeed, is room for fears. Had men ever done anything directly for the happinessand development of women, one might hope that they would set forward this. But they will probably distrust or laugh at it, and women, accustomed to take them for God and Bible both, will accept the sneer or the doubt with unquestioning faith, will not so much as attempt to reflect, to reason, and to arrive at an independent judgment even about what is so intensely their own concern as this of housewifery. Well, be it so. Perhaps my baby must die; but none the less for this shall I in two or three more numbers of the Atlantic go on to tell the world what might have been the consequences could she have become there a Living Power.

  1. It is published by Leypoldt and Holt, New York, and sold for fifty cents, paper cover.
  2. This may be thought too large a weekly payment, ancl the share also may be excessive. Of course, the organizing committee would make its own recommendation in this matter.
  3. See Art. XIII.
  4. I have imitated this manner of choosing tire directresses from the constitution of the Co-operative Store Society. But 1 am doubtful as to whether the directresses should go out annually with the executive committee.
  5. This need not exclude us, however, from the higher kinds of artistic sewing, which require fancy and invention, and, indeed, might no: unworthily employ genius, such as the embroidering of stuffs in rich designs for altar-cloths, vestments, girdles, jackets, etc.
  6. Paris Correspondent of The Nation, October 24.
  7. This is the ordinary farmers' diet even in New England !