Women in Organizations

EMERSON has said that “ every institution is but the lengthened shadow of some great man,” and the past history of mankind fully exemplifies the truth of his metaphor. The word " man,” however, must be used in its generic sense as including both men and women, if the truth of the remark is still to remain, for many an institution owes its origin and its continued existence to the thoughts of a woman’s brain. The exceptional organizations and institutions disconnected from all womanly influence are now very few. Freemasonry draws the bolt against them, but Odd Fellows patronize their Odd Sisters.

With few exceptions, until lately, woman has worked by herself. As breadgiver, indeed, she has deputed work to her servants ; as mother she has guarded her children ; as occasional sovereign she has made laws and led armies; but Ursula and her three thousand virgins of Cologne are almost the only instance in the dim past of combined action of women, and that had such an unfortunate result that others may have been deterred from combinations for different ends from those of martyrdom. Woman is naturally an organizer, as the mere existence of home testifies. Men can exist in a carpet-bag, but women must have bureau drawers. Whatever may be thought of the wisdom of women in seeking concerted action amongst themselves without the coöperation of men, there are at the present moment several conspicuous instances of organization of women for women.

The war points to our grandest organization of women by women for men. On the very day that President Lincoln issued his first call for troops, the women of Bridgeport, Conn., and of Charlestown, Mass., formed societies to aid the sick and wounded. In a day or two the Lowell women followed the example, and on the 28th of April, 1861, ninety New York women, led by Mrs. General Dix, Mrs. Fish, and others, sent out a call for a general meeting. Their plans were formed, and submitted to the war department; and the Sanitary Commission became the blessed adjunct of the war.

There are five large departments into which women’s work can be divided, in each of which organization is the foundation and mainspring of success, — the industrial, the domestic, the educational, the charitable, and the religious and moral. In each of these, woman has now a distinct position. It is unnecessary to prove her capacity for earning a livelihood ; the census of 1870 does that better than any argument. Of 1,645,188 females (which calculation omits a great many women, on account of the difficulty of getting class lists of workers in this country as in England), 323,791 are engaged in agriculture ; 328,286 in manufactures and mining; 17,882 in trade and transportation; and 975,529 in rendering personal and professional services.

In the industrial department, woman has done most as individual worker, and least as organizer; because she has seldom entered upon this field of work except under the spur of necessity for daily bread, and has had neither time nor training for aught beyond the day’s requirements. Yet out of her need has she found the means to make her closest friend, the needle, the nucleus of the now wide-spread organization of sewingschools, and has taught the legitimate advance from patchwork quilts to dressmaking. These schools were first founded as charity enterprises, in connection with churches; then grew outside of churches and inside of our public schools, where, as in Boston, Providence, and elsewhere, sewing is taught in every grammar school, and in some even to dress-making, the garment being cut by measure.

At the South and West, instruction in the needle, when provided at all, is chiefly given through charity or church enterprise. In Syracuse, N. Y., the Economical School committee have provided the rooms in which ladies voluntarily teach poor little children, and assume all expenses. In many large wholesale establishments a woman organizes all the subdivisions of cutting, fitting, and basting, and giving out of work; but as this is also done by men, it is no longer a feminine pursuit, as are still the crèches and baby tending.

Opposed to utility stitches are the art needlework schools that have branched out in many directions from New York; and though men may have an honorary place on their committee lists, or cast their votes, and as artists be of great service in the sub-committees on designs, their real management belongs to women. The impulse that led to their formation was derived from South Kensington, England, and affords a striking instance of the ramifications of an organization.

Next to the needle in relationship, though not in friendliness, to woman, comes the kitchen fire; and here, again, woman has organized cooking-schools, at whose head as originator stands Miss Juliet Corson, of New York. The New York Cooking-School, now at Cooper Institute, was opened March 13, 1877, to teach the “ principles of plain cookery to cooks, and to the wives and daughters of workingmen.”Since then it has become a permanent and incorporated institution, but is not yet self-supporting. The instruction is graded to meet the needs of all classes. The school has been a genuine success, measured not alone by its internal management and the wide-spread instruction it has afforded, but by the impulse it has communicated to similar establishments in other places. Philadelphia has one in connection with the Ladies’ New Century Club. In Boston one was started through the agency of the Young Women’s Christian Association, and another through the Women’s Education Association, with a branch school in one of the poorer districts of the city. Miss Corson notably, Miss Parloa, and others have gone from one town or city to another, establishing private classes for a longer or shorter period of time. The aim of all these classes and of all the schools is to render cookery attractive, and to place it above mere kitchen drudgery by applying to it skill and forethought, in the hope not only that a better class of trained cooks can be provided, but that the “artisan course” of instruction will make home tables healthier and more appetizing, while fancy cooking can be acquired by extra payments.

