Maine: An Encyclopedia

Status of Women 1892

[pp. 13-17]


Women were found engaged in the following employments.

  1. Artists.
  2. Art stores.
  3. Bazaars.
  4. Cigar stores.
  5. Crockery stores.
  6. Confectionery stores.
  7. Dry goods stores.
  8. Dry goods and notion stores.
  9. Dry goods and carpet stores.
  10. Dry and fancy goods stores.
  11. Drug stores.
  12. Drug and perfumery stores.
  13. Fancy goods stores.
  14. Fruit stores.
  15. Glove stores.
  16. Jewelry stores.
  17. Ladies’ furnishings stores.
  18. Music stores.
  19. Notion stores.
  20. Novelty stores.
  21. Optical goods stores.
  22. Piano and organ stores.
  23. Paper hanging stores.
  24. Photograph supply stores.
  25. Paper dress pattern stores.
  26. Stationery and fancy goods stores.
  27. Stationery stores.
  28. Shoe stores.
  29. Sewing machine stores.
  30. Tea stores.
  31. Banks.
  32. Box factories (wood,)
  33. Coal offices.
  34. Commission houses.
  35. Furniture stores.
  36. Fruit, meat and grocery stores.
  37. Fish markets.
  38. Grocery stores, retail.
  39. Grocery stores, wholesale.
  40. Hardware, wholesale and retail.
  41. Insurance offices.
  42. Lawyers’ offices.
  43. Lumber offices.
  44. Lithograph and engraving establishments.
  45. Men’s clothing stores.
  46. Men’s furnishing goods stores.
  47. Paint stores, wholesale and retail.
  48. Produce stores, wholesale and retail.
  49. Provision stores, wholesale and retail.
  50. Paper stores, wholesale.
  51. Planing mills.
  52. Post offices.
  53. Public offices.
  54. Real estate offices.
  55. Sash and blind factories.
  56. Railroad offices.
  57. Staple and fancy grocery stores.
  58. Seed and grain stores.
  59. Boot and shoe factories.
  60. Blank book binderies and stationery stores.
  61. Book binders and paper rulers.
  62. Book binders and publishers.
  63. Bonnet and hat factories.
  64. Bonnet and hat bleacheries.
  65. Book and stationery stores.
  66. Bakeries.
  67. Biscuit factories.
  68. Cracker factories.
  69. Brush factories.
  70. Bleacheries.
  71. Dye houses.
  72. Bottling works, mineral water.
  73. Flavoring extract factories.
  74. Patent medicine factories.
  75. Candy factories.
  76. Candy kitchens.
  77. Chemical laboratories.
  78. Chemical factories.
  79. Pharmacy.
  80. Cigar factories.
  81. Cotton mills.
  82. Clothing factories.
  83. Pants factories.
  84. Overall factories.
  85. Cloak and dress making.
  86. Dress making.
  87. Curtain factories.
  88. Trapestry hanging makers.
  89. Calming factories.
  90. Bag factories.
  91. Furniture and carpet stores.
  92. Drapery and carpet stores.
  93. Compressed yeast factories.
  94. Housework.
  95. Saloon work.
  96. Boarding-house work.
  97. Electric supplies manufactories.
  98. Fur goods manufactories.
  99. Florists.
  100. Flag and awning factories.
  101. Tent and awning factories.
  102. Hat and cap factories.
  103. Gum factories.
  104. Governesses.
  105. Hair dressers.
  106. Hair weavers and wig makers.
  107. Hotel help, including
    Linen women,
    Pastry and meat cooks,
    Pastry cooke,
    Meat cooks,
    Vegetable cooks,
    Coffee women,
    Dish washer,
    Kitchen Girls,
    Pantry girls,
    Chamber girls,
    Laundry women,
    Paint girls,
    Scrub girls,
    Help’s waiters.
  108. Hospitals.
  109. Fancy saddlery factories.
  110. Plated ware factories.
  111. Hosiery mills.
  112. Screen and car shade factories.
  113. Junk shops.
  114. Knitting factories.
  115. Ladies’ and children’s cotton underwear factories.
  116. Laundries.
  117. Match factories.
  118. Morocco case factories.
  119. Plush jewelry case factories.
  120. Paper box factories.
  121. Tag factories.
  122. Mattress factories.
  123. Upholstering establishments.
  124. Nurses.
  125. Photography.
  126. Publishing houses.
  127. Printing establishments, job work.
  128. Printing establishments, newspapers.
  129. Paper mills.
  130. Plush mills.
  131. Shoddy mills.
  132. Starch factories.
  133. Worsted mills.
  134. Seine and net manufactories.
  135. Silk factory.
  136. Spice mills.
  137. Stenography
  138. Type writing.
  139. Shirt factories.
  140. Tailoring establishments.
  141. Telegraph offices.
  142. Telephone exchanges.
  143. Teachers.
  144. Woolen mills.
  145. Suspender factory.
  146. Moccasin factory.
  147. Broom factory.
  148. Horse blanket mill.
  149. Dentists’ assistants.
  150. Opticians’ assistants.
  151. Physicians’ assistants.
  152. Physicians.
  153. Title searchers.
  154. Lecturers.
  155. Press writers

