Written: Written on April 27 (May 10), 1913
Published: Published on May 5, 1913 in Pravda No. 102. Printed from the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 230-231.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: S. Ryan
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive. (199x). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work, as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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Present-day capitalist society conceals within itself numerous cases of poverty and oppression which do not immediately strike the eye. At the best of times, the scattered families of poor townspeople, artisans, workers, employees and petty officials live in incredible difficulties, barely managing to make both ends meet. Millions upon millions of women in such families live (or, rather, exist) as “domestic slaves”, striving to feed and clothe their family on pennies, at the cost of desperate daily effort and “saving” on everything—except their own labour.
It is these women that the capitalists most willingly employ as home-workers, who are prepared for a monstrously low wage to “earn a little extra” for themselves and their family, for the sake of a crust of bread. It is from among these women, too, that the capitalists of all countries recruit for themselves (like the ancient slave-owners and the medieval feudal lords) any number of concubines at a most “reasonable” price. And no amount of “moral indignation” (hypocritical in 99 cases out of 100) about prostitution can do anything against this trade in female flesh; so long as wage-slavery exists, inevitably prostitution too will exist. All the oppressed and exploited classes throughout the history of human societies have always been forced (and it is in this that their exploitation consists) to give up to their oppressors, first, their unpaid labour and, second, their women as concubines for the “masters”.
Slavery, feudalism and capitalism are identical in this respect. It is only the form of exploitation that changes; the exploitation itself remains.
An exhibition of the work of “women exploited at home” has opened in Paris, the “capital of the world”, and the centre of civilisation.
Each exhibit has a little tag showing how much the woman working at home receives for making it, and how much she can make per day and per hour on this basis.
And what do we find? Not on a single article can a woman working at home earn more than 1.25 francs, i.e., 50 kopeks, whereas the earnings on the vast majority of jobs are very much smaller. Take lampshades. The pay is 4 kopeks per dozen. Or paper bags: 15 kopeks per thousand, with earnings at six kopeks an hour. Here are little toys with ribbons, etc.: 2.5 kopeks an hour. Artificial flowers: two or three kopeks an hour. Ladies’ and gentlemen’s underwear: from two to six kopeks an hour. And so on, without end.
Our workers’ associations and trade unions, too, ought to organise an “exhibition” of this kind. It will not yield the colossal profits brought in by the exhibitions, of the bourgeoisie. A display of proletarian women’s poverty and indigence will bring a different benefit: it will help wage-slaves, both men and women, to understand their condition, look back over their “life”, ponder the conditions for emancipation from this perpetual yoke of want, poverty, prostitution and every kind of outrage against the have-nots.