Among those pursuing the higher industrial pursuits, such as phonography, photography, telegraphy, book-keeping, type-setting, engraving, or architecture, there is no union to increase the demand for their services or their proficiency in any of these branches, though there are many individuals engaged in each.

Horticulture, with its myriad beauty of form and hue, has enticed women into the odorous green-house heat, and in gardening she has done much, though only through the scattered combinations of a few individuals; but these are the first steps upwards to a more extended organization of the special industry of farming, which will become a large outlet to superfluous female energy and an avenue to independence. Western women have been far more enterprising in large farming establishments than Eastern women. As instances of successful individual enterprise in the West, which its undertakers trust will lead to larger organized effort in similar direction, may be mentioned the following : At Colorado Springs, not long ago, a young lady owned and managed a large cattle ranche up the Ute Pass. By provision of the territorial law, those who owned and branded cattle were obliged to appear personally at the “spring round-ups,” and claim and drive away their stock. She would ride into a herd of a thousand wild and terrified cattle, strike one which bore her brand with a leathern thong to separate it from the rest, and when necessary use the lasso to bring the fleeing animal within control. Two Nebraska sisters own one of the largest cattle ranches in the West; and the Bee Queen of Iowa has made bee culture a possibility for others. In other ways, also, have Western women achieved personal independence in finding new avenues of employment. They are bank cashiers, hotel keepers, county school superintendents, postmistresses, and one has even been clerk of the Kansas legislature.

A growing industrial organization, which is also educational, is that of “ training-schools for nurses ” which have arisen, as good nursing has been proved to he neither miracle nor accident, but the result of knowledge, self-possession, and skilled fingers. No industry is more deserving than that which saves the life of our beloved. Fabriola, a Roman lady of the fourth century, as an act of penance founded the first Roman hospital; and Paula, descendant of the Scipios, used boiled water in washing the sick. In the Catholic church, nursing Sisters have always “ laid the pillows aright and in point.” The Gray Sisters and the Béguines and the Sisters of variously named saints not only nursed, but collected a fund of knowledge respecting disease and the use of medicines of which physicians in the sixteenth century gladly availed themselves, when medicine became a science. Then came the organized Sisters of Charity, who nursed on battle-fields and in plague-stricken districts in the Old and New World ; then the Kaiserwerth Training-Schools under Pastor Fliedner, where Florence Nightingale served and learned : and from the impulse derived indirectly from all these noble women and from direct necessity have sprung three training-schools in New York, — at Bellevue Hospital, West Fifteenth Street, and Blackwell’s Island; in Boston there are three, if not four ; in Philadelphia, New Haven, and Washington one each. Most of them were organized and are officered by women, the students passing through various grades of service until graduation. In the New England Hospital, Boston, and in that at Philadelphia, the instruction is given by women only.

What shall be said of woman as an organizer in domestic life ! Have we not all friends whose housekeeping is a terror to us, alike from its cleanliness and the want of it; whose table makes us either abstemious or hungry ? Is not every house the microcosm of the world, and is not every woman at its head a miniature sovereign ? But as the generic resemblances and the specific differences in woman’s work in this department are matters for private interpretation, rather than for statement of facts, it is sufficient merely to assert that if she is not in this field also an organizer she ought to be.

From the organization of a home the transit is slight to the educational department of life. At once the organization of a school-room rises before us, and we proudly assert that three fourths of the two hundred and fifty thousand teachers in the United States are women, that is, organizers of the present for the future. The large educational institutions for women have never been the result of her organizing power alone, though many of their arrangements are due to her. On the other hand, societies and clubs have sprung from her inventive faculty. Women’s clubs have become so familiar a sound that their ter rific and strong-minded aspect has disappeared, till they are now generally welcomed even by men as refreshment of mind and heart to the wife and sister. These clubs are carrying out for women the work begun by the Sanitary Commission. They are teaching them to think consecutively, and showing them their power and short-comings relatively to each other. Through them they are being prepared for more important committee work, which is surely devolving upon them as they hold places in schools and state charity boards. That clubs have taught women to work with one another alone justifies their existence.

