Quote of the day

There is a good deal of talk just now about what they are going to do after the war with the women: Must they be made to return to the home? Are they going to take them out of the factory, the office, off the land? 

To me, this sort of discussion is very disquieting. It makes me think we’ve already forgotten the reasons why we’re fighting this war. Aren’t we fighting for liberty, for democracy and to eradicate fascism and Nazism in every form? Surely we don’t mean liberty and democracy for men only? Indeed, I hope women will enjoy the liberty which they have helped to win and be permitted to choose what they want to do.

Do you remember that one of the first things the Nazis did when they came to power was to put women out of the professions, out of the factories? They barred the doors of the universities to all but a few women and they severely limited women’s opportunities for 
any kind of higher education; by these methods the Nazis forced women back to the home – back to the kitchen. I can’t help thinking that if any attempt is made here after the war to force women back to the home, it will be proof that facism still has strong roots in Australia. 

Women should not be forced to return to the home, but they should be free to return there if they wish to. I don’t like what’s implied in the suggestion that women will have to he forced back into the home – that’s a slight not only on home life, but also on the work of bearing and rearing children, don’t you agree? The greatest happiness for many women is to care for a home and to raise a family. The trouble in the past has been that society has failed to make it possible for all the women who wanted to have homes and raise families to do so. 

And while we’re on the subject of women in the home, I think that this life could be made attractive to many more women by developing amenities and customs that render home less of a prison than it is to many women with young families. Just think of the prospects of family life, as lived under present conditions, to a clever, energetic, bright young girl. Soon after marriage there will be a baby, and from then on she cannot move unencumbered. The more babies, the harder she has to work and the greater her restrictions.

If we want more women to choose home life, we must make home life less hard. But how can we do this? Well, we can have crèches and kindergartens and supervised playgrounds where children can be left in safe surroundings. Then we must change many of our conventions. Why should a woman do all the work in the home? Why can’t we, for example, have community kitchens and laundries? If a woman wants 
to work outside the home, why shouldn’t she? Let her be free to choose. There’s just as much and more reason to believe that the best interests of her family and of society will be served by giving a woman a free choice than by expecting her to adhere to a lot of 
worn-out conventions. 

Anyway, the contribution that women can make to public life through the professions or in industry is important. Women in the past have been very much hampered by their inexperience in these spheres. They haven’t had the opportunity to qualify for 
representative positions or positions of control and direction. In other words, because of the lack of opportunity to gain experience they’re denied the opportunity of exerting any influence in framing policies or directing public affairs. 

I am pretty sure that many women will remain in industry after the war, for we shall be in need of more skilled hands rather than less. Remember, we couldn’t exert a full war effort until women were absorbed into industry; therefore, how can we exert a full peace programme without making use of their services?

Everyone knows how short we are of houses and hospitals and offices, of furniture, of bathroom and kitchen fittings, of curtains, wallpaper, clothing, foodstuffs, in fact, hundreds of commodities. Can you imagine the tremendous amount of work that will be required? Not only have we to make up the deficiency of the war years, but we must provide all these amenities on a much larger scale after the war.

There were large numbers of people before the war who had no homes, not even enough to eat; hospital accommodation was inadequate, and so on. Although all these could have been provided for a few million pounds, we believed we could not afford to better these conditions. It took a total war to show us what we could do with our own resources. If we can raise money for war we can raise it for peace, surely. It would be inexcusable in the future to condemn people to live under the conditions so many endured before the war. 

Why is there so much opposition to women remaining in industry? The secret isn’t far to seek. It’s simply that they got paid less – they are cheap labour, certainly not, as so many have alleged, because they’re weaker or less efficient. Unfortunately, because their labour is cheaper, women not only threaten the wage standards of men workers, but they also threaten the standard of living of all workers. The obvious and just way to avoid this is to give equal pay to men and women. 

To put this in a nutshell, I believe that in a democratic, free society women should be at liberty to choose whether they will take up home life or work outside the home; that men and women should receive equal pay and equal opportunity; that home life should be made less of a tie and the burden of raising a family be lightened. If we can face these peacetime problems with the spirit of determination and conciliation with which we’re facing our war problems, we may hope to solve them.  – Jessie Street who was born on this day in 1889.


