The Bank of England has long gloried in a feminine appellation, and possibly the wise "Old Lady of Threadneedle Street" will soon demand a place for her daughters in the national stronghold of finance, and we shall have a woman's Bank of England.
Women have done all the work in the chief offices of the Post Office Savings Bank for many years, and in a very large number of post-offices also, and the credit and distinction with which they have carried out that banking work argues well for their ability to enter the banking world generally.
The advantage of women being able to bank with women is apparent. The housewife with her housekeeping money, and the girl with her dress allowance, will find it practicable and easy to open an account at a woman's bank, and will be able to enjoy the advantage of a cheque-book as much as the woman of property.
I Z and tends to prevent the "leakage" which always seems to happen when one has loose sovereigns in one's pocket.
A bank exclusively for women, and conducted by women, was opened in Berlin in 1910, and has proved a successful venture. It is owned and controlled by a co-operative corporation, and is available not only for the women of the Fatherland, but for women in the German colonies. The growing need for women to have the same business facilities which men enjoy induced some public-spirited people to make the venture. This bank is unique in allowing a woman to open an account without having obtained the permission of her husband. In all other banks in Germany the married woman is faced by that forbidding regulation.
If we turn to the world of speculative finance, the land of the almighty dollar furnishes us with notable examples of the woman financier. Mrs. Hetty Green is one of the traditions of Wall Street, and has added considerably to her inherited millions by her shrewd transactions. Eminent speculators have been glad to get a tip from "Mrs. Hetty." Well into old age, this remarkable woman has remained a familiar figure on the New York Exchange, disdaining the ease of a luxurious, aimless life, and finding satisfaction and occupation in managing and manipulating her vast wealth. She has never been known to lose her head, even in any of the great panics which beset the New York Exchange, and this leads to the conclusion that a woman's nerves, when her head is trained can stand the strain of the greatest financial crisis.
Mrs. Hetty Green, too, has brought a high moral tone into her dealings. She loves work for work's sake, and finds her counting-house more to her mind than a luxurious boudoir. Her motto would seem to be that it is better to cultivate brains to manage your money than to cultivate idle tastes as a way of spending it. She knows nothing of the ennui which afflicts either the society woman or the multi-millionaire of the opposite sex who, when his "pile" is made, often lacks zest for a healthy enjoyment of life, and, as in some notorious cases, sinks into despondency and suicide.
The New World furnishes another remarkable example of the financier in Mrs. Russell Sage, who, like Mrs. Green, prefers to manage her own investments, and has done it with shrewd businesslike capacity, as all the world knows.
These are not women of the kind who squander money, and, indeed, the best way to cure extravagance is to learn the value of wealth. If women in the past have shown lack of business knowledge and a disposition to spend thoughtlessly, it would be fairer to lay the blame on social usage, winch has conspired to keep women ignorant of money matters, rather than on any inherent qualities of their nature. The thoughtless, extravagant wife is often transformed into a capable woman of affairs when widowhood places responsibility upon her shoulders. It makes all the difference in the world when she draws cheques at her own discretion, instead of having to coax them like a child from a husband who from mistaken chivalry "never talks business to women." The tragedy of a broken home and a broken fortune is often the result of a husband keeping his wife ignorant of his diminishing income or losses until the crash comes.
The new spirit which is urging women to be equal partners in the business concerns of family life will have a wholesome effect upon society. It will raise the moral tone of the home, for the women who earn or have earned money, or who learn something of the finances which keep the home going, are the most likely to prove wise and careful administrators of the family income.
To pass from the realm of business and finance to another field of activity, women are entering with conspicuous success upon the work of public librarian. In America, there are more women librarians than men. Although a few reach salaries as high as £600 per annum, still the profession cannot be regarded as lucrative, but it appeals strongly to the intellectual type of girl, and she has first-rate avenues for training. There are three principal library schools in the States - at Albany, New York; the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn; and the Drexel Institute, Pa. The originator of library training was Mr. Melvil Dewey, of California, from whose classes the library schools of America sprang.
The first woman in our own country to take front rank in the library world was the late Miss M. S. R. James, the librarian of the People's Palace, whose death took place in 1903. Miss James was indeed a brilliant pioneer, presiding with conspicuous ability over that great, and, in some respects, unique, library of East London. She was a delightful woman to know, and one deeply honoured in the library world.
Librarianship is still an exceptional post for a woman. But one may see it here and there working admirably. I have before me, in one of our South Coast resorts, an excellent example of a public library, one of the newest and best of the kind, staffed by women, from the head librarian downwards. The courtesy of the lady officials in their workmanlike and artistic dark green dresses, their quiet speech, and desire to help the reader, make that library a pleasure to visit. And it is noticeable that the assistants show an interest in any subject upon which a query is put, and are at pains to try to find out what they do not chance to know. This applies specially, of course, to the reference library, and it creates a sympathetic atmosphere for the student.
In the case of this staff of women library assistants the "official" is lost in a love of the work. The fine spirit pervading the institution emanates from the highly qualified lady at its head.
Although we are not advanced so far as America in respect of librarianship as a profession for women, the University of London has made a start by organising classes in general library work at the School of Economics. These will doubtless prove to be the germ of an English library school. The University grants a yearly studentship of £26 for girls who have matriculated, or hold the certificate of the joint board, tenable for three years at the library of the School of Economics. The students take the professional examinations held by the Library Association and are encouraged to work for a London degree while discharging their duties in the library.
The course extends over four years, and at the end of that training the student is qualified to take up any position in a library. Numbers of girls are employed in the less skilled depart -ments of our libraries, but the facilities are open for women to attain the highest appointments i f they enter librarianship with the purpose of thoroughly training in all branches. Difficulties may arise in the case of women librarians where the staff is a mixed one, but even this will yield to the growing common-sense spirit of the age. At present the difficulty is met, as in the instance already cited, by having a library with a woman at its head staffed entirely by women.
In continuing our review of the entrance of women into trades and professions hitherto followed almost exclusively by men, journalism may be cited on account of the great increase, during recent decades, of women writers for the public Press.
They have a wide field for specialisation. Never have women's home topics occupied so large a space as they do in the newspapers of to-day, or been treated in so practical and artistic a manner. To the old subjects of dress, the toilet, cookery, and housekeeping, which appeared in the bygone miscellanies for my lady's boudoir, are now added sport, philanthropy, social and political work, news of movements and essays to voice women's ideals and their newly awakened aspirations.