Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Making of an American > XII. I become an Author and resume my Interrupted Career as a Lecturer
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914). The Making of an American. 1901.
 
XII. I become an Author and resume my Interrupted Career as a Lecturer
 
FOR more than a year I had knocked at the doors of the various magazine editors with my pictures, proposing to tell them how the other half lived, but no one wanted to know. One of the Harpers, indeed, took to the idea, but the editor to whom he sent me treated me very cavalierly. Hearing that I had taken the pictures myself, he proposed to buy them at regular photographer’s rates and “find a man who could write” to tell the story. We did not part with mutual expressions of esteem. I gave up writing for a time then, and tried the church doors. That which was bottled up within me was, perhaps, getting a trifle too hot for pen and ink. In the church one might, at all events, tell the truth unhindered. So I thought; but there were cautious souls there, too, who held the doors against Mulberry Street and the police reporter. It was fair, of course, that they should know who I was, but I thought it sufficient introduction that I was a deacon in my own church out on Long Island. They did not, it seemed. My stock of patience, never very large, was showing signs of giving out, and I retorted hotly that then, if they wanted to know, I was a reporter, and perhaps Mulberry Street had as much sanctity in it as a church that would not listen to its wrongs. They only shut the doors a little tighter at that. It did not mend matters that about that time I tried a little truth-telling in my own fold and came to grief. It did not prove to be any more popular on Long Island than in New York. I resigned the diaconate and was thinking of hiring a hall—a theatre could be had on Sunday—wherein to preach my lay sermon, when I came across Dr. Schauffler, the manager of the City Mission Society, and Dr. Josiah Strong, the author of “Our Country.” They happened to be together, and saw at once the bearing of my pictures. Remembering my early experience with the magic lantern, I had had slides made from my negatives, and on February 28, 1888, I told their story in the Broadway Tabernacle. Thereafter things mended somewhat. Plymouth Church and Dr. Parkhurst’s opened their doors to me and the others fell slowly into line.   1
   I had my say and felt better. I found a note from Dr. Schauffler among my papers the other day that was written on the morning after that first speech. He was pleased with it and with the collection of $143.50 for the mission cause. I remember it made me smile a little grimly. The fifty cents would have come handy for lunch that day. It just happened that I did not have any. It happened quite often. I was, as I said, ever a bad manager. I mention it here because of two letters that came while I have been writing this, and which I may as well answer now. One asks me to lift the mortgage from the writer’s home. I get a good many of that kind. The writers seem to think I have much money and might want to help them. I should like nothing better. To go around, if one were rich, and pay off mortgages on little homes, so that the owners when they had got the interest together by pinching and scraping should find it all gone and paid up without knowing how, seems to me must be the very finest fun in all the world. But I shall never be able to do it, for I haven’t any other money than what I earn with my pen and by lecturing, and never had. So their appeals only make me poorer by a two-cent stamp for an answer to tell them that, and make them no richer. The other letter asks why I and other young men who have had to battle with the world did not go to the Young Men’s Christian Association, or to the missionaries, for help. I do not know about the others, but I did not want anybody to help me. There were plenty that were worse off and needed help more. The only time I tried was when Pater Breton, the good French priest in Buffalo, tried to get me across to France to fight for his country, and happily did not succeed. As to battling with the world, that is good for a young man, much better than to hang on to somebody for support. A little starvation once in a while even is not out of the way. We eat too much anyhow, and when you have fought your way through a tight place, you are the better for it. I am afraid that is not always the case when you have been shoved through.   2
   And then again, as I have just told, when I did go to the ministers with a fair proposition, they did not exactly jump at it. No, it was better the way it was.   3
