Sunday, June 9, 2013

Jun 9 (1913) Illinois Debates the Morality of Low Wages; "In any work that requires attention to detail, women are superior to men"

Harry Pratt Judson, President of the University of Chicago, 1907-1923


On this day in 1913, the Washington Herald reported that the Illinois legislature was debating the subject of wages and vice. The country was reeling from a "moral panic" that began in 1909, and that ultimately resulted in the passing of the Mann Act in 1910.

At issue in 1913 was whether persistent low wages caused men and women to have immoral lifestyles, and whether low wages themselves were immoral. The Illinois senate had proposed a minimum wage law as a solution.

At the hearing, President of the University of Chicago Harry Pratt Judson, refused to connect low wages with immorality. "It is not always due to inadequate wages, but inadequate efficiency," he said. "The man cannot earn more because he is not worth more."

William T. Abbot, Vice President of the Central Trust Company of Illinois (today Bank & Trust Company), was also against a minimum wage law for women. He said that in his bank, many women were paid more than men employed at the same work.

"In any work that requires infinite attention to detail," he said, "women employees are superior to men."

Further Reading

A History of Chicago Banking

The Higher Education as a Training for Business by Harry Pratt Judson
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Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.