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Title: Prisoners of Poverty - Women Wage-Workers, Their Trades and Their Lives
Author: Campbell, Helen, 1839-1918
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  _Copyright, 1887_,

  University Press:


  "_Make no more giants, God,
  But elevate the race at once. We ask
  To put forth just our strength, our human strength.
  All starting fairly, all equipped alike,
  Gifted alike, all eagle-eyed, true-hearted,--
  See if we cannot beat Thy angels yet._"

  "_Light, light, and light! to break and melt in sunder
  All clouds and chains that in one bondage bind
  Eyes, hands, and spirits, forged by fear and wonder
  And sleek fierce fraud with hidden knife behind;
  There goes no fire from heaven before their thunder,
  Nor are the links not malleable that wind
  Round the snared limbs and souls that ache thereunder;
  The hands are mighty were the head not blind.
      Priest is the staff of king,
  And chains and clouds one thing,
  And fettered flesh with devastated mind.
      Open thy soul to see,
      Slave, and thy feet are free.
  Thy bonds and thy beliefs are one in kind,
  And of thy fears thine irons wrought,
  Hang weights upon thee fashioned out of thine own thought._"


The chapters making up the present volume were prepared originally as a
series of papers for the Sunday edition of "The New York Tribune," and
were based upon minutest personal research into the conditions
described. Sketchy as the record may seem at points, it is a photograph
from life; and the various characters, whether employers or employed,
were all registered in case corroboration were needed. While research
was limited to New York, the facts given are much the same for any large
city, and thus have a value beyond their immediate application. No
attempt at an understanding of the labor question as it faces us to-day
can be successful till knowledge of its underlying conditions is

It is such knowledge that the writer has aimed to present; and it takes
more permanent form, not only for the many readers whose steady interest
has been an added demand for faithful work, but, it is hoped, for a
circle yet unreached, who, whether agreeing or disagreeing with the
conclusions, still know that to learn the struggle and sorrow of the
workers is the first step toward any genuine help.

ORANGE, NEW JERSEY, _March_, 1887.



  CHAPTER FIRST. WORKER AND TRADE                            7



  CHAPTER FOURTH. THE BARGAIN COUNTER                       43






  CHAPTER TENTH. BETWEEN THE RIVERS                        113


  CHAPTER TWELFTH. ONE OF THE FUR-SEWERS                   139

  WHO EXPERIMENTED                                         150



  CHAPTER SIXTEENTH. TWO HOSPITAL BEDS                     186









In that antiquity which we who only are the real ancients look back upon
as the elder world, counting those days as old which were but the
beginning of the time we reckon, there were certain methods with workers
that centuries ago ceased to have visible form. The Roman matron, whose
susceptibilities from long wear and tear in the observation of fighting
gladiators and the other mild amusements of the period, were a trifle
blunted, felt no compunction in ordering a disobedient or otherwise
objectionable slave into chains, and thereafter claiming the same
portion of work as had been given untrammelled. The routine of the day
demanded certain offices; but how these offices should be most easily
fulfilled was no concern of master or mistress, who required simply
fulfilment, and wasted no time on consideration of methods. In the homes
of Pompeii, once more open to the sun, are the underground rooms where
wretched men and women bowed under the weight of fetters, whose
corrosion was not only in weary flesh, but in the no less weary soul;
and Rome itself can still show the same remnants of long-forgotten wrong
and oppression.

That day is over, and well over, we say. Only for a few barbarians still
unreached by the march of civilization is any hint of such conditions
possible, and even for them the days of darkness are numbered. And so
the century moves on; and the few who question if indeed the bonds are
quite broken, if civilization has civilized, and if men and women may
claim in full their birthright of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness," are set down as hopeless carpers,--unpleasant, pragmatic,
generally disagreeable objectors to things as they are. Or if it is
admitted that there are defects here and there, and that much remains to
be remedied, we are pointed with pride to the magnificent institutions
of modern charity, where every possible want of all sorts and conditions
of men is met and fulfilled.

"What more would you have?" cries the believer in things as they are.
"What is higher or finer than the beautiful spirit that has taken
permanent form in brick and mortar? Never since time began has charity
been on so magnificent a scale; never has it been so intelligent, so
far-seeing. No saints of the past were ever more vowed to good works
than these uncanonized saints of to-day who give their lives to the
poor and count them well lost. Shame on man or woman who questions the
beautiful work or dares hint that under this fair surface rottenness and
all foulness still seethe and simmer!"

It is not easy in the face of such feeling to affirm that, perfect as
the modern system may be, beautiful as is much of the work accomplished,
it still is wanting in one element, the lack of which has power to
vitiate the whole. No good-will, no charity, however splendid, fills or
can fill the place owned by that need which is forever first and most
vital between man and man,--justice. No love, no labor, no
self-sacrifice even, can balance that scale in which justice has no
place. No knowledge nor wisdom nor any understanding that can come to
man counts as force in the universe of God till that one word heads the
list of all that must be known and loved and lived before ever the
kingdom of heaven can begin upon earth.

It is because this is felt and believed by a few as a compelling power,
by many as a dimly comprehended need, so far in the shadow that its form
is still unknown, that I begin to-day the search for the real presence.
What I write will be no fanciful picture of the hedged-in lives the
conditions of which I began, many years ago, to study. If names are
withheld, and localities not always indicated, it is not because they
are not recorded in full, ready for reference or any required
corroboration. Where the facts make against the worker, they are given
with as minute detail as where they make against the employer. The one
aim in the investigation has been and is to tell the truth simply,
directly, and in full, leaving it for the reader to determine what share
is his or hers in the evil or in the good that the methods of to-day may
hold. That our system of charities and corrections is unsurpassable does
not touch the case of the worker who wants no charity and needs no
correction. It is something beyond either that must be understood. Till
the methods of the day are analyzed, till one has defined justice, asked
what claim it makes upon the personal life of man and woman, and
mastered every detail that render definition more possible, the
questions that perplex even the most conservative can have no solution
for this generation or for any generation to come. To help toward such
solution is the one purpose of all that will follow.

In the admirable report of the Bureau of Statistics of Labor for 1885,
made under the direction of Mr. Charles Peck, whose name is already the
synonyme for careful and intelligent work, the number of working-women
in New York is given as very nearly two hundred thousand. Investigations
of the same nature have been made at other points, notably Boston, in
the work of Mr. Carroll D. Wright, one of the most widely known of our
statisticians. But neither Boston nor any other city of the United
States offers the same facilities or gives as varied a range of
employment as is to be found in New York, where grinding poverty and
fabulous wealth walk side by side, and where the "life limit" in wages
was established long before modern political economy had made the phrase
current. This number does not include domestic servants, but is limited
to actual handicrafts. Ninety-two trades are given as standing open to
women to-day, and several have been added since the report was made. A
lifetime would hardly be sufficient for a detailed examination of every
industry in the great city, but it is quite possible to form a just
judgment of the quality and character of all those which give employment
to women. The city which affords the largest percentage of habitual
drunkards, as well as the largest number of liquor saloons to the mile,
is naturally that in which most women are forced to seek such means of
subsistence may be had.

The better-paying trades are filled with women who have had some form of
training in school or home, or have passed from one occupation to
another, till that for which they had most aptitude has been determined.
That, however, to which all the more helpless turn at once, as the one
thing about the doing of which there can be no doubt or difficulty, is
the one most overcrowded, most underpaid, and with its scale of payments
lessening year by year. The girl too ignorant to reckon figures, too
dull-witted to learn by observation, takes refuge in sewing in some of
its many forms as the one thing possible to all grades of intelligence;
and the woman with drunken or otherwise vicious husband, more helpless
often than the widow who turns in the same direction, seeks the same
sources of employment. If respectably dressed and able to furnish some
reference, employment is often found by her in factory or some large
establishments where regular workers have place. But if, as is often the
case, the need for work arises from the death or the evil habits of the
natural head of the family, fortunes have sunk to so low an ebb that
often the only clothing left is on the back of the worker, in the last
stages of demoralization; and the sole method of securing work is
through the middle-men or "sweaters," who ask no questions and require
no reference, but make as large a profit for themselves as can be wrung
from the helplessness and the bitter need of those with whom they

The difficulties to be faced by the woman whose only way of self-support
is limited to the needle, whether in machine or hand work, fourfold. (1)
Her own incompetency must very often head the list and prevent her from
securing first-class work; (2) middle-men or sweaters lower the price to
starvation point; (3) contract work done in prisons or reformatories
brings about the same result; and (4) she is underbid from still another
quarter, that of the country woman who takes the work at any price

These conditions govern the character and quality of the work obtained,
even the best firms being somewhat affected by the last two clauses. And
in every trade there may always be found three distinct classes of
employers: the west-side firms, which in many cases care for their
workmen, in degree at least, and where the work is done under conditions
that must be called favorable; the east-side firms, representing
generally cheaper material and lower rates; and last, the slop-work,
which may be either east or west, most often the former, and includes
every form of outrage and oppression that workers can know.

Clothing in all its multiplied forms takes the first place in the
ninety-two trades, and the workers on what is known as "white wear" form
the large majority of the always increasing army. For many reasons, the
shirt-makers naturally head the list,--the shirt-makers about whom has
hung a certain sentimental interest since the day when poor Tom Hood's
impassioned plea in their behalf first saw the light. Yet to-day, in
spite of popular belief that they are the class most grossly wronged,
the shirt-maker fares far better than the majority of the workers on any
other form of clothing. This always, however, if she is fortunate enough
to have direct relation with some large factory, or with an
establishment which gives out the work directly into the hands of the
women themselves. Given these conditions, it is possible for a
first-class operator to make from seven to twelve dollars per week, the
latter sum being certain only in the factories where steam is the motive
power and where experience has given the utmost facility in handling the
work. In one factory on the west side, employing some one hundred and
fifty girls, and where everything had been brought to almost
mathematical accuracy, the price paid per dozen for shirts was $2.40.
But one of the operatives was able to make a dozen a day, her usual
average being about nine, or five dozen per week of sixty hours. Here
every condition was exceptionally favorable. The building occupied the
centre of a small square, and thus had light on all sides; ventilation
was good; and the forewoman, on whose intelligence and good disposition
much of the comfort of the operatives depends, was far beyond the
average woman in this position. The working day was ten hours, with half
an hour for dinner, and the sanitary conditions more favorable than in
any other establishment of the same size. Many of the operatives had
been there for years, and the dull season, common to all phases of the
clothing trade, was never marked enough here to produce discharges or
materially lessen production. The wages averaged seven dollars per week,
though the laundry women and finishers seldom exceeded five. No
middle-men were employed, and none of the customary exactions in the way
of fines and other impositions were practised. Piece-work was regarded
as the only secure method for both employer and employed, as in such
case it rested with the girl herself to make the highest or the lowest
rate at pleasure. There were no holidays beyond the legal ones, but all
the freedom possible to constant labor was given, the place representing
the best conditions of this special industry. Another firm quite as well
known and employing equal number of workers had found it more expedient
to give up the factory system, and simply retained rooms for cutting and
general handling of the completed work, giving it out in packages to
workers at home. One woman employed by them for seven years had never
made anything but the button-holes in the small piece attached to the
bosom, and such fine lettering as was ordered for custom shirts, her
wages in the busy season being often twelve dollars a week, the year's
average, however, bringing them to seven. She worked exclusively at
home, and represented the best paid and most comfortable phase of the

Descending a step, and turning to establishments on the east side, one
found every phase of sanitary condition, including under this head bad
ventilation, offensive odors, facilities for washing, quality of
drinking water, position of water-closets, length of time allowed for
lunch, length of working day, etc. Here the quality of the work was
lower, material, thread, and sewing being all of an order to be expected
from the price of the completed garment, ranging from forty to sixty
cents. The wages, however, did not fall so far below the average as
might be expected, the operator earning from five to eight dollars a
week during the busy season. But the greater number of manufacturers on
both east and west sides of the city turn over the work to middle-men,
or send it to the country, many factories being run in New Jersey and
Pennsylvania, where rents are merely nominal. This proved to be the case
with several firms whose names represent a large business, but who find
less trouble and more profit in the contract system.

Still another method has gone far toward reducing the rates of payment
to the city worker, and this is the giving out the work in packages to
the wives and daughters of farmers in the outlying country. These women,
having homes, and thus no rent or general expenses to meet, take the
work at rates which for the city operators mean simply starvation, and
thus prices are kept down, and one more stumbling-block put in the way
of the unprotected worker. Careful examination of this phase shows that
the applicants, many of whom give assumed names, work simply for the
sake of pin-money, which is expended in dress. Now and then it is a case
of want, and often that of a woman who, failing to make her husband see
that she has any right to an actual cash share in what the work of her
own hands has helped to earn, turns to this as the only method of
securing some slight personal income. But for the most part, it is only
for pin-money; and no argument could convince these earners that their
work is in any degree illegitimate or fraught with saddest consequences
to those who, because of it, receive just so much the less. Nor would it
be possible to bring such argument to bear. To earn seems the
inalienable right of any who are willing to work, and the result of
methods will never be questioned by employer or employed, unless they
are forced to it by more powerful considerations than any at present
brought forward.

I have chosen to give these details minutely because they are,
practically, the summing up, not only for shirt-making, but for every
trade which can be said to come under the head of clothing, whether for
men, women, or children,--this including every form of trimming or other
adornment used in dress from artificial flowers to gimps, fringes, and
buttons. And now, having given this general outline, we may pass to the
stories of the units that make up this army,--stories chosen from
quarters where doubt is impossible, and confirmed often by the unwilling
testimony of those from whom the work has come, giving with them also
the necessary details of the trades they may represent, and seeking
first, last, and always, only the actual facts that make up the life of
the worker.



"The case of Rose Haggerty." So it stands on the little record-book in
which long ago certain facts began to have place, each one a count in
the indictment of the civilization of to-day, and each one the story not
only of Rose but of many another in like case. For the student of
conditions among working-women soon discovers that workers divide
themselves naturally into four classes: (1) those who have made
deliberate choice of a trade, fitted themselves carefully for it, and in
time become experts, certain of employment and often of becoming
themselves employers; (2) those who by death of relatives or other
accident of fortune have been thrown upon their own resources and accept
blindly the first means of support that offers, sometimes developing
unexpected power and meeting with the same success as the first class;
(3) those who have known no other life but that of work, and who accept
that to which they most incline with neither energy nor ability enough
to rise beyond a certain level; and (4) those who would not work at all
save for the pressure of poverty, and who make no effort to gain more
knowledge or to improve conditions. But the ebb and flow in this great
sea of toiling humanity wipes out all dividing lines, and each class so
shades into the next that formal division becomes impossible, but is
rather a series of interchanges with no confinement to fixed limits.
Often in passing from one trade to another, chance brings about much the
same result for each class, and no energy or patience of effort is
sufficient to check the inevitable descent into the valley of the
shadow, where despair walks forever hand in hand with endeavor.

This time had by no means come for Rose, with just enough of her
happy-go-lucky father's nature to make her essentially optimistic. Born
in a Cherry Street tenement-house, she had refused to be killed by
semi-starvation or foul smells, or dirt of any nature whatsoever. Dennis
Haggerty, longshoreman professionally, and doer of all odd jobs in the
intervals of his discharges and re-engagements, explained the situation
to his own satisfaction, if not to that of Rose and the five other small
Haggertys remaining from the brood of twelve.

"If a man wants his dhrink that bad that no matter what he's said
overnight he'd sell his soul by the time mornin' comes for even a
thimbleful, he's got jist to go to destruction, an' there's no sthoppin'
him. An' I've small call to be blamin' Norah whin she comforts herself a
bit in the same manner of way, nor will I so long's me name's Dennis
Haggerty. But you, Rose, you look out an' get any money you'll find in
me pockets, an' keep the children straight, an' all the saints'll see
you through the job."

Rose listened, the laugh in her blue eyes shadowed by the sense of
responsibility that by seven was fully developed. She did not wonder
that her mother drank. Why not, when there was no fire in the stove, and
nothing to cook if there had been, and the children counted it a day
when they had a scraping of butter on the bread? But, as often happens
in these cases, the disgust at smell and taste of liquor grew with every
month of her life, and two at least of the children shared it. They were
never beaten; for Haggerty at his worst remained good-natured, and when
sober wept maudlin tears over his flock and swore that no drop should
ever pass his lips again; and Norah echoed every word, and for days
perhaps washed and scrubbed and scoured, earning fair wages, and
gradually redeeming the clothes or furniture pledged round the corner.
Rose went to school when she had anything to wear, and learned in time,
when she saw the first symptoms of another debauch, to bundle every
wearable thing together and take them and all small properties to the
old shoemaker on the first floor, where they remained in hiding till it
was safe to produce them again. She had learned this and many another
method before the fever which suddenly appeared in early spring took
not only her father and mother, but the small Dennis whose career as
newsboy had been her pride and delight, and who had been relied upon as
half at least of their future dependence. There remained, then, Norah,
hopelessly incurable of spinal disease and helpless to move save as Rose
lifted her, and the three little ones, as to whose special gifts there
was as yet no definite knowledge. In the mean time they were simply
three very clamorous mouths to be stopped with such food as might be;
and Rose entered a bag-factory a block away, leaving bread and knife and
molasses-pitcher by Norah's bed, and trusting the saints to avert
disaster from the three experimenting babies. She earned the first month
ten dollars, or two and a half a week, but being exceptionally quick,
was promoted in the second to four dollars weekly. The rent was six
dollars a month; and during the first one the old shoemaker came to the
rescue, had an occasional eye to the children, and himself paid the
rent, telling Rose to return it when she could. When the ten hours'
labor ended, the child, barely fourteen, rushed home to cook something
warm for supper, and when the children were comforted and tucked away in
the wretched old bed, that still was clean and decent, washed and mended
their rags of clothes, and brought such order as she could into the
forlorn room.

It was the old shoemaker, a patient, sad-eyed old Scotchman, who also
had his story, who settled for her at last that a machine must be had
in order that she might work at home. The woman in the room back of his
took in shirts from a manufacturer on Division Street, and made often
seven and eight dollars a week. She was ready to teach, and in two or
three evenings Rose had practically mastered details, and settled that,
as she was so young, she would not apply for work in person, but take it
through Mrs. Moloney, who would be supposed to have gone into business
on her own account as a "sweater." Whatever temptations Mrs. Moloney may
have had to make a little profit as "middle-man," she resisted and
herself saw that the machine selected was a good one; that no advantage
was taken of Rose's inexperience; and that the agent had no opportunity
to follow out what had now and then been his method, and hint to the
girl that her pretty face entitled her to concessions that would be best
made in a private interview. Shame in every possible form and phase had
been part of the girl's knowledge since babyhood, but it had slipped
away from her, as a foul garment might fall from the fair statue over
which it had chanced to be thrown. It was not the innocence of
ignorance,--a poor possession at best. It was an ingrained repulsion,
born Heaven knows how, and growing as mysteriously with her growth, an
invisible yet most potent armor, recognized by every dweller in the
swarming tenement. She had her father's quick tongue and laughing eyes,
but they could flash as well, and the few who tried a coarse jest
shrunk back from both look and scorching word.

Thus far all went well with the poor little fortunes. She worked always
ten and twelve, sometimes fourteen, hours a day, yet her strength did
not fail, and there was no dearth of work. It was in 1880, and prices
were nearly double the present rates. To-day work from the same
establishment means not over $4.50 per week, and has even fallen as low
as $3.50. In 1880 the shirts were given out by the dozen as at present,
going back to the factory to pass through the hands of the finisher and
buttonhole maker. The machine operator could make nine of the best class
of shirts in a day of ten hours, being paid for them at the rate of
$1.75 per dozen. Four spools of cotton, two hundred yards each, were
required for a dozen, the price of which must be deducted from the
receipts; but the firm preferred to supply twenty-four-hundred-yard
spools, at fifty cents for six-cord cotton used for the upper thread,
and thirty cents for the three-cord cotton used as under thread, the
present prices for same quality and size being respectively forty-five
and twenty-five cents. Making nine a day, the week's wages would be for
the four dozen and a half $7.87, or $7.50 deducting thread; but Rose
averaged five dozen weekly, and for nearly two years counted herself as
certain of not less than thirty dollars per month and often thirty-five.
The machine had been paid for. The room took on as comfortable a look
as its dingy walls and narrow windows would allow; and Bridget, age
five, had developed distinct genius for housekeeping, and washed dishes
and faces with equal energy and enthusiasm. She did all errands also,
and could not be cheated in the matter of change. She knew where the
largest loaves were to be had, and sniffed suspiciously at the packets
of tea.

"By the time she's seven, she'll do all but the washing," Rose said with
pride, and Bridget reverted to childhood for an instant, and spun round
on one foot as she made answer:--

"Shure, I could now, if you'd only be lettin' me."

"There's women on the west side that'll earn $2.50 a dozen, for work no
better than you're doing now," some one who had come from that quarter
said to her one day, but Rose shook her head. There is a curious
conservatism among these workers, who cling to familiar haunts and
regard unknown regions with suspicion and even terror.

"I've no time for change," Rose said. "It might not be as certain when
I'd got it. I'll run no risks;" and she tugged her great bundle of work
up the stairs, rejoicing that living so near saved just so much on
expressage, a charge paid by the workers themselves.

There were signs well known to the old hands of a probable reduction of
prices, weeks before the first cut came. More fault was found. A slipped
stitch or a break in the thread was pounced upon with even more
promptness than had been their usual portion. Some hands were
discharged, and at last came the general cut, resented by some, wailed
over by all, but accepted as inevitable. Another, and another, and
another followed. Too much production; too many Jew firms competing and
under-bidding; more and more foreigners coming in ready to take the work
at half price. These reasons and a dozen others of the same order were
given glibly, and at first with a certain show of kindliness and attempt
to soften harsh facts as much as possible. But the patience of diplomacy
soon failed, and questioners of all orders were told that if they did
not like it they had nothing to do but to leave and allow a crowd of
waiting substitutes to take their places at half rates. The shirt that
had sold for seventy-five cents and one dollar had gone down to
forty-five and sixty cents respectively, and as cottons and linens had
fallen in the same proportion, there was still profit for all but the
worker. Here and there were places on Grand or Division Streets where
they might even be bought for thirty and forty cents, the price per
dozen to the worker being at last from fifty to sixty cents. In the
factories it was still possible to earn some approximation to the old
rate, but employers had found that it was far cheaper to give out the
work; some choosing to give the entire shirt at so much per dozen;
others preferring to send out what is known as "team work," flaps being
done by one, bosoms by another, and so on.

For a time Rose hemmed shirt-flaps at four cents a dozen, then took
first one form and then another of underclothing, the rates on which had
fallen in the same proportion, to find each as sure a means of
starvation as the last. She had no knowledge of ordinary family sewing,
and no means of obtaining such work, had any training fitted her for it;
domestic service was equally impossible for the same reason, and the
added one that the children must not be left, and she struggled on,
growing a little more haggard and worn with every week, but the pretty
eyes still holding a gleam of the old merriment. Even that went at last.
It was a hard winter. The steadiest work could not give them food enough
or warmth enough. The children cried with hunger and shivered with cold.
There was no refuge save in Norah's bed, under the ragged quilts; and
they cowered there till late in the day, watching Rose as she sat silent
at the sewing-machine. There was small help for them in the house. The
workers were all in like case, and for the most part drowned their
troubles in stale beer from the bucket-shop below.

"Put the children in an asylum, and then you can marry Mike Rooney and
be comfortable enough," they said to her, but Rose shook her head.

"I've mothered 'em so far, and I'll see 'em through," she said, "but the
saints only knows how. If I can't do it by honest work, there's one way
left that's sure, an' I'll try that."

There came a Saturday night when she took her bundle of work, shirts
again, and now eighty-five cents a dozen. There were five dozen, and
when the $1.50 was laid aside for rent it was easy to see what remained
for food, coal, and light. Clothing had ceased to be part of the
question. The children were barefoot. They had a bit of meat on Sundays,
but for the rest, bread, potatoes, and tea were the diet, with a cabbage
and bit of pork now and then for luxuries. Norah had been failing, and
to-night Rose planned to buy her "something with a taste to it," and
looked at the sausages hanging in long links with a sudden reckless
determination to get enough for all. She was faint with hunger, and
staggered as she passed a basement restaurant, from which came savory
smells, snuffed longingly by some half-starved children. Her turn was
long in coming, and as she laid her bundle on the counter she saw
suddenly that her needle had "jumped," and that half an inch or so of a
band required resewing. As she looked the foreman's knife slipped under
the place, and in a moment half the band had been ripped.

"That's no good," he said. "You're getting botchier all the time."

"Give it to me," Rose pleaded. "I'll do it over."

"Take it if you like," he said indifferently, "but there's no pay for
that kind o' work."

He had counted her money as he spoke, and Rose cried out as she saw the

"Do you mean you'll cheat me of the whole dozen because half an inch on
one is gone wrong?"

"Call it what you like," he said. "R. & Co. ain't going to send out
anything but first-class work. Stand out of the way and let the next
have a chance. There's your three dollars and forty cents."

Rose went out silently, choking down rash words that would have lost her
work altogether, but as she left the dark stairs and felt again the
cutting wind from the river, she stood still, something more than
despair on her face. The children could hardly fare worse without her
than with her. The river could not be colder than this cold world that
gave her no chance, and that had no place for anything but rascals. She
turned toward it as the thought came, but some one had her arm, and she
cried out suddenly and tried to wrench away.

"Easy now," a voice said. "You're breakin' your heart for trouble, an'
here I am in the nick o' time. Come with me an' you'll have no more of
it, for my pocket's full to-night, an' that's more 'n it'll be in the
mornin' if you don't take me in tow."

It was a sailor from a merchantman just in, and Rose looked at him for a
moment. Then she took his arm and walked with him toward Roosevelt

It might be dishonor, but it was certainly food and warmth for the
children, and what did it matter? She had fought her fight for twenty
years, and it had been a vain struggle. She took his money when morning
came, and went home with the look that is on her face to-day.

"I'll marry you out of hand," the sailor said to her; but Rose answered,
"No man alive'll ever marry me after this night," and she has kept her
word. She has her trade, and it is a prosperous one, in which wages
never fail. The children are warm and have no need to cry for hunger any

"It's not a long life we live," Rose says quietly. "My kind die early,
but the children will be well along, an' all the better when the time
comes that they've full sense for not having to know what way the living
comes. But let God Almighty judge who's to blame most--I that was
driven, or them that drove me to the pass I'm in."



"The emancipation of women is certainly well under way, when all
underwear can be bought more cheaply than it is possible to make it up
at home, and simple suits of very good material make it hardly more
difficult for a woman to clothe herself without thought or worry, than
it has long been for a man."

This was the word heard at a woman's club not long ago, and reinforced
within the week by two well-known journals edited in the interests of
women at large. The editorial page of one held a fervid appeal for
greater simplicity of dress and living in general, followed by half a
column of entreaty to women to buy ready-made clothing, and thus save
time for higher pursuits and the attainment of broader views. With
feebler pipe, but in the same key, sounded the second advocate of
simplification, adding:--

     "Never was there a time when women could dress with as much real
     elegance on as small an expenditure of money. Bargains abound, and
     there is small excuse for dowdiness. The American woman is fast
     taking her place as the best-dressed woman in the civilized world."

Believing very ardently that the right of every woman born includes not
only "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," but beauty also, it
being one chief end of woman to include in her own personality all
beauty attainable by reasonable means, I am in heartiest agreement with
one side of the views quoted. But in this quest we have undertaken, and
from which, once begun, there is no retreat, strange questions arise;
and in this new dawn of larger liberty and wider outlook is seen the
little cloud which, if no larger than a man's hand, holds the seed of as
wild a storm as has ever swept over humanity.

For emancipation on the one side has meant no corresponding emancipation
for the other; and as one woman selects, well pleased, garment after
garment, daintily tucked and trimmed and finished beyond any capacity of
ordinary home sewing, marvelling a little that a few dollars can give
such lavish return, there arises, from narrow attic and dark, foul
basement, and crowded factory, the cry of the women whose life-blood is
on these garments. Through burning, scorching days of summer; through
marrow-piercing cold of winter, in hunger and rags, with white-faced
children at their knees, crying for more bread, or, silent from long
weakness, looking with blank eyes at the flying needle, these women toil
on, twelve, fourteen, sixteen hours even, before the fixed task is done.
The slice of baker's bread and the bowl of rank black tea, boiled to
extract every possibility of strength, are taken, still at the machine.
It is easier to sit there than in rising and movement to find what
weariness is in every limb. There is always a child old enough to boil
the kettle and run for a loaf of bread; and all share the tea, which
gives a fictitious strength, laying thus the foundation for the fragile,
anæmic faces and figures to be found among the workers in the
bag-factories, paper-box manufactories, etc.

"Why don't they go into the country?" is often asked. "Why do they
starve in the city when good homes and ample pay are waiting for them?"

It is not with the class to whom this question is applicable that we
deal to-day. Of the army of two hundred thousand who battle for bread,
nearly a third have no resource but the needle, and of this third many
thousands are widows with children, to whom they cling with a devotion
as strong as wiser mothers feel, and who labor night and day to prevent
the scattering into asylums, and consequent destruction of the family as
a family. They are widows through many causes that can hardly be said to
come under the head of "natural." Drunkenness leads, and the thousand
accidents that are born of drunkenness, but there are other methods
arising from the same greed that underlies most modern civilization. The
enormous proportion of accidents, which, if not killing instantly, imply
long disability and often death as the final result, come nine tenths of
the time from criminal disregard of any ordinary means of protecting
machinery. One great corporation, owning thousands of miles of railroad,
saw eight hundred men disabled in greater or less degree in one year,
and still refused to adopt a method of coupling cars which would have
saved the lives of the sixty-eight brakemen who were sacrificed to the
instinct of economy dominating the superintendent. The same man refused
to roof over a spot where a number of freight-handlers were employed
during a stormy season, rheumatism and asthma being the consequences for
many, and his reason had at least the merit of frankness,--a merit often
lacking in explanations that, even when most plausible, cover as
essential a brutality of nature.

"Men are cheaper than shingles," he said. "There's a dozen waiting to
fill the place of one that drops out."

In another case, in a great saw-mill, the owner had been urged to
protect a lath-saw, swearing at the persistent request, even after the
day when one of his best men was led out to the ambulance, his right
hand hanging by a bit of skin, his death from lockjaw presently leaving
one more widow to swell the number. It is of such men that a sturdy
thinker wrote last year, "Man is a self-damnable animal," and it is on
such men that the curse of the worker lies heaviest. That they exist at
all is hardly credited by the multitude who believe that, for this
country at least, oppression and outrage are only names. That they
exist in numbers will be instantly denied; yet to one who has heard the
testimony given by weeping women, and confirmed by the reluctant
admissions of employers themselves, there comes belief that no words can
fully tell what wrong is still possible from man to man in this America,
the hope of nations.

Is this a digression hardly to be pardoned in a paper on the trades and
lives of women,--a deliberate turning toward an issue which has neither
place nor right in such limits? On the contrary, it is all part of the
same wretched story. The chain that binds humanity in one has not one
set of links for men and another for women; and the blow aimed at one is
felt also not only by those nearest, but by successive ranks to whom the
shock, though only by indirect transmission, is none the less deadly in
effect. And thus the wrong done on the huge scale appropriate to a great
corporation finds its counterpart in a lesser but quite as well
organized a wrong, born also of the spirit of greed, and working its
will as pitilessly.

"If you employed on a large scale you would soon find that you ceased to
look at your men as men," said an impatient iron-worker not long ago.
"They are simply so much producing power. I don't propose to abuse them,
but I've no time even to remember their faces, much less their names."

Precisely on this principle reasons the employer of women, who are even
less to be regarded as personalities than men. For the latter, once a
year at least the employer becomes conscious of the fact that these
masses of "so much producing power" are resolvable into votes, and on
election day, if on no other, worthy of analysis. There is no such
necessity in the case of women. The swarming crowd of applicants are
absolutely at the mercy of the manager or foreman, who, unless there is
a sudden pressure of work, makes the selections according to fancy,
youth and any gleam of prettiness being unfailing recommendations. There
are many firms of which this could not be said with any justice. There
are many more in which it is the law, tacitly laid down, but none the
less a fact. With such methods of selection go other methods supposed to
be confined to the lowest grade of work and the lowest type of employer,
both being referred to regions like Baxter or Division Streets. But they
are to be found east or west indifferently, the illustration at present
in mind being on Canal Street, within sound of Broadway. It is a
prosperous firm, one whose trade-mark can be trusted; and here are a few
of the methods by which this prosperity has been attained, and goes on
in always-increasing ratio.

In the early years of their existence as a firm they manufactured on the
premises, but, like many other firms, found that it was a very
unnecessary expense. A roof over the heads of a hundred or more women,
with space for their machines, meant not less than twenty-five hundred
dollars a year to be deducted from the profits. Even floors in some
cheaper quarter were still an expense to be avoided if possible. The
easy way out of the difficulty was to make the women themselves pay the
rent, not in any tangible imposition of tax, but none the less certainly
in fact. Nothing could be simpler. Manufacturing on the premises had
only to cease, and it could even be put as a favor to the women that
they were allowed to work at home. The rule established itself at once,
and the firm, smiling serenely at the stoppage of this most damaging and
most unnecessary leak, proceeded to make fresh discoveries of equally
satisfactory possibilities. To each woman who applied for work it was

"We send all packages from the cutting-room by express, the charges to
be paid by you. It's a small charge, only fifteen cents, to be paid when
the bundle comes in."

"We can come for ours. We live close by. We don't want to lose the
fifteen cents," a few objected, but the answer was invariable:--

"It suits us best to make up the packages in the cutting-room, and if
you don't like the arrangement there are plenty waiting that it will
suit well enough."

Plenty waiting! How well they knew it, and always more and more as the
ships came in, and the great tide of "producing power" flowed through
Castle Garden, and stood, always at high-water mark, in the wards where
cheap labor may be found. Plenty waiting; and these women who could not
wait went home and turned over their small store of pennies for the
fifteen cents, the payment of which meant either a little less bread or
an hour or two longer at the sewing-machine, defined as the emancipator
of women.

In the mean time the enterprising firm had made arrangements with a
small express company to deliver the packages at twelve cents each, and
could thus add to the weekly receipts a clear gain of three cents per
head. It is unnecessary to add that they played into each other's hands,
and that the wagon-drivers had no knowledge of anything beyond the fact
that they were to collect the fifteen cents and turn it over to their
superiors. But in some manner it leaked out; and a driver whose feelings
had been stirred by the sad face of a little widow on Sixth Street told
her that the fifteen cents was "a gouge," and they had all better put
their heads together and refuse to pay more than twelve cents.

"If we had any heads, it might do to talk about putting them together,"
the little widow said bitterly. "For my part, I begin to believe women
are born fools, but I'll see what I can do."

This "seeing" involved earning a dollar or two less for the week, but
the cheat seemed so despicable a one that indignation made her
reckless, and she went to the woman who had first directed her to the
firm and had been in its employ almost from the beginning.

"It's like 'em; oh, yes, it's like 'em!" she said, "but we've no time to
spend in stirring up things, and you know well enough what would be the
end of it if we did,--discharged, and somebody else getting our wages.
You'd better not talk too much if you want to keep your place."

"That isn't any worse than the thread dodge," another woman said. "I
know from a clerk in the house where they buy their thread, that they
charge us five cents a dozen more than it costs them, though they make a
great point of giving it to us at cost and cheaper than we could buy it

"Why don't you club together and buy, then?" the little widow asked, to
hear again the formula, "And get your walking-ticket next day? We know a
little better than that."

A few weeks later a new system of payment forced each worker to
sacrifice from half an hour to an hour of precious time, her only
capital. Hitherto payments had been made at the desk when work was
brought in, but now checks were given on a Bowery bank, and the women
must walk over in heat and storm alike, and wait their turn in the long
line on the benches. If paid by the week this would make little
difference, as any loss of time would be the employers', but this form
of payment is practically abolished, piece-work done at home meaning the
utmost amount of profit to the employer, every loss in time being paid
by the workers themselves. When questioned as to why the check system of
payment had been adopted by this and various other firms, the reply was

"It saves trouble. The bank has more time to count out money than we

"But the women? Does it seem quite fair that they should be the losers?"