Selected Excerpts and Statistics

[p. 13]


In nearly all industries, the women are enabled to sit at their work, if they desire, but, as a general rule, the women do not waste much time in that way. In stores, nearly all employers are willing for their women to sit, when not necessarily employed, and no woman interviewed found any fault about the matter.


There is a serious lack of knowledge, in most parts of the state, as to what constitutes a proper means of escape from a burning building, and there are, comparatively speaking, but few places where the inmates can feel secure. This is not only true of large factories and mills, but most tenement boarding houses and hotels are alike unsafe.

The authorities of cities and towns should see that something is done, as owners of buildings are not only negligent, but criminally careless. The laws, in this respect, should be rigidly enforced. The agents of the bureau have visited hundreds of places where a fire would find its victims. A single life is of greater value than the money required to provide a suitable fire-escape.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

[pp. 18-19]



Several women were found working upon various kinds of art work, but not in regular employment for wages, with one exception. This one was at work upon cheap crayon and pastel work.


Under the heads, from 2 to 30 inclusive, were found a large proportion of the saleswomen, cashiers, book-keepers, stenographers and type writers.


The only work done by females, 31 to 58 inclusive, is clerical. Book-keepers, entry clerks, stenographers, type-writers, corresponding clerks, &c.


All the lighter work is done by women, and includes men’s, women’s and children’s felt, cloth and leather goods of nearly all grades.


There are fewer employed than formerly. A cheaper grade of goods sold, and mostly handled in other states, Maine dealers not being able to compete.


The largest proportionate number employed in the State, were found in Portland. About one-half of those in the State were interviewed.


Four girls in one factory pack 360 barrels of crackers per week Condition of many bakeries, very bad.


There are but few women employed at brush making, Work not difficult, but some danger, as in match factories, from phosphorus.

BOTTLING WORKS, (mineral waters.)

Flavoring Extracts and Patent Medicine Factories.

Bottlers, labellers and packers, with office work, are the female occupations. Number of employes varies with the season, but not so much as formerly. Conditions were found good in every place visited.


Females shape the stock, wrap and pack. Business light and easily learned. All conditions favorable in places visited.


Only six female employes were found, one engaged in putting up prescriptions, the others in compounding in laboratories and putting up medicines. No fire escapes and no water closets provided, in two instances.


As strippers of leaf and Cigar packers, females number only about sixteen in the State. Ventilation generally bad, and, in one instance, where three women were at work three stories from the ground, no escape from fire.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –



I did not work over three hours daily for weeks at a time, during the past year. Averaged about $2.00 per week and succeeded in paying my board but had nothing left. I tried book canvassing, and every time I rang a door bell I hoped and prayed to find no one at home, and as a result of three weeks’ work I had a profit on books sold, $8.00, and expenses of $13.25. I concluded to go back to the shop, and since then (two months) I have averaged about $6 00 a week. No one would find any fault if we could only have plenty of work, and then we could live in comfort. Shoeworker.

I have worked in a factory very nearly fourteen years, and have several children who are grown up and earning their own living, but my husband made me keep at work in the factory. We have saved several thousand dollars, for we both get very good wages, but we have no home life.

It is too bad for the women to be obliged to work so hard and grow old before their time, and no need of it in many cases any more than with me. Shoeworker.

I have been shoemaking for past fifteen years, and am still at the machine. My husband and I saved from our work in the shoe shop a large amount of money, and we paid $3,500 for a farm. I expected we should be very happy and comfortable, but my husband took to drink and became of no help to me, so I had to come back into the shop again. I do my work as best I can at the farm, and make some butter which I bring in with me mornings as I come to work.

Rum is the curse of the working people, and it must be terrible in states where it is as free as water, but it is bad enough in some cities in Maine. Shoeworker.

