The Girl's Own Annual


Part I.

To suggest employments for women quite suitable for those belonging to a social position above the middle classes of society is somewhat difficult outside those learned professions in which some have already risen to eminence. For these vocations, comparatively few possess the means for rendering themselves eligible, and only a certain number amongst them have the natural qualifications for the profession selected, and likewise an opening for its exercise.

Thus my object must now be restricted to pointing out ways and means of a strictly feminine and suitable character, whereby a small private fortune may be supplemented by the exertions of industrious hands, and of intelligent minds that are less highly and generally cultivated.

In dealing with such a subject we should beware of closing our eyes to the painful fact that defeat of earnest endeavour and deplorable disappointment have recently followed the selection of certain amongst these new vocations. Not long since, in a series of articles on "Women's Clubs," I had great pleasure in calling attention to what was a scheme for their employment, extensively diverse in its characteristics. I allude to the useful "Ladies' Guide" Institution, which included service of several kinds -- registry offices, a club, with reading and sleeping apartments, and private reception-rooms, etc. This society had a"a habitation and a name" in Cockspur Street, and all was well appointed and in good working order when I had the pleasure of visiting it for review. But alas! it has disappeared from its original place; and whether to reappear elsewhere with a more limited prospectus, for the benefit of themselves and others, I am as yet unable to say.

But various doors are open to sharp wits and willing active hands, and one of the most serious which the bread-earner has to ask refers to her individual capacity and thorough qualification for the special work she means to undertake.

I must also note the deplorable collapse of some at least of the establishments of our "Lady Milliners." One would have thought that in a business like this, where, beyond the unavoidable and heavy items of rent and taxes, the outlay in material must be comparatively so small, the returns would be amply satisfactory. For the real value taken out by the purchaser -- consisting mainly, as it does, in the good taste of the lady milliner, her deft and delicate handling of materials, and her selection of beautiful combinations of colour -- the profits of the milliner should be very considerable as against the outlay made. However this may be, the recent failures in business amongst these "lady milliners" must prove not a little deterrent to others in the adoption of this line of business, however gifted for such an industry, and clever at book-keeping, the intending milliner may be. Possibly the ladies who have failed employed too many and too expensive assistants to render the work less fatiguing to themselves, and to substitute their own inefficiency and lack of experience; or it may be that in the natural shrinking from being very much en evidence to the customers the business was carried on in an unsatisfactory way. Be this as it may, this scheme -- and more or less so of dressmaking -- has met, so far, with failure in more then one case, and left the brave aspirant to self-support worse off than when she started on her somewhat uncongenial enterprise.

I cannot say that our "Lady Dressmakers," to whom I have referred en passant, have met with an equal amount of failure as the milliners; but if so, the result might be due to personal incapacity. To render success at all likely, she ought to be a thoroughly well-trained dressmaker herself, experience in practical work; whereas, I fancy that in most cases good taste and a special interest in the fashions, with a certain amount of capital, are all that she usually brings into the business so far as she is personally concerned. Thus she has to make over all the practical direction of the work and supervision afterwards to a substitute, for whose services she has to pay heavily, and which salary must sweep away a very considerable portion of any profits that may accrue.

But various doors are open to sharp wits and willing active hands, and one of the most serious which the bread-earner has to ask (in reference to all alike) refers to her individual capacity and thorough qualification for the special work she means to undertake.

A Dressmaking and Millinery Club is to be found at 7C, Lower Belgrave Street, S.W., under the supervision of Miss Younghusband, and competent lady professionals in this business are sent from this establishment both to make and mend at private houses at 2s. 6d. a day and board as "Visiting Dressmakers."

