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Cape Cod Early Days of the Cape Cod Career Girl

What was life like for a “female” worker in the glass factories of Sandwich following the Civil War? She was definitely discriminated against, for her job was usually more monotonous than those of the men and paid less. In fact, her wage was not a living one. It was taken for granted that she was supported by a father, brother or husband.

Roughers, as the women who did the frosting were called, worked with sandblast and wire brushes preparing light-globes and lampshades for etching. The roughers had to stand all day and carry work-water to their benches.

Furthermore, the work was dangerous. An imperfect globe or shade, imperfectly balanced, could not be stoutly grasped by the vise and would shatter into a million cutting fragments when it came in contact with the revolving wheel.

Pieces blew up not infrequently, and occasionally the flying fragments severely cut the hands and arms of the women workers, even severing arteries and nearly causing death. Thus, the roughers worked under the constant tension of fear. Furthermore, an accident at the factory was not covered as today, by insurance and the unfortunate victim paid her own doctor’s bill and received no pay for the time she was out of work.

Other jobs for women included cleaning molds and packing. They inspected finished pieces for flaws, and they even did etching. The position of great respectability was that of keeping the account books.

But the plum of the “female” positions was that of decorator. Rumors circulated about factory and town that these ladies received fabulous salaries, as much as eighteen or twenty dollars a week.

They always dressed in the highest fashion, in gowns of satins and velvet. The great drawback to painting pansies and violets on lampshades was the singular fact that a decorator almost never married. Either the men were scared off by women earning as much and even more than they, or else the ladies themselves had something to say about the matter.

Perhaps making their fabulous salaries kept these gorgeously gowned ladies quite content with being single, - and lessened their desire to find some male to support them.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 10/25/06
Categories: HistoryLifeSandwich
Keywords: history, glass, life, sandwich, sandwich glass


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