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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • GEORGE WASHINGTON CROSSING THE PIES

Women's Lounge: 1913

Women's Lounge: 1913

Circa 1913. "Bureau of Engraving and Printing." This would seem to be the ladies' lunchroom. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

Gotta love those pompadours!

It took at least 8 pins to hold up all that heavy hair. And the corsets....gah. It must have been extremely uncomfortable to be a woman back in the day. It sort of makes me glad I was born when I was.

A bun in the offing

In those days, ladies saved their own hair. Some of even had little crystal dishes to put their "rats" in. When they had enough to shape into a roll, they would put it underneath their "live" hair. Result: bigger hair.

You've come a long way baby

This image reminds me of the old Virginia Slims ads but I don't see any smokes out in this lunchroom.

Solarium

The room appears to be a solarium or greenhouse structure added onto the existing building. I did some engineering at the B of E/P back in the early 70s; don't remember anything like this. Very nice solution to the problem.

[This would have been in the old B.E.P. building. - Dave]

Wouldn't it be fun

to see these ladies 10 years later and see how many were "flappers." They probably were not allowed out for lunch because of security concerns.

Three cheers for the union sisters!

To paraphrase Pete Seeger, the boss won't listen when one woman squawks, but he's got to listen when the union talks!

Cooperative Lunchroom

It would appear that the pleasant lunchroom in this photo is the direct result of the workers being able to organize a labor union and press for better conditions. Prior to the formation of the cooperative lunchrooms, the government granted contracts to outside vendors to operate the lunchrooms within the bureau's building. Incredibly, the women were locked inside the building at lunchtime, forcing them to eat at these often filthy and overpriced lunchrooms.

I think the women in the photo look very proud and pleased with their accomplishment.

(The $1.25 daily wage in 1909 would today be roughly equivalent to $29 per day.)


Girls Favor a Union

Employes of Bureau Welcome Proposed Organization

...
The lunchrooms, one on the ground floor and the other in an attic of the bureau, are said to be far from ideal. The public is never shown these lunchrooms, a fact which the girls declare is eloquent argument against the eating rooms. With the aid of the Washington and New York sections of the Woman's Civic Federation, the employes hope to have conditions changed and get a model lunchroom in the proposed new bureau building.
...

Washington Post, Mar 21, 1909

What Miss Morgan's Visit Did

Since Miss Anne Morgan, daughter of J. Pierpont Morgan, and several other prominent women interested in welfare work came to Washington a week ago and succeeded in dragging to light the conditions under which women employes of the bureau of engraving and printing are compelled to work, Director Ralph, of the bureau, has had a general housecleaning.
...
Three hundred and seventy-two of the 800 women employes have joined in organizing a labor union. Dr. Harvey Wiley, government chemist, is going to see that the girls are served pure food in the lunchrooms in the building. These rooms are let to outsiders. The girls are locked in and it is not possible for them to get out of the building to get meals elsewhere.

The girls are hustling to get their rights now, and Congress will be asked to enact legislation looking to raising their pay to $2 a day from $1.25.

Washington Post, Mar 28, 1909

Bureau's Own Lunchroom

Engraving and Printing Employees May
Try the Cooperative Plan.

A cooperative lunchroom among the employes of a government bureau is about to be tried, if the plans of Director Ralph, of the bureau of engraving and printing, turn out the way he hopes. It is his idea to establish a lunchroom in the new building, which shall be run by the employees. This will be the first time such a thing will have been tried by a government establishment, though many private business concerns run such enterprises successfully. The new bureau is to have ample kitchen facilities, and it is planned to use the roof of one of the wings as a roof garden.
...
Not only will the employes obtain better food, but they will get it at a more reasonable price.
...

Washington Post, Jul 12, 1913

Aid Fair Sex in Work

Women of Civic Federation Win
Reforms at Departments

Reforms accomplished and instituted by the woman's department of the National Civic Federation within the last three months, vitally affecting government clerks, industrial employes, and other workers of the city, are set out in a report made public yesterday.
...
Promise of a rest and lunch room in the Department of Commerce. The woman's department has also been instrumental in making arrangements for a cooperative lunchroom in the new building of the bureau of engraving and printing, and has successfully started a similar enterprise at the navy yard.
...

Washington Post, Mar 27, 1914

Hard to accept

I find it difficult to accept that all these nice ladies, indeed all the people in most Shorpy pictures have all lived out their lives and died of old age. These pictures are their only remembrance. Thanks Dave

Defying Gravity

It always amazed me how woman seemed able to defy gravity when it came to their hairstyles back in those days. Was there some ancient secret that died with them?

Seismically Inactive Lunchroom

I know it's not a concern in Washington, and the potted plants add charm of the ladies' lunchroom, but this Southern Californian sees those unsecured pots directly over the benches as a nasty accident waiting to happen.

Conformity or uniformity

It is clearly a dress code that they all have white shirts and dark skirts and similar (somewhat old-fashioned) hairstyles.

We really can't tell if the skirts are dark navy or dark brown in a black and white picture. But they are wearing some kind of uniform: Notice the circular white aprons with ruffles that each of them is wearing.

Maybe the woman in the dark clothes is their supervisor. She is older than most of them.

If this is a lunchroom it sure is a dreary one for some truly dreary job. It appears to me to be a sun porch, "outside" the building, but enclosed. Except there is no sun on this dreary day.

They all HAVE to dress alike, in a style 10 years outdated. They all sit facing the walls in numbered chairs with arms for their tables, and when they run out of chairs, you get stuck sitting on a hard wood bench, sharing the arm of somebody else's chair, or having to eat out of their lap.

Seems a cheerful place

Probably because there appears to be so much natural light. The potted plants are a nice touch too. I love the happy expressions on the two ladies in the middle. The one who is looking at the camera is not a beauty, but she seems like someone you'd like to know and have a cup of tea with on your lunch break.

Check it out

Big screen TVs at the back of the lunchroom!

Carbon copies

Every fine lady here is wearing a variation of the Gibson Girl hairstyle, also in the tops and skirts, young and old. Talk about trend followers! Far left back we either have a Hitler with glasses and a Gibson or Groucho Marx with Gibson and no cigar. A simple smudge goes a long way in some fun.

We ordered early

But all we got were buns...

The hair, again

Not a bob in sight and the white shirtwaist/black skirt was still "what one wears". Perhaps the lady in black is in mourning. I thought by 1915 we might start seeing some changes.

 
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