A taunt or reproach often levelled at women is that they cannot combine for any common end, and that attempts to form circles composed entirely of women for any object are apt to be broken more or less quickly. It may have been true in the past, but since they have entered into the arena of work it is becoming less true every day.
Among a number of girls working together in a large firm much enjoyment can be gained by co-operation, when the individual might be able to do little by herself.
One very popular form of co-operation is for the purpose of obtaining books from a lending library. Most libraries make a considerable reduction in their terms if a number of subscriptions are entered under one name.
As an actual case in point, one volume may be selected each week, from the very latest books, at a well-known London library at an annual charge of 7s. when the members of such a circle have their names entered together. In the ordinary course, the subscription would cost a guinea for each volume. The only restriction made by the library is that all books required by the group of members must be changed at the same time; so one member will have, naturally, to act as librarian, and prepare the list to be sent to the library for the fresh supply from the slips returned to her by the individual members. Each gives the names of two books on, the slip, so that if one be out, there is a second choice. There is usually some boy on the staff who will undertake to fetch and carry the books to and from the library for a small consideration, or, in some cases, the firm allows one of their messengers to include it in his duties.
A variation of the above method, and by which the members of the "book circle" become the owners of a book, is worked as follows: Once a month each member pays her share towards the cost of a book, the choice of same falling in rotation. The book is purchased, lent for reading to each member in turn, and becomes the property of the one who had the right of choice. By this means quite a nice little collection of standard authors begins to form on each members' home bookshelf, and the separate outlay is quite small. With nine members, a four-and-sixpenny book can be secured, when it would have seemed an unwarrantable extravagance for the individual in one lump sum.
The same system can be applied to the monthly and fortnightly magazines. Each pays her sixpence, or whatever amount may be decided on, but has the opportunity of seeing each month quite a number of the leading periodicals.
But in these two latter suggestions the books, and especially the magazines, must be read and passed round regularly, or the break up of the circle is certain.
Sharing a Concert Season Ticket
Another suggestion for a circle is to combine in the purchase of season tickets to a series of high-class concerts that may be given nightly for a given period. This, of course, can only be done if the said season tickets are transferable. In London, for instance, what are known as "Promenade Concerts" have been given at the Queen's Hall for a consecutive period of from six to eight weeks, the ordinary entrance fee being 1s.; but a season ticket, admitting every night, costs one guinea. Two such tickets are purchased, and each member of the circle subscribes her proportion. Six members might pay 7s. each, and in return would be able to attend one concert a week, with a friend as her guest; or, if preferred, twelve members would pay 3s. 6d. each. The object of having two tickets in use is that no member need attend the concert alone.
The number of members for such a circle must depend on the number of concerts to be given. As in the case of the book circle, one member must act as secretary, and plan out the rotation in which the members are to have the use of the tickets. This is best done so that each attends the concert on different nights in each week-monday, the first week; Tuesday, the second; and so on. This is specially to be remembered if nights are devoted regularly to the works of certain composers, or the member going every Monday night, for instance, might hear nothing but Wagnerian music; while another, passionately devoted to Beethoven, might only hear Sullivan. Variety is good for all, even musical enthusiasts.
Each member is held responsible for the passing on of the tickets to the next on the list, either by posting them at the conclusion of the concert, or, if in the same office, handing them in the following morning.
The secretary gives each paying member a list of the dates on which she will have the use of the tickets, together with the name of the member to whom she must hand them. Should, as sometimes happens, some members belong to another firm, or have been introduced as friends, the address to which the tickets are to be sent must be given also.
The exact number of concerts available, and their cost, obviously depend on the length of the season; but it has been proved to work out at about 7d. per concert for the two tickets-3 1/2d. each. Should there be three or four concerts to spare, it is usually quite simple to arrange who shall have the extra opportunities of attending. As it entails quite a little calculation on the part of the hon. secretary, members can pay her a graceful compliment by offering her the chance of any extra performances through members being away or ill.
Then parties can be arranged for a visit to a theatre, or a Saturday afternoon in the country. If no economy in actual cash be effected, it often means that a girl living alone in rooms, or the only member of the family at home, will have pleasant companionship, instead of having to choose between going out alone or staying at home.
During the summer months it may be possible in some districts to form a swimming club, a number of tickets taken at one time being considerably cheaper than single ones. For girls who are strong enough for this form of exercise there is nothing more enjoyable than a swim on a hot summer evening. But it must not be indulged in if over-fatigue or chill are the result.
Excellent as swimming, lawn tennis and bicycling undoubtedly are as exercises, it will not pay the business girl to over-fatigue herself so that she cannot attend to her work properly; and her employer would have legitimate cause for complaint.
When salaries allow of it, another excellent plan is to combine to rent a cottage a little way out of town, and take it in turn to go down, three or four at a time, for the weekends from April to October. This scheme is more elaborate, and will work more smoothly if the organising secretary is a lady who has fewer claims on her time than the average business woman. Also, if the cottage can be let from the Mondays to Fridays, the expenses for each member are greatly reduced.
Before starting such a scheme it is as well to investigate thoroughly the probable cost, as not only has the rent to be paid, but service and caretaker's wages, lighting, fuel, etc., as well as the purchase of food while staying at the cottage. Unless carefully, managed, members may find the individual expense higher than was reckoned for, and heartburnings may result.
Should such a cottage be beyond the available resources, it might be possible to come to advantageous terms for week-end board and residence with some inhabitant who had a room or rooms to spare. If such a person were certain of having visitors for the week-ends from May to October, for instance, her terms would probably be lower than for an occasional visit. In this case some portion, if not all, of the agreed amount would have to be paid whether the members used the rooms or not.
Other suggestions or opportunities for clubs or circles will doubtless occur to many. Even if it is only to obtain the afternoon cup of tea and biscuits usually allowed in the office, such a combination of resources is not to be overlooked.
Woman's Work l688