Puslapio vaizdai

such as we have now,' were my arguments to her.

At last the music started. I was all transformed into attention. I bathed my soul in the wonderful sounds of the music, trying to wash off the heavy melancholy that possessed me, and kept on gnawing, gnawing my heart and soul.

Who has once heard that opera surely remembers the sweet music and beautiful words of the aria from the third act in Tosca:

The stars were twinkling -
Everything around was asleep;
Absorbed in thoughts alone I wandered.

Oh, wonderful wink,

Oh, celestial happiness,

As a wonderful dream all passed away

and so on. I felt a thousand angels dancing around me when the world's greatest artist, Caruso, began the aria in his wonderful voice. How I wished it would never end! How I dreaded to be brought back to thoughts of my present miserable life! On our way home, I was very silent. I thought of the successful artists whose early life I read about; who knows—perhaps if I would once have a chance to show my abilities- I had a good soprano voice - but I immediately caught myself on that daring thought.

But I am very emotional. Many people at home in Russia would advise me to select a stage career; myself, I had the highest wish to become an actress, but my parents would not listen to it they had the worst opinion of an actress; they saw no art in it.

Being in New York, I often thought of it, but I was afraid to try, for I knew nobody who could give me an introduction to the stage, and I, not knowing the English language, could not succeed in trying all alone without anybody's help.

'I am

growing impatient to walk

with you all the way home so quietly; say something: how did you like the opera?'

My friend Clara was used to have me share my inspirations with her as soon as we walked out of the Opera House; sometimes she would walk with me for hours, listening to my conversation about music, drama, and art in general. I had nothing to say; I felt too pessimistical.


Although the conditions in my shop were just as good as in the best union shops, and we had everything except the recognition of the Union, still, I was anxious to have it organized. I confess, it was puzzling to me, at first, why the boss objected to his people joining the Union. As long as union conditions prevailed in the shop, why not allow the workers to belong where they would? Some of the members in the shop were union members. On my question, why they did not have the shop organized, they would answer me carelessly, 'We should worry so long as we have union conditions.' I suffered by their ignorant answers. I recalled the thousands of young girls who had so bitterly fought their fight only a few weeks before, and I argued with my co-workers.

'Don't you know that we have got everything just because so many thousands of girls fought for it? You yourselves stated that the standards were much lower here before the general strike was called. You only got increases when the girls in the other shops won them. Do you think that our boss, no matter how kind he is, would reduce four hours a week, if it were not for the strike? We workers must all do our share. It is not fair to stay aside and let others fight and spend their money to keep up an or

ganization when we all get the good benefits from it. There must be reasons why the boss does not want a union shop. I am not criticizing our boss, I admit that he is a fair man; but don't you know that for the desire of making more money, the bosses, even the best of them, will exploit their workers to the utmost. That is why we must be organized, so that we can stand up against them. In unity is our strength. We must belong to a union, in order to protect ourselves against the ruling hand of capitalism.'

But the workers cared to know next to nothing about it. Some of the girls would answer me rudely,

'You better shut up; if you don't, you will get fired. There was another girl in the shop and she tried to agitate for the Union and she was discharged.'

I would often talk to Clara about my desire to organize the shop. She also warned me not to do it. "The dull season is approaching; you have not any money saved up to face it, so what will you do in case you are fired?'

But I could not rest. I felt like a criminal, to work in a trade that is organized, and not belong to the ranks. I could not have imagined that there still were so many people who did not understand the value of organization. But I soon found the reason why.

As a rule, a worker in a shop brings up his or her friends or relatives; that friend or relative another friend, and so on; so that, in most cases, the shop contains workers who are closely related to each other. The consequence is, that, if one seems to be misinformed about unionism, all of them get the same idea. If one of them is warned by the boss to keep away from union people, mostly all of them obey him.

Particularly among Italians, the bringing up of friends is practiced. Realizing that with lack of knowledge of the trade-union movement, I could

help very little to make them see my point of yiew, I decided to report to the Union, hoping that they would send some one to unionize the place.

When I went to the office of the Union, I saw the head organizer, and told him about my shop. He appeared to be interested, and explained that the organizers were only too glad to help out those who wanted to be helped; that for years they had been trying to enlighten the workers' minds, to awaken them to self-consciousness and help them organize into a union.

