IX-"Prisoners of Poverty: Women wage-workers, their trades and their lives" - Helen Campbell - New York Tribune

IX-"Prisoners of Poverty: Women wage-workers, their trades and their lives" - Helen Campbell - New York Tribune

"The Evolution of a Jacket"

by: Helen Campbell | publication date: December 19, 1886 | Publication: The New York Tribune | pages: 13

The manufacturers of cloaks and jackets reported "piecework" as the rule. The great dry-goods establishments had the same word. Here and there was one where work was done on the premises, and where skilled hands held the same places year after year, the wages ranging from six to ten dollars, hardly varying. But for most of them the same causes stated in the third chapter, "The Methods of a Prosperous Firm," have operated, and it has been found expedient to settle upon "piece-work" and let rent be paid and space be furnished by the workers themselves.

"They like it better," said the business manager of the great firm against whom there have never been charges of dishonesty or unkindness in their treatment of employees. "It would be impossible to do all our work on the premises. We should want the entire block if we even half did it. But we know some of the women, and we pay as high as anybody; perhaps higher. It saves them car fares and going out in all weathers, and a great many other inconveniences, when they work at home, and I don't see why there should be any objections made.

In the ninth chapter of her "Prisoners of Poverty" series, Campbell describes how jacket makers did "piece-work," meaning women had to work from home with their own equipment, making just one part of each jacket. This way manufacturers, in addition to paying low wages, saved on rent and equipment too.