Page 4, 11th November 1938

11th November 1938
Page 4
Page 4, 11th November 1938 — SIXTY-EIGHT YEARS AGO

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Organisations: Civil Service, Post Office


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The State employed 201 women Now it employs 101,000 women

Women Servants of the State. By -Hilda Martindale, C.B.E. (George Allen and

Unwin, 7s. 6d.) Reviewed by J, GIBBONS SIXTY-EIGHT years ago the State acquired the services of 201 women workers when it took over the inland telegraph companies with all their equipment, rights and staffs.

That was the practical beginning of the employment of women as Civil Servants and though the experiment was regarded with some misgivings at first it may be taken that the practical results outweighed the objections, because in 1871 a Mr. Scudamore of the Post Office reports thut his department had extended the employment of female labour, largely in the operation of the telegraph instruments.

Mr. Scudamore was obviously a wily official, as in his report he lays it down that women should be employed in even greater numbers because, among other things, " the wages, which will draw male operators from but an inferior class of the community, will draw female operators front a superior class." He also gives it as his opinion that women are "less disposed than men to combine for the purpose of extorting higher wages, and this is by no means an unimportant matter."

What Treasury official -could resist such reasoning?

Mr. Scudamore thus earned the thanks of millions of women for securing their entry to the Civil Service, but he has also earned their execration for establishing the principle that they should be paid less than their mate colleagues.

That women have proved successful in the invasion of the Service is shown by the fact that the G.P.O.'which acquired the services of the famous 201 in 187(1 now employs 61,687, while the Civil Service as a whole employs 1(11,406 women out of a total stair of 376,491.

The history of this development is ably and interestingly detailed by Miss Martindale, who was formerly engaged at the Treasury in charge of the section dealing with all women employees. She quotes with obvious enjoyment the reasons which were advanced in the seventies for and against the admission of women to offices. One can see her smile as she quotes the pompous Mr. X in his report that a particular class of work "consists chiefly of fault finding," and is thus "well within the capacity of the female staff," One thing her history clearly shows and that is that many of the disabilities from which women Civil Servants now suffer are traceable in the early objections made to the admission. As might be expected, Miss Martindale is an ardent and reasonable champion of equal status, pay and opportunity for women in the Service. In this she has the agreement of thousands of male Civil Servants who argue that if women were paid the same as men fewer women would he employed and consequently there would be more jobs for men.

As a contribution to history, Miss Martindale's hook is of real value. She goes back to the beginning of her subject, traces all developments clearly, giving authorities for every step, and presents conclusions which indicate that still further opportunities will be presented to women by the removal of the sex ban in the Diplomatic and Consular Services and the higher grade posts in the Colonial and Dominions Offices.

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