Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Working Woman: Part I-- Hats

Fans of PBS Masterpiece shows such as Mr. Selfridge and The Paradise may be interested in these excerpts from local ladies who experienced the ins and outs of being department store employees here in the U.S.

From a transcript of the March 16, 1980 meeting of the Historical Society of Upper St. Clair: Helen and Nellie Currie speaking on "The Working Woman, Then and Now."

Department stores did not pay overtime.  They [stock girls] fixed the counters and the stock after the lights went out at closing time.  In 1927, $16.00 a week was what the stock girl made.
As the department stores grew and they hired many women, the customers complained.  The women said the clerks were more attractive than the customers, so the clerks were forced to wear black and dark blue, and black stockings.  Hornes allowed white collars in 1927.
My mother always wanted to be a milliner, and she thought it would be nice if we would be a milliner...She got us each a job as an apprentice making hats.  We made $3.50 a week.  My first hat sold for $11.95...There were no men buyers in millinery, but we had the women makers and the women trimmers.  Every millinery department had the trimmer and the maker.  The trimmer was the headlady...But in these millinery departments, some of them were so large.  Maybe you didn't realize it, but Rosenbaums at one time had fifty women on one floor selling only hats, and that was only one store in Pittsburgh.

Tune in next time to read about Nellie Currie leading a department store revolt!

Image credits:
Digital id: 20120224-hpicusc-0061.tif
Source id: PC0216
Title: Postcard photograph of an older woman wearing a hat
Creator: Charles I. Davis Photo Studio
Description: Postcard is cut in half and part of the image has been lost. Note the spelling of Pittsburgh as Pittsburg.  Godwin Collection.
Date: Circa 1891/1911
Historical Society of Upper St. Clair Image Collection, 1875-2011, Historical Society of Upper St. Clair Archives

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