am a laundry girl. I have worked four years in a Seattle
Laundry and know quite well the life of a girl in my
position. I am not railing because I do this sort of
work, but have often thought if the owners really knew
just how hard the work gets sometimes, they wouldn't
quibble so much about a few cents extra wages a day.
manage to exist somehow. I have few friends. The boys
do not notice me now, or try to flirt with me as they
did when I first started in.
a girl gets a job in a laundry she is told to dress
neatly. The command is posted on signs about the workroom.
It's not so hard for a stenographer or a shop girl to
keep neat, but when your clothes are wringing wet after
half a days' work in a laundry, it's another matter.
shop girl or the stenographer doesn't have to bend in
a thousand unnatural ways every day. She doesn't ruin
a corset every two or three months. A laundry girl does.
young girl comes into the laundry with pink rosy cheeks.
If she works at the mangle it is in a temperature of
100 to 125 degrees. She is "green" when she
starts and burns her fingers on the hot surface of the
rollers. Her fingers crack and then they bleed. Even
the old timers cannot escape sore fingers. It is a part
of the work.
heat makes her pink cheeks fade and she becomes pale
and unhappy. She loses flesh as the work goes on. I
have known girls to lose from 16 to 20 pound during
the heavy working season.
have to keep at it the year round. They must do something
to "keep up". They learn to take "health
tablets" of various sorts and finally become habitual
users of some stimulant. It's not a very pretty picture,
but it's the truth.
work such as the laundry girl does you want to eat a
big meal when the day's rush is over.
ten-cent meals the investigators are talking about don't
go very far toward satisfying a girl who has stood in
miserable heat all day and worked just as hard and as
fast as she could. I know, because I have tried it.
addition to the low wages in Seattle laundries, there
are a lot of things that don't look right. There is
one place which manages to keep the girls 10 minutes
over time every night. One morning a girl was fired
for being four minutes late. All the girls walked out.
I guess they patched the trouble up after a while.
another place the foreman swears at the girls all day
long. The work is fearfully disagreeable just because
of him. They can't complain. If they did they would
some of the places a girl must stand in water while
she works and in all the laundries, the work is in a
hot room. The girls go home every night with their clothes
wringing wet with perspiration. The chances are they
have to stand up in a draft in the streetcar. Sickness
sooner or later is the result. And there's not much
of an allowance in our wages for doctor bills.
average mangle turns out 4,000 pieces a day, at a fair
profit of $200. It takes four girls to run through this
work is hard. You cry a lot of times when you get home
at night and then go back in the morning because you
have to. I sometimes think the owners don't know just
what we girls are up against.
they really understood, I don't believe they'd kick
on wages that would let us live respectably and in comfort."