All the help in our shop are employed at day Pay; there is no piece work. I get $1.25 per day and am expected to do fifteen twelve-pair cases for a day’s work. If I stitch more than fifteen cases I get no more wages, but if I fall short because the work fails to come to me, why, I am docked at the rate of eight and two-thirds cents per case. I think this is a great injustice, and I think we ought to have a union here so we can get fair pay for our work. I had a friend who did the same work with me in this shop but he could only do twelve cases a day and earned only $1.00 per day. She got dissatisfied and went to work in another town in a union shop on same quality of work, and now she earns from twelve to sixteen dollars per week, and works no harder.

My health has failed in last four months, and my doctor says I must rest for two or three months or break down entirely. How can I rest when I have not been able to save anything out of my wages?

A woman’s life is pretty hard now a days, I think. Shoeworker.

I am a gore stitcher in a shoe factory, and there are too many of us on the same kind of work so we can not get all the work we can do. We earn but little more than our board, for that reason, but the prices paid are about the same as we would get in any shoe factory.

Our employers are quite willing to do for the help all that can reasonably be expected. Shoeworker.

I have worked in several cities before I came to work in Freeport and I can earn as much here as in any other shop. Shops in small places, I think, usually pay much less. Have to pay as much for board as a city. Vamper.

I have worked in various places for from $5 to $14 per week. I am earning more now than during the past twelve years, and I like Portland better than any place I ever lived in before. Vamper.

I like my employer very much but think he could pay better wages for female labor, and if we should organize I believe we could get it. Where there are unions the wages are always better, I have noticed that, and I would join a union the first one if I lost my place for it. The women have got to organize. Shoeworker.

I earn $6.00 per week and have to pay $4.00 per week for board. can not afford to pay so much, but being a stranger and only five months here, I am trying to be contented. My boarding place is quite homelike, and as I have no intimate friends here, I can not make up my mind to seek for a strange boarding place. Small wages make many of us women deny ourselves necessary things, but I hope to have an increase in wages, and will be able to have many needed articles. Salesgirl.

During past year I have paid $75 00 on an organ, but am still in in debt on it $50.00. My wages are $6.50 per week, and as I live at home I can have all I want of my wages to get anything, so I shall pay for my organ in the next six months. I like my work in the store very much, and shall get more wages the first of January. Salesgirl, Fancy Goods.

I am only four months at this work and learned it since coming into this office as a clerk. Wages are $6 per week, and I like it,I but sanitary improvements are needed. Type Writer.

I command the largest salary in the store where I work because I speak and write both French and English, and can sell a large amount of goods. I have to work very steadily and have but little time to rest, in fact seldom sit down during the day in the store, and only have four evenings during the week. Salesgirl, Dry Goods.

It is hard work to clothe a body and be a decent woman, but the work is healthy. Not many of us have any education, but we live and die about the same as better folks. Rag Sorter.

I keep my children at the school but I can’t live well. House is poor, and my clothes worse. Rum has cursed my life and that of my children. Rag Sorter.

My work is extremely hard, for I am compelled to travel up and down stairs two stories, there being a gentlemen’s room on the ground floor, ladies’ room above, and in the basement is the cook room. I work from seven A. M. to eleven P. M. and some Saturdays as late as one o’clock at night before I go home. I pity any girl who has to work, but I think the girls in shops have an easier time than those in restaurants or at housework. Waiter, Restaurant.

The work in the carpet and drapery store where I work is very light during quite a portion of the year, in the dull season. We work in dull time from 8 A. M. to 1 o’clock P. M. and 2-30 to 5 or 5-30 P. M. and not hard even in busy seasons for more women are then put on the work. It is splendid work for women but pay is small, though I think not many ordinary salesgirls earn any more than I do. Stitcher on Draperies.

I have worked a good many years at this work and always made wages. Some years have made big wages, but business good now. Have always had to stand too much. Seine Maker.

Wages are not so good as they ought to be after one has studied to get into the work, but I would rather do anything than housework, so I do not say very much. Stenog. and Type Writer.

Woman’s wages are small and there is one cause I can point out is, because there are so many girls with parents able to keep them at home, who are working for a trifle. A large proportion will work for small pay to get money for dress or pleasure, and work to get away from home restraints. This causes many to accept small wages, when they have large families depend upon them, and they also make it hard to secure employment. Dressmaker.

I work for my father because I want to earn something and be a little independent, besides getting some experience at office work which may be valuable to me one of these days. No one can tell they may need in future years and it is well to know something and be able to earn a living. I enjoy the work and can do about as I want to. Book-keeper.

The work in a small hotel dining-room is not hard unless you are compelled to do other kinds of work about the house, and I won’t, for I will leave before I do any other work.

