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Tuesday, November 13, 1849
The facts that I have to set before the public in my
present communication are of so awful and tragic a character that I shall not
even attempt to comment upon them. The miseries they reveal are so intense and
overwhelming that, as with all deep emotions, they are beyond words.
Let me, however, before proceeding to the more immediate subject of this letter, state as concisely as possible the sums allowed to the colonels of the different regiments for the clothing of the army, together with the sums paid by them for the same. I am anxious, from the unpleasant aspect of the transaction, to do this in as matter-of-fact a manner as I can. The information here given, be it observed, is all derived from the Government Report upon the appointments of the army and navy.
First, of the sums allowed to the colonels. The clothing allowances, says the Report, are fixed annual rates borne on the establishment of the regiment, as thus detailed: -
|Drummer or Trumpeter||6||10||3||2||6||0|
These rates are fixed by warrants of 22nd and 30th July, 1830.
I shall now append to the above the following statement as to the sums paid to, and profits taken by, the colonels, for the clothing of the men in their respective regiments: -
ESTIMATE OF THE ANNUAL COST OF CLOTHING, CAPS, AND ACCOUTREMENTS FOR A REGIMENT OF INFANTRY, FOR 1832; viz., CLOTHING DELIVERED TO THE SOLDIER 1ST JANUARY, 1832, TO BE WORN TILL 1ST JANUARY, 1833
|Off-reckonings (or sums allowed to the colonels for clothing, caps, and accoutrements per man)||7||9||2||4||19||6||4||19||6||2||6||0|
|Annual cost (or sums paid by the colonels for clothing, caps, and accoutrements per man)||3||4||9||1||17||4||2||14||4||1||16||10|
|Profit per man to colonel||4||4||5||3||2||2||2||5||2||0||9||2|
At 4l. 4s. Sd. for 43 sergeants £181 9s. 11d.
At 3l. 2s. 2d. for 36 corporals £111 18s. 0d.
At 2l. 5s. 2d. for 14 drummers £31 12s. 4d.
At 9s. 2d. for 713 privates £326 15s. 10d.
[Total] £651 16s. 1d.
Deduct, extra for Staff and Band £37 0s. 0d.
Total annual Profit to the Colonel £614 16s. 1d.
Here, then, we perceive that £614 16s. ld. is the annual profit or
"emolument" derived by each colonel of infantry. There are 105
infantry colonels, making in all upwards of £64,000 or 25 per cent., out of the
£255,000 allowed for the clothing of the infantry.
After this the following answers of Sir R. Donkin, when before the Government committee, will be perfectly intelligible: -
"Do you think the colonels of regiments would, in consideration of being exonerated from their present risk and responsibility with respect to the clothing, be content to receive 400l. a year as a compensation for their profit upon it? - I think certainly not.
"Would they accept of 500l. a year? - No, nor 600l.; whether viewed in a pecuniary way, or as connected with that feeling which we all have towards our corps."
Let me now compare the present rate of profit with that of past years. This is easily ascertained; thus: -
"You are aware that the present system has existed for a very long period of time? - A very long period, considerably more than 100 years; it existed in Queen Anne's time. I believe the price of a suit of clothing allowed to the colonel in King William's time was the same as it is now, that is, 2l. 6s. a suit."
If, then, the clothing allowance has remained the same since the time of King William III, we are naturally led to inquire whether the expenditure for the same has increased or decreased in the same time. The following table will tell us: -
STATEMENT OF THE COST OF A SUIT OF CLOTHING, INCLUDING THE CAP, FOR A SOLDIER OF AN INFANTRY REGIMENT. FOR THE FOLLOWING YEARS
Mr. Pearse, the army clothier, tells the
committee in the same report, that the price of the suit in 1832 was 17 per
cent. less than that of 1815, the sum allowed having been the same for one
Of the number of people engaged in making up articles of clothing for the army, and consequently of the fearful amount of misery induced by such means, Mr. Pearse enables us to form some faint idea: -
"What is the number of people employed in your establishment? - It is impossible I could say; I should suppose, as to the common working people, many thousands. We have no means of knowing the number, because persons (tailors) take from us the materials for a given number of garments, upon an estimate which we regulate; they get the garments made up in St. Giles's, and the lowest parts of London, at a rate so cheap that it would surprise persons. I should believe that as many as eight thousand persons were employed in that way.
I shall now in due order lay before the
reader the operatives' version of the prices given in my last letter, so that he
may have an opportunity of checking the one account by the other. The agreement
between the two speaks highly for the honesty of both parties.