In sleepy, conservative towns, where the word “club” is still pronounced with hesitation, there are “ societies ” for reading Plato, history, and literature, in some manner of organized improvement. In Boston, the Society to Encourage Studies at Home embraces one hundred teachers and over a thousand pupils in all parts of the United States, Canada, and Japan. This society was devised by Miss Anna Ticknor to induce young women to form the habit of devoting some part of every day to study of a systematic and thorough kind ; and is especially intended for those who are too busy in other ways to pursue a college course, or are not able to engage paid instructors. Courses of reading and plans of work in history, natural science, art, and in German, French, and English literature, are arranged, from which one or more may be selected ; the instruction is given and answers received through correspondence; and all this is done by women for women, the library being successfully maintained even through the mails.

As proof of what can be done by intelligent laboring women working in concert stands the Lowell Offspring of some thirty years ago, when such an honored name as Lucy Larcom’s was enrolled among its contributors.

The Woman’s Education Association in Boston has organized the Harvard Examinations for Women, diet kitchens, nurses’ training and cooking schools, and botanical lectures through its committees on education, industry, and æsthetics, and is merely one of similar organizations in many cities. To it is also due the Chemical Laboratory for Women in connection with the Massachusetts Technological Institute, where its pupils can become practical chemists, dyers, assayers.

In regard to art there is little concerted action among women. They rent studios together, and form classes for mutual criticism and admiration. The school for carving and modeling in clay, plaster, and wood in Boston is unique. A girl can graduate there as plasterer, stone-cutter, designer, or carver. She knows every step of the process, from the manipulation of clay, the casting in plaster or gelatine molds, to the final cutting in stone or wood. She draws her design as a flat copy, or molds it in high or low relief. The Philadelphia School of Design ranks high, but it is not especially a woman’s school; whilst that in Cincinnati is an instance of the organized result of woman’s power to keep at a thing. More than twenty-five years ago, Mrs. Peters raised five thousand dollars to establish in that city an academy of fine arts. With copies of pictures bought abroad, a few modern paintings, and Powers’s Greek Slave, she opened the first art exhibition in Cincinnati. In 1864 the Cincinnati ladies induced the trustees of McMicken University to open a school of design, and to this were donated their paintings and statuary. Mr. Joseph Longworth added fifty thousand dollars ; and at last, through Mr. Pitman, resulted the woodcarving department. Encouraged by the great success of that school, the Wheeling School of Art in this country and the Sheffield School of Design in England, the Women’s School of Industry, St. Louis, the Rochester, N. Y., and Portsmouth, Ohio, Wood-Carving School have arisen ; whilst the Catholic Sisters of Notre Dame and the Ursuline Sisters of Brown County, Ohio, are teaching their own pupils and worshiping amidst their own carvings.

In the medical department, woman has done more than in any other of the learned professions. In New York there is a hospital and college that was started and is carried on by women, and is largely under the care of Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi and Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell ; and another in Philadelphia, which is most richly endowed. In Chicago there is a large hospital and college, and in Detroit a smaller institution. In all of them the women greatly outnumber the men as managers on the various boards; also the organizing and the work are almost exclusively done by women. They all, however, have men as consulting physicians, because it is said that when the colleges and hospitals were first started there were no women of sufficient age, and therefore of sufficient experience, to act in that capacity.

Included in both the educational and industrial department of labor are the educational and industrial unions for women, often called Women’s Christian Associations. All are familiar with their net-work of classes, lectures, and employment bureaus. These unions are doing for women, with similar methods, what has so long been done for men. The names vary, or sometimes both men and women are helped by the same organization, as in the Union for Good Works, at New Bedford, which is the more prevailing custom in the smaller towns and cities. The Women’s Liberal Union, Chicago, besides its systematic missionary work, renders help in organizing religious and literary clubs, as is also done by the Lecture Bureau of the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union, which intend thus to “facilitate communication and good understanding between the women who are qualified and ready to speak and those who may desire to hear them,” at clubs, parlor meetings, or even in larger places. The same union has also a protective department, to protect women in regard to payment of wages wrongfully withheld from them by dishonest employers. As its managers are women only, it is included among women’s organizations, though through the voluntary services of lawyers has been obtained at least one half of the amounts recovered. Every case comes first before the committee of ladies, and is investigated by them. Within the eighteen months of their existence, they have received about two hundred and fifty complaints, and recovered about a thousand dollars, much of which has been paid in installments. A similar society exists in Philadelphia, and, beginning only six months ago, has already found urgent need for being. The New York society does the same work on a much larger scale, but with a board composed of gentlemen. The Moral Education Societies in New York, Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston aim to give greater prominence by publications and lectures to the necessity of increased morality and purity in all ranks of life.

