Monday, 2 March 2015

Little Miss Telegraph.

From the Liverpool Daily Post, 2nd March 1915.





Twenty bright-eyed young girls cheerfully lent themselves to the Government yesterday, and took a part in the putting on of a great innovation by carrying telegrams from certain suburban offices in the South-end of Liverpool.  It was the first time that girls had ever been engaged in such employment in a large centre of population, and these smart and swift-footed maidens bore their part in the experiment with all the pride and enthusiasm of conscious pioneers.
It will not be many days before little Miss Telegraph, hurrying along the street will the familiar buff-coloured envelope in her hand, will be a familiar figure in the suburbs of Liverpool. Yesterday’s experiment was only the beginning of what promises to be a successful scheme, which will be extended as rapidly as necessity shall require. If the war lasts until July or August it is possible that Liverpool’s corps of telegraph messenger girls may number as many as seventy.
300 Postmen at the Front.
It comes about in this way.    About 300 of Liverpool’s postmen, including a number of the senior telegraph messengers, have joined the colours, and to fill their places there has been a general moving forward of the smartest youths in the telegraph messenger service.  The consequence of this has- been that many more messengers are needed for service in the suburban districts.   These vacancies will continue to occur, as there is still a goodly number of postmen who have volunteered for service at the front, and who are only keeping at their work until it is found convenient to replace them.  The demand for boy labour in offices and workshops is so great, and the wages offered in commercial offices is so much larger than the Post Office scale for messengers, that great difficulty is being found in inducing boys to enter the messenger service.  In some commercial offices, it is said, as much as 12s and 14s a week is now being paid for smart and intelligent youths.
As the boys will not step into the vacancies, the Postmaster has been obliged to make the experiment of recruiting messengers from among the girls.  In this novel scheme he has had the effective co-operation of the Juvenile Employment Committee, which came into existence two or three years ago, with Alderman K. J. Leslie as its chairman.  The committee has furnished the girls who have already been taken on, and has specially selected those on their list who were best suited for this class of work.  The innovation, so far as present arrangements go, will only last until the war is over and the soldiers return to their customary callings.  But the committee is prepared to recommend at least another 100 suitable girls from their list if the Post Office has use for their services.
Short Hours and Good Pay.
Every care will be taken to see that little Miss Telegraph is well looked after in her new sphere.  She will be engaged only in the better class residential distracts, and as she will wear no uniform she will be paid at a slightly higher figure than the beginning wage of a mere boy messenger.  Moreover, she will work only six hours instead of the boy's eight; and, so that her education should not suffer while she is in this temporary calling, special classes for her instruction are being arranged by the Education Committee.  When she is engaged on the morning shift, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., she will be able to go to a class in the evening; and when she is on the late shift, from 2 p.m. until 8 p. m. (and under no circumstances will she ever be asked to work later than 8 p.m.), a morning class will be provided for her.  In the residential districts she will generally be delivering messages to ladies, who are sure to be interested in her, and she will never have long flights of stairs to climb, as the boys in the city have to do.  All things considered, she will be rather a lucky little mortal.
A Plea for Girl Labour.
The circumstances which have compelled the Postmaster to enter a near field for his messenger are not peculiar to the telegraph service.  All over the city there is now a shortage of boy labour as a consequence of the enlistment of so many young men.  On the other hand, it is harder than ever for girls and young women to find berths.  At the beat of times Liverpool, compared with other large cities, offers few opportunities for female labour, and it so happens that the factories and workshops in which females are engaged locally have been particularly hard hit by the war, with the result that there are more young women and girls out of employment than usual.  This dual problem of the shortage of boy labour and the surplus of female labour has now reached such an acute stage that the Juvenile Employment Committee are now seeking the assistance of employers in dealing with it.  Aldermen Leslie in a communication which we received yesterday, puts the position very clearly.
“A year ago at this date,” he points out, “we had on our books in the Juvenile Employment Registry at the Education Offices 202 boys wanting places, and 79 employers wanting boys.  Now the position is reversed, and last Saturday the record was 149 boys seeking employment and 305 employers seeking boys.  The placing of boys in good situations at the present time, therefore, presents no difficulty.
"But in the girls’ department last week we had 32 vacancies open and 455 applicants for them.  This disproportion has become more marked every week since the war began, and the problem presented by these hundreds of unemployed young girls is giving us the greatest anxiety.”
After referring to the Postmaster's experiment with girl messengers, Alderman Leslie's letter goes on to ask:—
“Would large firms or companies, hitherto employing boy labour, like to make a similar experiment?  If so, the director of education will be very glad to arrange, on hearing to that effect, for the superintendent of the Juvenile Employment Registry or the lady officer to call upon thorn and make the necessary arrangements. It is, of course, our duty to be satisfied that the conditions under which the girls will work are suitable.”
Why Domestic Service is Disliked.
In a short interview with a “Daily Post” representative yesterday, Alderman Leslie amplified the statements contained in the letter.  The reason why there were fewer boys on the books of the Juvenile Employment Committee, he explained, was that they were snapped up so quickly by employers.  Every year 6,000 girls left the public elementary schools of Liverpool, and a large proportion of them hoped to find employment of some kind somewhere.  Only girls between the ages of fourteen and seventeen came within the purview of the committee, the business of finding them employment being undertaken by the Labour Exchange when they reached the age of seventeen.
“While employment is so scarce isn't it possible to induce them to enter domestic service?” asked our representative.
“Even in the present state of affairs, I am sorry to say we have the greatest difficulty in the world to persuade young girls to take up domestic service.  Their prejudice is very deeply rooted, and we don’t seem able to get rid of it.  We have even tried offering them pocket money while they go and train for domestic service at the Education Committee’s institutions in York-terrace and Prince’s-road, but the number who avail themselves of the chance is disappointingly small.  The young women of to-day who want employment insist upon having their evenings off.  That, I should say, is their chief objection to domestic service.
“What sort of employment do we ask employers to give to girls.  Well, so far we have not made any definite suggestions.  The employers know their requirements better than we do, and we think it best, perhaps, that suggestions should come from them.  But there is surely much work which could be just as well done by young women as by men or boys.  There are the station bookstalls, for example.  When you travel in Scotland you find nearly all the stalls under the care of young women, who manage them very efficiently.  But in England it seems never to have been realised that that is a suitable sphere for women’s labour.”
“But if new employments are found for young women, where are the domestic servants to come from in future?” was our representative’s final question.
Alderman Leslie frankly gives it up.

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