   The thing I had sought vainly so long came in the end by another road than I planned. One of the editors of Scribner’s Magazine saw my pictures and heard their story in his church, and came to talk the matter over with me. As a result of that talk I wrote an article that appeared in the Christmas Scribner’s, 1889, under the title “How the Other Half Lives,” and made an instant impression. That was the beginning of better dayś   4
   Before I let the old depart I must set down an incident of my reporter’s experience that crowds in with a good hearty laugh, though it was not the slum that sent me to the Church of the Holy communion over on Sixth Avenue. And though the door was shut in my face, it was not by the rector, or with malice prepense. A despatch from the Tenderloin police station had it that the wife of the Rev. Dr. Henry Mottet was locked up there, out of her mind. We had no means of knowing that Dr. Mottet was at that time a confirmed bachelor. So I went over to condole with him, and incidentally to ask what was the matter with his wife, any way. The servant who came to the door did not know whether the doctor was in; she would go and see. But even as she said it the wind blew the door shut behind her. It had a snap-lock.   5
   “Oh!” she said, “I am shut out. If the doctor isn’t in the house, I can’t get in.”   6
   We rang, but no one came. There was only one way: to try the windows. The poor girl could not be left in the street. So we went around the rectory and found one unlatched. She gave me a leg up, and I raised the sash and crawled in.   7
   Halfway in the room, with one leg over the sill, I became dimly conscious of a shape there. Tall and expectant, it stood between the door-curtains.   8
   “Well, sir! and who are you?” it spoke sternly.   9
   I climbed over the sill and put the question myself: “And who are you, sir?”   10
   “I am Dr. Mottet, and live in this house.” He had been in after all and had come down to hear what the ringing was about. “And now may I ask, sir—?”   11
   “Certainly, you may. I am a reporter from Police Headquarters, come up to tell you that your wife is locked up in the Thirtieth Street police station.”   12
   The doctor looked fixedly at me for a full minute. Then he slowly telescoped his tall frame into an armchair, and sank down, a look of comic despair settling upon his face.   13
   “O Lord!” he sighed heavily. “A strange man climbs through my parlor window to tell me, a bachelor, that my wife is locked up in the police station. What will happen next?”   14
   And then we laughed together and made friends. The woman was just an ordinary lunatic.   15
   I was late home from the office one evening the week my Christmas article was printed. My wife was waiting for me at the door, looking down the street. I saw that she had something on her mind, but the children were all right, she said; nothing was amiss. Supper over, she drew a chair to the fire and brought out a letter.   16
   “I read it,” she nodded. It was our way. The commonest business letter is to me a human document when she has read it. Besides, she knows so much more than I. Her heart can find a way where my head bucks blindly against stone walls.   17
   The letter was from Jeanette Gilder, of the Critic, asking if I had thought of making my article into a book. If so, she knew a publisher. My chance had come. I was at last to have my say.   18
   I should have thought I would have shouted and carried on. I didn’t. We sat looking into the fire together, she and I. Neither of us spoke. Then we went up to the children. They slept sweetly in their cribs. I saw a tear in her eye as she bent over the baby’s cradle, and caught her to me, questioning.   19
   “Shall we lose you now?” she whispered, and hid her head on my shoulder. I do not know what jealous thought of authors being wedded to their work had come into her mind; or, rather, I do. I felt it, and in my heart, while I held her close, I registered a vow which I have kept. It was the last tear she shed for me. Our daughter pouts at her father now and then; says I am “fierce.” But She comes with her sewing to sit where I write, and when she comes the sun shines.   20
   Necessarily, for a while, my new work held me very close. “How the Other Half Lives” was written at night while the house slept, for I had my office work to attend to in the day. Then it was my habit to light the lamps in all the rooms of the lower story and roam through them with my pipe, for I do most of my writing on my feet. I began the book with the new year. In November it was published, and on the day it came out I joined the staff of the Evening Sun. I merely moved up one flight of stairs. Mulberry Street was not done with me yet, nor I with it.   21
