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Pleasure in Work



Persons who have a form of employment which allows for the development of special skills or craftsmanship usually enjoy their work and take pride in it. Other women who are able to be immediately useful to others, such as nurses and social workers, possess a fortunate element in their work situation. Many women in other professions or in business have the satisfaction of a service which is needed and wanted and in which they can take pride because it is honestly and efficiently rendered. It is true, however, that many single women are employed in lines of work where job satisfactions, other than that of receiving the pay envelop seem remote; many women work for the sole purpose of earning a living and at work which is considered monotonous and uninteresting.

While in many cases it seems clear that monotony and dullness are inherent in the type of work which women do, a closer examination will reveal the fact that this is not always the case. Rather is it true that the occupational content of much of the work which women do has been neglected or despised because of the way in which this work is regarded. Tasks involved in domestic service are customarily regarded as dull routine operations and yet a high degree of virtuosity is achieved by some women who are willing to explore its possibilities. Cooking, which is developed to a fine art by some, is drudgery for many women whether they do it in their own homes or in the homes of others. Some salesgirls who work in stores resent their work as dull and monotonous because they realize nothing of its functional value and because they have been unable to acquire its skills. It is evident that much of the work which has been regarded traditionally as women's work has lost its intellectual, spiritual, and cultural content because in this industrial age we have become so intent upon being efficient in its performance that we have disregarded its most valuable elements. In recent years there has been an effort on the part of some industries and crafts to anchor their work again in the vast cultural and traditional complex from which it has sprung and to restore to the worker that knowledge and pride in his craft which he once possessed. Some department stores have attempted in their training courses to acquaint young women with a knowledge and appreciation of the product which they are selling, of the arts of salesmanship itself, of ways of meeting, knowing, and understanding people. A job of selling, which may be a dull monotonous task for one girl, has varied and absorbing aspects for another who has the intelligence, the imagination, the humility, and the willingness to enter into her work and make the most of it. As the system of apprenticeship is revived and as vocational training is broadened to include the mind as well as the economic aspects of work, it seems possible that women's work will be-come increasingly a vital and interesting part of her life rather than a daily round which must be endured.

It was evident in our talks with single women that some of them, at all occupational levels, had been able to explore the occupational content of their work unaided and that they had been able to achieve a virtuosity which was a major satisfaction to them. Among these women were artists, teachers, salesgirls, a woman who makes a celebrated candy, a cook who has made her hostess famous, a milliner, and various others. Even women whose work appears dull and repetitious had been able to develop aspects of it which gave them satisfaction and a feeling of personal achievement. Nor were these women in every case those of a higher intelligence level, for achievements were in some cases those of women of only average intelligence.



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