Browse Primary Sources
"What Happens To A Girl Seeking Employment In A Strange City: Pittsburg Cont." - Catharine Brody - Vancouver Sun
"The first day I became a bean packer I spent a maddening nine hours with Emma and the twins, 'Dawruthe-e-e' and Katherine, simply pasting stickers on boxes to contain tomato soup. E worked under Katie, the forelady, in a huge room filled with piles of boxes that reached nearly to the low ceiling and stacks of cans that reached halfway up."
The Vancouver Sunday Sun 1924-03-09
"What Happens To A Girl Seeking Employment In A Strange City: Cleveland." - Catharine Brody - Vancouver Sun
"The international Displays Company of Cleveland, printers and lithographers, makers of calendars, transparencies and other advertising trifles, the first small firm I worked for, employed a number of men and only about a dozen girls and women. It was the pleasantest if not the most interesting place in my experience so far."
The Vancouver Sunday Sun 1924-03-23
"What Happens To A Girl Seeking Employment In A Strange City: Pittsburg" - Catharine Brody - Vancouver Sun
"A sun like a bleary red eye moved slowly over the hills, shadowy, mysterious hills with their tops cut out into shadowy houses on both banks of the yellow water of a river spanned by the most beautiful slim steel bridges I have ever seen. River and hills go unrecognized in Pittsburg's own description of itself, to wit: 'No city exemplifies in its streets and institutions more activity and industry of habit. Everybody is always in a hurry. All within its limits work diligently; there are no idlers and no place for such in Pittsburg's busy life.'"
The Vancouver Sunday Sun 1924-03-02
"What Happens To A Girl Seeking Employment In A Strange City: Troy" - Catharine Brody - Vancouver Sun
"Troy is the home of the biggest collar factory in the world. That seems to be Troy's one reason and excuse for being. It's history is immeidately apparent. Once, long agi, the biggest collar factory in the world made its home in a small village called Troy; other collar and shirt factoires colelcted, tinier surrounding villages contributed labor, and thus Troy did not so much grow as was pulled into its present timid, half-awake existence as a city of 70,000 people, a city where even the drug stores close on Sunday."
The Vancouver Sunday Sun 1924-02-17
"Can a Working Girl Live on the Wages She Receives?: Philadelphia" - Catharine Brody - Vancouver Sun
"My feet are like balls of hot iron. I walk between counters of feet, huge, swollen, flat feet. 'Yes, there's a sale on feet, madam. Can I help you, madam? Are you waited on, sir?' The dream of 'Sales?' 'Sales!' --that's me. The department store of Lit. Bros., Philadelphia adjures us via the store book of rules to call each other 'Miss,' or 'Mrs.,' or 'Mr.,' but Reba, the highly-colored, enormously efficient, black crepe de chine uniformed Jewish girl who is next to our store manager in authority--Rebs has a mind of her own. Whatever I may be to the feet of the world, I am just plan 'Sales' to her."
The Vancouver Sunday Sun 1924-02-03
"I had a fellow lodger in Trenton, Gertrude, who worked in an electric wire factory and because my landlady consulted her as to a job for me in her shop, Gertrude became my 'girl friend.' It was Gertrude who threw a great light for me on the way in which the working girl managers ' on her own.' Gertrude was nineteen with regular, small features, which would have been pretty but for her silly and freckled complexion and the hideous fun arrangement of her red hair. "
The Vancouver Sunday Sun 1924-01-27
"Can a Working Girl Live on the Wages She Receives: Real Experiences of a Young Woman Who Sought a Job in Twenty Cities" - Catharine Brody - Vancouver Sun
"'Trenton makes, the world takes.' 'Trenton is the summe of 148 industries.' These signs on the way to Trenton are encouraging to the work-seeker. So is the general air of Trenton, a bright, harsh little city of 318,000 people, in which you feel at once that you are only 15 minutes from Broadway. There is no air of the Deserted Village here."
Vancouver Sunday Sun 1924-01-20
"What Happens When a Girl Goes Job Hunting in a Strange City?: Detroit" - Catharine Brody - Buffalo Morning Express
"That the manufacture of spring cushions for automobile seats--soft, comfortable automobile seats which hold silk and satiny ladies on the way downtown to do their shopping--should be made an affair of such primitive violence amid such raucous shrieks of men and girls and machinery, such clash and clamor and clang of steel! Never, nevermore, will I feel the same about a seat in even the cheapest kind of a green flag taxi."
Buffalo Morning Express 1924-01-13
"What Happens When a Girl Goes Job Hunting in a Strange City" - Catharine Brody - Buffalo Morning Express
"The first day I became a bean packer in the Heinz works, spent a maddening nine hours with Emma and the twins, 'Dawrathe-e-e" and Katherine, simply pasting stickers on boxes to contain tomato soup. We worked under Katie, the forelady, in a huge room filled with piles of boxes that reached nearly to the low ceiling and stacks of cans that reached half-way up. We sat on a truck and became covered and choked by the dust from the boxes. I did not mind that so much as the monotony of the work. But it suited the girls exactly."
Buffalo Morning Express 1924-01-06
"Secretary Davis says the criticisms written by Miss Genevieve Forbes of The Tribune after she had entered Ellis Island as an immigrant are 'grossly exaggerated,' although in reviewing conditions during the last two years he states that the Ellis Island force was badly disorganized during the war, and many of the men on duty there at the beginning of his administration were inexperienced."
The Chicago Daily Tribune 1921-11-29
Miss Forbes went through the immigration mill Mr. Davis has observed it as the secretary of labor might observe it. Is he so credulouas to believe that the eye of the secretary develops and encourages abuses? Does he believe that when the secretary of labor visists Ellis island his subordinates want to expose under his eyes everything that he as a right minded man could condemn? If Miss Forbes had been known as an American newspaper reporter she would not have had the experiences which fall to the lot of the immigrant. It was because she was regarded as an Irish immigrant girl that she had them and could see what happened to the people the United States is receiving as its future citizens.
