Thursday, 4 September 2014

The ‘Work for Women’ Fund

From The Times, 4th September 1914.


Her Majesty the Queen has suggested and authorized the formation, and has graciously consented to become the president, of a committee for raising funds to find employment for women thrown out of work by the war.

In the following letter her Majesty explains her intentions in the matter:—
In the firm belief that prevention of distress is better than its relief, and that employment is better than charity, I have inaugurated “The Queen’s 'Work for Women' Fund.”  Its object is to provide employment for as many as possible of the women of this country who have been thrown out of work by the war.
I appeal to the -women of Great Britain to help their less fortunate sisters through this fund.
...The committee is a collecting and not an administrative body; and the large funds it may confidently count upon raising will be spent solely on schemes devised by the Central Committee on Women's Employment.  The Central Committee... is a strong and businesslike body, well supported by expert boards of commercial and official advisers.  Its hon. Secretary is Miss Mary R. Macarthur... Its treasurer is Mrs. H. J. Tennant.  The officials include Miss Anderson (H.M. Principal Lady Inspector of Factories), Miss Clapham (head, Women's Department Labour Exchanges), Miss Durham (L.C.C. Technical Training Organiser), Miss Mona Wilson (H.M. Insurance Commission)....

The primary function of the Central Committee is to think out and to put into operation schemes that, while avoiding any interference with ordinary trade, will provide work for women and girls whom the war has thrown out of employment....

There can be no more important work than this.  The sufferings of war fall harder on women than on men, but hardest of all on the women who are deprived of their means of livelihood.  They are as a rule but poorly organized, or not organized at all, their resources are of the slenderest, and they have next to nothing to fall back upon.  Moreover, in a great many cases they are compelled to suffer not only in their own persons, but, far more poignantly, in the persons of their children and the care of the home.  Every one of us must have come across pitiable instances of this kind during the past few weeks in his or her own experience—instances of women despairingly seeking the work that would just enable them to struggle along; and every one of us must have wished that some efficient and workable machinery existed to save them from the abyss of destitution.

The machinery does exist, and it is for the public to see that it is not thrown out of gear by lack of funds.  The Central Committee on Women's Employment is performing the most useful service that could possibly be rendered at such a time as this.  It aims not at the relief of distress, but at its prevention.  It offers not charity, but work.  The women who are out of employment do not want and do not ask for doles.  They do want, and they do ask for, work.  They want to keep going as self-supporting units in the industrial army, and not to become a burden on the community.  They want to be preserved from lapsing into the state where unearned financial relief becomes necessary to hold body and soul together.  It is obvious, moreover, that in so preserving them, and in securing employment for many thousands of workless women, the Central Committee on Women's Employment will accumulate a number of articles and garments that may fitly be given away to those who need but are unable to pay for them.  This, of course, would be done in cooperation with the existing local machinery for the relief of distress.

The purpose of “The Queen's 'Work for Women’ Fund” is to raise funds that this admirable work may greatly extend its beneficent scope; and the purpose of this appeal is to urge upon every one the supreme and urgent need of supporting it.

[I like the idea of Queen Mary saying "Why don't we have a committee! Let's do it!  I'll be President."    (That's the 'suggesting/ authorizing/ graciously consenting' bit.)

 It seems odd from our point of view to say "The sufferings of war fall harder on women than on men" about the First World War, when we know how long it went on for, how many men eventually were sucked into the army, and how many of them were killed or wounded on the Western Front and elsewhere, but in 1914, that was all in the future.  At this point, the majority of men were not much affected, and it was not expected that it would go on for such a long time. ]  

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