The Jones School, the oldest public school building in Chicago, is at

Harrison Street and Plymouth Court. When it was new, it was surrounded

by "brown-stone fronts," and boys and girls who to-day are among the

city's most influential citizens learned their A-B-C's within its walls.

Now, the office-buildings and printing-houses and cheap hotels and

burlesque shows that mark the noisy, grimy district south of the "loop"

crowd in upon it; and only an occasional shabby brown-stone front

survives in the neighborhood as a tenement house. But in the Jones

School, the process of making influential citizens is still going on.

For there the "Job Lady" has her office, her sanctum.

Job Lady is a generic term that includes Miss Anne Davis, director of

the Bureau of Vocational Supervision, and her four assistants. The

Bureau--which is the newest department of Chicago's school system--is

really an employment agency, but one that is different from any other

employment agency in the United States. It is concerned solely with a

much-neglected class of wage-earners--children from fourteen to sixteen

years of age; and its chief purpose is, not to find positions for its

"patrons," but to keep them in school.

It was founded as a result of the discovery that there were not nearly

enough jobs in Chicago to go around among the twelve or fifteen thousand

children under sixteen years of age who left school each year to go to

work; also that, though a statute of the State required a child either

to work or to go to school, there were about twenty-three thousand

youngsters in the city who were doing neither. The law had made no

provision for keeping track of the children once they had left school.

No one knew what had become of them. So Miss Davis, acting as special

investigator for the School of Civics and Philanthropy and the Chicago

Women's Club, set to work to find out.

She discovered--and she can show you statistics to prove it--that

"bummin'" around, looking aimlessly for work, brought many a boy and

girl, unable to withstand the temptations of the street, into the

Juvenile Court. And she found, as other statistics bear witness, that

the fate of the children who found jobs was scarcely better than that of

their idle brothers and sisters. Undirected, they took the first

positions that offered, with the result that most of them were engaged

in "blind-alley" occupations, unskilled industries that offered little,

if any, chance for advancement and that gave no training for the future.

The pay was poor; it averaged two dollars a week. Working conditions

were frequently unhealthful. Moral influences of shop and factory and

office were often bad. For the most part, the industries that employed

children were seasonal; and many boys and girls were forced into long

periods of inactivity between positions. This state of affairs, combined

with a natural tendency to vary the monotony of life by shifting, on the

slightest pretext, from one job to another, was making of many children

that bane of modern industry, the "casual" laborer.

The Bureau--started informally in the course of initial investigations

and kept alive through the grace of the Women's Club, until the Board of

Education was ready to adopt it--has been able to do much in

amelioration of the lot of the fourteen-to-sixteen-year-old worker. But

no statistics it can produce are as telling as the sight of the Bureau

in operation. Sit with your eyes and ears open, in a corner of the

office in the Jones School and you will make the acquaintance of one of

the humanest employment agencies in the world; also you will learn more

about such grave subjects as the needs of our educational system and the

underlying causes of poverty than you can learn out of fat treatises in

a year.

"Why do you want to leave school?" That is the first question the Job

Lady asks of each new applicant who comes to the Bureau for work.

Perhaps the child has heard that question before; for in those schools

from which the greatest numbers of children go out at the age of

fourteen, Miss Davis and her assistants hold office hours and interview

each boy or girl who shows signs of restlessness. They give informal

talks to the pupils of the sixth and seventh grades about the

opportunities open to boys and girls under sixteen; they discuss the

special training offered by the schools and show the advisability of

remaining in school as long as possible; they try to find an opportunity

of talking over the future with each member of the graduating class.

But even when the way has been paved for it, the question, "Why do you

want to leave school?" brings to light the most trivial of reasons. In

very few cases is it economic necessity that drives a child to work.

"I ain't int'rusted," explained one boy to Miss Davis. "I jest sits."

