Thursday, February 15, 2018

On This Date in Minnesota History: February 15

February 15, 1912 (Friday) - Fourteen young women clerks and stenographers employed in the offices of the P. V. Collins Publishing Company, Minneapolis, resigned and went home today rather than comply with an order of Mr. Collins that they reduce the height of their shoe heels to one inch by Monday. They regarded the order as an infringement on personal liberty, as an attempt to dictate office style, to start a new fashion of office footwear, and they resented it.

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Young women in restaurants wear uniforms, saleswomen in department stores wear black waists or black dresses and nurses are proud of their hospital uniforms. But those are entirely different cases. The young women of the P. V. Collins Publishing Company apparently never thought that their jobs might be contingent on conforming to a certain little matter of dress detail, and that detail the heel of the shoe, which is not supposed to be seen, unless in such weather as this, or studded with diamonds.

But Monday one of the girls, Miss Rose Burkhart, had fallen down the back stairs of the office and hurt her hip, and Mr. Collins told the girls that the accident was the result of the high-heeled shoes the victim wore. The bulletin to reduce the heels, either by altering their old shoes or by buying new ones, was the result, and Mr. Collins is said to have emphasized his ideas in a lecture today at noon.

Meantime, the girls had gone home last night to talk the case over with their mothers. Many of them had arrived at the conclusion that it would be a shame to spoil good shoes merely to conform to the order of an office manager, as their heels were the height of fashion.

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William F. Tankerly, a department manager, helped the girls this morning to draw up a petition, requesting Mr. Collins to recede from his stand, or to modify his order. The petition was signed by 35 girls in the mailing department; 15 did not sign.

The petition reached Mr. Collins desk and the noon lecture resulted. The girls were given to understand that their choice was between their jobs and their heels. Twelve of the auditors left their jobs and took their heels at once, and two others followed later. Others are expected to follow unless the feminine right to wear as uncomfortable shoes as she pleases is recognized.

“Stenographers are not going to be dictated to in all matters,” said one of the girls who left today. “We don’t have to dress to suit a manager, and any shoe dealer will tell you that all shoes are being manufactured with high-heels, and that it spoils the shape o the shoe and hurts the foot to cut down the heel. Most of the girls that are working could not afford to have their shoes spoiled. Mr. Collins’ action was arbitrary, and should be resented. So there!”

“During the past four years, three of our girls have fallen down on account of high heels,” said Mr. Collins this evening. “I became tired of carrying the responsibility and I notified them that they would have to keep their heels within an inch. I told them that if their brains were in their heels they couldn’t work for me. I called up several shoe houses and found out that they sold common sense heels as well as high ones. Heels two or three inches high may be all right on a dance floor, but not to business. Tight skirts and peak-a-boo waists are just as bad.”

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Office Girls Walk Out Rather than Cut Heels. Strike at P. V. Collins Publishing Company’s Office Follow Manager’s Shoe Order. Footwear Ruling Results from Young Woman’s Fall Down Back Stairs.”; Feb. 16, 1912; p. 2.

1The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; Feb. 15, 1912; p. 10.

2The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; Feb. 17, 1912; p. 19.


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