Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

An Irritating, Frustrating, But Interesting Old Book

Optical Factory Girls and Fatherly Supervisor

I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, that I enjoy reading old books, especially those that deal with supervision and management. Right now I’m looking at one of those and alternately gnashing my teeth, smiling, disagreeing vehemently and agreeing completely. The book is entitled Psychology of Supervising The Working Woman, by Donald Laird “with the assistance of Eleanor C. Laird,” published in 1942. Mr. Laird was a well-respected psychologist and industrial consultant, and a product of his time (1897-1967.)

The book is generally supportive of women in the workplace and points out that over one million women were doing factory work during World War I, and ten million women were working in the United States in 1940. (There are about 69 million now.) He gives this explanation about the increase of working women:

Why do women work? In war times for patriotic reasons. At other times some work to get pin money, some to get away from home, a few for the fun of it, others to help support their parents, and there are those who work from sheer necessity. Some go to work for the simple reason that they have an intense dislike for housework….many hope to fulfill the feminine dream of finding a husband.

The chapters have titles such as these:

  • Striving For Completeness–The Key To Woman’s Emotional Life.

  • Adjusting Work For Women’s Fatigue Characteristics.

  • Adjusting Work To Woman’s Brain Power.

  • Adjusting Work To Menstrual Phenomena.

  • The Problem Of Getting Teamwork From Women Workers.

  • The Problems of Crushes and Jealousies.

  • The Problem of Personal Appearance.

As I read this book, I thought about my mother, Creola Kincaid Lewis, who worked from the time she was 16 years old, in 1926, until she was 85. She held jobs in a bleachery (cotton processing), in retail work, as a pet and garden store owner, and as an extremely talented and creative floral designer. The mothers of almost all my friends also worked–as teachers, pharmacists, salespeople, store owners, realtors, and in various businesses in my small hometown.  I do not think they were working for pin money, and I doubt they knew their psychology was so different they needed a special kind of supervision. They just worked and did their work well.

They probably also did not realize this “fact” mentioned by Dr. Laird:

Psychological factors indicate clearly that the best boss for the woman worker is the fatherly, older man….In the industrial battle between the sexes, man may be steadily losing out to the inroads of the hoards of women workers, but it appears the onrush is stopped by natural forces as soon as the invaders reach the lines of the supervisors and overseers. This may remain a man’s world after all…

See why I love these old books? They can be irritating and frustrating, but they are certainly interesting!

March 12th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 2 comments