Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Morning Chronicle : Labour and the Poor, 1849-50; Henry Mayhew - Letter XI

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LETTER XI

Friday, November 23, 1849

    As this will be my last communication as to the incomings and condition of the Slopworkers and Needlewomen of the Metropolis, I wish to give the reader a more comprehensive view of the trade than I have yet been able to do.
    In my last letter I described the means I adopted in order to arrive at a fair and correct estimate as to the average earnings of those who depend on their needle for their subsistence. All classes of workpeople have been visited - male and female - old and young - the married, the single, and the widowed - the distressed gentlewoman and the struggling Magdalen - those who had husbands to help them, and those who were alone and unassisted in their toil - those who had the work direct from the warehouse, and those who received it from a piece-mistress, mulcted of its fair proportion. But not only have I striven to see every kind of workmen and workwomen, so that the reader might form a correct notion as to the character of the people employed in the trade; I have also sought to lay before the public a statement of the amount of labour required for the production of the different classes of commodities, as well as the sums paid for them - the difference between the prices at present given, and those of a few years back: the depreciation in the value of their labour have been given, as well as the periods at which the business is slack or brisk during the year, and the supposed reasons for the fluctuation in the quantity of work to be done.
    Nevertheless, in the course of my investigations, I have felt the difficulty of dealing with individuals. I was therefore anxious, before quitting the present subject, to test the particular conclusions at which I had arrived by two different modes - first, by an account of the earnings for a number of years of some sober and hard working individual who might be taken as a fair type of the class so that my deductions might be drawn not from any one year, but from a series. The other test to which I was desirous of putting the statements that I had made public was that of assembling a large body of people, and taking the general statistics of the meeting. By both of these ordeals has the subject been tried, and I now proceed to lay the result before the public.
    Let me, however, first endeavour, by means of the Occupation Abstract of the Government Report on the population of Great Britain, to come to some rough notion as to the number of individuals engaged in slopwork and needlework throughout the metropolis.
    According to this report, then, there were of -

Seamstresses and seamsters

6,269 of whom 5,602 were females under 20

Ditto (shirt)

382 " 332 "

Slopworkers

254 " 196 "

Stay and corset makers

1,753 " 1,329 "

Stock (men's) makers

356 " 230 "

Straw bonnet and straw hat makers

1,319 " 1,049 "

Glovers

677 " 331 "

Furriers

1,236 " 464 "

Embroiderers

692 " 499 "

Cap makers and dealers

549 " 272 "

Bonnet makers

1,471 " 1,090 "
14,904 11,394
If we add to these the dress-makers and milliners 20,780 17,183
We have the total number 35,684 28,577

From the above 35,684 we must deduct those who are in business for themselves, and these, according to the "London Post-office Directory for 1850, are -

