Puslapio vaizdai


you believe that the men and women who broke their backs over the spinning wheels, in the old cottages, had more freedom, more leisure, more creative impulse than your cotton operatives of to-day? Why are the young men and women crowding from the country into the towns? Is it for the gray life of the factory, or is it for the movies? My dear young man, there is more of the joy of life and more of health in the city-worker to-day than the workers have known at any time in the history of labor. But it is a big subject and does not concern me at present.'

The auto horn outside broke into a fury of protest. Manning walked to the window and with his arms semaphored to Hartmann for a few moments' indulgence.

"The plain fact is, of course, that your labor champions, with the best intentions in the world, have blackened the character of labor. What have you done for the women of the workers? This: in order to drive home your plea for minimum wages, for shorter hours, - just and inevitable, I feel, - you have not been ashamed to create the impression that every daughter of the workers is a potential recruit, a probable recruit, for prostitution; and some of your most ardent friends of the working-class have gone so far as to say that they do not blame the working-girl who sells herself in order to purchase the comforts which society has denied her. Pah!'

the slum-dwellers! The father brutalized by toil; the mother incapable of affection and service to her children; the boy destined to grow up a criminal; the girl destined to walk the streets! I doubt if for the sake of your good intentions it will ever be forgiven you that you have degraded the worker to a position his worst oppressor has not assigned him. And the horror of it is in the magnificent opportunity you have missed!

'Ladimer,' wailed Hartmann.

'What an argument you might have made of it! You might have said, "Look: in the face of exhausting labor, of continuous anxiety about livelihood, of the permanent menace of ill health and old age, see how strong the worker is, how cheery, how capable of the elemental joys of parenthood, neighborliness, charity, unselfish devotion to the common interest! You might have shown that, whereas business is a combat in which friend does not spare friend, and brother brother, the unionized worker will not hesitate to endure starvation in defense of his class interests. And then you should have said, "If this treasure of fine manhood and clean womanhood can persist in spite of our iniquitous economic system, what would not the worker become if he received his due?" Instead of denying the dignity of labor you should have enhanced it, exaggerated it, and made it the title for greater claims and greater privileges. Everything, Dawson, can be forgiven except the sin against the

'Easily verifiable by statistics,' said spirit; against the spirit of the working Dawson.

'Ladimer!' shouted Hartmann, looming up in the doorway: 'is it your indention dot I perish of aboblexy on the open highway? Come!'

'Away with your nasty formulas of

masses whom you have reduced to slumdwellers and candidates for the brothel. Pah! Good-bye, Manning. I will write you. Good-bye, Margaret,' - and he bent his lips to hers. 'Good-bye, Dawson. Home, Hartmann.'

(The End)




Two weeks later, I had got strong enough to go to work. As I did not want to work in the presence of my former employer, I did not return there.

One of Clara's friends, a cutter, took me up to the place where he was employed. It also was a non-union shop. There were quite a number of shops that remained unorganized, the workers refusing to go down, trusting the bosses' promise to better their conditions without the help of the Union; like sheep led by wolves, who make them believe that the shepherd deprives them of liberty; that he does not allow them to run in the spacious fields and gather the best grass for themselves; that without the shepherd they would enjoy more freedom. The foolish sheep, influenced by the wolves, would run away from the shepherd, only to be eaten by the hungry wolves who had purposely led them away from protection. They perished-victims of their own stupidity.

It was the height of the season, labor was scarce, the boss was obliged to grant all the union conditions, in order to prevent his workers from leaving his place. The system in that shop was very different from that in my first place. Later I learned that each shop has its own system. I felt like a beginner again.

The forelady, Yetta, bless her heart, was a kind and gentle person. She gave me all the necessary instructions, so that I got used to the work quickly.

Week-work prevailed in the place. I expected to get seven dollars a week to start with; but how great was my astonishment when in my pay envelope I found ten dollars! Destiny seemed to play with me. I was so happy that evening when I brought my pay home. Breathlessly, I ran to break the news to Clara, and holding the envelope tight in my hand, told her to guess how much. She could not guess. The highest she could think of was eight; but when I placed the envelope near her eyes, she shouted with joy,

'Here, here! You are a regular dressmaker already!'

'Why, how dare you think otherwise?' I answered in the same tone.

