A Golden Chance for the Girls
“What will you lack. Sonny, what will you lack ?” So the recruiting sergeants have been singing for months and months. And though, to make the sons of Britain take up the sword of of Justice, and Liberty, and Right, and Humanity, and Christianity and Truth, and Civilisation (Allies’, of course), our masters are not relying on the success of their own or their agent’s campaign of promises and assurances, any more than they are upon the good will and sense of the “Sonnies,” yet promises and persuasions are ever important planks in their platform. The aforesaid “Great Ideas” and the promise of a glorious reception “When the Boys come Home and the Girls Line Up the Streets,” are supplemented by the seemingly more solid and practical assurance that the successful issue of the war will cripple a great trade rival and provide increased opportunities of work for “Sonny.”
So the present scribe, knowing our masters as he does, thought it quite in the nature of things that this impression would, be kept up in the factories of “public opinion.” We could not reasonably expect them in times like these to do anything that might arouse “Sonny’s” suspicion that perhaps even his solid, practical consideration is based upon fallacies, as we have always maintained.
Yet while the horny-handed ‘”Sonnies” are risking and sacrificing their lives by the million in the expectation of the “great reward.” their masters are already loud in inviting “our girls and women to avail themselves of a ‘golden opportunity,’” and are busy providing for them “a future.” Thus says, in fact, the “Daily Mail” (8th Feb.) that “the war has given our women and girls a chance.” And she who should be afraid that the work will only be temporary, is entreated “not to be dismayed by any fear about her new fields of employment not being permanently open to her,” and assured that “they will be.” Undoubtedly they will be for if women have been capable of satisfactorily carrying on processes of production formerly quite outside their wonted sphere of activity, it is obvious that none but a bad manager would replace them with “Sonny” more expensive and perhaps mutilated and war-worn labour-power.
“Broadly speaking,” the writer goes on, “apart from factory work, it [the war] has thrown open the whole business world to women.” The scribe sees, however, “mountains of prejudice against her doing it,” but assures us also that “grim necessity is removing these mountains.” The “Times” is anxious that “a certain amount of pressure” should be exercised upon such female “conscientious objectors” as are holding back to compel them to fake the present “golden opportunity” of filling Sonny’s place and making sure of “her future.”
That “grim necessity” will remove the “mountains of prejudice” there is no doubt. We know that our masters are as expert in the matter of exercising “pressure,” as they are in lying, cunning, and hypocrisy. Just as they have secured “men and still more men” by mere “pressure,” so it will be an easy matter for the few monopolists of the means of life to obtain the cheap labour-power of women and still more women. The spectre of the workhouse, that sign-post of English civilisation, will work wonders in that direction.
Here is an instance, to wit, the case of those women who, as a patriotic judge said, had “made fools of themselves by marrving aliens,” and for whom the Government undertook, as in the case of “Sonny,” to provide allowances, the Government having deliberately deprived these women of the support of their husbands.
In their circular of 9th December, 1915, the Local Government Board intimated that “in any suitable case in which the Guardians consider that the woman may properly be expected to work for the support of herself and her children (if any), they may make it a condition of continuing assistance, that she should really try to obtain work, and, if they have reason to suppose that she is neglecting to take the necessary steps to maintain herself, deal with her case as if it were one of ordinary destitution.”
Spectre of the workhouse ! to the pressure of which indeed, “our women and girls” will yield, as many of those “unfortunate women have already had to yield by rushing into the labour market. The masters, ever on the alert for cheap labour, are not losing THEIR “golden opportunity” of “making” their bit while Sonny is “doing” his bit. So what will Sonny lack on his return ; what will he lack—except work ?