It is always useful to know of any profession, trade, or other opening in which sex is no handicap to the entrant, nay, indeed, in which it is in the case of a woman of positive value as regards the qualities required for the duties involved.
There is a good opening for women as inspectors of various kinds, for it is beginning to be realised that there are branches in this kind of work for which women alone are really fitted. In most professions in which men and women compete for exactly the same work women are placed at a disadvantage. A very clever woman may rise to the top, it is true, but she has custom and prejudice to fight against, and unless she can show some decided superiority over men competitors, or is content to work for considerably less remuneration, a man will generally get the preference.
The highest class of women inspectors are his Majesty's inspectors of factories, who are appointed directly by the Government. The salaries are high and the work very responsible, so that only women with exceptional qualifications are chosen. There is a wider opening, however, in inspectorships under municipal authorities, and there will no doubt be a great increase in the future in the number of lady sanitary inspectors, and inspectors under the Shop Hours Act and the Infant Life Protection Act.
There are seventeen lady inspectors of factories, and six senior inspectors with special duties and responsibilities, and at the head of the whole staff is his Majesty's principal lady inspector, this post being at present (1911) occupied by Miss A. M. Anderson.
The selection and training of candidates, who have to be specially nominated by the Home Secretary, and information as to whom application should be made were very fully dealt with in an article which appeared in Part 12, pages 1447 to 1449, of Every Woman's Encyclopaedia.
Civil Service Commissioners in English composition and elementary arithmetic, and three out of four optional subjects. If successful, the candidate is appointed on probation for two years, at the end of which time she is allowed to present herself for the final and qualifying examination in factory law and sanitary science.
In the previous article already referred to, the limits of age and salaries offered are given. It may, however, be noted that compulsory retirement takes place at the age of sixty-five, and a pension is granted according to the scale in force in the Civil Service.
Duties of a Factory Inspector
The work, though well paid, is onerous and exacting; the number of inspectors is comparatively few, so that some twenty-three women have to extend their supervision over all the manufacturing industries in the country in which women are employed, and include in their inspection such diverse concerns as textile factories, fish-curing establishments, laundries, tobacco factories, tailors' shops, millinery, dressmaking, and other businesses too numerous to mention. It will be seen, therefore, that the work is constant, and that the lady inspector must spend a very large part of her time in travelling from place to place. However, her duties are most varied and interesting, and these posts are much sought after.
This forms the largest class of women inspectors, there being nearly one hundred holding these appointments in London and the provinces.
A woman sanitary inspector is generally appointed, not in place of, but in addition to, a man inspector. Her work is of a different nature, and she seldom has to attend to such things as the inspection of drains.
Whether she is employed in the inspection of tenement houses, or of factories and workshops employing women and girls, or of laundries, common lodging-houses, or the kitchens of hotels and restaurants, something different is expected of her from the merely routine work of enforcing the provisions of the various Acts of Parliament relating to these places. Her great value is that she brings a special knowledge to her task; she looks at things with a woman's eye; she is quick to notice dust and dirt and other signs of neglect in the home; damp walls and draughty windows, and the absence of proper appliances and conveniences for cooking, washing, and the keeping of food, at once attract her attention. Her knowledge of nursing (this is an important qualification in a sanitary inspector) makes her particularly fitted to carry out her work in connection with the prevention of the spread of infectious disease. In large districts all this work is divided between different inspectors, one being appointed for tenement houses, another for workshops, etc., but in smaller places the work is very varied. This fact, however, will be no drawback in the eyes of any woman whose ambition it is to excel in her chosen career.
In order to qualify for a post as sanitary inspector in London, candidates must obtain the certificate of the Sanitary Inspectors' Examination Board, unless they have had three years' consecutive experience before the year 1895 in an urban district containing not fewer than 20,000 inhabitants.
Training usually lasts about three months, and costs from five to twelve guineas. Among the least expensive courses in London are those of the Royal Sanitary Institute, and of King's College, London. The diploma of the National Health Society is a valuable qualification; but to obtain this the student must study for a further three months, and pay fees amounting to about fifteen guineas.
Bedford College for Women also prepares students for this examination.
In the provinces a wide choice of training centres also exists, including the Bradford Technical College, the University Colleges of Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, and Cardiff, and the Durham College of Science, Newcastle.
The certificates of any of these bodies are accepted as evidence of satisfactory training, and must be produced before the candidate can sit for the official examination. All further particulars as to the regulations for this can be obtained from the secretary of the Sanitary Inspectors Examination Board, 1, Adelaide Buildings, London Bridge, E.c. The examination is divided into two parts, preliminary and technical, many educational certificates, including the third-class certificate of the College of Preceptors, being accepted in lieu of the former.
The technical examination is written, oral, and practical, and is devoted to elementary physics and chemistry in relation to water, soil, air, and ventilation, elementary statistical methods, and municipal hygiene.
As previously mentioned, nursing training and experience weigh considerably in the favour of candidates when seeking appointments.
After obtaining the qualifying certificate, it is best to first seek a post in the provinces, as it is very difficult to obtain a London" appointment without previous experience, though some of the London boroughs and large provincial towns give facilities for gaining the necessary experience, sometimes paying a small salary, but more often requiring the probationer to give her services free.
In the provinces no legal qualification has been laid down, but the certificates of such bodies as the Royal Sanitary Institute are accepted.
The salaries paid to sanitary inspectors range from £100 to £200 a year, the average being, at the end of some years' experience, £150 per annum. The hours of work are from nine a.m. to five p.m., with an hour off in the middle of the day. Three weeks' holiday are given in the summer.
Inspectors Under the Shop Hours and Infant Life Protection Acts
Appointments under these Acts are made by the London County Council. The candidates are not selected by examination, but are chosen on account of special fitness for the work. They must have had experience in social work, especially among women and children.
Contrary to the rule in most professions, the woman of maturer years, provided her health is good, is preferred, and candidates axe only accepted between the ages of twenty-eight and forty. The salaries commence at £100 a year, and rise by £5 annually to £150.
The work is of a twofold character, and consists of visiting shops where female assistants are employed, and seeing that the regulations with regard to the hours of work are observed by employers. Girls under eighteen, for instance, must not work for more than seventy-four hours a week. The same inspector also visits baby farms, and can enter any house where there are children, even if they are living with their parents, and can summon the latter for allowing them to live under unhealthy conditions and failing to provide suitable food and clothing.
It will be seen that all these inspectorships are essentially a woman's work, and that womanly tact, kindness, and sympathy are greatly needed in carrying out the delicate duties which fall to the lot of an inspector.