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The Long View

The working career of many women with whom we talked had evolved without plan. They had accepted the first job which was offered after leaving school and the succeeding years of their working life had been determined by the circumstances of the moment. Some of these women found themselves in middle life bewildered and afraid. They had no trade, they had no savings nor any plan for the future. The unskilled jobs which they had found with ease when they were younger were becoming more difficult to obtain as they grew older and as physical energy lessened. Some of these women had had opportunities to prepare for specialized work when they were younger and had refused them because of the belief that their working days were to be short; others had started to work at a later age when it was already too late to take special training; and some had been so pressed by the necessity of earning the daily bread for themselves and their dependents that they had had no opportunity to improve their situation. Some women were in poor health because they had had unfavorable conditions of work and insufficient rest. These unfavorable factors were found less frequently among women in the professions and in work where conditions of employment were more standardized.

It is evident that the single woman who stands alone is in a particularly hazardous position. If she lives apart from her kin she lacks the moral and spiritual aid which such a supporting group can give and she lacks also the back log of economic security which being a member of a larger group supplies. She is particularly exposed to solicitations for aid from others since her position of "having no one but herself to support" gives her an economic surplus which is more apparent than real. When she is older and her earning power has lessened those whom she has aided are seldom able or willing to aid her in turn and she is forced to seek help from strangers. This ex-posed position of some older single women may explain in part the higher illness rate, both physical and mental, among them, as well as the timidity and fear which some of them manifest and which the public is inclined to explain simply in terms of their single state. Yet it is evident that many of the unfavorable elements in the situation of older single women could be avoided if they were able or willing to look ahead and view the situation realistically.

The great majority of single women do, in fact, plan their lives so that they avoid the "lone woman" status; they are not timid and frightened as they grow older, nor do they go on relief. They provide a measure of security for themselves through savings, individual or collective; they develop compensating ties with friends and with occupational groups; in other words, they provide for themselves. But for those who cannot do this, special counselling services are needed both in planning and achieving economic self-sufficiency.

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