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The Chicago Times

"City Slave Girls"

  • Judge O. H. Horton's Views on the Best Way to Improve Their Condition.
  • Legislation Will Have Litle Effect, While Education Will Accomplish the Desired End.
  • The Many Disadvantages Arisng from Women Making Their Work of a Temperary Character.

Judge O. H. Horton of the circuit court was on the point of starting for a fortnight's outing, with fishing accompaniment, at Alexandria, Minn., when informed that THE TIMES would like to have his views on the working-girl question.

I shall never forget, he began, a remark made by Horatio Seymour in a memorable speech he made in Baltimore. Referring to house servants he said that while they were exposed to the greatest temptations almost invariably they had shown themselves to be honest. In most households where the services of a domestic are required there are always valuables in the form of jewelry, plate, or clothing that an inmate of the household could easily appropriate. Frequently the help are left in charge of the house during the vacation months, and yet it is a rare thing for a trusted house girl to take advantage of her opportunities to defraud. In my experience on the bench I do not remember to have had but one servant girl before me charged with theft, and I had to force the tears back from my eyes when she told her story. She said she was a married woman and had a young baby. Her husband had deserted her, stolen the child, and gone to St. Paul. She frankly admitted that she had stolen the jewelry and pawned it to secure money to follow her husband and recover her child. I managed to uphold the majesty of the law and at the same time did not interfere with her search for her child.

But I suppose THE TIMES has special reference to female labor in shops and factories. As to child labor, it is hard to say in a general way what should be done. As lawyers say: Hard cases make bad precedents. Suppose a widow with no income has children from 12 to 15 years of age who could earn from $2 to $3 a week each. Should she be absolutely prohibited from utilizing their labor, when she would otherwise be forced to beg or starve? It is difficult to make a rule for all cases. Beyond question, children ought to be prohibited from doing any kind of labor, and in any places where the natural tendency is deleterious to health or morals; and, in addition, children ought to be educated. There shoudl be a sort of semi-compulsory system of education, something having a certain degree of elaasticity, which, when wisely enforced, would benefit the masses and at the same time relieve the few. I could make myself clearly understood if I had more time. As to the effect of immigration on home labor, and especially female labor, that is a big problem. I have often wondered why the various labor organizations have not taken means to protect themselves against what are known as the assisted classes—paupers and criminals—coming to our shores to demoralize labor. And, by the way, these labor organizations, by whatever name they may be called, have just as good a right to exist as have the railroad pools. The trouble is existence is not as easy for them. It is not a difficult matter for ten or a dozen railroad magnates to meet in a private office and take action that shall affect the commercial interests of the entire continent, and stick together to carry out their scheme, but it is next to impossible to hold a hundred thousand working men to the accomplishment of a certain object. I favor a tariff for the protection of American labor; capital can take care of itself. I have a strong leaning toward and a warm feeling for the working classes. I know what their life is, as I once shoved lumber over a vessel's side right here in Chicago.

It is not an easy task to say what legislation can or should do, and I confess my inabilidty to devise a plan. This question of female and child labor, like many other social quesitons, I do not know how to compass except by educating the people to a higher standard. I see no sense in passing laws that can have no effect on the object aimed at, and are merely for buncombe, to help elect some fellow to the legislature. In fact, as regards all semi-moral questions, there is absolutely no use in passing aggressive laws any faster than the people are educated up to them. They will be of no earthly use. I am tempted to refer to prohibition legislation in this connection, but will not run off on that now.

You ask me what I know about girls. In the present state of society nearly every girl who goes out to service, in home, shop, or factory, looks upon her employment as temporary, pending marriage, whereas a young man regards his employment as a lifework. The house girl has this great incentive. She expects to continue in the same line, and for herself; while the others are almost invariably looking forward to housekeeping as a finality, but in most instances without having received any training to qualify them for its responsibilities. All this has to do with the wages of women. There are many social matters, seemingly of minor importance, that have much to do with this question of equality of wages. For instance, we will take a young man and a young woman who are employed in the same factory, and who are doing the same kind and the same amount of skilled work. Suppose they are good friends, with a possibility og becoming something more. If they ride home on the street-car together the man, of course, pays for both. If they go to the theater he buys the tickets, and in case of emergency hires a carriage. Ice-cream, or other expected and more costly delicacies, increase expenses. Now who has the advantage? The woman would get rich while the man was pauperizing himself. Our social system puts burdens on young men that it does not place on young women, and on the whole the system needs readjustment. As an abstract proposition is must be admitted that in any kind of labor there should be no distinction made as to whether it was performed by male or female, old or young, but the existing social state of affairs has, as I have said, demands on the young men that it does not have on the young women—demands that we are compelled to recognize as though they were statutory. This social compact must yield the one if it demands the other. I am speaking, of course, from a financial standpoint.

[MISSING TEXT] personal experience with [MISSING TEXT] go outside of any household. I have never employed a female clerk in my law office. There I want someone to whom I can say go, when business presses, and I could scarcely bring myself to the point of saying that to a female when I wanted immediate communication with a client or with the court. There is much of that feeling in the American mind. It is the same sentiment that moves men to surrender their seats to ladies in a crowded street car. The question of immigration I have not time to discuss further that to say that I am trying to learn, in my everyday language, to make a distinction between foreigners and aliens. We are all foreigners, at least by decent. The Indians are the only natives.

Judge Horton hurriedly expressed his detestation of aliens, as distinguished from foreigners who come to this country to become a part of it. Continuing, he said:

I believe in education as the eventual remedy for the evils complained of. The work can not be accomplished in a day, or in a generation. I would like to see waifs' homes established all over the city where boys and girls are cared for and trained. And right here I want to say that I have been sorry, on this account, to see aspersions east upon C. B. Holmes that might injure his usefulness in this work. Up on Ciybourn avenue he has the largest mission school in the United States, conducts it himself from the platform without the aid of teachers, and my own observation has satisfied me that he has done an immense amount of good. If I were asked whether, in my opinion, wages are proportionate to the profits of employers in manufacturing industries, I should have to answer, I don't know. It would seem to me, however, that in some cases they are. It is a partnership between money and muscle, and they ought to divide. If I should form a partnership with a skilled mechanic, he to furnish the skill and do the work and I to furnish the capital, he would be entitled to half the profits. And so with the manufacturer. His employes should share in his profits. But suppose he has 1,000. He is then 1,000 and each individual employe is but 1,000th. Capital and labor are as necessary to each other as is Chicago to her railroads. Neither could exist without the other and they should work together. A good many years ago Judge Arington was a well-known character in Chicago. On certain occasions he gave himself up to writing poetry, some specimens of which now exist in book form. I have in my possession, in manuscript, one of his productions in which, speaking of the parsons and Old Nick or the devil, he says they are

As necessary to each other

As Siam's twins, Chang and his brother.

Judge Horton spoke hurriedly, but with a readiness indicating that he had given the subject much thought.