Puslapio vaizdai
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Now, on New Year's Eve, more than better conditions.' Then, closing the a year had passed. Without language paper, she went on, 'I am ten years in and without relations, I had fought my the trade, and believe me, I had the battles bitterly, and here I stood with time of my life working in those sweatonly two dollars. Two dollars between shops! For years we had tried to orme and starvation!

ganize ourselves, but we were only a few in the field. It was hard to get the workers to understand the conditions

in which they worked. Our last general After a restless night, I did not open strike, that was called in 1909, was lost;

. my eyes until late in the morning, when and mind you, the girls who worked in my room-mate woke me up.

the worst sweat-shops did not go out; A friend is asking for you, Lisa,' she they were scabbing on us.' said; and in walked Clara with her What means a sweat-shop, Clara ? familiar 'Hello, kiddo! get up quick; I interrupted her. we must be at the club at eleven.' 'Why, don't you know?' She looked

‘ In a few minutes, I was dressed and at me in surprise. "The shops in which we went off. I could not understand they work, sometimes, from fifty-six to what made her come for me. She had sixty hours a week, in dark dirty places never visited me before.

for terribly small wages, and treated ‘Are you out of work for a long awful! Those are the sweat-shops. time?'

Very often I used to be thrown out I told her all aboạt my trouble in from shops just because I tried to agifinding a job for the last few weeks, tate the girls against such conditions. omitting to mention about my only And now at last we are getting them two dollars, all that was left to me for all down, even the underwear and the the indefinite future.

kimono-makers, those who were the At the club, the members were all worst paid and worst treated who there. Those who were not acting were were often compelled to pay for the use watching the others rehearse. Clara of their machines, for needles, electric played the part of mother in the play power, and also for machine-oil.' being rehearsed. She usually played On she went, telling of the fights they the mother's part in all the performan- had gone through: of the strikes; how ces of the club, and was very good in the bosses hired gangsters to protect her portrayals. Impatiently I waited scabs; how she once caught a scab, and until it was over, when again Clara not being able to persuade her to stop clung to me, insisting that I should go scabbing, she beat her up so that she home and have dinner with her. I sus- was afraid to go to work the next day. pected that she might have guessed 'I assure you I had n't the heart to my present situation, and refused; but do it, but I could n't stand it any longshe insisted, so that in the end I went er. We were striking for several weeks with her.

and many of our girls were nearly On the street, she bought a news- starved. Some were severely beaten up paper, quickly opened it and glanced by the gangsters, and when that girl through it, then exclaimed delightedly, after hearing our pleas laughed in our

'Listen here – over fifty thousand faces, I lost control. But after I was girls in the ladies' garment trade, so sorry, that for days I walked round ready to walk out of the shops at the like one who committed a crime,' she first call of their unions, and strike for concluded in her simple language.

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I studied her as she spoke. Her face, 'I think the best plan for you is to bearing all the imprints of long hard learn the dressmaking. It will take you work, was in strong contrast to her some time to learn and you could n't heart, so childishly young, so enthusi- make much money while learning, but astic, so full of life; ready to forgive the at least you'll have a trade in the end. world for all the wrongs done to her, Without a trade you will very often not just for a bit of joy.

find work even in the season.' The club was her only solace. A child I agreed with her, but how was I to of poor Galicia, having hardly any edu- find a place to learn? cation, working since ten years of age, "Now let's see. Mr. N.'—she menshe zealously strove for education in tioned the name of a member of our the evenings after work. The soul-hun- club-keeps a small dress shop. I'm ger for beauty, for art, for good litera- sure that he'll take you in when I speak ture brought her to the club, to which to him.' she willingly sacrificed her time and her ‘Is he really a manufacturer?' I exmoney to keep it up, to build a temple claimed, a ray of hope creeping into my of art which might help educate those heart, 'Why, I'm sure he'll take me who were as brutally deprived of edu- in.' cation as she had been. It was in that I was a little surprised to have a real

a work that she found expression for her 'boss'a member of our club. beautiful desires and a rest from the The very same evening we spoke to monotonous prosaic life she lived amid Mr. N., and oh, wonder of wonders! he the sordid surroundings of the crowded told me to come the next morning. At East Side. My admiration for her grew six o'clock I was up already, impatientmore and more as we continued to ly waiting for the clock to strike eight. walk.