'Without a union, the bosses drove their workers like slaves, they did not fear the individual; if any one protested, he or she would be heartlessly thrown out of the shop. But when a protest comes from all the workers, not only from one shop, but from all shops equally, the bosses must listen to them and treat them justly; if they do not, then the workers strike. It is very sad to admit that there are still workers who do not care how they are treated. Instead of demanding their rights, they keep trying schemes to win the bosses' favor in order to get a dollar raise.'

He spoke the truth. There are many workers who would do anything, even injure a fellow worker, in order to get a raise.

Somehow my boss learned that I had complained to the Union. Any one else in my place would have been fired without explanation; but I worked for ten dollars a week, and worked mostly on samples, while a samplemaker's minimum wage was fourteen dollars. That is why the boss first tried to speak to me and warn me.

In the morning, when I came to work, the designer, a very gentle woman, always previously welcoming me with a smile, seemed to be angry.

'Why, Lizzie, I am surprised with you, such a sensible girl as I thought you, to act so silly.'

I guessed what she was at, but said, 'What is the matter?' acting as if I knew nothing.

'Tell me, are you dissatisfied with your position? Is there anything wrong with this place?'

'No,' I answered, 'I'm satisfied and I think the place is all right.'

"Then what is the sense in going to the damn Union?'

""Damn Union"! How dare you?' I wanted to reply, but I controlled myself.

'Well,' I said, 'I see no harm in it.' 'It is for your sake I warn you. I'm only a friend to you. Don't you know that the leaders of the Union only care for your money; they do not do a thing for you. They are grafters, that is all they are.'

I smiled again. Poor soul, she was so sure of what she said.

In the meantime, the boss came in, called me aside, and with the authority of a professor, he began to lecture me.

'Look here, little girl, I'm a man who is fair and square as possible. I always treat my workers as good as I can. Everybody is pleased with their positions; are not you? Did I not try to give you all chances for advancement?'

'Yes, you did, and it was very nice of you; but you did not raise me in accordance with my advancement,' I answered.

'Oh, you'll get a raise next season. You don't expect me to raise you the first season? But to the point: you have no idea what grafters the leaders are. There has been no strike which has not been sold by them. They get the poor working-people's money, and use it for their own benefit. Now, I am sorry for my own people. Why should they waste their money earned through hard labor? The Union is only a bluff, there is nothing to it, it is no use for the workers. Now, if you want to be a

sensible girl, do your work, do not mix in others' business. You can stay here, and I'll raise you a dollar a week when next season begins; now I can't. You see the dull season is coming already. Another week, and there will be very little work to do.'

I thanked him for his kindness and sat down to work. Now I understood why people in that shop feared the Union. They were fed with the same kind of lectures continually. No wonder they had the idea of Unionism in general, as a place where the workers were cheated. How was I to change their minds? How was I to explain to them that this was only a trick of the bosses to poison the workers' minds? Later, when I worked in other shops, I heard the same story told to the workers by the bosses.

In order to learn the accomplishments of our unions in the last strike, I went and joined the Union. In the shops where a high grade of dresses are made, the season often ends at the beginning of April. On the coming Saturday, at one o'clock, the boss informed his workers that, on account of the approaching dull times, he was compelled to reduce their wages two or three dollars a week, demanding however the same full week's work.

What were the workers to do? Here they were like sheep led away by a wolf from the shepherd. They had listened to the boss when he promised them all they desired, in order to keep them from the Union; and now, when the busy season was over, he took advantage of the workers who had no union to protect them, and reduced their wages, being sure that in the dull season they would stay for less.

Did the workers at last realize it? Some did, and left the place: those who remained were too ignorant to realize it.

When I came on Monday to work,

everything seemed so different. No more the former gentleness; the foreman was more particular about the work, more exacting in his demands. It was slower, so he had more time to watch everything. Even the nice Yetta was not so gentle, but I knew it was not her fault. She had to obey the instructions of the boss.

The first of May was approaching. The Union made all preparations for a grand march.

The first of May had two meanings for me. As a schoolteacher at home, I always celebrated that day by going off to the woods, with my pupils, and merrily spent the day in songs and games, that celebration having for its sole reason the greeting of the best day of spring. And so sweet were the memories of those bygone days!

The second more important meaning was the 'International Labor Holiday.' I decided to stop work, even if the boss should try to compel me to work. In vain did I try to inspire my co-workers with the significance of the First of May. They refused to give up a day's wages for such a sentimentality.

