IN THE study of Economics there are two great divisions - production and consumption. Until within a few years, by far the lion's share of time and study has been given to the first of these divisions. It has been deemed sufficient for the securing of happiness and prosperity to a people to point out how the greatest degree of efficiency in producing wealth might be obtained. The manner in which that wealth was expended was considered less important. Recently a decided change has taken place. A conviction has been growing, especially among students or economics, of the equal importance of the other division, which covers the use made of the money after it has been acquired. This emphasizes the important place of the home in Economics as will be realized by those who consider how largely the home is the center of the consumption of wealth.
In former times the home was practically the entire economic world. Most of what was produced to meet the needs of the people originated there, while all of it found ready consumption within the family circle or by limited exchange. To-day the shop and factory have taken most of the productions and developed them one by one, into large industries outside the home, such as the manufacture of dress goods and cloth of all kinds, carpets, bedding, candles and soap; trades, such as tailoring, shoe-making and millinery, all having their origin in the home. The preparation of food is almost the only work left to the home which may be called creative, unless we include the supreme work of developing men and women.
Yet with production passed practically out of the control of the home, we find the other branch of Economics, consumption, still chiefly confined there. Most of the wealth acquired outside is expended on either the home or the interests closely connected with it. Women thus become the main directors of these expenditures. It is generally conceded that most of them stand in great need of a better understanding of the importance of the work that is theirs, and of the principles which underlie all correct economy.
Two aims are of equal importance- in the practice of economy; (i) to increase the income, and (2) to diminish the expenditures. The last contains possibilities of comfort of quite as high order as the first. There are, according to Devine, "three methods by which general prosperity may be increased; a better choice, a better production, a better consumption. In comparing the relative importance of the three methods it will be found that there are greater immediate possibilities in the third (a better consumption) than in either of the others, and that of the two that remain, the first (a better choice) is more important than the second."*
In the light of all these facts it is a surprising thing that anyone can look lightly upon the share that is given to woman in the economic struggle. There are those who urge that the reason why women are finding the care of their homes less attractive than formerly is the fact that all which adds zest and is worth while is taken from them. Rather is it true that some things which demanded time and strength have yielded to more vital things, and there is now opportunity to perfect that which is left, with a better appreciation of its importance.
Devine further affirms that "it is the present duty of the economist to magnify the office of the wealth expender, to accompany her to the very threshold of the home, that he may point out, with untiring vigilance, its woeful defects, its emptiness, caused not so much by lack of income, as by lack of knowledge of how to spend wisely. There is no higher economic function than that of determining how wealth shall be used. Even if man remains the chief producer, and woman remains the chief factor in determining how wealth shall be used, the economic position of woman will not be considered by those who judge with discrimination, inferior to that of man. Both may in their respective positions contribute directly and powerfully to the advancement of general prosperity."
Economic Position of Woman
Office of the Wealth Expender
* Devine: Economic Function of Woman.
As women awaken to a realization of this truth, and bend their energy to acquire the knowledge and skill necessary to do their part more successfully, we shall begin to attain the degree of comfort and prosperity possible for us to enjoy. There is far more money earned in the majority of families than is wisely spent. The error is frequently careless expenditure, not sloth in acquiring, a misuse rather than lack of income. The old adage, "A penny saved is a penny earned," should be daily before the housewife. She should weigh in a less vague and general way the saying that "one cannot have his money and spend it too." Money has but a limited purchasing power: if it goes to gratify one desire, another must be denied. Few, very few, are able to satisfy all material desires. The mistake is made in giving too little thought to the various avenues of expenditure, the desire uppermost at the time being the one gratified, regardless of the relative importance of others. Combined with this are usually the failure to exercise foresight and the lack of sufficient knowledge of values to insure full money value for each outlay. "The woman who longs to get where she 'won't have to count every penny' will never have her longing satisfied until she makes every penny count."*
As the economic importance of the home is more fully realized, the business side of home-making is emphasized. The home has a close and intimate relation to the business world in general. The housewife in her customary purchases comes in touch with retail trade of almost every variety and adds her contribution. If she makes use of the bank as the best medium of exchange, she shares in the interests of one of the large business enterprises. With a surplus to invest, she has to do with one or another branch of the business world in selecting the form of investment, and in looking after the income from it. To conduct any and all of these interests in the most efficient and successful manner requires as thorough training as for any other line of business. Only business-like methods can succeed. The reason why so many women fail at just this point is from a lack, in their early life and education, of the training which develops business ability.