Articles

She Leads The Housewives’Crusade

Dorothy Walton, once the world’s best badminton player, is fast becoming our best-known housewife as she spearheads half a million women in a campaign to make shopping easier, cheaper and better

JUNE CALLWOOD October 1 1952
Articles

She Leads The Housewives’Crusade

Dorothy Walton, once the world’s best badminton player, is fast becoming our best-known housewife as she spearheads half a million women in a campaign to make shopping easier, cheaper and better

JUNE CALLWOOD October 1 1952

She Leads The Housewives’Crusade

Dorothy Walton, once the world’s best badminton player, is fast becoming our best-known housewife as she spearheads half a million women in a campaign to make shopping easier, cheaper and better

JUNE CALLWOOD

HOUSEWIVES of Saint John, N.B.. suspected their bakers of swindling them on the size of their loaves of bread: Quebec women were indignant at the red-and-white-striped wrapper which conceals the true personality of bacon: a long-limbed girl in Vancouver wondered why hosiery manufacturers didn't print the leg length as well as the foot length on stockings.

Normally these complaints would have resounded against the closed ears of home-coming husbands, a breed much given to receiving such laments bv

rattling their newspapers and enquiring how dinner is progressing. In the past few years, however, the girls have found a solution. Dusting off such grammar-school adages as "United we stand, divided we fall!”, "In unity is strength!" and "All for one and one for all!” they have formed e Canadian Association of Consumers which brings about plain wrappers on bacon, leg lengths marked on stockings and twenty-iour-ounce bread that weighs twenty-four ounces.

These achievements make Mrs. NV. R. NValton. the president of Canadian Association of Con-

sumers, the No. 1 housewife in the land. Mrs. Walton, known internationally as Dorothy Walton in the prewar days when she was world badminton champion, is a strong supple forty-three-year-old who is fitted to represent Canadian housewifery by her experience as a debater, economist, athlete, farmer, dog-owner and mother. It also helps that she was once a champion javelin thrower.

In the affairs of the bacon, bread and stockings, Dorothy Walton and the CAC swished their weight—approximately a half million women —like u well-mannered blackjack. Mrs. Walton consulted hosiery manufacturers and suggested amicably that leg length be included in the size label. All but one manufacturer replied that it certainly was a fine day; the exception informed Mrs. Walton that his brand already stated leg length. The next bulletin the CAC mailed its members contained the name of the single obliging manufacturer. Seven more hosiery companies rapidly added leg lengths to their labels.

When protests about the camouflaging red-andwhite paper on packaged bacon mounted up, Mrs. Walton selected Strathmore, Que., to test CAC strength. For a month every member of the CAC in Strathmore insisted her butcher unwrap such disguised bacon before she would buy it. The offending packing companies, stung by the howls of their retailers in Strathmore, called ;a meeting with Mrs. Walton, but even before the meeting bacon began to emerge with its true fat content laid bare under plain cellophane.

The CAC in Saint John bought eighteen loaves of bread at different points in the city and asked the federal inspector to weigh them. He discovered the majority weighed only twenty ounces, instead of twenty-four, got up off his hands and enforced the regulations.

Because it is no girlish giggling baboon, the Canadian Association of Consumers has come gradually to be regarded as c living, breathing, walking public pulse. In the past two years that Mrs. Walton has been president she has addressed more than fifty annual meetings of business and manufacturers. From the vantage point of the

tycoon’s head table she tells industry how to make better friends with the power that does eighty-five percent of the country’s spending: the little woman.

She once told a meat-packers’ association that its public relations “stunk.” “You print your financial statement in the papier and the average consumer looks at it and sees a surplus of three million dollars,” she said. “That makes a dandy impression on the woman who buys your bacon.”

One company sought Dorothy out later and showed her a financial statement in the form of a news story which explained that the three-milliondollar surplus was split up among thousands of small stockholders. “How’s this?” they asked proudly. “We’ve taken your advice.” Mrs. Walton regarded it with distaste. “It’s awful,” she replied. “Now you’re just apologizing because you didn’t show a loss. Why don’t you draw a big pie and show that eighty cents of your dollar goes to the farmer, twelve on salaries, so much on maintenance and only point seven cents goes to dividends.” The advertisement was the most successful the packing company has ever run.

Another time the hosiery trade showed Mrs. Walton an eight-page liooklet it had prepared on the care of nylon hosiery. “Women will never have time to read that,” said Mrs. W'alton, giving it a glance. “You’ll have to put it into two pages.”