"Fair? Anything's fair in business. You'd find that out if you undertook
to do it."

As the case then at present stands, for this firm, and for many which
have adopted the same methods, the working-woman not only pays the rent
that would be required for a factory, but gives them a profit on
expressage, thread, time lost in going to bank, and often the price on a
dozen of garments, payment for the dozen being deducted by many foremen
if there is a flaw in one. This foreman becomes the scapegoat if
unpleasant questions are asked by any whose investigation might bring
discredit on the firm. In some cases they refuse positively to give any
information, but in most, questions are answered with suspicious
glibness, and if reference is made to any difficulties encountered by
the women in their employ, they take instant refuge in the statement:--

"Oh, that was before the last foreman left. We discharged him as soon as
we found out how he had served the women."

"Do you see those goods?" another asked, pointing to a counter filled
with piles of chemises. "How do you suppose we make a cent when you can
buy a chemise like that for fifty cents? We don't. The competition is
ruining us, and we're talking of giving up the business."

"That's so. It's really more in charity to the women than anything else
that we go on," his partner remarked, with a look toward him which
seemed to hold a million condensed winks. "That price is just ruin;
that's what it is."

Undoubtedly, but not for the firm, as the following figures will
show,--figures given by a competent forewoman in a large establishment
where she had had eleven years' experience: twenty-seven yards and
three-quarters are required for one dozen chemises, the price paid for
such cotton as is used in one selling at fifty cents being five cents
per yard, or $1.40 for the whole amount; thirty yards of edging at 4-1/2
cents a yard furnishes trimming for the dozen, at $1.35; and four
two-hundred-yard spools of cotton are required, at twenty-five cents per
dozen, or eight cents per dozen garments. The seamer who sews up and
hems the bodies of the garments receives thirty cents a dozen, and the
"maker"--this being the technical term for the more experienced worker
who puts on band and sleeves--receives from ninety cents to one dollar
a dozen, though at present the rates run from seventy-five to ninety
cents. Our table, then, stands as follows:--

  Cloth for one dozen chemises      $1.40
  Edging       "         "           1.35
  Thread       "         "            .08
  Seamer       "         "            .30
  Maker        "         "            .90
      Total cost of dozen           $4.03
  Wholesale price per dozen          5.25
  Profit per dozen                   1.22

The chemise which sells at seven dollars per dozen has the additional
value in quality of cloth and edging, the same price being paid the
work-women, this price varying only in very slight degree till the
excessively elaborate work demanded by special orders. One class of
women in New York, whose trade has been a prosperous one since ever time
began, pay often one hundred dollars a dozen for the garments, which are
simply a mass of lace and cobweb cambric, tucked and puffed, and
demanding the highest skill of the machine operator, who even in such
case counts herself happy if she can make eight or nine dollars a week.
And if any youth and comeliness remain to her, why need there be wonder
if the question frame itself: "Why am I the maker of this thing, earning
barest living, when, if I choose, I, too, can be buyer and wearer and
live at ease?"

Wonder rather that one remains honest when the only thing that pays is

For the garments of lowest grade to be found in the cheapest quarters of
the city the price ranges from twenty-five to thirty cents, the maker
receiving only thirty cents a dozen, and cloth, trimming, and thread
being of the lowest quality. The profit in such case is wellnigh
imperceptible; but for the class of employer who secures it, content to
grovel in foul streets, and know no joy of living save the one delight
of seeing the sordid gains roll up into hundreds of thousands, it is
still profit, and he is content. As I write, an evening paper containing
the advertisement of a leading dry-goods firm is placed before me, and I
read: "Chemises, from 12-1/2 cents up." Here imagination stops. No list
of cost prices within my reach tells me how this is practicable. But one
thing is certain. Even here it is not the employer who loses; and if it
is a question of but a third of a cent profit, be sure that that profit
is on his side, never on the side of the worker.



The problem of the last chapter is, if not plain, at least far plainer
than when it left the pen, and it has become possible to understand how
the garment sold at twelve and a half cents may still afford its margin
of profit. It has also been made plain that that profit is, as there
stated, "never on the side of the worker," but that it is wrung from her
by the sharpest and most pitiless of all the methods known to
unscrupulous men and the women who have chosen to emulate them. For it
has been my evil fortune in this quest to find women not only as filled
with greed and as tricky and uncertain in their methods as the worst
class of male employers, but even more ingenious in specific modes of
imposition. Without exception, so far as I can discover, they have been
workers themselves, released for a time it may be by marriage, but
taking up the trade again, either from choice or necessity. They have
learned every possibility of cheating. They know also far better than
men every possibility of nagging, and as they usually own a few machines
they employ women on their own premises and keep a watchful eye lest
the smallest advantage be gained. The majority prefer to act as
"sweaters," this releasing them from the uncertainties attending the
wholesale manufacturer, and as the work is given to them at prices at or
even below the "life limit," it is not surprising that those to whom
they in turn pass it on find their percentage to mean something much
nearer death than life.

"Only blind eyes could have failed to see all this before," some reader
is certain to say. "How is it possible that any one dealing directly
with the question could doubt for a moment the existence of this and a
thousand-fold worse fraud?"

Only possible from the same fact that makes these papers a necessity.
They hold only new phases of the old story. The grain has had not one
threshing alone, but many, and yet for the most patient and persistent
of searchers after truth is ever fresh surprise at its nature and
extent. Given one or a dozen exposures of a fraud, and we settle
instinctively into the conviction that its power has ended. It is barely
conceivable to the honest mind that cheating has wonderful staying
power, and that not one nor a thousand exposures will turn into straight
paths feet used to crooked ones. And when a business man, born to all
good things and owning a name known as the synonyme of the best the
Republic offers to-day, states calmly, "There is no such thing as
business without lying," what room remains for honor or justice or
humanity among men whose theory is the same, and who can gild it with no
advantage of birth or training? It is a wonderful century, and we are
civilizing with a speed that takes away the breath and dims the vision,
but there are dark corners still, and in the shadow Greed and Corruption
and Shame hold high carnival, with nameless shapes, before which even
civilization cowers. Their trace is found at every turn, but we deal
with only one to-day, helpless, even when face to face, to say what
method will most surely mean destruction.

We settle so easily into the certainty that nothing can be as bad as it
seems, that moments of despair come to all who would rouse men to
action. Not one generation nor many can answer the call sounding forever
in the ears of every son of man; but he who has heeded has at least made
heeding more possible for those that follow; and the time comes at last
when the way must be plain for all. To make it plainer many a popular
conviction must be laid aside, and among them the one that follows.

It is a deeply rooted belief that the poor understand and feel for the
poor beyond any possibility in those who have never known cold and
hunger and rags save as uncomfortable terms used too freely by
injudicious agitators. Like many another popular belief the groundwork
is in the believer's own mind, and has its most tangible existence in
story-books. There are isolated cases always of self-sacrifice and
compassion and all gentle virtues, but long experience goes to show that
if too great comfort is deadening, too little is brutalizing, and that
pity dies in the soul of man or woman to whom no pity has been shown. It
is easy to see, then, how the woman who has found injustice and
oppression the law of life, deals in the same fashion when her own time
comes, and tyrannizes with the comfortable conviction that she is by
this means getting even with the world. She knows every sore spot, and
how best to make the galled jade wince, and lightens her own task by the
methods practised in the past upon herself. This is one species to be
dealt with, and a far less dangerous one than the craftier and less
outspokenly brutal order, just above her in grade. It is by these last
that some of the chief frauds on women are perpetrated, and here we find
one source of the supplies that furnish the bargain counters.

We read periodically of firms detected in imposing upon women, and are
likely to feel that such exposure has ended their career as firms once
for all. In every trade will be found one or more of these, whose
methods of obtaining hands are fraudulent, and who advertise for "girls
to learn the trade," with no intention of retaining them beyond the time
in which they remain content to work without pay. There are a thousand
methods of evasion, even when the law faces them and the victim has made
formal complaint. As a rule she is too ignorant and too timid for
complaint or anything but abject submission, and this fact is relied
upon as certain foundation for success. But, if determined enough, the
woman has some redress in her power. Within a few years, after long and
often defeated attempts, the Woman's Protective Union has brought about
legislation against such fraud, and any employer deliberately
withholding wages is liable to fifteen days' imprisonment and the costs
of the suit brought against him, a fact of which most of them seem to be
still quite unaware. This law, so far as imprisonment is concerned, has
no application to women, and they have learned how to evade the points
which might be made to bear upon them, by hiring rooms, machines, etc.,
and swearing that they have no personal property that can be levied
upon. Or, if they have any, they transfer it to some friend or relative,
as in the case of Madame M----, a fashionable dressmaker notorious for
escaping from payment seven times out of ten. She has accumulated money
enough to become the owner of a large farm on Long Island, but so
ingeniously have all her arrangements been made that it is impossible to
make her responsible, and her case is used at the Union as a standing
illustration of the difficulty of circumventing a woman bent upon

A firm, a large proportion of whose goods are manufactured in this
manner, can well afford to stock the bargain counters of popular
stores. They can afford also to lose slightly by work imperfectly done,
though, even with learners, this is in smaller proportion than might be
supposed. The girl who comes in answer to their advertisement is anxious
to learn the trade at once, and gives her best intelligence to mastering
every detail. Her first week is likely to hold an energy of effort that
could hardly last, and she can often be beguiled by small payments and
large promises to continue weeks and even months, always expecting the
always delayed payment. Firms dealing in such fashion change their
quarters often, unless in league with police captains who have been
given sufficient reasons for obliviousness of their methods, and who
have also been known to silence timid complaints with the threat of a
charge of theft. But there is always a multitude ready to be duped, and
no exposure seems sufficient to prevent this, and women who have once
established a business on this system seem absolutely reckless as to any
possible consequences.

There is at present on Third Avenue a Mrs. F----, who for eleven years
has conducted a successful business built upon continuous fraud. She is
a manufacturer of underwear, and the singular fact is that she has
certain regular employees who have been with her from the beginning, and
who, while apparently unconscious of her methods, are practically
partners in the fraud. She is a woman of good presence and address, and
one to whom girls submit unquestioningly, contending, even in court,
that she never meant to cheat them; and it is still an open question
with those who know her best how far she herself recognizes the fraud in
her system. The old hands deny that it is her custom to cheat, and
though innumerable complaints stand against her, she has usually paid on
compulsion, and insisted that she always meant to. Her machines never
lack operators, and the grade of work turned out is of the best quality.
Her advertisement appears at irregular intervals, is answered by swarms
of applicants, and there are always numbers waiting their turn. On a
side street a few blocks distant is a deep basement, crowded with
machines and presided over by a woman with many of her personal
characteristics. It is the lowest order of slop work that is done here,
but it helps to fill the bargain counters of the poorer stores, and the
workers are an always shifting quantity. It is certain that both places
are practically the property of Mrs. F----, but no man has yet been
cunning enough to determine once for all her responsibility, and no law
yet framed covers any ground that she has chosen as her own. Her
prototypes are to be found in every trade open to women, and their
numbers grow with the growth of the great city and strengthen in like
proportion. The story of one is practically the story of all. Popularly
supposed to be a method of trickery confined chiefly to Jews,
investigation shows that Americans must share the odium in almost as
great degree, and that the long list includes every nationality known to

We have dealt thus far with fraud as the first and chief procurer for
bargain counters. Another method results from a fact that thus far must
sum up as mainly Jewish. Till within very little more than a year, a
large dry-goods firm on the west side employed many women in its
underwear department. The work was piece-work, and done by the class of
women who own their own machines and work at home. Prices were never
high, but the work was steady and the pay prompt. The firm for a time
made a specialty of "Mother Hubbard" night-gowns, for which they paid
one dollar a dozen for "making," this word covering the making and
putting in of yoke and sleeves, the "seamer" having in some cases made
the bodies at thirty cents a dozen. Many of the women, however, made the
entire garment at $1.30 per dozen, ten being the utmost number
practicable in a day of fourteen hours. Suddenly the women were informed
that their services would not be required longer. An east-side firm
bearing a Jewish name had contracted to do the same work at eighty cents
a dozen, and all other underwear in the same proportions. Steam had
taken the place of foot-power, and the women must find employment with
firms who were willing to keep to slower methods. Necessarily these are
an always lessening minority. Competition in this race for wealth
crushes out every possibility of thought for the worker save as so much
producing power, and what hand and foot cannot do steam must. In several
cases in this special manufacture the factories have been transferred to
New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where rent is a mere song, and where girls
flock in from the adjacent country, eager for the work that represents
something higher than either ordinary mill work or the household service
they despise.

"What can we do?" said one manufacturer lately, when asked how he
thought the thing would end. "If there were any power quicker than
steam, or any way of managing so that women could feed five or six
machines, that would have to come next, else every one of us would go to
the wall together, the pressure is so tremendous. Of course there's no
chance for the women, but then you must remember there's precious little
chance for the employer either. This competition is a sort of insanity.
It gluts the market with cheap goods, and gives a sense of prosperity,
but it is the death of all legitimate, reasonable business. It won't
surprise me if this whole trade of manufacturing underwear becomes a
monopoly, and one man--like O'H----, for instance--swallows up the whole
thing. Lord help the women then, for there'll be no help in man!"

"Suppose co-operation were tried? What would be the effect?"

"No effect, because there isn't confidence enough anywhere to make men
dare a co-operative scheme. Even the workers would distrust it, and a
sharp business man laughs in your face if you mention the word. It
doesn't suit American notions. It might be a good thing if there were
any old-fashioned business men left,--men content with slow profits and
honest dealing,--as my father was, for instance. But he wouldn't have a
ghost of a chance to-day. The whole system of business is rotten, and
there will have to be a reconstruction clean from the bottom, though
it's the men that need it first. We're the maddest nation for money on
the face of the earth, and the race is a more killing one every year.
I'm half inclined to think sometimes that mankind will soon be pretty
much a superfluity, the machines are getting so intelligent; and it may
be these conditions that seem to upset you so are simply means of
killing off those that are not wanted, and giving place to a less
sensitive order of beings. Lord help them, I say again, for there's no
help in man."

The speaker nodded, as if this rather unexpected flight of imagination
was an inspiration in which might lie the real solution of all
difficulties, and hurried away to his waiting niche in the great
competitive system. And as he went, there came to me words spoken by one
of the workers, in whose life hope was dead, and who also had her theory
of any future under to-day's conditions:--

"I've worked eleven years. I've tried five trades with my needle and
machine. My shortest day has been fourteen hours, for I had the children
and they had to be fed. There's not one of these trades that I don't
know well. It isn't work that I've any trouble in getting. It's wages.
Five years ago I could earn $1.50 a day, and we were comfortable. Then
it began to go down,--$1.25, then $1.00. There it stopped awhile, and I
got used to that, and could even get some remains of comfort out of it.
I had to plan to the last half cent. We went cold often, but we were
never hungry. But then it fell again,--to ninety cents, to eighty-five.
For a year the best that I can do I have earned not over eighty cents a
day,--sometimes only seventy-five. I'm sixty-two years old. I can't
learn new ways. I am strong. I always was strong. I run the machine
fourteen hours a day, with just the stoppings that have to be to get the
work ready. I've never asked a man alive for a penny beyond what my own
hands can earn, and I don't want it. I suppose the Lord knows what it
all means. It's His world and His children in it, and I've kept myself
from going crazy many a time by saying it was His world and that somehow
it must all come right in the end. But I don't believe it any more. He's
forgotten. There's nothing left but men that live to grind the face of
the poor; that chuckle when they find a new way of making a cent or two
more a week out of starving women and children. I never thought I
should feel so; I don't know myself; but I tell you I'm ready for murder
when I think of these men. If there's no justice above, it isn't quite
dead below; and if men with money will not heed, the men and the women
without money will rise some day. How? I don't know. We've no time to
plan, and we're too tired to think, but it's coming somehow, and I'm not
ashamed to say I'll join in if I live to see it come. It's seas of tears
that these men sail on. It's our life-blood they drink and our flesh
that they eat. God help them if the storm comes, for there'll be no help
in man."

Employer and employed had ended in wellnigh the same words; but the gulf
between no words have spanned, and it widens day by day.



"Come now, be reasonable, won't you? You've got to move on, you know,
and why don't you do it?"

"I'm that reasonable that a bench of judges couldn't be more so; and
I'll not move on for anything less than dynamite, and I ain't sure I
would for that. It's only a choice between starvation and going into the
next world in little bits, and I don't suppose it makes much difference
which way it's done."

The small, pale, dogged-looking little woman who announced this
conviction did not even rise from the steps where she sat looking up to
the big policeman, who faced her uneasily, half turning as if he would
escape the consequences of rash action if he knew how. Nothing could be
more mysterious. For it was within sight of Broadway, on one of the
best-known side streets near Union Square, where business signs were few
and of the most decorous order, and where before one door, bearing the
name of one of the best-known fashionable dressmakers, a line of
carriages stood each day during the busy season. A name hardly less
known was on the door-plate of the great house before which she sat, and
which still bore every mark of prosperous ownership, while from one of
the windows looked the elaborately dressed head of Madame herself, the
anxiety in her eyes contradicting the scornful smile on her thin lips.
The door just beyond No. -- opened, and a stout gentleman descended one
step and stood eying the policeman belligerently. That official looked
up the street as if wishing for cry of "murder" or "stop thief" around
the corner, but hearing neither, concentrated again on the antagonist
whose irregular methods defied precedent and gave him a painful sense of
insecurity. If two could listen, why not three?--and I paused near the
steps, eyed considerately by the stout gentleman, who was evidently on
the outlook for allies. A look of intelligence passed between Madame and
the policeman, and her head disappeared from the window, a blind on the
second story moving slightly and announcing a moment later that she had
taken a less conspicuous post of observation.

"Move on now, I tell you!" began the policeman again, but paused, for as
he spoke a slender, bright-eyed girl came swiftly toward them, and
paused on the first step with a glance of curiosity at the little group.

"Have you come to answer Madame M----'s advertisement?" the little woman
said, as she rose from the steps and laid her hand detainingly on the
hurrying figure.

"Yes," the girl answered hesitatingly, pulling away from the hand that

"Then, unless you've got anything else to do and like to give your time
and strength for naught, keep away. You'll get no wages, no matter
what's promised. I've been there six months, kept on by fair promises,
and I know. I'll let no girl go in there without warning."

"It's a good-looking place," the girl said doubtfully.

"It's a den of thieves all the same. If you don't believe me, come down
to the Woman's Protective Union on Clinton Place, and you'll see my case
on the book there, and judgment against this woman, that's no more mercy
than a Hottentot and lies that smoothly that she'd humbug an angel of
light. Ah! that's good!" she added, for the girl had shaken off her hand
and sped away as swiftly as she had come. "That's seven since yesterday,
and I wish it were seven hundred. It's time somebody turned watchdog."

"That ain't your business. That's a matter for the law," said the big
policeman, who had glanced anxiously up to the second-story window and
then looked reassured and serene, as the stout gentleman made a
significant movement, which indicated that bribery was as possible for
one sex as for the other. "The law'll straighten out anything that
you've a mind to have it."

"The law! Lord help them that think the law is going to see them
through," the small woman said, with a fierceness that made the big
policeman start and lay his hand on his club. "What's the law worth when
it can't give to you one dollar of two hundred and eight that's owed;
and she that earned them gasping her life out with consumption? If it
was my account alone do you suppose I'd care? Mine's eighty-five, and I
went to law for it, to find she'd as long a head as she has smooth
tongue, and had fixed things so that there wasn't a stick of furniture
nor a dollar of property that could be levied on. If she'd been a man
the new law that gives a cheating employer fifteen days' imprisonment
might have worked with her as it's worked with many a rascal that never
knew he could be brought up with a round turn. But she's a woman and she
slides through, and a judgment against her isn't worth the paper it's
written on. So as I can't take it out in money I take it out in being
even with her. There are the papers that show I don't lie, and here I
sit the time I've fixed to sit, and if she gets the three new hands
she's after, it won't be because I haven't done what came to me to do to
hinder it."

The policeman had moved away before the words ended, the stout gentleman
having descended the steps for a moment, and stood in a position which
rendered his little transaction feasible and almost invisible. He
beckoned to me as the small woman sat down again on the steps, and I
followed him into the vestibule.

"You're interested, my dear madam," he said. "You're interested, and you
ought to be. I've stayed home from business to make sure she wasn't
interfered with, and I'd do it again with the greatest pleasure. I'd
like to post one like her before every establishment in New York where
cheating goes on, and I'm going to see this thing through!"

There was no time for questions. My appointment must be kept, and with
one pause to take the name and number of the small Nemesis I went my
way. Three days later she sat there still, and on the following one, as
the warm spring rain fell steadily, she kept her post, sheathed in a
rubber cloak, and protected by an umbrella which, from its size and
quality, I felt must be the stout gentleman's. With Saturday night her
self-imposed siege ended, and she marched away, leaving the enemy badly
discomfited and much more disposed to consider the rights of the
individual, if not of the worker in general. As Madame's prices were
never less than fifty dollars for the making of a suit, ranging from
this to a hundred or more, and as her three children were still small
and her husband an undiscoverable factor, it became an interesting
question to know where she placed the profits which, even when lessened
by non-paying customers, could never be anything but great. Madame,
however, had been too keen even for the sharp-witted lawyer of the
Protective Union, whose utmost efforts only disclosed the fact that she
was the probable backer of a manufacturer whose factory and farm were on
Long Island, and whose business capacity had till within a few years
never insured him more than a bare living.

It is an old story, yet an always new one, and in this case Madame had
quieted her conscience by providing a comfortable lunch for the workers
and allowing them more space than is generally the portion in a busy
establishment. Well housed and well fed through the day and paid at
intervals enough to meet the demands of rent or board bill, it was easy
to satisfy her hands by the promise of full and speedy settlement, and
when this failed, to tell a pitiful tale of unpaid bills and
conscienceless customers, who could not be forced. When these resources
were exhausted discharge solved any further difficulties, and a new set
came in, to undergo the same experience. In an establishment where
honesty has any place, the wages are rather beyond the average,
skirt-hands receiving from seven to nine dollars a week and waist-hands
from ten to fifteen. In the case of stores this latter class make from
eighteen to forty dollars per week, and often accumulate enough capital
to start in business for themselves. But a skirt-hand like Mary M----
seldom passes on to anything higher, and counts herself well paid if
her week of sixty hours brings her nine dollars, not daring to grumble
seriously if it falls to seven or even six. On the east side the same
work must be done for from four to six dollars a week, the latter sum
being considered high pay. But the work is an advance upon factory work
and has a better sound, the dressmaker's assistant looking down upon the
factory hand or even the seamstress as of an inferior order.

In time I learned the full story of the little woman, ordinarily
reticent and shrinking, but brought by trouble and indignation to the
fiercest protest against oppression. Born in a New-England village she
had learned a milliner's trade, to which she presently added
dressmaking, and succeeded in making a fair living, till bitten by the
desire to see larger life and share all the good that the city seems to
offer the shut-in country life, she came to New York with her small
savings, expecting to find work easily, and did so, going at once into a
store where a friend was at work. Sanitary conditions were all bad. Her
hall bedroom on a fourth floor and the close confinement all did their
work, and a long illness wasted strength and savings. When recovery came
her place had been filled; and she wandered from store to store seeking
employment, doing such odd jobs as were found at intervals, and
powerless to recover the lost ground.

"It was like heaven to me," she said, "when my friend came back to the
city and got me that place as skirt-hand at Madame M----'s. I was so far
gone I had even thought of the river, and said to myself it might be the
easiest way out. You can't help but like Madame, for she's
smooth-tongued and easy, and praises your work, and she made me think
I'd soon be advanced and get the place I ought to have. She paid
regularly at first, and I began to pick up courage. It was over-hours
always. Madame would come in smiling and say: 'Ah, dear girls! What
trouble! It is an order that must be finished so soon. Who will be kind
and stay so leetle longer?' Then we all stayed, and she'd have tea made
and send it in, and sandwiches or something good, and they all said,
'She's an angel. You won't find anybody like Madame.' She was so
plausible, too, that even when there was longer and longer time between
the payments the girls didn't blame her, but borrowed of one another and
put off their landladies and managed all ways to save her feelings.
Jenny G---- had been here longer than any of them, and she worshipped
Madame and wouldn't hear a word even when one or another complained. But
Jenny's feet were on the ground and she hadn't a stitch of warm
underclothes, and she took a cold in December, and by January it had
tight hold of her. I went to Madame myself then, and begged her to pay
Jenny if it wasn't but a little, and she cried and said if she could
only raise the money she would. She didn't; and by and by I went again,
and then she turned ugly. I looked at her dumfounded when she spoke her
real mind and said if we didn't like it we could leave; there were
plenty of others. I wouldn't believe my ears even, and said to myself
she was worn out with trouble and couldn't mean a word of it. I wanted
money for myself, but I wouldn't ask even for anybody but Jenny.

"Next day Madame brought her ten dollars of the two hundred and twenty
she owed her, and Jenny got shoes; but it was too late. I knew it well,
for I'd seen my sister go the same way. Quick consumption ain't to be
stopped with new shoes or anything but new lungs, and there's no patent
for them yet that ever I've heard of. She was going last night when I
went round, and sure as you live I'm going to put her death in the paper
myself. I've been saving my money off lunches to do it, and I'll write
it: 'Murdered by a fashionable dressmaker on ---- Street, in January,
1886, Jenny G----, age nineteen years and six months.' Maybe they won't
put it in, but here it is, ready for any paper that's got feeling enough
to care whether sewing-girls are cheated and starved and killed, or
whether they get what they've earned. I've got work at home now. It
don't matter so much to me; but I'm a committee to attend to this thing,
and I'll find out every fraud in New York that I can. I've got nine
names now,--three of 'em regular fashionables on the west side, and six
of 'em following their example hard as they can on the east; and a
friend of mine has printed, in large letters, 'Beware of' at the head of
a slip, and I add names as fast as I get them, and every girl that comes
in my way I warn against them. Do much good? No. They'll get all the
girls they want, and more; but it's some satisfaction to be able to say
they are cheats, making a living out of the flesh and blood of their
dupes, and I'll say it till I die."

Here stands the experience of one woman with fearlessness enough to
protest and energy enough to have at last secured a tolerable living.
The report, for such it may be considered, might be made of many more
names than those upon her black list, or found on the books of the
Union. Happily for the worker, they form but a small proportion of the
long list of dressmakers who deal fairly. But the life of the ordinary
hand who has not ability enough to rise is, like that of the great
majority who depend on the needle, whether machine or hand, filled with
hardship, uncertainty, overwork, under-pay. The large establishments
have next to no dull season, but we deal in the present chapter only
with private workers; and often, on the east side especially, where
prices and wages are always at the lowest ebb, the girls who have used
all their strength in overwork during the busy season of spring and fall
must seek employment in cigar factories or in anything that offers in
the intermediate time, the wages giving no margin for savings which
might aid in tiding over such periods. The dressmaker herself is often
a sufferer, conscienceless customers abounding, who pay for the work of
one season only when anxious for that of the next. Often it is mere
carelessness,--the recklessness which seems to make up the method of
many women where money obligations are concerned; but often also they
pass deliberately from one dressmaker to another, knowing that New York
holds enough to provide for the lifetime of the most exacting customer.
There is small redress for these cases, and the dressmaker probably
argues the matter for herself and decides that she has every right,
being cheated, to balance the scale by a little of the same order on her
own account.

A final form of rascality referred to in a previous chapter is found
here, as in every phase of the clothing trade, whether on small or large
scale. Girls are advertised for "to learn the trade," and the usual army
of applicants appear, those who are selected being told that the first
week or two will be without wages, and only the best workers will be
kept. Each girl is thus on her mettle, and works beyond her strength and
beyond any fair average, to find herself discharged at the end of the
time and replaced by an equally eager and equally credulous substitute.
There are other methods of fraud that will find place in a consideration
of phases of the same work in the great establishments, some
difficulties of the employer being reserved for the same occasion.



To do justice to employer as well as employed is the avowed object of
our search, yet as it goes on, and the methods made necessary by
competition become more and more clear, it is evident that back of every
individual case of wrong and oppression lies a deeper wrong and a more
systematized oppression. Master and servant alike are in the same bonds,
and the employer is driven as mercilessly as he drives. He may deny it.
He may even be quite unconscious of his own subjection, or, if he thinks
at all of its extent, may look enviously at the man or the corporation
that has had power to enslave him. The monopolist governs not only the
market but the bodies and souls of all who provide wares for that
market; yet the fascination of such power is so tremendous that to stand
side by side with him is the dream of every young merchant,--the goal on
which his eyes are set from the beginning. Only in like power is any
satisfaction to be found. Any result below this high-water mark can be
counted little else than failure.

To this end, then, toils the employer of every grade, bringing every
faculty to bear on the lessening of waste, whether in material or time;
the conservation of every force working in line with his purpose.
Naturally, the same effect is produced as that mentioned in a previous
paper. The employees come to represent "so much producing power," and
are driven at full speed or shut off suddenly like the machines of which
they are the necessary but still more or less accidental associates.
Certain formulas are used, evolved apparently from experience, and
carrying with them an assurance of so much grieved but inevitable
conviction that it is difficult to penetrate below the surface and
realize that, while in degree true, they are in greater degree false. In
various establishments, large and small, beginning with one the pay-roll
of which carries 1,462 employees, and ending with one having hardly a
third this number, the business manager made invariably the same
statement: "We make our money from incidentals rather than from any
given department. You are asking particularly about suits. I suppose
you'll think it incredible, but in suits we work at a dead loss. It is
only an accommodation to our customers that makes us keep that
department open. The work should be put out to mean any profit, but we
can't do that with the choicest materials, and so we make it up in other
directions. You would have to go into business yourself to understand
just how we are driven."

"Suppose you refused to be driven? A firm of your standing must have
matters a good deal in its own hands. Suppose--"

"Suppose!" The manager threw out his hands in a gesture more full of
disclaimer than any words. "There is no room for supposes in business,
madam. We do what we must. How are we to compete with a factory turning
out suits by steam power? Not that we would compete. There is really no
occasion," he added hastily. "But their methods certainly have an
unpleasant influence, and we are obliged to take them into account

"Then your statement would be, that no matter how expensive the suit
made up, you can make no profit on it?"

"Absolutely none. It is a concession to a customer's whims. We could buy
the same thing and sell to her at half the price, but she prefers to
select materials and have them put together in our work-room, and we
must humor her. But rents are so enormous that the space for every woman
employed by us in these departments may be said to represent simply so
many cubic feet in good coin, bringing us no return. Our profits are
dwindling with every year."

"Might not co-operation--"

Again the manager threw out his hands.

"Simply another form of robbery. We have investigated the history of
co-operation, and it does not appear to affiliate with our institutions.
The lamentable failure of the Co-operative Dress Association ought to
be the answer to that suggestion. No, madam. There is no profit in
suits, or in any form of made-up clothing for ladies' wear, if it is
done on the premises. You have to turn it over to the wholesale
manufacturer if you want profit."

Having heard this statement in many forms, and recognizing the fact that
increase in rents as well as in systematized competition might well have
reduced profits, it still appeared incredible that the rates charged
held no surplus for the firm. Little by little it has become possible to
supplement each statement by others of a different order. Nothing is
more difficult than to obtain trustworthy information regarding the
methods of a firm whose standing is such that to have served it is
always a passport to other employment; whose payments are regular, and
where every detail of work-room is beyond criticism. It is no question
of bare-faced robbery as in that of many cited, yet even here the old
story tells itself in different form, and with an element which, in many
a less pretentious establishment, has not yet been found to exist.

The work done here is piece-work. French cutters and fitters, receiving
from thirty to fifty dollars a week, give that guarantee of style and
elegance which is inherent in everything bearing the stamp of the firm.
Experts run the machines in the sewing-machine room, being paid by the
day at the rate of from six to eight dollars per week in the busy
season. The buttonholes are made by women who do nothing else, and who
are paid by the dozen, earning from five to seven dollars weekly. All
stitched seams are done in the machine-room, and the dress passes from
there to the sewing-room, into the hands of the sewing-girls, who
receive from three to four dollars and a half for each garment. The
latter price is seldom reached; four dollars and a half or five dollars
paying for a dress loaded with trimming, puffs, flounces, etc.

At this rate there would seem to be a chance for wages a good deal
beyond the average, but it is one of the unwritten laws that no
sewing-girl shall exceed five dollars per week; whether formulated by
superintendent or by firm remains yet to be discovered. The one
unquestionable fact is that if the superintendent of the work-room finds
that any girl is expert enough to make over this amount the price per
garment is docked, to bring her down to the level. They are never
driven. On the contrary, they must wait often, two or three hours at
times, for the arrival of "Madame," who must inspect the work, drape a
skirt, or give some suggestion as to trimming. No entreaty can induce
the superintendent to give out another piece of work which might fill
this vacant time, and the girls dare not state their case to the
employer. No member of the firm enters the work-rooms. Reports are made
by the superintendent of the department, and the firm remains content
with knowing that it has provided every comfort for its employees.
Complaint would insure discharge, and if a girl hints that she cannot
live on five dollars a week the answer has been for the years during
which the present superintendent has held the place, always the same:--

"If you haven't a home so that you have no expense of board, it is your
own fault, and I can't be expected to do anything about it."

There appears to be no question as to the entire "respectability" of the
woman, who would undoubtedly deny the implication contained in her own
words. But there is rivalry between the superintendents as to which
department shall make largest returns in profits, and wages are kept
down to secure that end. There is also no question that a proportion of
those employed are "supported," and merely add this work as a means of
securing a little more pin-money. It is true of but a very few, but of
those few an undeniable fact. It is equally a fact that, in spite of the
managers' assertions, profit can be made and is made from this
department, and that a large percentage of such profit comes directly
from the pocket of the sewing-girl, who, even when she adds
buttonhole-making in the simpler dresses, can never pass beyond a fixed

In other large establishments on both sides of the city methods are much
the same, with merely slight variations as to comfort of quarters, time
for lunch, sanitary conditions, etc. But in all alike, the
indispensable, but always very helpless, sewing-girl appears to be one
of the chief sources of profit, and to have small capacity and no
opportunity for improving her condition. Even where the work comes from
the manufactory, and steam has taken the place of foot-power, no machine
has yet been run so automatically that the human hand can be entirely
dispensed with. The "finisher" remains a necessity, and as finisher
sometimes passes slightly beyond the rate obtained when merely
sewing-girl. Only slightly, however. It is a deeply rooted conviction
among these workers that a tacit or even, it may be, formal
understanding has been settled upon by employers in general.

"I don't know how it is," said one of the most intelligent among the
many I have talked with; "there's never any trouble about getting work.
I've even had them send after me when I had gone somewhere else in hopes
of doing better. I used to earn ten and twelve dollars a week on suits,
children's or ladies', but now if I earn five or sometimes six I do
well. The work goes on with a rush. It's a whole building except the
first floor,--five stories, and suits of every kind. The rooms are all
crowded, and they give out piece-work, but they've managed it so that we
all earn about alike. When the rush of the fall and spring season is
over they do white work and flannel skirts and such things, and a great
many are discharged in the lull. But go where you will, up-town or
down, it doesn't seem to matter how well you can turn off the work or
how long you have been at it. They all say, if we ask for better pay,
'It can't be had as long as there is such competition. We're losing
straight ahead.' I don't understand. We don't any of us understand,
because here is the great rush of work and it must be done. They can't
do without us, and yet they are grinding us down so that I get half
distracted sometimes, wondering where it will end and if things will
ever be better."