The day fell on Thursday, a bright warm spring day. The many thousands of young girls, in uniforms of white waists with red collars, all in line, were ready to march on. The sun illuminated their pale but happy faces as they walked through the avenues and streets. Looking up at the skyscrapers where they slaved all year, their shiny eyes would gleam with pride and hope, as if they would speak and warn the world, 'Behold you who keep us in the darkness, no more are we to slave for you! Together we stand now, men, women, creators of wealth, and together we shall stand to fight for our rights!'

I kept my holiday, joined a small separate division of girls who gathered from different non-union shops and,

like myself, perhaps risked their jobs for observing the holiday. I spent the rest of the day happily with my friends. But for that day I paid with many, many miserable weeks that followed.

The sun's rays, creeping into my tiny room on the top floor, joyfully played on my face when I awoke early the next morning. I lay in bed, leisurely stretching and relaxing my poor legs, tired from marching. I was still full of the events of yesterday. My heart beat with warmth as I lay enjoying my sun-bath. The clock struck seven; time to get ready for work!

Humming a favorite Russian song, I quickly dressed, took my ordinary breakfast, a roll and a cup of milk which seemed so tasteful that morning, and down I marched to the shop. It was a glorious morning. The little buds on the trees in Madison Square were just opening up into beautiful bloom and spread such a pleasant fragrance around. The small fountain in the centre bubbled, bubbled, splashing out right and left. I stopped for a moment to welcome the cold sprinkle on my face.

The great mass of workers who were passing by all seemed light-hearted: It was the beautiful morning, the warm sun, the awakening of the green, that spread the good humor on their faces. I liked the world and wanted to greet everybody and everything, 'Good morning, good morning!'-'A fine morning!'-'A glorious morning!' 'Well, how did you like the march?' 'Was it not splendid?' 'Indeed, it was wonderful!' was heard all around as the workers met on their way to the shops.

'Good morning,' said I merrily to the foreman, who happened to be the first to meet me when I entered the shop.

'Good morning,' came an angry sound from his nose.

'It is too nice a morning to be angry,' I teased the foreman.

'If you think that you can make a living on nice mornings or May holidays, why do you come to the shop?' he asked severely.

I understood that something was wrong, and that my good humor would not gain the foreman's favor, so I quietly went over to my machine, and bent my head over my work.

Meanwhile, the girls began to fill up their places at the machines. Some would stop near me, while passing, and ask how the march looked.

'It cost me a day's wages to know, and I think that it is too expensive to tell,' was my reply to all of them.

'Good morning, Miss Union-lady.' I jumped up, instinctively feeling that it was I who was addressed.

A sudden laughter spread over the shop from the workers, much amused by that greeting.

On the other side of the table stood the boss, calling me angrily. With a sudden foreboding of some evil happening, I walked over to him.

'Look here, miss, you know that I think that you are too smart for my place.'

'What is it?' I interrupted.

'What is it? Just as if you did n't know! I don't want you to make trouble in my shop. What business have you to bother my workers? You made some of them stop from work when I was in a rush to finish out a lot of dresses.'

'Why, you complain all the time that there was nothing to do and your workers sit idle. How did you happen to have such a rush all of a sudden?'

'Oh, you get on my nerve! I am not going to stand it any longer,' he said disgustedly, and walked away.

On Saturday, I received my pay and was discharged. So I lost my job for celebrating the first of May.

Now that I had to look for another job, I made up my mind to get a place only in a union shop. I thought that in the union shops the bosses just carry out every clause agreed to in the Protocol; but I soon found out that the workers had to fight for every bit that was coming to them according to the agreement.

The dull season had already begun, and it was not easy to find a job. Those who had their shops kept their positions: no new help was needed. In the shops where a cheap line of dresses or waists were made, the busy season lasts until July. I might be able to get a place on a cheap line of dresses. I had worked on a good line of dresses, that require more skill and care; I could expect to earn but little on the cheaper grades where speed was required more than skill.

At that time some members of the Coöperative League had kept- and still keep, a few apartments together. I learned from the people who lived there that it cost very cheap. As I had not enough money to live on, I moved into their coöperative house. Indeed, the expenses were small: $3.50 per month for a room, - two people in each, and $2.50 per week for two meals a day, mornings and evenings.

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Reeking with sweat, my head aching from the July heat, I wandered around until I found myself on a bench at Riverside Drive. The thought that I had to go out early in the morning to look for another position, and fearing that I might strike a job similar to my previous ones, made me so unhappy that I felt I could much easier jump into the Hudson than look for any more work; and work I had got to get, for I was so short in money that I hardly had enough for the little expenses we had in the coöperation. It was for the last six weeks that I had no more than two scanty meals a day. I had to provide

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