Address by Ethel Baskervill, Richmond Exchange for Woman's Work, January 8, 1932
Woman’s Exchange January 8, 1932
The Richmond Exchange for Woman’s Work is the first woman’s shop established in Richmond which has been in continuous operation for almost fifty years. It was established in 1883 to assist ladies who, in 1883, felt their privacy would be violated and their pride tarnished if the public knew they were forced to work for money. Now we know that what a woman can do is her greatest ornament and that she always consults her dignity by doing it.
Now we have meetings where Consignors and Board Members discuss every phase of our mutual business.
There are among the consignors some of your best friends and mine.
They are from the best levels of our citizenship – much respected and self respecting women.
Without exception they are women who cannot go out into active business. Most of them have children or invalids at home who cannot do without them, or perhaps their husbands have had bad luck and cannot make ends meet. They show a notable gallantry by throwing their strength into helping their family to be self supporting upstanding citizens.
The Exchange is not a charity, - it is a philanthropy.
We simply give women a chance to help themselves.
As a shop we are obliged to meet tremendous and increasing competition.
We try to meet it by defeating it.
We try to give honest value, courteous and efficient service and the very best quality in town.
In our foods we tolerate no substitute for the best materials.
We have lately put on a second delivery and we send to Westhampton and to Ginter Park.
We are constantly trying to introduce novelties in all our departments.
We have many services which the public does not always realize.
We make aspics and desert to order.
We mend fine bead bags and wash and darn delicate laces and old lace curtains.
We restore antique, painted trays.
We print stationery, --just like you get from Peru, Indiana, at the same price, - and more promptly.
We take for sale some young woman’s treasured bit of glory, that must be sacrificed because her husband has lost his job, or some frail old lady’s paisley shawl or piece of family silver.
The Superintendent gives these facts about some of our present consignors
A-says that through her sales she has been able to keep her two boys at school.
B-says that her sales of cake and fancy articles enabled her to have her daughter taught the violin which she is now teaching to others.
C-says her sales have made it possible for her to take care of an invalid mother and stay at home with her.
D-says her sales have given her the means to help to keep her sister at the Blue Ridge Sanitarium.
E-could not hold her home together without the Exchange.
We have over two hundred consignors.
It is not an easy job that we do.
We have only a thirty thousand dollar endowment invested in mortgage bonds.
The consignors pay us twenty per cent commission, -which is only about two-thirds of what it costs any shop to do business.
We have a small amount from subscriptions and consignors membership tickets.
One of our greatest difficulties has been to keep our promise to pay the consignor on the first pay day after her article is sold.
This is difficult because some of our patrons are careless about paying their bills. They do not realize that we have no working capital and that their delay is a very serious embarrassment for us, and has often sent us to borrow from the bank where we have to pay interest.
We rarely beg, but we do have a constant struggle to make ends meet.
If we ever have to shut up our business it will throw about two hundred women out of employment.
We do not ask pity, - we only ask that you will try our shop.
Give us the chance we are trying to give our consignors.
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Sander, K. W. (1998). The Business of charity: The woman's exchange movement, 1832-1900. Urbana: University of Illinois
Jones, D. G. (2001). A box lunch. Richmond, Va.: D. Jones.
Federation of Woman's Exchanges
Richmond Exchange for Woman's Work, Social Welfare History Image Portal