6 Responses to Quote of the day

  1. Andrei says:

    Very interesting – it comes from Australia in the dark days of 1944 – when manpower shortages saw women performing roles usually performed by men

    Even the future Queen of England worked as a mechanic for a while

    But the post war era for Nations like Australia, the USA and New Zealand and to a lesser extent Great Britain were periods of unparalleled prosperity and we know what happened…

    It was possible for most men to earn enough to support their families without his wife needing be an income earner and the women married to such a man for the most part chose to stay home and raise children – the so called baby boom when larger families were the norm.

    Did these women prefer this arrangement to working a lathe for 12 hours a day? It might seem so with hind sight

    There is no utopia and the push for “gender equality” comes not in the menial jobs but in the high status occupations where the role of men is in sharp decline – for example 2/3rds of lawyers admitted to the bar these days are women and these women do not raise many children while the displaced men can no longer find employment which can remunerate them well enough to support a family – so families are smaller and the “day care industry” is a growth area with a predominantly low wage female labour force.

    What is interesting to me is that what we see is very much aligned to what the early Bolsheviks promoted as the ideal societal arrangement and struck great problems in introducing in the early days of the Soviet Union

    The real issue is that the raising of Children is not seen as a profound economic activity – which it is and “hausfrau” is said with a sneer – when the bulk of women, though not all, might well be better off and happier fulfilling that role instead of rushing off after tea to stack the shelves in the local supermarket to supplement the family income.

    Human affairs and societies are inherently unstable and a blind alley in attempting to create utopia might actually be catastrophic in the long term

  2. homepaddock says:

    “Did these women prefer this arrangement to working a lathe for 12 hours a day? It might seem so with hind sight.”

    I would but not all and a lot of women might prefer at least part time paid work in their chosen field rather than full-time unpaid work at home.

    It is possible to raise a family on a single income – much as I dislike the concept of Working for Families, it does mean many families are better off with only one earner.

    Even without WFF, some families manage on a single income, sacrificing what more money might bring for having a parent at home full time.

    I agree the push for equality is usually in the professions and other higher income roles. Related to that, I have yet to see anyone worrying because men aren’t well represented in what might be considered traditional female roles eg receptionists or child care.

    I agree there is no utopia. Girls might be able to do almost anything but they can’t do, or have everything. Once you have children something has to give – either your career or time with your offspring. But then boys can’t do or have everything either and they too face a choice between paid work and family time.

    Some women are happy at home with their children, others enjoy paid work regardless of how menial it might seem, because they earn money, have a degree of independence and adult company.

    Some men might be happy at home with their children, others prefer paid work.

  3. Paranormal says:

    These days women/families can choose what they want. Nothing is set in stone or lasts forever.

    In the past 15 years my wife has been a stay at home mum, a fulltime professional, and a part time consultant. To balance that I have also been a full time employee, a part time consultant and a stay at home Dad. We’ve also used most forms of Childcare.

    To suggest a woman’s place, once chosen, is set in stone is really ignoring the reality of a constantly changing society.

  4. Andrei says:

    These days women/families can choose what they want.

    That’s an illusion JC

    The women working in the sweatshops of Bangladesh have little choice and nor do the women stacking the shelves at your local K-Mart with their products, though the later are positively wealthy when compared to the former

    We don’t get a say on where and when we are born

    Meanwhile the rich and powerful get to push the poor around and make them do the things they want them to do

  5. homepaddock says:

    Andrei, I agree that people in sweat shops don’t have the choices those of us in the developed world do. But some women do choose to stack shelves and not just for the pay, as I said in my previous comment some do it because they enjoy the adult company and as a change from child care and housework. Some do it as a stepping stone to something better paid and more fulfilling.

  6. Andrei says:

    Some do it as a stepping stone to something better paid and more fulfilling.

    The rich and fulfilled lives of Western women 🙂

    Meanwhile the issue that is engaging our cultural elites today is whether or not a man who identifies as a woman should be entitled to use the woman’s restrooms

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