Shirt makers

58

Stay and corset makers

265

Stock makers

25

Straw bonnet and straw hat makers

356

Glovers

67

Furriers

144

Embroiderers

33

Cap makers

47

Bonnet makers, milliners, and dressmakers

1,060
2,055

And 2,055 deducted from 35,684 leaves 33,629 as the gross number of individuals engaged in needlework and slopwork throughout London, of whom considerably more than three-fourths, or no less than 28,577, are females under twenty years of age.
    The earnings of all the above classes have been investigated, with the exception of the Milliners and Dressmakers. These being somewhat better paid than the generality of other needlewomen, I have purposely deferred all inquiry into the prices given to them till another and more fitting occasion; so that, deducting these, we may safely say there are 13,900 engaged in slopwork and the lower grades of needlework, of whom 11,394 are females under twenty years of age.
    And as regards the average earnings of this large body of individuals, according to the accounts that have been furnished to me by the workpeople, the average clear income of the shirtmakers, blouse, trousers, waistcoat, and other hands, appears to be from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d., exclusive of trimmings. As I said before, these accounts had been tested, whenever it was possible, by the books of the employers themselves, in which the earnings of the operatives are set down by the master; and recently four more books have been placed in my hands, from which the following results have been obtained: - Account No. 1 extends over a period of 31 weeks. In the course of this time £7 11s. 3d. has been earned at the best kind of shirt work. This gives an average of 4s. 10d. per week. From this the expense of cotton, at the least, has to be deducted, which leaves 4s. 4d. as the clear weekly gains for upwards of half a year. Account No. 2 is for the making of flushing coats, and for this work 15s. has been earned in four weeks, which gives an average of 3s. 9d. a week, or, deducting trimmings, about 3s. as the clear weekly income. Account No. 3 is for shirts, like No. 1, and runs over five months. During this time £2 17s. 7d. has been received, which gives 2s. 10d., or, deducting cotton, 2s. 4d., as the clear earnings per week. The last of these accounts, extending over a period of less than a year, amounts to 17s. 9d., which has been gained at trousers work in fifteen weeks; and so gives 1s. 2d. per week as the average earnings; but, deducting trimmings, the clear gains would be only 3d. per week for the whole of that time. The defect, however, of all the above accounts is, that they are not of a sufficient duration to admit of our arriving at a fair average. The particulars are too few to allow us to generalize with safety on the subject. I sought, therefore, for some other statement, which, extending over many years, would enable me to draw conclusions with something like certainty, both as to the customary earnings and the periods at which the business was brisk and slack throughout each year. Such a statement was most difficult to be found; but at length, after an infinity of fruitless inquiries, I was able to obtain an account of the earnings of two females, working together for a period of four years. The very fact of keeping such an account shows a habit of prudence which stamps the individuals as being far above the ordinary run of needlewomen; and, moreover, they were generally employed at a class of work (drawn-bonnet making) which is much better paid than either the trousers or shirt work; indeed, it was possible for each of them, by sitting up as many as three nights in the week, to earn 10s. by such means; and it was only when this better-class work was not to be obtained that they resorted to "trousers work" as a means of living. Hence it will be seen that the result of the sub joined statement - low as it is - must still be above the income of the ordinary needlewomen. It is necessary I should add that the parties furnishing the account are most industrious and sober persons, working frequently their 20 hours a day in the summer, often sitting up all night engaged at work, and never (when they can obtain employment) labouring less than 18 hours a day.

ACCOUNT OF THE EARNINGS OF TWO HANDS WORKING AT DRAWN BONNETS AND TROUSERS FOR A SERIES OF FOUR YEARS.

1846 1847 1848 1849
s d s d s d s d

1st week

0 4 4 0 3 6 0 3 2

2nd "

0 0 8 0 4 10 0 4 2 0 5 10

3rd "

0 1 6 0 3 8 0 7 6

4th "

0 1 5 0 1 6 0 3 6 0 5 6

5th "

0 6 6 0 3 8 0 4 0 0 5 0

6th "

0 11 10 0 10 0 0 0 3 0 1 0

7th "

0 9 4 0 4 6 0 1 0

8th "

0 13 1 0 10 0 0 1 0 0 4 0

9th "

0 16 6 0 12 11 0 8 0 0 4 6

10th "

0 16 8 0 13 4 0 2 6 0 5 6

11th "

0 14 8 0 8 7 0 5 0 0 7 6

12th "

0 10 0 0 10 3 0 2 10 0 9 0

13th "

0 2 0 0 10 9 0 3 4 0 12 0

First quarter's earnings

5 8 6 4 14 0 1 19 1 3 10 6

14th "

0 18 6 0 4 6 0 15 0

15th "

0 12 1 0 13 0 0 9 6 0 12 0

16th "

0 19 0 0 11 3 0 8 0 0 10 0

17th "

0 19 1 0 16 2 0 18 0 0 9 0

18th "

0 18 6 0 18 3 0 18 6 0 19 2

19th "

0 19 0 0 19 0 1 0 3 1 0 2

20th "

1 0 2 0 3 8 1 0 8 1 2 1

21st "

1 0 3 0 12 0 1 4 0 0 18 6

22nd "

0 19 0 0 16 0 1 0 6 0 19 6

23rd "

0 17 8 0 14 6 0 19 6 0 14 3

24th "

0 17 10 0 19 0 0 17 0 0 16 0

25th "

0 11 8 0 16 0 0 15 0 0 10 1

26th "

