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

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

"More Methods of Prosperous Firms"

by: Helen Campbell | publication date: November 28, 1886 | Publication: The New York Tribune | pages: 13

To this end, then, toils the employer of every grade, bringing every faculty to bear on the lessening of waste, whether in material or time; the conservation of every force working in line with his purpose. Naturally, the same effect is produced as that mentioned in a previous paper. The employees come to represent "so much producing power," and are driven at full speed or shut off suddenly like the machines of which they are the necessary but still more or less accidental associates. Certain formulas are used, evolved apparently from experience, and carrying with them an assurance of so much grieved but inevitable conviction that it is difficult to penetrate below the surface and realize that, while in degree true, they are in greater degree false. In various establishments, large and small, beginning with one the pay-roll of which carries 1,462 employees, and ending with one having hardly a third this number, the business manager made invariably the same statement : "We make our money from incidentals rather than from any given department. You are asking particularly about suits. I suppose you'll think it incredible, but in suits we work at a dead loss. It is only an accommodation to our customers that makes us keep that department open. The work should be put out to mean any profit, but we can't do that with the choicest materials, and so we make it up in other directions. You would have to go into business yourself to understand just how we are driven."

In the sixth installment of "Prisoners of Poverty," Campbell continues her Marxist critique of the garment manufacturing industry. She describes how competitionsbetween and within manufacturers contributes to low wages, long hours and poor conditions for the working poor, especially women.