I was conducted by one who knew the trade well to a hardworking woman living in one of the close foetid courts running out of Gray's-inn-lane. Her statement was as follows: -
"I make the soldiers' trousers and jackets, and the undress white ones; also the police trousers, the railroad cord trousers and jackets, and the pensioners' trousers. For the police I get 10d. the undress, and 1s. ld. the dress ones. The one is a finer cloth than the other. They take one day each to make, from six in the morning to eight or nine at night. There's thread to find and cotton, about ld. per pair. The soldiers' trousers are 6½d. per pair. I can make two pair in a day, but it must be a very long day. I sew the seams myself. I don't put them out, like some. The undress white jackets are 5d. each, and they take as much thread as the trousers. I couldn't make two of those in a day. We don't like them. They're harder work than the trousers; then they must be kept so very clean; if we soil them, we're made to pay for 'em. The railroad cord trousers are 1s., and they're all sewn with double thread. About half the thread is found us; so that there is about the same expense, only they're such hard work. It takes a full day to make a pair, and then your arm will ache primely, they're so very stiff. The railroad jackets are paid 1s. 9d. for. They take nearly two days each to make; there's pockets inside and out. Two-pence has been took off them only lately. Before then, they used to be 1s. 11d., and some would pay 2s. I can't say what's the cause, except that some people will have more out of the poor than others. The soldiers have to pay 8s. for their trousers, and 8s. for their jackets - so I hears. The police dress trousers used to be 1s. 3d., now they are 1s. 1d. The pensioners' trousers are 6d. a pair, but there's more work in them than in the regulation, owing to the broad stripe. One seam does with the double stripe, but the broad stripe requires two, and the price is the same. These take rather longer than the other trousers. The white duck trousers are 5d. a pair. They take about the same time making, or a little longer this cold weather, they're so hard. The soldiers' great coats are 5d. They take much longer to make than the trousers. Two hands must work hard to make three coats in a day. The expenses for trimmings is quite as much as for trousers. The soldiers' lavender summer trousers are 6½d., and, if anything, more trouble; they're all double seams, and the same expense for thread. The overalls for the horse soldiers are the worst of all; they take two hours longer to make than the others. Why, there's twelve times round the crutch piece. Oh, that's the most scandalousest work that ever was done! The seams has all to be felled down the same as a flannel would have to be. Them are the worst work of all. Upon an average, at all kinds of work, I suppose I could earn 1s. a day, if I had it to do, but I can't get it. It's three weeks today since I had any work at all, and I very often stand still quite as long. It's not a farthing more than 3s. a week that I earn, take it all the year round; and out of that there's thread, candle, and firing to be taken away, and that comes to 1s. a week for coal, candle, and wood, and 6d. for thread, leaving about 1s. 6d. for my clear earnings, after working the whole week through. But that's better than nothing. My husband's lately been in the hospital. I was in first a month with the same complaint - inflammation of the lungs and fever. I thought it came on from this close room. My husband wanted things to strengthen him after he came out of the hospital (he'd been there four weeks), and I couldn't give them to him out of my small earnings, and he was obliged to go into the workhouse. It was only six o'clock tonight that he came out. They gave him a shilling and a loaf of bread to bring home. I don't know that any person can be much worse off than we are. I am sure I haven't anything that I could pledge. I've been obliged to pawn his tools, and if he was to go to work tomorrow he hasn't a tool that he could use. He can get a very good character. I may perhaps chance to get a bit of meat once a week - but that's a godsend.
She then took down a box, and opening it, said: - "There, slr; there is the things we have been obliged to make away with in the last twelve-month, merely to live. The last thing I pledged was his trowel - he's a mason, sir - to get some tea and sugar to take to him to the hospital. I got 9d. upon it. If he had employment, we should get on very comfortable. If it hadn't been for this illness we should have done very well, him and me together."
After this, I sought out one who worked at the postmen's and mail-coachmen's coats. He lived in an attic over a cats'-meat shop, in one of the purlieus of Drury-lane. The stench on passing along the passage of the house was almost overpowering, and the sound of my footsteps roused a hundred dogs and puppies. As I was feeling my way at the bottom of the dark staircase, a boy, with his face blackened, and a banjo on his arm, passed me. This gave me an insight into the character of the inmates. On reaching the man's room, I found it far more comfortable and cleanly than I had anticipated. He was sitting at work cross-legged on a board, with the red cloth and thread all about him.
