Nobody knows much about the secret service work done throughout the world by women. They themselves exercise a discreet silence and their employers would certainly not betray them. These are the women who bring custom to modistes, who secure information for art dealers and who arrange marriages and yet who pose as independent leaders of society.
THE number and variety of occupations in which women are successful breadwinners will never be fully tabulated, despite the vigilance of Government labor reports and municipal census takers. For to one woman who is earning a living in a recognized profession, trade or miscellaneous calling there are two or more who, without apparent labor, are legitimately paying their way through this “vale of tears” by rendering of services known only to their employers.
In all phases of world’s work, from the making of peace between warring nations, locating the whereabout of a bona fide “old master,” to the local merchant who would be apprised daily of the brand and prices of his rival’s stock, secret service plays a vital part. How largely women are employed will always be a matter of conjecture, since upon their reticence no less than Sherlock Holmes genius depends their success and reward. In Paris there is a woman of title
whose social position is financially sustained by a famous art dealer. She has a splendid hotel, conspicuous turnouts and exquisite gowns. She is a shining light at notable social gatherings throughout Europe. By virtue of her inherited social position she has entree to the most exclusive homes of the old noblesse in France and elsewhere on the continent, and so may are her charms that her society is eagerly sought. In short, the ■) lady was rich in everything but ready money until she joined the secret service of the art dealer, to whom she is now invaluable. She knows the extent, condition and value of the private art collections of the aristocracy and she keeps close tab upon the fluctuations of their owners’ finances.
When my Lady of Secret Service discovers that Monsieur the Count, whose palace is hung in priceless Gobelein tapestries or whose gallery has un vrai Velasquez, Rembrandt or Titian is hard pressed for money she informs her employer the art dealer.
The latter has a customer, generally an American, who would give a king’s ransom to possess anything from Monsieur the Count’s collection.
Cautiously, deftly, diplomatically, my lady brings together under social guise the dealer and the Count. Presto! A bargain is struck. Should the Count suspect my lady’s secret service her cake would be dough.
Once the coveted treasure is in the art dealer’s possession, the cable flashes that it has been purchased by a rich American or it will adorn some museum. In a Fifth avenue gallery it may be exhibited, while lively bids are made the envied dealer by our multimillionaire collectors.
There are scarcely less women bread winners in high society than in
the humblest walks of life, but of their money-earning capacity the world little suspects. That they are wage earners they would in all probability strenuously deny.
Some of the best dressed society women of Paris, London and New York are clothed by modistes, boot makers and jewelers in payment for the customers they secure them in the smart world. Not a few much talked of people are kept in the public eye by the pens of handsomely paid writers, whose names are concealed no less from the public than is their purpose from the publications that print their effusions relative to their secret employers. Scarcely a publishing house, on the other hand, is without one or more well-known society women in its secret employ to “talk up” its vririous novels, books of poems or other publications.
Barter in social introduction and chaperonage has long ceased to be secret service, and is now profitably conducted in the open. ,One of thë most successful women in this once invisible means of money earning was the late Mrs. M. A. M. Sherwood, who piloted the daughter of Mr. Collis P. Huntington into the English peerage, and her most conspicuous successor is Miss Fanny Reid, of Paris, sister of the late Mrs. Paran Stevens. Miss Reid, as the smart world knows, was handsomely paid for making possible the match between Anna Gould and Count Castellane.
Large cities are the happy hunting ground of secret service toilers. In small towns resources are too quickly exhausted and identity too readily unveiled. There is a large army of women in New York who live and
dress well upon merchant commissions. They move from boarding house to boarding hous-e, from hotel to apartments, everywhere recommending the women they meet there to send gowns to be cleaned to such or such a dyer or to have their palms read by Madame This or Professor That, the palmist or mental healer.
In the dry goods districts of Gotham the autocracy of the buyer is being largely superseded by a newly created official, the superintendent of merchandise. In all up to date dry goods stores the office of the latter is the centre of activity. It is piled high up with samples of all sorts of merchandise purchased at rival stores by uspotters" in the firm's secret employ. Most of the u spotters" are women, and as it is almost impossible for them to enter a rival store two or three times without being suspected by the house's detectives and summarily ejected, the
length of their service depends wholly upon their skill in escaping detection.
From shop to shop they go, examining and pricing goods. Each day they are given a certain article to look up and bring back to the superintendent of merchandise, report of the cut, quality and price. Not content with oral report, the head of merchandise often instructs them to - purchase a coat, dress or waist that it may be compared with the stock they are offering the trade. More disagreeably work could hardly be imagined. The pay is by no means in proportion to the labor and the risk the woman uspotter" runs of encountering insult and explusion. Growing is the number of women in the secret employ of Wall street banking and broker houses. For every depositor or investor they secure, handsome is the commission and no one is the wiser, so guardedly is the secret kept.
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