It was not the money that made me feel so happy, it was my worth that I thought of. I could not have expected to get ten dollars a week after having only a few weeks' experience. My former boss, claiming to be a good friend of mine when I made five dollars a week, used to remind me that he did not think that I was worth even that much. Though a friend, he took advantage of a learner, as nearly every other manufacturer does.

Now that I was able to make ends meet more easily, my mind was at peace again. I began to think of my home and decided to send for my younger brother, a physically strongbuilt lad of eighteen. He, I thought, having a good trade, will soon be able to earn money, and both of us will help the rest of the family. Here again my

friend Clara! She gave me a loan of fifty dollars, on payments of three dollars a week. The money I sent home for my brother's ticket. I went on improving in my work from day to day. Very shortly afterwards I was employed in the sample-room to work on samples from time to time, and so I became a sample-maker.

Things once more went on smoothly. The strength of youth conquered. My cheerfulness returned. Again I went among my friends, entertaining them with song and infecting them with my joyousness. Even in the shop I felt happy. My neighbors were very kind and gentle, each one helping the other out of difficulties in her work.

At lunch-time I was always among the workers; very few would go out to lunch. Bologna, salome, corned beef, the Italian's egg-plant fried in a lot of olive oil-all spread such a mixed, unpleasant smell over the shop. The few girls at my table would sit together, exchanging food with each other -a cherry chocolate for an apple, a piece of orange for a banana, a corned-beef sandwich for some whitefish, and many other varieties. I would take part in the conversation, but I never shared in the exchange of food. Their kind offerings to me I refused, for I had nothing to give in return. My lunch consisted of either a cheese sandwich and milk, or an egg and milk. The pint of milk I bought every morning had to be used up, so I had a small bottle and would always bring the rest of the milk for my lunch.

'No wonder you are so white, living on milk so exclusively,' they would often tease me.

I told them that I liked nothing else, though often their pickles and smoked delicacies would awaken a sharp appetite in me.

Their conversation, very different from the vulgarities of the girls in the

sweater shop, was much pleasanter. Very little talk about 'fellers,' swell evening pumps, lace petticoats that the six dollar wage-earners were constantly discussing, in the sweater shop. Here we talked about questions of the day, world-happenings, music, art, literature, and trade questions. One fault I found with them their indifference to being members of the Dress-andWaist-Makers' Union. They would belong, they all agreed, if they worked in a union shop; but they would not trouble to unionize this shop.

Now that I was provided with work again, I had time to think a little of myself. It was a long time that I had not had any kind of recreation. Before, I had not had any money, and then I was too busy to think of it. I longed so much for a good opera or drama, for they were the only places where my mind felt at ease. As food was necessary for my stomach hunger, music and drama were necessary for my mental hunger. Not being able to see or hear of our world's masterpieces, I had to find satisfaction in reading them. My fantasia would often stage such wonderful sceneries, that when I happened to see the thing after I read it, I would often feel disappointed, for the impersonation on the stage would be much poorer than in my imagination.

At that time the Century Opera Company gave operas at popular prices. When I had my last debt paid up to my friend, Clara, I at once went to the Opera House, securing tickets for five dollars at twenty-five cents each, so that I was provided with opera tickets for the next few weeks. I had also secured tickets for the Manhattan Opera Company, where the world's greatest dancer, Pavlova, danced at that time. For Caruso I paid the highest prices. He would often cost me a few lunches and dinners that I saved from, in order to have enough money

for a standing ticket. Sometimes I would go right from work, without any dinner, to stand in line for general admission. If it happened to rain, my dress would be soaked through and through, and with wet clothes I would stand through the performance, changing from foot to foot, while there were often plenty of empty seats in the orchestra. Very often I would pay with a cold the next day. But the magic of the music was so great, that I forgot my cold as soon as it was over, and went again when I had another opportunity.

The opera house was the only place where I envied the rich. I did not envy their expensive clothes, nor their many valuable, useless diamonds; I envied their comfortable chairs, which were reserved for them, standing the most of the time during the performance empty. They would more often come in the second act, and leave the house at the beginning of the last; some of them would yawn all through the performance. Of course, the greater part of the audience sat listening to the opera with great pleasure. But many sat as if fulfilling a duty in listening to the music.

Besides the theatre, I also attended the different lectures about modern literature that I was so fond of. My favorite authors were Ibsen, Strindberg, Maeterlinck, Prshebishevsky, Gorky, Andreev, and many others.

