When a Storm Comes
There is No More Nest
April 22, 1912 — mass protest against anti-suffrage legislators, Wage Earners’ League and the College Equal Suffrage League, Cooper Union, New York City
[Replying to “Now there is no question in the world to my mind but what the family and family relation are a more important thing than any law or any law-making or holding of office.”]
There is nothing so beautiful to speak of as the home, the family and the family relations, but we are working people are where are our homes? You can not call it a home where we go at night to rest our weary bones for six or seven hours. We are like the birds of the air with their nests, and when a storm comes there is no more nest. The wages of the laboring man are so small that he cannot make both ends meet, much less save anything in case of sickness or death. When the widow is left with the family she finds out that she cannot take them to the nursery because the nursery has regular hours and she has to work 14 or 17 hours a day and therefore she has to leave her children to the mercy of the neighbors and let them go hungry and uncared for. When she gets home at night she is too tired, she cannot attend to her children.
I would like to call your attention the laundry girls’ strike and what was the cause of that strike. We worked 16 and 17 hours a day and the salary was $5.00, $5.50 and $6.00 a week and no pay for overtime, no half hour for lunch and no sanitary conditions whatever. We went to picket the striking shops and the police were there in the morning waiting for the girls. The girls were asked to go back to work and they went and there was no more strike. The girls that did not go back to work they arrested and took to court and sent them to the Island and over there the marks of their finger tips were taken as if they had violated the laws and committed some terrible crimes.
We did not feel as though we had committed some terrible crime. We wanted to keep others from going to work under the same conditions under which we ourselves were working and which we could endure no longer. We wanted to give a chance to the mothers of families to get home in the evenings and care for their children. We wanted to give a chance to the boy and girl that had left school so that they might go out in the evenings to hear a lecture, or that they might go to some night school and get some education.
That is one reason why we want the vote. We want the vote to see that the laws are enforced; that we get better conditions and shorter hours and a living wage.
Is there anything more humiliating than to see a woman about to become a mother standing at a machine holding 80 pounds of steam, 16 or 17 hours a day, day in and day out up to the hour of maternity, and four days later to see her laid in a casket with her baby by her side. She did not have strength and vitality to give breath to her child. Do you call that justice to working women and working girls?
Let us go back for a moment and think of Abraham Lincoln when he freed the black slave. He never for one moment thought there was going to be a white slave, and if he was in the White House today he would have given a weapon to the working women to protect themselves with, and he would not allow such cruelty, brutality and slavery to be thrust upon the working women and the working girls, and the homes and and the families in such a great country under the banner of the stars and stripes that we are so proud of.
Source: Life and Labor: A Monthly Magazine, July 1912, (Chicago: National Women’s Trade Unions League), 1912, p. 215.