"I've worked at 'post' work, both 'post' and 'mail,'" said the man, stitching away at a soldiers' coat. "You'll excuse me, sir, but I've been very ill lately. I'm obliged to do something; tho' just to get a crust of bread. I get 5s. for a mail coachman's or mail guard's coat - all is one - that is, for the coat and waistcoat I gets 5s., I should say; and for the 'post' I has 4s. 8d. the coat and waistcoat. It's not everyone that can make them; they must be good hands, particularly for the 'mails.' There are no trousers, none that ever I seed. It will take me three days to make a coat and waistcoat, and I must work 14 hours every day to do that. There is nine yards of lace on a mail coat, and three and a half on a waistcoat, and that is all to be twice sewed over; so that it makes the coats and waistcoats very heavy. A great deal of work for a little money. The master finds a bit of silk and twist, and we find thread, which costs about 3d. for each garment, and it will cost me ld. a night for candle (the coats ain't made in the summer time), and a penny only for firing, because I must have a little fire for myself. That brings it down to about 4s. 6d. in three days - yes, that's near it; and yet they're better than the work I am a-making on now, and this is for a master what pays 5d. more for the coat than I'll get from any other warehouse - and that's Mr. Shaw. I receives 2s. 2d. for making the red coat altogether, looping and all, and from any other house I'd only get ls. 9d. for the same work. I reckon I can earn at the post and mail work about 9s. clear per week, working 14 hours every day. There are many who can't get that. I'm a regular tailor. I've worked at the first shops in London. At this red coat work, I consider that I can make 7s. a week - that is, at my master's prices and full work; but we can't always get it. Sometimes we are walking about two days, and very often three days in the week; so that, lumping it all the year round, I don't think it would average more than 4s. to 4s. 6d. clear every week that I make. I live upon a cup of tea a day - no meat - can't afford it - can't get it. Sometimes I can raise a red herring. My wife is ill, in the infirmary. She's been there five weeks. When she's out we can make a little more, because she helps me. I give you as near as I can what I can earn myself; but when she helps me, we can do a little better. People's very badly off generally in the trade. It is the evil of contracting, and the competition among the contractors that we suffers for. Man's labour goes to market, and then it's reduced. I work for a piece- master. They get, I believe, 4d. out of these red coats. If I went to the warehouse they would not give it me. I'd have to give security to as much as £50 may be. The piece-masters do very well at it. They make as much as £5 or £10 a week by it. I've made firemen's coats as well. The present contractor pays only 3s. for 'em; the last used to give 5s. for the very same work. Each coat would take two days. You're compelled to put the same work into them now as before. The expenses without candle and firing are about 2d. My earnings at them are, at the end of the week, about the same as at these red coats. I'm very ill - more fit to be in the hospital than here."
I then directed my steps to the neighbourhood of Drury-lane, to see a poor woman who lived in an attic in one of the closest courts in that quarter. On the table was a quarter of an ounce of tea. Observing my eye to rest upon it, she told me it was all she took. "Sugar," she said, "I broke myself of long ago; I couldn't afford it. A cup of tea, a piece of bread, and an onion, is generally all I have for my dinner, and sometimes I haven't even an onion, and then I sops my bread."
