Nevertheless, the fact remains that these girls and young women working in the Usines de Guerre, are better looking than they were before and shine with health. The whole point, I fancy, lies in the fact that they work under merciful masters and conditions. If they were used beyond their capacity they would look like their sisters on the farms, upon whom fathers and husbands have little mercy.
The wife, to be sure, will feel something more than her husband's equal, and the Frenchwoman never has felt herself the inferior in the matrimonial partnership. But how about the wage earners? Those that made ten to fifteen francs a day in the Usines de Guerre, and will now be making four or five?
These shrewd Frenchmen, and, I am told, even small proprietors among the Negroes, not being crippled, happily for them, by those absurd sugar-duties which, till Mr. Lowe's budget, put a premium on the making of bad sugar, are confining themselves to growing the canes, and sell them raw to 'Usines Centrales, at which they are manufactured into sugar.
The manager of one of these Usines de Guerre in Paris told me that he made the experiment of employing women with the deepest misgiving. Those seeking positions were just the sort of women he would have rejected if the sturdy women of the farms had applied and given him any choice.
These men took their orders meekly. Perhaps they were amused. The French are an ironic race. Perhaps they bided their time. But they never dreamed of disobeying those Amazons whose foot the Kaiser of all the Boches had placed on their necks. One of the greatest of these Usines de Guerre is at Lyons, in the buildings of the Exposition held shortly before the outbreak of the war.