The Chicago Daily Tribune 1921-12-21
Toronto Star 2017-09-15
"There are two dozen of us crowded around a conveyor belt, bodies twisting to snatch dough off the line. The floor is strewn with raw pastries that seem to accumulate faster than anyone can sweep them up. They collect in bloated masses at our feet. It is my first day as a temp at Fiera Foods, an industrial bakery that reeks of yeast and is alive with the constant drone of machinery. We are forming and packing raw, circular pastry dough into wet plastic trays - a shoulder-crunching task called pinching. These may well be the croissants you eat for breakfast. Supervisors shout at us to wake up. They shout at us to move faster, pinch nicer, work harder. No one talks through the noise and exhaustion. The factory relies heavily on temporary help agency workers. Its health and safety record is checkered; three temps have died here or at Fiera's affiliated companies since 1999. Across the province, more and more people are relying on temp agencies to find work. When they do, statistics show they are more likelly to get hurt on the job. I am undercover to investigate why."
Toronto Star 2017-09-08
What Herald Examiner staff writer Merle Linda Wolin's "Sweatshop" expose has revealed (aside from sometimes inexcusable working conditions in the Los Angeles garment industry and the seeming governmental impotence in improving them) is one incontestable fact: Just as it took an awful lot of people to get the garment industry into the state of decay it is in, it is going to take an awful lot of people to get it out of trouble. Cleaning up our sweatshops will require that everyone - citizen groups, government agencies, and espeically the industry itself - pitch in as a team and help.
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner 1981-02-08
Get a pencil and write it down: Without national legislations, there is little hope of cleaning up the California garment industry. Remember it and repeat it often. Few will argue with this conclusion. Not Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. - "it can't go on, this exploitation of the working poor. These people are working and contributing to the wealth of California, and their voice is not being heard. And since we can't seem to get at the heart of the problem in California's garment industry, a more comprehensive national approach must be taken." Not state Labor Commissioner James QUillin - "What we need is recognition at the federal level that the (U.S.) garment industry is a special case. We must develop federal legislation that would require close regulation and hold manufacturers accountable." Not state Sen. Joseph Montoya, D-San Gabriel Valley, the lawmaker who has sponsored the two most successful pieces of legislation affecting the industry since he took office in 1972 - "I would be willing to pursue the idea of federal legislation - it will serve everyone."
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner 1981-02-01
XV-"Brown: 'It's wrong for a civilized society...'" - Merle Linda Wolin - Los Angeles Herald Examiner
From the beginning of the conversation, it was clear that Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. knew little about the machinations of the state's $3.5 billion garment industry. But he seemed eager to learn. "What's going on in this industry?" he asked at the beginning of the interview. "Do the laws work to protect the workers? Is everyone making minimum wage? Who is responsibile for the violations?" I told him my story about rampant labor and health code abuses. He seemed slightly incredulous. Could this still be going on in California? And then he appeared upset to hear that a bill recently signed into law would not solve the problem. "Why couldn't my people get manufacturers held jointly liable with contractors for all the violations?" he asked indignantly. Standing in the living room of his sparsely furnished home in Laurel Canyon, Brown reached for the telephone. Within moments, Don Vial, the director of California's Department of Industrial Regulations, and a member of Brown's governing Cabinet, was on the speakerphone. Now it was a three-way conversation.
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner 1981-01-30
To The Editor: As the doctor must diagnose his patient's case before he can write a perscription, so the case of the alleged slave girls must be thoroughly studied before knowledge of the fit remedy can be gained.
Chicago Times 1888-09-03
"The questions you raise as to a cure for the evils pointed out in The TImes articles on wage-working girls are difficult," remarked L. J. Gage, vice president of the First National Bank.
Chicago Times 1888-09-01
Col. Abner Taylor, the bachelor republican candidate for congress in the first Illinois district, said: "I don't know that legislation can do anything for work-women, except to regulate the sanitary condition of the shops and factories where they work."
Chicago Times 1888-08-31
Judge O.H. Horton of the circut court was on the point of starting for a fortnight's outing with fishing accompaniment at Alexandria, Minn., when informed that The Times would like to have his views on the working-girl question.
Chicago Times 1888-08-30
"Have you read The Times' displeasures in regard to the 'city slave girls?'" was asked of Mr. Charles H. Ham. "Yes, with absorbing interest." "What do you think of them?" "I think the subject the most important one that can engage the attention of man."
Chicago Times 1888-08-29
Milton George, editor of the Western Rural, an agricultural paper, was raised on a farm and loves the country, though he works in the city. "I have made a study of the labor question," he said, "more on behalf of the farmer than of the factory and shop girls, having been a farmer myself and consequently being
Chicago Times 1888-08-28
"I can say in a general way," said a member of the firm of Marshall Field & Co. "that from a mere humanitarian standpoint it pays to treat female employes humanely, show that we respect them and enable them to be self-respecting, and at the same time to pay them the highest market wages.
Chicago Times 1888-08-25
City Slave Girls: What a "Little Hell" Physician Has to Say on the Future of the Factory and Store Drudges
A Division street physician whose practice for the last twenty years has been largely among the residents of the factory disctrict in the vicinity of "Little Hell" has this to say on the future of the factory girl:
Chicago Times 1888-08-24
City Slave Girls: Dr. Charles Gilman Smith Speaks in Strong Terms on the Female and Child Labor Question
Dr. Charles Gilman Smith was just dismissing a patient from his State street office. "And you are Nell Nelson, are you?" "Yes, sir." "Well, I want to see you and have wanted for some time. Do you know that the Times made me a world of trouble when it published my card in connection with the City SlaveGirl" articles?
Chicago Times 1888-08-23
City Slave Girls: Charles L. Hutchinson, President of the Chicago Board of Trade on Female and Child Labor
Charles L. Hutchinson, president of the Chicago board of trade of likewise of the Corn Exchange bank, has for many years taken an active part in educational matters, especially in mission schools.