In answer to my questions, she said: - "I do the 'lopping.' The looping consists in putting on the lace work down the front of the coats. I puts it on. That's my living; I wish it was not. It's a week tomorrow since I draw'd my needle. I get 5d. for the looping of each coat; that's the regular price. It's three hours' work to do one coat, and work fast to do it as it's done now. I'm a particular quick hand; and ordinary hands it would take four hours full to do it, because I knows them as takes that time. I have to find my own thread. It costs 1½d. for a reel of cotton; that will do five coats. If I sit down between eight and nine in the morning, and work till twelve at night - I never enters my bed afore - and then rise between eight and nine again (that's the time I sit down to work on account of doing my own affairs first), and then work on till eleven, I get my four coats done by that time, and some wouldn't get done till two. No, they couldn't, I can assure you. At the end of that time I should have made four coats, coming to 1s. 8d.; two-pence I have to pay out of this for marking, and ld. for the cotton, leaving ls. 5d. To see the work in 'em is dreadful. Oh, dear! And I can't sit all them hours without an extra cup of tea, and the candles would come to l½d.; I burn out nearly two, that I do. I press in the morning, and lets my fire out at night to save my coals, so that really I make in a day and a half 1s. 3½d., and I am thankful if I can get that. It's an hour's work going and coming, and waiting to be served at the piece-master's, so that at them long hours it takes me a day and a half hard work to get four coats looped, for which I make 1s. 3½d. clear. When I first touched this work I could do eight in the same time, and be paid better; I had 7d. then instead of 5d.; now the work in each is nearly double in quantity, that it 1s. Let me work as hard as I can and no standstill, and have the work gave me when I go in, I can loop sixteen coats in a week, and that would bring me in 5s. 2d., and then all my own affairs must remain till Saturday night, and I must never enter my bed till one o'clock each night in the week to do this. That is all I can get at the very best of times - that's quite true. Sometimes I am standing still for a fortnight's run. I've not draw'd my needle a week tomorrow. I've got these here, and I shall have my money on Saturday for them. I'm sure of my money, thank God! Reckoning my bad and my good time, taking the whole year round, there's so many stand-stills at our work, I'm sure I don't make 3s. a week clear. I've been working at this twelve years; I've worked ten years for one house. We used to have 7d. for what we get 5d. now. The cause of the price being reduced was on account of the pocket flaps being took off. We were much better paid when we had them on. I've got two boys both at work, one about fifteen, earning 3s. per week, and I have got him to keep and clothe. The week before last I bought him a top coat - it cost me 6s. - for fear he should be laid up, for he's such bad health. The other boy is eighteen years, and earns 9s. a week. He's been in work about four months, and was out six weeks. At the same time I had no work. Oh, it was awful then! I had my rent going on. I have been here seven years. I don't owe anything here now. I have been paying 1s. 6d. a week off a debt for bread and things I was obliged to get on credit then, through the both of us being out of employment. ["That's something after Dickens' style," said one of the boys to the other, in allusion to an article in Lloyd's Weekly Miscellany, that he was reading after his dinner. I requested to look at the paper. The story that had taken the boy's fancy was entitled, "A Flaw in the Diamond. A Romance of the Affections. ] "This boy," continued the woman, "is only nine years of age, and him I have entirely to keep and find. He goes to the Shelton School; it's a charity. The school lets him have one coat and trousers and shoes and stockings every year. He wears a pinafore now to save his coat. It's a-hanging up there, for it is such a long while till the time comes round for his new one, that this coat would be quite shabby in the winter if I did not do as much. Indeed I do strive very hard. The whole of us earn, when fully employed, from 14s. to 15s. a week; but I ain't half my time employed, and there are four of us to keep and clothe out of that. My eldest boy is like a hearty man to every meal. If he hadn't got me to manage for him, may be he'd spend all his earnings in mere food. I get my second bread, and I go as far as Nassau-street to get that - to save two or three halfpence. We use dripping with it. Butter we never have. A joint of meat none of us ever sees. The other day the meat cost me 3d. for the whole family - it was pieces. I never buy no other, and I've got enough in the cupboard, out of what I had, to make a stew for tomorrow. My potatoes are three pound a penny. For everything I'm obliged to go a street or two away from home to save a farthing or a halfpenny. I go for my firing into Wild-street; there it's a halfpenny cheaper. I find it a dreadful hard time. Many, very many, are worse off than I am. What on earth should I do if it wasn't for them two boys? But then I can't expect to have them always, let them be ever so good. They won't long stop with me. When we're both out of a situation, we either starve or get in debt where we can, and then we're months struggling to pay it. Ah, sir, and it's a struggle that no one knows but the poor who strive to pay their way! No loopers are better, and most are worse off than I am, cause I'm such a quick hand."