There are multitudes of girls amongst us who sing well, and who excel in their playing of more instruments than one; but at the same time they or their families would object to their adding to their means by becoming public performers. I sometimes wonder why so few amongst them endeavour to utilise their musical attainments by attending private evening or afternoon receptions, and while ostensibly received on a footing with all the other guests, obtain a confidential acknowledgment of their services from the friendly hostess to whom they were rendered. I remember to have known a very nice girl in my early youth, whose mother was a widow in reduced circumstances, and learned that her charming singing was sought, through the private recommendation of friends, and remunerated at a guinea an evening (as it was in my father's house). Some of my musical readers may say, "The cost of evening dress and the inability to employ a maid as an escort stand in my way; and besides this, the friends who might introduce me as a 'Visiting Musician' to others by inviting me to their own receptions are not likely to pay a guinea each time for my services when they may chance to invite a guest who could entertain the rest for nothing." I answer, with reference to dress, that an inexpensive black lace gown would be sufficient to answer your purpose for a very long time, especially by diversifying its appearance a little with coloured trimmings; or else, for a young girl, a white alpaca would be perfectly suitable, and cost but little. As to the amount of remuneration and the lack of a maid to attend you to and fro, half a guinea and two shillings for cab or train would both pay you and preclude the necessity of having an attendant. Unnecessary fatigue would thus be spared you, and the risk of having your dress soiled; and the moderate charge would ensure your obtaining a greater number of engagements than that of a guinea would be likely to ensure. As a rule people are only too apt to rate their services too highly. Doubtless a lady, well brought up and generally well educated, brings with her recommendations and special advantages over and above those of persons of a lower class, brought up with different associations and habits of thought in daily life. But if she be not as efficient in the special thing which she brings into the market, in competition with others less favoured in birth and general training, those who want that special service will seek elsewhere for what they pay for, from whomsoever it may be obtained, stipulating only that the provider be respectable. I cannot impress this fact too strongly on my young friends of the upper class.

Another field of remunerative work appears to me to present itself to girls who make themselves proficient in "Cutting-Out." What multitudes there are everywhere of mothers who cannot afford to employ dressmakers and seamstresses to manufacture their own and their children's clothing either for indoors and out. But they have all learnt plain sewing, and so has the child's maid; and all their difficulty lies in the fact that the art of cutting-out well and to the best advantage was not one of their acquirements. To go out by the day as a "Visiting Cutter" and guest in the family (or else to take your meals alone, as becoming your position), and to cut out material of all kinds and garments of every form and use with quickness and decision, might prove a successful enterprise. But you must be acquainted with all the new patterns issued for your guidance, and keep well up to the latest improvements. For this, as for every other art, training is essential; and this can be obtained at classes held in connection with the City Guilds

These are not the days for mere unremunerative recreation for the majority of our young sisters of the upper classes. Lawn tennis will scarcely provide them with pocket-money, not to say bread.

and Technical Schools at the People's Palace, and at the Royal Polytechnic Institution. There a three months' training is given for a fee of five guineas, and a certificate granted. The training comprises private tuition under a high-class tailor cutter -- the making of dresses, cutting of underclothing, and needlework; also attendance in large public classes. Once thoroughly instructed and certificated, you could advertise as a visiting teacher in private houses, or try your chance of success in setting up classes in small country towns, charging as moderately as possible for the lessons given. You might also take home materials to be cut out, having only to provide yourself with a proper description of scissors, a set of brass tacks with broad heads and tiny points, for securing material or paper to a large deal board or table, and also a marking (or indenting) wheel, to indicate the lines required on tissue pattern-paper. There are few mothers or young girls who, were their dresses or mantles cut out for them, could not manage to put them together with needle and thread. Certainly the cost of a day's work (or much less) from an efficient cutter would not be equal in expense to that of employing a good dressmaker, with the addition of all her petty profits on her purchases of small sundries for the completion of her work, not to speak of the inconvenience and the "fash" entailed by her broken promises!