0 17 6 0 8 4 0 9 2 0 2 6

Second quarter's earnings

10 10 9 9 5 8 10 4 7 9 7 3
27th week 0 18 0 0 0 6 0 3 4
28th " 0 0 9 0 5 0 0 4 0 0 4 6
29th " 0 10 10 0 15 2 0 4 8 0 2 2
30th " 0 8 10 0 7 10 0 10 0
31st " 0 4 0 0 14 0 0 5 8 0 12 6
32nd " 0 8 11 0 11 0 0 6 4 0 4 6
33rd " 0 7 8 0 3 2 0 4 4 0 1 0
34th " 0 10 5 0 0 2 0 2 6 0 4 6
35th " 0 4 6 0 3 4 0 2 6 0 2 6
36th " 0 2 0 0 1 6 0 2 0 0 3 6
37th " 0 2 2 0 5 1 0 4 0 0 4 6
38th " 0 1 10 0 3 8 0 2 0 0 3 6
39th " 0 6 6 0 2 6 0 7 7 0 3 4
Third quarter's earnings 4 6 5 3 12 5 2 16 1 2 9 10
40th " 0 9 8 0 10 0 0 2 6 0 1 0
41st " 0 6 3 0 4 10 0 1 6 0 12 0
42nd " 0 5 0 0 4 0 0 3 11 0 3 6
43rd " 0 3 8 0 5 6 0 8 4 0 1 0
44th " 0 2 1 0 5 3 0 4 0 0 4 0
45th " 0 16 4 0 8 9 0 4 0
46th " 0 3 0 0 7 6 0 3 0 0 1 9*
47th " 0 3 5 0 4 0 0 3 6 0 3 7
48th " 0 2 4 0 4 0 0 1 0 0 2 5
49th " 0 0 4 0 2 6 0 4 8 0 2 6
50th " 0 1 0 0 2 6 0 4 0 0 2 6
51st " 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 4 0 0 2 8
52nd " 0 4 6 0 4 6 0 5 0 0 4 8
Fourth quarter's earnings 2 19 7 3 5 5 2 9 5 2 1 7

* Here the account for the present year ends. For the sake of comparison, however, the average earnings of the corresponding weeks in the years 1846, 1847, and 1848 have been taken, and carried out to the end of the present year.

SUMMARY OF THE ABOVE ACCOUNT

FIRST QUARTER

1846 1847 1848 1849 Average for four years
s d s d s d s d s d

Earnings of 1st quarter

5 8 6 4 14 0 1 19 1 8 10 6 2 18 0

Average earnings per week

0 8 4 0 7 2 0 8 0 0 5 5 0 6 0

Deduct expense of trimmings*

0 1 4 0 1 2 0 0 6 0 0 10 0 1 0

Clear earnings per week

0 6 11 0 6 0 0 2 6 0 4 6 0 5 0

SECOND QUARTER

Earnings of 2nd quarter 10 10 9 9 5 8 10 4 7 9 7 3 9 17 0
Average earnings per week 0 16 2 0 14 3 0 15 8 0 14 4 0 15 1
Deduct trimmings 0 2 8 0 2 4 0 2 7 0 2 4 0 2 6
 Clear earnings per week 0 13 6 0 11 10 0 13 1 0 12 0 0 12 7

THIRD QUARTER

Earnings of 3rd quarter 4 6 5 3 12 5 2 16 1 2 9 10 3 6 2
Average earnings per week 0 6 7 0 5 6 0 4 3 0 3 10 0 5 1
Deduct trimmings 0 1 1 0 0 11 0 0 8 0 0 7 0 0 10
 Clear earnings per week 0 5 6 0 4 7 0 3 7 0 3 2 0 4 3

FOURTH QUARTER

Earnings of 4th quarter 2 19 7 3 5 5 2 9 5 2 1 7 2 14 0
Average earnings per week 0 4 7 0 5 0 0 3 9 0 3 3 0 4 1
Deduct trimmings 0 0 9 0 0 10 0 0 7 0 0 6 0 0 8
Clear earnings per week 0 3 10 0 4 2 0 3 2 0 2 9 0 3 5