"Would not private sewing be better? There is always a demand for good

"I don't know anything about private sewing. You have to cut and plan,
and I never learned that. I like to work on things that are cut by a
cutter and just so, and I can make up my dozen after dozen with not an
eighth of an inch difference in my measurements. I'm an expert, you

"But if you learned to do private sewing perfectly you could earn a
dollar and a quarter a day and board and have your evening quite free."

The girl shook her head. "I've had that said to me before, but you know
it's more independent as I am. Maybe things will be better by and by."

There is no obstinacy like the obstinacy of deep-seated prejudice, and
this exists to a bewildering degree among these workers, who, for some
inscrutable reason, seem filled with the conviction that private employ
of any nature whatever is inevitably a despotism filled with unknown
horrors. There appears to be also a certain _esprit du corps_ that holds
sustaining power. The girl likes to speak of herself as one of such and
such a firm's hands, and to regard this distinction as compensation for
over-hours and under-pay and all known wretchedness encompassing her
trade. The speaker I have quoted was an American girl of twenty-six, had
had three years in public schools, and regarded the city as the only
place in which life could be considered endurable.

"I shouldn't know what to do in the country if I were there," she said.
"I don't seem to like it somehow. It isn't the company, for mother and
me keep to ourselves a good deal, but somehow we know how to get along
in the city, and the country scares me. I like my work if only I could
get more pay for it."

"Do you ever think that if all who work in your line joined together and
made common cause you might even things a little; that it might be
easier for all of you?"

"We wouldn't dare," she answered, aghast. "Why, do you know, there'd be
ten for each one of us that was turned off. Women come there by the
hundred. That's what they say to me in our firm: 'What's the use of
fussing when here are dozens waiting to take your place?' There isn't
any use. They say now that it is the dull season, and they've put our
room on flannel skirts; two tucks and a hem, and a muslin yoke that has
to be gone round four times with the stitching. One day I made ten, but
nine is all one can do without nearly killing themselves, and they pay
us one dollar a dozen for making them. It used to be a dollar and a
half, and that was fair enough. It's the kind of work I like. I
shouldn't be content to do any other; but it's bringing us all down to
starvation point, and I think something ought to be done."

In a case like this, and it is the type of many hundreds of skilled
workers, who regard their calling with a certain pride, and could by no
possibility be induced to seek other lines of work or other methods of
living, there seems little to be accomplished. They are, however, but a
small portion of the army who wait for some deliverance, and who, if
they had been born to a trifle more common sense, would turn in the one
sole direction from which relief is certain, this relief and the reasons
for and against it having no place at this stage of the investigation.



From the fig-leaf down, it would seem as if a portion of the original
curse accompanying it had passed on to each variation or amplification
of first methods, its heaviest weight falling always on the weak
shoulders that, if endurance could make strong, should belong to-day to
a race of giants. Of the ninety and more trades now open to women,
thirty-eight involve some phase of this question of clothing, about
which centre some of the worst wrongs of modern civilization. It is work
that has legitimate place. It must be done by some one, since the
exigencies of this same civilization have abolished old methods and made
home manufactures seem a poor and most unsatisfactory substitute for the
dainty stitching and ornamentation of the cheaper shop-work. It is work
that many women love, and, if living wages could be had, would do
contentedly from year to year. Of their ignorance and blindness, and the
mysterious possession they call pride, and the many stupidities on which
their small lives are founded, there is much to be said, when these
papers have done their first and most essential work of showing
conditions as they are;--as they are, and not as the disciples of
_laissez faire_ would have us to believe they are.

     "It is the business of these philanthropists to raise a hue and
     cry; to exaggerate every evil and underrate every good. They are
     not to be trusted. Look at our institutions and see what we are
     doing for the poor. Study statistics and see how comfortable they

This is the word of a recent correspondent of a Podsnapian turn of mind,
who proceeded to present facts and figures bearing out his theory. And
on a Sunday shortly after, he was confirmed in his faith and greatly
strengthened and comforted by words from a popular preacher, long owner
of a popular pulpit, who, standing there as the representative of a
master whose message was to the poor, and who turned to them from the
beginning, as the hearers who alone could know most truly what meaning
the message bore, spoke these words:--

     "Moreover, all this hue and cry about so much destitution and
     misery and the unscrupulous greed of employers is groundless. I am
     convinced that more than one half--yes, fully three quarters--of
     the pauperism of which you heard so much in the late campaign
     exists only in the minds of the Georgeites. The picture drawn of
     New York's misery is over-colored, and its inspiration is in the
     distorted imaginations of the George fanatics.... The rum-holes are
     the cause of all the misery.... I have been watching for
     thirty-five years, and in all my investigations among the poor I
     never yet found a family borne down by poverty that did not owe its
     fall to rum."

This most extraordinary statement, from a man who in one year alone
could not have listened to even half the appeals for help likely to have
come to him in his position, without discovering that death and disaster
in many forms played, if not the chief part, certainly that next in
order to rum, can be accounted for only on the ground that a hobby
ridden too hard has been known to bear off at the same time both the
common-sense and power of judgment of the rider. Prohibition appears to
him, as to many another, the only solution; the gospel of negation the
only gospel for rich or poor. Since the Church first began to
misinterpret the words of its Founder, since men who built hospitals
first made the poor to fill them, the "thou shalt not" of the priest has
stood in the way of a human development that, if allowed free play, had
long ago made its own code, and found in natural spiritual law the key
to the overcoming of that formulated by men to whom the divine in man
was forever unrecognized and unrecognizable.

This is no place for the discussion of what, to many good men and women,
seems the only safety for human kind; but to one who studies the
question somewhat at least with the eyes of the physician, it becomes
certain that no "thou shalt not" will ever give birth to either
conscience or love of goodness and purity and decent living, or any
other good that man must know; and that till the Church learns this, her
hold on men and women will lessen, year by year. Every fresh institution
in the miles of asylums and hospitals that cover the islands of the East
River, and stretch on farther and farther with every year, is an added
disgrace, an added count in the indictment against modern civilization.
There are moments when the student of social conditions abhors
Philanthropy; when a disaster that would wipe out at one stroke every
institution the city treasures would seem a gift straight from God, if
only thereby the scales might fall from men's eyes, and they might learn
that hiding foulness in an asylum is not extirpation; that something
deeper and stronger than Philanthropy must work, before men can be

It is as student, not as professional philanthropist, that I write; and
the years that have brought experience have brought also a conviction,
sharpened by every fresh series of facts, that no words, no matter what
fire of fervor may lie behind, can make plain the sorrow of the poor. To
ears that will hear, to souls that seek forever some way that may help
in truth and not in name, even to them it loses power at moments. To
souls that sit at ease and leave to "the power that works for
righteousness" the evolution of humanity from its prison of poverty and
ignorance and pain, it is quite useless to speak. They have their
theory, and the present civilization contents them. But for the men and
women who are neither Georgeites merely, nor philanthropists merely, nor
certain that any sect or creed or ism will help, but who know that the
foulest man is still brother, and the wretchedest, weakest woman still
sister, whose shame and sorrow not only bear a poison that taints all
civilization, but are forever our shame and our sorrow till the world is
made clean,--for these men and women I write, not what I fancy, but what
I see and know.

Most happily for humanity, they are stronger, more numerous, with every
year; but the hardest fact for them remains ever that their battle is a
double one, and that, exhausted as they may be with long conflict
against lowest forms of evil, they must rally to a sharper one against
the army of the Philistines. Strong soul and high endeavor: never since
time began has man more needed them; never was there harder work to do.

The story of the working-woman in one great city is, with slight
variations in conditions, the story of the working-woman in all; and
when we have once settled conclusively what monopoly or competition has
done and is doing for New York, we know sufficiently well what Boston
and Philadelphia and Chicago and all the host of lesser cities could
easily tell us in detail. With the mass of poor who work chiefly to
obtain money for drink, and who, with their progeny, are filling the
institutions in which we delight, we have absolutely nothing to do. It
is seldom from their ranks that workers are recruited. A small
proportion, rescued by societies or mission schools, may be numbered
among them, but the greater part are a grade above, and while perhaps
wellnigh as ignorant, have an inheritance of better instincts, and could
under any reasonable conditions of living find their fate by no means

I have chosen to-day, instead of passing on to another form of the
clothing trade, to return to that of underwear, and this because it is
the record most crowded with cases in which the subjects could not enter
household service and have not been reduced to poverty by intemperance.
Nor is the selection made with a view to working up as startling a case
as possible. On the contrary, it has been made almost at random from the
many recorded, any separate mention of which would be impossible in the
space at command. First on the long list comes Catherine E----, an
"expert" in underwear, and living on the top floor of a large,
old-fashioned house in Clinton Place; the lower part stores and offices,
the upper a tenement. She earned three years ago $1.50 a day; at times,
$1.75. The same work now brings her eighty-five cents, and now and then
but seventy-five. The husband was a "boss painter," and they were
comfortable, even prosperous, till the fate of his calling came upon
him, and first the "drop hand," and later blood-poisoning and
heart-disease followed. He is just enough alive to care a little for
the children and to oversee the pitiful household affairs; the oldest
girl, a child of seven, doing the marketing, boiling the kettle, etc.,
and this season going to school. They are fair-faced, gentle children,
and this is their mother's story:--

"I can run the machine, and I did with every one of them when they were
two weeks old, for I've always been strong. Nothing that happens is bad
enough to kill me, and it's lucky it's so, for it's two years and over
since William there could earn a dollar. He helps me; but you see for
yourself he's half dead and no getting well, because we've nothing to
buy food with, or medicine, or anything that could help him. We were
both brought up here in the city. We don't know anything about the
country, but sometimes I wish we did, and that I could take the children
and live somehow. But I don't know how people live there. I'm certain of
work here, and I'd be afraid to go anywhere else. I'm making babies'
slips now; three tucks and a hem and find your own cotton, and it takes
eighteen hours to make a dozen, and these are seventy-five cents a
dozen. I can buy cotton at eighteen cents a dozen, but we have to take
it from the manufacturer at twenty cents--sometimes twenty-five cents.
Last week I was on corset-covers; I take whatever they send up, for I'm
an old hand, and always sure of work. They were plain corset-covers, and
I got forty cents a dozen without the buttonholes. If I did them it
would be five cents on every dozen, and sometimes I do. That pile in the
corner is extra-size chemises. I get $1.50 a dozen for making them, and
if I cord the bands, fifty cents a dozen for them. I can do seven or
eight a day; but there are no more just now, they say. I work fourteen
hours a day; yes, I've often worked sixteen, for you see there are six
of us, and we must be clothed and fed. William is handy, but, poor soul!
he's only a man, and he's sick past cure, and nobody but me for us all.
God help us! I wouldn't mind if wages were steady, but they cut and cut,
and always some excuse for making them lower, and here am I, that can do
anything, private orders and all, down to eighty-five cents a day. I
could earn more by family sewing, but I can't leave William or the
children, for he's likely to go any minute, the doctors say, if he
over-exerts himself; and suppose it came, and I not here, and the baby
and Willie and all! I've turned all ways. I think and think as I sit
here, and there's no help in God or man. It's all wrong somehow, but we
don't know why nor how, and the only way I can see is just to die.
There's no place for honesty or hard work. You must lie and cheat if you
want standing room. God help us!--if there is a God; but I've my doubts.
Why don't he help, if there is one?"

Here the average earnings were twenty-five dollars a month, the rent of
the room they occupied seven dollars, leaving eighteen dollars for
food, fire, light, and clothing.

Another disabled husband, recovering, but for many months unable to
work, was found in a tenement-house in East Eleventh Street. In this
case work and earnings were almost identical with the last, but there
were but two children, and thus less demand for food, etc. For a year
and a half the wife, though also an "expert," had never exceeded
eighty-five cents a day and had sometimes fallen as low as seventy. She
had sometimes gone to the factory instead of working at home, and the
last firm employing her in this way had charged ten cents on the dollar
for the steam used in running the machine which she operated.

"It didn't pay," the little woman said, with a laugh that ended as a
sob, checked instantly. "I could earn eight dollars a week, but there
was the steam, ten cents on the dollar, and my car fares, for there was
no time to walk,--sixty cents for them,--$1.40, you see, altogether. I
might as well work at home and have the comfort of seeing that the
children were all right. There's plenty of work, it seems. It's wages
that's the trouble, and do you know how they cut them? If I could work
any other way I would, but I like to sew, and I don't know any other
trade. I'm not strong, but somehow I can run the machines, and there's
nothing else. But we're clean discouraged. It isn't living, and we don't
know what way to turn."

In East Sixth Street, near the Bowery, Mrs. W., a widow still young and
with a nervously energetic face and manner, gave her experience. She had
been forewoman in a factory before her husband's death, having supported
him through his last year of life, working all day and nursing him at
night. In this way her own health broke down, and she was at last taken
to the hospital, where she remained nearly six months, coming out to
find her place filled, but a subordinate one open to her.

"I had to wait for that," she said, "and I had to learn. I knew a
sewing-machine place where often you could get ruffling for skirts to
do, and I went up there one morning. It was the three tucks and a hem
ruffling, and I did one hundred and forty-two yards from eight in the
morning till half-past four, and they paid me twenty-three cents. 'We
could get it done for that by steam power,' they said, 'so we can't give
more. It's a favor anyway to give it out at all.' That was my first
day's work. The next I went down to my place on Canal Street. They think
a good deal of me there, and they put me on drawers right away;
thirty-five cents a dozen for making them. I can make two dozen a day
sometimes, but fine ones not over a dozen, though they pay fifty cents.
You wonder how they make anything. I've been forewoman, and I know the
prices. Why, even at forty cents a pair they make on them. Twenty-one
yards of cloth at five cents makes a dozen; that's $1.05; and eighteen
yards of edge at four and a half cents, that's eighty-one cents; and the
making thirty-five cents; that's $2.21. Thread and all, they won't cost
over $2.25, and they sell at wholesale at three dollars a dozen and
retail at $4.80. There's profit even when you think a cent couldn't be
made. Take skirts, three yards of cloth in each at six cents. They pay
thirty cents a dozen for tucking, twenty-five cents a dozen for
ruffling, and thirty cents for seaming,--eighty-five cents a dozen for
the entire skirt; and the cloth makes it, at eighteen cents apiece,
$3.01 for the dozen. Those skirts retail at sixty cents apiece, and
wholesale at fifty cents. There's profit on them all, no matter what
they say, for I've figured every penny over and over, down to the tape
and thread. But they swear to you they are ruined by competition, and so
the wages go down and down and down. Leave the city? I don't know how to
live anywhere else. I've never learned. It's something to be sure of
your work, even if it is starvation wages. But there's distress all
around me. I don't see what it means. There's a girl in the room next to
me, with an invalid mother. She does flannel shirts, but before she got
them she nearly starved on underwear. Now she earns a dollar a day, but
she works fourteen hours for it, seven cents an hour. That's nice pay in
a Christian land. Christian! Bah! I used to believe there was
Christianity, but I've given it up, like many another. There's just one
religion left, and that is the worship of money. The Golden Calf is God,
and every man sells his soul for a chance to bow to it. I don't know but
what I would myself. So far I've kept decent; I came of decent folks;
but it's no fault of many a man that I've worked for that I can say so
still. I've had to leave three places because they wouldn't let me
alone, and I stay where I am now because they're quiet, respectable
people, and no outrageousness. But if you know what it all means I wish
you'd tell me, for I'm dazed, and I can't make out the reason of
anything any more."

In the same house a widow with three children,--the father killed by
falling from a scaffolding,--earns sixty cents a day by making
buttonholes, and above her is another well past sixty, whose trade and
wages are the same. How they live, what they can wear, how they are fed,
on this amount is yet to be told, but every detail waits; and having
gathered them from these and other women in like case, I am not yet
prepared to believe that they live at ease, or that the "hue and cry
about so much destitution and misery, and the unscrupulous greed of
employers, is groundless."



It was the Prussian War that seemed to settle the question. So far as
Grossvater Bauer himself was concerned, he would still have toiled on
contentedly. To be alive at all on German soil was more than honor or
wealth or any good thing that the emigrant might report as part of his
possession in that America to which all discontented eyes looked
longingly. The reports might all be true; yet why should one for the
sake of better food or more money be banished from the Vaterland and
have only a President, a man of the people, in place of the old Kaiser,
whose very name thrilled the heart, and for whose glory Grossvater Bauer
would have given many sons? He had given them. Peace had come, and
France was paying tribute; and, one by one, the few who had escaped
French bullets came home to the little Prussian village and told their
tales of the siege and of the three who had fallen at Sedan. Grossvater
Bauer sat silent. He had been as silent when they brought the news to
him in the beginning. It was the fortune of war. He had served his own
time, and having served it, accepted as part of his birthright the same
necessity for his sons. They had worked side by side with him on the
great farm where he had been for most of his life head laborer and
almost master; worked contentedly until Annchen, the oldest daughter,
had married a tailor, dissatisfied like all tailors, and set sail for
the strange country where fortune had always open hands for all the
world. He had prospered, and in Annchen's letters, coming at rare
intervals, was always an appeal to them to come over. The boys listened;
doubtfully at first, for the father's faith was strong in them that no
land could ever hold the same good as this land through which the Rhine
flowed to the sea. But as the time came when they must enter the army
there was rebellion. Here and there, in the air it seemed, for no one
could say from whence the new feeling had come, were questions the sound
of which was not to be tolerated by any true Prussian. Why should this
great army live on the toil of the peasant? Why should the maintenance
of these conscripts swallow up every possible saving in the wages and be
the largest item save one in the year's expenses? Why should there be a
standing army at all?

Hans, when his time came, had learned to ask, but he had not learned to
answer. The splendor of his uniform appeared to be in some sort a reply,
and its tightness may also have had its effect in restricting his mental
operations. For three years the carefully kept accounts of Grossvater
Bauer held the item: "Maintenance of son in army, $121.37." Then Hans
came home and married Lieschen, the little dairy-maid, and in due time
Lotte's blue eyes opened on the world whose mysteries were still not
quite explicable to the heavy father. Wilhelm and Franz had taken their
turn, and in spite of questions settled passively at last into the farm
life. Then came the war,--the war that called for every man with
strength to carry a gun,--and when it was over Lotte was fatherless, and
there were no more sons to bear the name, or to trouble Grossvater
Bauer's mind with further questions.

Very glorious, but what use if there were no boys left to whom the story
could be told? If he had yielded, if even one had crossed the sea, there
would be something still to live for. But Lieschen had given them no
boys. He thought of it day after day, till the familiar fields grew
hateful and he wished only to escape from the land to which he had paid
a tax too heavy for mortal endurance. There was no one but Lieschen and
her little ones, Lotte first of all and best beloved, and in another
month they had set sail and the old life was over.

"Work for all, homes for all, plenty for all," Annchen had written how
many times. Yet now, when the Grossvater appeared, and the round-eyed
Lieschen and her tribe of five, Peter shook his head. He had prospered,
it is true. From journeyman tailor he had become master on a small
scale, and packed himself and his men into a shop so tiny that it was
miraculous how elbow-room remained to use the goose. But work for the
Grossvater was quite another thing. He had no trade, and while his
capacity as farmer on scientific methods ought to give him paying
employment in the country, the city held nothing for him. Work for
Lieschen and Lotte was easy. A week or two of apprenticeship would teach
them all that need be known to do the work on cheap coats or pantaloons,
but even for them it was certain that the country would be better.

It was here that Grossvater Bauer developed unexpected obstinacy. He had
a little money. He was still strong and in good case. Here was this
great city which must have work of some nature, and which, so far from
weighing upon him as Lotte had feared, seemed to have for him a curious
fascination. He haunted the wharves. The smell of the sea and the tarred
ropes of the ships bewitched him, and on the wharves he soon found work,
and loaded and unloaded all day contentedly, with a feeling that this
was after all more like living than anything could have been in the home
fields where only the ghosts of his own remained to have place at his

It is now only that the story of Lotte begins,--Lotte, who pined for the
great farm and the fields across which the wind swept, and the cows she
had named and cared for. Her mother forgot, or did not care. She had
never loved her work, and liked better to chatter with the other women
in the house, or even to run the machine hour after hour, than to milk,
or feed the cattle, or churn. Lotte hated the machine. Her back ached,
her eyes burned, and her head throbbed after only an hour or two of it.
"Let me take a place," she begged, but the Grossvater shook his head
angrily. This was a free country. There was no need that she should
serve. Let her learn to be contented and thankful that she could earn so
much. For with their simple habits the wages paid in 1881 seemed wealth.
Forty-five cents a pair, three of which she could make in a day, brought
the week's earnings to eight dollars, sometimes to nine dollars, and
Peter prophesied that it might even be ten or twelve dollars. Lieschen
had as much. Down on the wharves the Grossvater earned sometimes
eighteen dollars a week. It was a fortune. At home, in the best of
times, with sons and daughters all at work, his books, which he kept
always with the accuracy of a merchant, showed something under $1,000 a
year as receipts, the expenses hardly varying from the $736.28 which
represented the maintenance of the family during Hans's first year as
soldier. Their food ration at home had been nine and a half cents daily.
Wheat bread had stood for festivals and high days. Black bread, cabbage
soup, beer, cheese, and sausage, with meat on Sundays, had been their
only ambition as to food, and here Grossvater Bauer insisted upon the
same regimen, and frowned as one by one the fashions of the new country
crept in. Peter had been right after all. One must work, it is true, but
no harder and no longer, and the return was double. The little iron
chest which had held the savings at home held them here, and at rare
intervals the Grossvater allowed Lotte to look, and said as he turned
over the shining coins, "Thou wilt have most, my Lottchen. It is for
thee that I put them away."

"There is enough for a little farm," Lotte said one day. "We could go on
this Long Island and have land, and not be shut all day in these dark

"That is slower," the Grossvater said. "We will go back with much money
when it is earned, and I shall be owner, and thou, Lotte, the mistress,
and Franz maybe will go also."

Lotte shook her head, though her cheeks were pink.

"Franz cares only for America," she said. "Come with us some day,
Grossvater, and let us look at the little house he knows. There is land,
two acres, and a barn and a cow, and all for so little. I could be
stronger then."

"That is folly," the old man said angrily. "It would be but shillings
there, where here it is dollars. Wait and you will see."

Lotte looked after him wonderingly as he turned away. To save was
becoming his passion. He grudged her even her shoes and the dress she
must have, though no one had so little. Peter revolted openly and came
less and less. Lieschen cried, but still looked at the week's wages as
compensation for many evils, and Lotte worked on, the pink spot fixing
itself on her cheeks, and her blue eyes growing sadder with every week.
Franz, the son of their old neighbor at home, hated this crowded city as
she did, and urged her to take her chances and marry him, even if, as
yet, he was only laborer in the market gardens out on the Island. There
were minutes when Lotte nearly yielded, but the Grossvater seemed to
hold her as with chains. She loved him, and she had always submitted.
Perhaps in time he would yield and learn again to care for the old life
of the country.

At last a change came, but there was in it no release, only closer
imprisonment. Peter and Annchen had followed a brother to Chicago and
opened a shop double the size of the old one, and they were hardly
settled when Lieschen sickened suddenly and after long illness died. For
many weeks there was no earning. Even the angry Grossvater saw that it
was impossible, and doled out reluctantly the money they had helped him
to save. Lieschen had always fretted him. Lotte was the best gift she
had ever made the Bauer name, and when the funeral was over, he went
home, secretly relieved that the long watch was over; went home to find
that the precious chest, hidden always under piles of bedding in the
closet where he locked his own possessions, had disappeared. There had
been a moving from the story above. Men had gone up and down for an
hour, and no one had noticed specially what was carried. There was no
clew, even after days of searching; and Grossvater Bauer, who had rushed
madly to the police station, haunted it now, with imploring questions,
till told they could do nothing and that he must keep away. He sank then
into the sort of apathy that had held him when the news came from Sedan.
He went to his work, but there was no heart in it, and sat by the fire
when night came, with only an impatient shake of the head when Lotte
tried to comfort him. Till then no one had realized his age, but now his
hair whitened and his broad shoulders bowed. He was an old man; and
Lotte said to herself that his earning days were nearly over, and worked
an hour or two later that the week's gain might be a little larger and
so comfort him.

She came home one afternoon with her bundle of work. Gretchen, who was
nearly thirteen, had helped her carry it, and had shrunk back frightened
as the foreman put a finger under her chin, and nodded smilingly at the
peach-like face and the great blue eyes. Lotte struck down his hand
passionately. She knew better than Gretchen what the smile meant. The
child should never know if she could help it, and she did not mind the
evil glance that followed her toward the door. There were people
standing at their doors as she went slowly up the stairs, her breath
coming quickly, as now it always did when she climbed them.

"Poor soul!" one of them said. "She little knows what she's coming to."

"Was ist los?" Lotte cried as the door opened, and then shrieked aloud,
for the Grossvater lay there on the bed, crushed and disfigured and
almost speechless, but lifting one hand feebly as she flew toward him.

"A sugar hogshead," somebody said. "It rolled over him when he thought
it was firm, and brought down some barrels with it. He's past helping.
May the saints have a heart for the poor children! He would be brought
here, but what will you do with him?"

"There'll be naught to do by morning," said another. "Can't you see he's
going?" But by morning no change had come, nor for many mornings. The
wounds and bruises slowly healed, but save for the one hand that moved
toward her, there were no signs of life. The strong body held by
paralysis might linger for years, and Lotte must earn for him and for
all. Even then a living might have been possible, for Gretchen had a
place as cash-girl and earned two dollars a week, and Lisa was promised
one after New Year's. But it was a hard winter. They ate only what they
must, and Lotte's blue eyes looked out from hollow sockets, and she
shivered with cold. Wages had fallen, and they fell faster and faster
till by January her ten and twelve hours' work brought her but six
dollars instead of the eight or nine she had always earned. The foreman
she hated made everything as difficult as possible. Though the bundle
came ready from the cutting room, he had managed more than once to slip
out some essential piece, and thus lessened her week's wages, no price
being paid where a garment was returned unfinished. He had often done
this where girls had refused his advances, yet it was impossible to make
complaint. The great house on Canal Street left these matters entirely
with him, and regarded complaint as mere blackmailing. Lotte tried
others, but wages were even less. She was sure of work here, and pay was
prompt. With the spring things must be better. But long before the
spring Lisa had sickened and died, and Lotte buried her in the Potter's
Field, and hurried home to make up the lost time, and hush the crying
little ones as she could. It did not occur to her that she could write
to Annchen and ask for help, and Franz had quarrelled with her because
she did not put the Grossvater in a hospital and send the children to
some asylum.

"I will even marry you with the children," he said, "but never with the
Grossvater who hindered and spoiled everything."

"He has cared for me always, even when he was hard," said Lotte. "I
shall care for him now;" and Franz rushed away and had come no more.

For a year Lotte's struggle went on. She knew only the one form of work;
and she dared not take time to learn another.

"If it were not for the Grossvater," she said, "and the children, I
should have a place and work in the country and grow strong, but I
cannot. If I die before them what can they do?"

There was other trouble. Gretchen's light little head could never guard
her pretty face. She was fourteen now, and tall and fair, fretting
against the narrow life and refusing to stay indoors when evening came.
One day she did not come home; and when Lotte sought her she saw only
the evil smile and triumphant eyes of the foreman who had followed her a
year ago and who laughed in her face as he shut the door.

"You'd better come in yourself," he called. "You'd fare better if you

Lotte went home dumb, and sat down at her machine. There was no money in
the house, nor would be till she had taken home this work; but as she
bent over it the blood poured in a stream from her mouth. She tried to
rise, but fell back; and when the screaming children had brought in
neighbors, Lotte's struggle was quite over. When they had buried her in
the Potter's Field by Lisa, they took the bundle of work stained with
her life-blood and carried it back to its owners.

"She'll need no more," said the old neighbor from the floor above as she
laid it on the counter. "You've cut her down and cut her down, till
there wasn't life left to stand it longer. There's not one of you to
blame, you say, but I that know, know you've fastened her coffin-lid
with nails o' your own makin', an' that sooner or later you'll come face
to face, an' find that red-hot is cowld to the hate that's makin' ready
for you. An' as for him that stands there smilin', if it weren't for the
laws that spare the guilty and send the innocent to their deaths, God
knows it would be the best thing these hands ever did to tear him to
bits. But there's no one to blame. Ye're sure o' that. Wait a while. The
day's comin' when you'll maybe think different; an' may God speed it!"



"If underwear, whether for men or women, has proven itself a most
excellent medium for starvation; if suits and dresses in general rank
but a grade above; if shirts, whether of cotton or woollen, are a
despair; and in each and all competition has cheapened material and
manufacture and brought labor to the 'life limit' and below, at least it
cannot be so bad with cloaks and jackets. Here are single garments,
often of the most expensive material and put together in the most
finished and perfect manner. Skilled labor is demanded, careful
handling, spotless neatness. Here is one industry which must give not
only a living wage, but a surplus. These women must be on the way to at
least semi-prosperity."

This was the thought in the days in which one phase after another of the
underwear problem presented itself, each one more bewildering, more
heart-sickening, than the last. Here and there had been the encounter
with one who had always been sure of work and who had never failed to
receive a fair return. But the summary had been inevitably as it stands
recorded,--overwork, under-pay; a fruitless struggle against
overwhelming odds.

With this thought the quest began anew. The manufacturers of cloaks and
jackets reported "piece-work" as the rule. The great dry-goods
establishments had the same word. Here and there was one where work was
done on the premises, and where skilled hands held the same places year
after year, the wages ranging from six to ten dollars, hardly varying.
But for most of them the same causes stated in the third chapter, "The
Methods of a Prosperous Firm," have operated, and it has been found
expedient to settle upon "piece-work" and let rent be paid and space be
furnished by the workers themselves.

"They like it better," said the business manager of the great firm
against whom there have never been charges of dishonesty or unkindness
in their treatment of employees. "It would be impossible to do all our
work on the premises. We should want the entire block if we even half
did it. But we know some of the women, and we pay as high as anybody;
perhaps higher. It saves them car fares and going out in all weathers,
and a great many other inconveniences, when they work at home, and I
don't see why there should be any objections made. The amount of it is,
there are too many women. The best thing to be done is to ship them
West. They say they're wanted there, and there is certainly not room
enough for them here. Machinery will soon take their place, anyway. I
have one in mind now that ought to do the work of ten women perfectly,
and require simply a tender and finisher. We shall get the thing down to
a fine point very soon. Hard on the women? Why, no. We always hold on to
first-class workers, and there's nothing much to be done with second and
third class except to use them through the busy season, and let them go
in the dull."

"Go where?"

The manager paused and looked reflectively at his well-kept

"My dear madam, that's a question I have no time to consider. I dare say
they earn a living somehow. Indeed, I'm told they go into cigar
factories. There's always plenty of work."

"Plenty of work,"--a form of words so familiar that I looked for it now
from both employer and employed. But for the last was an addition
finding no place on the lips of the first: "Plenty of work? Oh, yes! I
can always get plenty of work. The trouble is to get the wages for it."

A block or so below, and further west, one great window of a cheaper
establishment held jackets and wraps large and small, marked down for
the holidays, their advertisement in a morning paper having read,
"Jackets from $4 up." Still further over, another window displayed
numbers as great, and a placard at one side announced: "These elegant
jackets from $2.87 up." The cloth might be shoddy, but here was a
garment, fashionably cut, well finished to all appearance, and
unexceptionable in pattern and color. All along the crowded avenue the
story was the same, and as east took the place of west, and Grand Street
and the Bowery and Third Avenue gave in their returns, "These elegant
jackets from $2.35 up" gave the final depth to which cheapness could

If this was retail, what could be the wholesale price, and what was
likely to be the story of the worker from whose hands they had come? It
is worth while to follow these jackets as they emerge from the
cutting-room, and in packages holding such number of dozens as has been
agreed upon, pass to the express wagon which distributes them among the
workers, the firm in mind at present, like many others, preferring this
arrangement to any which involves dealing directly with the women.

First on the list stands the name of a woman a little over fifty years
old, whose husband is a painter and who left Germany eight years ago,
urged to come over by a daughter more adventurous than the rest, who had
married and emigrated at once. Work was plentiful when they arrived, and
the husband found immediate employment at his trade, with wages so high
that the wife had no occasion for any employment outside her own rooms.
The youngest child, a girl of nine, went to school. They lived in
comfortable rooms on a decent street, put money in a savings bank, and
felt that America held more good even than the name had always seemed to
promise. Then came the financial troubles of 1879 and 1881, the gradual
fall of wages, the long seasons when there was no work, and last, the
fate that overtakes the worker in lead, whether painter or in any other
branch,--first painter's colic, and the long train of symptoms preceding
the paralysis which came at last, the stroke a light one, but leaving
the patient with the "drop hand" and all the other complications,
testifying that the working days were over. Strength enough returned for
an odd job now and then, and the little man accepted his fate cheerily,
and congratulated himself that the bank held a little fund and that thus
the lowering wages could be pieced out. The bank settled this question
by almost immediate failure; a long and expensive illness for the wife
followed; and when it ended furniture and small valuables of every sort
had been pawned, and they left the empty rooms for narrower quarters and
sought for work in which all could share. To add to the complication,
the daughter, who had had good sense enough to take a place as child's
nurse, broke her leg, and became, even when able to walk again, too
disabled to return to this work. She could run the machine, and her
mother was an expert buttonhole-maker and had already learned various
forms of work on cloth, both in cheap coats and pantaloons, and in
jackets and cloaks. The jackets seemed to promise most, for in 1884 each
one brought to the maker sixty cents, buttonholes being $1.50 per
hundred, the presser receiving ten cents each and the finisher six
cents, these amounts being deducted from the price paid on each. To save
this amount the husband learned how to press, and though his crippled
hands can barely grasp the iron, and often his wife must help him place
the cramped fingers in position, he stands there smiling and well
content to add this mite to the fund. For a year their home has been in
a deep basement, where, save at noonday, it is impossible to run the
machines without artificial light. A dark room opens from the one in
which they work, itself dark, unventilated save from the hall, and
chosen as abiding place because it represents but four dollars a month
in rent. Two machines run by mother and daughter stand as near the
window as possible, and close by is the press-board and the pale but
optimistic little man, who looks proudly at each seam as he lays it
open. Jackets are everywhere,--piled on chairs and scattered over the
floor,--waiting the various operations necessary before they can at last
be bundled on the ex-painter's back, who smiles to himself as he toils
down to the firm's headquarters, reflecting that he has saved the
expressage another week. What are the returns? Lisa will give them,--the
wife whose English is still uncertain, and whose gentle, anxious eyes
grow eager and bright as she talks, the husband nodding confirmation, or
shaking his head as he sees the tears come suddenly, with a "Not so, not
so, Lisa."

"I know not if we shall live at all," she says. "For see. We two, my
Gretchen and I, we make but ten for a day. Tree dollar? Yes, but you
must take from it de buttonhole an' finish and much else, and it is so
short--so short that we can work on them. The season, that is it--six
weeks--two months, maybe, and then pantaloon till spring jacket come.
See. It is early that we begin,--seven, maybe,--and all day we shall sew
and sew. We eat no warm essen. On table dere is bread and beer in
pitcher and cheese to-day. We sit not down, for time goes away so. No,
we stand and eat as we must, and sew more and more. Ten jackets to one
day--so Gretchen and me can make ten jackets to one day, but we sit
always--we go not out. It is fourteen hours efery day--yes, many time
sixteen--we work and work. Then we fall on bed and sleep, and when we
wake again it is work always. And I must stop a leetle; not much, but a
leetle, for my back have such pain that I fall on the bed to say, 'Ach
Gott! is it living to work so in this rich, free America?' But he is
sick always, my man, even if he will laugh. He say he must laugh alway
for two because I cannot. For when this work is past it is only
pantaloons, and sew so hard as we may it is five, six pair maybe, for
Gretchen and me all day, and that not always. Many day we do nothing
because they say work is dull, and then goes away all we save before.
But we need not to ask help. So much is good that we work and earn, but
I think I die soon of my pain, and who then helps his fingers so stiff
to press or thinks how he will ache even when he will laugh? It is
because America is best that we come, but how is it best to die because
it is always work and no joy, no hope, never one so small stop?"

