This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
Women receive less wages than men. This is doubtless true in all the so-called civilized countries. The difference may be stated at about fifty per cent to their disadvantage; that is, where the man receives one dollar, the woman receives fifty cents.* And this, too, not only where the services of the two sexes differ, but where they are identical, as in school-teaching, type-setting, &c. Why this disparity?
* The average monthly wages of male teachers in the public schools
Political economists, so far as we know, have not troubled themselves much about it. Philanthropists have taken cognizance of the fact, and have sought to apply a remedy, but generally, we may say uniformly, with little success. We shall not go at length into the subject, only endeavor to state the causes from which we suppose the difference arises. These may suggest the remedy.
The first consideration to be noticed is the fact that the of Massachusetts, 1857-8, was...........$49.87
The average monthly wages of female teachers in the public
schools of Massachusetts, 1857-8..........$19.63 two sexes exist in remarkably equal numbers throughout the world. There are as many women as men.
The second, that, while almost all occupations and employments are accessible to the male sex, but comparatively few are, by the opinions and customs of society, regarded as proper for women. One, therefore, has the whole field of life in which to act; the other is limited to a part.
On the principle, then, of supply and demand, the number of females being as great as that of males, while their employments are so much fewer, they must of necessity work for less reward. The supply is greater than the effective demand.
A third fact is, that the part of labor assigned to women is of a more dispensable character. A great part of the labor of women is connected with the comforts, conveniences, and luxuries of life: hence it can and will be dispensed with, unless it can be had cheap. The staple productions — corn, cattle, iron, cotton, and the like — must be had, at whatever price or cost of labor; but not so with the thousand-and-one little articles of beauty, taste, and fashion which female industry creates in every household. For example: suppose a farmer employs two men to carry on his agricultural labors, and usually the same number of females in the work of the house. Now, if he should be so pushed for means as to be obliged to dispense with one of his employes, which would it naturally be, one of his hired men or hired maids? Doubtless one of the latter; because, by doing so, he would only lose some of the conveniences and comforts of life, without, perhaps, much sacrifice of property; while, in the other case, he would lose part of his crop.
There seems to be a prevalent feeling at the present day that the wages of woman ought to be increased; that her position ought to be less dependent. But those who are satisfied with the existing customs and opinions of society, by which the sphere of woman is restricted to its present limits, ought to be equally well satisfied with the compensation allotted her; for it is just such as must follow.
No attempt to enhance her wages by appeals to human sympathies or benevolent organizations need be attempted; for there is a law that overrides all these,— the law of supply and demand; a law founded in nature, inexorable and immutable. An increase of her wages can only result from an increase of her employments, — of employments, too, of an equally indispensable character as those of the other sex.
That a change of this sort is fortunately in progress in most civilized countries, and especially in the United States, is apparent. The introduction of machinery is doing much to equalize the wages of the two sexes. Water and steam are now made to accomplish that which could once only be done by human strength, leaving the residue of labor, which is, to a great extent, the exercise of intelligence, care, and attention, to be performed by persons of either sex. Hence, there is now a great demand for the labor of females where there was once none at all. There is less demand for muscle, and more for mind: this brings woman nearer an equality with man.
In the department of education, too, the sphere of women's labor is vastly extended within the last forty years; and, from existing indications, the present century will not close before a considerable part of the business of the medical profession will be in their hands. Women are also employed extensively in public offices and trading establishments.
All this is the natural result of our civilization, and especially of a free common-school education. In a great part of the United States, the same advantages are furnished to both sexes. The consequences are, that as the females are more docile, have a quicker apprehension, and are more studious generally, they acquire a better education in our lower schools and seminaries than the other sex.