montrealex (montrealex) wrote,

Потогонка в Нью-йорке

How NYC tene

ments once hid secret sweatshops

Immigrant families worked punishing hours in dilapidated apartments just to survive

This mother, 10-year old son and 12-year-old daughter are living in a tiny one room. They make between $1 and $2 a week finishing garments. New York City, December, 1912. (Lewis Hine/Library of Congress)

By 1900, the majority of New Yorkers — some 2.3 million people — lived in tenement apartments. The tenements were single-family buildings that had been cheaply converted to tiny multi-family units, intended to house the maximum number of people possible — mostly immigrants from Italy and Eastern Europe, who were flooding into the country at that time. However, the cramped quarters weren’t just for eating and sleeping: they were also a place to work, especially for women and children.

This invisible work may have gone forgotten if not for the photographs of Lewis Hine. Hine’s first photography job was with the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), where one of his early assignments was to document tenement homeworkers. Through this work he found a shadow economy hidden behind closed doors, violating the sanctuary of the home.

A child carrying boxes of tags, Roxbury, Massachusetts, August, 1912. (Lewis Hine/Library of Congress)

Desperate to supplement meager incomes, women picked up piecework, such as finishing garments or preparing knickknacks for store shelves. Hine’s photographs show women and children, hunched in dim rooms in cramped apartments, sewing buttons onto pants, shelling nuts, or building artificial flowers. It didn’t matter how old, how young, or how sick you were — the money was paid by the piece or measurement, so everyone in the family pitched in to churn out as much work as possible.

The NCLC used Hine’s work to advocate for labor laws. His series on child labor helped build support for more regulation. Cities were also trying to combat outbreaks of infectious disease in their most crowded, poorest districts. The state of New York introduced licensed tenements, which allowed a landlord to apply for a permit and, once a building passed a health inspection, all units inside could legally be personal sweatshops. By 1911, some 13,000 addresses had been registered.

Every licensed tenement was subject to two annual health inspections, and manufacturers were required to keep records of where their finishing work was being done, but the understaffed Bureau of Factory Inspection faced an impossible task and often fell behind on these inspections. To make matters worse, the law governed only specific products — including vests, suspenders, purses, and cigarettes — and services such as packing boxes of macaroni, candy, and nuts. Anyone living anywhere could legally take on work making baby bonnets and lace, knitting mittens, or beading necklaces. Inspectors also had little legal authority beyond revoking a permit because of a building’s poor sanitation, or reporting a family for truancy if kids were home during school hours.

260 to 268 Elizabeth St. where a lot of clothing is finished, New York City, March, 1912. (Lewis Hine/Library of Congress)

(left) The lower hall of a licensed tenement at 266 Elizabeth St. | (right) Rear view of tenement at 134 1/2 Thompson Street, New York City, February, 1912. (Lewis Hine/Library of Congress)

The residents of the tenements, licensed or not, were suspicious of social workers and government inspectors who came calling, and entire buildings would sound an alarm to give homeworkers time to hide any contraband. The sad reality was that the thousands of Italian, Jewish, and German immigrants who dominated the official 1911 licensed tenement rolls needed to toil for long hours and little pay just to keep a roof over their head and a meal in their belly. They understood that the factory bosses were taking advantage of their desperate situation, but they couldn’t do anything about it.

Lewis Hine later wrote, “Tenement homework seems to me one of the most iniquitous phases of child-slavery that we have.”

Mrs. Mary Rena picking nuts with a dirty baby in her lap. The girl is cracking nuts with her teeth, not an uncommon sight. Mr. Rena works on dock, New York City, December, 1911. (Lewis Hine/Library of Congress)

(top, bottom right) Home workers in Roxbury, Massachusetts, August, 1912. | (bottom left) 233 E. 107th St. License was recently revoked and, after that, our investigator found eight families doing home-work there, New York City, February, 1912. (Lewis Hine/Library of Congress)

Whole family rolling cigarettes, the mother licking the papers as she worked, New York City, December, 1912. (Lewis Hine/Library of Congress)

Women carrying loads of finishing work to and from home around New York City, February, 1912. (Lewis Hine/Library of Congress)

Annie Maier (or Meyer) making Campbell-kids’ pinafores in her basement home’s kitchen at 71 E. 108 Street. She was reported to have tuberculosis, New York City, December, 1911. (Lewis Hine/Library of Congress)

(clockwise from top left) Mrs. Palontona and her 13-year-old daughter, Michaeline, working on “Pillow-lace” in dirty kitchen of their tenement home at 213 E. 111th Street, 3rd floor, December, 1911. | Photographs from an investigation into home work, March, 1924. | Mrs. Chassin makes hair-goods in a tiny hall bedroom at 385 E. 3rd St. Hair is lying on the bed, trunk and bureau. She says she makes about $12 a week, February, 1912. | Mr. Rothenberg stitching neckties in small inner bed-room, February, 1912. All photos: New York City. (Lewis Hine/Library of Congress)

Gizzi family, 175 Sullivan St., 3:30 P.M. Make little roses which are easier than violets, but bring only 9 cents gross. Leo, 11-years-old, Louise, 14-years-old, and Jose, 12-years-old, work after school and on Saturday, New York City, January, 1910. (Lewis Hine/Library of Congress)
Tags: Нью-Йорк
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