III-"Prisoners of Poverty: Women wage-workers, their trades and their lives" - Helen Campbell - New York Tribune

III-"Prisoners of Poverty: Women wage-workers, their trades and their lives" - Helen Campbell - New York Tribune

"Some Methods of a Prosperous Firm"

by: Helen Campbell | publication date: November 7, 1886 | pages: 13

Believing very ardently that the right of every woman born includes not only " life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," but beauty also, it being one chief end of woman to include in her own personality all beauty attainable by reasonable means, I am in heartiest agreement with one side of the views quoted. But in this quest we have undertaken, and from which, once begun, there is no retreat, strange questions arise; and in this new dawn of larger liberty and wider outlook is seen the little cloud which, if no larger than a man's hand, holds the seed of as wild a storm as has ever swept over humanity.

For emancipation on the one side has meant no corresponding emancipation for the other; and as one woman selects, well pleased, garment after garment, daintily tucked and trimmed and finished beyond any capacity of ordinary home sewing, marvelling a little that a few dollars can give such lavish return, there arises, from narrow attic and dark, foul basement, and crowded factory, the cry of the women whose lifeblood is on these garments. Through burning, scorching days of summer; through marrow-piercing cold of winter, in hunger and rags, with white-faced children at their knees, crying for more bread, or, silent from long weakness, looking with blank eyes at the flying needle, these women toil on, twelve, fourteen, sixteen hours even, before the fixed task is done.

In this installment of her "Prisoners of Poverty" series, Helen Campbell explores the double-edged sword of the increase in production of women's garments, explaining that while it is positive that women are becoming consumers, it also spells harsher conditions and poorer wages for those women working in textile mills.