Chicago Times 1888-08-22
City Slave Girls: Opinions of Prominent Men on How To Remedy the Great Evils of Female and Child Labor
"I can't speak as freely about female as I can male labor," said one manufaturer."Why not?" "Well, women are different from men. That remark is not original, but it is a basic truth and one which all employers must recognize. Without mincing matters, and confidentiality, I will say to you that women who do men's work are not worth as much as men to the employers of labor.
Chicago Times 1888-08-21
The Trades and Labor assembly at its meeting yesterday indorsed the course of The Times in its crusade in behalf of the white slaves of Chicago. A vote of thanks prevailed unanimously, with the exeption of three assembly delegates printers connected with the other papers. The debate upon the resolutions offered lasted over an hour, the advocates of the indorsement of THE TIMES's course giving in detail the arguments for their adoption. Their testimony corroborated the truth of the statements taht have been made in the course of the investigations.
Chicago Times 1888-08-20
In the mass of letters recently received by The TIMES was the following: Chicago, Aug. 21 - To The Editor: A poor white slave wishes to thank you for your efforts in behalf of her poor sisters, the shop-girls of Chicago. I have worked with them for four years and love them dearly. your reporter was brave indeed when she battled with those terrible bosses. I fled from them and left my week's work with them unpaid for. I was a sad coward. I , the pet sister of two brave solders who gave their lives to free the slaves of the south. They told me to "take care of another and be good and brave" and I never saw them more. I took care of mother till she went to her boys, and I have tried to be good, but I can not fight for my rights, and this is the case with many of us. We will not stand up for ourselves. Oh, you have not told half: you do know know have we have to bear. We are indeed slaves, worse slaves than those my brothers died to free. I wish you could see my book for the last month; you would wonder how I have lived. You have my best wishes for your goodness. May God bless you is the prayer of the white slaves. Mary McGray -- State street. P.S. - My hand is cramped with twenty-five years sewing. I can not write very well. Curious to know something about the home life of the author the undersigned undertook to answer the letter in person.
Chicago Times 1888-08-27
What the shop-girl and the factory-girl needs and must have if her welfare concerns society is training - a training that the scholastic stuffing of our public schools does not supply nor the limitation of the Sabbath schools permit. The pupil children of 10 and 12 who at 14 and 15 swell the ranks of labor must be equipped for the battle of existence if pauper labor is to be averted. The girl must have a sufficiency of physical culture not only to enable her to protect and preserve her health, but to promote it an to economize her strength for a future generation; she must be taught that if the injury done to her health must be atoned for by her children, and that her wifehood and motherhood is influenced and largely governed by her girlhood and young womanhood. She must have her eyes and her fingers trained even at the expense of mentality, and some practiced science must be mastered before or in connection with the apostle's creed, the rule for at least common multiples and the population ofthe ten largest citites in the world. If manual schools can not be opened to girls why not provide a vast kitchen garden where the bright motherly little maiden can mind real live babies, cook real dinners, knit real stockings and hoods, and hem napkins, quilts, rubber cloaks, and ragged garments that will be examined and paid for if satisfactory?
Chicago Times 1888-08-26
Nothing short of a Philadelphia lawyer, a Chicago health officer, a proprietor, or a "devil chaser" that hits the spot once in a thousand times could without a guide explore the labyrinth that as known as II. Schultz & Co's paper-box manufactory, 31 to 38 East Randolph street. It occupies only the three upper floors of a four story building, but the stairways are so dark and narrow that one must grope his way from somewhere to a supposititious somewhere else, which resembles nowhere when he gets there because the rooms are so overcrowded with material that one employe cannot in many instances see her nearest neighbor two yards away.
Chicago Times 1888-08-19
Princess Knitting company: pretty name, isn't it? Done in gens d'arm blue letters on a navy-blue ground it makes an exceedingly effective sign. The very colors suggest the claims of long descent and blue blood. But the Princess company of West Washington street has nothing to do with the blue blood or gentle women, and there is nothing pretty about it but the sweet young girls of 15 and 16 and the frail children of 5 and 10 whose lives are being wound about the great wooden bobbins and from whose cheeks the roses of health and beauty are slowly absorbed by the flying threads in shuttle, needle, and spindle. Princess Knitting company is only another name for the women's shirt factory at 155 West Washington street. Up one flight of stairs I pass into a tidy little office where a fine looking gentleman gives me greeting and calls the forewoman, Mrs.McWilliams. She is young and pretty. Her voice is sweet and she has a good face. "Yes, I have work but it won't pay you. You can't live on the salary. I wouldn't advise you to take it. The table girls only get $3 a week. Their work consists in sewing on buttons and finishing the arm-holes of the shirts. We have generally employed little girls of 12 and 13 to do it. Better work pays by the piece, 5 cents and 10 cents a dozen for knitting a finish about the neck and arm-holes and bottom of the shirts. But you would have to be experienced; we couldn't tae the time to teach you."
Chicago Times 1888-08-18
On the southwest corner of Washington boulevard and Union street towers a spacious brick building, onthe third floor of which Henry W. King & Co manufacture much ofthe clothing that supplies the country trade. The place is far from uninviting. Clean halls and well-swept stairs croclaim the faithful service of a janitor, and the girl who has worked in "other shops" blesses the man at the rope every time she rides in the neat, mirror-lined elevator.
Chicago Times 1888-08-17
In all this wide, weary, work-a-day world there is not a better, brighter, nobler girl than the one who stitches, lines, binds, and vamps your slippers and shoes. She is a heroine if there ever was one outside of a civil or religious war. She knows nothing of self-love, nothing of fear, and nothing of her own just rights. Her life is made up of years of toil, months of privation, and weeks of struggling and striving to keep up with the rushing throng ravenous for her bread and envious of her miserable position. She works from dawn almost to dusk, carrying every dollar of her earnings to some wretched home in which abide parents, brothers, and sisters often, too, relatives having absolutely no claim on her, none of whom lover her and none of whom show by word, ast, or deed that her generosity, goodness, and real nobility of soul is appreciated.
