The divisions of labor in primitive society were determined first by natural, and then by social, circumstances. The early order of specialization in labor was:
1. Specialization based on sex. Woman’s work was derived from the selective presence of the child; women naturally love babies more than men do. Thus woman became the routine worker, while man became the hunter and fighter, engaging in accentuated periods of work and rest.
All down through the ages the taboos have operated to keep woman strictly in her own field. Man has most selfishly chosen the more agreeable work, leaving the routine drudgery to woman. Man has always been ashamed to do woman’s work, but woman has never shown any reluctance to doing man’s work. But strange to record, both men and women have always worked together in building and furnishing the home.
2. Modification consequent upon age and disease. These differences determined the next division of labor. The old men and cripples were early set to work making tools and weapons. They were later assigned to building irrigation works.
3. Differentiation based on religion. The medicine men were the first human beings to be exempted from physical toil; they were the pioneer professional class. The smiths were a small group who competed with the medicine men as magicians. Their skill in working with metals made the people afraid of them. The “white smiths” and the “black smiths” gave origin to the early beliefs in white and black magic. And this belief later became involved in the superstition of good and bad ghosts, good and bad spirits.
Smiths were the first nonreligious group to enjoy special privileges. They were regarded as neutrals during war, and this extra leisure led to their becoming, as a class, the politicians of primitive society. But through gross abuse of these privileges the smiths became universally hated, and the medicine men lost no time in fostering hatred for their competitors. In this first contest between science and religion, religion (superstition) won. After being driven out of the villages, the smiths maintained the first inns, public lodginghouses, on the outskirts of the settlements.
4. Master and slave. The next differentiation of labor grew out of the relations of the conqueror to the conquered, and that meant the beginning of human slavery.
5. Differentiation based on diverse physical and mental endowments. Further divisions of labor were favored by the inherent differences in men; all human beings are not born equal.
The early specialists in industry were the flint flakers and stone masons; next came the smiths. Subsequently group specialization developed; whole families and clans dedicated themselves to certain sorts of labor. The origin of one of the earliest castes of priests, apart from the tribal medicine men, was due to the superstitious exaltation of a family of expert swordmakers.
The first group specialists in industry were rock salt exporters and potters. Women made the plain pottery and men the fancy. Among some tribes sewing and weaving were done by women, in others by the men.
The early traders were women; they were employed as spies, carrying on commerce as a side line. Presently trade expanded, the women acting as intermediaries—jobbers. Then came the merchant class, charging a commission, profit, for their services. Growth of group barter developed into commerce; and following the exchange of commodities came the exchange of skilled labor.