Because her advice is so sound Dorothy Walton is in greater demand than a chorus girl at a prom. In the past eighteen months she has addressed about ten thousand p>eople, at gatherings which include the Canadian Wholesale Grocery Association in Montreal, Swift Current Kiwanis, Ontario Dry Cleaners Institutes, National Garment Manufacturers, Quebec City Chamber of Commerce, Moncton CAC, Niagara Peninsula Fruit Growers, International Macaroni Association and the Brampton United Church Women’s Association.

Once she arrived in Winnipeg at four in the morning, gave a broadcast at ten, attended a luncheon and addressed the Canadian Club at two, had tea with the lieutenant-governor’s wife, addressed a dinner of the Business and Professional Women’s Club, addressed an IODE meeting at eight and sp>ent the rest of the evening renewing acquaintance with old friends.

While Dorothy Walton undoubtedly is one of the country’s leading clubwomen—she is also « national vice-president of the IODE —she bears no resemblance whatsoever to the beaded and gurgling vacuum-brained creature a clubwoman is imagined to be. Mrs. Walton is trim, brainy and possessed of a gusty humor. She has pitched manure and shaken hands with royalty; she and her husband and son built the farmer’s cottage on their property in Oakville, near Toronto, during the same period she was wringing one hundred and five thousand dollars out of Canadian women to purchase Queen Mary’s carpjet. When she and her husband decided to bicycle from Montreal to Toronto one summer they combined the thrill of the open road with the style to which they are accustomed reserving suites in the finest hotels along the route and sipping their beverages from sterling silver flasks.

Dorothy Walton therefore is uniquely suited to lead her be-aproned cohorts in the Canadian Association of Consumers in a ladylike but lethal warfare against carelessness, fraud, ennui and ignorance in high places. Spawned almost five years ago at a gabby meeting of fifty-six women presidents of national organizations, the association

is supposed to act as a two-way channel to inform housewives of the activities of industry and government that will affect their shopping and to inform industry and government of what housewives need in their business, from long-handled measuring spoons to legislation.

The CAC emerged after the war when national women’s clubs which had Iteen working together and receiving information bulletins from the Consumer Branch of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board liegan to miss these advantages. The National Council of Women took a survey which indicated that more than eighty percent of the women of the country approved of the idea of some national organization to unite them.

The government was dunned for a donation bv a brief-laden delegation, which included Dorothy Walton, and contributed fifteen thousand dollars

to pay railway expenses to Ottawa for representatives of fifty-six national organizations. What followed was a sight to live long in the memory of mortal man The presidents of the Liberal, Progressive-Conservative and CCF women’s group« clicked tea cups, the elegant tones of the national president of the IODE mingled with the strident liellowings of a Communist (who later dropped out of the organization', the presidents of the Hadassah. United Church Women’s .Association and the Catholic Women’s League exchanged compliments with the bright-eyed madame la présidente of Fédération Nationale St. Jean-Baptiste, the Salvation Army leader tipipied her honnet to the gleaming coiffure of the piresident of the Business and Professional Women’s Clubs of Canada. Ottawa held its breath, but the women emerged with a

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The Housewives7 Crusade

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thumping constitution proclaiming their complete unity. The Canadian Association of Consumers, which was bom full grown and already massive with dignity, is unique in a world where female cohesion is largely a myth.

Deputy ministers and '.ice-presidents of industry braced themselves for a flurry of gimlet-eyed delegations, hot after reform and bristling with misinformation. They waited, and waited, and waited. The girls, advised by the best women lawyers, women economists and women professors in the country, were checking their facts and making certain what the women of the country really wanted. Letters that poured into the Ottawa headquarters at the rate of fifty or sixty a day assured them that housewives wanted: margarine, children’s clothes that were sized uniformly, women’s clothes that were sized so there wouldn’t be so much fussing altering before they would fit, vitaminized bread, weights marked on the outside of soap packages and a government standard of quality on garments that have to sustain hard wear, like work clothes. These were sorted out from the countless nitwit complaints, like the woman whose butcher was rude to her.

While CAC manoeuvred into position to achieve these goals monthly bulletins went out to the members to keep them informed of the progress. At strategic moments members are urged to deluge their members of parliament with sweetly worded requests for action on such matters as reclassifying tea and coffee as foods so the ten percent sales tax could be removed and having the fifteen percent tax taken off stoves. Many a member of parliament, accustomed to dazzling the fair sex with footwork and double talk, has been flabbergasted at the fund of accurate information the girls are collecting on economics and parliamentary procedure.