So I advise some of my needy girl-readers to qualify themselves for this useful vocation, and leave their addresses at at librarian's or stationer's, setting up a large card in the shop to advertise to all whom it may concern, that a cutter of materials and patterns and a teacher of the art can be obtained by the day (after the plan of Miss Younghusband's Club) through the proprietor of the shop, who has the lady's name and private address.

Another branch of work, that of a "Chaperon Sketcher," might be advertised in the same way by a lady artist if she be a little past her extreme youth, by accompanying and directing sketching parties, through which means many a good draughtswoman, having a quick hand and effective style, could supplement the fitful incomings obtained by the limited sale of her pictures.

Photography is a kindred art, and to one experienced in it as a "Landscape Photographer," the taking of country seats, and even less pretentious dwellings, might yield a fair profit to an itinerate proficient who advertised in local papers to take interiors as well as exteriors; and any interesting objects in neighbouring places might be made as specimens of proficiency and for sale in the stationers' shops. A little summer holiday might be utilised by those little able to bear its expenses in this simple way.

It seems to me that no sooner does a girl return from school than a course of home study should commence, and be carried on at certain hours of the day when her mother and young sisters have had their due share of her filial and sisterly service. This home study should take such a direction as to enable her to be self-supporting if need be, or to supplement the small allowance which may scarcely cover her necessary expenses.

These are not the days for mere unremunerative recreation for the majority of our young sisters of the upper classes. Lawn tennis will scarcely provide them with pocket-money, not to say bread. And yet I may suggest an exception to the rule, supposing that the game be studied, as now already in the case of cricket, with a view to being a "Teacher of Games," and giving lessons in these arts. Already this idea has been mooted and carried out, and may prove an agreeable and healthful method of contributing to an empty purse, and bringing a few comforts into an impecunious home.

It is possible that by means of advertising, either in daily papers or magazines, or as I before suggested, by cards in stationers' shops, engagements as "Walking Chaperon" might be obtained, for taking children to and from school, and giving them daily walks during the holidays. In time also of sickness at the children's home, when there is no one who could be spared to take charge of them, such assistance would be gladly enlisted by many. To how many a mother, whose nurse cannot be spared from her infant charge, her home laundry, and needlework, the services, for a couple of hours daily, of a steady girl of the upper or at least educated class would be of the greatest advantage, supposing of course that the charge made were very moderate. All our girls need a daily walk themselves, and a little pecuniary advantage might thus be derived from it over and above personal recreation and benefit to the health.

One of the most important and more lucrative industries which have quite recently cropped up for ladies is one respecting which I have already given a promise of information. It is one for which a woman may be trained, practically as well as theoretically, in the Agricultural College at Swanley, Kent. A ladies' branch of the "Home Produce" Company has been inaugurated, and a house provided for "Lady Agriculturists" near the original building. Here theoretical and practical instruction is given, together with some five hours of daily labour in the gardens and on the farm. Of course they are not required to do heavy labourers' work; but fruit and vegetable growing, dairy work, and stock-keeping are within the limits of their practical work. The fees for instruction and residence amount to £70 per annum, and those who wish to visit the college before making a final decision are permitted to board in the establishment for a few days.

But without undertaking work as arduous, incurring the expenses entailed by college life, nor the contemplation of an outlay on such an expensive and risky investment as that of the establishment of a farm, you may safely venture on the business of gardening and as a "Floral Decorator." This would include the care of a conservatory, of window floral decorations, as well as those for fetes, dinners, balls and weddings, and that of family burial grounds; the making-up also of wedding bouquets and funeral wreaths. At present such work is very extensively monopolised by expensive shops; and while a pleasant and most suitable occupation for ladies with delicate hands and cultivated taste, a less monopolised market for flowers, and the handiwork their uses demand, will prove a boon to multitudes who can ill afford to expend as much on these gratifications as they have up to the present time. There is a society inaugurated in London, called "The Woman's Gardening Association," under the management of ladies, who find employment in this line, and take charge of all the house plants in the absence of the family from town, which are usually so sadly neglected by the cook or housemaid, to whose charge they are but too often unhappily relegated.