Chicago Times 1888-08-15
One of the white slaves of Chicago stood in the prisoner's dock at the armory police court yesterday moaning piteously. She was young and her face was pretty. The big policeman who stood at her side said he had arristed her for soliciting men upon the street. She was booked as Kitty Kelly. The frail, unfortunate girl brushed away her tears and told a story that went straight to the heart of every man in the crowded court room. She was a white slave and might have worn away her frail life sewing that her character should remain pure and unsullied, but the grinning skeleton of starvation haunter her day and night, and in desperation she sold herself to the tempter. She was pale and thin and fierce hunger had left marks upon her young face. "Oh judge I never did such a thing before! I never did it before! For God's sake have pity on me." and she wrung her hands in agony and sobbed convulsively. "Nonsense," said the justice, trying to be stern. "You all say that." "My baby! my baby! Oh what will become of her? For mercy's sake don't fine me! I have no money, not a cent. Oh have mercy. I never was out before, surely I never was." The big justice looked inquiringly at the big officer and the big officer said with a touch of emotion in his voice, "I never saw her before, your honor." "Will you promise to keep off the street?" "I can't, no, I can't promise you that. God knows I would if I could. But when I see my baby starving and there is no other way to find food for her, what else can I do?" and the wretched woman sobbed as if her heart was breaking. The justice looked stern. Oh, sir," she sobbed, "If you only knew the misery and sorrow, the despair and degredation to which I have been humiliated, you might pity me. I was young when I was married. For awhile I was so happy. Then my husband sickened and died. That was but little more than a year ago. Soon after my baby was born. I had no friend and no money. I was alone in this great city and no one to help me or even to give me a bit of advice. Vainly I sought for work. I could not go into service and take my baby with me, and I could not bear the thought of parting from it. At last I found employment in a factory. There I made overalls and toled from morning until night, week in and week out. But work as hard as I could, I could only earn $4 a week. Baby took sick and I had to pay for a doctor and medicine, and it cost more than I could make."
Chicago Times 1888-08-14
Saturday the TIMES reporter and inspector Rodgers of the health department visited more than a score of "slop-shops." If "Little Hell" is on the North side, certianly "Little Warsaw" is on the West, and they must be labled to be readily distinguished. As a matter of fact the latter locality is practically labeled, as the largest building in the region is the Kosclusko school, named in honor of the patriot who made Freedom shriek. If Thaddeus' ghost were to be transported blindfolded from the heroes' hereafter back to earth and landed at the corner of Milwaukee avenue and West Division street it would feel perfectly at home. It would find the descendents of its fleshly prototype and his companions true knights as becomes their noble heritage - "knights of the goose."
Chicago Times 1888-08-13
The birthright of an American girl may be a glorious attribute on the deck of a trans-atlantic steamship or the floor of a London ball-room, but it is not worth the flop of a brass farthing in the cloak factories of Chicago. It was high noon by the Jesuite college clock when I got to the rear of 230 West Twelfth street, where David Kafasick has his shop. Nobody in but an old man. His face is seamed with wrinkles: he has a big nose the color and texture of a mushroom: his head and half his face is covered with hair of chinchilla shades: his back is humped at the shoulders and his clothes are fithy and worn. I ask for work and am told that no hands are needed. He has a pocket that hangs across his waist and into which he puts rags, pieces of thread, hooks and eyes, pins, buttons, and the empty spools that he on the floor about the vacant machine-chairs. I watch the silent old man as he drags his loos slippers across the floor, and behold I have the key to wealth! But it doesn't profit me worth a copper. So I survey the premises.
Chicago Times 1888-08-12
"I can show you some clothing factories by the side of which those heretofore described by THE TIMES will appear as places. If you will accompany me along South Canal, Clinton, and Jefferson streets, around Twelfth Street, you will see things that will give you an insight into the way our clothing dealers get rich and the shop-hands are compelled to be satisfied with wages that constitute less than 10 per cent of what the purchaser pays for the article." The man who spoke these words had come to the TIMES office and offered his service in the disclosures of slave-driving in this city. This voluntary guide was a Jew named Schlesinger. Having worked in tailor-shops for a few years he was in a position to point out not only the causes of the prevailling misery in this branch of industry but by personal acquaintance could locate the shops in the vicinity which he considered the worst. He confined himself to the cloak factories, and took a reporter through a dozen shops, introducing him as an operator from New York who was looking for work. He said this ruse was necessary as otherwise the factory lords would not allow his companians inside their shops.
Chicago Times 1888-08-11
"Do you want 'to visit a manufacturing establishment, generally held in high repute, where a girl's tenure of place depends upon the degrading concessions she may be induced to make to her employer?'" The question was put to a reporter for The TIMES by Inspector George Bodgers of the health department. They had just formed a temporary copartnership under the name and style of "we" to make a thorough examination of the hells and holes where human beings hive, delve, and thrive or die under the guise of 'employes'. [sic] "Well, I'll tell you the story and I know it to be true and so does my wife. A girl of good development and modest demeanor had for some time been employed in a book bindery and had become fairly well-skilled. One afternoon she turned in, as the result of her day's work, four books. The foreman complained that the work was imperfect - in fact, that the books were spoiled, and told the girl she must pay for them. She asked for particulars but could get little satisfaction. She became indignant and was thrust aside. Remembering that other mouths than hers were awaiting the food her scanty earnings must purchase she pleaded first for justice and then for mercy. "You quit work with the rest at 6 o'clock," said the foreman. "Come back fifeteen minutes later and perhaps I may straighten out your account so that you will owe nothing." The girl, hesitating between hope and fear, crossed the bridge as if to go homeward and then returned to the office. The foreman was at the door, welcomed her within, and turned the key. he assured her that he had helped many of the girls in the employ of the firm to balance their accounts after business hours. Be that as it may, he had made a grave miscalculation in this case, and in less seconds than it takes to tell it he was glad he hadn't lost the key to the door. The girl came directly to my house, told her story, and never returned to the tiger's lair. Her case is but one of many, and if she adheres to her present decision it will be the particular one of many before the firm and the foreman hear the last of it. Now come with me and we'll take a trip through the binderies and printing establishments, and before we get through I'll show you the fiend who endeavored to ruin this young girl.
