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Grace Carlson

Poor Mothers Advised
to Patch, Darn and Sew

(12 May 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 19, 12 May 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Patch, Save and Wear Out! V-E Day Won’t End Shortages. This is the headline of a feature article which appeared in the April 17 St. Paul Dispatch. “Some of the really troublesome shortages – the day-to-day needs that worry housewives and cause hours of hunting in the stores – in shirts, shoes, house dresses, children’s overalls and infant’s underthings are likely to become worse before they are better, come V-E Day or not,” the article goes on to say.

My sister Dorothy sent me this clipping along with an angry three-page letter. Because she is writing about problems which all working-class mothers face these days of wartime shortages, skyrocketing prices and frozen wages, I think that the readers of The Militant will find her letter interesting. “Ann” is her seven-year-old girl; “Jim,” her three-year-old boy – and, as parents of children of these ages know, they seem to outgrow their clothes overnight!

Try and Get It!

Here is her letter.

I happened to run across this item on the financial page and thought there might be something in it you could use. I suppose that’s because I myself feel pretty strongly on the question of what happens when I go shopping – especially for children’s things.

You must have heard me complain that Jim had to wear his last year’s shirts, which were two sizes too small for him all winter because I couldn’t find any to fit him. When I tried to exchange the red bedroom slippers you bought him for St. Valentine’s Day, I discovered that there are no bedroom slippers in larger sizes in the stores. ‘We’ve been out for months,’ they inform you.

When I bought shoes for Jim last month (and that makes $24 we’ve spent on children’s shoes in 7 months) I tried to get rubbers too – and people just laughed. One store keeper said he could sell me overshoes. He told me that he had been trying to get them all winter and had received a whole ‘basement full’ just as spring came.

I’m paying 29 cents and 39 cents per pair for socks for them because the cheaper socks always seem to be out while there is always a nice choice of color and size in the more expensive ones.

Ann is wearing her last year’s spring coat which is much too short for her. Of course, I could find plenty of new coats for her at $15 to $20. All the stores are advertising expensive coats and hats and they have stacks and stacks of luxurious handmade silk underwear – while youngsters can’t get shirts!

Shop Around

I certainly sound like a complaining housewife! I really know that there are burdens under capitalism which are a million times worse, but the hypocrisy of a ‘Patch, Save and Wear Out’ campaign when most workers’ belongings are already close to the worn-out stage and at the same time luxury goods fill the stores is pretty annoying.

Ann and Jim have been pestering and pestering so I’ll have to break off. Let me add just one rote of further annoyance. After you do go shopping for children’s shirts, towel racks for the bathroom, some kind of sauce pans other than the expensive glass ones that the children break – some salesgirls always says, ‘We did have some in. You’ll just have to come in often so you can catch them while they’re here.’

For somebody with children who is paying money to a girl to stay with the children – or like Elaine’s sister-in-law has dragged three children across town to leave with her mother – and is hoping to get a batch of necessary items in the short time available, that is the last straw! Just spend several hours, two or three times a week to shop around stores to see if anything has come in!

I have to go now to show Jimmy how to make ‘feets’ on the picture of the little boy he is drawing.

As ever, Dorothy


A fitting climax to this report of the working-class housewife’s shopping problems is the recently-issued report of the OPA on department store profits for 1943. In dollar figures, department store profits reached $593,800,000 in 1943 in contrast to average profits from 1936–39 of $51,800,000. This represents an increase in 1943 profits of 1038 per cent! And preliminary figures on 1944 show that they are doing still better still!

But the National Retail Dry-goods Association isn’t satisfied yet. They asked the OPA recently to permit them to raise prices still more on the lower-priced articles – otherwise they will continue to refuse to carry such merchandise!

Who still thinks that we should PATCH and SAVE this WORN-OUT CAPITALIST SYSTEM?

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Last updated: 31 October 2018