Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 283
Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 283
That time they succeeded at once. And now here we are, planning a great system of municipal baths as the people’s right, not as a favor to any one, and the old lie that the poor prefer to steep in their squalor is no longer believed by any person with sense. This month contracts will be given out for the fitting of nine public schools with shower-baths where we had one before, and notice is given that that one will be open to the people on Sunday mornings. No, we are not marking time; we are forging ahead. Every park, every playground, every bath-house, is a nail in the coffin of the slum, and every big, beautiful schoolhouse, built for the people’s use, not merely to lock the children up in during certain hours for which the teachers collect pay, is a pole rammed right through the heart of it so that even its ghost shall never walk again. For ever so much of it we thank that association of men of splendid courage and public spirit. They fight to win because they believe in the people. They fight with the people and so they are bound to win.
  Every once in a while these days a false note in it all jars upon me—a note of dread lest those we are trying to help get tired of the word “reform” and balk. Reform such as we have occasionally had is to blame for some of that. Certainly you do not want to reform men by main strength, drag



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