   I had had a falling out with the manager of the Associated Press Bureau,—the Tribune had retired from the copartnership some years before,—and during one brief summer ran an opposition shop of my own. I sold police news to all the papers, and they fell away from the Bureau with such hearty unanimity that the manager came around and offered to farm out the department to me entirely if I would join forces. But independence was ever sweet to me, and in this instance it proved profitable even. I made at least three times as much money as before, but I did it at such cost of energy and effort that I soon found it could not last, even with the phenomenal streak of good luck I had struck. It seemed as if I had only to reach out to turn up news. I hear people saying once in a while that there is no such thing as luck. They are wrong. There is; I know it. It runs in streaks, like accidents and fires. The thing is to get in the way of it and keep there till it comes along, then hitch on, and away you go. It is the old story of the early bird. I got up at five o’clock, three hours before any of my competitors, and sometimes they came down to the office to find my news hawked about the street in extras of their own papers.   22
   One way or another, a fight there was always on hand. That seemed foreordained. If it was not “the opposition” it was the police. When Mulberry Street took a rest the publisher’s “reader” began it, and the proof-reader. This last is an enemy of human kind anyhow. Not only that he makes you say things you never dreamed of, but his being so cocksure that he knows better every time, is a direct challenge to a fight. The “reader” is tarred with the same stick. He is the one who passes on the manuscript, and he has an ingrown hatred of opinion. If a man has that, he is his enemy before he ever sets eye on him. He passed on my manuscript with a blue pencil that laid waste whole pages, once a whole chapter, with a stroke. It was like sacking a conquered city. But he did not die in his sins. I joined battle at the first sight of that blue pencil. The publishers said their reader was a very capable man. So he was, and a fine fellow to boot; had forgotten more than I ever knew, except as to the other half, of which he did not know anything. I suggested to the firm that if they did not think so, they had better let him write a book to suit, or else print mine as I wrote it. It was fair, and they took my view of it. So did he. The blue pencil went out of commission.   23
   How deadly tired I was in those days I do not think I myself knew until I went to Boston one evening to help discuss sweating at the Institute of Technology. I had an hour to spare, and went around into Beacon Street to call upon a friend. I walked mechanically up the stoop and rang the bell. My friend was not in, said the servant who came to the door. Who should she say called? I stood and looked at her like a fool: I had forgotten my name. I was not asleep; I was rummaging in an agony of dread and excitement through every corner and crevice of my brain for my own name, but I did not find it. As slowly as I could, to gain time, I reached for my card-case and fumbled for a card, hoping to remember. But no ray came. Until I actually read my name on my card it was as utterly gone as if I had never heard it. If the people of Boston got anything out of my speech that day they did better than I. All the time I spoke something kept saying over within me: “You are a nice fellow to make a speech at the Institute of Technology; you don’t even know your own name.”   24
   After that I was haunted by a feeling that I would lose myself altogether, and got into the habit of leaving private directions in the office where I would probably be found, should question arise. It arose at last in a Brooklyn church where I was making a speech with my magic-lantern pictures. While I spoke a feeling kept growing upon me that I ought to be down in the audience looking at the pictures. It all seemed a long way off and in no way related to me. Before I knew it, or any one had time to notice, I had gone down and taken a front seat. I sat there for as much as five minutes perhaps, while the man with the lantern fidgeted and the audience wondered, I suppose, what was coming next. Then it was the pictures that did not change which fretted me; with a cold chill I knew I had been lost, and went back and finished the speech. No one was any the wiser, apparently. But I was glad when, the following week, I wrote the last page in my book. That night, my wife insists, I deliberately turned a somerset on the parlor carpet while the big children cheered and the baby looked on, wide-eyed, from her high chair.   25
   I preserve among my cherished treasures two letters of that period from James Russell Lowell. In one of them he gives me permission to use the verses with which I prefaced the book. They were the text from which I preached my sermon. He writes that he is “glad they have so much life left in them after forty years.” But those verses will never die. They tell in a few lines all I tried to tell on three hundred pages. The other letter was written when he had read the book. I reproduce it here.   26
 
 
Mr. Lowell’s Letter.
