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story.lead_photo.caption The respectability of the phrase “working girl” is seen in this ad for Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, which appeared often in Little Rock newspapers in 1917 and 1918.

Somewhere in the 20th century, a pair of snarky quotation marks attached themselves to the phrase "working girl." They weren't there 100 years ago.

They're so firmly hooked on today that it's startling to see the words "working girls" in 1918 newspaper headlines over stories about fair wages and affordable housing. Different words were used to describe prostitutes, including "immoral women who travel from city to city" and the kindly "wayward girls."

I did find a few hints of disrespect for "working girls" deeper in the archives. For instance, in a syndicated column published by the Arkansas Gazette in 1911. The logo on this column shows its author in profile, her jaw substantial, her hair a billow of glory; she looks far from modern. But Winifred Black (1863-1936) was a pioneering Hearst reporter, one of the prolific journalists like Dorothy Dix, Ada Patterson and Nixola Greeley-Smith belittled in their day as "sob sisters."

Under the headline "Young Ladies Employed," Black reports that a ladies club in the West End of New York is setting up a weekly open house for working girls so they can enjoy "rational entertainment." But they do not want to say "working girls." That suggests the girls are workers. Instead they will say "young ladies employed."

Black finds this absurd:

Now really, do you think that any girl who is worth even $5 a week is ashamed of the work she does to earn it?

I don't believe it.

Women who work are usually women with sense. They have to be, or they couldn't work for a living -- and earn it.

It was out of step, Black insists, to equate having a job with being downtrodden or unable to find a date. Most of these working girls are "a hundred times happier than the average society girl." And beaus? They have a wider assortment.

By 1918, with thousands of men serving in the trenches of Europe, working girls became so prevalent that the concern was no longer about ladyship but fair wages and affordable housing. Yes, there were immoral women, and they should be locked up. But a more pressing concern -- "the girl question" -- was affordable housing. Underpaid women in tenuous rooms were vulnerable to seduction by cads ... or by soldiers looking for a good time.

In Little Rock, the Womens Committee of the National Council of Defense, the YWCA and the Commerce Bureau urged collaboration to find homes for the girls who work. "Good families" were recruited to let rooms, and lists were published of houses that might be shared by several girls.

Being a friend of the working girl was so respectable that in April 1918 when Sen. George F. Jones announced his candidacy for prosecuting attorney in Pulaski County, he bragged about his role in the state Senate "in securing our Minimum Wage law for our working girls" along with the Mother's Pension Law and the Better Banking Law.


Just for yuks, let's say we are girls in 1918 who need money and are not qualified for the job advertised by the M.M. Cohn Co.

Experienced corsetiere wanted -- One capable of making necessary alterations and assist in the buying. Splendid opportunity to advance.

Let's look up our options in the Sunday classifieds published by the Gazette on Feb. 10, 1918. Let's leave out the phone numbers (they don't work anyway). Could we be "a good washerwoman"? A cook? They need a cook at 900 N. Pine St. Several restaurants need table girls, and some ads seek "colored girls who can wait table."

• An experienced private teacher or governess. Apply 1001 W. Capitol.

• Two waitresses -- for city. L.R. Employment Bureau

• Reliable white housekeeper; middle aged preferred.

• A first class colored cook for a family of five.

• Ladies with selling experience can earn, $25-$50 weekly selling nationally advertised brassieres for stouts. For particulars write Seamless Brassiere Co., New York City.

• A reliable woman for general housework, in a small family; room on place.

• Experienced stenographer. Doyle-Kidd Dry Goods Co.

• Young woman to do clerical work; salary to start with $10 per week.

• At once -- Young lady stenographer; previous experience not necessary; with rapid promotion.

• Saleswoman -- $60 weekly and $5,000 yearly from reorders. We give merchant $5 chewing gum vending machine free. Millard.

• Five bright capable ladies to travel, demonstrate and sell dealers; $75 to $150 per month; railroad fare paid. Goodrich Drug Co.; Omaha. Neb.

• Two salesladies at once. Gentry's Studio, 112 1/2 Main. Apply between 9 and 11 a.m.

• Young lady for clerical work; must be graduate of high school; good opportunity with large company.

• 25 women -- for housework, chamber maids, pantry girls, clerks and hotel work. L.R. Employment Bureau.

• $25-300 paid for ideas, suggestions suitable for photoplays, experience unnecessary; complete outline free. Write Producer's League. St. Louis.

• Ideas, plots, original stories wanted: Submit in any form; no school; guaranteed copyright protection accepted stories. Consolidated Scenario Co. (Inc.) Los Angeles.

• Young lady for office work; must be good in figures; no married women considered. Apply Monday morning. Cox Cash Stores, 216 W. 5th.

• $2.50 per day paid one lady in each town to distribute free circulars for concentrated flavoring in tubes, permanent position. F.E. Barr Co., Chicago.

• Young woman for clerical work; must be able to use Burroughs adding machine. Be quick and correct in figures and write a good hand.

• Experienced stenographer; salary, $900 to $1,000 per year, good, permanent place for right party.

• Capable woman for permanent position distributing hosiery and underwear to regular customers, at mill prices; all or spare time; $50 to $100 monthly. Parker Mills, Philadelphia.

• Ladies -- Fascinating home business, tinting post cards, pictures, photos, etc., spare time for profit; $5 on 100; no canvassing; samples 10¢ (stamps). Particulars free. ARTint, Brooklyn, N.Y.

• Women to sew -- we give work and send goods prepaid to your house; steady work; reply envelope for prices we pay, Universal Co., Philadelphia.

• A desirable traveling position open to refined, educated, ambitious woman at least 28 years of age; choice territory; salary from start; position permanent, with opportunity for advancement. Chicago

• Ladies -- $40 a week; startling new hosiery proposition; guaranteed for one year; must wear 12 months, or replaced free. G.W. Noble made $25 one day; sworn proof. Write for terms. Guaranteed Hosiery Co., Dayton, Ohio.

And the big one, with Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.:

• Wanted -- young women, 18 years of age, or over to enter training for positions as telephone operators. Students are paid while learning. Make application to the Chief Operator, Telephone Bldg., 7th and Louisiana streets. Applications from experienced or inexperienced out-of-town people will be considered.


ActiveStyle on 02/12/2018

Print Headline: 'Working girls' had job offers

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