|Billion Dollar Problem
for Industry – Alcoholics
BY: ELGAR BROWN
Chicago Herald American
One to five – that used to be the ratio of women to men drinkers. Now it’s one to
two. So what, you say? Certainly women have as much “right” to enjoy liquor, as do men.
But that isn’t the point; drinking wouldn’t present a social and economic problem at all save
for one salient detail:
Of all those who imbibe, 1.5 per cent are doomed to become alcoholics. (Why this is
true is part of the problem.) That ratio goes for women, too.
Indeed, it is probable that a larger percentage of women drinkers than men drinkers
contract the disease of alcoholism. Women are poorly fitted, physically and emotionally, for
daily bouts with the bottle.
In any event, leaders of American industry, just now alert to the tremendous cost and
mounting danger of alcoholism and ready to go all out toward combating it, must view the
woman victim as an integral part of the picture.
This is true for the obvious reason that today some 20,000,000 women are employed.
And the liquor addicts among these female jobholders add their quota to the shocking
economic waste industry attributes to alcoholism.
Every alcoholic is a pitiable figure, but women drunkards are particularly pathetic. Like
other victims, they are sick people – and the saddest part of all is that most of them don’t
even know they are sick.
So they keep drinking, and trying to hold their jobs, and they find
encouragement in the "newer freedom." Undoubtedly society's current
tolerance of women in saloons has added materially to the number of women
But they find they can't control their drinks, these unfortunates, and
eventually lose their jobs, their families, their self-respect. It is the pattern for
alcoholics of both sexes, in all social and economic strata.
Discussing the "women's angle,” Miss Lillian V. Inke, executive director of
the Chicago Committee on Alcoholism (sponsor of the forthcoming Morrison
Hotel conference of industry on the problem), commented:
''The woman alcoholic is always a sick person. She does not drink because
she is bad or weak, or because one or both of her parents were drunkards.”
“She drinks because she cannot help herself – she suffers from a disease.”
“She will beg, borrow or steal money for liquor. She will tell lies and throw
to the winds all that is near and dear to her.”
“Her overpowering compulsion to drink must be satisfied at all costs.”
“With so many women employed nowadays, it is undeniable that women
alcoholics have a hand in the $1,000,000,000 annual bill which the disease
costs this nation’s industry.”
Miss Inke emphasized a point that will be repeated over and over when top
management officials from coast to coast meet at the forthcoming conference.
“Usually,” she said, “when an employee is found to have alcoholic
tendencies he or she is fired. What industry does not yet realize is that they
have invested time and money in these persons and it isn’t necessary to
“If proper measures are taken, most of them can be rehabilitated and when
this is accomplished they make the highest possible type of employees.”
Statistics and visual evidence remove all doubt of the startling growth of the
alcoholic problem among women.
The number of women admitted to mental hospitals for alcoholism has
risen in little more than a decade from 6 per cent to 17 per cent.
Intoxicated women are seen publicly in increasing numbers. More than two-
fifths of all women in jail are there because of drunkenness.
But addiction by women is not confined to the lawless. An ominous fact is
that the disease makes its deepest inroads among the nation’s most intelligent
and sensitive women.
Industrial leaders, after many years of blind prejudice, have opened their
minds for study and advice and instruction. That is progress. But specific
recommendations must be forthcoming if the campaign is to keep moving.
Indubitably, science itself is not equipped with the full answers of
prevention, treatment, rehabilitation. Research probably will supply the
missing knowledge, and research is costly.
Meanwhile, helpful steps can be taken.
(Definite, available weapons for industry and the public in the war on
alcoholism will be considered Monday.)