 
   For myself I have never been able to satisfactorily explain the great run “How the Other Half Lives” had. It is a curiously popular book even to—day. Perhaps it was that I had had it in me so long that it burst out at last with a rush that caught on. The title had a deal to do with it. Mr. Howells asked me once where I got it. I did not get it. It came of itself, Like Topsy, it growed. It had run in my mind ever since I thought of the things I tried to describe. Then there was the piece of real good luck that Booth’s “In Darkest England” was published just then. People naturally asked, “how about New York?” That winter Ward McAllister wrote his book about society as he had found it, and the circuit was made. Ministers preached about the contrast. “How the Other Half Lives” ran from edition to edition. There was speedily a demand for more “copy,” and I wrote “The Children of the Poor,” following the same track. Critics said there were more “bones” in it, but it was never popular like the “Other Half.”   27
   By “bones” I suppose they meant facts to tie to. They were scarce enough at that stage of the inquiry. I have in my desk a table giving the ages at which children get their teeth that bears witness to that. I had been struggling with the problem of child—labor in some East Side factories, and was not making any headway. The children had certificates, one and all, declaring them to be “fourteen,” and therefore fit to be employed. It was perfectly evident that they were not ten in scores of cases, but the employer shrugged his shoulders and pointed to the certificate. The father, usually a tailor, would not listen at all, but went right on ironing. There was no birth registry to fall back on; that end of it was neglected. There seemed to be no way of proving the fact, yet the fact was there and must be proven. My own children were teething at the time, and it gave me an idea. I got Dr. Tracy to write out that table for me, showing at what age the dog—teeth should appear, when the molars, etc. Armed with that I went into the factories and pried open the little workers’ mouths. The girls objected: their teeth were quite generally bad; but I saw enough to enable me to speak positively. Even allowing for the backwardness of the slum, it was clear that a child that had not yet grown its dog—teeth was not “fourteen,” for they should have been cut at twelve at the latest. Three years later the Reinhardt Committee reported to the Legislature that the net result of the Factory Law was a mass of perjury and child—labor, and day began to dawn for the little ones, too.   28
   Rough ways and rough work? Yes, but you must use the tools that come to hand, and be glad for them, if you want to get things done. Bludgeons were needed just then, and, after all, you can get a good deal of fun out of one when it is needed. I know I did. By that time the whole battle with the slum had evolved itself out of the effort to clean one pig—sty, and, as for my own share in it, to settle for one dead dog. It was raging all along the line with demands for tenement—house reform and the destruction of the old rookeries; for parks for the people who were penned up in the slum; for playgrounds for their children; for decent teaching and decent schools. There were too many dark spots in New York where we had neither. So dense was the ignorance of the ruling powers of the needs and real condition of the public schools, which, on parade days, they spoke of sententiously as the “corner—stone of our liberties,” while the people cheered the sentiment, that it was related how a Tammany Mayor had appointed to the office of school trustee in the Third Ward a man who had been dead a whole year, and how, when the world marvelled, it had been laughed off at the City Hall with the comment that what did it matter: there were no schools in the ward; it was the wholesale grocery district. I do not know how true it was, but there was no reason why it might not be. It was exactly on a par with the rest of it. I do not mean to say that there were no good schools in New York. There were some as good as anywhere; for there were high souled teachers who redeemed even the slough we were in from utter despair. But they were there in spite of it and they were far from being the rule. Let us hope for the day when that shall have been reversed as a statement of fact. No one will hail it more gladly than I. There is an easy way of putting it to the test; we did it once before. Broach a measure of school reform and see what the question is that will be asked by the teachers. If it is, “How is it going to benefit the children?” hoist the flag; the day of deliverance is at hand. In the battle I refer to that question was not asked once. The teachers stood shoulder to shoulder for their rights, let the children fare as they might.   29
   However, that is an old grievance. We had it out over it once, and I have no mind to rip it up again unless it is needed. My own father was a teacher; perhaps that is one reason why I revere the calling so that I would keep its skirts clear of politics at any hazard. Another is that I most heartily subscribe to the statement that the public school is the corner—stone of our liberties, and to the sentiment that would keep the flag flying over it always. Only I want as much respect for the flag: a clean school under an unsoiled flag! So we shall pull through; not otherwise. The thing requires no argument.   30
 
 
The Boys’ “Playground” in an Old—time School.
