“Over-payment and graft in the municipal householdâ€”or perhaps I should rather say the municipal business, for that’s what city government really is: a vast business enterprise run for the profit of the communityâ€”but, in any case, overpayment and graft receive all the publicity in the world. But underpayment and devotion to service remain unrecognized by the average citizen.
“Do you know, for instance, that our retirement system represents one of the largest insurances companies in the country? The man, heading this system and doing fine work receives a salary that is a mere fraction of the income the presidents of other insurance companies command. Why, even the mayor of the city receives less pay than a Supreme Court judge, and what a tremendous load of responsibility the mayor is carrying. Voters do not realize that the vast majority of city employees, from the top to the bottom, are doing splendid, conscientious work, are rendering true civic service without receiving near the pay they could obtain in other positions. But virtue seems to have less news value than vice.”
HEADS VITAL OFFICE
Thus speaking Pearl Bernstein, Secretary to the Board of Estimate. Her office is the clearing house for all the important business of the city government. Here the schedules for the Board meetings are prepared, the minutes are taken care of, the various proposals are directed to the various departments for expert comment, and these comments again are arranged for the Board’s consideration. It is one of the most vital and most interesting offices in the entire Municipal Building and the woman who heads this office is a splendid example of the real success modern woman has won in politics.
She has charm, poise, and dignity. Very pretty, slim and youthful, dressed with a feminine flair for simple elegance, her entire personality, the very timbre of her voiceâ€”deep yet clear and distinct and delightfully unhurried â€” bespeaks an efficiency that can stand the hardest test.
A graduate of Barnardâ€”the Phi Beta Kappa Key dangling as a pretty ornament from her wristâ€”she worked first for the Citizen’s Union. Then came seven fruitful years with the League of Women Voters, Miss Bernstein often appearing as a representative of the League in City Hall, watching legislation on behalf of the League, and doing vital work in educating the woman voter to her civic responsibilities.
Now, under the Fusion government, which was eager to find for each office the ablest incumbent, Miss Bernstein has become an active member of the City government. But, although she advocates civic and political activities for women, holding that in these fields even the part-time worker can accomplish much of lasting value, she strongly denies the imputation that women have a higher standard of political morality than men.
“No,” she says smilingly, “I cannot see any difference in the sexes. There are women and men who are in politics for their own personal advantage, and there are women as well as men who have the welfare of the community at heart and render fine service without the thought of self uppermost in their minds. We are all human beings, some frail and fallible, some of sterner fiber and animated by a nobler ideal. But sex has really nothing to do with the matter.”
Thus Miss Bernstein proves that she is not only charming, good-looking, efficient and successful but that she has also retained the sense of justice and proportion that many other women-leaders are apt to lose in their enthusiasm for feminine achievement.