"Never one so small stop." The attic had the same story, and the
white-faced, hollow-eyed woman who tried to smile as she spoke turned
also from the waiting pile of jackets and drew one or two back to the
sheet spread for them on the floor to which they had slipped. A table
and two chairs, a small stove in which burned bare handful of coals, the
two machines, at one of which a girl of twenty still sewed on, and in
the corner a bed, on which lay another girl of the same age, but with
the crimson spot on her cheeks and the shining eyes of advanced
consumption. It had been one of the faces so often seen behind the
counters of the great stores, delicate in features and coloring, with
soft dark eyes and fair masses of hair loose on the pillow.

"I try to keep her tidy," the mother said, "but she can't bear her hair
up a minute, it's so heavy on her head, an' I've no time to 'tend to it
but the minute I take in the morning. It's jackets now that I'm on. I
thought maybe there'd be less risk in them than cloaks. Cloaks seem to
give 'em so much chance to cheat. I wouldn't work at all at home, I'd be
out doing by the day, for I had a good run of work, but there's Maggie,
and I can't leave her, though God knows she gets little good of me but
the knowing I'm here. I'll tell you what they did to me on cloaks. I
work for S---- & Co., far down on Broadway, and they give out the most
expensive kind of cloaks, and nine dollars a dozen for the making; other
kinds, too, but I'd been on them a good while and knew just how. The pay
was regular, but before I'd had work from them a month I saw they were
bound to make complaints and dock pay whether there was any fault in the
work or not. One and another took their turn, and no help for it; for if
they complained the foreman just said: 'You needn't take any work unless
you like. There are plenty waiting to fill your place.' Poor souls! What
could they do but go on?

"At last came my turn. He tossed them all over. 'It's poor work,' he
said. 'They're not finished properly. You can't be paid for botching.
There's three dollars, and that's too much.' 'The work is the same it's
always been. There's no botching,' I said; but he held out the three
dollars. 'No,' I said, 'If you won't pay fair I'll go to the Woman's
Protective Union and see what they'll do.' His face was black as
thunder. 'Take your money,' he says, holding out the rest, 'but you may
sing for more work from this establishment,' and he flung the money on
the floor. That didn't trouble me, because I knew I could get work just
below, and I did that same day; twenty cloaks, ten to be made at sixty
cents apiece, and ten at fifty-five cents. I had Angie here to help, and
when they were done I carried them down. This man was a Jew, but there's
small difference. If the Jew knew best how to cheat in the beginning,
the Christian caught up with him long ago. 'The buttons are all on
wrong,' he said. 'I told you to set them an inch further back. We'll
have to alter them every one and charge you for the time.' 'I can take
oath they are on as I was told to put them on,' I said, 'but if they
must be changed I'll change them myself and save the money.'

"It took long talking to make him agree, but at last he said I could
come next morning but one, and he'd let me alter them as a great favor.
I did come down, but he said they couldn't wait and had made the change,
and he charged me six dollars for what he said was my mistake. It was no
use to complain. He could swear I had done the job wrong, and so I went
home with $5.50 instead of eleven dollars for nearly a fortnight's work.
I changed the place, and so far nobody has docked me; but doing my best,
and Angie working as steady as I do, we can't make more than twenty
cents on a jacket, and it's a short season. When it's over I do coats,
but it's less pay than jackets, and there's living and Maggie's
medicine and the doctor, though he won't take anything. I'd feel better
if he did, but he won't. Angie used to be in a factory, but there's the
baby now, and she doesn't know what way to turn but this. See, he's here
by Maggie." The sick girl lifted a corner of the quilt, and something
stirred,--a baby of seven or eight months whose great eyes looked out
from a face weazened and sharpened, deep experience seeming graven in
every line.

"He's a wise one," the sick girl said. "He's found it's no use to cry,
and he likes to be by me because it's warm. But he frightens me
sometimes, for he just lies and looks at me as if he knew a million
things and could tell them every one. He's always hungry, and maybe that
makes him wiser. I'm sure I could tell some things that people don't

The words came with gasps between. It was plain that what she had to
tell must find speedy listener if it were to be heard at all, but for
that day at least the story must wait. Here, as in other places, the
cloakmaker was earning from sixty to seventy cents a day, but even this
was comfort and profusion compared with the facts that waited in a
Fourth Ward street, and in a rookery not yet reached by any sanitary
laws the city may count as in operation. Here and there still remains
one of the old wooden houses with dormer windows, a remnant of the
city's early days and given over to the lowest uses,--a saloon below
and tenements above. In one of these, in a room ten feet square,
low-ceiled, and lighted by but one window whose panes were crusted with
the dirt of a generation, seven women sat at work. Three machines were
the principal furniture. A small stove burned fiercely, the close smell
of red-hot iron hardly dominating the fouler one of sinks and reeking
sewer-gas. Piles of cloaks were on the floor, and the women, white and
wan, with cavernous eyes and hands more akin to a skeleton's than to
flesh and blood, bent over the garments that would pass from this
loathsome place saturated with the invisible filth furnished as air.
They were handsome cloaks, lined with quilted silk or satin, trimmed
with fur or sealskin, and retailing at prices from thirty to
seventy-five dollars. A teapot stood at the back of the stove; some cups
and a loaf of bread, with a lump of streaky butter, were on a small
table absorbing their portion also of filth. An inner room, a mere
closet, dark and even fouler than the outer one, held the bed; a
mattress, black with age, lying on the floor. Here such as might be had
was taken when the sixteen hours of work ended,--sixteen hours of toil
unrelieved by one gleam of hope or cheer; the net result of this
accumulated and ever-accumulating misery being $3.50 a week. Two women,
using their utmost diligence, could finish one cloak per day, receiving
from the "sweater," through whose hands all must come, fifty cents each
for a toil unequalled by any form of labor under the sun, unless it be
that of the haggard wretches dressed in men's clothes, but counted as
female laborers, in Belgian mines. They cannot stop, they dare not stop,
to think of other methods of earning. They have no clothing in which
they could obtain even entrance to an intelligence office. They have no
knowledge that could make them servants of even the meanest order. They
are what is left of untrained, hopelessly ignorant lives, clinging to
these lives with a tenacity hardly higher in intelligence than that of
the limpet on the rock, but turning to one with lustreless eyes and
blank faces, holding only the one question,--"Lord, how long?" They are
one product of nineteenth-century civilization, and these seven are but
types, hundreds of their kind confronting the searcher, who looks on
aghast and who, as the list lengthens and case after case gives in its
unutterably miserable details, turns away in a despair only matched by
that of the worker. Yet they are here, this army of incompetents,
marching through torture to their graves; and till we have found some
method by which torture may lessen, these lives as they vanish pass on
to the army of avengers, and will face us by and by when excuses fall
away and Justice comes face to face with the weak souls that failed in
the flesh to know its nature or its demand.



"The nearer the river the nearer to hell."

It was a strong word, and the big chest from which it issued held more
of the same sort,--a tall worker, carpenter apparently, hurrying on with
his box of tools and talking, as he went, with a companion half his
size, but with quite his power of expression, interjecting strange
German oaths as he listened to the story poured out to him. With that
story we have at present nothing to do. But the first words lingered,
and they linger still as the summary of such life as is lived by many
workers on east and west sides alike.

Were the laws governing a volume of this nature rigidly observed, the
present phase of this investigation could hardly be the point at which
to stop for any detail of how these workers live from day to day. But as
the search has gone on through these hours when Christmas joy is in the
air, when the smallest shop hangs out its Christmas token, and the great
stores are thronged with buyers far into the evening, I think of the
lives in which Christmas has no place, of the women for whom all days
are alike, each one the synonyme of relentless, unending toil; of the
children who have never known a childhood and for whom Christmas is but
a name. For even when mission and refuge have done their utmost, there
is still the army unreached by any effort and in great part unreachable,
no method recorded in any system of the day having power to drag them to
the light and thus make known to us what manner of creature it is that
cowers in shadowy places and has no foothold in the path we call
progress. That their own ignorance holds them in these shadows, bound as
with chains; that even a little more knowledge would break the bonds, in
part at least, has no present bearing on the fact that thousands are
alive among us to whom existence has brought only pain, and that fresh
thousands join this dumb throng of martyrs with every added year. If
they had learned in any degree how to use to the best advantage the
pittance earned, there would be less need of these chapters; yet as I
read the assurances of our political economists, that a wage of four
dollars per week is sufficient, if intelligently used, to supply all the
actual necessities of the worker, the question pushes itself between the
lines: "Why should they be forced to know only necessities; and is this
statement made of any save those too ignorant to define their wants and
needs, too helpless to dare any protestation, even if more knowledge had

The professional political economist of the old school, the school to
which all but a handful belong, takes refuge in the census returns as
the one reply to any arraignment of the present. Blind as a bat to any
figures save his own, he answers all complaint with the formula: "In
1860 the property of this country, equally divided, would have given
every man, woman, and child $514 each. In 1870 the share would have been
$624; in 1880, $814. In 1886 returns are not in, but $900 and more would
be the division per capita. What madness to talk of suffering when this
flood of wealth pours through the land. Admitting that the lowest class
suffer, it is chiefly crime, drunkenness, etc., that bring suffering.
The majority are perfectly comfortable."

Having read this statement in many letters and heard it in interviews as
well, it seems plain that the conviction embodied in both has fastened
itself upon that portion of the public whose thinking is done for them,
and who range themselves by choice with that order who would not be
convinced "even though one rose from the dead." "The majority are
perfectly comfortable." Let us see how comfortable.

I turn first to the pair, a mother and daughter, a portion of whose
experience found place in the chapter on "More Methods of Prosperous
Firms." Here, as in so many cases, there had been better days, and when
these suddenly ended a period of bewildered helplessness, in which the
widow felt that respectability like hers must know no compromise, and
that any step that would involve her "being talked about" was a step
toward destruction. She must live on a decent street, in a house where
she need not be ashamed to have the relations come, and she did till
brought face to face with the fact that there were no more dollars to
spend upon respectability, and that her quarters must hereafter conform
to her earnings. She had been a dweller in that curious triangle, the
remnant of "Greenwich village," the stronghold still of old New York,
and she went at once to a region as unfamiliar to her conservative feet
as Baxter or Hester, or any other street given over to evil. Far over
toward the North River, in the first floor of a great tenement-house
inhabited by the better class of Irish chiefly, she took two rooms, one
a mere closet where the bed could stand; bestowed in them such furniture
as remained, and at fifty, with no clew left that any friend could
trace, began the fight for bread.

"It might have been better to go to the country," she said. "But you see
I wasn't used to the country, and then any work I could get to do was
right here. I'd always liked to sew, and so had Emeline, and we found we
could get regular work on children's suits, with skirts and such things
in the dull seasons. It was good pay, and we were comfortable till
prices began to fall. We made fifteen dollars a week sometimes, and
could have got ahead if it hadn't been for a little debt of my husband's
that I wanted to pay, for we'd never owed anybody a penny and I couldn't
let even that debt stand against his name. But when it was paid, somehow
I came down with rheumatic fever, and I've never got back my full
strength yet. And the prices kept going down. Emmy is an expert. I never
knew her make a mistake, but working twelve and fourteen hours a
day,--and it's 'most often fourteen,--the most she has made for more
than a year and a half is eighty-five cents a day, and on that we've
managed. I suppose we couldn't if I ever went out, but I've had no shoes
in two years. I patch the ones I got then with one of my husband's old
coats, and keep along, but we never get ahead enough for me to have
shoes, and Emmy too, and she's the one that has to go out. How we live?
It's all in this little book. It's foolish to put it down, and yet I
always somehow liked to see how the money went, even when I had plenty,
and it's second nature to put down every cent. Take last month. It had
twenty-seven working days: $22.95. Out of that we took first the ten
dollars for rent. I've been here eleven years, and they've raised a
dollar on me twice. That leaves $12.95 for provisions and coal and light
and clothes. 'Tisn't much for two people, is it? You wouldn't think it
could be done, would you? Well, it is, and here's the expense for one
week for what we eat:--

  Sugar, 23; Tomatoes, 7; Potatoes, 5          $0.35
  Tea, 15; Butter, 30; Bread, 12                0.57
  Coal, 12; Milk, 15; Clams, 10                 0.37
  Oil, 15; Paper, 1; Clams, 10; Potatoes, 5     0.31
  Cabbage, 5; Bread, 7; Flour, 15; Rolls, 3     0.30
  Total                                        $1.90

"This week was an expensive one, for I got a pound of butter at once,
but it will last into next week. And we had to have the scissors
sharpened; that was five cents. There would have been five cents for
wood, but you see they're building down the street, and one of the boys
upstairs brought me a basketful of bits. You see there's no meat. We
like it, but we only get a bit for Sundays sometimes. Emmy never wants
much. Running a machine all day seems to take your appetite. But she
likes clams; you see we had them twice, and I happened to read in the
paper a good while ago that you could make soup of the water the cabbage
was boiled in; a quart of the water and a cup of milk and a bit of
butter and some flour to thicken. You wouldn't think it could be good,
but it is, and it goes a good way. The coal ought not to be in with the
food, ought it, unless it stays because I have to use it cooking? We
oughtn't to spend so much on food, but I can't seem to make it less.
Really, when you take out the coal and oil and the paper,--and we do
want to see a paper sometimes,--it's only 1.62 for us both; eighty-one
cents apiece; almost twelve cents a day, but I can't well seem to make
it less. I call it twelve cents a day apiece. For the month that makes
$7.44, and so you see there's $5.51 left. Then there are Emmy's
car-fares when she goes out, for sometimes she works down-town and only
evenings at home. Last month it was sixty cents a week, $2.70 for the
month, and so there was just $2.81 left, and $1.50 of that went for
shoes for Emmy. The month before, my hands weren't so stiff and I helped
her a good deal, so we earned $26.70, and she got two remnants for $1.80
at Ehrich's and I made her a dress that looks very well. But she's
nothing but patchwork underneath, and I'm the same, only worse. The coal
is the trouble. By the scuttle it costs so much, and I try to get ahead
and have a quarter of a ton at once, for there are places here to keep
coal, but I never can. If it weren't for Emmy's missing me, it would be
better for me to die, for I'm no use, you see, and times get no better,
but worse. But I can't, and we must get along somehow. Lord help us

"How could twelve cents' worth of coal do a week's cooking?"

"It couldn't. It didn't. I've a little oil stove that just boils the
kettle, and tea and bread and butter what we have mostly. A gallon of
oil goes a long way, and I can cook small things over it, too. The
washing takes coal, and you see I must have soap and all that. I don't
see how we could spend less. I've learned to manage even with what we
get now, but there's a woman next door that I know better than anybody
in this house,--for here it always seemed to me best to keep quite to
myself for many reasons, but the chief that I'm always hoping for a
change and a chance for Emmy. But this woman is a nice German woman that
fell on the ice and sprained her ankle last winter, and we saw to her
well as we could till she got better. She won't mind telling how she
manages, but she's in the top of the house. She's a widow, and everybody
dead belonging to her."

This house was a grade below the last in cleanliness, and children
swarmed on stairs and in hall. Up to the fourth floor back; a
ten-feet-square room, with one window, where, in spite of a defective
sink in the hall, the odor from which seemed to penetrate and saturate
everything, spotless cleanliness was the expression of every inch of

"Vy not?" the old woman said, when she understood my desire. "I tells
you mine an' more, too, for down de stairs I buy every day for the girl
that is sick and goes out no more. If I quick were as girl I could save
much, but I have sixty-five year. How shall I be quick? I earn
forty-five, fifty cents sometime, but forty-five for day's work when I
go as I can. An' so for week dat is $2.70; I can ten dollars a month,
sometimes twelve dollars, and I pays three dollars for this room. To eat
I will buy tea and our bread,--rye, for dat is stronger as your fine
wheat. Tea is American, but I will not beer any more, since I see how
women drinks it and de kinder, and it not like our beer but more tipsy.
So I makes tea, and de cheese and de wurst is all not so much. It is de
coal that is most. Vat I vill eat, he cost not so more as fifty cent;
sometimes sixty, but I eat not ever all I could, for I must be warm a
little, and dere is light, and to wash, and some shoe. It is bad to be
big as I, for shoe not last. But a loaf of bread, five cents, do all day
and some in next; and cheese a pound is ten, if I have him; and wurst is
fifteen, for sometime he is best, and a pound stay a week if I not
greedy. Tea will be thirty cents, but he is good a month, and sugar a
pound, two pound sometime, but butter no, and milk a cent for Sunday. So
I live, and I beg not. Can I more? I thank the good God only that there
is no more Hans or Lisa or any to be hungry with me. It is good they

"And you buy for some one else?"

"Oh ja, but she will die soon and care not. It is de kinder that care.
Two, and one six and one eight and cannot earn. She sew all day on
machine. It is babies' cloaks, so vite and nice. In two days she will
make dree, for see, dere is two linings and cape and cuff is all
scallop, and she must stitch first and then bind and hem. All is hem,
all over inside, so nice, and she make dem so nice. But eight dollars a
dozen is all, and it is a week for nine, and so she get not more as five
dollars because she is sick and must stop. And there is the grandvater
that is old, and de kinder and she and all must live. Rent is $5.50, dat
I know, and I pay for her dis week $1.60 for bread and tea and potatoes
and some milk, and molasses for de kinder on bread, and butter a little,
and milk, but not meat. It is de grandvater eat too much, but how shall
one help it? De rest is clothes for all, but dere is no shoe for de
kinder, and I see not if dere will be shoe. How shall it be?"

One after another the cases on the west side gave in their testimony.
Save in the first one there were no formal accounts. But a little
thinking brought out the items,--for many baker's bread, tea, sugar, a
little milk, and butter and a bit of meat once or twice a week, the
average cost of food per head for the majority of cases being ninety
cents per week. All coal was bought by the scuttle, a scuttle of medium
size counting as twelve cents' worth, thus much more than doubling the
cost per ton. In the same way, wood by the bundle and oil by the quart
gave the utmost margin of profit to the seller, and the same fact
applied to all provisions sold. In no case save the one first mentioned,
where the mother had learned that cabbage-water can form the basis for a
nourishing and very palatable soup, was there the faintest gleam of
understanding that the same amount of money could furnish a more
varied, more savory, and more nourishing regimen.

"Beans!" said one indignant soul. "What time have I to think of beans,
or what money to buy coal to cook 'em? What you'd want if you sat over a
machine fourteen hours a day would be tea like lye to put a back-bone in
you. That's why we have tea always in the pot, and it don't make much
odds what's with it. A slice of bread is about all. Once in a while you
get ragin', tearin' hungry. Seems as if you'd swallow teapot or anything
handy to fill up like, but that ain't often--lucky for us!"

"If you all clubbed together, couldn't one cook for you,--make good soup
and oatmeal and things that are nourishing? You would be stronger then."

"Stronger for what? More hours at the machine? More grinding your own
flesh and bones into flour for them that's over us? Ma'am, it's easy to
see you mean well, an' I won't say but what you know more than some that
comes around what you're talkin' about. Club we might. I'm not denying
it could be done, if there was time; but who of us has the time even if
she'd the will? I was never much hand for cookin'. We'd our tea an'
bread an' a good bit of fried beef or pork, maybe, when my husband was
alive an' at work. He cared naught for fancy things like beans an' such.
It's the tea that keeps you up, an' as long as I can get that I'll not
bother about beans."

In the same house an old Swiss woman, who had fallen from her first
estate as lady's maid through one grade and another of service, was
ending her days on a wage of two dollars per week, earned in a suspender
factory, where she sewed on buckles. In her case marriage with a
drinking husband had eaten up both her savings and her earnings, and age
now prevented her taking up household service, which she ranked as most
comfortable and most profitable. But she had been taught while almost a
child to cook, and though her expenditure for food was a little below a
dollar per week, the savory smell from a saucepan on her tiny stove
showed that she had something more nearly like nourishment than her

"I try sometimes to teach," she said. "I give some of my soup, and they
eat it and say it is good, but they not stop to do so much dat is fuss.
All this in the saucepan is seven cents,--three cents for bones and some
bits the kind butcher trow in, and the rest vegetable and barley. But it
makes me two days. I have lentils, too, yes, and beans, and plenty
things to flavor, and I buy rye bread and coffee to Sunday. Never tea,
oh, no! Tea is so vicket. It make hand shake and head fly all round.
Good soup is best, and more when one can. Vegetable is many and salad,
and when I make more dollar I buy some egg. But not tea; not big loaf of
white bread dot swell and swell inside and ven it is gone leave one all
so empty. I would teach many but they like it not. They want only de
tea; always de tea."

"De tea" and the sewing-machine are naturally inseparable allies, and so
long as the sewing-women must work fourteen hours daily they will remain
so; the rank fluid retarding digestion and thus proving as friendly an
aid as the "bone" which the half-fed Irish peasant demands in his
potato. For the west side the story was quite plain, but for such
returns as the east side has to offer there is still room for further



Between east and west side poverty and its surroundings exists always
this difference, that the west is newer and thus escapes the inherited
miseries that hedge about life in such regions as the Fourth Ward.
There, where old New York once centred, and where Dutch gables and
dormer windows may still be seen, is not only the foulness of the
present, each nationality in the swarming tenements representing a
distinct type of dirt and a distinct method of dealing with it and in
it, but the foulness also of the past, in decay and mould and crumbling
wall and all silent forces of destruction at work here for a generation
and more. Those of us who have watched the evolution of the Fourth Ward
into some show of decency recognize many causes as having worked toward
the same end; yet even when one notes to-day the changes wrought, first
by business, the march of which has wiped out many former landmarks,
setting in their place great warehouses and factories, and then of
philanthropy, which, as in the case of Miss Collins's tenements, has
transformed dens into some semblance of homes, there remains the
conviction that dens are uppermost still. The business man hurrying down
Fulton or Beekman Street, the myriads who pass up and down in the
various east-side car lines, with those other myriads who cross the
great Bridge, have small conception what thousands are packed away in
the great tenements, and the rookeries even more crowded, or what depth
of vileness flaunts itself openly when day is done and the creatures of
shadow come out to the light that for many quarters is the only
sunshine. This ward has had minute and faithful description from one of
the most energetic of workers for better sanitary conditions among the
poor,--Mr. Charles Wingate, whose admirable papers on "Tenement House
Life," published by the "Tribune" in 1884-1885, must be regarded as
authority for the sanitary phases of the question. Little by little
these have bettered, till the death rate has come within normal limits
and the percentage of crime ceased to represent the largest portion of
the inhabitants. Yet here, on this familiar battle-ground, civilization
and something worse than mere barbarism still struggle. For which is the

Under the great Bridge, whose piers have taken the place of much that
was foulest in the Fourth Ward, stands a tenement-house so shadowed by
the structure that, save at midday, natural light barely penetrates it.
The inhabitants are of all grades and all nationalities. The men are
chiefly 'longshoremen, working intermittently on the wharves, varying
this occupation by long seasons of drinking, during which every pawnable
article vanishes, to be gradually redeemed or altogether lost, according
to the energy with which work is resumed. The women scrub offices,
peddle fruit or small office necessities, take in washing, share, many
of them, in the drinking bouts, and are, as a whole, content with
brutishness, only vaguely conscious of a wretchedness that, so long as
it is intermittent, is no spur to reform of methods. The same roof
covers many who yield to none of these temptations, but are working
patiently; some of them widows with children that must be fed; a few
solitary, but banding with neighbors in cloak or pantaloon making, or
the many forms of slop-work in the hands of sweaters. Sunshine has no
place in these rooms which no enforced laws have made decent, and where
occasional individual effort has power against the unspeakable filth
ruling in tangible and intangible forms, sink and sewer and closet
uniting in a common and all-pervading stench. The chance visitor has
sometimes to rush to the outer air, deadly sick and faint at even a
breath of this noisomeness. The most determined one feels inclined to
burn every garment worn during such quest, and wonders if Abana or
Pharpar or even Jordan itself could carry healing and cleansing in their

The dark halls have other uses than as receptacles for refuse or filth.
Hiding behind doors or in corners, or, grown bolder, seeking no
concealment, children hardly more than babies teach one another such new
facts of foulness as may so far have chanced to escape them,--baby
voices reciting a ritual of oaths and obscenity learned in this Inferno,
which, could it have place by Dante's, might be better known to a
cultured generation. Only a Zola could describe deliberately what any
eye may see, but any minute detail of which would excite an outburst of
popular indignation. Yet I am by no means certain that such detail has
not far more right to space than much that fills our morning papers, and
that the plain bald statement of facts, shorn of all flights of fancy or
play of facetiousness, might not rouse the public to some sense of what
lies below the surface of this fair-seeming civilization of to-day. Not
alone in the shadow of the great pier, but wherever men and women must
herd like brutes, these things exist and shape the little lives that
missions do not, and as yet cannot, reach, and that we prefer to deal
with later, when actual violation of laws has placed them in the hands
of the State. Work as she may, the woman who must find home for herself
and children in such surroundings is powerless to protect them from the
all-pervading foulness. They may escape a portion of the actual
degradation. They can never escape a knowledge the possibility of which
is unknown to what we call barbarism, but part and parcel of the daily
life of civilization.

Granted instantly that only the lowest order of worker must submit to
such conditions, yet we have seen that this lowest order is legion; that
its numbers increase with every day; and that no Board of Health or of
Sanitary Inspectors has yet been able to alter, save here and there, the
facts that are a portion of the tenement-house system.

It is chiefly with the house under the Bridge that we deal at present.
Its upper rooms hold many workers whose testimony has helped to make
plain how the east side lives. Little by little, as the blocks of
granite swung into place and the pier grew, the sunshine vanished, its
warmth and light replaced by the electric glow, cold and hard and
blinding. The day's work has ceased to be the day's work, and the women
who cannot afford the gas or oil that must burn if they work in the
daytime, sleep while day lasts, and when night comes and the electric
light penetrates every corner of the shadowy rooms, turn to the toil by
which their bread is won. Never was deeper satire upon the civilization
of which we boast. Natural law, natural living, abolished once for all,
and this light that blinds but holds no cheer shining upon the mass of
weary humanity who have forgotten what sunshine may mean and who know no
joy that life was meant to hold!

In one of these rooms, clean, if cleanliness were possible where walls
and ceiling and every plank and beam reek with the foulness from sewer
and closet, three women were at work on overalls. Two machines were
placed directly under the windows to obtain every ray of light. The
room, ten by twelve feet, with a small one half the size opening from
it, held a small stove, the inevitable teapot steaming at the back; a
table with cups and saucers and a loaf of bread still uncut; and a small
dresser in one corner, in which a few dishes were ranged. A sickly
geranium grew in an old tomato-can, but save for this the room held no
faintest attempt at adornment of any sort. In many of them the cheapest
colored prints are pinned up, and in one, one side had been decorated
with all the trademarks peeled from the goods on which the family
worked. Here there was no time for even such attempts at betterment. The
machines rushed on as we talked, with only a momentary pause as interest
deepened, and one woman nodded confirmation to the statement of another.

"We've clubbed, so's to get ahead a little," said the finisher, whose
fingers flew as she made buttonholes in the waistband and flap of the
overalls. "We were each in a room by ourselves, but after the fever,
when the children died and I hadn't but two left, it seemed as if we'd
be more sensible to all go in together and see if we couldn't be more
comfortable. We'd have left anyway, and tried for a better place, but
for one thing,--we hadn't time to move; and for another, queer as it
seems, you get used to even the worst places and feel as if you couldn't
change. We'll have to, if the landlord doesn't do something about the
closets. It's no good telling the agent, and I don't know as anybody in
the house knows just who the landlord is. Anyway, the smell's enough to
kill you sometimes, and it's a burning disgrace that human beings have
to live in such a pig-pen. It's cheap rent. We pay five dollars a month
for this place. When I came here it was from a neck-tie place over on
Allen Street, that's moved now, and my husband was mate on a tug and
earned well. But he took to drink and sold off everything I'd brought
with me, and at last he was hurt in a fight round the corner, and died
in hospital of gangrene. Mary's husband there was a bricklayer and had
big wages, but he drank them fast as he made them, and he was ugly when
the drink was in, which mine wasn't. But there's hardly one in this
house, man or woman, that don't take a drop to keep off the fever; and
even I, that hate the sight or smell of it, I wake up in the morning
with an awful kind o' goneness that seems as if a taste might help it.
The tea stops that, though. Tea's the best friend we've got. We'd never
stand it if it wasn't for tea."

"Are overalls steady pay through the year?"

"There's nothing that's steady, so far as I can find out, but want and
misery. Just now overalls are up; the Lord only knows why, for you never
can tell what'll be up and what down. They're up, and we're making a
dollar a dozen on these. I have done a dozen a day, but it's generally
ten. There's the long seams, and the two pockets, and the buckle strap
and the waistband and three buttonholes, and the stays and the
finishing. They're heavy machines too, and take the backbone right out
of you before night comes. But you sleep like the dead, that's one
comfort. It would be more if you didn't have to wake more than they do.
When the overall rush is over, it'll be back to pants again. That's my
trade. I learned it regular after I was married, when I saw Tim wasn't
going to be any dependence. There were the children then, and I thought
I'd send 'em to school and keep things decent maybe. I know all about
pants, the best and the worst, but it's mostly worse these days. First
the German women piled in ready to do your work for half your rates, and
when they'd got well started, in comes the Italians and cuts under, till
it's a wonder anybody keeps soul and body together."

"We don't," one of the women said, turning suddenly. "I got rid o' my
soul long ago, such as 'twas. Who's got time to think about souls,
grinding away here fourteen hours a day to turn out contract goods?
'Tain't souls that count. It's bodies that can be driven, an' half
starved an' driven still, till they drop in their tracks. I'm driving
now to pay a doctor's bill for my three that went with the fever. Before
that I was driving to put food into their mouths. I never owed a cent to
no man. I've been honest and paid as I went and done a good turn when I
could. If I'd chosen the other thing while I'd a pretty face of my own
I'd a had ease and comfort and a quick death. Such life as this isn't

The machine whirled on as she ended, to make up the time lost in her
outburst. The finisher shook her head as she looked at her, then poured
a cup of tea and put it silently on the edge of the table where it could
be reached.

"She's right enough," she said, "but there's no use thinking about it. I
try to sometimes, just to see if there's any way out, but there isn't.
I've even said I'd take a place; but I don't know anything about
housework, and who'd take one looking as I do, and not a rag that's fit
to be put on? I cover up in an old waterproof when I go for work. They
wouldn't give it to me if they saw my dress in rags below, and me with
no time to mend it. But we're doing better than some. We've had meat
twice this week, and we've kept warm. It's the coal that eats up your
money,--twelve cents a scuttle, and no place to keep more if ever we got
ahead enough to get more at a time. It's lucky that tea's so staying.
Give me plenty of tea, and the most I want generally besides is bread
and a scrape of butter. It's all figured out. It's long since I've
spent more than seventy-five cents a week for what I must eat. I've no
time to cook even if I had anything, so it's lucky I haven't. I suppose
there'd be plenty to eat if you once made up your mind to take a place."

It was the second machine that stopped now, and the haggard woman
running it faced about suddenly. "Do you know what come to my girl," she
said,--"my girl that I brought up decent and that was a good girl? I
said to myself a trade was no good, for it was more an' more starvation
wages, and I'd put her with folks that would be good to her, even if the
other girls did look down on her for going into service. She was
fifteen, and a still little thing with soft eyes and a pretty, soft way,
if she did come of a drinking father. I put her with a lady that wanted
a waitress and said she'd train her well. She'd three boarders in the
house, and all gentlemen to look at, and one that's in a bank to-day he
did his best to turn her head on the sly, and when he found he couldn't,
one Sunday when she was alone in the house and none to hear or help, he
had his will. The mistress turned her off the hour she heard it, for
Nettie went to her when she come home. 'Such things don't happen unless
the girl is to blame,' she said. 'Never show your shameless face here
again.' Nettie came home to me kind of dazed, and she stayed dazed till
she went to a hospital and a baby was born dead, and she dead herself a
week after. An' it isn't one time alone or my girl alone. It's over an'
over an' over that that thing happens. There's plenty that go to the bad
of their own free will, but I know plenty more with the same chance that
doesn't, an' there's many a mother that's been in service herself that
says, 'Whatever the mistress may know about it she can't tell, but the
devil's let loose when the master or a son maybe is around, an' they'll
not have their girls standing what they had to stand and then turned off
without a character because they were found with the master talkin' to
'em.' It's women that keeps women down an' is hard on 'em. I'll take my
chances with any Jew you'll bring along before I'll put myself in the
power of women that calls themselves ladies an' hasn't as much heart as
a broomstick; an' I'll warn every girl to keep to herself an' learn a
trade, an' not run the risk she'll run if she goes out to service,
letting alone the way you're looked down on."

There was no time for discussion. The machines must go on; but, as
usual, much more than the fact of which I was in search had come to me,
and, strangely enough, in this house and in others of its kind inspected
one after another, much the same story was told. In the "improved
tenements" close at hand, where comparative comfort reigned, more than
one woman gave willingly the detail of the weekly expenditure for food,
and added, as if the underlying question had made itself felt, "It's
betther to be a little short even an' your own misthress," with other
words that have their place elsewhere. On the upper floor of one of
these houses a pantaloon-maker sat in a fireless room, finishing the
last of a dozen which when taken back would give her money for coal and
food. She had been ill for three days, and on the bed,--an old mattress
on a dry-goods box in the corner. "Even that's more than I had for a
good while," she said. "I'd pawned everything before my husband died,
except the machine. I couldn't make but twenty-two cents a pair on the
pants, an' as long as he could hold up he did the pressing. With him to
help a little I made three a day. That seems little, but there was so
many pieces to each pair,--side and watch and pistol pockets, buckle
strap, waistband, and bottom facings and lap; six buttonholes and nine
buttons. We lived--I don't just know how we lived. He was going in
consumption an' very set about it. 'I'll have no medicine an' no doctor
to make me hang an' drag along,' he says. 'I've got to go, an' I know it,
an' I'll do it as fast as I can.' He was Scotch, an' took his porridge
to the last, but I came to loathe the sight of it. He could live on six
cents a day. I couldn't. 'I'm the kind for your contractors,' he'd say.
'It's a glorious country, and the rich'll be richer yet when there's
more like me.' He didn't mind what he said, an' when a Bible-reader put
her head in one day, 'Come in,' he says. 'My wife's working for a
Christian contractor at sixty-six cents a day, an' I'm what's left of
another Christian's dealings with me, keeping me as a packer in a damp
basement and no fire. Come in and let's see what more Christianity has
to say about it.' He scared her, his eyes was so shiny an' he most gone
then. But there's many a one that doesn't go over fifty cents a week for
what she'll eat. God help them that's starving us all by bits, if there
is a God, but I'm doubting it, else why don't things get better, an' not
always worse an' worse?"

For east and west, however conditions might differ, the final word was
the same, and it stands as the summary of the life that is lived from
day to day by these workers,--"never better, always worse and worse."



"I suppose if you'd been born on the top of a hill in New Hampshire with
the stones so thick ten miles of stone wall couldn't have used 'em up,
an' the steeple of the Methodist meetin'-house the only thing in sight,
maybe you'd have wanted to get where you could see folks too. It was
just Elkins luck to have another hill between us an' the village so't I
couldn't see beyond the woods between. If there was a contrary side to
anything it always fell to father, an' I'm some like him, though I've
got mother's way of never knowing when I'm knocked flat, though I've had
times enough to find out. But I said straight through, 'If ever there's
a chance of getting to New York I'll take it. Boston won't do. I want
the biggest an' the stirringest thing there is in the United States,'
an' Leander felt just as I did.

