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The Chicago Times

"City Slave Girls"

  • **A Times Reporter Gets Into a Paper-Box Manufacatory That Puzzles and Bewilders Him.**
  • **He Finds Little Children Toiling Away for a Miserable Pittance of $2 or $3 a Week.**
  • **The Employers Are Not Altogether to Blame for Having the Unfortunate Youngsters at Work.**
  • A Proposition of Marriage to a Pretty and Brainy Seamstress Is Taken Under Consideration.
  • Correcting an Erroneous Impression that Nell Nelson's Articles Are Not Founded on Fact.

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 is known as **H. Schultz** & Co.'s paper-box manufactory, **34 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 suppositious 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.

Of the 120 employes, ten are mere girls, who get from $2 to $3 a week, while the others receive from $5 to $7.50. Each girl keeps her own account-book, and at the request of the proprietor submitted it to inspection. It showed the exact amount the owner had been paid each week for many weeks. One advantage of working in this stuffy place is that there is work the year around.

Mr. **Schultz** had the usual explanation to make as to the employment of young boys and girls, and no doubt made it truthfully. Their parents needed their assistance and would sign any sort of certificate as to age, and supplement it with personal solicitation asking employment as a charity. In extreme cases he negotiated a compromise with his judgment, as most manufacturers do, and gave the child employment.

What kind of work do you do? a group of five boys was asked at the noon hour.

All but him binds packages; he glues.

How old are you?

We's pretty old and gettin' older all de time.

The closets are separate and fairly decent.

The ventilation is bad.

I am a man of few words and you have no time to lose, so I will proceed direct to business. Do you want to get married?

The proposition was made by a TIMES reporter to an attractive young woman employed as a seamstress in a custom shop on the fourth floor of **S. Nelson**'s building **at** the southwest corner of **Wesson** and **Hobbie** streets on the North side.

The reporter had seen the young woman but once before, and after that meeting the following paragraph was printed in THE TIMES on August 13:

An intelligent trio, evidently good friends, gathered in a corner, and between bites talked freely. One was a thorough American, lived on May street, and walked back and forth from her work, the round distance being fully three miles. Another, whose yellow hair bespoke an ancestry from the region of the midnight sun, walked about the same distance. Many an avenue belle would give half her inheritance, for the form, face and figure, to say nothing of the brains of this every-day sewing girl, wearing out her young life for $6 a week. But she made no complaints. Independence more than compensated her for the hardships of the weary day.

Usually popping the question is a trying ordeal to a man, even when none but the two parties most interested are present. What must it have been in this case when half a score of pairs of bright eyes were gazing in astonishment and as many ears were trained to catch every syllable? Usually, too, the woman addressed is very much embarrassed, or seems to be. This one was not. With a musical laugh followed by an interrogation point, she awaited further developments, Emma, the American girl, rallying her good-naturedly the while.

You know you want to get married, said Emma. Why don't you say yes?

Not wishing to prolong the agony beyond the proper limit the reporter produced the following letter:

Chicago, Aug. 13. - TO THE EDITOR: One who reads your articles with more than passing interest, and who deeply sympathizes with the cause of honest labor, has sufficient romance in his make-up to perform his part in assisting the young lady of brains referred to, and if honesty of purpose, good bringing up, etc., accompany the brains, the lady can find at the head of an honest, temperate, working-man's home a peace and comfort not found in wearing out her young life in pursuit of a mere existence. This is in good faith, and any acknowledgment of it will call forth - confidentially, of course - the name and address of the writer.

It was interesting to watch the play of the girl's features as she read the letter. At first curiosity was uppermost; then came an expression of sadness as the passages expressing sympathy for honest labor were reached, and finally a slight flush and a smile as she read the offering clause.

Will you accept?

Don't you do it at once, said Emma, tantalizingly. Keep him waiting for a while till he gets real anxious.

Who is the writer? asked the girl to whom the letter referred. He must live where girls are scarce.

The letter is dated and postmarked Chicago.

Well, I should like to see the writer. It takes something more than temperance and honesty to make a man. I shall not embrace the present opportunity to answer.

