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

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

"Under the Bridge and Beyond"

by: Helen Campbell | publication date: January 2, 1887 | Publication: The New York Tribune | pages: 13

Under the great Bridge, whose piers have taken the place of much that was foulest in the Fourth Ward, stands a tenement-house so shadowed by the structure that, save at midday, natural light barely penetrates it. The inhabitants are of all grades and all nationalities. The men are chiefly 'longshoremen, working intermittently on the wharves, varying this occupation by long seasons of drinking, during which every pawnable article vanishes, to be gradually redeemed or altogether lost, according to the energy with which work is resumed. The women scrub offices, peddle fruit or small office necessities, take in washing, share, many of them, in the drinking bouts, and are, as a whole, content with brutishness, only vaguely conscious of a wretchedness that, so long as it is intermittent, is no spur to reform of methods. The same roof covers many who yield to none of these temptations, but are working patiently; some of them widows with children that must be fed; a few solitary, but banding with neighbors in cloak or pantaloon making, or the many forms of slop-work in the hands of sweaters. Sunshine has no place in these rooms which no enforced laws have made decent, and where occasional individual effort has small power against the unspeakable filth ruling in tangible and intangible forms, sink and sewer and closet uniting in a common and all-pervading stench.

Here Campbell discusses the conditions in New York's "fourth ward," a notoriously poor nineteenth-century neighborhood, located by the East river in lower Manhattan