"Leander lived down the valley a way, an' such cobble-stones as hadn't
come to our share had come to his. He'd laid wall from the time he was
ten years old, and he'd sat on the hay an' cried for pure lonesomeness.
His folks weren't any hands to talk, an' he couldn't even have the
satisfaction of meetin' Sundays, because they was Seventh Day Baptists,
an' so set a minister couldn't get near 'em. An' Leander was
conscientious an' thought he ought to stay by. I didn't. I told him from
the time we went to school together that I was bound to get to New York,
an' that sort of fired him up, an' we've talked hours to time about what
it was like, an' what we'd do if we ever got there. My folks were set
against the notion, an' so were his, but he went after a while, with
some man that was up in the summer an' that gave him a place in a store.
I couldn't go on account of father's dying sudden an' mother's holdin'
on harder'n ever to me, but she was took within the year, an' there I
was, free enough, an' not a soul in the world but Leander's folks that
seemed to think much one way or another how I was likely to come out.

"There was a mortgage on the farm, an' Dr. Grayson foreclosed an' had
most of the money for his bill; an' when things were all settled I had
forty dollars in cash an' the old furniture. Leander's folks was
dreadful short for things, for they'd been burned out once, an' so I
just turned everything over to them but some small things I could pack
in my trunk, mother's teaspoons an' such, an' walked down to the village
an' took the stage for Portsmouth. I wasn't scared. I didn't care nor
think how I looked. It was heaven to think I was on the way to folks an'
the things folks do. I ain't given to crying, but that day I sat back in
the stage an' cried just for joy to think I was going to have something

"All this time I hadn't thought much what I'd do. Forty dollars seemed a
big lot, enough for weeks ahead. I'd done most everything about a house,
an' I could make everything I wore. I had only to look at a pattern an'
I could go home an cut out one like it. The dress I had on was cheap
stuff, but when I looked at other folks's I saw it wasn't so much out o'
the way. So I said, most likely some dressmaker would take me, an' I'd
try my luck that way. This was before I got to Boston, an' I went round
there all the afternoon before it was time to take the train, for the
conductor told me just what to do, an' I hadn't a mite of trouble. I
never do going to a strange place. I was half a mind to stay in Boston
when I saw the Common an' the crowds of folks. I sat still there an'
just looked at 'em, an' cried again for joy to think I'd got where there
were so many. 'But there'll be more in New York,' I said, 'an' there'll
be sure to be plenty ready to do a good turn.' I could have hugged 'em
all. I didn't think then the time would ever come that I'd hate the
sight of faces an' wish myself on top of the hill in the cobble-stones,
but it did, an' it does now sometimes.

"I went on board the boat that night sort of crazy. I'd gone an' got
some sandwiches an' things at a place the conductor told me, an' I sat
on the deck in the moonlight an' ate my supper. I'd been too happy to
eat before, an' I was so happy then I could hardly keep still. There was
a girl not far off, a kind of nice-looking girl, an' she watched me, an'
at last she began to talk. In half an hour I knew all about her an' she
about me. She was a Rhode Island girl an' had worked in a mill near
Providence, an' gone to New York at last an' learned fur-sewing. She
said it was a good trade, an' she made ten an' twelve dollars a week
while the season lasted an' never less than five. This seemed a mint of
money, an' when she said one of their old hands had died, an' she could
take me right in as her friend an' teach me herself, I felt as if my
fortune was made.

"Well, I went with her next day. She had a room in Spring Street, near
Hudson,--an old-fashioned house that belonged to two maiden sisters, an'
I went in with her the first night, an' afterward for a while had the
hall bedroom. It didn't take me long to learn. It was a Jew place an'
there were thirty girls, but he treated us well. For my part I've fared
just as well with Jews as ever I did with Christians, an' sometimes
better. I'd taken to Hattie so that I couldn't bear to think of leaving
her, an' so I let my dressmaking plan go. But I'll tell you what I found
out in time. These skins are all dressed with arsenic. The dealers say
there's nothing poisonous about them, but of course they lie. Every pelt
has more or less in it, an' the girls show it just as the
artificial-flower girls show it. Your eyelids get red an' the lids all
puffy, an' you're white as chalk. The dealers say the red eyes come from
the flying hairs. Perhaps they do, but the lids don't, an' every
fur-sewer is poisoned a little with every prick of her needle. What the
flying hair does is just to get into your throat an' nose and
everywhere, an' tickle till you cough all the time, an' a girl with weak
lungs hasn't a chance. The air is full of fur, an' then the work-room is
kept tight shut for fear of moths getting in. The work is easy enough.
It's just an everlasting patchwork, for you're always sewing together
little bits, hundreds of them, that you have to match. You sew over an'
over with linen thread, an' you're always piecing out an' altering
shapes. It's nothing to sew up a thing when you've once got it pieced
together. If it's beaver, all the long hairs must be picked out, an'
it's the same with sealskin. We made up everything; sable an' Siberian
squirrel, bear, fox, marten, mink, otter, an' all the rest. There were
some girls very slow in learning that only got a dollar a week, an' in
the end four, but most of them can average about five. I was seventeen
when I began, an' in a year I had caught all the knack there is to it,
an' was an expert, certain of ten dollars in the season an' about six in
between. It's generally piece-work, with five or six months when you can
earn ten or twelve dollars even, an' the rest of the time five or six
dollars. In the busiest times there'd be fifty girls perhaps, but this
was only for two or three months, an' then they discharged them. 'Tisn't
a trade I'd ever let a girl take up if I could help it; I suppose
somebody's got to do it, but there ought to be higher wages for those
that do.

"This went on five years. I won't take time telling about Leander, but
he'd got to be a clerk at Ridley's an' had eight hundred dollars a year,
an' we'd been engaged for two years, an' just waiting to see if he
wouldn't get another rise. I knew we could manage on that. Leander was
more ambitious than me. He said we ought to live in a showy
boarding-house an' make our money tell that way, but I told him I was
used to the Spring Street house, an' we could have a whole floor an' be
snug as could be an' Hattie board with us. He gave in, an' it's well he
did; for we hadn't been married six months before he had a hemorrhage
an' just went into quick consumption. I'd kept right on with my trade,
but I was pulled down myself an' my eyelids so swollen sometimes I could
hardly see out of 'em. But I got a sewing-machine from money I'd saved,
an' I took in work from a place on Canal Street,--a good one, too, that
always paid fair. The trouble was my eyes. I'd used 'em up, an' they got
so I couldn't see the needle nor sew straight, an' had to give up the
sewing, an' then I didn't know which way to turn, for there was Leander.
The old folks were up there still, wrastling with the stones, but poorer
every year, an' I couldn't get him up there. Leander was patient as a
saint, but he fretted over me an' how I was to get along.

"'You're not to worry,' says I. 'There's more ways than one of earning,
an' if my eyes is bad, I've got two hands an' know how to use 'em. I'll
take a place an' do housework if I can't do nothing else.'

"You'd never believe how the thought o' that weighed on him. He'd wake
me up in the night to say, 'Now, Almiry, jest give up that thought an'
promise me you'll try something else. I think I'd turn in my grave if I
had to know you was slavin' in anybody's kitchen.'

"'What's the odds?' I said. 'You have to be under orders whatever you
do. I think it won't be a bad change from the shop.'

"He took on so, though, that to quiet him I promised him I wouldn't do
it unless I had to, an' 'twasn't long after that that he died. Between
the doctor's bill--an' he was a kind man, I will say, an' didn't charge
a tenth of what he had ought to--an' the funeral an' all, I was cleaned
out of everything. I'd had to pawn a month before he died, an' was just
stripped. Sewing was no good. My eyes went back on me like everything
else, an' in a fortnight I knew there wasn't anything for it but
getting a place. I left such things as I had in charge of the old ladies
an' answered an advertisement for 'a capable girl willing to work.'

"Well, it was a handsome house an' elegant things in the parlors an'
bedrooms, but my heart sunk when she took me into the kitchen. The last
girl had gone off in a rage an' left everything, an' there was grease
and dirt from floor to ceiling. It was a deep basement, with one window
an' a door opening right into the area with glass set in it, an' iron
bars to both; but dirty to that degree you couldn't see three feet
beyond; cockroaches walking round at their ease an' water-bugs so thick
you didn't know where to lay anything.

"'You'll have things quite your own way,' the lady said, 'for I never
come into the kitchen. Bridget attends to upstairs, but you attend to
fires and the meals and washing and ironing, and I expect punctuality
and everything well done.'

"'At least it sounds independent,' I thought, and I made up my mind to
try it, for the wages were fifteen dollars a month, an' that with board
seemed doing well. Bridget came down presently. She was seventeen an' a
pretty girl rather, but she looked fit to drop, an' fell down in a

"'It's the bell,' she said. 'The comin' an' goin' here niver ceases, an'
whin 'tisn't the front door it's her own bell, an' she'll jingle it or
holler up the tube in the middle o' the night if she takes a notion.'

"I wouldn't ask questions, for I thought I should find out soon enough,
so I said I'd like to go up to my room a minute.

"'It's our room you'll mane,' she said. 'There's but the one, an' it's
hard enough for two to be slapin' on a bed that's barely the width o'

"My heart sank then, for I'd always had a place that was comfortable all
my life, but it sunk deeper when I went up there. A hall bedroom, with a
single bed an' a small table, with a washbowl an' small pitcher, one
chair an' some nails in the door for hanging things; that was all except
a torn shade at the window. I looked at the bed. The two ragged
comfortables were foul with long use. I thought of my nice bed down at
Spring Street, my own good sheets an' blankets an' all, an' I began to

"'You don't look as if you was used to the likes of it,' Bridget said.
'There's another room the same as this but betther. Why not ax for it?'

"I started down the stairs an' came right upon Mrs. Melrose, who smiled
as if she thought I had been enjoying myself.

"'I'm perfectly willing to try an' do your work as well as I know how,'
I said, 'but I must have a place to myself an' clean things in it.'

"'Highty-tighty!' says she. 'What impudence is this? You'll take what I
give you and be thankful to get it. Plenty as good as you have slept in
that room and never complained.'

"'Then it's time some one did,' I said. 'I don't ask anything but
decency, an' if you can't give it I must try elsewhere.'

"'Then you'd better set about it at once,' she says, an' with that I bid
her good-afternoon an' walked out. I had another number in my pocket,
an' I went straight there; an' this time I had sense enough to ask to
see my room. It was bare enough, but clean. There were only three in the
family, an' it was a little house on Perry Street. There I stayed two
years. They were strange years. The folks were set in their ways an'
they had some money. But every day of that time the lady cut off herself
from the meat what she thought I ought to have, an' ordered me to put
away the rest. She allowed no dessert except on Sunday, an' she kept
cake and preserves locked in an upstairs closet. I wouldn't have minded
that. What I did mind was that from the time I entered the house till I
left it there was never a word for me beyond an order, any more than if
I hadn't been a human being. She couldn't find fault. I was born clean,
an' that house shone from top to bottom; but a dog would have got far
more kindness than they gave me. At last I said I'd try a place where
there were children an' maybe they'd like me. Mrs. Smith was dumb with
surprise when I told her I must leave. 'Leave!' she says. 'We're
perfectly satisfied. You're a very good girl, Almira.' 'It's the first
time you've ever told me so,' I says, 'an' I think a change is best all
round.' She urged, but I was set, an' I went from there when the month
was up.

"Well, my eyes stayed bad for sewing, an' I must keep on at housework.
I've been in seven places in six years. I could have stayed in every
one, an' about every one I could tell you things that make it plain
enough why a self-respecting girl would rather try something else. I
don't talk or think nonsense about wanting to be one of the family. I
don't. I'd much rather keep to myself. But out of these seven places
there was just one in which the mistress seemed to think I was a human
being with something in me the same as in her. I've been underfed an'
worked half to death in two of the houses. The mistress expected just so
much, an' if it failed she stormed an' went on an' said I was a shirk
an' good for nothing an' all that. There was only one of them that had a
decently comfortable room or that thought to give me a chance at a book
or paper now an' then. As long as I had a trade I was certain of my
evenings an' my Sundays. Now I'm never certain of anything. I'm not a
shirk. I'm quick an' smart, an' I know I turn off work. In ten hours I
earn more than I ever get. But I begin my day at six an' in summer at
five, an' it's never done before ten an' sometimes later. This place I'm
in now seems to have some kind of fairness about it, an' Mrs. Henshaw
said yesterday, 'You can't tell the comfort it is to me, Almira, to have
some one in the house I can trust. I hope you will be comfortable an'
happy enough to stay with us.' 'I'll stay till you tell me to go,' I
says, an' I meant it. My little room looks like home an' is warm and
comfortable. My kitchen is bright an' light, an' she's told me always to
use the dining-room in the evenings for myself an' for friends. She
tries to give me fair hours. If there were more like her there'd be more
willing for such work, but she's the first one I've heard of that tries
to be just. That's something that women don't know much about. When they
do there'll be better times all round."

Here stands the record of a woman who has become invaluable to the
family she serves, but whose experiences before this harbor was reached
include every form of oppression and even privation. Many more of the
same nature are recorded and are arranging themselves under heads, the
whole forming an unexpected and formidable arraignment of household
service in its present phases. This arraignment bides its time, but
while it waits it might be well for the enthusiastic prescribers of
household service as the easy and delightful solution of the
working-woman's problem to ask how far it would be their own choice if
reduced to want, and what justice for both sides is included in their
personal theory of the matter.



The business face in the great cities is assimilating to such degree
that all men are brothers in a sense and to an extent unrealized by
themselves. Competition has deepened lines, till one type of the
employer in his first estate, while the struggle is still active and
success uncertain, loses not only youth and freshness, but with them,
too often, any token of owning a soul capable of looking beyond the
muckrake by which money is drawn in. If he acquires calm and
graciousness, it is the calmness of subtlety and the graciousness of the
determined schemer, who, finding every man's hand practically against
him, arranges his own life on the same basis, and wages war against the
small dealer or manufacturer below and the monopolist above, his one
passionate desire being to escape from the ranks of the first and find
his name enrolled among the last. He retains a number of negative
virtues. He is, as a rule, "an excellent provider" where his own family
is concerned, and he is kind beyond those limits if he has time for it.
He would not deliberately harm man or woman who serves him; but to keep
even with his competitors--if possible, to get beyond them--demands and
exhausts every energy, leaving none to spare for other purposes. Such
knowledge as comes from perpetual contact with the grasping, scheming
side of humanity is his in full. As the fortune grows and ease becomes
certain, a well-fed, well-groomed look replaces the eager sharpness of
the early days. He may at this stage turn to horses as the most positive
source of happiness. He is likely also, with or without this tendency,
to acquire a taste for art, measuring its value by what it costs, and to
plan for himself a house representing the utmost that money can buy. But
the house and its treasures is, after all, but a mausoleum, and the
grave it covers holds the man that might have been. Life in its larger
meanings has remained a sealed book, and the gold counted as chief good
becomes at last an impenetrable barrier between him and any knowledge of
what might have been his portion. He is content, and remains content
till the end, and that new beginning in which the starved soul comes to
the first consciousness of its own most desperate and pitiful poverty.

This for one type, and a type more and more common with every year of
the system in which competition is king. But here and there one finds
another,--that of the man whose conscience remains sensitive, no matter
what familiarity with legalized knavery may come, and who ponders the
question of what he owes to those by whose aid his fortune is made. Nor
is he the employer who evades the real issue by a series of what he
calls benefactions, and who organizes colonies for his work-people, in
which may be found all the charm of the feudal system, and an underlying
despotism no less feudal. He would gladly make his workers copartners
with him were intelligence enough developed among them to admit such
action, and he experiments faithfully and patiently.

It is such an employer whose own words best give the story he has to
tell. It is not an American that speaks but a German Jew,--a title often
the synonyme for depths of trickery, but more often than is known
meaning its opposite in all points. Keen sagacity rules, it is true, but
there is also a large and tender nature, sorrowing with the sorrow of
humanity and seeking anxiously some means by which that sorrow may
lessen. A small manufacturer, fighting his way against monopoly, he is
determinately honest in every thread put into his goods, in every method
of his trade; his face shrewd yet gentle and wise,--a face that child or
woman would trust, and the business man be certain he could impose upon
until some sudden turn brought out the shrewdness and the calm assurance
of absolute knowledge in his own lines. For thirty years and more his
work has held its own, and he has made for himself a place in the trade
that no crisis can affect. His own view of the situation is distinctly
serious, but even for him there was a flickering smile as he recalled
some passages of the experience given here in part. His English limps
slightly at moments of excitement, but his mastery of its shades of
meaning never, and this is his version of the present relation between
employer and employed:--

"In me always are two peoples,--one that loves work well, that must work
ever to be happy, and one that will think and think ever how hard is
life even with work that is good and with much to love. In village or in
city, for I begin with one and go on to the other, in both alike it is
work always that is too much; long hours when strength is gone and there
should be rest, but when always man and woman, yes, and child, must go
on for the little more that more hours will earn. For myself, I want not
what is called pleasure when the day is done. A book that is good
contents me, and is friend and amusement in one. But as I love a book
more and more, and desire more time to be with them, I begin first to
think, why should so many hours be given to work that there are none in
which men have strength or time or desire left for something that is
better? These things I think much of before I come to America. I have my
trade from my father and his father. We are silk-weavers from the time
silk is known, but for myself I have chosen ribbons, and it is ribbons I
make all my life and that my son will make after me.

"At first when I come here to this country that for years I hope for and
must not reach, because I am held to my father who is old--at first I
have little money and can only be with another who manufactures. But
already some dishonesties have come in. The colors are not firm; the
silk has weight given it, so that more body than is belongs to the
ribbon; there is an inch, maybe, cut short in the lengths. There is
every way to make the most and give the least. And there is something
that from the days I begin to think at all, seems ever injustice and
wrong. Side by side it may be, men and women work together at the looms;
but for the women it is half, sometimes two thirds, what the man can
earn, yet the work the same. This is something to alter when time is
ripe, and at last it is come. I have saved as I earned and added to what
I bring with me, and I buy for myself the plant of a man who retires,
and get me a place, this place where I am, and that changes little. His
workers come with me,--a few, for I begin with four looms only, but soon
have seven, and so go on. At first I think only of how I may shorten
hours and make time for them to rest and learn what they will, but a
good friend of mine from the beginning is doctor, and as I go on he
speaks to me much of things I should do for health. And then I think of
them and study, and I see that there is much I have never learned and
that they must learn also with me.

"There is one thing that Americans will, more than all peoples of the
earth. They will have a place so hot that breath is nowhere, and women
more even than men. I begin to think how I shall keep them warm yet give
them to breathe. The place is old, as you see. No builder thought ever
of air in such time as this was built, and if they think to-day, it is
chiefly wrong, for in all places I go one breathes the breath of all
others, never true air of heaven. At first I open windows from top and
before they come; but when they see it they cry out and say, 'O Mr.
B----! You want to freeze us!' 'Not so,' I say; 'I would make you
healthy.' And they say, 'We're healthy enough. We don't want draughts.'
It is true. There were draughts, and I begin to think how this shall be
changed, and try many things, and all of them they pull down or push out
or stop up tight, whichever way will most surely abolish air. At last I
bring up my doctor who is wise and can explain better than I, and I say
that work may stop and all listen and learn. They listen but they laugh,
all but one, and say, 'How funny! What is use of so much fuss?'

"While I do these things which I keep on and will not stop, finding best
at last a shaft and a hole above, that they cannot pull out or reach to
fill, I think of other things. They eat at noon what they bring,--pie
that is dear to Americans, and small cakes, many of them; but good bread
that has nourishment, or good drink like soup or coffee, no. They stand
many hours and: faint and weak. So I say there must be good coffee for
them, and I tell them, 'Girls, I will buy a big urn and there shall be
coffee and milk, and for two cents you have a big cup so sweet as you
will, or if you like better it shall be hot soup.' Above in a room was a
a Swiss that knew good soup, and that would, if I pay her a little, buy
all that is wanted and a make a big pot, so that each could have a bowl.
This also I would have them pay for, three cents a bowl, and they like
this best, and it is done for three weeks. They go up there and have
full bowls, and I have a long table made before a bench where sometimes
they rest, with oil-cloth, and here they eat and are comfortable. Three
days soup, three days hot coffee; and I have place where the men can
heat what is in their pails.

"But they do such things! They pick out vegetable from soup and throw on
the floor. They pour away coffee. They make the place like a home of
animals, and when I say, 'Girls, I want much that all should be clean
and nice, and that you never waste,' they laugh again. I find that
difficult, for what answer can be made to laugh? I go on, but they break
bowls and insult the Swiss that make the soup, and tell her I buy
dog-meat and such, and she say she will no more of it. Then I call the
doctor again and say to them, 'Listen while he tells you what is good to
eat.' They were not all so fools, but the fool ones rule, and they
listen, but they laugh always. That is American,--to laugh and think
everything joke and not see what earnest must be for any good living. I
give the coffee-urn to the best girl and tell her to have care of it,
but do what we will they think somehow I am silly, and like best to eat
their pie and then talk. A small pie at the corner is three cents, and
they buy one, sometimes two, and it is sweet and fills and they are
content. It is only men that think that will change a habit. I find for
the worker always till thought begins they are conservative, and an
experiment, a change, is distress to them. So I say, 'Let them do they
will. Air is here and that they cannot stop, but for food I will do no

"These all were small things, and as I went on I said, as in the
beginning, that for those who did the same work must be the same wage.
My men had always ten dollars, and sometimes twelve or fifteen dollars a
week; but the best woman had ten dollars, and she had worked five years
and knew all. It is a law--unwritten, but still a law--that women shall
not have what men earn; and when I say one is good as another, the
brother of the woman I make equal with him said first this should never
be; and when I said 'It must,' he talk to all the men at noon, and
before the looms begin again they come and tell me that if I do so they
will work no more. I talk to them all: 'This is a country where men
boast always that woman has much honor, but I see not that she has more
justice than where there is less honor. Shame on men that will let women
work all the hours and as well as they,--yes, many times better,--and
then threaten strike if they are paid the same!' But it was all no good.
For that time I must yield, because I had much work that was promised;
but I said: 'For now I do as you will. With January, that is but a month
away, it shall be as I will.'

"Well, I have tried. Many changes have been made, much time lost, much
money. I call them to my house in the evening. I talk with them and try
to teach them justice, and some are willing, but most not. New men spoil
my work, and I lose much profit and take the old ones again. But this,
too, is a small thing. My own mind goes on and I see that they should
share with me. I read of co-operation, and to me it is truer than
profit-sharing. I have seventy men and girls at work. I say they must
understand this business. I will try to teach them. Two evenings a week
I meet them all and talk and listen to them. One or two feel it plain.
For most they say, 'Old B---- wants to get a rise out of us somehow.' At
last I see that they are too foolish to understand co-operation, but it
may be they will let profit-sharing be a step. Over and over, many times
over and over, I tell it all, and in the end some agree, and for a year
it does well. But the next year was bad. Silk was high, and my ribbons
honest ribbons and profit small; and when they saw how small, they cried
that they were cheated and that I kept all for myself. I read them the
books. I said, 'Here, you may see with your eyes. This year I make not
enough to live if there were not other years in which I saved. I am
almost failed. The business might stop, but I will go on for our names'
sake.' 'All a dodge,' they said. No words were plain enough to make them
know. They even called me cheat and liar, there in the place where I had
tried to work for them.

"And so I share profits no more. I give large wage. I never cut down, do
the market what it will. But some things are plain. It is not alone
oppression and greed from above that do what you call grind the worker.
No, I am not alone. There are men like me with a wish for humanity and
wiser than I, and alike they are not heard when they speak; alike their
wish is naught and their effort vain. It is ignorance that rules. There
is no knowledge, no understanding. In my trade and in all trades I know
it is the same. A man will not believe a fact, and he will believe that
to cheat is all one over him can wish. Even my workers that care for me,
a few of them, they laugh no more to my face, but they say: 'Oh, he has
notions, that man! He will never get very rich, he has so many notions.'
They listen and they think a little. One man said yesterday: 'If this
had been put in my head when I was a growing lad it would have
straightened many a thing. Why ain't we taught?' And I said to him:
'Jacob, teachers are not taught. There is only one here, one there, that
thinks what only it is well to learn,--justice for all the world. I who
would do justice am made to wait, but the sin is with you, not with me.'

"So to-day I wait for such time as wisdom may come. My son is one with
me in this. He has a plan and soon he will try, and where I failed his
more knowledge may do better. But for me, I think that this generation
must suffer much, and in pain and want learn, it may be, what is life.
To-day it knows not and cares not, save a few. How shall the many be
made to know?"



To the old New-Yorker taking his pensive way through streets where only
imagination can supply the old landmarks, long ago vanished, there is a
conviction that he knows the city foot by foot as it has crept
northward; and he repudiates the thought that its growth has ended such
possibility, and that many a dark corner is as remote from his or any
knowledge save that of its occupants as if in Caffre-land. The newest
New-Yorker has small interest in anything but the west side and the
space down-town occupied by his store or office.

And so it chances that in spite of occasional series of descriptive
articles, in spite of an elaborately written local history and
unnumbered novels whose background is the city life and thought, there
is little real knowledge, and, save among charitable workers, the
police, and adventurous newspaper men, no thought of what life may be
lived not a stone's-throw from the great artery of New York, Broadway.

On one point there can be no doubt. Not Africa in its most pestilential
and savage form holds surer disease or more determined barbarians than
nest together under many a roof within hearing of the rush and roar of
the busy streets where men come and go, eager for no knowledge or wisdom
under the sun save the knowledge that will make them better bargainers.
There comes even a certain impatient distrust of those who persist in
unsavory researches and more unsavory details of the results. If there
is not distrust; if the easy-going kindliness that is a portion of the
American temperament is stirred, it is but for the moment; and when the
hand that sought the pocket or the check-book instinctively has
presented its gift, interest is over. A fresh sensation wipes out all
trace of the transient feeling, and though it may again be roused by
judicious effort, how rarely is it that more than the automatic movement
toward the pocket results! What might come if for even one hour the
impatient giver walked through the dark passages, stood in the foul,
dimly lighted rooms and saw what manner of creature New York nourishes
in her slums, giving to every child in freest measure that training in
all foulness that eye or ear or mind can take in that will fit it in
time for the habitation in prison or reformatory on which money is never
spared,--who shall say? They are filled by free choice, these nests of
all evil. The men and women who herd in them know nothing better;
indeed, may have known something even worse. They are Polish Jews,
Bohemians, the lowest order of Italians, content with unending work,
the smallest wage, and an order of food that the American, no matter how
low he may be brought, can never stomach. Yet they assimilate in one
point, being as bent upon getting on as the most determined American,
and accepting to this end conditions that seem more those of an Inferno
than anything the upper world has known. It is among these people,
chiefly Polish Jews and Bohemians, with the inevitable commixture of
Irish, that one finds the worst forms of child-labor; children that in
happy homes are still counted babies here in these dens beginning at
four or five to sew on buttons or pick out threads.

It is not of child-labor and the outrages involved in it that I speak
to-day, save indirectly, as it forms part of the mass of evil making up
the present industrial system and to be encountered at every turn by the
most superficial investigation. It is rather of certain specific
conditions, found at many points in tenement-house life, but never in
such accumulated degree of vileness at any point save one outside the
Fourth Ward. And if the reader, like various recent correspondents, is
disposed to believe that I am merely "making up a case," using a little
experience and a great deal of imagination, I refer him or her to the
forty-third annual report of the New York Association for the
Improvement of the Condition of the Poor. There, in detail to a degree
impossible here, will be found the official report of the inspector
appointed to examine the conditions of life in the building known as
"The Big Flat," in Mulberry Street. There are smaller houses that are
worse in construction and condition, but there is none controlled by one
management where so many are gathered under one roof. The first floor
has rooms for fourteen families, the remaining five for sixteen each;
and the census of 1880 gave the number of inhabitants as 478, a
sufficient number to make up the population of the average village. The
formal inspection and the report upon it were made in September, 1886,
and the report is now accessible to all who desire information on these
phases of city life. It is Mrs. Maloney herself whose methods best give
us the heart of the matter, and who, having several callings, is the
owner of an experience which appears to hold as much surprise for
herself as for the hearer.

"Shure I foind things that interestin' that I'm in no haste to be
through wid 'em, an' on for me taste o' purgatory, not hintin' that
there mightn't be more 'n a taste," Mrs. Maloney said, on a day in which
she unfolded to me her views of life in general, her small gray eyes
twinkling, her arms akimbo on her mighty hips, and her cap-border
flapping about a face weather-beaten and high-colored to a degree not
warranted even by her present profession as apple-woman. Whether
whiskey or stale beer is more responsible is unknown. It is only
certain that, having submitted with the utmost cheerfulness to the
perennial beatings of a husband only half her size, she found
consolation in a glass now and then with a sympathizing neighbor and at
last in a daily resort to the same friend. There had been a gradual
descent from prosperity. Dennis, if small, was wiry and phenomenally
strong, and earned steady wages as porter during their first years in
the country. But the children, as they grew, went to the bad entirely,
living on the earnings of the mother, who washed and scrubbed and
slaved, with a heart always full of excuses for the hulking brutes, who
came naturally at last to the ends that might have been foretold. Their
education had been in the Fourth Ward; they were champion bullies and
ruffians of whom the ward still boasts, Mrs. Maloney herself acquiring a
certain distinction as the mother of the hardest cases yet sent up from
Cherry Street. But if she had no power to save her own, life became
easier for whomsoever she elected to guard. Wretched children crept
under her wing to escape the beating awaiting them when they had failed
to bring home the amount demanded of them. Women, beaten and turned out
into the night, fled to her for comfort, and the girl who had lost her
place, or to whom worse misfortune had come, told her story to the
big-hearted sinner, who nodded and cried and said, "It's the Widdy
Maloney that'll see you're not put upon more. Hold on an' be aisy,
honey, an' all'll come out the way you'd be havin' it, an' why not?"

It was at this stage of experience that Mrs. Maloney decided to remove
to the Big Flat. The last raid of Dennis, the youngest and only boy not
housed at the expense of the State, had reduced her belongings to their
lowest terms, and she took possession of her new quarters, accompanied
only by a rickety table, three chairs, a bed with two old straw
mattresses, and some quilts too ragged to give any token of their
original characteristics, a stove which owned but one leg,--the rest
being supplied by bricks,--and such dishes and other small furniture as
could be carried in a basket. But there went with her a girl kicked out
by the last man who had temporarily called her his mistress,--a mere
child still, who at ten had begun work in a bag-factory passing through
various grades of slightly higher employment, till seduced by the
floor-walker of the store that it had been her highest ambition to
reach. Almost as much her fault as his undoubtedly, her silly head
holding but one desire, that for fine clothes and never to work any
more, but a woman's heart waking in her when the baby came, and
prompting her to harder work and better life than she had ever known.
There was no chance of either with the baby, and when at last she farmed
out the encumbrance to an old couple in a back building who made this
their business, and took a place again in the store, it was relief as
well as sorrow that came when the wretched little life was over. But the
descent had been a swift one. When what she had called life was quite
over, and she sat dumb and despairing in the doorway to which she had
been thrust, thinking of the river as the last refuge left, the widow
had pushed her before her up the stairs and said,--

"Poor sowl, if there's none to look out for ye, then who but me should
do it?"

This was the companion who lay by her side under the ragged quilts, life
still refusing to give place to death, though every paroxysm of coughing
shortened the conflict.

"She's that patient that the saints themselves--all glory to their
blessed names!--couldn't be more so; but I'd not know how to manage if
it wasn't for the foot-warmer I call her; that's Angela there, wid eyes
that go through you an' the life beaten out of her by the man that
called himself her father, an' wasn't at all, at all. It's she that does
the kaping of the house, an' sleeps across the foot, an' it's mine they
think the two av 'em, else they'd never a let me in, the rules bein',
'no lodgers.' It's not lodgers they are. It's me boarders, full fledged,
an' who's a better right than me, though I'd not be sayin' so to the
housekeeper that'd need forty pair o' eyes to her two to see what's
goin' on under her nose."

The "foot-warmer's" office had ceased for one of them before the month
ended, and when the Potter's Field had received the pine coffin followed
only by the two watchers, the widow made haste to bring in another
candidate for the same position; one upon whom she had kept her eye for
a month, certain that worse trouble was on the way than loss of work.

"There was the look on her that manes but the one thing," she said
afterward. "There's thim that sthand everything an' niver a word, an'
there's thim that turns disperate. She was a disperate wan."

Never had a "disperate wan" better reason. A factory girl almost from
babyhood, her apprenticeship having begun at seven, she had left the
mill at fourteen, a tall girl older than her years in look and
experience. New York was her Mecca, and to New York she came, with a
week's wages in her pocket on which to live till work should be found,
and neither relative nor friend save a girl who had preceded her by a
few months and was now at work in a fringe and gimp factory, earning
seven dollars a week and promising the same to the child after a few
weeks' training. But seven years in a cotton-mill, if they had given
quickness in one direction, had blunted all power in others. The fingers
were unskilful and clumsy and her mind too wandering and inattentive to
master details, and the place was quickly lost. She entered her name as
candidate for the first vacancy in a Grand Street store, and in the mean
time went into a coffee and spice mill and became coffee-picker at
three dollars a week. This lasted a month or two, but even here there
was dissatisfaction with lack of thoroughness, and she was presently
discharged. The vacancy had come, and she went at once into the store,
her delicate face and pretty eyes commending her to the manager, who
lost no time in telling her what impression she could produce if she
were better dressed. Weak, irresponsible, hopelessly careless, and past
any power to undo these conditions, there was some instinct in the
untaught life that put her instantly on the defensive.

"I'm not good for much," she said, "but I'm too good for that. There's
nothing you could promise would get you your will and there won't be."

Naturally, as the siege declared itself a hopeless one, the manager
found it necessary to fill her place by some more competent hand. There
was an interval of waiting in which she pawned almost the last article
of clothing remaining that could be dispensed with, and then went into a
bakery, where the hours were from seven A. M. to ten P. M., sometimes
later. She was awkward at making change, but her gentle manners
attracted customers, and the baker himself soon cast a favorable eye
upon her, and speedily made the same proposition that had driven her
from her last employment. The baker's wife knew the symptoms, and on the
same day discharged the girl.

"I don't say it's your fault," she said, "but he's started about you,
and it's for your own good I tell you to go. The best thing for you is
to go back to your mother, or else take a place with some nice woman
that'll keep an eye to you. You'll always be run after. I know your
kind, that no man looks at without wanting to fool with 'em. You take my
advice and go into a place."

The chance came that night. The mistress of a cheap boarding-house in
East Broadway, her patrons chiefly young clerks from Grand and Division
Street stores, offered her home and eight dollars a month, and Lizzie,
who by this time was frightened and discouraged, accepted on the
instant. She was well accustomed to long hours, and she had never minded
standing as many of the girls did, her apprenticeship in the mill having
made it comparatively easy.

But the drudgery undergone here was beyond anything her life had ever
known. Her day began at five and it never ended before eleven. She slept
on an old mattress on the kitchen floor, and as her strength failed from
the incessant labor, lost all power of protest and accepted each new
demand as something against which there could be no revolt. There was
abundance of coarse food and thus much advantage, but she had no
knowledge that taught her how to make work easier, nor had her mistress
any thought of training her. She was a dish-washing machine chiefly, and
broke and chipped even the rough ware that formed the table furniture,
till the exasperated mistress threatened to turn her off if another
piece were destroyed. It was a case of hopeless inaptitude; and when in
early spring she sickened, and the physician grudgingly called in
declared it a case of typhus brought on by the conditions in which she
had lived, she was sent at once to the hospital and left to such fate as
might come.

A clean bed, rest, and attendance seemed a heaven to the girl when
consciousness came back, and she shrank from any thought of going out
again to the fight for existence.

"I don't know what the matter is," she said to the doctor as she mended,
"but somehow I ain't fit to make a living. I shall have to go back to
the mill, but I said I never would do that."

"You shall go to some training-school and be taught," said the doctor,
who had stood looking at her speculatively yet pitifully.

"Ah, but I couldn't learn. Somehow things don't stick to me. I'm not fit
to earn a living."

"You're of the same stuff as a good many thousand of your kind," the
doctor said under his breath, and turned away with a sigh.

