Recently I came across an interesting reference to Hemet in a booklet from 1918, and thought I’d share it here!
World War I started in 1914 and ended in 1918. The United States didn’t enter the battle until 1917, so our involvement was relatively short compared to many of the European countries – but it still caused labor shortages across the United States. In California the lack of laborers hit the fruit growers particularly hard.
Here’s the front page of the report…
And the section about the search to find women and girls willing to work in the Hemet Cannery.
The wages weren’t terrible. According to the Bureau of Labor, the average family income in 1918 was $1,518, or about $126 per month. These women were being offered between $2 and $4 per day – so they most likely averaged between $44 and $88 a month.
But they were expected to work 12-hour-days? And the housing was in a burned out hotel?
Especially interesting is the note that all of the women they found to work in Riverside County “frankly admitted that the motive of their response was financial rather than patriotic.” Yeah, I can imagine that if you were recruited in Los Angeles to leave your family and maybe even your children – to come to Hemet and spend 12-hour-days in a cannery, money might be a motivating factor! And the idea that it was the first chance the women and girls of Riverside had to do their patriotic duty is a little silly. I would say that watching your husband or father or son head off to Europe and go to war was a huge sacrifice. And in fact a far greater display of patriotism than picking and canning fruit.