ONE of the good things to
come out of this war is the introduction of the woman welfare officer into factories. One whom I frequently meet has told me something of the work involved. Before the war she ran her own house—living at the rate of, say. £1,500 a year—very comfortably. Mornings were spent on the golf course, afternoons at bridge parties, evenings at dinner parties, dances, theatres. It seemed no sort of preparation for fife in a factory. I doubt if she had ever heard of a trade union, except vaguely as a phrase. Certainly she never knew what monotony meant—work from eight till five or six at the same thing every day. Yet, strange to say, she has made an almost spectacular success of this job.
Here is a typical day. Up at 6.30; makes herself a cup of coffee of the " prepared " type and• cats some bread and, after the first two days of the week, margarine; armed with torch she armies her way in the total blackout to queue for her bus. There is a mateyness on these workers' buses, she tells me. No pushing out a place in the queue. It's a case of " after you, chum," with the conductorette not having to tick anyone off for shoving.
The factory is reached at eight, and there is a day packed with work waiting. This factory was staffed by men before the war. It has had to be entirely changed over to a woman personnel. There was no provision for them. Here are a few of the changes the woman welfare officer has wrought.
Installation of racks to hang wet clothing so that when the women are ready to go home they haven't to put on sopping coats and shoes. Shopping cards so that they get priority in the queues. A rest room and hot water bottles so that cases of illness can be treated at once. A well-stocked medicine chest and complete first-aid kit. (She herself took a first-aid course se that she knows what to do in an emer
gency.) s If she sees any of the women ale suffering from small ailments she packs them off to the out-patients at a hospital. If some of them grumble about their feet they are sent to the foot hospital. And, reluctant to go at first, they come hack feeling like a million dollars and full of gratitude. Some of these women were tough and could have presented something of a problem —but she has made them into friends. They tell her all their troubles; she never loses the human approach, although there is nothing slack about her discipline. She won't allow all-day
radio, for instance. Besides the human side of tie work there is an enormous amount of administration—Ministry of Labour returns, engagement of staff, and so on to he done. Yes, It's a strenuous job but one that, if women are to remain in industry, must be a part of the post-war world. This woman has been repaid by the friendship of the women she looks after—of whose very existence she was ignorant before the war. She, in turn, has a tremendous admiration for them. I can't see her resuming her qld life when it's all over and anyway, if she does, she has had a rich experience in living thei other way. Not everyone has this gift of adaptability, hut welfare work is best left alone if head and heart d on a ha nce.
In addition to this strenuous factory job, this welfare worker has to firewatch twice a week. The other night when there were two alerts she had to get up and dress and be in the street at 2 a.m. and again at 5 a.m. That meant that she was practically up all night and yet was at her bus stop at 7.30 as usual. Surely this and similar cases should be brought to the notice of Miss Ellen Wilkinson. The result•in this instance was a severe cold on top of a tardy influenza convalescence, which necessitated several days in bed with the doctor in attendance. Putting it at its lowest it is surely false economy.
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THOSE readers who live in London I may be interested in a new series of lectures that are to be given under the legis of the Sword of the Spirit in the Convent, 139, Bayswater Road, on Sunday 3.30 and on Thursdays at 6 o'clock. Madame O'Leary, of the Sacred Heart Convent, Hammersmith, has asked me to draw your attention to them. The speakers include Mr. Richard O'Sullivan, K.C., who is going to speak on the Three Thomases. Becket, Aquinas and More; Miss Mary Leys, M.A.. on " European Catholics and the Social Question "; Mr. Robert Speaight, on " Some French Catholic Thinkers "; Fr. Thomas Fitzgerald, on " Youth and To-morrow "; Miss Joan Hordern, on " Liturgical Worship ": Madame O'Leary, on "Catholic Adult Education," and Dr. D. J. Hawkins, on " Straight Thinking."
If you are interested you should write to the Sword of the Spirit at 68, Gloucester Place, W.1, and ask for particulars. Similar lectures were given last year at the Convent in Hammersmith and some people obviously found this too far to go, because they were not too well attended.