Lizzie went out convalescent, but still weak and uncertain, and took
refuge with one of the bakery girls who had half of a dark bedroom in a
tenement house near the Big Flat. She looked for work. She answered
advertisements, and at last began upon the simplest form of necktie, and
in her slow, bungling fashion began to earn again. But she had no
strength. She sat at the window and looked over to the Big Flat and
watched the swarm that came and went; five hundred people in it, they
told her, and half of them drunk at once. It was certain that there were
always men lying drunk in the hallways in the midst of ashes and filth
that accumulated there almost unchecked. The saloon below was always
full; the stale beer dives all along the street full also, above all, at
night, when the flaunting street-walkers came out, and fiddles squeaked,
and cheap pianos rattled, and songs and shouts were over-topped at
moments by the shrieks of beaten women or the oaths and cries of a
sudden fight. Slowly it was coming to the girl that this was all the
life New York had for her; that if she failed to meet the demand
employer after employer had made upon her, she would die in this hole,
where neither joy nor hope had any place. Her clothes were in rags. She
went hungry and cold, and had grown too stupefied with trouble to plan
anything better. At last it was plain to her that death must be best.
She said to herself that the river could never tell, and that there
would be rest and no more cold or hunger, and it was to the river that
she went at night as the Widow Maloney rose before her and said,--

"You'll come home wid me, me dear, an' no wurruds about it."

Lizzie looked at her stupidly. "You'd better not stop me," she said.
"I'm no good. I can't earn my living anywhere any more. I don't know
how. I'd better be out of the way."

"Shure you'll be enough out o' the way whin you're in the top o' the Big
Flat," said Mrs. Maloney. "An' once there we'll see."

Lizzie followed her without a word, but when the stairs were climbed and
she sunk panting and ghastly on one of the three chairs, it was quite
plain to the widow that more work had begun. That it will very soon end
is also quite plain to whoever dares the terrors of the Big Flat, and
climbs to the wretched room, which in spite of dirt and foulness within
and without is a truer sanctuary than many a better place. The army of
incompetents will very shortly be the less by one, but more recruits are
in training and New York guarantees an unending supply.

"Shure if there's naught they know how to do," says the widow, "why
should one be lookin' to have thim do what they can't. It's one thing
I've come to, what with seein' the goings on all me life, but chiefly in
the Big Flat, that if childers be not made to learn, whither they like
it or not, somethin' that'll keep hands an' head from mischief, there's
shmall use in laws an' less in muddlin' about 'em when they're most done
with livin' at all, at all. But that's a thing that's beyond me or the
likes o' me, an' I'm only wonderin' a thrifle like an' puttin' the
question to meself a bit, 'What would you be doin', Widdy Maloney, if
the doin' risted on you an' no other?'"



Why this army of women, many thousand strong, is standing behind
counters, over-worked and underpaid, the average duration of life among
them as a class lessening every year, is a question with which we can at
present deal only indirectly. It is sufficient to state that the retail
stores of wellnigh every order, though chiefly the dry-goods retail
trade, have found their quickness and aptness to learn, the honesty and
general faithfulness of women, and their cheapness essentials in their
work; and that this combination of qualities--cheapness dominating
all--has given them permanent place in the modern system of trade. A
tour among many of the larger establishments confirmed the statement
made by employers in smaller ones, the summary being given in the words
of a manager of one of the largest retail houses to be found in the
United States.

"We don't want men," he said. "We wouldn't have them even if they came
at the same price. Of course cheapness has something to do with it, and
will have, but for my part give me a woman to deal with every time. Now
there's an illustration over at that hat-counter. We were short of hands
to-day, and I had to send for three girls that had applied for places,
but were green--didn't know the business. It didn't take them ten
minutes to get the hang of doing things, and there they are, and you'd
never know which was old and which was new hand. Of course they don't
know all about qualities and so on, but the head of the department looks
out for that. No, give me women every time. I've been a manager thirteen
years, and we never had but four dishonest girls, and we've had to
discharge over forty boys in the same time. Boys smoke and lose at
cards, and do a hundred things that women don't, and they get worse
instead of better. I go in for women."

"How good is their chance of promotion?"

"We never lose sight of a woman that shows any business capacity, but of
course that's only as a rule in heads of departments. A saleswoman gets
about the same right along. Two thirds of the girls here are
public-school girls and live at home. You see that makes things pretty
easy, for the family pool their earnings and they dress well and live
well. We don't take from the poorer class at all. These girls earn from
four and a half to eight dollars a week. A few get ten dollars, and
they're not likely to do better than that. Forty dollars a month is a
fortune to a woman. A man must have his little fling, you know. Women
manage better."

"If they are really worth so much to you, why can't you give better pay?
What chance has a girl to save anything, unless she lives at home?"

"We give as high pay as anybody, and we don't give more because for
every girl here there are a dozen waiting to take her place. As to
saving, she doesn't want to save. There isn't a girl here that doesn't
expect to marry before long, and she puts what she makes on her back,
because a fellow naturally goes for the best-looking and the
best-dressed girl. That's the woman question as I've figured it out, and
you'll find it the same everywhere."

Practically he was right, for the report, though varying slightly,
summed up as substantially the same. Descending a grade, it was found
that even in the second and third rate stores the system of fines for
any damage soon taught the girls carefulness, and that while a few were
discharged for hopeless incompetency, the majority served faithfully and

"I dare say they're put upon," said the manager of one of the cheaper
establishments. "They're sassy enough, a good many of them, and some of
the better ones suffer for their goings-on. But they ain't a bad
set--not half; and these women that come in complaining that they ain't
well-treated, nine times out of ten it's their own airs that brought it
on. It's a shop-girl's interest to behave herself and satisfy customers,
and she's more apt to do it than not, according to my experience."

"They'd drive a man clean out of his mind," said another. "The tricks of
girls are beyond telling. If it wasn't for fines there wouldn't one in
twenty be here on time, and the same way with a dozen other things. But
they learn quick, and they turn in anywhere where they're wanted. They
make the best kind of clerks, after all."

"Do you give them extra pay for over-hours during the busy season?"

"Not much! We keep them on, most of them, right through the dull one.
Why shouldn't they balance things for us when the busy time comes? Turn
about's fair play."

A girl who had been sent into the office for some purpose shook her head
slightly as she heard the words, and it was this girl who, a day or two
later, gave her view of the situation. The talk went on in the pretty,
home-like parlors of a small "Home" on the west side, where rules are
few and the atmosphere of the place so cheery that while it is intended
only for those out of work, it is constantly besieged with requests to
enlarge its borders and make room for more. Half a dozen other girls
were near: three from other stores, one from a shirt factory, one an
artificial-flower-maker who had been a shop-girl.

"When I began," said the first, "father was alive, and I used what I
earned just for dressing myself. We were up at Morrisania, and I came
down every day. I was in the worsted and fancy department at D----'s,
and I had such a good eye for matching and choosing that they seemed to
think everything of me. But then father fell sick. He was a painter, and
had painter's colic awfully and at last paralysis. Then he died finally
and left mother and me, and she's in slow consumption and can't do much.
I earned seven dollars a week because I'd learned fancy work and did
some things evenings for the store, and we should have got along very
well. We'd had to move out a little farther, to the place mother was
born in, because rent was cheaper and she could never stand the city.
But this is the way it worked. I have to be at the store at eight
o'clock. The train that leaves home at seven gets me to the store two
minutes after eight, but though I've explained this to the manager he
says I've got to be at the store at eight, and so, summer and winter, I
have to take the train at half-past six and wait till doors are open.
It's the same way at night. The store closes at six, and if I could
leave then I could catch an express train that would get me home at
seven. The rules are that I must stop five minutes to help the girls
cover up the goods, and that just hinders my getting the train till
after seven, so that I am not home till eight."

I looked at the girl more attentively. She was colorless and emaciated,
and, when not excited by speaking, languid and heavy.

"Are you sure that you have explained the thing clearly so that the
manager understands?" I asked.

"More than once," the girl answered, "but he said I should be fined if I
were not there at eight. Then I told him that the girls at my counter
would be glad to cover up my goods, and if he would only let me go at
six it would give me a little more time for mother. I sit up late anyway
to do things she can't, for we live in two rooms and I sew and do a good
many things after I go home."

Inquiry a day or two later showed that her story was true in every
detail and also that she was a valuable assistant, one of the best among
a hundred or so employed. The firm gives largely to charitable objects,
and pays promptly, and at rates which, if low, are no lower than usual;
but they continue to exact this seven minutes' service from one whose
faithfulness might seem to have earned exemption from a purely arbitrary
rule--in such a case mere tyranny. The girl had offered to give up her
lunch hour, but the manager refused; and she dared not speak again for
fear of losing her place.

"After all, she's better off than I am or lots of others," said one who
sat near her. "I'm down in the basement at M----'s, and forty others
like me, and about forty little girls. There's gas and electric light
both, but there isn't a breath of air, and it's so hot that after an
hour or two your head feels baked and your eyes as if they would fall
out. The dull season--that's from spring to fall--lasts six months, and
then we work nine and a half hours and Saturdays thirteen. The other six
months we work eleven hours, and holiday time till ten and eleven. I'm
strong. I'm an old hand and somehow stand things, but I've a cousin at
the ribbon counter, the very best girl in the world, I do believe. She
always makes the best of things, but this year it did seem as if the
whole town was at that counter. They stood four and five deep. She was
penned in with the other girls, a dozen or two, with drawers and cases
behind and counter in front, and there she stood from eight in the
morning till ten at night, with half an hour off for dinner and for
supper. She could have got through even that, but you see there has to
be steady passing in that narrow space, and she was knocked and pushed,
first by one and then by another, till she was sore all over; and at
last down she dropped right there, not fainting, but sort of gone, and
the doctor says she's most dead and can't go back, he doesn't know when.
Down there in the basement the girls have to put on blue glasses, the
glare is so dreadful, but they don't like to have us. The only comfort
is you're with a lot and don't feel lonesome. I can't bear to do
anything alone, no matter what it is."

A girl with clear dark eyes and a face that might have been almost
beautiful but for its haggard, worn-out expression, turned from the
table where she had been writing and smiled as she looked at the last

"That is because you happen to be made that way," she said. "I am always
happier when I can be alone a good deal, but of course that's never
possible, or almost never. I shall want the first thousand years of my
heaven quite to myself, just for pure rest and a chance to think."

"I don't know anything about heaven," the last speaker said hastily,
"but I'm sure I hope there's purgatory at least for some of the people
I've had to submit to. I think a woman manager is worse than a man. I've
never had trouble anywhere and always stay right on, but I've wanted to
knock some of the managers down, and it ought to have been done. Just
take the new superintendent. We loved the old one, but this one came in
when she died, and one of the first things she did was to discharge one
of the old girls because she didn't smile enough. Good reason why. She'd
lost her mother the week before and wasn't likely to feel much like
smiling. And then she went inside the counters and pitched out all the
old shoes the girls had there to make it easier to stand. It 'most kills
you to stand all day in new shoes, but Miss T---- pitched them all out
and said she wasn't going to have the store turned into an old-clothes

"Well, it's better than lots of them, no matter what she does," said
another. "I was at H----'s for six months, and there you have to ask a
man for leave every time it is necessary to go upstairs, and half the
time he would look and laugh with the other clerks. I'd rather be where
there are all women. They're hard on you sometimes, but they don't use
foul language and insult you when you can't help yourself."

This last complaint has proved for many stores a perfectly well-founded
one. Wash-rooms and other conveniences have been for common use, and
many sensitive and shrinking girls have brought on severe illnesses
arising solely from dread of running this gantlet.

Here and there the conditions of this form of labor are of the best, but
as a whole the saleswoman suffers not only from long-continued standing,
but from bad air, ventilation having no place in the construction of the
ordinary store. Separate dressing-rooms are a necessity, yet are only
occasionally found, the system demanding that no outlay shall be made
when it is possible to avoid it. Overheating and overcrowding, hastily
eaten and improper food, are all causes of the weakness and anæmic
condition so perceptible among shop and factory workers, these being
divided into many classes. For a large proportion it can be said that
they are tolerably educated, so far as our public-school system can be
said to educate, and are hard-working, self-sacrificing, patient girls
who have the American knack of dressing well on small outlay, and who
have tastes and aspirations far beyond any means of gratifying them. For
such girls the working-women's guilds and the Friendly societies--these
last of English origin--have proved of inestimable service, giving them
the opportunities long denied. In such guilds many of them receive the
first real training of eye and hand and mind, learn what they can best
do, and often develop a practical ability for larger and better work.
Even in the lowest order filling the cheaper stores there is always a
proportion eager to learn. But here, as in all ordinary methods of
learning, the market is overstocked, and even the best-trained girl may
sometimes fail of employment. Now and then one turns toward household
service, but the mass prefer any cut in wages and any form of privation
to what they regard as almost a final degradation. A multitude of their
views on this point are recorded and will in time find place.

In the mean time a minute examination of the causes that determine their
choice and of the conditions surrounding it as a whole go to prove the
justice of the conviction that penetrates the student of social
problems. Again, the shop-girl as a class demonstrates the fact that not
with her but with the class above her, through accident of birth or
fortune, lies the real responsibility for the follies over which we make
moan. The cheaper daily papers record in fullest detail the doings of
that fashionable world toward which many a weak girl or woman looks
with unspeakable longing; and the weekly "story papers" feed the flame
with unending details of the rich marriage that lifted the poor girl
into the luxury which stands to her empty mind as the sole thing to be
desired in earth or heaven. She knows far better what constitutes the
life of the rich than the rich ever know of the life of the poor. From
her post behind the counter the shop-girl examines every detail of
costume, every air and grace of these women whom she despises, even when
longing most to be one of them. She imitates where she can, and her
cheap shoe has its French heel, her neck its tin dog-collar. Gilt rings
and bracelets and bangles, frizzes and bangs and cheap trimmings of
every order, swallow up her earnings. The imitation is often more
effective than the real, and the girl knows it. She aspires to a
"manicure" set, to an opera-glass, to anything that will simulate the
life daily more passionately desired; and it is small wonder that when
sudden temptation comes and the door opens into that land where luxury
is at least nearer, she falls an easy victim. The class in which she
finally takes rank is seldom recruited from sources that would seem most
fruitful. The sewing-woman, the average factory worker, is devitalized
to such an extent that even ambition dies and the brain barely responds
to even the allurements of the weekly story paper. It is the class but a
grade removed, to whom no training has come from which strength or
simplicity or any virtue of honest living could grow, that makes the
army of women who have chosen degradation.

A woman, herself a worker, but large-brained and large-hearted beyond
the common endowment, wrote recently of the dangers put in the way of
the average shop or factory girl, imploring happy women living at ease
to adopt simpler forms, or at least to ask what form of living went on
below them. She wrote:--

     "It may be urged that ignorant and inexperienced as these workers
     are, they see only the bubbles and the froth, the superficial
     glitter and exuberant overflow of passing styles and social
     pleasures, and miss much, if not all, of the earnestness, the
     virtue, the charity, and the refinement which may belong to those
     they imitate, but with whom they seldom come in contact. This is
     the very point and purpose of this paper, to remonstrate against
     the injustice done to the women of wealth and leisure by their own
     carelessness and indifference, and to urge them to come down to
     those who cannot come up to them, to study them with as keen an
     interest as they themselves are studied,--to know how that other
     half lives."

"To know how that other half lives." That is the demand made upon woman
and man alike. Once at least put yourselves in the worker's place, if it
be but for half an hour, and think her thought and live her starved and
dreary life. Then ask what work must be done to alter conditions, to
kill false ideals, and vow that no day on earth shall pass that has not
held some effort, in word or deed, to make true living more possible for
every child of man. No mission, no guild, no sermon, has or can have
power alone. Only in the determined effort of the individual, in
individual understanding and renunciation forever of what has been
selfish and mean and base, can humanity know redemption and walk at last
side by side in that path where he who journeys alone finds no entrance,
nor can win it till self has dropped away, and knowledge come that
forever we are our brothers' keepers.



Why and how the money-getting spirit has become the ruler of American
life and thought no analyzer of social conditions has yet made plain.
That New York might be monopolist in this respect could well be
conceived, for the Dutch were traders by birthright and New Amsterdam
arose to this one end. But why the Puritan colony, whose first act
before even the tree stumps were brown in their corn-fields was the
founding of a college, and whose corner-stone rested on a book,--why
these people should have come to represent a spirit of bargaining and an
aptitude for getting on unmatched by the keenest-witted Dutchman hath no
man yet told us.

The sharpest business men of the present are chiefly "Yankees;" and if
"Jew" and "a hard bargain" are counted synonymes, "New-Englander" has
equal claim to the place. The birthplace and home of all reform, New
England is the home also of a greed born of hard conditions and
developing a keenness unequalled by that of any other bargainer on
earth. The Italian, the Greek, the Turk, find a certain æsthetic
satisfaction in bargaining and do it methodically, but always
picturesquely and with a relish unaffected by defeat; but with the
Yankee it is a passionate, absorbing desire, sharpening every line of
the face and felt even in the turn of the head or shoulders, and in
every line of the eager, restless figure. Success assured softens and
modifies these tendencies. Defeat aggravates them. One meets many a man
for whom it is plain that the beginning of life held unlimited faith
that the great city meant a fortune, the sanguine conviction passing
gradually into the interrogative form. The fortune is still there. Thus
far the conviction holds good, but his share in it has become more and
more problematical. The flying and elusive shadow still holds for him
the only real substance, but his hands have had no power to grasp or
detain, and the most dogged determination gives way at last to the sense
of hopeless failure. For this type may be the ending as cheap clerk or
bookkeeper, with furtive attempts at speculation when a few dollars have
been saved, or a retreat toward that remote West which has hidden
effectually so many baffled and defeated lives. There may also come
another ending, and the feverish, scheming soul lose its hold on the
body, which has meant to it merely a means of getting and increasing

It is this latter fate that came to a man who would have no place in
this record save for the fact that his last querulous and
still-questioning days were lived side by side with a man who had also
sought money, and having found it had chosen for it certain experimental
uses by means of which siphon he was presently drained dry. For him also
had been many defeats. A hospital ward held them both, and the two beds
were side by side, the one representing a patience that never failed,
yet something more than patience. For the face of this man bore no token
of defeat. It was rather triumph that looked at moments from the clear
eyes that had also an almost divine pity as they turned toward the
neighbor who poured out his story between paroxysms of coughing, and
having told it once, proceeded to tell it again, his sole and final
satisfaction in life being the arraignment of all living. The visitor
who came into the ward was pinned on the instant, the fiery eyes
demanding the hearing which was the last gift time held for him. It was
a common story often told, this slow, inevitable descent into poverty.
Its force lay in the condensed fury of the speaker, who looked on the
men he had known as sworn conspirators against him, and cursed them in
their going out and coming in with a relish that no argument could
affect. What his neighbor might have to tell was a matter of the purest
indifference. It was impossible even to ask his story; and it remained
impossible until a day when arraignment was cut short and the
disappointed, bitter soul passed on to such conditions as it had made
for itself.

"You've got the best of me. They all do," he said in dying, with a last
turn of the sombre eyes toward his neighbor. "You ought to have gone
first by a week, and there you are. But this time I guess it's just as
well. I don't seem to want to fight any longer, and I'm glad I'm done.
It's your turn next. Good--"

The words had come with gasps between and long pauses. Here they stopped
once for all. Good had found him; the only good for the child of earth,
who, having failed to learn his lesson here, must try a larger school
with a different system of training. The empty bed was not filled at
once. A screen shut it off. There was time now to hear other words than
the passionate railings that had monopolized all time. The sick man
mended a little, and in one of the days in which speech was easier gave
this record of his forty years:--

"It's a fact, I believe, that the sons of reformers seldom walk in the
same track. My father was one of the old Abolitionists, and an honest
one, ready to give money when he could and any kind of work when he
couldn't. It was a great cause. I cried over the negroes down South and
went without sugar a year or so, and learned to knit so that I could
knit some stockings for the small slaves my own size. But by the time I
was eight years old it was plain enough to me that there were other
kinds of slavery quite as bad, and that my own mother wore as heavy
bonds as any of them. She was a farmer's wife, and from year's end to
year's end she toiled and worked. She never had a cent of her own, for
the butter money was consecrated to the cause, and she gave it gladly.
My father had no particular intention to be unkind. He was simply like a
good two-thirds of the farmers I have known,--much more careful of his
animals than of his wife. A woman was so much cooking and cleaning and
butter-making force, and child-bearing an incident demanding as little
notice as possible. It is because of that theory that I am five inches
shorter than any of our tribe. My mother was a tall, slender woman, with
a springy step and eyes as clear as a brook. I see them sometimes as I
lie here at night.

"I said to myself when I was ten that I'd have things easier for her
before she died. I said it straight ahead while I was working my way up
in the village store, for I would not farm, and when she died I said it
to her in the last hour I ever heard her voice: 'What I couldn't do for
you, mother, I'll do for all women as long as I am on the earth.'

"I was eighteen then, and whichever way I turned some woman was having a
hard time, and some brute was making it for her. I knew it was partly
their own fault for not teaching their boys how to be unselfish and
decent, but custom and tradition, the law and the prophets, were all
against them. I watched it all I could, but I was deep in trying to get
ahead and I did. Somehow, in spite of my dreams and my fancies, there
was a money-making streak in me. It's a lost vein. You may search as you
will and find no trace, but it was there once and gave good returns. I
left the village at twenty-one and went to Philadelphia, and the small
savings I took with me from my clerking soon began to roll up. I had the
chance to go into a soap-factory; a queer change, but the old Quaker who
owned it knew my father and wanted to do me a good turn, and by the time
I had got the hang of it all I was junior partner and settled for life
if I liked.

"Well, here it was again. This man was honest and clean. He meant to do
fairly by all mankind, and he tried to. He had some secrets in his
methods that made his soap the best in the market. The chief secret was
honest ingredients, but it was famous. If you've ever been in a
soap-factory you know what it is like. Every pound of it was wrapped in
paper as fast as it cooled, and the cooling and cutting room was filled
with girls who did the work. They were not the best order of girls. The
wages a week were from three to five dollars, and they were at it from
seven A. M. to six P. M. There was a good woman in the office,--a woman
with a head as well as a heart,--and she did the directing and
disciplining. It was no joke to keep peace if the cooling delayed and
the creatures began squabbling together, but she managed it, and by
night they were always meek enough. You're likely to be meek when you've
carried soap ten pounds at a time ten hours a day, from the cutting
table to the cooling table, across floors as slippery as glass or glare
ice. They picked it up as it cooled, wrapped it in paper, and had it in
boxes, five pounds to the minute, three hundred pounds an hour. The
caustic soda in it first turned their nails orange-color and then it ate
off their finger tips till they bled. They could not wear gloves, for
that would have interfered with the packing.

"Now and then one cried, but only seldom. They were big, hearty girls.
They had to be to do that work, but my heart ached for them as they
filed out at night, so worn that there was no life left for anything but
to get home and into bed. Very few stayed on. The smart ones graduated
into something better. The stupid ones fell back and tried something
easier. But as I watched them and it came over me how untrained and
helpless they were, and how every chance of learning was cut off by the
long labor and the dead weariness, I said to myself that we owed them
something: shorter hours; better wages; some sort of share in the money
we were making. Friend Peter shook his head when I began to hint these
things. 'They fare well enough,' he said. 'Thee must not get socialistic
notions in thy head.' 'I know nothing about socialism,' I said. 'All I
want is justice, and thee wants it too. Thee has cried out for it for
the black brother and sister; why not for the white?'

"'Thee is talking folly,' he said and would make no other answer.

"It all weighed on me. Here was the money rolling in, or so it seemed to
me. We did make it in a sure, comfortable fashion. I was well off at
twenty-five, and better off every month; and I said to myself, the money
would have a curse on it if those who helped to earn it had no share. I
talked to the men in the boiling department. It takes brains to be a
good soap-maker. We kept to the old ways, simply because what they call
improvement in soap-making, like many another improvement, has been the
cheapening the product by the addition of various articles that lower
the quality. Experience has to teach. Theoretical knowledge isn't much
use save as foundation. A man must use eyes and tongue, and watch for
the critical moment in the finishing like a lynx.

"Well, I beat my head against that wall of obstinacy till head and heart
were sore. It was enough to the old Quaker that he paid promptly and did
honest work; and when I told him at last that his gains were as
fraudulent as if he cheated deliberately, he said, 'Then thee need share
them no longer. Go thy way for a hot-headed fool.'

"I went. There was an opening in New York, and I had every detail at my
fingers' ends. I went in with a man a little older, who seemed to think
as I did, and who did, till I made practical application of my theories.
I had studied everything to be had on the subject. I had mastered a
language or two in my evenings, for I lived like a hermit; but now I
began to talk with every business man, and try to understand why
competition was inevitable. I was in no haste. I admitted that men must
be trained to co-operate, but I said, 'We shall never learn by waiting.
We must learn by trying.' I tried to bring in other soap-makers, and one
or two listened; but most of them were using the cheap methods,--increasing
the quantity and lowering the quality. Some of the men had come on to me
from Philadelphia, and were bound to stay, but it was hard on them. They
had to go into tenement-houses, for there were no homes for them such as
building associations in Philadelphia make possible for every workman.
But I took a house and divided it up and made it comfortable, and I
lived on the lower floor myself, so that kept them contented. I fitted
up a room for a reading-room, and twice a week had talks; not lectures,
but talks where every man had a chance to speak five minutes if he
would, and to ask questions. I coaxed the women to come. I wanted them
to understand, and two or three took hold. I made a decent place for
them to eat their dinners, and put these women in charge. I put in an
oil-stove and a table and seats, and gave them coffee and tea at two
cents a cup, and tried to have them care for the place. That has been
done over and over by many an employer who pities his workers; and nine
times out of ten the same result follows. The animal crops out. They
were rough girls at any time, yet, taken one by one, behaved well
enough. But I've seen boys and girls at a donation party throw cheese
and what not on the carpet and rub it in deliberately, and I don't know
that one need wonder that lunch-rooms in store or factory turn into
pig-pens, and the few decent ones can make no headway.

"I spoke out to them all, but it was no more than the wind blowing, and
at last even I gave it up. There was no conscience in them to touch.
They wanted shorter hours and more money, when they had got to the point
of seeing that I was trying to help, but they had no notion of helping
back. With my men it worked, and they talked down the women sometimes.
But when a bad year came,--for soap has its ups and downs like
everything else,--most of them struck, and the wise ones could make no
headway. 'It's a losing game,' my partner said; 'if you want to go on
you must go on alone.'

"I did go on alone. He left and took his capital with him. The best men
stayed with me and swore to take their chances. The soap was good, and I
made a hit in one or two fancy kinds, but I could not compete with men
who used mean material and turned out something that looked as well at
half the price. My money melted away, and a fire--set, they told me, by
a man I had discharged for long-continued dishonesty--finished me. I had
the name of stirring up strife for the manufacturers, because I tried to
teach my workers the principle of co-operation, and begged for it where
I could. It hurt my business standing. Men felt that I must be a fool. I
had worked for it with such absorption that I had had little time for
any joy of life. I had neither wife nor child, though I longed for both.
I would not have ease and happiness alone. I wanted it for my fellows.
To-day it might be. Ten years ago it only the thought of a dreamer, and
I made no headway.

"The fire left me stranded. I went in as superintendent of some new
works, but went out in a month, for I could not consent to cheat, and
fraud was in every pound sent out. I tried one place and another with
the same result. Competition makes honesty impossible. A man would admit
it to me without hesitation, but would end: 'There's no other way. Don't
be a fool. You can't stand out against a system.'

"'I will stand out if it starves me,' I said. 'I will not sell my soul
for any man's hire. The time is coming when this rottenness must end.
Make one more to fight it now.'

"Men looked at me pitifully. 'I was throwing away chances,' they said.
'Why wouldn't I hear reason? We were in the world, not in Utopia.'

"'We are in the hell we have made for all mankind,' I said. 'The only
real world is the world which is founded on truth and justice.
Everything else falls away.'

"Everything else has fallen away. I was never strong, and a year ago I
was knocked down in a scrimmage. Some bullies from one of the factories
set on my men--mine no longer, but still preaching my doctrine. Somehow
I was kicked in the chest and a rib broken, and this saved me probably
from being sent up as a disturber of the peace. The right lung was
wounded, and consumption came naturally. They nursed me--Tom's wife and
sister, good souls--till I refused to burden them any longer and came
here in spite of them. It has been a sharp fight. I seem to have failed;
yet the way is easier for the next. Co-operation will come. It must
come. It is the law of life. It is the only path out of this jungle in
which we wander and struggle and die. But there must be training. There
must be better understanding. I would give a thousand lives joyfully if
only I could make men and women who sit at ease know the sorrow of the
poor. It is their ignorance that is their curse. Teach them; study them.
Care as much for the outcast at home as for the heathen abroad. And, oh,
if you can make anybody listen, beg them for Christ's sake, for their
own sake, to hearken and to help! Beg them to study; not to say with no
knowledge that help is impossible, but to study, to think, and then to
work with their might. It is my last word,--a poor word that can reach
none, it may be, any more, and yet, who knows what wind of the Lord may
bear it on, what ground may be waiting for the seed? I shall see it, but
not now. I shall behold it, and it will be nigh, in that place to which
I go. Work for it; die for it if need be; for man's hope, man's life, if
ever he knows true life, has no other foundation."



Political economists in general, with the additional number of those who
for one purpose and another turn over statistics of labor, nodded
approvingly as they gazed upon the figures of the last general census
for the State of New York, which showed that among the myriad of workers
in factory and other occupations, but twenty-four thousand children were

     "Fifty-six million and more inhabitants, and all faring so well
     that only one fortieth part of one of these millions is employed
     too early in this Empire State. Civilization could hardly do more.
     See how America leads among all civilized countries as the
     protector of the feeble, the guarantee of strength for the weakest.
     No other country guards its children so well. There have been
     errors, of course; such enlightenment is not reached at a bound;
     but the last Legislature made further ones impossible, for it fixed
     the minimum limit at which a child may be employed in factories at
     thirteen years of age. By thirteen a child isn't likely to be
     stunted or hurt by overwork. We protect all classes and the weakest

Thus the political economist who stops at figures and considers any
further dealing with the question unnecessary. And if the law were of
stringent application; if parents told the truth as to age, and if the
two inspectors who are supposed to suffice for the thousands of
factories in the State of New York were multiplied by fifty, there might
be some chance of carrying out the provisions of this law. As it is, it
is a mere form of words, evaded daily; a bit of legislation which, like
much else bearing with it apparent benefit, proves when analyzed to be
not much more than sham. The law applies to factories only. It does not
touch mercantile establishments or trades that are carried on in
tenement-houses, and it is with these two latter forms of labor that we
deal to-day. In factory labor in the city of New York nine thousand
children under twelve years of age are doing their part toward swelling
the accumulation of wealth, each adding their tiny contribution to the
great stream of what we call the prosperity of the nineteenth century.
Thus far their share in the trades we have considered has been ignored.
Let us see in what fashion they make part of the system.

For a large proportion of the women visited, among whom all forms of the
clothing industry were the occupation, children under ten, and more
often from four to eight, were valuable assistants. In a small room on
Hester Street, a woman on work on overalls--for the making of which she
received one dollar a dozen--said:--

"I couldn't do as well if it wasn't for Jinny and Mame there. Mame has
learned to sew on buttons first-rate, and Jinny is doing almost as well.
I'm alone to-day, but most days three of us sew together here, and Jinny
keeps right along. We'll do better yet when Mame gets a bit older."

As she spoke the door opened and a woman with an enormous bundle of
overalls entered and sat down on the nearest chair with a gasp.

"Them stairs is killin'," she said. "It's lucky I've not to climb 'em

Something crept forward as the bundle slid to the floor, and busied
itself with the string that bound it.

"Here you, Jinny," said the woman, "don't you be foolin'. What do you
want anyhow?"

The something shook back a mat of thick hair and rose to its feet,--a
tiny child who in size seemed no more than three, but whose countenance
indicated the experience of three hundred.

"It's the string I want," the small voice said. "Me an' Mame was goin'
to play with it."

"There's small time for play," said the mother; "there'll be two pair
more in a minute or two, an' you're to see how Mame does one an' do it
good too, or I'll find out why not."

Mame had come forward and stood holding to the one thin garment which
but partly covered Jinny's little bones. She too looked out from a wild
thatch of black hair, and with the same expression of deep experience,
the pallid, hungry little faces lighting suddenly as some cheap cakes
were produced. Both of them sat down on the floor and ate their portion

"Mame's seven and Jinny's going on six," said the mother, "but Jinny's
the smartest. She could sew on buttons when she wasn't but much over
four. I had five then, but the Lord's took 'em all but these two. I
couldn't get on if it wasn't for Mame."

Mame looked up but said no word, and as I left the room settled herself
with her back against the wall, Jinny at her side, laying the coveted
string near at hand for use if any minute for play arrived. In the next
room, half-lighted like the last, and if possible even dirtier, a Jewish
tailor sat at work on a coat, and by him on the floor a child of five
picking threads from another.

"Netta is good help," he said after a word or two. "So fast as I finish,
she pick all the threads. She care not to go away--she stay by me always
to help."

"Is she the only one?"

"But one that sells papers. Last year is five, but mother and dree are
gone with fever. It is many that die. What will you? It is the will of

On the floor below two children of seven and eight were found also
sewing on buttons--in this case for four women who had their machines in
one room and were making the cheapest order of corset-cover, for which
they received fifty cents a dozen, each one having five buttons. It
could not be called oppressive work, yet the children were held there to
be ready for each one completed, and sat as such children most often do,
silent and half asleep waiting for the next demand.

"It's hard on 'em," one of the women said. "We work till ten and
sometimes later, but then they sleep between and we can't; and they get
the change of running out for a loaf of bread or whatever's wanted, and
we don't stir from the machine from morning till night. I've got two o'
me own, but they're out peddling matches."

On the lower floor back of the small grocery in which the people of the
house bought their food supply,--wilted or half-decayed vegetables, meat
of the cheapest order, broken eggs and stale fish,--a tailor and two
helpers were at work. A girl of nine or ten sat among them and picked
threads or sewed on buttons as needed; a haggard, wretched-looking child
who did not look up as the door opened. A woman who had come down the
stairs behind me stopped a moment, and as I passed out said:--

"If there was a law for him I'd have him up. It's his own sister's
child, and he workin' her ten hours a day an' many a day into the night,
an' she with an open sore on her neck, an' crying out many's the time
when she draws out a long needleful an' so gives it a jerk. She's sewed
on millions of buttons, that child has, an' she but a little past ten.
May there be a hot place waitin' for him!"

A block or two beyond, the house entered proved to be given over chiefly
to cigar-making. It is to this trade that women and girls turn during
the dull season, and one finds in it representatives from every trade in
which women are engaged. The sewing-women employed in suit and clothing
manufactories during the busy season have no resource save this, and
thus prices are kept down and the regular cigar-makers constantly
reinforced by the irregular. In the present case it was chiefly with
regular makers that the house was filled, one room a little less than
twelve by fourteen feet holding a family of seven persons, three of them
children under ten, all girls. Tobacco lay in piles on the floor and
under the long table at one end where the cigars were rolled, its rank
smell dominating that from the sinks and from the general filth, not
only of this room but of the house as a whole. Two of the children sat
on the floor stripping the leaves, and another on a small stool. A girl
of twenty sat near them, and all alike had sores on lips and cheeks and
on the hands. Children from five or six years up can be taught to strip
and thus add to the week's income, which is far less for the
tenement-house manufacture than for regular factory work, the latter
averaging from eight to twelve dollars a week. But the work if done at
home can be made to include the entire family, and some four thousand
women are engaged in it, an almost equal but unregistered number of
young children sharing it with them. As in sewing, a number of women
often club together, using one room, and in such case their babies crawl
about in the filth on the wet floors, playing with the damp tobacco and
breathing the poison with which the room is saturated.