FOR THE YEAR

Earnings for the whole year 23 5 4 20 17 6 17 9 2 17 9 2 19 15 3
Average earnings per week 0 8 11 0 8 0 0 6 8 0 6 5 0 7 7
Deduct trimmings 0 1 5 0 1 4 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 3
Weekly earnings of two for the whole year 0 7 5 0 6 8 0 5 7 0 5 7 0 6 4
Weekly earnings of each for ditto ditto 0 3 8 0 3 4 0 2 9 0 2 9 0 3 2
Deduct rent of each 0 1 3 0 1 3 0 1 3 0 1 3 0 1 3
To pay for food and clothes per week, each 0 2 5 0 2 1 0 1 6 0 1 6 0 1 11
Ditto per day, each 0 0 4 0 0 3 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 3

* The trimmings are taken at 2d. in the shilling, or * of the gross earnings. This, I have the word of the woman furnishing the account, is rather under than above the actual cost.

    From the above it will be seen that, after paying their rent, all these two workwomen had left to purchase food and clothing was, throughout the year 1846, fourpence farthing each per day; throughout the year 1847, three pence halfpenny; throughout the year 1848, two pence halfpenny; and throughout the present year, two pence halfpenny also. To get this amount each, it should be remembered that they had to work from eighteen to twenty hours every day, including Sundays. In every year, they told me, there are generally seven months, and at the very least six, that they cannot pay rent, and during the other six months they have to work night and day in order to clear off the back rent. They can't go into a better lodging, because they can't get credit for the winter months. The room is taken furnished. It is a small attic, seven feet square, without any fireplace, and several panes are gone from the windows. There is scarcely any furniture - only one chair. The other party has to sit on the bed. They pay 2s. 6d. a week. The first winter they came the landlady insisted on having her rent every week, and that winter they were three months and never had a bit of bread - not a crumb - to eat. They used to live on oatmeal altogether. Frequently they had a pennyworth between them for the whole day. After the first year the landlady, having had experience of their honesty, allowed them to go on credit during the winter. In fact, they were obliged to allow their rent to go 12s. 6d. in arrear the first winter of all. But they paid it directly they had work, and since then the landlady never troubles them during the winter for the rent - never, indeed, asks for it. She is satisfied that they will pay it directly they can. They are convinced that no one else would do the same thing, for their landlady is very kind to them, and allows them the occasional use of her fire. They never go in debt for anything but their rent. If they haven't got money they go without - never run credit for anything to eat. If they have anything to pledge, they get their food that way; and if they are quite "up," and have nothing to pledge, "why, then," said one of the poor old creatures, smiling, to me, "we starve; yes, we're obliged to it. We'd rather do that than go in debt. We should always be thinking about it. I'm sure, last winter, the rent we owed was always in my head - when I went to bed and when I got up. I was afraid we should never rub it off." One of the parties is an old maiden woman, and the other a widow. The one is 43 years, and the widow 54. They have been working together seven years. The widow was in better circumstances. Her husband was a farmer in Yorkshire, and her father was a very large farmer in the same county. The maiden woman was formerly in service; now she is afflicted with the lumbago, and is able only to work at her needle. Today she is washing, and she will be ill for two or three days afterwards. The two of them have for thirty hours been without food. Always during winter they are very badly off; they have scarcely any food at all; their principal nourishment at that time is oatmeal. They have frequently pawned everything they had that the pawnbrokers would lend anything upon.
    In the summer they get as many things as they can out of pawn again, and they sit up night and day toiling to pay their winter's rent score. They say that those who get their living by needlework must, they are convinced, do the same as they do; they are satisfied there are thousands in London who starve, get into debt, and pledge regularly every winter, and then slave night and day in the summer to pay their debts and redeem their clothes again. This is the industrious needlewoman's regular life. They can say so of their own knowledge. They have heard numbers say so. This summer they have paid off as much as £7 of back rent, and in order to do this they have worked regularly for six months, 18 and 20 hours a day, Sunday and week-day. They have often sat, the two of them, and worked from daylight at three o'clock in the morning. They have got up at two to do their own little domestic work, so that they began work immediately it was daylight, and they have worked on, frequently with only one cup of tea through the whole day, till eleven at night. They never burn a candle but when they have work to do - they can't afford it; and they never have a fire, even in the depth of winter. And after all this toil, suffering, and privation, their reward is twopence halfpenny a day.
