Montreal Daily Star, 8 November 1919, page 22
Consider the Saleswoman.
She has been in business for over thirty years, and she has known whereof she speaks, this saleswoman in one of the fashionable St Catherine street shops. Her experience comprises years in England, the United States had in Canada and she says the thing Montreal needs more than anything in the world is some system of organized hostels for business women.
“Take the average saleswoman,” she says, “who receives an average salary and has to pay for her room and board out of that. If she has no friends or relatives who will give her accommodation at a same that barely covers her expense to them, she has to live in a cheap room in a cheap district.”
“I know what that means, for when I first come here, I tramped the streets of Montreal looking for a place to live and I can tell you, I saw some rare places. There were houses where the bath-tub looked as if it were used to store the kitchen coal. There were places where there were no bath tub not even hot water to wash properly. There were places in which an experienced girl could see at a glance, it was not safe for her to live, but the experienced girl would never see that because those are the places which usually look cleanest, brightest and most attractive.”
“I have a tiny apartment now where I have my own few sticks of furniture and get my own simple meals, but that means I have to get up an hour earlier in the morning to cook my breakfast, make my bed and put my rooms in order and when I get home at night, dead tired after being on my feet all day. I get my supper, and by the time I’ve washed my dishes and put them away, what time is there left for recreation and amusement? And what time have I to mend my clothes or make new ones, to read good books, to hear good music?
“And I am well off as saleswomen go. I make fairly good money or I couldn’t afford even my tiny apartment. But I have long hours and no time. Do you wonder that the younger girls in business go in for a good time and take Sundays to mend and sew? The poor children must have amusement and so their blessed day of rest of which they ought to spend part in church and part in bed, goes for clothes and pleasure.
First, shops should either close at five o’clock all the year round or they should give one half-holiday a week all the year around. If they don’t want to close entirely, they should give the staff a half-holiday in relays, letting part of the staff go on one day, part on another.
If they can find no philanthropic organization to take it up, the shop management should management should itself provide a home for saleswomen in which they should provide room and plain meals at reasonable prices. These homes should be supervised by an elderly, sensible woman who has brains enough not to run the place like an institution, but should have one or two reasonable rules and should enforce them. There should be a laundry-room and a serving room and there should be two or three small reception rooms where a girl might receive her men friends so she wouldn’t have to meet them on the street.
“And the religious side of life should not be neglected. There should be a half-hour service of prayers and hymns every evening an on Sundays there should be an hour service. let the girls look after it themselves, choose their own texts, give their own talks and select their own homes.
“Quite apart from the good the girls would get out of homes like those, I think the employees too, would reap the benefit in better service and greater loyalty.
It sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?