Here, as in tobacco factories, women and girls of every age become
speedily the victims of nervous and hysterical complaints, the direct
result of nicotine poisoning; while succeeding these come consumption
and throat diseases resulting from the dust. Canker is one of the most
frequent difficulties, and sores of many orders, the trade involving
more dangers than any that can be chosen. Yet because an entire family
can find occupation in it, with no necessity for leaving home, it is
often preferred to easier employment. It is the children who suffer
most, growth being stunted, nervous disease developed and ending often
in St. Vitus's dance, and skin diseases of every order being the rule,
the causes being not only tobacco, but the filth in which they live.

It is doubtful if the most inveterate smoker would feel much relish for
the cigar manufactured under such conditions; yet hundreds of thousands
go out yearly from these houses, bearing in every leaf the poison of
their preparation. In this one house nearly thirty children of all ages
and sizes, babies predominating, rolled in the tobacco which covered the
floor and was piled in every direction; and of these children under ten
thirteen were strippers and did their day's work of ten hours and more.
Physical degeneration in its worst forms becomes inevitable. Even the
factory child-worker fares better, for in the factory there is exercise
and the going to and from work, while in the tenement-house cigar-making
the worn-out little creatures crawl to the bed, often only a pile of
rags in the corner, or lie down on a heap of the tobacco itself,
breathing this poison day and night uninterruptedly. Vices of every
order flourish in such air, and morality in this trade is at lowest ebb.
Nervous excitement is so intense that necessarily nothing but immorality
can result, and the child of eight or ten is as gross and confirmed an
offender as the full-grown man or woman. Diligent search discovers few
exceptions to this rule, and the whole matter has reached a stage where
legislative interference is absolutely indispensable. Only in forbidding
tenement-house manufacture absolutely can there be any safety for either
consumer or producer.

Following in the same line of inquiry I take here the facts furnished to
Professor Adler by a lady physician whose work has long lain among the
poor. During the eighteen months prior to February 1, 1886, she found
among the people with whom she came in contact five hundred and
thirty-five children under twelve years old,--most of them between ten
and twelve,--who either worked in shops or stores or helped their
mothers in some kind of work at home. Of these five hundred and
thirty-five children but sixty were healthy. In one family a child at
three years old had infantile paralysis, easily curable. The mother had
no time to attend to it. At five years old the child was taught to sew
buttons on trousers. She is now at thirteen a hopeless cripple; but she
finishes a dozen pair of trousers a day, and her family are thus twenty
cents the richer. In another family she found twin girls four and a half
years old sewing on buttons from six in the morning till ten at night;
and near them was a family of three,--a woman who did the same work and
whose old father of eighty and little girl of six were her co-workers.

There is a compulsory education law, but it demands only fourteen weeks
of the year, and the poorer class work from early morning till eight
A. M. and after school hours from four till late in the night. With such
energy as is left they take their fourteen weeks of education, but even
in these many methods of evasion are practised. It is easy to swear that
the child is over fourteen, but small of its age, and this is constantly
done. It is sometimes done deliberately by thinking workmen, who deny
that the common school as it at present exists can give any training
that they desire for their children, or that it will ever do so till
manual training forms part of the course. But for most it is not
intelligent dissatisfaction, but the absorbing press of getting a living
that compels the employment of child-labor, and thus brings physical and
moral degeneration, not only for this generation but for many to come.
It is not alone the nine thousand in factories that we must deal with,
but many hundred thousands uncounted and unrecognized, the same spirit
dominating all.

In one of the better class of tenement-houses a woman, a polisher in a
jewelry manufactory, said the other day:--

"I'm willing to work hard, I don't care how hard; but it's awful to me
to see my little boy and the way he goes on. He's a cash-boy at D----'s,
and they don't pay by the week, they pay by checks, so every cash-boy is
on the keen jump after a call. They're so worried and anxious and afraid
they won't get enough; and Johnny cries and says, 'O mamma, I do try,
but there's one boy that always gets ahead of me.' I think it's an awful
system, even if it does make them smart."

An awful system, yet in its ranks march more and more thousands every
year. It would seem as if every force in modern civilization bent toward
this one end of money-getting, and the child of days and the old man of
years alike shared the passion and ran the same mad race. It is the
passion itself that has outgrown all bounds and that faces us
to-day,--the modern Medusa on which he who looks has no more heart of
flesh and blood but forever heart of stone, insensible to any sorrow,
unmoved by any cry of child or woman. It is with this shape that the
battle must be, and no man has yet told us its issue. Nay, save here and
there one, who counts that battle is needed, or sees the shadow of the
terror walking not only in darkness but before all men's eyes, who is
there that has not chosen blindness and will not hear the voice that
pleads: "Let my people go free"?



"I used to think there were steady trades; but somehow now everything
gets mixed, and you can't tell what's steady and what isn't."

"What makes the mix?"

"The Lord only knows! I've studied over it till I'm dazed, and sometimes
I've wondered if my mind was weakening."

The speaker, a middle-aged Scotchwoman, whose tongue still held a little
of the burr that thirty years of American life had not been able to
extract, put her hand to her head as if the fault must concentrate

"If it was my trade alone," she said, "I might think I was to blame for
not learning new ways, but it's the same in all. Now, take
mattress-making. I learned that because I could help my father best that
way. He was an upholsterer in Aberdeen, and came over to better himself,
and he did if he hadn't signed notes for a friend and ruined himself. He
upholstered in the big families for thirty years, and everybody knew
his little place on Hudson Street. People then bought furniture to last,
and had it covered with the best of stuff, and so with curtains and
hangings. Damask was damask, I can tell you, and velvet lambrequins
meant money. No cotton-back stuff. They got shaken and brushed and done
up from moths. People had some respect for good material. Nobody
respects anything now. I saw a rich woman the other day let her boy six
years old empty a box of candy on a pale-blue satin couch, and then sit
down on it and rub his shoes up and down on the edge. I say that when
there's no respect left for anything it's no wonder decent work comes to
an end. I make a mattress and there isn't an inch of it that isn't sewed
to last and that isn't an honest piece of work, but you can go into any
house-furnishing department and buy one that looks just as well for a
third less money. Everything's so cheap that people don't care whether
anything lasts or not, and so there's no decent work done; and people
pretend to have learned trades when really they just botch things
together. I just go round in houses and make over,--places that I've had
for years; and I've been forewoman in a big factory, but somehow a
factory mattress never seems to me as springy and good as the old kind.
Upholsterers make pretty good wages, but it can't be called steady any
more, though it used to be. I've thought many a time of going into
business for myself, but competition's awful, and I'm afraid to try. I
won't cheat, and there's no getting ahead unless you do."

"What are the wages?"

"A picker gets about three dollars a week. She just picks over the hair,
and most any kind of girl seems to do now that everything is steamed or
done by machinery. The highest wages now are nine dollars a week, though
I used to earn fifteen and eighteen sometimes, and the dull season makes
the average about six dollars. I earn nine or ten because I do a good
deal of private work, but a woman that can make forty dollars a month
straight ahead is lucky."

Several women of much the same order of intelligence, two of them
forewomen for years in prosperous establishments, added their testimony
as to the shifting character of wages and of employments. One had
watched the course of neckties for seventeen years,--a keen-eyed little
widow who had fought hard to educate her two children and preserve some
portion of the respectability she loved.

"You'd never dream how many kinds there have been, or, for that matter,
how many kinds there are. We even make stocks for a few old-fashioned
gentlemen that will have them. It's a business that a lady turns to
first thing almost if she wants to earn, and we give out hundreds on
hundreds to such, besides sending loads into the country. I often think
our house turns out enough for the whole United States, but we're only
a beginning. We pay well,--well as any, and better. Twenty-five cents a
dozen is good pay now, and we see that our cutter leaves margin enough
to keep the women from being cheated. That's a great trick with some.
Sometimes the cutter is paid by the number he can get out of a piece of
goods; sometimes he screws just because he's made so. But they cut by
measure, and they allow so little to turn in that the thing frays in
your hand, and no mortal could help it, and if one is frayed the foreman
just throws out the dozen. Then lots of them advertise for girls to
learn, and say they must give the first week or fortnight free; and when
that is over they say work is slack or some other excuse, and take in a
lot more that have been waiting. We've taken many a girl that came
crying and told how she'd been kept on and cheated. There's one man on
Third Avenue that runs his place on this plan, and has got rich. But I
say to every girl: 'You'd better have something more than the last shape
in neckties between you and starvation. You'll never get beyond five or
six dollars a week at most, and generally not that.' It don't make any
difference. There are dozens waiting for the chance to starve genteelly.
It's a genteel trade and a pretty steady one, but if a dull time comes
the girls go into cigar-making and manage along somehow. I've coaxed a
good many into service, but it isn't one in a hundred will try that."

The third woman represented a hat-pressing factory in which she had been
eleven years, and in which the wages had fallen year by year, till at
present women, even when most expert, can earn not over six dollars per
week as against from eight to twelve in previous years. The trade is
regarded as a steady one, for spring and summer straws give place to
felt, and a certain number of hands are sure of employment. In direct
association with this trade must be considered that of artificial
flowers and feathers, in which there is perpetual see-saw. If feathers
are in vogue flowers are down, and _vice versa_. Five thousand women are
employed on feathers, and the establishments, which in 1871 numbered but
twelve, now number over fifty; but those for flowers far exceed them.
Learners work for three dollars or less per week, the highest wages
attainable in either being fifteen dollars, the average being about
nine. The demand for one or the other is continuous, but when fashion in
1886 called for scarfs and flowers, four thousand feather-workers were
thrown out and lived as they could till another turn in the wheel
restored their occupation.

"One or the other of 'em is always steady" said a woman who had learned
both trades, and thus stood prepared to circumvent fate. "The trouble
is, you never know a week ahead which will be up and which down. Lots of
us have learned both, and when I see the firm putting their heads
together I know what it means and just go across the way to
Pillsbury's, and the same with them. It's good pay and one or the other
steady, but the Lord only knows which."

"If you want steadiness you've got to take to jute," said a girl who
with her sister lived in one of the upper rooms. "There ain't many
jute-mills in the country, and you go straight ahead. We two began in a
cotton-mill, but there's this queer thing about it. Breathe cotton-fluff
all day and you're just sure to have consumption; but breathe a peck of
jute-fluff a day and it didn't seem to make any difference. That isn't
my notion. Our doctor said he'd noticed it, and he took home some of the
fibre to examine it. For my part we're called a rough lot, but I'd
rather take that discredit and keep on in the mill. You can stir round
and don't have to double up over sewing or that kind of thing. I can
earn seven dollars a week, and I'd rather earn it that way than any

An hour or two in the mill, which included every form of manufacture
that jute has yet taken, from seamless bags of all sizes and grades up
to carpets, convinced one that if nerves were hardened to the incessant
noise of machinery, there were distinct advantages associated with it.
The few Scotch in the mill, men and women who had been brought over from
Dundee, the headquarters of the jute industry abroad, insisted that jute
was healthy, and long life for all who handled it a forgone conclusion.
A tour among the workers seemed to confirm this impression, though here
and there one found the factory face, with its dead paleness and
dark-ringed eyes. Children as small as can be held to be consistent with
the assumption of their thirteen years are preferred, their work as
"doffers" or spool-changers requiring small quick hands. So, too, in
fixing the pattern for carpets, where the threads must be manipulated
with speed and light touch. It is preferred that children should grow up
in the mill, passing from one room to another as they master processes,
and the employees thus stay on and regard themselves as portions of the
business. Some three or four thousand women and girls find occupation
here. The waste from the carding-rooms is sent to the paper-mills and
enters into manila paper and pasteboard, and this brings one to the
paper-box makers, of whom there are several thousand at work.

This trade, while nominally one of the steadiest, has its short periods
of depression. Competition is also as severe here as in every other
present form of industry, and thus prices are kept down, the highest
rate of wages earned being nine dollars, while seven dollars is
considered fair. There must be a certain apprenticeship, not less than
six months being required to master details and understand each stage of
the work. In one of the best of these establishments, where space was
plenty and ventilation and other conditions all good, one woman had
been in the firm's employ for eighteen years and was practically
forewoman, though no such office is recognized. Beginners were placed in
her hands and did not leave her till a perfect box could be turned off.
Cutting is all done by special machines, and the paper for covering is
prepared in the same way, glue or paste being used according to the
degree of strength desired in the box. The work is all piece-work, from
fifty to seventy cents a hundred being paid; a fair worker making two
hundred a day and an expert nearly or quite three hundred. But
competition governs the price and cuts are often made. A firm will
underbid and an order be transferred to it, unless the girls will
consent to do the work five or, it may be, ten cents less on the
hundred, and thus wages can seldom pass beyond nine dollars a week, dull
seasons and cuts reducing the average to seven and a half. Many even
good workers fall far below this, as they prefer to come late and go
early, piece-work admitting of this arrangement. The woman who takes up
this trade may be confident of earning from twenty-five to thirty-five
dollars a month, but she never exceeds this amount; nor is there
promotion beyond a certain point. In paper hangings wages do not rise
above twenty-five dollars at most, and in paper collars and cuffs, as in
everything connected with clothing, the rate is much less. Rags are the
foundation industry in all these forms of paper manufacture, but the
two thousand women who work at sorting these seldom pass beyond five
dollars, and more often receive but two and a half or three dollars per

Under much the same head must come the preparation of sample cards,
playing cards, and various forms of stationers' work. The latter has
short dull seasons when girls may, for two or three weeks, have no work;
but it is otherwise a steady trade, the wages running from three and a
half to seven dollars per week. They stamp initials and crests with
large hand presses, and stamp also the cheaper order of lithographs;
they run envelope machines, color mourning paper, apply mucilage to
envelopes, and pack small boxes of paper and envelopes. In all of the
last mentioned trades hours are from eight A. M. to half-past five P. M.,
with half an hour for lunch, and a girl of fifteen can earn the same
wages as the woman of fifty, a light, quick touch and care being the
only essentials.

The trades mentioned here and in preceding papers form but a portion of
the ninety and more open to women. Thirty-eight of these are directly
connected with clothing, and include every phase of ornament or use in
braid, gimp, button, clasp, lining, or other article employed in its
manufacture. In every one of these competition keeps wages at the lowest
possible figure. Outside of the army here employed come the washers and
ironers who laundry shirts and underwear, whose work is of the most
exhausting order, who "lean hard" on the iron, and in time become the
victims of diseases resulting from ten hours a day of this "leaning
hard," and who complain bitterly that prisons and reformatories underbid
them and keep wages down. It is quite true. Convict labor here as
elsewhere is the foe of the honest worker, and complicates a problem
already sufficiently complicated. These ironers can make from ten to
twelve dollars per week, but soon fail in health and turn to lighter
work, many of them taking up cigar-making, which soon finishes the work
of demoralization.

Fringes, gimps, plush, and bonnet ornaments are overcrowded with
workers, for here, as in flowers and feathers, fashion determines the
season's work, and the fringe-maker has for a year or so had small call
for her knowledge save in some forms of upholstery. One and all are so
hedged in by competition that to pass beyond a certain limit is
impossible, and all wages are kept at the lowest point, not only by this
fact, but by the fact that many women who had learned the trade continue
it after marriage as a means of adding a trifle to the family income. An
expert in any one of them is tolerably certain of steady employment, but
wages have reached the lowest point and it does not appear that any rise
is probable. Sharp competition rules and will rule till the working
class themselves recognize the necessity of an education that will make
them something more than adjuncts to machinery, and of an organization
in which co-operation will take the place of competition. That both must
come is as certain as that evolution is upward and not downward, but it
is still a distant day, and neither employer nor employed have yet
learned the possibilities of either.



At last we have come to the problem to which there has necessarily been
incidental reference here and there, but which has otherwise bided its
time. That these pages or any pages written by mortal hand in this
generation can solve it, the writer doubts, its solution being
inextricably involved with that of other social problems for which time
is the chief key. State the question as we may, there is always a fresh
presentation to be made, and replies are as various as the minds of the
staters. It is the mistress with whom such presentation has thus far
rested,--a mistress thorned beyond endurance by incompetence, dirt,
waste, insubordination,--all the evils known to ignorant and
presumptuous service. For such mistress, smarting from a sense of wrong,
and hopeless and faithless as to remedies, the outlook is necessarily
bounded by her own horizon. She listens with indignant contempt to the
story of the thousands who choose their garrets and semi-starvation with
independence, to the shelter and abundance of the homes in which they
might be made welcome. She may even aver that any statement of their
suffering is stupid sentimentality; the gush and maudlin melancholy of
"humanitarian clergymen and newspaper reformers."

For her, as for most of her order, in whom as yet no faculty for seeing
both sides of a question has developed, there can be no reply save in
words already spoken. "These women, working for wages that keep them
always just above starvation point, have no power left to think beyond
the need of the hour. They cannot stop, they dare not stop, to think of
other methods of earning. They have no clothing in which they could
obtain even entrance to an intelligence office. They have no knowledge
that could make them servants even of the meanest order. They are what
is left of untrained and hopelessly ignorant lives," given over to
suffering born in part from their ignorance; and for a large proportion
of such cases there can be merely alleviation, and such slight bettering
of conditions as would come from a system into which justice entered
more fully.

With this army of incompetents we have at present nothing to do. Our
interest lies in discovering what is at the bottom of the objection to
domestic service; how far these objections are rational and to be
treated with respect, and how they may be obviated. The mistress's point
of view we all know. We know, too, her presentation of objections as she
fancies she has discovered them. What we do not know is the ground
taken by sensible, self-respecting girls, who have chosen trades in
preference, and from whom full detail has been obtained as to the
reasons for such choice. In listening to the countless stories of
experiment in earning a living, the passage from one industry to
another, and the uncertainties and despairs before the right thing had
shown itself, the question has always been asked, "How did it happen
that you did not try to get a place in some good family?"

The answers were as various as the characters of those who replied; some
with indignation that they should be supposed capable of this
degradation, but most of them thoughtfully and reasonably. In time they
arranged themselves under heads, the occupations represented by the
various respondents being over seventy. They were chiefly above the
ordinary domestic in intelligence and education, their employments being
of every order, from paper-box making to type-writing and stenography;
but the trades predominated,--American being the nationality most
largely represented, Irish born in this country ranking next, and German
and a sprinkling of other nationalities following. These replies are
precisely of the same nature as those given some time ago in
Philadelphia during an investigation made by the head of one of the
first guilds for working-women established in this country, objections
being practically the same at whatever point they may be given. They
were arranged under different heads and numbered in order.

In the present case it seems well to take the individual testimony, each
girl whose verdict is chosen representing a class, and being really its

First on the list stands Margaret M----, an American, twenty-three years
old, and for five years in a paper-box factory. Seven others nodded
their assent, or added a word here and there as she gave her view, two
of them Irish-Americans who had had some years in the public schools.

"It's freedom that we want when the day's work is done. I know some nice
girls, Bridget's cousins, that make more money and dress better and
everything for being in service. They're waitresses, and have Thursday
afternoon out and part of every other Sunday. But they're never sure of
one minute that's their own when they're in the house. Our day is ten
hours long, but when it's done it's done, and we can do what we like
with the evenings. That's what I've heard from every nice girl that ever
tried service. You're never sure that your soul's your own except when
you are out of the house, and I couldn't stand that a day. Women care
just as much for freedom as men do. Of course they don't get so much,
but I know I'd fight for mine."

"Women are always harder on women than men are," said a fur-sewer, an
intelligent American about thirty. "I got tired of always sitting, and
took a place as chambermaid. The work was all right and the wages good,
but I'll tell you what I couldn't stand. The cook and the waitress were
just common, uneducated Irish, and I had to room with one and stand the
personal habits of both, and the way they did at table took all my
appetite. I couldn't eat, and began to run down; and at last I gave
notice, and told the truth when I was asked why. The lady just looked at
me astonished: 'If you take a servant's place, you can't expect to be
one of the family,' she said. 'I never asked it,' I said; 'all I ask is
a chance at common decency.' 'It will be difficult to find an easier
place than this,' she said, and I knew it; but ease one way was hardness
another, and she couldn't see that I had any right to complain. That's
one trouble in the way. It's the mixing up of things, and mistresses
don't think how they would feel in the same place."

Third came an Irish-American whose mother had been cook for years in one
family, but who had, after a few months of service, gone into a
jute-mill, followed gradually by five sisters.

"I hate the very words 'service' and 'servant,'" she said. "We came to
this country to better ourselves, and it's not bettering to have anybody
ordering you round."

"But you are ordered in the mill."

"That's different. A man knows what he wants, and doesn't go beyond it;
but a woman never knows what she wants, and sort of bosses you
everlastingly. If there was such a thing as fixed hours it might be
different, but I tell every girl I know, 'Whatever you do, don't go into
service. You'll always be prisoners and always looked down on.' You can
do things at home for them as belongs to you that somehow it seems
different to do for strangers. Anyway, I hate it, and there's plenty
like me."

"What I minded," said a gentle, quiet girl, who worked at a stationer's,
and who had tried household service for a year,--"what I minded was the
awful lonesomeness. I went for general housework, because I knew all
about it, and there were only three in the family. I never minded being
alone evenings in my own room, for I'm always reading or something, and
I don't go out hardly at all, but then I always know I can, and that
there is somebody to talk to if I like. But there, except to give
orders, they had nothing to do with me. It got to feel sort of crushing
at last. I cried myself sick, and at last I gave it up, though I don't
mind the work at all. I know there are good places, but the two I tried
happened to be about alike, and I sha'n't try again. There are a good
many would feel just the same."

"Oh, nobody need to tell me about poor servants," said an energetic
woman of forty, Irish-American, and for years in a shirt factory. "Don't
I know the way the hussies'll do, comin' out of a bog maybe, an' not
knowing the names even, let alone the use, of half the things in the
kitchen, and asking their twelve and fourteen dollars a month? Don't I
know it well, an' the shame it is to 'em! but I know plenty o' decent,
hard-workin' girls too, that give good satisfaction, an' this is what
they say. They say the main trouble is, the mistresses don't know, no
more than babies, what a day's work really is. A smart girl keeps on her
feet all the time to prove she isn't lazy, for if the mistress finds her
sitting down, she thinks there can't be much to do and that she doesn't
earn her wages. Then if a girl tries to save herself or is deliberate,
they call her slow. They want girls on tap from six in the morning till
ten and eleven at night. 'Tisn't fair. And then, if there's a let-up in
the work, maybe they give you the baby to see to. I like a nice baby,
but I don't like having one turned over to me when I'm fit to drop
scrabbling to get through and sit down a bit. I've naught to say for the
girls that's breaking things and half doing the work. They're a shameful
set, and ought to be put down somehow; but it's a fact that the most
I've known in service have been another sort that stayed long in places
and hated change. There's many a good place too, but the bad ones
outnumber 'em. Women make hard mistresses, and I say again, I'd rather
be under a man, that knows what he wants. That's the way with most."

"I don't see why people are surprised that we don't rush into places,"
said a shop-girl. "Our world may be a very narrow world, and I know it
is; but for all that, it's the only one we've got, and right or wrong,
we're out of it if we go into service. A teacher or cashier or anybody
in a store, no matter if they have got common-sense, doesn't want to
associate with servants. Somehow you get a sort of smooch. Young men
think and say, for I have heard lots of them, 'Oh, she can't amount to
much if she hasn't brains enough to make a living outside of a kitchen!'
You're just down once for all if you go into one."

"I don't agree with you at all," said a young teacher who had come with
her. "The people that hire you go into kitchens and are not disgraced.
What I felt was, for you see I tried it, that they oughtn't to make me
go into livery. I was worn out with teaching, and so I concluded to try
being a nurse for a while. I found two hard things: one, that I was
never free for an hour from the children, for I took meals and all with
them, and any mother knows what a rest it is to go quite away from them,
even for an hour; and the other was that she wanted me to wear the
nurse's cap and apron. She was real good and kind; but when I said,
'Would you like your sister, Miss Louise, to put on cap and apron when
she goes out with them?' she got very red, and straightened up. 'It's a
very different matter,' she said; 'you must not forget that in accepting
a servant's place you accept a servant's limitations.' That finished me.
I loved the children, but I said, 'If you have no other thought of what
I am to the children than that, I had better go.' I went, and she put a
common, uneducated Irish girl in my place. I know a good many who would
take nurse's places, and who are sensible enough not to want to push
into the family life. But the trouble is that almost every one wants to
make a show, and it is more stylish to have the nurse in a cap and
apron, and so she is ordered into them."

"I've tried it," said one who had been a dressmaker and found her health
going from long sitting. "My trouble was, no conscience as to hours; and
I believe you'll find that is, at the bottom, one of the chief
objections. My first employer was a smart, energetic woman, who had done
her own work when she was first married and knew what it meant, or you'd
think she might have known. But she had no more thought for me than if I
had been a machine. She'd sit in her sitting-room on the second floor
and ring for me twenty times a day to do little things, and she wanted
me up till eleven to answer the bell, for she had a great deal of
company. I had a good room and everything nice, and she gave me a great
many things, but I'd have spared them all if only I could have had a
little time to myself. I was all worn out, and at last I had to go.
There was another reason. I had no place but the kitchen to see my
friends. I was thirty years old and as well born and well educated as
she, and it didn't seem right. The mistresses think it's all the girls'
fault, but I've seen enough to know that women haven't found out what
justice means, and that a girl knows it, many a time, better than her
employer. Anyway, you couldn't make me try it again."

"My trouble was," said another, who had been in a cotton-mill and gone
into the home of one of the mill-owners as chambermaid, "I hadn't any
place that I could be alone a minute. We were poor at home, and four of
us worked in the mill, but I had a little room all my own, even if it
didn't hold much. In that splendid big house the servants' room was over
the kitchen,--hot and close in summer, and cold in winter, and four beds
in it. We five had to live there together, with only two bureaus and a
bit of a closet, and one washstand for all. There was no chance to keep
clean or your things in nice order, or anything by yourself, and I gave
up. Then I went into a little family and tried general housework, and
the mistress taught me a great deal, and was good and kind, only there
the kitchen was a dark little place and my room like it, and I hadn't an
hour in anything that was pleasant and warm. A mistress might see, you'd
think, when a girl was quiet and fond of her home, and treat her
different from the kind that destroy everything; but I suppose the truth
is, they're worn out with that kind and don't make any difference. It's
hard to give up your whole life to somebody else's orders, and always
feel as if you was looked at over a wall like; but so it is, and you
won't get girls to try it, till somehow or other things are different."

Last on the record came a young woman born in Pennsylvania in a fairly
well-to-do farmer's house.

"I like house-work," she said. "There's nothing suits me so well. We
girls never had any money, nor mother either, and so I went into a
water-cure near the Gap and stayed awhile. Now the man that run it
believed in all being one family. He called the girls helpers, and he
fixed things so't each one had some time to herself every day, and he
tried to teach 'em all sorts of things. The patients were cranky to wait
on, but you felt as if you was a human being, anyhow, and had a chance.
Well, I watched things, and I said it was discouraging, sure enough. I
tried to do a square day's work, but two-thirds of 'em there shirked
whenever they could; half did things and then lied to cover their
tracks. I was there nine months, and I learned better'n ever I knew
before how folks ought to live on this earth. And I said to myself the
fault wasn't so much in the girls that hadn't ever been taught; it was
in them that didn't know enough to teach 'em. A girl thought it was
rather pretty and independent, and showed she was somebody, to sling
dishes on the table, and never say 'ma'am' nor 'sir,' and dress up
afternoons and make believe they hadn't a responsibility on earth. They
hadn't sense enough to do anything first-rate, for nobody had ever put
any decent ambition into 'em. It isn't to do work well; it's to get
somehow to a place where there won't be any more work. So I say that
it's the way of living and thinking that's all wrong; and that as soon
as you get it ciphered out and plain before you that any woman, high or
low, is a mean sneak that doesn't do everything in the best way she can
possibly learn, and that doesn't try to help everybody to feel just so,
why, things would stop being crooked and folks would get along well
enough. Don't you think so?"

How far the energetic speaker had solved the problem must be left to the
reader, for whom there still certain unconsidered phases, all making
part of the arraignment, scouted by those who are served, but more and
more distinct and formidable in the mind of the server.



Though the testimony given in the preceding chapter on this topic
includes the chief objection to be made by the class of workers who
would seem to be most benefited by accepting household service, there
remain still one or two phases seldom mentioned, but forming an
essential portion of the argument against it. They belong, not to the
order we have had under consideration, but to that below it from which
the mass of domestic servants is recruited, and with which the
housekeeper must most often deal.

The phases encountered here are born of the conditions of life in the
cities and large towns; and denied as they may be by quiet householders
whose knowledge of life is bounded by their own walls, or walls
enclosing neighbors of like mind, they exist and face at once all who
look below the surface. The testimony of the class itself might be open
to doubt. The testimony of the physicians whose work lies among them, or
in the infirmaries to which they come, cannot be impugned. Shirk or deny
facts as we may, it is certain that in the great cities, save for the
comparatively small proportion of quiet homes where old methods still
prevail, household service has become synonymous with the worst
degradation that comes to woman. Women who have been in service, and
remained in it contentedly until marriage, unite in saying that things
have so changed that only here and there is a young girl safe, and that
domestic service is the cover for more licentiousness than can be found
in any other trade in which women are at work.

Incredible as this statement at first appears, the statistics of
hospitals and in infirmaries confirm it, and the causes are not far to
seek. Household service has passed from the hands of Americans into
those of the Irish first, and then a proportion of every European
nation. So long as the supply came to us entirely from abroad we were
comparatively safe. If the experience of the new arrival had been solely
under thatched roof and on clay floors, at least sun could visit them
and great chimneys gave currents of pure air, while simple food kept
blood pure and gave small chance for unruly impulses to govern. But once
with us demoralization began, and the tenement-house guaranteed sure
corruption for every tenant. Even for the most decent there was small
escape. To the children born in these quarters every inmost fact of
human life was from the beginning a familiar story. Overcrowding, the
impossibility of slightest privacy, the constant contact with the
grossest side of life, soon deaden any susceptibility and destroy every
gleam of modesty or decency. In the lowest order of all rules an
absolute shamelessness which conceals itself in the grade above, yet has
no less firm hold of those who have come up in such conditions.

There are many exceptions, many well-fought battles against their power,
but our concern at present is not with these but with facts as they
stand recorded. Physician after physician has given in her testimony and
one and all agree in the statement that open prostitution is for many
merely the final step,--a mere setting the seal to the story of ruin and
licentiousness that has always existed. The women who adopt this mode of
life because of want of work or low wages are the smallest of
minorities. The illegitimate children for whom the city must care are
not from this source. Often the mother is a mere child who has been
deceived and outraged, but far more often she has entered a family
prepared to meet any advances, and often directly the tempter.

It is this state of things which makes many mothers say: "My girl shall
never run such risks. I'll keep her from them as long as I can;" and
unsavory as the details will seem, their knowledge is an essential
factor in the problem. The tenement-house stands to-day not only as the
breeder of disease and physical degeneration for every inmate, but as
equally potent in social demoralization for the class who ignore its
existence. Out of these houses come hundreds upon hundreds of our
domestic servants, whose influence is upon our children at the most
impressible age, and who bring inherited and acquired foulness into our
homes and lives. And if such make but the smallest proportion of those
who serve, they are none the less powerful and most formidable agents in
that blunting of moral perception which is a more and more apparent fact
in the life of the day. The records from which such knowledge is gleaned
are not accessible to the general public. They are formulated only by
the physician, whose business is silence, and who gives only an
occasional summary of what may be found in the sewer underlying the
social life of great cities. Decorously hidden from view the foul stream
flows on, rising here and there to the surface, but instantly covered by
popular opinion, which pronounces such revelations disgusting and
considers suppression synonymous with extermination.

Naturally this phase of things is confined chiefly to the great cities,
but the virus is portable and its taint may be discovered even in the
remote country. It is one of the many causes that have worked toward the
degradation of this form of service, but it is so interwoven and
integral a part of the present social structure that temporary
destruction would seem the inevitable result of change. Yet change must
come before the only class who have legitimate place in our homes will
or can take such place. If different ideals had ruled among us; if ease
and freedom from obligation and "a good time" had not come to be the
chief end of man to-day; if our schools gave any training from which boy
or girl could go out into life with the best in them developed and ready
for actual practical use,--this mass of undisciplined, conscienceless,
reckless force would have been reduced to its lowest terms, and to
dispose of the residuum would be an easy problem. As it is, we are at
the mercy of the spirits we have raised, and no one word holds power to
lay them. No axioms or theories of the past have any present
application. It is because we cling to the old theories while diligently
practising methods in absolute opposition to them, that the question has
so complicated itself. We cannot go backward, but we can stop short and
discover in what direction our path is tending and whether we are not
wandering blindly in by-ways, when the public road is clear to see.

It is certain that many among the most intelligent working-women look
longingly toward domestic service as something that might offer much
more individual possibility of comfort and contentment than the trades
afford. But save for one here and there who has chanced to find an
employer who knows the meaning of justice as well as of human sympathy,
the mass turn away hopeless of any change in methods. Yet reform among
intelligent employers could easily be brought about were the question
treated from the standpoint of justice, and the demand made an equally
imperative and binding one for each side. The mistresses who command the
best service are those who make rigorous demands, but keep their own
side of the bargain as rigorously. They are few, for the American
temperament is one of submission, varied by sudden bursts of revolt, and
despairing return to a worse state than the first. A training-school
school for mistresses is as much an essential as one for the servants.
The conditions of modern life come more complicated with every year; and
as simplification becomes for the many less and less possible, it is all
the more vitally necessary to study the subject from the new standpoint,
settle once for all how and why we have failed, and begin again on the
new foundation.

Here then stands the arraignment of domestic service under its present
conditions, given point by point as it has formulated itself to those
who urged to turn to it. The mistresses' side defines itself as sharply;
but when all is said the two are one, the demand one and the same for
both. Men who work for wages work a specified number of hours, and if
they shirk or half fulfil their contract, find work taken from them.
Were the same arrangement understood as equally binding in domestic
service, thousands of self-respecting women would not hesitate to enter
it. Family life cannot always move in fixed lines, and hours must often
vary; but conscientious tally could be kept, and over-hours receive the
pay they have earned. A conscience on both sides would be the first
necessity; and it is quite certain that the master of the house would
require education as decidedly as the mistress, woman's work within home
walls being regarded as something continuous, indefinable, and not worth
formal estimate.

In spite of the enormous increase of wealth, the mass are happily what,
for want of a better word, must be called middle class. But one servant
or helper can usually be kept, and most often she is one who has used
our kitchens as kindergartens, adding fragments of training as she
passed from one to the other, ending often as fairly serviceable and
competent. Sure of her place she becomes tyrant, and nothing can alter
this relation but the appearance upon the scene of organized trained
labor, making a demand for absolute fairness of treatment and giving it
in return. Once certain that the reign of incompetence was over, the
present order of servers would make haste to seek training-schools, or
accept the low wages which would include personal training from the
mistress, promotion being conditioned upon faithful obedience to the new

What are the stipulations which every self-respecting girl or woman has
the right to make? They are short and simple. They are absolutely
reasonable, and their adoption would be an education to every household
which accepted them:--

1. A definition of what a day's work means, and payment for all
over-time required, or certain hours of absolute freedom guaranteed,
especially where the position is that of child's nurse.

2. A comfortably warmed and decently furnished room, with separate beds
if two occupy it, and both decent place and appointments for meals.

3. The heaviest work, such as carrying coal, scrubbing pavements,
washing, etc., to be arranged for if this is asked, with a consequent
deduction in the wages.

4. No livery if there is feeling against it.

5. The privilege of seeing friends in a better part of the house than
the kitchen, and security from any espionage during such time, whether
the visitors are male or female. This to be accompanied by reasonable
restrictions as to hours, and with the condition that work is not to be

6. Such a manner of speaking to and of the server as shall show that
there is no contempt for housework, and that it is actually as
respectable as other occupations.