During the course of my investigation into the condition of those who are dependent upon their needle for their support, I had been so repeatedly assured that the young girls were mostly compelled to resort to prostitution to eke out their subsistence, that I was anxious to test the truth of the statement. I had seen much want, but I had no idea of the intensity of the privations suffered by the needlewomen of London until I came to inquire into this part of the subject. But the poor creatures shall speak for themselves. I should inform the reader, however, that I have made inquiries into the truth of the almost incredible statements here given, and I can in most of the particulars at least vouch for the truth of the statement. Indeed, in one instance - that of the last case here recorded - I travelled nearly ten miles in order to obtain the character of the young woman. The first case is that of a good-looking girl. Her story is as follows: -
"I make moleskin trousers. I get 7d. and 8d. per pair. I can do two pairs in a day, and twelve, when there is full employment, in a week. But some weeks I have no work at all. I work from six in the morning to ten at night; that is what I call my day's work. When I am fully employed I get from 7s. to 8s. a week. My expenses out of that for twist, thread, and candles are about 1s. 6d. a week, leaving me about 6s. a week clear. But there's coals to pay for out of this, and that's at the least 6d. more; so 5s. 6d. is the very outside of what I earn when I'm in full work. Lately I have been dreadfully slack; so we are every winter, all of us 'sloppers;' and that's the time when we wants the most money. The week before last I had but two pair to make all the week; so that I only earnt 1s. clear. For this last month I'm sure I haven't done any more than that each week. Taking one week with another, all the year round, I don't make above 3s. clear money each week. I don't work at any other kind of slop work. The trousers work is held to be the best paid of all. I give 1s. a week rent. My father died when I was five years of age. My mother is a widow, upwards of 66 years of age, and seldom has a day's work. Generally once in the week she is employed pot-scouring - that is, cleaning publicans' pots. She is paid 4d. a dozen for that, and does about four dozen and a half, so that she gets about 1s. 6d. in the day by it. For the rest she is independent upon me. I am 20 years of age the 25th of this month. We earn together, to keep the two of us, from 4s. 6d. to 5s. each week. Out of this we have to pay 1s. rent, and there remains 3s. 6d. to 4s. to find us both in food and clothing. It is of course impossible for us to live upon it, and the consequence is, I am obliged to go a bad way. I have been three years working at slop work. I was virtuous when I first went to work, and I remained so till this last twelve-month. I struggled very hard to keep myself chaste, but I found that I couldn't get food and clothing for myself and mother; so I took to live with a young man. He is turned 20. He is a tinman. He did promise to marry me, but his sister made mischief between me and him; so that parted us. I have not seen him now for about six months, and I can't say whether he will keep his promise or not. I am now pregnant by him, and expect to be confined in two months' time. He knows of my situation, and so does my mother. My mother believed me to be married to him. She knows otherwise now. I was very fond of him, and had known him for two years before he seduced me. He could make 14s. a week. He told me if I came to live with him he'd take care I shouldn't want, and both mother and me had been very bad off before. He said, too, he'd make me his lawful wife, but I hardly cared so long as I could get food for myself and mother. Many young girls at the shop advised me to go wrong. They told me how comfortable they was off; they said they could get plenty to eat and drink, and good clothes. There isn't one young girl as can get her living by slop work. The masters all know this, but they wouldn't own to it of course. It stands to reason that no one can live, and pay rent, and find clothes, upon 3s. a week, which is the most they make clear, even the best hands, at the moleskin and cord trousers work. The shirt work is worse and worse still. There's poor people moved out of our house that was making ¾d. shirts. I am satisfied there is not one young girl that works at slop work that is virtuous, and there are some thousands in the trade. They may do very well if they have got mothers and fathers to find them a home and food, and to let them have what they earn for clothes; then they may be virtuous, but not without. I've heard of numbers who have gone from slop work to the streets altogether for a living, and I shall be obligated to do the same thing myself, unless something better turns up for me. If I was never allowed to speak no more, it was the little money I got by my labour that led me to go wrong. Could I have honestly earnt enough to have subsisted upon, to find me in proper food and clothing, such as is necessary, I should not have gone astray; no, never. As it was, I fought against it as long as I could - that I did - to the last. I hope to be able to get a ticket for a midwife; a party has promised me as much, and he says, if possible, he'll get me an order for a box of linen. My child will only increase my burdens, and if my young man won't support my child, I must go on the streets altogether. I know how horrible all this is. It would have been much better for me to have subsisted upon a dry crust and water rather than be as I am now. But no one knows the temptations of us poor girls in want. Gentlefolks can never understand it. If I had been born a lady, it wouldn't have been very hard to have acted like one. To be poor and to be honest, especially with young girls, is the hardest struggle of all. There isn't one in a thousand that can get the better of it. I am ready to say again, that it was want, and nothing more, that made me transgress. If I had been better paid I should have done better. Young as I am, my life is a curse to me. If the Almighty would please to take me before my child is born, I should die happy."