Nor the man either?

Nor the man either, she said with a merry laugh as she caught the gentler force of the play upon the words.

Will you answer the letter?

I will take it under advisement, as politicians say.

If you don't accept turn the letter over to me, chimed in Emma. And then noticing the grounds in her coffee she added: Can you tell fortunes?

Everybody on THE TIMES tells fortunes, and of course the visitor could. This man is a blonde, tall, somewhat portly, and a widower with three children, he began.

Can't you make it five? She just dotes on children. If she won't take him I'll be No. 2 and run for the chance. Can't you induce him to call here? We are tailoresses here, but when we appear upon the street we are— ---

Well, what are we then? asked the girl with the light hair.

Why, then - then we are ourselves. What time is it?

Seventeen minutes to 1 o'clock.

Then we have just two minutes to live, and the trio began preparations for renewing their toil after the forty-five minutes allowed for lunch. The author of the letter might wait a long time before finding a brighter or better head for his household than this girl whose ancestors worshipped Thor and Woden.

Nell Nelson, in a recent article in THE TIMES, described the trousers manufactory of **K. B. Oleson**, on **Sedgwick** street near Division, as a two-story and basement frame, the stories being used for girls and the basement for horses. This is true as to the girls, and only the qualifying expression in part is needed to make it fit the basement, the rear portion of it being used for stabling, with all that the word implies. Miss Nelson, it will be remembered, worked an afternoon at this place, making a pair of trousers for 5 cents, and after relating her experience quoted the words of a young woman who sat at the same table and who complained that the shop was cold.

Of course the girl had no idea that her language was to appear in print and spoke carelessly. But **Mr. Oleson** was displeased and the girl was promptly discharged from his employ. The Knights of Labor were **** notified and so was THE TIMES. Yesterday a reporter was instructed to investigate the case and if the facts were as reported to assure the girl, whose name is Mary Kane, that THE TIMES would secure for her another and better position.

**Mr. Oleson** was found on the upper floor of his shop and pretty mad yet, though he had had a week to cool off in. But he soon quieted down, led the way to the office in the basement, and sent for **Foreman Matson**. Then THE TIMES article was read and liberally commented on, **Matson** doing most of the talking because he could turn sharp corners in English a trifle more skillfully than **Oleson**

Mary Kane has left, but she wasn't exactly discharged, said **Oleson** If the rooms are cold in winter why didn't she complain to me instead of Nell Nelson? I know they are cold at times, but not for half a day. I frequently feel chilly myself in the early morning. I know the house is not a model; It was built directly after the fire and needs many improvements. Why didn't Mary Kane complain to me?

She preferred no charges against you. In a casual way she stated to a table-mate that the shop was cold in winter as you now acknowledge. The situation is this: If you have discharged Mary Kane because of a chance word, THE TIMES will see to it that she immediately secures a situation in some other shop.

After a few moments **Mr. Oleson** said the girl was one of the best in his employ, that nothing could be said against her work or her character, and he would be willing to take her back.

You may tell **Mary Kane** she may come back to work if she wishes to. I don't want to do anybody any injustice. All I had against her in all the years she worked for me was that remark about my shop being cold.

But I may not see her, as she is away from home.

Well, just go over and tell her mother that it's all right and Mary can go to work when she likes.

It was the work of an hour, but no bull-dozing or pleading was used. The case was squarely discussed on its merits, and if **Mary Kane**, whom all the neighbors, including **Oleson** himself, say is a steady, industrious, and thoroughly deserving girl, walks into the shop today she can have her old seat and at the same time the consciousness that she has not compromised herself or been compromised in the least. Both **Oleson** and **Matson** will be glad to welcome her back, which is much to their credit.