Chicago Times Friday, August 10, 1888
It was 7 a.m. by all the whistles in "Little Hell" when I reached that section of the city in search of an opening in a slop-shop. The streets were crowded with shop hands hurrying to their day's work - men and boys with pipes in their mouths carrying dinner pails or lunch baskets; little girls in groups of two and three in beggarly rags; young women and old women, some of them white-haired and stooped with age, wearing shawls about their heads and shoulders and the meanest apologies for shoes. Many girls were bare-headed and some went through the streets in old skirts and dilapidated waists that had neither collar nor sleeves. At the corner of Elm and Wesson streets is an immense tailor shop into which the girls fairly swarmed, some going into the main and some into the rear building. Both buildings have three stories, each containing a shop under a different "boss." I followed the crowd through both buildings beginning in the basement and going up and up and up the narrow, dirty covered stairs, stopping on each floor to see the "boss" and apply for work. No success. The vest shops were full and so were the trousers shops. In the jacket shop there was room for experienced hands only at the munificent salary of $3 a week. The garments were cut and the sewer had the entire making.
Chicago Times 1888-08-09
For dismal surroundings, economy of comforts, and heartless treatment, to the Boston store belongs the palm. I did not work in that establishment although I tried very hard to do so. I was in the store at 8 o'clock on Friday morning as arranged with Mr. Hillman, who had partially promised to hire me. "One of the girls in the hoisery department," he had said "is sick, and if she doesn't come back Friday morning I will try you." I could not find the gentleman, although I hunted the main floor and the floors above and below. My plan of fluctuation was to take the elevator up one story and walk down, and then ride up two and walk down the third flight, in that way I took in the entire store and a great part of the employees. I began at the bottom and spent a full hour in the basement, where I saw so much and suffered so much that the upper floors had no surprised for me. In the first place the atmosphere was almost unendurable. Hot! It must have been 100 degrees above! Out in the open air not a breeze was stirring and the heat was sizzling. Down where I was I could not see a single opening to admit the air, firey as it was, excepting the open door at the extreme south-east corner of the floor, leading up a short flight of steps to the sidewalk.
Chicago Times 1888-08-08
"When we're late and get locked out we go to the dago shop. Were you ever in a dago's." "No." "Well, you can always tell them by the 'Ladies Entrance.' Some of them are real nice, with beautiful carpets and lace curtains and mirrors on the wall. There's a place over on Madisan street where you can get crackers and pop for a nickle. Some of the girls go down-town and shop, but when it rains the police lets us wait in the tunnel." "How long," I asked."Till 9 o'clock. You have to be here at 7:30 o'clock, and if you're late the door is locked and you can't get in till 9." The above conversation took place in the Dearborn Feather Duster company's place at 50 Canal street, where I applied for work Saturday morning. The building is in a substantial brick and extends back to the river. The factory is on the third floor and reached by two long flights of stairs that needed sweeping and repairing. I suppose the surroundings were suitable for the business carried on, but they were far from comfortable and wholly uncharming.
Chicago Times 1888-08-07
Nothing ever heretofore printed in The TIMES has provoked more comment or attracted more widespread attention than the exposures made during the last six days of the condition of the girls who work in some of the sewing shops of the city. The entire public seems to be watching the progress of the revelations made by Miss Nelson not only with interest but the constantly increasing indignation at the slave-drivers who are responsible for the state of affairs. Hundreds of letters are recieved at this office daily commending the work and urging that it be prosecuted until the public is so thoroughly aroused that the evil shall be specially and permanently corrected. Several of the writers have spent sums of money varying from $1 to $25 requesting that Miss Nelson distribute it among the poor girls who are so bitterly and shamefully oppressed, or make such use of it as her good judgement and experience may suggest.
Chicago Times 1888-08-06
Wednesday morning I began my career as a dry-goods clerk. It took all my wits to get an opening. At Field's Mandel's, Walker's, and Schlesinger's no help was needed and none would be taken without experience. By all the managers I was treated politely. Lloyd didn't want any more help and told me so with vehemence. The big blonde who manages the Bee Hive was "very sorry he could not offer anything before the fall trade opened." I told him I was quick at figures and knew I could sell goods if only I had a chance. No, it was too late in the season and I had better come in again. I asked how much he thought I would be worth. "Oh, $3.50 or $4 till you are experienced." "Couldn't you give me $5?" "Hardly." "Not if I prove to you that I can make and keep custom?" "You can't expect $5 any place in town. You see, you are green: you don't know anything about the business." "The goods are all marked, aren't they? Well I know enough about mathematics to master the intracacies of your check and order stub in ten minutes, and I must have work right off with salary enough to live on." He put his foot up on a chair and with a show of genuine interest wanted to know what it cost me to live. As I gave him the figures borrowed from a single girl in Julius Stein's employ, he took them down on a stub: Lodgings: -------------------------------$1.70 Car fare:--------------------------------- 60 Lunches:---------------------------------- 30 That makes $2.40, and if you pay me $4 I will have $1.60 a week to live on. Perhaps you can tell me where a girl can get food and clothes for that amount? "No I can't. But why don't you go to the factory and sew?" "Make shirts for 80 cents a dozen and cloth jackets at 25 cents each? One trial is enough. Now I am going to see what I can make clerking" and thanking him for his attention I withdrew. In the City of Paris the manager told me I would have to begin on a small pay, $3 or so, till the season opened, and that I might come in the next morning and he would try me.