In turning now to the charitable organizations among women, we find they are legion. There is not a church without them. How can be repeated their ever-told tale! Our purses know how endless are their calls. Many are entirely managed by women, yet from many a city comes the whisper, Women are not good financial managers. Charity accounts must have a man auditor when a woman is treasurer. Seaside homes, country weeks, fresh-air funds, are now added to the long list by which the poor obtain shelter, food, clothing, and too often money. To obviate this evil some of our cities, especially Philadelphia and Boston, are following the Eberfeld plan, and consolidating the city wards into one central organization. — though each ward will have its own committee, office, and paid agent, — all other agencies reporting to this one items of information respecting the individual poor and the aid rendered to them. Work, not money, is the cure for pauperism. The “ houseless ” women of Philadelphia have a city hotel, which is what the New York Hilton Hotel should have been ; also a charming sea-side summer hotel at Asbury Park, where a poor girl can board and bathe in the surf for three dollars per week; and another house in the city, where, for two dollars and a half per week, the girls board, have their washing done and a substantial lunch put up for them to carry to their business, an infirmary, doctor, etc.

In New York the State’s Charity Aid Association originated with Miss Schuyler. She has long been its president, and is its great strength. There is no similar association in the country, though its influence has been widely felt, and movements are being made which may result in like methods elsewhere. While it was planned by a woman and women have done much of its work, it has gained much from the men who have belonged to it. It wishes to insure a more faithful and efficient administration of the present poor-law system in New York State, and to improve the system itself by inducing wise legislative action, that shall alleviate suffering and lessen poverty ; which ends it hopes to accomplish through the formation of an enlightened public opinion, rather than because the association in itself has legal power. It has standing committees on children, on adult able-bodied paupers, on hospitals, and on elevation of the poor in their homes ; the twenty-eight committees in various New York counties working to the same end, and having their results generally adopted by those in power. The details of management in this body are as wonderfully conceived and executed as the whole plan is wise and great.

Woman has organized far more reforms than that of dress alone, and such reforms are both charitable and educational. As the efficacy of punishment is seen to consist in prevention of further evil, our prisons and reformatories are slowly passing under womanly oversight. There is as yet only one thorough-going prison for women, officered wholly as to its internal arrangements by women, with the exception of an engineer and watchmen, and that is at Sherborn, Mass. The office of treasurer and steward is, however, in the hands of a gentleman. Apparently trifling changes in the grade of dress, of linen collar, and amount of washing have fired the zeal of the prisoners to attain to good behavior. Force of example alone leads them into their cells. Nursing babies stay with their mothers, and occasionally a very good prisoner has a visit from her older child; while some of the women acquire courage to refuse even the coffee that is their daily ration, as, if they can do without coffee in prison, they can do without whisky out of prison. The Reformatory and Prison for Women at Indianapolis is of a similar nature, though with many very important differences of organization. The Women’s Guardian Home at St. Louis is in some measure a reformatory institution, but reformatory without the power to enact legal punishment. Similar societies exist in many cities for women, often under the general name of “ moral reform.”

The religious organizations of women are not nearly as many as they will be when every denomination welcomes women into its pulpits; but there are two or three which are conspicuous examples of organizing power. The Methodist Episcopal Missionary Society was started by women, and organized and carried on by women alone, save a gentleman for auditor in most of the branches. It is not, like other denominational societies, auxiliary to the general society of the church, but is entirely independent in all matters of finance and real management. It has head-quarters in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Atlanta, and its organ, The Heathen Woman’s Friend, has a subscription list of 13,388, whilst its work literally encircles the globe.

The Woman’s Board of Missions, Congregational, received $5000 in its first year, and in 1879 $74,127.30. It has 20 branches, 885 auxiliaries, 560 mission circles, and supports 76 missionaries and nearly 90 Bible women and teachers, and 80 schools. The board works through Sunday-schools, committees, auxiliary societies, mission circles, publications, and weekly-pledge systems, and is probably the largest organization of women in the United States.

The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Presbyterian church held its decennial session last April, in Cincinnati. It supports over one hundred missionaries; and last year it had a regular income of $117,000, besides a decennial thank-offering of $19,353.

Other denominations have similar organizations, but on a much smaller scale, as the one established by the Unitarian conference a year ago at Saratoga.