 
   My own effort in that fight was mainly for decent schoolhouses, for playgrounds, and for a truant school to keep the boys out of jail. If I was not competent to argue over the curriculum with a professor of pedagogy, I could tell, at least, if a schoolroom was so jammed that to let me pass into the next room the children in the front seat had to rise and stand; or if there was light enough for them to see their slates or the blackboard. Nor did it take the wisdom of a Solomon to decide that a dark basement room, thirty by fifty feet, full of rats, was not a proper place for a thousand children to call their only “playground.” Play, in the kindergarten scheme, is the “normal occupation of the child through which he first begins to perceive moral relations.” Nice kind of morals burrowed there for him! There was, in the whole of Manhattan, but a single outdoor playground attached to a public school, and that was an old burial—ground in First Street that had been wrested from the dead with immense toil. When I had fed fat my grudge upon these things, I could still go where the public school children came, and learn, by a little judicious pumping, how my friend, the professor, had stored their minds. That is, if they did not come to me. Many hundreds of them did, when under Roosevelt we needed two thousand new policemen, and it was from some of them we learned that among the thirteen States which formed the Union were “England, Ireland, Wales, Belfast, and Cork”; that Abraham Lincoln was “murdered by Ballington Booth,” and that the Fire Department was in charge of the city government when the Mayor was away. Don’t I wish it were, and that they would turn the hose on a while! What a lot of trouble it would save us in November.   31
   As for a truant school, the lack of one was the worst outrage of all, for it compelled the sending of boys, who had done no worse harm than to play hooky on a sunny spring day, to a jail with iron bars in the windows. For the boy who did this wicked thing—let me be plain about it and say that if he had not; if he had patiently preferred some of the schools I knew to a day of freedom out in the sunshine, I should have thought him a miserable little lunkhead quite beyond hope! As for those who locked him up, almost nothing I can think of would be bad enough for them. The whole effort of society should be, and is getting to be more and more, thank goodness and common sense, to keep the boy out of jail. To run to it with him the moment the sap begins to boil up in him and he does any one of the thousand things we have all done or wanted to do if we dared, why, it is sinful folly. I am not saying that there are not boys who ought to be in jail, though to my mind it is the poorest use you can put them to; but to put truants there, to learn all the tricks the jail has to teach, with them in the frame of mind in which it receives them, —for boys are not fools, whatever those who are set over them may be, and they know when they are ill-used, —I know of nothing so wickedly wasteful. That was our way; is still in fact, to a large extent, though the principle has been disavowed as both foul and foolish. But in those days the defenders of the system—Heaven save the mark!—fought for it yet, and it was give and take right along, every day and all day.   32
   Before this, in time to bear a strong hand in it all, there had come into the field a new force that was destined to give both energy and direction to our scattered efforts for reform. Up till then we had been a band of guerillas, the incentive proceeding usually from Dr. Felix Adler, Mrs. Josephine Shaw Lowell, or some one of their stamp; and the rest of us joining in to push that cart up the hill, then taking time to breathe until another came along that needed a lift. The social settlements, starting as neighborhood guilds to reassert the lost brotherhood, became almost from the first the fulcrum, as it were, whence the lever for reform was applied, because the whole idea of that reform was to better the lot of those whom the prosperous up-town knew vaguely only as “the poor.” If parks were wanted, if schools needed bettering, there were at the College Settlement, the University Settlement, the Nurses’ Settlement, and at a score of other such places, young enthusiasts to collect the facts and to urge them, with the prestige of their non-political organization to back them. The Hull House out in Chicago set the pace, and it was kept up bravely at this end of the line. For one, I attached myself as a kind of volunteer “auxiliary” to the College Settlement—that was what the girls there called me—and to any one that would have me, and so in a few years’ time slid easily into the day when my ruder methods were quite out of date and ready to be shelved.   33