The next were two "trousers hands," working for the same piece-mistress. I was assured by the woman by whom they were employed, and whom I visited expressly to make inquiries into the matter, that they were both hard-working and sober individuals. The first of these made the following extraordinary statement: -
"I work at slop trousers, moleskin and cord - no cloth. There's hands for jackets and hands for waistcoats all by themselves; every one gets their own employment. I'm a trousers hand. I don't make army, navy, police, or railway things. Merely work for slopsellers. I work second-handed. The first-hand I work for employs only four. Sometimes she has more, but she's only four at present. She gets 6d., 7d., 8d., 9d., and 10d. per pair; 6d. is the lowest price paid by in the warehouse, and 10d. the highest price. Them are the prices for moleskin and cord trousers. The party I works for is called a sweater. She gives us 4d. a pair all round, take the high with the low priced ones; that is, we have 4d. for the tenpenny trousers as well as for the sevenpenny ones. If a pair of bespoke ones is given out to her, and she thinks they is done very nice, she'll give us 6d. for them. It takes from five to six hours to make a pair of the trousers that we gets 4d. for, and work very quick. We must work from twelve to fourteen hours every day to make two pair; that is, allowing a little time to one's meals; and then we have to sweep and tidy our place up a little; so that we must work very hard to get two pair done in a day. She finds us thread. We make about 4s. a week, but we must work till nine or ten o'clock every night for that. We never make more than 4s., and very often less. If you go of an errand, or want a bit of bread, you lose time, and sometimes the work comes out harder - it's more stubborn, and takes more time. I've known it like a bit of board. I make, I should say, taking one week with another, about 3s. 4d. a week. The sweater finds us our lodging; but we has to buy our candles out of what we make, and they cost us about 1d. each evening, or I should say 5d. a week. I earn clear just upon 3s.; that's about it. I find it very hard indeed to live upon that. We take our money every day - the 6d. or 8d., as the case may be - and very often on Sunday we don't have anything. If we fall ill we're turned off. The sweater won't keep us with her not the second day. I have been married. My husband has been dead seven year. I wish he wasn't. I have no children alive. I have buried three. I had two children alive when my husband died. The youngest was five and the other was seven. My husband was a soap-maker. He got £1 a week. I worked at the slop trade while he was alive. Our weekly earnings - his and mine together - was about 26s. The slop trade was better paid then than now, and what's more, I had the work on my own account. I was very happy and comfortable while he lived. [Here the woman burst out crying, and wiped her eyes with the corner of her old rusty shawl.] "I was always true to him while he was alive, so help me God! After his death I was penniless, with two young children. The only means I had of keeping myself and little ones was by the slop work; and that brought me in about 5s. 6d. a week first-hand. That was to keep me and my two boys. When my eldest boy died - and that was two year after his father - I couldn't afford to bury him. My sister paid for the funeral. I was very thankful to the Almighty when he took him from me, for I had not sufficient to feed him. He died of scarlatina. My second boy has only been dead five months. He died of the hooping cough. I loved him as I did my life; but I was glad he was took from me, for I know he's better now than I could have done for him. He could but have been brought up in the worst kind of poverty by me, and God only knows what might have become of him if he had lived. My security died five years ago, and then the house that I had been used to work for refused to give me any more, so I was obligated to work for a sweater, and I have done so ever since. This was a heavy blow to me. I was getting about 5s. 6d. a week before then. The trousers was better paid for at that time besides, and when I was obligated to work second-handed I couldn't get more than 4s. One of my boys was alive at this time, and we really could not live upon the money. I applied to the parish, and they wanted me to go into the house, but I knew if I did so they'd take my boy from me, and I'd suffer anything first. At times I was so badly off, me and my boy, that I was forced to resort to prostitution to keep us from starving. It was not until after my security died that I did this. Before that we could just live by my labour, but afterwards it was impossible for me to get food and clothing for myself and child out of 4s. a week, which was all I could earn; so I was obligated to get a little more money in a way that I blush to mention to you. Up to the time of the death of my security, I can swear, before God, I was an honest woman; and had the price I was paid for my labour been such that I could get a living by it, I would never have resorted to the streets for money. I am sorry to say there is too many persons like me in the trade - hundreds of married and single doing the same as I do, for the same reason. It's the ruin of us, body and soul - all owing to the low prices. Almost all that works for the sweaters do the same thing. I know several that's very young living in that manner. It most drives em mad. They're hard-working industrious people, but they don't get sufficient price to have enough, no, not even of the coarsest victuals; and if they got more, they wouldn't think of such a mode of life. They do their work in the day, and go out in the night. They say they can't have enough by their work, and must see what else they can get some money by. In this way they make their week's money come to about 6s. or 7s. - some more and some less. I don't know any that makes a practice of walking the streets regularly of a night. They only go out when they're in distress. This is what I believe to be truth; and I can safely say as much in my conscience, and before God.