The Job Lady is often able to convince even the sitters that school is,

after all, the best place for boys and girls under sixteen. She

persuaded between twenty-five and thirty per cent. of the children that

applied at the Bureau last year to return to school. Sometimes all she

had to do was to give the child a plain statement of the facts in the

case--of the poor work and poor pay and lack of opportunity in the

industries open to the fourteen-year-old worker. Often she found it

necessary only to explain what the school had to offer. One boy was sent

to Miss Davis by a teacher who had advised him to go to work, although

he had just completed the seventh grade, because he had "too much

energy" for school! He was a bright boy--one capable of making something

of himself, if the two important, formative years that must pass before

he was sixteen were not wasted; so he was transferred from his school to

one where vocational work was part of the curriculum--where he could

find an outlet for his superfluous energy in working with his hands. Now

he is doing high-school work creditably; and he has stopped talking

about leaving school.

But it isn't always the whim of the child that prompts him to cut short

his education. Sometimes he is driven into the industrial world by the

ignorance or greed of his parents. Miss Davis tells of one little girl

who was sacrificed to the great god Labor because the four dollars she

brought home weekly helped to pay the instalments on a piano, and of a

boy who was taken from eighth grade just before graduation because his

father had bought some property and needed a little extra money.

Frequently boys and girls are put to work because of the impression

that schools have nothing of practical value to offer.

Still, even the most miserly and most stubborn and most ignorant of

parents can sometimes be made to see the wisdom of keeping a child in

school until he is sixteen. They are won to the Job Lady's point of view

by a statement of the increased opportunity open to the child who is

sixteen. Or they are brought to see that the schools are for _all_

children, and that work, on the contrary, is very bad for some children.

But often all the Job Lady's efforts fail. The child is incurably sick

of school, the parent remains obdurate. Or, perhaps, there is a very

real need of what little the son or daughter can earn. Often some one

can be found who will donate books, or a scholarship ranging from

car-fare to a few dollars a week. Over four hundred dollars is being

given out in scholarships each month, and every scholarship shows good

returns. But often no scholarship is forthcoming; and there is nothing

for the Job Lady to do but find a position for the small applicant.

Then begins the often difficult process of fitting the child to some

available job. The process starts, really, with fitting the job to the

child, and that is as it should be. The Job Lady always tries to place

the boys and girls that come to her office where there will be some

chance for them to learn something. But jobs with a "future" are few for

the fourteen-year-old worker. The trades will not receive apprentices

under the age of sixteen; business houses and the higher-grade factories

won't bother with youngsters, because they are too unreliable; as one

man put it, with unconscious irony, too "childish." So the Job Lady must

be content to send the boys out as office and errand boys or to find

employment for the girls in binderies and novelty shops. But she

investigates every position before a child is sent to fill it; and if it

is found to be not up to standard in wages or working conditions, it is

crossed off the Bureau's list.

The Job Lady has established a minimum wage of four dollars a week. No

children go out from the Bureau to work for less than that sum,

excepting those who are placed in the part-time schools of some printing

establishments, or in dressmaking shops, where they will be learning a

useful trade. This informal minimum-wage law results in a raising of the

standard of payment in a shop.

In such manner, the Bureau makes over many a job to fit the worker. But

the fitting process works both ways. The Job Lady knows that it is

discouraging, often demoralizing, for a child to be turned away, just

because he is not the "right person" for a place. So she tries to make

sure that he _is_ the right person. That she succeeds very often, the

employers who have learned to rely on the Bureau will testify.

"If you haven't a boy for me now," one man said to Miss Davis, "I'll

wait until you get one. It will save time in the end, for you always

send just the boy I want."

The secret of finding the right boy lies, first of all, in discovering

what he wants to do; and, next, in judging whether or not he can do it.

Very often, he has not the least idea of what he wants to do. He has

learned many things in school, but little or nothing of the industrial

world in which he must live. To many boys and girls, especially to those

from the poorest families, an "office job" is the acme of desire. It

means to them, pitifully enough, a respectability they have never been

quite able to encompass. As a result, perhaps, of our slow-changing

educational ideals, they scorn the trades.

Into the trades, however, Miss Davis finds it possible to steer many a

boy who is obviously unfitted for the career of lawyer, bank clerk, or,

vaguely, "business man." And she is able to place others in the coveted

office jobs, with their time-honored requirement: "only the neat,

honest, intelligent boy need apply."