At the door of the shop I met a genInto a dark hall on Avenue B Clara tleman somewhat resembling my Mr. led me. On the third floor we stopped. N., but older. He asked me whom I The door was opened to us by Clara's wished to see. mother, a tired-out, elderly woman of 'I am to see Mr. N. He told me to fifty. She seemed to have expected me, come this morning; he - he wants to for the table was set for the two of us; give me a job on dresses.' the rest of the family, having had their I trembled, much discouraged by his dinners, were all gone.

surprised, displeased look. From the attention paid to me by 'You mean my brother? Well, I Clara's mother I understood that Clara don't think we need any help. The seamust have spoken to her about me. The son has not yet begun.' thought that Clara possibly invited me Like one who has suddenly had cold suspecting that I was in need, insulted water poured over her, I was chilled by me. I sat awkwardly at the table and his last words. choked myself with each mouthful. ‘You see, Mr. N., I am only to learn

After dinner, we went into a par- the trade, so that it does not matter lor furnished with some second-hand whether it is busy or not. I may learn chairs. A few art postals hung on the something till the season starts and be walls, and two cheap statuettes of able to earn some money then.' Beethoven and Mozart adorned the My appealing voice seemed to have imitation marble mantelpiece. Our impressed him. He opened the door conversation again turned on the com- and told me to come in and wait for his ing strike.

brother. It was a very light, clean little

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shop, with two rows of tables, ten

used for a collar. "You don't even ask machines on each one, one long cut- with whom I am going,' she continting-table, and one table with a press- ued, not receiving any reply from me. ing-board.

'My gentleman friend is a musician, A little after eight two girls with dark you know, and we often go to the opera. complexions walked in, and looked at How do you like opera?' me with curiosity.

*Very much,' I replied, trying to cut A little later Mr. N. appeared. Greet- our conversation down, for she

gave me ing me familiarly, he introduced me to very little chance to work. his brother and two sisters, who al- 'What about your gentleman friend? ready sat by their machines, increasing Does he like opera?' their speed by singing a merry Russian 'Heavens! will she never stop?' I song.

wondered. 'You do like to know a lot We are here our own family; there of things all in one day,' I replied softare two more of our intimate friends ly, so as not to displease her. working with us, two Italian finishers She went over to her machine and and one presser

that is our staff. I spoke to me no more that day. am doing the cutting, my brother the On the thirteenth day of my apprendesigning, and so we are all working ticeship, the long-expected strike broke hard for our living,' he concluded smil- out. The very small staff in our shop, ingly. And bringing a bundle over to so closely related to the 'boss,' did not me, he asked his younger sister to in- stop work. My employer tried to construct me.

vince me that it would be very foolish 'Do you speak Russian?' she asked, of me to join the strikers when I was as she bent across me to show me what only a stranger in the trade. to do.

I did not know what to do. Indeed, Why, yes, I do,' I answered. I knew very little about the American

She began in fluent but ungram- labor movement in general, and less matical Russian to cross-question me: about this particular industry. Should where I came from, who I was, what I the employees in my shop walk out, did, how I liked this and that — not there would be no doubts for me, but giving me a chance to answer any of her they did not. Being in the first stage of questions; telling me all she could apprenticeship, not knowing the people about herself; chattering all day with- or the real conditions existing in the out stopping. About the work, she trade, I thought that I could be of no would speak with high authority, as- help to them, so I stayed in the shop suring me that it would take me months and learned to work. Still, each bundle to become a skilled worker.

that went through my hands caused 'Do you know, Louis, this little girl me terrible sufferings. It seemed as if speaks Russian!' my instructor said to the goods looked up at me reproachthe older brother.

ingly. They seemed to say, “So many ‘Does she?' he answered, looking ap- girls fighting for a better chance, for provingly at me; and coming over to more freedom, for a better life! Leave our table, he spoke to me as if paying us untouched in the baskets.' more respect to me for knowing Rus- But I am not injuring them, I am sian.

only learning,' I tried to quiet my con'I am going to the opera to-night, science. 'I am learning in order to help my instructor announced, as she ripped them when I have a right to stand in apart the yoke of a waist that I had their ranks and demand the same, to

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fight for a better life, for freedom. Oh, speak. He seemed to notice my de

, that better life — who has struggled pression, for he immediately changed for it more than I, all these past years? his mind, began to comfort me, and Who has sacrificed more than I, for accompanied me home and spoke to freedom that I have not yet realized?' me for a long time. He took a very

In the evenings, when I walked home, warm interest in our conversation. I tried to slip through the pickets After he left me, I went up to my so that they should not notice me; for room. they would not believe that I was only 'What shall I do? How much more a learner and that my heart and soul must I concentrate my mind on the were with them. With delight and envy machine? I am trying hard to learn, I watched those brave young children but it seems to go so slowly! The other in the picket-line, not fearing the po- girls are so quick; everything from licemen who would chase them from their hands comes out so smoothly. one place to another, nor the gangsters When I try to do the same thing, I hired by the bosses, who would stain start so fine but it comes out so crookwith blood many a young girl's face ed! How shall I learn? How shall I when she dared to speak to a scab who learn?' The question kept digging, digwas under their protection. How I ging in my mind, filling me with dewished to be among them!