The statement of the second trousers hand was equally awful. It ran as follows: - "I work at the slop, make trousers - moleskin and cord - any sort of plain work. I work at the same place as the other woman works at, and for the same prices. I earn, like her, taking one week with another, about 3s. 4d., and taking off the candles, about 3s. every week. I have been married, but my husband's been dead eleven year. I have had two children, but I've buried them. I've got none at present. I had only one child alive at the time of my husband's death - she was about a twelve-month old when her father died. He was a ballast getter - he got the ballast out of the river for the ships. He worked for the Trinity Company. He used to earn a good bit of money at that time. Ballast work now is very indifferent. He used to get 30s. a week at the lowest. I worked at the slop trade before I was married, but not afterwards, until my husband died. We were very comfortable, my husband and me. We had one room. He was rather given to a drop of drink. When he died he left me penniless, with a baby to keep. I was an honest woman up to the time of my husband's death. I never did him wrong. I can lay my hand on my heart and say so. But since then the world has drove me about so, and poverty and trouble has forced me to do what I never did before. I have been drove about by my work being badly paid. I couldn't earn what would keep me. I have always worked second-handed since my husband's death, and the money I have got by my labour has not been enough to support me. I do the best I can with what little money I earn, and the rest I am obligated to go to the streets for. That is true, though I says it as shouldn't. I can't get a rag to wear without flying to prostitution for it. My wages will barely find me in food. Indeed, I eat more than I earn, and I am obligated to make up my money in other ways. I know a great many women who are situated in the same way as I am. We pretty well all share one fate in that respect - with the exception of those that's got husbands to keep them. The young and middle-aged all do the same, as far as I know. There's good and bad in all, but with the most of 'em I'm sure they're drove to it - yes, that they are. I have frequently heard them regret that they are forced to go to the streets to make out their living. Why, they said, they worked so hard for so little, that they might as well be on the streets altogether. I have known many who found it such a dreadful struggle to live by slop work, that they have left it and gone on to the streets entirely. I know that the low prices that are paid by the slopsellers makes women and girls prostitutes. I can answer for myself and several besides me; and had I been better paid, been merely able to live by my labour, I should have been still an honest and virtuous woman. For three or four years after my husband's death, I struggled on, and kept true to his memory, but at last all my clothes were gone, and I was obliged to transgress. I actually could not make out victuals and clothes too, and I had always been used to be comfortable and appear respectable in my younger days. I know it's the lowness of the prices. Sometimes I'm quite tired of my life. If those who've taken to the streets as a regular practice was to come back again to work, there'd be no chance of a living for them; and if I was younger I should go on the streets altogether myself. I often do say I wish I was younger. I think the women engaged at slop work get from 6s. to 7s. a week altogether. They cannot manage to do upon 3s., which is all that such as us can get by our labour. I speak only the truth, and I can honestly say so - that I can. Indeed, I shouldn't have told you all I have, if I didn't wish the whole truth and nothing but the truth to be known."
The story which follows is perhaps one of the most tragic and touching romances ever read. I must confess that to myself the mental and bodily agony of the poor Magdalene who related it was quite overpowering. She was a tall, fine-grown girl, with remarkably regular features. She told her tale with her face hidden in her hands, and sobbing so loud that it was with difficulty I could catch her words. As she held her hands before her eyes I could see the tears oozing between her fingers. Indeed I never remember to have witnessd such intense grief. Her statement was of so startling a nature, that I felt it due to the public to inquire into the character of the girl. Though it was late at night, and the gentleman who had brought the case to me assured me that he himself was able to corroborate almost every word of the girl's story, still I felt that I should not be doing my duty to the office that had been entrusted to me if I allowed so pathetic and romantic a statement to go forth without using every means to test the truth of what I had heard. Accordingly, being informed that the girl was in service, I made the best of my way not only to her present master, but also to the one she had left but a few months previous. The gentleman who had brought her to me, willingly accompanied me thither. One of the parties lived at the east end of London, the other in the extreme suburbs of London. The result was well worth the journey. Both persons spoke in the highest terms of the girl's honesty, sobriety, and industry, and of her virtue in particular.