  • **The Times City Slave Girl Exposures Are Not Sensational**

**Are not the white slave articles in THE TIMES somewhat sensational?**

**The man who asked the question was Charles L. Hutchinson, president of the board of trade and also president of the Corn Exchange bank. The reporter for THE TIMES, to whom the question was addressed, answer in this manner:**

**Yesterday accompanied by an inspector from the health department, I vistied and inspected Doremus laundry at 269 and 271 South Paulina street. The front is a two-story brick, a new building only partially occupied as yet, but the work-shop is an old three-story frame in the rear. Here about ninety girls and ten men work ten hours a day, and three of the girls are less than 15 years old. Last week three of the girls succumbed to the heat, one of them being so completely prostrated that she had to be sent home in a carriage. The upright box on the second floor, called by courtesy a closet, is disgustingly unclean, but it is a summer resort as compared with the one on the third floor. At the time of my visit not a particle of water flowed into it, and it could only be flushed and cleaned by means of buckets full of water, brought by hand and dumped into it. It was nobody's business to bring in this water. Seldom was it fetched at all. Your imagination can supply the rest. On this floor are employed some forty women and several men. The city ordinance requires that there shall be separate closets for every twenty employes.**

**This is [MISSING TEXT] premises. And [MISSING TEXT] moral anathema. Back of this horrible hole is a storage-room filled with an accumulation of rubbish that would smell to heaven were it not for the fact that it is too near hades for aught but a cyclone to cover the intervening distance. There is scant room for two persons to pass each other. And yet in this filthy hole the girls remove their street clothes on entering the establishment in the morning, and in this same hole they don them at the end of the day's toil. The least experienced goes through this ordeal for $3 a week. Older hands endure for $3 a week. Older hands endure it for $5, $6, $8, and the one or two exceptional cases for $13 a week. I will guarentee to prove every statement I have made to you by the proprietors themselves. Is there anything sensational in this statement?"**

**Another sample institution is Loomis laundry, at 193 and 195 West Monroe street, somprising a one-story and basement shanty. If any man has a particle of doubt as to the truthfulness of THE TIMES' representations he can visit this or any other establishment that has been inspected and see for himself. In the wash-room in the basement men and women wade around in slops half an inch deep. The only redeeming feature of the disgusting premises is that one of the dirtiest of the dirty closets is under the sidewalk, some four feet removed from the windows. so that part of the stench escapes the twenty-five girls employed, and is gratuitously distributed among the patrons of the sidewalk above. In every instance THE TIMES has given names and street numbers so that any person taking an interest in the labor question, and having the slightest doubt as to the truthfulness of the reports can satisfy himself with but little trouble. Of course it must be understood that there is a difference between.**

**Sappho at her toilet's greasy task, And Sappho fragrant at an evening mask.**

**The shops and factories have been seen by THE TIMES as they are from day to day. As a result of the inspection hundreds that were in an unsavory condition a month ago have been placed in a cleanly and fairly sanitary condition. If nothing else should be accomplished by this investigation the results would amply repay the effort to better the condition of the working women. But more marked results are to come.**

**All laundries are not disagreeable. That of Munger, at 520 West Madison street, is clean, airy, and the employes give evidence of tidiness and thriff. The women usually start in at about $4 a week and increase their wages to $6 and $8 in a few years. Much of the work is done by the piece. One girl gets 1/2 cent for starching a man's shirt, another 3/8 cent for ironing the bosom, another the same price for ironing the body, and still another 1/2 cent for ironing the collar-band and folding. Most of this work is done by machinery run by steam. Closets and ventilation are all that could be asked.**

**At the Oriental laundry, on West Madison street, of which E. Jennings is proprietor, there are eighty women and twenty men employed. Quite a number of the women are past their prime, but some are young and looking ahead. One jolly woman of 62, who has worked eighteen years in this establishment and earns from $5 to $7 a week, said the only way to increase wages was to stop immigration. She was quite a philosopher in her way. The range of wages is from 87 1/2 cents a day to $8 a week. It is here that the laundering is done for the Pullman Palace Car company, at least 20,000 pieces being handled daily. They are returned to the different depots by delivery-wagons and in bales. One bale contains 200 sheets, another 900 pillow-slips, and a third 1,400 towels. Most of the curtains for the Pullman cars are made on the upper floor of this building, the sewing girls averaging about $7 per week. Everything possible is done by machinery. The stairways are lighted and ample. There are fire escapes. The closets are separate and in good condition. In short, the establishment is well arranged throughout.**