   How it came about that, almost before I knew it, my tongue was enlisted in the fight as well as my pen I do not know myself. It could not be because I had a “silver-tongue,” for I read in the local newspaper one day when I had been lecturing in the western part of the state that “a voluble German with a voice like a squeaky cellar-door” had been in town. It seems that I had fallen into another newspaper row, all unsuspecting, and was in the opposition editor’s camp. But, truly, I lay no claim to eloquence. So it must have been the facts, again. There is nothing like them. Whatever it was, it made me smile sometimes in the middle of a speech to think of the prophecies when I was a schoolboy that “my tongue would be my undoing,” for here it was helping right wrongs instead. In fact, that was what it had tried to do in the old days when the teachers were tyrannical. It entered the lists here when Will Craig, a clerk in the Health Department, with whom I had struck up a friendship, helped me turn my photographs into magic-lantern slides by paying the bills, and grew from that, until now my winters are spent on the lecture platform altogether. I always liked the work. It tires less than the office routine, and you feel the touch with your fellows more than when you sit and write your message. Also, if you wish to learn about a thing, the best way is always to go and try to teach some one else that thing. I never make a speech on a subject I am familiar with but that I come away knowing more about it than I did at the start, though no one else may have said a word.   34
   Then there is the chairman. You never can tell what sort of surprise is in store for you. In a Massachusetts town last winter I was hailed on the stage by one of his tribe, a gaunt, funereal sort of man, who wanted to know what he should say about me.   35
   “Oh,” said I, in a spirit of levity, “say anything you like. Say I am the most distinguished citizen in the country. They generally do.”   36
   Whereupon my funereal friend marched upon the stage and calmly announced to the audience that he did not know this man Riis, whom he was charged with introducing, never heard of him.   37
   “He tells me,” he went on with never a wink, “that he is the most distinguished citizen in the country. You can judge for yourselves when you have heard him.”   38
   I thought at first it was some bad kind of joke; but no! He was not that kind of man. I do not suppose he had smiled since he was born. Maybe he was an undertaker. Assuredly, he ought to be. But he had bowels after all. Instead of going off the stage and leaving me blue with rage, he stayed to exhort the audience in a fifteen minutes’ speech to vote right, or something of that sort. The single remark, when at last he turned his back, that it was a relief to have him “extinguished,” made us men and brothers, that audience and me. I think of him with almost as much pleasure as I do of that city editor chap out in Illinois who came blowing upon the platform at the last minute and handed me a typewritten speech with the question if that would do. I read it over. It began with the statement that it was the general impression that all newspapermen were liars, and went on by easy stages to point out that there were exceptions, myself for instance. The rest was a lot of praise to which I had no claim. I said so, and that I wished he would leave it out.   39
   “Oh, well,” he said, with a happy smile, “don’t you see it gives you your cue. Then you can turn around and say that anyway I am a liar.”   40
   With tongue or pen, the argument shaped itself finally into the fundamental one for the rescue of the home imperilled by the slum. There all roads met. Good citizenship hung upon that issue. Say what you will, a man cannot live like a pig and vote like a man. The dullest of us saw it. The tenement had given to New York the name of “the homeless city.” But with that gone which made life worth living, what were liberty worth? With no home to cherish, how long before love of country would be an empty sound? Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness? Wind! says the slum, and the slum is right if we let it be. We cannot get rid of the tenements that shelter two million souls in New York to-day, but we set about making them at least as nearly fit to harbor human souls as might be. That will take a long time yet. But a beginning was made. With reform looming upon the heels of the Lexow disclosures came the Gilder TenementHouse Commission in the autumn of 1894.   41
 
 
Typical East Side Tenement Block. Five hundred babies in it, not one bathtub.
