10 JUNE 1911, Page 15


[TO THE EDITOR Or THE " SPECTATOR."] SIR,—May I be allowed to say a few words on the subject of the review in your issue of May 27th on Olive Schreiner's book, "Woman and Labour "? It is true your reviewer does not claim to have dealt adequately with the book (though he does not say why not), but having read it myself it seems strange to me that be gives no hint of the passion and force of the writing, which at times rises to heights of wonderful eloquence and beauty. Indeed, the review might be of some dry article in the Economic Journal for all the recognition one finds of the real scope of the work, which is immensely wide and far- reaching, or of its remarkable literary qualities. But to pass to quite another point. Your reviewer does not agree with Miss Schreiner's view that women "on the ground of sex alone receive a less recompense for equal work," and asks, "Is this true ?" giving as an instance to the contrary the highest class of literary work, of which certainly it cannot be said that the sex of the writer governs the rate of pay. But one instance does not make a valid ground for a generalization, and a better one can be found in a humbler sphere of work than high- class literature. Why is it that a butler receives double the wages of a parlour-maid ? He certainly does less work, as everyone knows who has had experience of both. In this instance convention and usage affect the price of the commodity to a degree which utterly

counterbalances the usual laws of supply and demand, and the fact of a great scarcity of parlour-maids and a glut of butlers turns upside down your reviewer's contention that "if more women than men offer for sale labour that is not materially different in quality, the market value of the women's labour must inevitably fall." Substitute "men" for " women " in the above passage, and how does it apply to the case I have mentioned P Your reviewer also writes sail the field of domestic servants' work were capable of endless expansion. Where, I would ask, are the countless empty sculleries that are to absorb all the girls of fourteen or fifteen who desire "lucrative places" P Can your reviewer have any notion of the exceedingly small proportion domestic service bears to other employments open to women P—I am, Sir, ite., Orchards, Godcaming.


[We doubt the glut of butlers. There is a great demand for parlour-maids at a wage half that of butlers. If parlour- maids asked double their present wages the demand for them would instantly decrease. The price of parlour-maids' labour is settled in the long run by the ratio between supply and demand, like all other prices, and from that fact, agreeable or disagreeable, there is no escape.—En. Spectator.]