Chicago Times 1888-08-05
Never so long as reason reigns shall I forget the day I worked in II Goldsmith's tailor-shop, and never when I pray shall I forget to add, "God help the shop girls." Thursday morning I stepped from an Ogden avenue car and walked down Market street in search of work. It was boiling hot and I carried my brown veil on the breeze, and a small pasteboard box containing a cracker and a lemon, a paper of needles, a thimble, and a pair of scissors. On the way I met two unhappy looking girls of whom I made labor inquiry. One had sewed carpet at $5 a week for the Chicago Carpet company but was out of employment. The other said she earned $6 a week in WB Brothers' caravat department. Her [unreadable] was sick and the forewoman had "let her off for the day." The first clew I got to a place was a wooden sign with "Sewing GIrls Wanted" that hung below the north window of 153 Market street, where Messrs. Hart, Abt, & Marx manufacture clothing. I read the sign and entered the main store - a nice, big, clean cool place. A little girl sat at the big typewriter making such a clatter with her letters that it was useless to try to call her. In the office were two gentlemen. One was the very prototype of Munkaesy's Jesus Christ, and he I addressed for work.
Chicago Times 1888-08-04
Two Weeks ago, Ref. Mr. Goss Preached a sermon relative to the morals and progress of the working woman. Among other things he referred to a "good Jew" who having the comfort of the hundred odd girls in his cloak factory at heart, "provided every day for 1 cent a substantial lunch." I sent the reverend gnetlemen a note, inclosing a stamp for the address of the "Good Jew" and in reply came the name of H. Zimmerman, 255 Monroe street. On went poverty's respectable rags, and off I posted for shop-work and a penny spread. The elevator carried me to the top of the building, where every week thousands of jackets, sacques, circulars, dolmans, and cloaks are turned out to supply the country trade of the northwest. Here in a crowded room, with low ceiling and dingy walls, poorly ventilated and insufficiently lighted, sit between eighty and 150 young girls surrounded from Monday morning until Saturday noon by the ceaseless clatter of the sewing machines in an atmosphere so thick that it can be cut with a knife.
Chicago Times 1888-08-03
On Thursday morning when I started to renew my factory life I discovered after getting on a South-side car that I did not have a cent in my pocket. In putting on my shop-girl disguise I had left my purse at home. When the conductor asked for the fare I had none to give him. It was very hot, the clouds threatened rain, and the shop was at so greata distance that I did not feel as if I could walk. I concluded to throw myself on the generosity of the conductor and told him I had forgotten my purse. He looked ugly and told me to get off. Just as he placed his whistle to his lips to signal the gripman to stop a distinguished, well-dressed man paid my fare. I thanked him for his courtesy and told him if he would give me his card I would send him the money he had so kindly paid. He smiled and said: "A mere bagatelle, miss, and not worth mentioning." At Eighteenth street I left the car to go to a vestmaker's place at 2153 Archer avenue. I was crossing the three points where State and Nineteenth streets intersect when who should come abreast but my benefactor. Instead of raising his hat he jauntily cocked his left eye and came so close to me that the sleeve of my "never-rip" jersey was pressed against the waist-line of his light grey suit." "Aha, here we are again!" Although I distinctly heard every word of his remark, I said, "I beg your pardon" with as much of the Newport chill as I could affect. "Come, come now," he said, with increased gayety, moving his waistband still closer to my jersey. "Oh, you are the gentleman to whom I am indebted for car-fare. You want your money, I suppose; if you will give me your card I will write you an order." "Do you work in this neighborhood?" "No sir" "Where then?" "No place" "Where are you going?" "For work." "What kind?" "Any kind. May I have your card? I am in something of a hurry." "Mayant I have yours?" He asked "Certainly, I haven't my case, but if you will lend me a pencil I will write you one." "With pleasure, my dear." "You are mistaken, sir, that is not my name." "Ha ha ha! I see you are a little mischevous, but for all that you are my dear," producing three inches of Faber. "A card, please" "Bless me, I had forgotten," and the natty sack-coat was ransacked for a suitable card. Ah, here, this will do, I hope, in lieu of something more conventional," carefully placing on my sewing-box a small card with the address down. I reversed the pasteboard and read on the back: Dr. Charles Gilman Smith Office Hours ----------- Residence ------------ "Dr. Smith! I know him quite well." "Oh you do, eh?" In a tone that left no doubt that his stock in me had dropped. I wrote: Reporter. The Times. And handed it to my companion, who read it with eyes that seemed to have been wired open.
Chicago Times 1888-08-02
One of the chance acquaintances I made at the never-rip jersey factory worked three days for Julius Stein & Co., 122 Market street, received 63 cents for her labors about ten days after leaving. One-third of 63 cents is 21 2/5 cents. That is the way Stein & CO solve the problem; but the question is one that capital, Christianity, and civilization are invited to analyze. "Don't never go to Stein's" the little girl said, "It's an awful place." On Saturday I tumbled out of bed at 6 AM and donned my factory clothes. On the way down-town the street-car met with an eight-minute obstruction in the shape of a load of bricks, and when I reached the manufacturing establishment of Julius Stein & Co. it was 8:32 o'clock. The elevator took me up one story and I was told to "get out." I told the boy at the rope that I wished to go up to the work room. "You're too late," he said. "Have to take the freight elevator down at the back of the store." Down I walked as directed past long tables that towered with long cloaks, dolmans, ulsters, jackets, and short wraps; past two or three busy, unobserving clerks, past a pair of forbidding looking men who glared at me from under their black hats and blacker brows; past an earthen-grey stringy crash towel that waved at hast mast above a dirty wash-basin; past a tier of closets that emitted a stifling odor, and on down to the packing room. I waited for a big, lusty packer to finish pummelling the mischevous little Swede who ran the elevator and was carried up to the top floor with a box of cloth. When the car landed I found myself at the extreme end of a room 50 X 180 feet, in an inclosure of wire-fence, packing-boxes, and cutting-boards, beyong and between which I could see perhaps two-hundred persons, mostly women, bent over machines, and working only as slaves ever work. The thundering [two unreadable words] of the machinery deadened every other [two undreadable words] even that made by the cutters as they ran their heavy shears through the [undreadable] and muslin trimmings.