With this preamble let me proceed to tell her story in her own touching words: -
"I used to work at slop work - at the shirt work - the fine full-fronted white shirts; I got 2¾d. each for 'em. There were six buttonholes, four rows of stitching in the front, and the collars and wristbands stitched as well. By working from five o'clock in the morning till midnight each night I might be able to do seven in the week. These would bring me in 17½d. for my whole week's labour. Out of this the cotton must be taken, and that came to 2d. every week, and so left me 15½d. to pay rent and living and buy candles with. I was single, and received some little help from my friends; still it was impossible for me to live. I was forced to go out of a night to make out my living. I had a child, and it used to cry for food; so, as I could not get a living for him myself by my needle, I went into the streets, and made out a living that way. Sometimes there was no work for me, and then I was forced to depend entirely upon the streets for my food. On my soul I went to the streets solely to get a living for myself and child. If I had been able to get it otherwise I would not have done so. I am the daughter of a minister of the Gospel. My father was an Independent preacher, and I pledge my word, solemnly and sacredly, that it was the low price paid for my labour that drove me to prostitution. I often struggled against it, and many times have I taken my child into the streets to beg, rather than I would bring shame upon myself and it any longer. I have made pincushions and fancy articles - such as I could manage to scrape together - and taken them to the streets to sell, so that I might get an honest living, but I couldn't. Sometimes I should be out all night in the rain, and sell nothing at all, me and my child together; and when we didn't get anything that way we used to sit in a shed, for I was too fatigued with my baby to stand, and I was so poor I couldn't have even a night's lodging upon credit. One night in the depth of winter his legs froze to my side. We sat down on the step of a door. I was trying to make my way to the workhouse, but was so weak I couldn't get on any farther. The snow was over my shoes. It had been snowing all day, and me and my boy out in it. We hadn't tasted any food since the morning before, and that I got in another person's name. I was driven by positive starvation to say that they sent me when they did no such thing. All this time I was struggling to give up prostitution. I had many offers, but I refused them all. I had sworn to myself that I would keep from that mode of life for my boy's sake. A lady saw me sitting on the door-step, and took me into her house, and rubbed my child's legs with brandy. She gave us some food, both my child and me, but I was so far gone I couldn't eat. I got to the workhouse that night. I told them we were starving, but they refused to admit us without an order; so I went back to prostitution again for another month. I couldn't get any work; I had no security. I couldn't even get a reference to find me work at second-hand. My character was quite gone. I was at length so disgusted with my line of life that I got an order for the workhouse, and went in there for two years. The very minute we got inside the gate they took my child away from me, and allowed me to see it only once a month. At last I and another left the house' to work at umbrella covering, so that we might have our children with us. For this work we had 1s. a dozen covers, and we used to do between us from six to eight dozen a week. We could have done more, but the work wasn't to be had. I then made from 3s. to 4s. a week, and from that time I gave up prostitution. For the sake of my child I should not like my name to be known; but for the sake of other young girls, I can and will solemnly state that it was the smallness of the price I got for my labour that drove me to prostitution as a means of living. In my heart I hated it; my whole nature rebelled at it; and nobody but God knows how I struggled to give it up. I was only able to do so by getting work at something that was better paid. Had I remained at shirt-making, I must have been a prostitute to this day. I have taken my gown off my back and pledged it, and gone in my petticoat - I had but one - rather than take to the streets again; but it was all in vain. We were starving still; and I robbed the young woman who lodged in the next room to me of a gown, in order to go out in the streets once more and get a crust. I left my child at home, wrapped in a bit of an old blanket while I went out. I brought home half-a-crown by my shame, and stopped its cries for food for two days. My sufferings have been such, that three days before I first tried to get into the workhouse I made up my mind to commit suicide. I wrote the name of my boy and the address of his aunts, and pinned them to his little shift, and left him in bed - for ever as I thought - and went to the Regent's- park to drown myself in the water near the road leading to St. John's-wood. I went there because I thought I was more sure of death. It was farther to jump. The policeman watched me, and asked me what I was doing. He thought I looked suspicious, and drove me from the park. That saved my life. My father died, thank God, when I was eight years old. My sisters are waistcoat hands, and both starving. I hardly know whether one is dead or not now. She is suffering from cancers brought on by poor living. I am now living in service. I have been so for the last year and a half. I obtained a character from a Christian gentleman, to whom I owe my salvation. I can solemnly assert since I have been able to earn a sufficient living I have never once resorted to prostitution. My boy is still in the workhouse. I have been unable to save any money since I have been in service. My wages are low, and I had scarcely any clothes when I went there. If I had a girl of my own, I should believe I should be making a prostitute of her to put her to slop work. I am sure no girl can get a living at it without, and I say as much after thirteen years' experience of the business. I never knew one girl in the trade who was virtuous; most of them wished to be so, but were compelled to be otherwise for mere life.