Samuel Gompers Papers

To Charles Lewis
                                                                                                          May 25, 1917.

Mr. Chas. H. Lewis,
Secretary, Detroit Federation of Labor,
205 Equity Building, Detroit, Mich.

Dear Sir and Brother:

          Your letter and enclosed resolution were received.

          One of the results of war conditions in all European countries has been the extension of employment of women. When men in large numbers are taken out of industry and transportation, and yet there remains the necessity of maintaining material output and transporting this output for the support of the nation as well as for those fighting for the nation, it becomes necessary to draw upon many able bodied persons who had previously not been gainfully employed in order to secure enough workers to carry on the necessary economic work of the nation.

          The principle upon which the American Federation of Labor proposes to act is to prevent unnecessary substitution of women for men, and to conserve standards of work so that women doing equal work with men shall receive equal wages. The European war had affected American industry even before our country declared war with Germany. As a result of war time developments women have been employed in industry in increasing numbers in the past years.

          It would be impossible to prevent the extension of employment of women. Our task is to direct such employment so that women shall not be employed in industries for which they are physically unfit, and that they shall not be exploited through lower wages or by conscious or unconscious competition with men for employment. The fundamental provision necessary to prevent their being used in competition with men is to assure to women equal pay for equal work.

          It has been my purpose that the Committee on Labor which assists me as a member of the Advisory Commission to the Council of National Defense, shall assist in the work of protecting the women and conserving standards in industry. I have appointed a committee on Women in Industry which has already had one meeting and adopted resolutions looking particularly to the purposes of which you write me, namely, to prevent women from being unnecessarily drawn into industry, and to protect them when they must be so employed. A number of trade union women have been appointed to that committee, which is ample assurance that the industrial welfare of women will be the guiding thought.

          Realizing as I do that one of the important developments of war conditions is this matter of women's work, you may be assured that I am endeavoring to give it the attention which it deserves.

                                                                              Fraternally yours,  

                                                                              Saml Gompers.

                                                                              President, American Federation of Labor.

TLpS, reel 222, vol. 234, pp. 121-22, SG Letterbooks, DLC.