Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 165
Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 165
everlasting pessimist predicted, when the Mills Houses were opened, that they would have to “make bathing compulsory.” The lodger has given him the lie; the average has been over 400 bathers per day,—one in five,—and the record has passed 1000. No doubt soap may be cheap and salvation dear, but on the other hand cleanliness does and must ever begin godliness when fighting the slum, and no one who ever took a look into one of the old-style lodging houses will doubt that we are better off by so much. The Mills houses have paid four, even five, per cent on their owner’s investment of a million and a half. It follows that the business will attract capital, which means that there will be an end of the old nuisance. Beyond this, they have borne and will bear increasingly a hand in setting with the saloon with which they compete on its strong ground—that of social fellowship. It has no rival in the Bowery house or in the boarding-house back bedroom. Every philanthropic effort to fight it on that ground has drawn renewed courage and hope from Mr. Mills’s work and success.
  Many years ago a rich merchant planned to do for his working women the thing Mr. Mills has done for lonely men. Out on Long Island he built a town for his clerks that was to be their very own. But it came out differently. The Long Island town became a cathedral city and the home of



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