Bulletins which Mrs. Walton helps to write also contain the results of polls, like the one taken to determine how many women prefer high ovens to low ovens (seventy-five percent to twenty-three percent !, which are then passed along to industry. Recent bulletins explained meticulously why the government had put a floor price under pork, and what it meant to the housewife: that orange juice contains the same amount of Vitamin C whether it be fresh, frozen or canned and that vitaminized apple juice is just as healthful and cheaper than orange juice: that flaked cereals are a better source of Vitamin B than puffed and cost less per ounce: an explanation of the high price of potatoes: a reminder that eggs are at their best and cheapest in April: a warning against buying summer dresses with paper-backed

belts that won’t wash and black buckram stiffener in the collars that will stain: and a report on soaps and detergents, using brand names.

The bulletins also chart the progress of the CAC’s cautious crusades, which move at the speed of an aged tortoise. The standardizing of sizes, for example, appears to have another five years to run to deadline. The CAC started by surveying the situation and discovering that the sizes of women’s clothes were arranged by each manufacturer in the country independently of any other. Each tycoon, apparently, brandished his shears and cut out a garment. “Aha!” he cried—or so CAC suspects —“this will be my size sixteen. I’ll make size fourteen a little smaller here and there and size eighteen a bit bigger.”

Sizes of children’s clothes are even more insanely erratic. A single child can wear size two underwear, size six snowsuit, size four jersey and size three pants, while his mother dons a uniformly sized strait-jacket. CAC discovered that a research outfit had already drawn up a series of measurements selected after averaging out millions of male and female figures in the United States. These averages, with rare exception, hold true for Canadians. Using these measurements the U. S. Army Quartermaster Corps fits close to one hundred percent of servicemen without alteration. The Canadian Women’s Army Corps, on the suggestion of CAC, borrowed the female specifications and now fits ninety-five percent of Canadian girls in khaki without moving a button.

A Seal on the Sheets

Dorothy Walton’s women sent a delegation to the Senate—the first time women have been permitted to submit briefs to the Senate—and won through to the House where a Canada Standards and True Labelling Act was passed a year ago. This summer the government agency involved agreed to survey the situation and CAC is assuring its members that within five years women's clothes will be standardized and children's will be graded according to their weight and body measurements rather than the vagaries of sizing according to age.

L’nder this same act the CAC hopes to have a government Canada Standards seal affixed to sheets, measuring cups and spoons, work clothes and children's play clothes to assure a dependable quality. To date the government dreamily has assigned a CS seal only to certain grades of turpentine. CAC grimly informed its membership of the government's dalliance and members of parliament were pelted with feminine indignation.

The “true labelling” section of the act pertains to another CAC ideal: having textile labels reveal all about the content of cloth. This will enable the salesgirl and the buyer to be

I certain that a garment will wash or j not and will guide cleaners, who nowadays plunge modem blended fabrics ! into cleaning solutions with their eyes I closed, hoping for the best. CAC hopes to do away with such farces as butcher’s linen which contains no linen, and certain “wool" fabrics which are all rayon and a yard wide.

Notable Walton-led victories have j been scored with margarine, milk, bread and packaged soap. The girls opposed the federal ban on margarine on constitutional grounds, claiming it violated the British North America Act. The Supreme Court agreed and the Privy Council to which the govemment appealed, upheld the Supreme Court. Control of margarine accordingly was handed to the provinces and i all but two—Quebec and Prince Edward Island—promptly lifted the ban.

In Manitoba and Ontario CAC has secured a ruling that milk prices cannot be increased without a puh; lie hearing by the Milk Board and in ! Manitoba it wa« instrumental in gett ting the price of store-purchased milk two cents cheaper than delivered milk. Next January Canadians should be able to buy brown bread that is truly ; brown, and not—as in some recent cases—white bread tinged with molasses. and the country’s bread will then be permitted to be enriched with synthetic vitamins. CAC pulled off this coup almost single-handed.

Almost simultaneously Mrs Walton’s girls were able to persuade the ! government to insist on packaged soaps giving the weight of the contents. A CAC investigation had discovered that the country’s soap-flake manufacturers were veering somewhat on the quantity of soap in the packages. The small-size package is supposed to contain half the medium one, which in turn is half the quantity in the large, economy size. By tinkering with this scale soap manufacturers achieved a delusion and the smallest package was really the most economical buy. Weights are being posted on the outside of packages currently and the housewife with a flair for fractions will soon be able to figure this out for herself

The Million-Dollar Smile

Women who could go through the battering schedule of leading the CAC without de'elopin? a facial twitch are rare. Dorothy Walton owes her stamina , to i strong and marvellously co-ordinated body that made her, in her early thirties, one of the country’s all-time great women athletes She is the only badminton player to hold the three big titles simultaneously. Canadian. United States and All-English, the latter virtually a world’s championship. She was a perennial Canadian badminton champion, occasionally picking up a tennis title too.