Where shall the great temperance movement be placed, one of the most wonderful episodes on record, but which has yet to prove its possibility of continued march of empire ? This organization is the sober second thought of the Woman’s Temperance Crusade of 1873-4. The praying bands, “earnest, impetuous, inspired,” became the unions, “ firm, patient, and persevering.” There are probably more than 1117 auxiliary unions (of which Ohio counts the most), with a membership of 26,590 ; 307 juvenile organizations, with a membership of 57,997 ; 79 reading-rooms and Friendly Inns. The plan of work embraces three divisions : First, evangelistic, including meetings of all kinds in churches, theatres, prisons, and almshouses, and amongst all kinds of people, whites, Indians, Chinese, and colored persons ; and the advocacy of the use of unfermented wine at communion. Secondly, moral suasion, including juvenile temperance work in homes, societies, and schools, meetings, temperance restaurants ; the enlistment of corporations and employers in requiring total abstinence in their employees; saloon visiting, temperance pledges and petitions, etc. And, thirdly, legal suasion, embracing work in effecting temperance legislation and information in regard to it and the liquor traffic. The finances are raised by weekly onecent subscriptions, every auxiliary union being connected with the state society, and that in turn with the national union. There is no cause in which enthusiasm and hard labor are so wonderfully combined ; prayer is their guide in all their planning and performing, The expenses of the national union for 1879 were $731.43, and the receipts $1213. But thousands of dollars are contributed by local unions for work within their own State, of which no account is made in the treasurer’s report of the national union; as, for instance, in Massachusetts, where $4850.09 were received, and $4375.44 expended, in 1879. In all the list of officers there is not a man’s name. Women are here proved to be economical and successful financiers.

Is the woman suffrage movement moral, educational, or religious ? It calls forth such opposite statements that nothing but the opportunity to vote can test the wisdom of female suffrage. Men, however, have coöperated so earnestly with women in this cause that it does not stand by itself as a woman’s organization, as does the Association for the Advancement of Women, which holds its annual meetings in different parts of the country. That is like an enormous club, by its intelligent interest touching upon the many centres of individual preference, and becoming an agency in collecting all these centres into an organization that is powerful by the examination and publicity it gives to all subjects of human sympathy. It holds its eighth congress in October, at Boston.

Some reference should be made to the Protestant and Catholic sisterhoods. The latter are as multiform and numerous as the various kinds of beneficence they practice, and as intangible to close inspection as is sometimes the result of their beneficence. The Protestant sisterhoods were founded to supply a want which death, loneliness, and Catholic success had made palpable. The principal sisterhoods are three in New York city, and one each in Washington, Newark, St. Louis, and Boston. Their constitutions vary, but they are all managed by women ; all the affairs of a sisterhood being discussed and voted upon in “ chapter,” where each professed sister has a vote. Generally the chaplain has an advising, though never a controlling, will. The sisterhoods vary in strictness of rule, some endeavoring to carry out entirely the “ religious life,” as it is known in the Greek, Roman, and Anglican branches of the Catholic church ; others, like the Lutheran deaconesses, being associations of good women for charitable works. Many of them, if not all, are bound by the close ties of rule, dress, officers, and constitution to the mother houses in England. Yet each sisterhood is an independent organization, though all are united by the common ties of interest; and all have charge of various educational and reformatory enterprises, and of private or hospital nursing.

Lastly, the Grange rises before one in huge, mysterious proportions. Though it is of masculine origin, women have from the outset been admitted to full membership and privileges. Every subordinate and State Grange is partly officered by women, and every office in these and also in the national grange is open to them, those of Flora, Pomona, and Ceres, naturally falling to them. The feeling towards women as office-holders is without exception favorable and kindly ; and it is doubtful whether the objects of this institution, especially in regard to the refinements of education and all that tend to brighten health and enliven home, could have been accomplished without their presence and aid. It is stated that the percentage of insanity is greater among farmers' wives than among married women of other classes, owing to the isolation and monotonous round of work in their lives, year after year; and it is also said that their hope lies in the spread and enlarged scope of the granges, which make separate homes members of a community of mutual interest and social life. The men and women often meet in clubs and lyceums, the women contributing their full quota of short addresses or papers. They also combine in establishing cooperative stores, so that in many States, at least, the grange work is more and more coming under female control, and losing, or has lost, its original political and anti-railroad character.

In reviewing in broad outlines these various kinds of enterprise, it is evident that, whilst a special undertaking has here and there failed, yet, taken in classes, these organizations have all succeeded and multiplied. It is doubtful whether there is even a single one which has been wholly unsuccessful. The three requisites for any organization seem to be implanted within them all, — ardor, forethought, and imagination. Because women so largely possess imagination are they specially adapted to start new plans. The constitutions of their various societies are marked by simplicity and effectiveness, and in committee work the members are distinguished by their obedience to by-laws and their directness of action.

Kate Gannett Wells.