Lest modern feminists believe that the idea of bringing children to work or creating a child care center in the office is recent, the following news article should convince us otherwise.
21 May 1905 — Pittsburgh Daily Post
“Woman Lawyer Takes Her Children Along with Her When She Works”
“Husband is Her Partner”
“Believes Youngsters Should Be Taught Practical Business Methods”
“‘Nothing on earth would induce me to wear a shirt front. I hate anything approaching the masculine in woman’s dress,’ remarked, with emphasis, Mrs. William G. Mulligan of the Bronx, lawyer and real estate dealer.
Mrs. Mulligan, who is almost frail in appearance, wore a fashionably cut dark blue taffeta silk gown, a white lace stock collar fastened with a diamond ornament and a dark blue straw that turned up in the back and down in the front after the prevailing mode. Her appearance, taken in connection with the anti-shirt front remark, might lead one to the conclusion that she is by no means entitled to a front seat among the new woman fraternity. Which only goes to prove that it is never safe to size up a woman by her clothes or by the remarks she may make on the clothes question.
For in spite of her disdain of the masculine shirt front, Mrs. Mulligan entertains and puts into practice views on home life and the bringing up of children which would make the average woman, new or old, open her eyes, and which are not at all suggestive of the butterfly type of woman. For instance, Mrs. Mulligan turns a cold shoulder to afternoon teas and fashionable society functions of any sort, although before her marriage, arrayed in $200 gowns, she did duty at many.
Prefers to Work
She gets no pleasure out of them, she says. They bore her. That she is sincere in the matter is proved by the fact that although her husband is abundantly able to support her luxury, she elects to trudge to a law office every day with him and work there from morning till night.
It is her views on the bringing up of children that stamp her as a woman of originality.
‘Since the news got out that we enlarged our offices so that our children could spend most of the day here instead of at the house,’ she said to a reporter, ‘we have been overrun with visitors who seem to think it the most remarkable thing in the world that a mother and father should plan not to be separated from their children all day long.’
As she spoke she removed her modish hat and seated herself in a rocker in a small sitting room at the rear of her law offices. This room opens into a long yard laid out with flower beds. At the end of the yard is a building designated as a gymnasium. Before next winter it will be properly equipped. Just now the apparatus consists of only a punching bag and plenty of space to romp in.
School at the Office
Upstairs at what used to be the rear law office, is a modern school outfit — low tables, chairs and desks, a blackboard, and a schoolmaster who from 10 to 12 and from 1 to half past 2 o’clock, five days in the week, teaches the three ‘R’s’ and some other things to his three small nieces.
The fourth little Mulligan girl, aged 3 who is the baby of the family, is not yet enrolled in the school. Nevertheless, she, like her sisters, spends most of her day at the law offices, thus leaving the big roomy home of Mr. and Mrs. Mulligan, less than a quarter of a mile away, in able possession of two servants and the children’s grandmother.
At noon the children, in care of a nurse, go home for a hot dinner and get back again in time for afternoon school.
‘When we occupied only one floor of this building for our offices,’ continued Mrs. Mulligan, ‘there was no room for the children, but by taking in the basement floor and controlling the yard privileges we can now have them with us without being crowded.’
‘And you do not think it somewhat unusual that two busy lawyers and real estate dealers should care to combine a nursery and schoolroom with their regular business?’ Mrs. Mulligan was asked.
‘Perhaps it is unusual, but I don’t see why it should be. I am never happier than when with my children, never quite satisfied when away from them.’
The Old-Fashioned Idea
‘Some persons might suggest that it is your duty to stay at home with your children and let Mr. Mulligan manage alone the business end of the partnership,’ was suggested.
‘I know that is the old-fashioned idea, and it goes along with another once popular belief that necessarily there is something unfeminine about a married woman who chooses to follow a business or professional career when her husband is abundantly able to provide for her, especially a woman who has children.
‘When we were married my intention was to stay at home like the ordinary housewife and to that end Mr. Mulligan took over the business, which has since been entirely in his name. But I was well known in this section and many of the old clients kept asking for me.
‘I have had five children, but their coming did not interfere with my office work. And let me say right here that although I handle perhaps as much business as does my husband, I have never had the least desire to wear the breeches or carry the pocket book. I have no separate bank account, and whenever I need a dollar or a thousand dollars I must ask my husband for it. Were it not for his forethought probably all the real estate we own would be in his name, but he always insists in having every deed made out in our joint names.’
Good for the Children
‘Do you think it good for the children to be brought up in a business atmosphere?’
‘That’s a big question, and one I have pondered a good deal, coming to this conclusion: Under such circumstances children may be robbed in a measure, so to speak, of their baby days and baby pleasures; but, on the other hand, they are going through an experience and trials they are bound to meet a little later on.
‘A girl who is carefully shielded from every trouble, who is brought up in a rose colored nursery and never allowed to take part in anything more serious than a doll’s tea party; who is kept away from the dinner table and out of the company of adults except on rare occasions; whose adult relatives think of nothing but how to bring pleasure and amusement into her life, has a very poor chance, I think, of developing into a young woman able and willing to cope with problems which are not always rose colored.'”
One thought on ““Nursery in Her Office””
This is a wonderful article. It seems they had a solution that really suited them and luckily their home was close by to go back and forth during the noon hour. Wonder what the grandmother did all day at home? That would be different from today.
Thank you for this wonderful post, Bari!