spair. The first two weeks of my appren- I thought of my elder boss. He was ticeship did not go at all smoothly. My so kind to me, he spoke so nicely, with employer friend seemed to grow dis- so much sympathy, as no one else had couraged with me because I still did done since I left home. No one till then not seem able to distinguish a sleeve had inquired how I was living, not even from a front, or a back from a yoke, my room-mate knew how I made both and would make blunders by setting in ends meet. To my parents I had to lie. a front for a sleeve.

Each letter I wrote to them made them My talkative instructor would often think that I was quite contented with cry out in disgust, ‘My, how you botch ,

the changed life. The thought that up all the work!'

they might learn the truth made me so She had crowned me with a nick- miserable, so miserable! Had they not name the first day, and she would often objected to my leaving home? tease me to tears. As she was known as I must be strong, I must overcome the ‘gypsy,' she called me ‘the little everything. But how? I feared that I white angel,' for my small growth and was too weak, too helpless against life. my white complexion. Seeing how little I saw no hope of earning enough money I liked that name, even the beautiful to help my family as I had promised. I signorinas teased me, goodheartedly. saw no possibilities of studying in the

One evening, the elder boss called me evenings when my mind was so worried over, and in a friendly manner advised about the daily bread. If I cannot acme to give up the job. He said I was an complish anything, what is life for, intelligent girl, but that I could never then? Lying in bed that night I began concentrate my mind on the machine to think of suicide.

that I could never become a real Oh! how I wished to die that evening, worker and earn my living by it. to be relieved from that eternal anxiety,

I opened my mouth to say some- from painful disappointments! thing, but the words sank in my throat, But suicide is a selfish thing,' I my eyes filled with tears, I could not thought. 'If I find relief in that, what

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about those who survive? Will not the gether, but I was still very slow and the deed kill my parents, who have so prices were poor. I could make only much faith in my strength? No, no; I from five to six dollars a week. That will not disappoint them. I will fight money was only enough to enable me until I succeed. Others struggle as to live from hand to mouth, and I much as I do. I had heard of so many needed so many things. My shoes people who had suffered much and were worn out, my clothes too were were successful in the end. Why should shabby; I had nothing but the dress I not I? I shall prove my ambitions. I had on. must.'

With a terrible headache, I fell into a restless sleep. I spent the night in a Meanwhile, the strike of the garterrible nightmare.

ment-workers was settled. Their union Early in the morning, I sat on a recognized, the workers returned to bench in Union Square, waiting for the their shops with great triumph, their clock to strike eight, for our shop never prices almost doubled, their long hours opened before that hour. Thousands reduced to fifty hours a week. We still of people passed the square, most of worked under the old conditions. Our them garment-workers.

boss claimed that he could not raise the 'So many people could learn the prices because his concern was small trade, why not I? I shall learn it under and could not turn out much work. I any circumstances, and that quickly, was so much obliged to him for the too,' I decided.

favor he had done to me that I felt I I reached the shop just as my boss, had no right to contradict or be diswho had accompanied me home the pleased. night before, unlocked the door.

As I was less able to make ends meet ‘Good morning. Who threw you out from my scanty earnings, I began to of bed so early?' he asked smilingly grow discouraged again. My idea of 'Now we shall see what we can do for studying in the evening had to be given you, little angel.'

up for the present, because I worked ‘Oh, please, Mr. N.! You, too! You too hard all day. Besides, in the evenmust excuse me if I beg you not to call ings I had to do my washing and mendme a nickname. I am already twenty ing and prepare my breakfast and lunch years of age, and really I think that I for the next day, as I could not afford am too old to be teased," I said, insult- to get my meals outside. ed by his last words.

'Heavens! Where is my freedom? I He apologized. “Why, I did not work in a shop, I work in the evenings; think that you would feel badly about no time for anything else but work and it. Goodness! you do not look twenty eat. What a life this is! What will the

a at all. I thought you were not more outcome be?' than sixteen or seventeen.'

I feared that, if things continued as His sisters came in, the power was they were, I might be plunged into a turned on, and we sat down to work. dirty slough as many others were, and During the next few days, I exerted I decided to prefer death if it came, myself to the utmost. My boss helped rather than allow anything to happen me out, and I began to feel more at my to me. ease, as my work went on improving. One evening, coming home from Another two weeks and no more botch- work, so tired and exhausted, I found ing. I was able to put a garment to

a letter from home with very sad news.

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