 
   Greater work was never done for New York than by that faithful body of men. The measure of it is not to be found in what was actually accomplished, though the volume of that was great, but in what it made possible. Upon the foundations they laid down we may build for all time and be the better for it. Light and air acquired a legal claim, and where the sun shines into the slum, the slum is doomed. The worst tenements were destroyed; parks were opened, schools built, playgrounds made. The children’s rights were won back for them. The slum denied them even the chance to live, for it was shown that the worst rear tenements murdered the babies at the rate of one in five. The Commission made it clear that the legislation that was needed was “the kind that would root out every old ramshackle disease--breeding tenement in the city.” That was the way to begin it. As to the rest of them, it laid the foundation deeper yet, for it made us see that life in them “conduces to the corruption of the young.” That told it all. It meant that a mortgage was put on the civic life of the morrow, which was not to be borne. We were forewarned.   42
   The corruption of the young! We move with rapid strides in our time. That which was a threat, scoffed at by many, has become a present and dreadful peril in half a dozen brief years. We took a short cut to make it that when we tried to drain the pool of police blackmail of which the Lexow disclosures had shown us the hideous depths. We drained it into the tenements, and for the police infamy got a real--estate blackmail that is worse. The chairman of the Committee of Fifteen tells us that of more than a hundred tenements, full of growing children, which his committee has canvassed, not one had escaped the contamination that piles up the landlord’s profits. Twelve dollars for an honest flat, thirty for the other kind and no questions asked! I find in my scrap--book this warning, sounded by me in the Christmas holidays, 1893, when the country was ringing with Dr. Parkhurst’s name:—   43
   “I would not, whatever else might happen, by any hasty or ill--advised system of wholesale raids crowd these women into the tenements and flats of our city. That is what will surely happen, is happening now. It is a danger infinitely greater than any flowing from their presence where they are, and as they are. Each centre of moral contagion by this scattering process becomes ten or twenty, planted where they will do the most possible harm. Think of the children brought in daily, hourly contact with this vice! Think of the thousands of young women looking vainly for work this hard winter! Be there ever so little money for woman’s honest work, there is always enough to buy her virtue. Have tenement houses moral resources that can be trusted to keep her safe from this temptation?   44
   “This is a wicked villany that must not be permitted, come whatever else may. We hear of danger to ‘our young men,’ from present conditions. What sort of young men must they be who would risk the sacrifice of their poorer sisters for their own ‘safety’? And it is being risked wherever houses of this kind are being shut up and the women turned into the streets, there to shift for themselves. The jail does not keep them. Christian families will not receive them. They cannot be killed. No door opens to them: yet they have to go somewhere. And they go where they think they can hide from the police and still ply the trade that gives them the only living society is willing they shall have, though it says it is not.”   45
   And they did go there. Dr. Parkhurst was not to blame. He was fighting Tammany that dealt the cards and took all the tricks, and for that fight New York owes him a debt it hardly yet knows of. Besides, though those raids hastened the process, it was already well underway. The police extortion of itself would have finished it in time. A blackmailer in the long run always kills the goose that lays his golden egg. His greed gets the better of his sense. The interview I quoted was not a plea for legalizing wrong. That will get us no farther. It was rather a summons to our people to cease skulking behind lying phrases and look the matter squarely in the face. With a tenementhouse law, passed this winter, which sends the women to jail and fines the landlord and his house $1000, we shall be in the way shortly of doing so. Until we do that justice first, I do not see how we can. Poverty’s back is burdened enough without our loading upon it the sins we are afraid to face. Meanwhile we shall be getting up courage to talk plainly about it, which is half the battle. Think of the shock it would have given our grandmothers to hear of a meeting of women in a public hall “to protest against protected vice.” On a Sunday, too. Come to think of it, I do not know but that wholesome, plain speech on this subject is nearer the whole than half the battle. I rather guess it is.   46

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