Chicago Times 1888-08-01
I did not realize the ignominious position of respectable poverty till I went to Ellinger's cloak factory, 262 Madison street, where labor is bondage, the laborer a slave, and flesh and blood cheaper than needles and thread. Corporations are said to be without heart, but this concern is a commercial inquisition. it puts its help on the plane of slavery and nothing but civil law prevents the use of the lash. The factory is on the third floor of the large brick building at the east end of Madison street bridge on the south side of the street. Elevator? Not much. An elevator is a luxury and luxuries have no place at Ellinger's You will be short of breath when you reach the top of the fourth flight, but in recovering, you have time to take in the surroundings - a great barn of a place with the single charm of good light. There is plenty of vacant room but the women are huddled together, elbows touching along the line of the machines. Beneath the west windows flows the river; at the south end of the room, not ten feet from the crowded table, is a tier of closets, and on hot days the combined odor of the two is shocking. Nobody in his employ dare complain about smells, cold, head, work, wages, or rules. But whoever heard of martyrs complaining?
Chicago Times 1888-07-31
Tuesday, July 10, according to instructions from THE TIMES, I made up for the role of shop-girl and with a list of factories in one hand and gentle peace in the other sailed down State street under a brown braize veil as impenetrable as an iron mask, I applied at two feather factories and three corset shopws, but aside from the exercise up and down several flights of stairs got nothing. The feather people did not need any help and the corset folks had not yet started on the winter trade. I was treated with civility, however, and given permission to "drop in in a week or so." The fifth place on my list was the "Western Lace Manufacturing Co.," 218 State street. Ascending one flight of stairs I stopped to take off my veil and adjust my eyes to the low light. That done I looked about and finding a door marked "Office of the Western Lace Manufacturing Co." with "Come In" On the glass I complied. A young girl followed and leaving her to close the door, I fell into a chair, the only one about, and proceeded to perspire and scrutinize the place. The office was not uninviting. The floor had cheap carpet, the ceiling was high and the room well ventilated and admirably lighted. On a long table, that served as a sort of fortification for the private office of the company, were the samples - "antique crocheted goods" - as they are listed, in various shades of white. All were of different pattern and unvarying ugliness. There were round tidies and oblong tidies, square mats for a bureau and smaller ones of oval and circular design, intended for a lamp or cusion. Behind the table, secheting between a writing stand and a desk, was a young man of 30 or so, of the blonde type, with a stationary scowl between his eyebrows and an otherwise pleasing manner. That is, I thought the manner pleasing until I began to get acquainted with it and then my opinion changed. After a lapse of five minutes or so, the fair-haired gentleman turned to the young girl with a deeping of the scowl and a must unalluring "Well?"
Chicago Times 1888-07-30
". . .The story of the cruise of the “blackbird” steamer Montserrat was told in yesterday’s “Examiner” by the special correspondent, mr. W.H. Brommage, who had shipped as a sailor for the voyage. In obedience to the instructions under which he set out Mr. Brommage confined his narrative to a simple and accurate statement of the facts with no attempt of sensational effect. In fact, the story was modified by the suppression of some details which would have thrown the horrors of the traffic into stronger relief. To-day our correspondent makes some additions to his narrative which will be found exceedingly interesting. . ."
". . .On the 23rd of last April the tramp steamer Montserrat left San Francisco for the ostensible purpose of a trading voyage among the South Sea islands, but in reality, as was suspected at the time, to go on a slave-trading expedition. Her purpose was to make laboring contracts with the simple people of the islands to work on the plantations of the fever-stricken west coast of Guatemala for five years. On the face of it, the contract is legitimate, but when it is known that for little or not pay these people leave their beautiful island home, go into a strange country, among a people whose language they do not understand, live like dogs and die like sheep in the cane-covered marshes, and under the burning suns of tropical Guatemala, the cruelty of such deportation becomes apparent. Such traffic in the South Seas has gone on for years under the familiar name of “blackbirding,” but the ships that come out of the Western Pacific, packed with the half-garbed natives of the islands, are no less slavers than those swift barks that in other days sailed from the west coast of Africa to the southern shores of America. This enterprise was under the joint management of San Francisco and Central American capital. The manager-in-chief of the expedition was W.H. Ferguson, whose connection with a similar slave ship, the ill-fated Tahiti, in which 400 natives were drowned, will be remembered. In command of the Montserrat was Captain Blackburn. Dr. R.J. McGittigen of San Francisco, a graduate of the Cooper Medical College, accompanied the expedition as surgeon, and James S. Osborne, a young San Franciscan, went along as passenger. With a full crew, provisions and supplies to last four months the vessel sailed, and after visiting eleven islands of the Gilbert group carried 388 imprisoned laborers to San Jose de Guatemala, and there delivered them to the wealthy Spanish plantation owners, who lodged them upon their sugar plantations along the coast to labor out the five years of their contract or to die with the infectious diseases coming to that marsh district. On board the Montserrat was a reporter of the “Examiner” in the guise of and performing the functions of a sailor. His vivid story of the methods used to secure the laborers, their weary voyage of twenty-three days from their sea-girt (?) home to Guatemala’s coast, their painful journeys overland to the plantations in the interior is told below. . ."
