Jacob A. Riis (18491914). The Battle with the Slum. 1902.
whom 66,256 were women and girls. And this in winter. The free river baths have registered five and six millions of bathers in one brief season. The great unwashed were not so from choice, it would appear.
The river baths were only for summer, and their time is past. As the sewers that empty into the river multiply, it is getting less and less a place fit to bathe in, though the boys find no fault. Sixteen public bath-houses on shore are to take the place of the swimming baths. They are all to be in the crowded tenement districts. The sites for the first three are being chosen now. And a wise woman1 offers to build and equip one all complete at her own expense, as her gift to the city.
Pull up now a minute, if you think, with some good folks, that the world is not advancing, but just marking time, and look back half a century. I said that New York never had a public bath till now. I meant a free bath. As long ago as 1852, just fifty years ago, the Association for improving the Condition of the Poor built one in Mott Street near Grand Street, and spent 42,000 in doing it. It ran eight years, and was then closed for want of patronage. Forty years passed, and it was again the Association for improving the Condition of the Poor that built the Peoples Baths in the same neighborhood.