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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Women a Success at Sligh Furniture Co.

Quick to Learn and Painstaking in Work

Women in the furniture factories? Sure, why not?

Can they do the work? Yes. Just as well and even better than men.

What can they do in a furniture factory? Everything that a man can do.

Can they stand the pace? Yes. The work is not as hard as standing behind a counter in a store waiting on a fretting customer.

This is the answer to a questionnaire that has been in the minds of a lot of furniture manufacturers ever since the war broke out. The answer comes from the plant of the Sligh Furniture Company, where more than 100 women are working and where they are doing everything that men do, doing it just as well, and are not as tired when night comes as many a girl selling gloves or stockings in a shop.

There is not a department in the Sligh Furniture Company’s plant in which girls are not employed. You find them in the wrapping room, running sanding machines, standing at all the benches and all the machines throughout the plant. You find them in the finishing room, and you find two of the working as cabinetmakers and doing fine work, just as well as the best men in the department. You find them in the decorating department and the enameling department. Anywhere you go, at any machine or any bench, you will find a girl working.

Many of the girls are employed as helpers. Every helper in the plant now is a girl who has taken the place of some boy who has gone to war. It is interesting to watch their work, too, for they take the material from the saws and other machines and pile them on the trucks, every stick even with every other stick.

Not Yet in Overalls

The girls at Sligh’s have not yet adopted overalls. In every other way they are garbed about like the men. They wear the caps pulled down over their eyes to keep the dust out of their hair. They wear the regulation workman’s aprons, but they also wear skirts, high-heeled shoes, rings and earrings.

They have been put to work in some departments opposite the men. You see them standing at the bench facing a man, and when she doesn’t know what to do, the man can show her. In other departments she is entirely on her own resources, and learns with remarkable rapidity how to do all the work.

They make fiber seats and run the veneer machines. They may be seen with hammer and fine little nails tacking the big sheets of veneer together. But it was something of a surprise when two of the girls asked for jobs as cabinetmakers. Yet these two girls are at work in the cabinet room doing the finest sort of cabinetwork with all the skill of the experienced men.

The Sligh Company is finding them quick to learn and especially painstaking in their work. If the war continues to take men away from the plant, the company has found the supply of girls seemingly unending, for they come every day seeking employment.

The experiment in the Sligh factory has worked out to the greatest satisfaction, and while girls will not be taken on when men can be secured, the company has no hesitation in taking them on as the men are drawn away.

Excerpted from The Grand Rapids Herald, January 6, 1918, page 6

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