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Making Both Ends Meet The income and outlay of New York working girls   By: (1873-1958)

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The Income and Outlay of New York Working Girls



New York The Macmillan Company


[Illustration: Photograph by Lewis Hine]



This book is composed of the economic records of self supporting women living away from home in New York. Their chronicles were given to the National Consumers' League simply as a testimony to truth; and it is simply as a testimony to truth that these narratives are reprinted here.

The League's inquiry was initiated because, three years ago in the study of the establishment of a minimum wage, only very little information was obtainable as to the relation between the income and the outlay of self supporting women workers. The inquiry was conducted for a year and a half by Mrs. Sue Ainslie Clark, who obtained the workers' budgets as they were available from young women interviewed in their rooms, boarding places, and hotels, and at night schools and clubs. After Mrs. Clark had collected and written these accounts, I supplemented them further in the same manner; and rearranged them in a series of articles for Mr. S.S. McClure. The budgets fell naturally into certain industrial divisions; but, as will be seen from the nature of the inquiry, the records were not exhaustive trade studies of the several trades in which the workers were engaged. They constituted rather an accurate kinetoscope view of the yearly lives of chance passing workers in those trades. Wherever the facts ascertained seemed to warrant it, however, they were so focussed as to express definitely and clearly the wisdom of some industrial change.

In two instances in the course of the serial publication of the budgets such industrial changes were undertaken and are now in progress. The firm of Macy & Co. in New York has inaugurated a monthly day of rest, with pay, for all permanent women employees who wish this privilege. The change was made first in one department and then extended through a plan supplied by the National Civic Federation to all the departments of the store.

The Manhattan Laundrymen's Association, the Brooklyn Laundrymen's Association, and the Laundrymen's Association of New York State held a conference with the Consumers' League after the publication of the Laundry report, and asked to cooperate with the League in obtaining the establishment of a ten hour day in the trade, additional factory inspection, and the placing of hotels and hospital laundries under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor. Largely through the efforts of the Laundrymen's Association of New York State, a bill defining as a factory any place where laundry work is done by mechanical power passed both houses of the last legislature at Albany. A standard for a fair house was discussed and agreed upon at the conference. It is the intention of the League to publish within the year a white list of the New York steam laundries conforming to this standard in wages, hours, and sanitation.

The New York of the workers is not the New York best known to the country at large. The New York of Broadway, the New York of Fifth Avenue, of Central Park, of Wall Street, of Tammany Hall, these are by words of common reference; and when two years ago the daily press printed the news of the strike of thirty thousand shirt waist makers in the metropolis, many persons realized, perhaps for the first time, the presence of a new and different New York the New York of the city's great working population. The scene of these budgets is a corner of this New York.

The authors of the book are many more than its writers whose names appear upon the title page. The second chapter is chiefly the word of mouth tale of Natalya Perovskaya, one of the shirt waist workers, a household tale of adventure repeated just as it was told to the present writer and to her hostess' family and other visitors during a call on the East Side on a warm summer evening... Continue reading book >>

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