At the University of Saskatchewan, where she was universally admired as "the girl with the million-dollar smile" (“richly deserved." commented the year hook', she was the first woman to win the oak shield. This shield is awarded infrequently to outstanding athletes who have won eight letters; Dorothy McKenzie had won thirteen in track and field swimming baseball, hockey, basketball and tennis. She has won about one hundred and twenty silver cups, trophies, shields, entree dishes, cigarette boxes, spoons and watches since she left school. in; luding the Rose Bowl given each year to the country’s outstanding woman athlete She won this in 1940. when her sin was five years old. after she swept the Toronto. Ontario and Dominion badminton championships.

Dorothy Walton is the eldest child

of Edmun.i McKenzie, a prosperous merchant of Swift Current. Saskatchewan. As a child she was all tomboy and as brilliant mentally as she was agile physically. She picked politics as her career and started off at seventeen by helping the local Conservative candidate with his campaign. Her father was. and still is. one of the city's leading Liberals. “I just wanted to get out of a rut," explains Dorothy. “My family had been Liberal for generations.”

Dorothy McKenzie cut a memorable swath at university, where she

studied economics, wv, • only girl

on the western cliampiou debating team (which heat teams from Australia and England!, won every athletic medal she could lift and was elected to giddy heights by a worshipping student body. On graduation she returned to the university to get her master's degree in economics, quit in midterm to become private secretary to Conservative Saskatchewan cabinet minister Howard McConnell, and wrote and got her degree extramurally. Her thesis was on Canadian immigration.

In Regina she met Bill Walton, a

towering blade from Toronto, on .. badminton court and won the city championship during the course of his wooing. They were married in Swift Current and came to Toronto, where he is nowassistant general manager of Dunlop Rubber. Dorothy instantly began to work on her Ph.D. degree in economics but was halted by her pregnancy. After her son. John Ross, was bom she took up badminton in earnest, and became the greatest woman player the game has ever known.

When the country went to war Dorothy suspended her badminton,

except for exhibition games for servicemen, and turned to war work. At one time she was chairman of the speaker’s panel for the Consumer Branch of the WPTB. the War Savings Stamp Committee and the Victory Loan Committee in Toronto, as well as vice-convenor of war services for the IODE and vice-president of the Sports Service League. She became an authority on how to be a good speaker: “Have something to say. say it and shut up.”

When CAC was but an embryo Dorothy .Walton w-as one of the three women (the others were Mrs. R. J. Marshall and Mrs. Frank Wright, both of whom preceded Dorothy as CAC president) who sprawled in a hotel bedroom in Ottawa drafting a constitution until four o’clock in the morning. “You know, girls.” she said at one point, sipping her black coffee, “this budget is far too ambitious. We’ll never get that many members.” “Bring it up tomorrow at the meeting.” yawned Mrs. Wright.

The next morning, at the meeting of national presidents, Mrs. Walton’s warnings were lost in the bedlam of enthusiasm. The presidents knew they represented about two to three million women belonging to national organizations and they forecast a membership well into seven figures. The annua) fee was set at fifty cents.

The first vear eight thousand women joined CAC. The chagrined executive had to prune four of the paid staff of six and some of the national presidents emptied their purses and gave ten to fifty dollars. For the rest of the deficit CAC went to two wealthy women, one of them Lady Eaton, and got an eoua! donation from the Canadian Congres.of Labor. The membership currently is more than sixteen thousand but CAC can assume it represents many thousands more because the majority of women’s groups, economically, have only one of their membership join CAC. receive the bulletin and read it aloud at meetings. Thus a whole club of thirty women can ride along for fifty cents a year.

Not Glamorous, Not Spectacular

Like the Boy Scouts, the Royal Astronomical Society and the Canadian Olympic Association. CAC gets a government grant which is a source of embarrassment to the executive which finds itself pecking away at the hand that feeds it. Ultimately CAC hopes to have enough paid-up members to be free of the government grant and hire a researching staff of its own to test and repon on consumer goods.

The CAC campaign for the standtrdization of sizes is only begun. CAC wants canned goods to be labeled to indicate if they have been packed in a federallv inspected plant, and food grading is a morass of Grade A. Red Brand. Fancy Quality and other terms too complex for a weary shopper to unravel. To the disgust of labor organizations the CAC has not plumped for over-all price control, but is working on the forming of a committee to examine and curb price mark-ups which aren't justified bybasic costs. The CAC also is using its wiles to persuade manufacturers that housewives don’t like lavish advertising campaigns and ''free” coupons, which they realize they will have to pay for eventually.

"An intelligent well-informed buying public could be one of the greatest stabilizing influences in our economy,” Mrs. Walton tells Canadians. “We’re not glamorous or spectacular, but we’re doing a job on adult education in economics. We’re going to get our dollar’s worth.” if