No one seemed to know how much garment industry homework is done in Los Angeles. And I had no idea how work illegally filters down to homes from the contractors or manufacturers. So at the end of May, I decided to find out on the streets. I had a few preconcieved notions about homework. In the Mendoza shop where I worked in early May, I witnessed trusted sewing machine operators carry out unfinished blouses stuffed in large, green plastic garbage bags, presumably to be finished later at home. For nine days, from 8 AM to 5 PM, I walked the residential streets of the city, from Central Los Angeles to Sunland in the north, to Wilmington, the "Heart of the Harbor," to El Monte on the east. I chose streets where it seemed working-class and poor people lived; man neighborhoods were largely Spanish-speaking.
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner 1981-01-18
It was almost 5 P.M. on a Tuesday when I stepped out of the elevator onto the factory room floor. I stood quietly, looking anxiously to both sides of the now empty sewing shop. Near the entrance, a dark-haired man in a white t-shirt stood working at a long, wooden table piled high with red cloth. His name: Oscar Herrera, owner of the shop. Late afternoon light filtered through the rows of sooty windows that formed one entire wall of the large production room. He motioned for me. "Venga venga! Come here!" he said in Spanish. "What are you looking for?" "Busco trabajo. I am looking for work," I said nervously. "Do you know how to sew?" he countered. I nodded yes, not wanting to lie outright. He told me they had work and that if I could make this jacket - he walked over to a rack of clothes and held up a white blazer - and this dress - he held up a short-sleeved red one - I could have a job.
Los Angeles Herald-Examiner 1981-01-14
"The question is," says The Independent reviewer, "how seriously shall we take this story of life in the packing house district of Chicago?" That seems to be the question with a great many people. For the past year, ever since the story began appearing serially, I have been receiving half a dozen letters a day asking it; so that if a public answer serves no other purpose, it will at least help to lighten the burden of my mail.
The Independent 1906-05-17
The cruise of the Helena made it very clear that malpractice in the recruiting of islanders is, practically, impossible under the existing system. The traffic is hedged in by legislation in every direction. A ship-owner who intends to bring islanders to Queensland must give a preliminary notice, stating where the vessel is lying, what condition she is in, how many islanders it is desired to carry, what islands she is to visit, and what limit he will place on the duration of the voyage. He has then to apply for a license.
The Argus 1892-12-22
Brought by my duties into close and daily contact with the boys, I had soon to acknowledge that though many of them were savages in reality, there was much of ordinary human nature in them all.
The Argus 1892-12-20
An unusual thing happened on the Sunday night. At 10 o’clock a large canoe came alongside, and its occupants – six youth from Coolacombor, where we got our last two recruits – offered themselves as labourers for Queensland. Could the natives be in league against me? One of the chief objects of my mission was to see and expose the misrepresentations, the cajolery, and the kidnapping, by force or fraud, which certain controversialists alleged to be inseparable from the Polynesian labour traffic. So far I had seen nothing which could be twisted to mean any of those things. On the contrary, I had witnessed natives face danger and overcome difficulties that would have been insurmountable without great determination to join the ship.
The Argus 1892-12-19
We explained that a large number of boys, on learning that the labour traffic was to cease, and that they would probably have no chance of recruiting again for Queensland, re-engaged for another term without leaving the plantations, and it was more than probable that the friends asked for were amongst that number.
The Argus 1892-12-17
On Monday a recruiter made a fair start. At a beach village named Corpew, where the boats were sheltered from the full force of the ocean rollers by outlying reefs, he found himself thronged with natives. It was a lively crowd, chiefly intent on selling produce, birds, and the discarded European clothing of former recruits - all for tobacco and pipes. Two boys offered as recruits. One was refused on the score of youth; the other was accepted at the apprentice wage of six pounds a year.
The Argus 1892-12-16
On Friday (September 22) the Helena shifted to Urassie, 11-miles northward. A comfortable anchorage was found inside long lines of reef and close to a creek, whence a supply of excellent water was obtained. Next morning a native market was held near by. From half-a-dozen islets which studded the reefs a small army of people, chiefly women, came in canoes to barter fish for yams and taro from the bush natives.
The Argus 1892-12-15
We had now 16 recruits, and I found for the first time that they had a certain amount of English to learn by rote before they reached Queensland. Perhaps this was not absolutely necessary, but it was evidently regarded as highly desirable. In this matter, too, it was thought that the sooner they commenced their lessons all the better would it be in the end. So when the time came on Sunday for distributing their weekly supply of tobacco and pipes they were put through their facings.
The Argus 1892-12-12
Poor Oleseemar, the consumptive return, was now within a dozen miles of his home. He had wasted steadily from day to day in spite of nourishing food and medicine. At Maron Sound he crawled to the poop for an airing and asked for some tea. He was always supplied with whatever he fancied in the way of food, and tea with biscuit was what he liked best.
The Argus 1892-12-10
One young man, with large and wondering eyes and open mouth, listened to all that was said about the good masters and abundant ki-ki (food) in Queensland, and as to recruits being brought back by-and-by with ‘big fellow’ boxes of their own. He had also the eager look of a youth who desired to see something of the outside world, and he lingered much, first by one boat and then by the other. But he could not apparently make up his mind. Now he would, and then he wouldn’t or couldn’t; and he had to be left in his indecision.
The Argus 1892-12-09
So here was an islander who had learned by experience what the so-called slavery in Queensland was, and who was seeking another term of bondage. Where had he worked before? ‘Bundaberg!’ – the very place we were recruiting for, and he was so well posted as to have the Christian name of our recruiter at the tip of his tongue. He was in short thoroughly au fait with the whole business, and wide awake.
The Argus 1892-12-08
Meanwhile Mr. Mulhern had returned with his trade-box, and was calling for fresh recruits. No doubt different recruiters have different styles. I should imagine that Tom Gash used to be genial and demonstrative. I have been told of one who depended on grotesque antics and Cheap Jack oratory for his success. Mr. Mulhern is not demonstrative, and there is nothing of the buffoon in his manner.
The Argus 1892-12-07