Multitudes amongst my countrywomen have turned their faces towards the Colonies, and I am able to tell them that, according to the latest prospectuses issued by Government, there is a demand in Australia and at Cape Colony and Natal for vine and all fruit-growers... such men and women will under certain conditions obtain free, or at least reduced, passages to Queensland and Western Australia.

The occupation of "Market Gardening" is being very successfully carried out at Harrow-on-the-Hill. An account of Miss Grace Harriman's enterprise is given in one of our contemporary magazines. She writes herself from the "Hut," Mount Park, Harrow-on-the-Hill. The details she gives are decidedly encouraging. People might very naturally suppose that to set up your garden near London would ensure you the best market; but according to her view and experience a better sale can be made in sending to a large Midland market, so much so as to make up for the greater cost of freight. Miss Harriman much insists on united work, and that it is essential that each lady should invest at last £100 capital in the enterprise to provide their own share in house and garden, naming six ladies as a suitable number to attend to a three-acre garden or fruit plantation, each being responsible for her own half-acre, and keeping a careful account of the same.

In addition to the "Agricultural" and the "Market Gardening" branches of this ladies' industry, there is a third, i.e., "Landscape Gardening." In this department a good authority, in the person of Miss Wilkinson, who has made her name at this profession, is of opinion that there is "a great opening for women in horticulture," and some in landscape gardening likewise; evidenced by her own adoption of this department. Besides the work which she has done in other directions, she has proved her thorough efficiency by her skill in the laying-out of open spaces in London.

A fourth department in connection with industry having reference to the produce of the earth is "Jam-making." For this, some extra expenditure is necessary over and above the purchase or long lease of land and cottage and of fruit-trees. There must be a factory, and a steam-boiling apparatus would be required, involving the employment of a man to keep it at work and in order. In other branches of produce-raising the expenditure would be less. For instance, pruning, grafting, and budding, the potting and training and arrangement of flowers, and making of cuttings, provide lucrative employment without cost of capital. Thus there is an opening to those without as well as those so fortunate as to possess it.

A series of lectures (eight in number) on "London Gardening" was given by Mrs. T. Chamberlain, F.R.H.S., at the Portman Rooms last spring, and those who lost the opportunity of hearing them may apply to this lady for information, and possibly for tuition, at 39, Drayton Gardens, S.W.

Multitudes amongst my countrywomen have turned their faces towards the Colonies, and I am able to tell them that, according to the latest prospectuses issued by Government from the Emigrants' Information Office (31, Broadway, Westminster, S.W.), there is a demand in Australia and at Cape Colony and Natal for vine and all fruit-growers, and those who understand pruning such trees; for market-gardeners and dairymen -- and I suppose dairywomen -- and that such men and women will under certain conditions obtain free, or at least reduced, passages to Queensland and Western Australia.

I may supplement my suggestions as to making a practical profession of these several departments of flower, fruit, and cereal culture, by suggesting that the theoretical acquaintance with these subjects, or some of them, may offer remunerative work. Lecturing on these subjects and giving private lessons to those would-be professionals who cannot afford to go through a college course, or even lessons for the benefit of amateurs in gardening, might afford a livelihood to many, and in any case add to their limited means. I have given much space comparatively to this subject, because it is so many-sided, and likely to suit persons of small means in some one of the branches indicated.

Having already spoken of Millinery, Dress-making, Visiting Dressmakers, Visiting Musicians, Cutting-Out, Visiting Cutter and Teacher, Chaperon Sketcher, Landscape Photographer, Teacher of Cricket and other Games, Walking Chaperon for Children, Agriculture, Floral Decoration, Care of House Plants, Market Gardening, Landscape Gardening, Fruit-growing, and Jam-making, I still have as many more occupations suitable for ladies to undertake, of which I hope to treat in another article.

To be continued, though possibly not by me.