At home, in Russia, I always had time enough to read. In the small town where I lived, there was no library. There was a small unimportant library in the public school, but only for the scholars, not for the public. With the exception of the cities, where there were good libraries, the government thought it unnecessary to install libraries. Our town was big enough to keep two monopol (stores of vodka),

- that drink being a cause of ruin to

the people, - but not for a library to enlighten the people's minds.

A group of us young girls and boys got together, and with our own money, after a long time of hard struggle, created a small library, hoping to increase it from time to time. Not being able to get a permit from the government, we had to keep it in secret. But the chief of police soon learned of it. He immediately made a visit, searching for forbidden literature. The result of his visit was the destruction of our library, at that time two hundred roubles' worth, and the arrest of many of our members. The worst thing of all was, that he sold our books, obtained through such hardship, to his officers, for ten, fifteen cents a book, and we could never get them back. We were left without any literature at all. This was only a part of the many discouraging experiences I had in my native home, Russia.

Russia! How hateful the word sounds to me! The ignorance in which Russia is keeping her people, the many obstacles she puts in the way of my nation, particularly the limitations of the civil rights for us, the desolation of our lives, and private ownership, that Russia is practicing so often, lights a fire of hate for her in our hearts, that burns for a lifetime.

When our library was destroyed, we began to think of some other way of getting literature, for we could not get along without it.

Many of us began to subscribe to weekly magazines, which gave very good classics as premiums in addition to the magazine. Some subscribed for the monthly magazine, The Modern World, in which many of the modern writers participated. A few of us had friends in the city, who supplied them with books through the mail. We would mostly read and discuss together. That helped us in widening

our ideas and understanding of what we read. If any one happened to visit the city, he or she would attend as many lectures as possible; also the theatre; and they would come home with a supply of impressions, with the criticism of the lectures and performances, and share it with the rest, who sat at home waiting impatiently for literary, dramatical, and musical news. Hard as it was for us to get what we wanted, still we succeeded in reading all the best classics, Russian and foreign as well, also a great deal of the modern literature. Our teachers,1 who mostly came from the city, would be astonished at our wide knowledge in the literary world. As a matter of fact, we, who met with such hardship in getting literature, knew much more than most of the city students, who had the privilege of the best libraries.

Since I left home, I have done very little reading. The struggle for my existence, the worry about work, the trouble in the shops which I passed through, occupied my mind and time. Now that I was more or less economically better off, I gave myself up entirely to reading. I often visited the Public Library. I was not used to get everything as easily as I could get it in the New York Library, and it made me feel happy. If there is anything to pay this city credit for, that is her libraries and museums of art and history.

Two evenings in the week I went to the Opera, the rest of the evenings I spent either in attending lectures, or reading, or at union meetings. But that did not satisfy me. I realized that it was necessary for me to study the English language. I also realized that the shop was no place for me. The shop as it is under the present system

1 We had private teachers, for as I have already mentioned, we were not admitted into the educational institutions. - THE AUTHOR.

is good for no human being to work in, for it does not comply with the human necessities.

It is not only the experience of my own trade I speak of. I come in contact with people who work at all kinds of trades, and each one's life is worse than the other's. I saw no future for me sitting in the shop. It is impossible to lead a decent, comfortable living, such as a human being is entitled to, for the earnings they get at the present time. In order to get some better kind of a profession, I had to study English. But how was I to do it? After work, I felt too tired to study. I made several attempts to do it, but had to stop it as soon as I began, for I was not strong enough to stand a day's work and an evening of study.

My friend Clara accompanied me to the theatre to the last bench of the family circle, so high that the people on the stage looked like dwarfs. Here we sat silently waiting for the music to start. My friend Clara made several attempts to raise a conversation, but I tried to avoid it; it was hard for me to talk. I was tired of telling her the same old stories over and over. She more or less made peace with her surroundings; economically she was much better off; as an expert dressmaker she worked in a steady private establishment, for a decent salary. Besides the work, she found satisfaction in belonging to different clubs, while I got tired of those clubs. They were too dry for me. Her spiritual development was on a much smaller scale than mine, and she would easily be inspired by things that did not interest me at all. My temper was a more revolutionary one, and I was more sensitive.

'You must learn to take things easy,' she would say.

'No, Clara, you are wrong; would the people not take life so easy, we would have a much better world than

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