Were such a schedule as this printed, framed, and hung in every kitchen
in the land, and its provisions honestly met, household revolution and
anarchy would cease, and the whole question settle itself quietly and
once for all. And this in spite of a thousand inherent difficulties
known to every housekeeper, but which would prove self-adjusting so soon
as it was learned that service had found a rational basis. At present,
with the majority of mistresses, it is simply unending struggle to get
the most out of the unwilling and grudging server, hopelessly
unreasonable and giving warning on faintest provocation. Yet these very
women, turning to factory life, where fixed and inexorable law rules
with no appeal, submit at once and become often skilled and capable
workers. It is certain that domestic service must learn organization as
every other form of industry has learned it, and that mistresses must
submit to something of the same training that is needed by the maid. Nor
need it be feared that putting such service on a strictly business basis
will destroy such kindliness as now helps to make the relation less
intolerable. On the contrary, with justice the foundation and a rigorous
fulfilment of duty on both sides will come a far closer tie than exists
save in rarest instances, and homes will regain a quality long ago
vanished from our midst. Such training will be the first step toward the
co-operation which must be the ultimate solution of many social

It has failed in many earlier attempts because personal justice was
lacking; but even one generation of sustained effort to simplify
conditions would insure not only a different ideal for those who think
at all, but the birth of something better for every child of the

For the individual standing alone, hampered by many cares and distracted
over the whole household problem, action may seem impossible. But if
the most rational members of a community would band together, send
prejudice and tradition to the winds, and make a new declaration of
independence for the worker, it is certain that the tide would turn and
a new order begin. Till such united, concerted action can be brought
about there is small hope of reform, and it can come only through women.
Dismiss sentiment. Learn to look at the thing as a trade in which each
seeks her own advantage, and in which each gains the more clearly these
advantages are defined. It is a hard relation. It demands every power
that woman can bring to bear upon it. It is an education of the highest
faculties she owns. It means a double battle, for it is with ourselves
that the fight begins. Liberty can only come through personal struggle.
It is easy to die for it, but to live for it, to deserve it, to defend
it forever is another and a harder matter. Still harder is it to know
its full meaning and what it is that makes the battle worth fighting.
Union to such ends will be slow, but it must come:--

  "Freedom is growth and not creation:
  One man suffers, one man is free.
  One brain forges a constitution,
  But how shall the million souls be won?
  Freedom is more than a revolution--
  He is not free who is free alone."

Is this the word of a dreamer whose imagination holds the only work of
reconstruction, and whose hands are powerless to make the dream
reality? On the contrary, many years of experience in which few of the
usual troubles were encountered, added to that of others who had thought
out the problem for themselves, have demonstrated that reform is
possible. Precisely such conditions as are here specified have been in
practical operation for many years. The homes in which they have ruled
have had the unfailing devotion of those who served, and the experiment
has ceased to come under that head, and demonstrated that order and
peace and quiet mastery of the day's work may still be American
possessions. Count this imperfect presentation then as established fact
for a few, and ask why it is not possible to make it so for the many.



The long quest is over. It ends; and I turn at last from those women,
whose eyes still follow me, filled with mute question of what good may
come. Of all ages and nations and creeds, all degrees of ignorance and
prejudice and stupidity; hampered by every condition of birth and
training; powerless to rise beyond them till obstacles are removed,--the
great city holds them all, and in pain and want and sorrow they are one.
The best things of life are impossible to them. What is worse, they are
unknown as well as unattainable. If the real good of life must be
measured by the final worth of the thing we make or get by it, what
worth is there for or in them? The city holds them all,--"the great foul
city,--rattling, growling, smoking, stinking,--a ghastly heap of
fermenting brickwork, pouring out poison at every pore."

The prosperous have no such definition, nor do they admit that it can be
true. For the poor, it is the only one that can have place. We pack them
away in tenements crowded and foul beyond anything known even to
London, whose "Bitter Cry" had less reason than ours; and we have taken
excellent care that no foot of ground shall remain that might mean
breathing-space, or free sport of child, or any green growing thing.
Grass pushes its way here and there, but for this army it is only
something that at last they may lie under, never upon. There is no pause
in the march, where as one and another drops out the gap fills
instantly, every alley and by-way holding unending substitutes. It is
not labor that profiteth, for body and soul are alike starved. It is
labor in its basest, most degrading form; labor that is curse and never
blessing, as true work may be and is. It blinds the eyes. It steals away
joy. It blunts all power whether of hope or faith. It wrecks the body
and it starves the soul. It is waste and only waste; nor can it, below
ground or above, hold fructifying power for any human soul.

Here then we face them,--ignorant, blind, stupid, incompetent in every
fibre,--and yet no count of such indictment alters our responsibility
toward them. Rather it multiplies it in always increasing ratio. For it
is our own system that has made these lives worthless, and sooner or
later we must answer how it came, that living in a civilized land they
had less chance than the heathen to whom we send our missionaries, and
upon whose occasional conversions we plume ourselves as if thus the
Kingdom of Heaven were made wider. If it is true that for many only a
little alleviation is possible, a little more justice, a little better
apportionment of such good as they can comprehend, it is also true that
something better is within the reach of all.

How then shall we define it, and what possibility of alteration for
either lives or conditions lies before us? Nothing that can be of
instant growth; and here lies the chief discouragement, since as a
people we demand instantaneousness, and would have seed, flower, and
fruit at the same moment. Admit patience, capacity to wait, and to work
while waiting, as the first term of the equation, and the rest arrange

For the greater part of social reformers, co-operation has stood as the
initial and most essential step, as the fruit that could be plucked
full-grown; and experience in England would seem to have demonstrated
the belief as true. It is the American inability to wait that has proved
it untrue for us, and until very lately made failure our only record;
but there is a deeper reason than a merely temperamental one. The
abolition of the apprentice system, brought about by the greed of master
and men alike, has abolished training and slow, steady preparation for
any trade. An American has been regarded as quick enough and keen enough
to take in the essential features of a calling, as it were, at a glance,
and apprenticeship has been taken as practically an insult to national
intelligence. Law has kept pace with such conviction, and thus the door
has been shut in the face of all learners, and foreigners have supplied
our skilled workmen and work-women. The groundwork of any better order
lies, if not in a return to the apprentice system, then in a training
from the beginning, which will give to eye and hand the utmost power of
which they are capable. Industrial education is the foundation, and
until it has in its broadest and deepest sense become the portion of
every child born on American soil, that child has missed its birthright.

With the many who accept it, it stands merely as an added capacity to
make money, and if taken in its narrowest application this is all that
it can do. Were this all, it would be simply an added injustice toward
the degeneration that money-making for the mere sake of money inevitably
brings. But at its best, perfected as it has been by patient effort on
the part of a few believers, it is far more than this. Added power to
earn comes with it, but there comes also a love of the work itself, such
as has had no place since the days when the great guilds gave joyfully
their few hours daily to the cathedrals, whose stones were laid and
cemented in love and hope, and a knowledge of the beauty to come, that
long ago died out of any work the present knows. The builders had small
book knowledge. They could be talked down by any public-school child in
its second or third year. But they knew the meaning of beauty and order
and law; and this trinity stands to-day, and will stand for many a
generation to come, as an ideal to which we must return till like causes
work again to like ends. The child who could barely read saw beauty on
every side, and took in the store of ballad and tradition that gave life
to labor. We have parted with all this wilfully. To the Puritan all
beauty that hand of man could create was of the devil, and thus we
represent a consecrated ugliness, any departure from which is even now,
by some conscientious souls, regarded with suspicion.

The child, then, who can be made to understand that beauty and order and
law are one, has a new sense born in him. Life takes on a new aspect,
and work a new meaning. But the fourteen weeks per year of education, at
present required by our law as it stands in its application to children
who must work, has no power to bring such result. It begins in the
kindergarten, from which the poorest child takes home, even to the
tenement-house, something strong enough, when growth has come, to
abolish the tenement-house forever. No man who works to these ends has
gauged possibilities more wisely than Felix Adler, whose school shows us
something not yet attained by the many who, partially accepting his
methods, pronounce his theories dangerous and destructive to what must
be held sacred. However this may be, he and his band of co-workers have
proved, in seven years of unceasing struggle against heavy odds, that a
development is possible even for the tenement-house child, that
reconstructs the entire view of life and makes possible the end for
which all industrial training is but the preparation. It is in such
training that children, rich or poor, best learn the demand bound up in
living and working together, and find in the end that co-operation is
its natural out-growth. There is no renunciation of the home or
destruction of the truest home life. There is simply the abolition of
competition as any necessary factor in human progress, and the placing
of the worker beyond its power to harm.

Thus far we have left the bettering of social conditions chiefly to the
individual, and any hint of State interference carries with it the
opprobrium of socialism. Yet more and more for those who are unterrified
by names, the best in socialism offers itself as the sole way of escape
from monopolies and the stupidities and outrages of the present system.
No one panacea of any reformer fits the case or can alter existing
conditions. Only what man's own soul sees as good, and wills to possess,
is of faintest value to him. No attempt at co-operation can help till
the worker sees its power and use, and is willing to sacrifice where
sacrifice is necessary, to work and to wait in patience. Such power is
born in the industrial school in its largest sense,--the school that
trains heart and mind as well eye and hand, and makes the child ready
for the best work its measure of power can know. This we can give by
State or by individual aid, as the case may be, and every ward in the
city should own a sufficient number to include every child within it. A
check upon emigration would seem an imperative demand,--not prevention,
but some clause which might act to lessen the garbage-heaps dumped upon
our shores. Pauperism and disease have no rights as emigrants, and
eliminating these would make dealing with mere poverty a much more
manageable matter.

The schools exist, and, while painfully inadequate in number,
demonstrate what may be done in the future. Co-operation even for this
hasty people is almost equally demonstrated, as will be plain to those
who read two recent publications of the American Economic Association:
"Co-operation in a Western City," by Albert Shaw, and "Co-operation in
New England," by Edward W. Bemis. Minneapolis is the centre of the facts
given in the first-mentioned pamphlet, which is also the more valuable
of the two, not in execution but merely because it records a movement
which has ceased to be experimental; as the little history includes
every failure as well as the final success, and thus stands as the best
argument yet made for the cause.

Industrial education for the child of to-day; co-operation as the end to
be attained by the worker into which the child will grow,--in these two
factors is bound up much of the problem. They will not touch many whose
miserable lives are recorded in these pages, but they will forever end
any chance of another generation in like case. There are workers who
think, who are being educated by sharp conflict with circumstances, and
who look beyond their own present need to the future. These men and
women, crowded to the wall by the present system, are searching eagerly,
not as mere anarchists and destroyers, but as those who believe that
something better than destruction is possible.

It is these workers for whom the path must be made plain, and to whom we
are most heavily responsible. And this brings me to the final point
bound up indissolubly with the two already defined,--a change in our own
ideals. Such change must come before any school can accomplish its best
work, and till it has at least begun neither school nor system has
lasting power. In these months of search in which women of all ages and
grades have given in their testimony,--from the girl of fourteen earning
her two or three dollars a week in the bag-factory or as cash-girl, to
the woman stitching her remnant of life into the garments that by and by
her more fortunate sisters will find on the bargain counter,--I discover
not alone their ignorance and stupidity and grossness and wilful
blindness, but behind it an ignorance and stupidity no less dense upon
which theirs is founded,--our own. The visible wretchedness is so
appalling, the need for instant relief so pressing, that it is small
wonder that no power remains to look beyond the moment, or to
disentangle one's self from the myriad conflicting claims, and ask the
real meaning of the demand. Mile after mile of the fair islands once the
charm of the East River and the great Sound beyond are covered by
lazar-houses,--the visible signs in this great equation that fills the
page of to-day; the problem of human crime and disease and wretchedness
complicating itself with every addition, and no nearer solution than
when the city was but a handful of houses and poverty yet unknown.

We have made attempts here and there to limit the breeding ground; to
offer less fruitful soil to the spawn increasing with such frightful
rapidity, and demanding with every year fresh reformatories, larger
asylums and hospitals, more and more machinery of alleviation. Yet the
conviction strengthens that even when the tenement-house of to-day is
swept aside, and improved homes with decent sanitary conditions have
taken their place, that the root of the evil is even then untouched, and
that it lies not alone in their lives, but in our own. And so, as final
word, I say to-day to all women who give their lives to beneficence, and
plan ceaselessly and untiringly for better days, that no beneficence can
alter, no work of our hands or desire of our hearts bring the better day
we desire, till the foundations have been laid in something less
shifting than the sands on which we build.

The mission of alleviation, of protection, of care for the foulest and
lowest of lives, has had its day. It is time that this mass of effort
stirred against its perpetual reproduction, its existence, its ever more
and more shameless demands. An improved home goes far toward making
these tendencies less strong; it may even diminish the number of actual
transgressors; but what home, no matter how well kept, has or will have
power to alter the fact that in them thousands of women must still slave
for a pittance that borders always on that life limit fixed by the
political economists as the vanishing point in the picture of modern
life? Sunlight and air may take the place of the foulness now reigning
in the dens that many of them know as homes; but will either sun or air
shorten hours or raise wages, or alter the fact that not one in a
thousand of these women but has grounded her whole pitiful life on a
delusion,--a delusion for which we are responsible?

Year by year in the story of the Republic, labor has taken lower and
lower place. The passion for getting on, latent in every drop of
American blood, has made money the sole symbol of success, and freedom
from hand-labor the synonyme of happiness. The mass of illiterate,
unenlightened emigrants pouring in a steady stream through Castle Garden
have become our hands, and, as hands dependent on the heads of others,
have fallen into the same category as the slaves, whose possession
brought infinitely more degradation to owners than to owned. It is the
story of every civilized nation before its fall,--this exploitation of
labor, this degradation of the worker; and the story of hopeless decay
and collapse must be ours also, if different ideals do not rise to fill
the place of this Golden Calf to which all have bent the knee. There is
not a girl old enough to work at all who does not dream of a possible
future in which work will cease and ease and luxury take its place. The
boy content with a trade, the man or woman accepting simple living and
its limitations contentedly, is counted fool. To get money, and always
more and more money, is the one ambition; and in this mad rush toward
the golden fountain, gentle virtues are trampled under foot, and men
count no armor of honest thought worth wearing unless it be fringed with
bullion. The shop-girl must have her cotton velvet and her glass
substitutes for diamonds. The lines of caste are drawn as sharply with
her as in the ascending grades through which she hopes to pass. Labor is
curse; never the blessing that it may bear when accepted man's chief
good, and used as developing, not as destroying power.

Never till men see and believe that the fortune made by mere sharpness
and unscrupulousness, the fruit not of honest labor but of pure
speculation, is a burning disgrace to its owner, a plague-spot in
civilization, shall we be able to convince girl or woman that labor is
honorable, and better gains possible than any involved in merely getting
on. Never till this furious fight for success, this system of
competition which kills all regard for the individual, demanding only a
machine capable of so much net product,--never till these and all
methods of like nature have ceased to have place, or right to existence,
can we count ourselves civilized or hope to better the conditions that
now baffle us. No church, no mission, no improved home, no guild or any
other form of mitigation means anything till the whole system of thought
is reconstructed, and we come to some sense of what the eternal verities
really are.

It is easy for a woman to be kind and long-suffering, but the women who
can be just to themselves, as well as to others, we can count on our
fingers. Yet justice is the one demand in this life of to-day, and not
one of us who shrinks and shudders at the thought of what women-workers
are enduring but has it in her power to lessen the great sum of
wretchedness; to begin for some one the work of education into just
thinking and just living. Sweeping changes may not be possible. But
beginning is always possible; and not a woman capable of thinking but
has power by the simple force of example to lay the corner-stone of the
new temple, fairer than any yet known to mortal eyes. If there is doubt
for this generation of working-women toiling in blindest ignorance, it
rests with us to lessen the doubt for the next, and to make it
impossible in that better day for which we labor. Not one of us but can
ask, "What is the source of the income which gives me ease? Is it
possible for me to reconstruct my own life in such fashion that it shall
mean more direct and personal relation to the worker? How can I bring
more simplicity, less conventionality, more truth and right living into
home and every relation of life?"

I write these final words with all deference to the noble women whose
lives have been given to good work, and many of whom long ago settled
these questions practically for themselves. But for many of us there has
been simply passive acceptance of all present conditions, without a
question as to how or why they have come. It is because I believe that
with us is the power to remedy every one if we will, that I appeal to
women to-day. I write not as anarchist; not as declaimer against the
rights of property, but as believer in the full right to ownership of
all legitimately acquired property. I believe it the order of life, of
any life that would hold good work of whatever nature, that enough
should be acquired to make sharp want or eating care and perplexity
impossible. But it is certain that even for the most unselfish of us
there is an exaggerated estimate of the value of money,--an involuntary
and inevitable truckling to the one who has most,--and that, no matter
what our teaching may be, the force of every act and tendency makes
against it. And there can be no retracing of steps that have for
generations turned in the wrong direction. The very breath we draw on
this American soil is poisoned by the foulness about us, and about us by
our own act and choice. We have degraded labor till there is no lower
depth, and not one but many generations must pass before these masses
over whose condition we puzzle can find their feet in the path that
means any real progress.

Ask first, then, not what shall we do for these women, but what shall we
do for ourselves? How shall we learn to know what are the real things?
How shall we come to love them and cleave to them, and hold no life
worth living that admits sham or compromise, or believes the mad luxury
of this generation anything but blighting curse and surest destruction?
Till we know this we have learned nothing, and are forever not helpers,
but hinderers, in the great march that our blunders and stupidities only
check for the time. For the word is forever onward, and even the
blindest soul must one day see that if he will not walk by free choice
in the path of God, he will be driven into it with whips of scorpions,
made thus to know what part was given him to fill, and what judgment
waits him who has chosen blindness.

University Press: John Wilson & Son, Cambridge.


THE WHAT-TO-DO CLUB. A Story for Girls. 16mo. $1.50.

MRS. HERNDON'S INCOME. A Novel. 16mo. $1.50.

MISS MELINDA'S OPPORTUNITY. A Story for Girls. 16mo. $1.00. (Paper, 50

PRISONERS OF POVERTY. Women Wage-workers, their Trades and their Lives.
12mo. $1.00. (Paper, 50 cents.)

PRISONERS OF POVERTY ABROAD. 16mo. $1.00. (Paper, 50 cents.)

ROGER BERKELEY'S PROBATION. A Story. 12mo. $1.00. (Paper, 50 cents.)

WOMEN WAGE-EARNERS. Their Past, their Present, and their Future. 16mo.

Study in Classes. A new revised edition. 16mo. $1.00.

IN FOREIGN KITCHENS. With Choice Recipes from England, France, Germany,
Italy, and the North. 50 cents.


_These books will be mailed, post-paid, on receipt of the price by the


254 Washington Street, Boston, Mass.

_Terms for quantities, or for class use, will be sent on application._



One volume. 16mo. Cloth. $1.50.

"Confirmed novel-readers who have regarded fiction as created for
amusement and luxury alone, lay down this book with a new and serious
purpose in life. The social scientist reads it, and finds the solution
of many a tangled problem; the philanthropist finds in it direction and
counsel. A novel written with a purpose, of which never for an instant
does the author lose sight, it is yet absorbing in its interest. It
reveals the narrow motives and the intrinsic selfishness of certain
grades of social life; the corruption of business methods; the 'false,
fairy gold,' of fashionable charities, and 'advanced' thought. Margaret
Wentworth is a typical New England girl, reflective, absorbed, full of
passionate and repressed intensity under a quiet and apparently cold
exterior. The events that group themselves about her life are the
natural result of such a character brought into contact with real life.
The book cannot be too widely read."--_Boston Traveller._

"If the 'What-to-do Club' was clever, this is decidedly more so. It is a
powerful story, and is evidently written in some degree, we cannot quite
say how great a degree, from fact. The personages of the story are very
well drawn,--indeed, 'Amanda Briggs' is as good as anything American
fiction has produced. We fancy we could pencil on the margin the real
names of at least half the characters. It is a book for the wealthy to
read that they may know something that is required of them, because it
does not ignore the difficulties in their way, and especially does not
overlook the differences which social standing puts between class and
class. It is a deeply interesting story considered as mere fiction, one
of the best which has lately appeared. We hope the authoress will go on
in a path where she has shown herself so capable."--_The Churchman._

"In Mrs. Campbell's novel we have a work that is not to be judged by
ordinary standards. The story holds the reader's interest by its
realistic pictures of the local life around us, by its constant and
progressive action, and by the striking dramatic quality of scenes and
incidents, described in a style clear, connected, and harmonious. The
novel-reader who is not taken up and made to share the author's
enthusiasm before getting half-way through the book must possess a taste
satiated and depraved by indulgence in exciting and sensational fiction.
The earnestness of the author's presentation of essentially great
purposes lends intensity to her narrative. Succeeding as she does in
impressing us strongly with her convictions, there is nothing of
dogmatism in their preaching. But the suggestiveness of every chapter is
backed by pictures of real life."--_New York World._

_Sold by all booksellers. Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of price, by the






16mo. Cloth, price, $1.00; paper covers, 50 cents.

"Mrs. Helen Campbell has written 'Miss Melinda's Opportunity' with a
definite purpose in view, and this purpose will reveal itself to the
eyes of all of its philanthropic readers. The true aim of the story is
to make life more real and pleasant to the young girls who spend the
greater part of the day toiling in the busy stores of New York. Just as
in the 'What-to-do Club' the social level of village life was lifted
several grades higher, so are the little friendly circles of shop-girls
made to enlarge and form clubs in 'Miss Melinda's
Opportunity.'"--_Boston Herald._

"'Miss Melinda's Opportunity,' a story by Helen Campbell, is in a
somewhat lighter vein than are the earlier books of this clever author;
but it is none the less interesting and none the less realistic. The
plot is unpretentious, and deals with the simplest and most conventional
of themes: but the character-drawing is uncommonly strong, especially
that of Miss Melinda, which is a remarkably vigorous and interesting
transcript from real life, and highly finished to the slightest details.
There is much quiet humor in the book, and it is handled with skill and
reserve. Those who have been attracted to Mrs. Campbell's other works
will welcome the latest of them with pleasure and
satisfaction."--_Saturday Gazette._

"The best book that Helen Campbell has yet produced is her latest story,
'Miss Melinda's Opportunity,' which is especially strong in
character-drawing, and its life sketches are realistic and full of
vigor, with a rich vein of humor running through them. Miss Melinda is a
dear lady of middle life, who has finally found her opportunity to do a
great amount of good with her ample pecuniary means by helping those who
have the disposition to help themselves. The story of how some bright
and energetic girls who had gone to New York to earn their living put a
portion of their earnings into a common treasury, and provided
themselves with a comfortable home and good fare for a very small sum
per week, is not only of lively interest, but furnishes hints for other
girls in similar circumstances that may prove of great value. An
unpretentious but well-sustained plot runs through the book, with a
happy ending, in which Miss Melinda figures as the angel that she
is."--_Home Journal._

_Sold by all booksellers. Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of price, by the





16mo. Cloth. Price $1.50.

"'The What-to-do Club' is an unpretending story. It introduces us to a
dozen or more village girls of varying ranks. One has had superior
opportunities; another exceptional training; two or three have been
'away to school;' some are farmers' daughters; there is a teacher, two
or three poor self-supporters,--in fact, about such an assemblage as any
town between New York and Chicago might give us. But while there is a
large enough company to furnish a delightful coterie, there is
absolutely no social life among them.... Town and country need more
improving, enthusiastic work to redeem them from barrenness and
indolence. Our girls need a chance to do independent work, to study
practical business, to fill their minds with other thoughts than the
petty doings of neighbors. A What-to-do Club is one step toward higher
village life. It is one step toward disinfecting a neighborhood of the
poisonous gossip which floats like a pestilence around localities which
ought to furnish the most desirable homes in our country."--_The

"'The What-to-do Club' is a delightful story for girls, especially for
New England girls, by Helen Campbell. The heroine of the story is Sybil
Waite, the beautiful, resolute, and devoted daughter of a broken-down
but highly educated Vermont lawyer. The story shows how much it is
possible for a well-trained and determined young woman to accomplish
when she sets out to earn her own living, or help others. Sybil begins
with odd jobs of carpentering, and becomes an artist in woodwork. She is
first jeered at, then admired, and finally loved by a worthy man. The
book closes pleasantly with John claiming Sybil as his own. The labors
of Sybil and her friends and of the New Jersey 'Busy Bodies,' which are
said to be actual facts, ought to encourage many young women to more
successful competition in the battles of life."--_Golden Rule._

"In the form of a story, this book suggests ways in which young women
may make money at home, with practical directions for so doing. Stories
with a moral are not usually interesting, but this one is an exception
to the rule. The narrative is lively, the incidents probable and
amusing, the characters well-drawn, and the dialects various and
characteristic. Mrs. Campbell is a natural story-teller, and has the
gift of making a tale interesting. Even the recipes for pickles and
preserves, evaporating fruits, raising poultry, and keeping bees, are
made poetic and invested with a certain ideal glamour, and we are
thrilled and absorbed by an array of figures of receipts and
expenditures, equally with the changeful incidents of flirtation,
courtship, and matrimony. Fun and pathos, sense and sentiment, are
mingled throughout, and the combination has resulted in one of the
brightest stories of the season."--_Woman's Journal._

_Sold by all booksellers. Mailed, post-paid, by publishers_,




_16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00._

Besides being equal to Mrs. Campbell's best work in the past, it is
strikingly original in presenting the ethics of the body as imperiously
claiming recognition in the radical cure of inebriety. It forces
attention to the physical and spiritual value of foods, and weaves
precedent and precept into one of the most beguiling stories of recent

It is the gospel of good food, with the added influence of fresh air,
sunlight, cleanliness, and physical exercise that occupy profitably the
attention of Helen Campbell. Martha is a baby when the story begins, and
a child not yet in her teens when the narrative comes to an end, but she
has a salutary power over many lives. Her father is a wise country
physician, who makes his chaise, in his daily progress about the hills,
serve as his little daughter's cradle and kindergarten. When she gets
old enough to understand her expounds to her his views of the sins
committed against hygiene, and his lessons sink into an appreciative
mind. When he encounters particularly hard cases she applies his
principles with unfailing logic, and is able to suggest helpful means of
cure. The old doctor is delightfully sagacious in demonstrating how the
confirmed pie-eater marries the tea inebriate, with the result in
doughnut-devouring, dyspeptic, and consumptive offspring. "What did they
die of?" asked little Martha, in the village graveyard; and her father
answers solemnly, "Intemperance." So Martha declares that she will be a
"food doctor," and later on she helps her father in saving several
victims of strong drink. The book is one that should find hosts of
earnest readers, for its admonitions are sadly needed, not in the
country alone, but in the city, where, if better ideas of diet prevail,
people have yet as a rule a long way to go before they attain the path
of wisdom. Meanwhile it remains true, as Mrs. Campbell makes Dr.
Scarborough declare, that the cabbage soup and black bread of the
poorest French peasants are really better suited to the sustenance of
healthy life than the "messes" that pass for food in many parts of rural
New England.--_The Beacon._

_Sold by all Booksellers. Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of price, by the



A Story.


_Author of "Prisoners of Poverty," "Mrs. Herndon's Income," "Miss
Melinda's Opportunity," "The What-to-do Club," etc._

16mo, cloth, price, $1.00; paper, 50 cents.

This story is on the scale of a cabinet picture. It presents interesting
figures, natural situations, and warm colors. Written in a quiet key, it
is yet moving, and the letter from Bolton describing the fortunate sale
of Roger's painting of "The Factory Bell" sends a tear of sympathetic
joy to the reader's eye. Roger Berkeley was a young American art student
in Paris, called home by the mortal sickness of his mother, and detained
at home by the spendthriftness of his father and the embarrassment that
had overtaken the family affairs through the latter cause. A concealed
mortgage on the old homestead, the mysterious disappearance of a package
of bonds intended for Roger's student use, and the paralytic incapacity
of the father to give the information which his conscience prompted him
to give, have a share in the development of the story. Roger is obliged
for the time to abandon his art work, and takes a situation in a mill;
and this trying diversion from his purpose is his "probation." How he
profits by this loss is shown in the result. The mill-life gives Mrs.
Campbell opportunity to express herself characteristically in behalf of
down-trodden "labor." The whole story is simple, natural, sweet, and
tender; and the figures of Connie, poor little cripple, and Miss Medora
Flint, angular and snappish domestic, lend picturesqueness to its group
of characters.--_Literary World._

_Sold by all Booksellers. Mailed, postpaid, on receipt of price, by the





_16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00; paper, 50 cents._

Mrs. Helen Campbell, an occasional and valued contributor to this
journal, and the author of "Prisoners of Poverty," and other studies of
social questions in this country, has offered in this book conclusions
drawn from investigations on the same themes made abroad, principally in
England or France. She has devoted personal attention and labor to the
work, and, although much of what she describes has been depicted before
by others, she tells her story with a freshness and an earnestness which
give it exceptional interest and value. Her volume is one of testimony.
She does not often attempt to philosophize, but to state facts as they
are, so that they may plead their own cause. She puts before the reader
a series of pictures, vividly drawn, but carefully guarded from
exaggeration or distortion, that he may form his own

Can life be worth living to the hordes of miserable women who have to
work from fifteen to eighteen hours a day for a wage of from twenty-five
to thirty-five or forty cents? And what have all the study of political
economy, all the writing of treatises about labor, all the Parliamentary
debates, all the blue books, all the philanthropic organizations, all
the appeals to a common humanity, done, in half a century, for these
victims of what is called modern civilization? Mrs. Campbell is by no
means a sentimentalist. We know of no one who examines facts more coolly
and practically, or who labors more earnestly to find the real causes
for the continued depression of the labor market, as this horrible state
of things is euphemistically termed. The conclusions she reaches are
therefore sober and trustworthy.--_New York Tribune._

No work of fiction, however imaginative, could present more startling
pictures than does this little book, which is sympathetic, but not
sentimental, the result of personal investigation, and a most valuable
contribution to the literature of the labor question.--_Philadelphia

Mrs. Helen Campbell's "Prisoners of Poverty," a study of the condition
of some of the lower strata of the laboring classes, particularly the
working-women in the great cities of the United States, is supplemented
with another volume, "Prisoners of Poverty Abroad," in which the life of
working-women of European cities, chiefly London and Paris, is depicted
with equally graphic and terrible truthfulness.

They are the result of fifteen months of travel and study, and are
examples of Mrs. Campbell's well-known methods of examination and
description. They paint a horrible picture, but a truthful one, and no
person of even ordinary sensibilities can read these books without
experiencing a strong desire to do something to abate the monstrous
injustice which they describe.--_Good Housekeeping._

_Sold by all Booksellers. Mailed, post-paid, on receipt of the price, by
the Publishers_,


_In Foreign Kitchens._



_Author of "The Easiest Way in Housekeeping and Cooking," "Prisoners of
Poverty," "The What-To-Do Club," etc._


While foreign cookbooks are accessible to all readers of foreign
languages, and American ones have borrowed from them for what we know as
"French cookery," it is difficult often to judge the real value of a
dish, or decide if experiment in new directions is worth while. The
recipes in the following chapters, prepared originally for _The
Epicure_, of Boston, were gathered slowly, as the author found them in
use, and are most of them taken from family recipe-books, as valued
abroad as at home. So many requests have come for them in some more
convenient form than that offered in the magazine, that the present
shape has been determined upon; and it is hoped they may be a welcome
addition to the housekeeper's private store of rules for varying the
monotony of the ordinary menu.

_Sold by all Booksellers. Mailed, postpaid, on receipt of the price by
the Publishers_,


Women Wage-Earners. Their Past, their Present, and their Future. By
HELEN CAMPBELL. 16mo. Cloth. Price, $1.00.

The writer describes employments in the factory and home, compares the
condition of women workers here and abroad, dwells upon the evils and
abuses in factory life and in general trades, and points out remedies
and gives suggestions. The book is an expansion of a prize monograph for
the American Economic Association, for which a reward was given in 1891,
expanded to nearly double its original size. An introduction to it is
contributed by Prof. Richard T. Ely. Nowhere else could one get so much
information on this subject in so small a space as in this book.--_The
School Journal._

It includes such topics as factory labor, rise and growth of trades,
labor bureaus, wage rates, and general conditions for women workers in
England, on the Continent, and in the United States.

The importance of this subject with which Mrs. Campbell deals is not
easily overestimated. The present age is the era of woman, since
whatever affects her receives a consideration never before given. For a
long time the agitation in favor of woman was to remove barriers and
open the way for her. The way has been opened and woman has entered
scores of fields previously closed to her. The questions which now arise
are as to her remuneration for her work in these fields, and the
influence of women wage-earning on the family, the home, and society.
These are questions not yet settled. Mrs. Campbell approaches their
discussion in a spirit of fairness, and what she says is suggestive and
helpful, if not conclusive. Her volume is a valuable contribution to the
literature of social science.--_Boston Advertiser._

Such a work could never have been compiled for women except by a woman.
It is itself a demonstration of the fact that women can handle the woman
question as men alone cannot do, and that women can be raised and
elevated from their present depressed condition only by organizations
and trades unions of their own. Every woman should read this book
carefully. She will gain from its perusal a breadth and depth of
knowledge which will be of lasting value to her, and it will show her
how great a work exists for women to do, in order to "make the world
better."--_Woman's Journal._

It is a sober statement of facts by a thoughtful woman who has made a
life-study of economic questions, both through the medium of books, and
by personal investigation into the modern conditions of labor. The book
covers the history of the wage question as affecting women, its present
status, and its prospect for the future.--_Worcester Spy._

Her style is robust, orderly, precise, every page carrying the evidence
of trained thought and of careful, conscientious research.--_Public

LITTLE, BROWN, & CO., Publishers,

254 Washington Street, Boston.

_No Woman can give herself to a more noble occupation than the making of
the ideal home.--The Beacon._

The Easiest Way in Housekeeping and Cooking. Adapted to Domestic Use or
Study in Classes. By HELEN CAMPBELL. A new revised edition. 16mo. Cloth.
Price, $1.00.

The work grew out of Mrs. Campbell's experiences as a teacher of
cookery, more especially at the South, but its principles are applicable
anywhere, and as a manual for inexperienced housewives or as a
class-room text-book it will be found of decided value.... No woman can
give herself to a more noble occupation than the making of the ideal
home, and Mrs. Campbell, by showing women how to do this, accomplished a
great and important task. The book she has written tells about the
requirements of a healthful home, explains how the routine of daily
housekeeping may be most economically and effectually conducted, sets
forth the chemistry of food and the relations of food to health, and in
the second part gives special instructions on the preparation of
different sorts of food, with many carefully tested recipes.--_The

It is not a cook-book pure and simple. It is more. It covers a large
range, such as the situation and arrangement of the house, drainage and
water supply, the day's work and how to plan it, fires, lights, and
things to work with, washing-day and cleaning in general, the body and
its composition, food and its laws, the relations of food to health, the
chemistry of animal food, the chemistry of vegetable food, condiments,
and beverages. The book is interestingly written, as is everything that
comes from Mrs. Campbell's pen. It certainly will prove a great benefit
to housewives and would-be housewives who read it; besides, the ample
recipes it contains make it a book of reference of constant
value.--_Cleveland World._

In the midst of always increasing cookery books, it has had a firm
constituency of friends, especially in the South, where its necessity
was first made plain. There is something here for the tyro and the
adept, and whether used at home with growing girls, in cooking clubs, in
schools, or in private classes, the system outlined has proven itself
admirable, and the theory and practice of Miss Campbell's book are
almost beyond criticism.--_Oregonian._

It is not merely a cook-book, but is a text-book of about everything
that is of special interest to the housekeeper, and is adapted either
for domestic use or study in classes. It is in fact a housekeeper's most
valuable encyclopædia, written by a lady who by education and thoroughly
practical knowledge was rendered singularly competent for the important
work here undertaken and so successfully carried out.... It is a book
that intelligent young housekeepers especially will come to regard as an
indispensable companion.--_Boston Home Journal._

It really is one of the most admirable of manuals for the usual young
housekeeper.--_Providence Journal._


254 Washington Street, Boston, Mass.

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