I get three dollars and board, but all the help are charged for broken dishes, if at fault. Hotel Waiter.

It does seem strange that several blocks I know in Portland do not have toilet rooms for the women employed in them. Can not something be done to compel the owners to make some suitable arrangements? There are many of us women who are situated in pretty difficult circumstances on account of sanitary arrangements. I hope it is not the same all over the State, and it would be a grand thing if your report could show how all the women are situated.

There are many married women on farms who are slaves to their husbands and farm help, and don’t get a cent. I believe the best thing for a woman is to be her own master or have half her husband’s profits in business, especially on a farm. Stenographer and Type Writer.

My work is in a small hotel, and I have $2.00 per week and my board. I have lost but two days in the past fourteen months and it will be some time before I can get a vacation. I never have time to go to church, for Sunday is the hardest day in the week. Guests rise late and come late to every meal, and it is a long tiresome drag, and the most tiresome part of hotel life. We get no tips, but in some hotels the girls get more in tips from guests than in wages from the proprietor. Hotel Waiter.

I have not much fault to find, though I have a poor room and generally do wherever I work, but $3.00 a week and board is better than hunting for work. House Girl.

I don’t know how to do anything but wash dishes, etc., if I should not be at housework. Decent American girls can find something better than slaving in anybody’s kitchen. House Girl.

I have been ten years with this one family and they are nice people, and I have over $500 saved in the bank, and have many privileges that girls don’t usually have. House Girl.

I have as good a place as any, for any place at housework poor enough.· People don’t know how to treat you decently well and if they do know they won’t. A girl is a fool to do housework if she can do anything else in the world. House Girl.

I like housework and would not do anything else. I have been here a long time and attend to my business and let the family attend to theirs. House Girl.

It is better than being hurried up in a factory, and wages with board are about as good. Health is worth something and once in a while I can arrange to have an afternoon out. House Girl.

I don’t like it, and never did, and if I knew of any place where I could go into a shop or factory I would go this minute.· One thing sure, that the first chance I get I shall leave. House Girl.

We do not work all the time, and the pay is small, but I never could get along at housework for you are never away from your boss day or night. Cleaner in Clam Shop.

Work is tiresome, so is anything that’s work, but we make fair pay and have about eight or ten weeks out of the year for vacation. Dressmaker.

Our work is to be done quickly and the smartest of us get small pay but it is light and healthy. If we only got as much as men, we girls could save money, for I tell you working girls are able from experience to live cheaply, and, of course, could save if they got any kind of wages. Labeller in Packing House.

It is hard work but pay is $3.50 and board. I don’t mind standing when I am well, but we are liable to lose our job if we don’t attend to our work, so you can see we are pretty sick when we don’t face the music.

It is not so bad in Portland as in some places where I have worked. Waiter in Hotel.

My daughter and I do the house work together and then sew what time we can get. There are four in the family to work for, and we average $4.50 each per week at sewing. Vest Maker at Home.

My husband died two years ago leaving me with two children and not a dollar to help myself to, and as I had to care for my children I assure you it was a great blessing to obtain work that I could do at home. I average $6.00, per week. I think every man with a family should carry a life insurance policy. Coat Maker at Home.

I do the housework for four besides myself, and sew four or five hours a day, earning $3.50 per week. Vest Maker at Home.

I am thirteen years old, and live at home. I get two months’ work at drying fish and earn $1.80 per week. I put the fish on flakes and get five cents a dozen flakes of 120 to 150 fish to a flake. I can do six dozen in nine or ten hours and when I get that number done I go home. In hot days when the fish are soft it takes longer. I get very tired and the odor often makes me sick. Fish Curer.

I live at home and help mother mornings and evenings for my board. My pay is $7.50 per week and I add $150 to my bank account every year. I have two weeks’ vacation in summer and two in winter. Sales Woman, Dry Goods.

I earn $8.50 per week with which I support my aged parents. I have no bank account but keep the home comfortable. Mender in Woolen Mill.

I own my own house, and with the $6.00 per week which I earn in the shop and a small pension I support my two children comfortably. Lining Maker in Shoe Shop.

I am fifty-four years old and not very strong. I work from six to ten hours a day and pay my daughter $1.50 per week for board. I earned just $392 for the year ending August 1, 1892. Coat Maker at Home.

Additional resources

Annual reports of State agencies, in the published Laws of Maine for various years, found at the State Law and Legislative Library, the Maine State Archives, and frequently at major Maine college and university libraries.

See also a discussion of the status of Maine women in the 1874 OPINIONS OF THE JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT; and Status of Women 1892 Statistics.

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