Often, given the honesty and intelligence, she must manufacture a child

to fit the description. Sometimes all that is necessary is a hint about

soap and water and a clean collar. Sometimes the big cupboard in her

office must yield up a half-worn suit or a pair of shoes that some

luckier boy has outgrown. Occasionally, hers is the delicate task of

suggesting to a prematurely sophisticated little girl that some

employers have an unreasonable prejudice against rouge and earrings; or

that even the poorest people can wash their underwear. Manners

frequently come in for attention.

When the boys or girls are placed, the Bureau, unlike most employment

agencies, does not wash its hands of them. Its work has only begun. Each

child is asked to report concerning his progress from time to time; and

if he does not show up, a vocational supervisor keeps track of him by

visits to home or office, or by letters, written quarterly. The Job Lady

is able to observe by this method, whether or not the work is suitable

for the child, or whether it offers him the best available chance; and

she is often able to check the habit of "shifting" in its incipient

stages. She is continually arbitrating and making adjustments, always

ready to listen to childish woes and to allay them when she can.

Not long ago, I went to a conference on Vocational Guidance. There I

heard, from the mouths of various men, what hope the work being done by

the Bureau held for the future. One showed how it had infused new blood

into the veins of an anemic educational system, how it was making the

schools a more efficient preparation for life--the life of factory and

shop and office--than they ever had been before.

Another man pointed out that the Bureau, through the schools, would

strike at one of the deep roots of poverty--incompetency. More people

are poor for lack of proper equipment to earn a living and proper

direction in choosing a vocation, he said, than for any other one


A third man saw in the Vocational Bureau a means of keeping a control

over employing interests. "You treat our children well, and you pay them

well," the schools of the future, he declared, would be able to say to

the employer, as the Bureau was already saying, "or we won't permit our

children to work for you." A fourth had a vision of what the Bureau and

the new education it heralded could do toward educating the men and

women of the future to a knowledge of their rights as workers.

And then there came a man with a plea. "All of these things," he said,

"the Bureau can accomplish--must accomplish. But let us not forget, in

our pursuance of great ends, that it is the essential _humanness_ of the

Bureau that has made it what it is."

Here was the final, immeasurable measure of its success. It counts, of

course, that the Job Lady helps along big causes, drives at the roots of

big ills; but, somehow it counts more that an anxious-faced youngster I

saw at the Bureau should have brought his woes to her. His employer had

given him a problem to solve--and he couldn't do it. He was afraid he'd

lose his job. He had never been to the Bureau before, but "a boy you got

a job for said you'd help me out," he explained--and he was sent off

happy, the problem solved.

It counts too, that Tillie, who had once found work through the Bureau,

but was now keeping house for her father, should turn to the Bureau for

aid. Her father had been sick and couldn't afford to buy her anything

new to wear. "My dress is so clumsy," she wrote, "that the boys laugh at

me when I go out in the street." She was confident that the Job Lady

would help her--and her confidence was not misplaced. It counts that

the Jameses and Henrys and Johns and Marys and Sadies come, brimming

over with joy, to tell the Job Lady of a "raise" or of a bit of

approbation from an employer. All the funny, grateful, pathetic letters

that pour in count unspeakably!

To hundreds of boys and girls and parents the Job Lady has proved a

friend. There has been no nonsense about the matter. She has not

sentimentalized over her work; she has not made it smack of charity.

Indeed, there is no charity about it. The boys and girls and parents who

come to the Job Lady are, for the most part, just average boys and girls

and parents, as little paupers as millionaires. They are the people who

are generally lost sight of in a democracy, where one must usually be

well-to-do enough to, buy assistance, or poor enough to accept it as

alms, if he is to have any aid at all in solving the problems of life.

It is a great thing for the schools, through the Bureau, to give to

these average men and women and children practical aid in adjusting

their lives to the conditions under which they live and work, and to do

it with a sympathy and an understanding--a humanness that warms the


* * * * *

_(Kansas City Star)_

Two illustrations with the captions:

1. "Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher," an Illustration in

the "Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (Harpers), which met the

Author's Approval.

2. Mrs. Laura Frazer, the Original "Becky Thatcher," Pouring

Tea at Mark Twain's Boyhood Home in Hannibal, Mo.,

on the Anniversary of the Author's Birth.

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