    I now come to the second test that was adopted in order to verify my conclusions. This was the convening of such a number of needlewomen and slop-workers as would enable me to arrive at a correct average as to the earnings of the class. I was particularly anxious to do this, not only with regard to the more respectable portion of the operatives,, but also with reference to those who, I had been given to understand, resorted to prostitution in order to eke out their subsistence. I consulted a friend who is well acquainted with the habits and feelings of the slop-workers as to the possibility of gathering together a number of women who would be willing to state that they had been forced to take to the streets on account of the low prices for their work. He told me he was afraid, from the shame of their mode of life becoming known, it would be almost impossible to collect together a number of females who would be ready to say as much publicly. However, it was decided that at least the experiment should be made, and that everything should be done to assure the parties of the strict privacy of the assembly. It was arranged that the gentleman and myself should be the only male persons visible on the occasion, and that the place of meeting should be as dimly lighted as possible, so that they could scarcely see or be seen by one another or by us. Cards of admission were issued and distributed as privately as possible, and, to my friend's astonishment, as many as twenty-five came, on the evening named, to the appointed place - intent upon making known the sorrows and sufferings that had driven them to fly to the streets, in order to get the bread which the wretched prices paid for their labour would not permit them to obtain. Never in all history was such a sight seen, or such tales heard. There, in the dim haze of the large bare room in which they met, sat women and girls, some with babies suckling at their breasts - others in rags - and even these borrowed, in order that they might come and tell their misery to the world. I have witnessed many a scene of sorrow lately; I have heard stories that have unmanned me; but never till last Wednesday had I heard or seen anything so solemn, so terrible as this. If ever eloquence was listened to, it was in the outpourings of those poor loin mothers' hearts for their base-born little ones, as each told her woes and struggles, and published her shame amid the convulsive sobs of the others - nay, of all present. Behind a screen, removed from sight, so as not to wound the modesty of the women - who were nevertheless aware of their presence - sat two reporters from this journal, to take down verbatim the confessions and declarations of those assembled, and to them I am indebted for the following report of the statements made at the meeting.
    A gentleman who has for many years taken a deep interest in the subject, and myself, severally addressed those present, and urged them to speak without fear, and to tell the whole truth with regard to their situations, assuring them that their names should not be divulged, and, at the same time, reminding them that the only way to obtain their deliverance from their present condition was, that they should speak for themselves, tell their own tale, simply and without exaggeration, with the most scrupulous regard to truth.
    Thus admonished, the following statements were made by the parties.
    The first speaker was a middle-aged woman, who stood up and said: - 
    "I am a slopworker, and sometimes make about 3s. 6d. a week, and sometimes less. I have been drove to prostitution, sometimes, not always, through the bad prices. For the sake of my lodgings and a bit of bread I've been obligated to do what I am very sorry to do, and look upon with disgust. I can't live by what I get by work. The woman who employs me, and several more besides, gets 11d, and 1s. a pair for the trousers we make, and we get only 4d. or 5d. We can't do more than a pair a day, and sometimes a pair and a half. It's starving. I can't get a cup of tea and a bit of bread. I was married, and am left a widow, and have been forced to live in this distressed manner for the last four years. I've been to several different people to get work, but they are all alike in taking advantage of our unfortunate situation."
    Scarcely had this one sat down than another, who worked in the same house, and under the same piece-mistress, rose, and spoke as follows: - 
    "I works, sir, the goods of another person for a living. I've been married fifteen years. My husband has been dead these twelve years. I thought one place would suit me better than another, but I find them all one way; they're all much alike. The most I can earn is about 3s. 6d. a week. I get my lodging only from the person that employs me. I'm sometimes obliged to work till twelve at night for my 3s. 6d.; and now in these short days I can scarcely earn anything. I've been obliged often to go to prostitution. These twelve years I haven't been altogether on the streets, but have been almost as bad. I can scarcely earn, sir, what I eat. I think the small number of us present arises from the shame of the women to come. But I express the truth, and nothing but the truth; and yet people are ashamed even to tell the truth. But I'm not ashamed to tell the troubles I've had through distress. Bad payment for the work obliges us to do wrong. It's against our will to do such a thing. And now, for a woman of my years, it's getting almost more than I can bear, sir."
    The third speaker was one with scarcely any clothing upon her back. She said: - "I'm a slopworker, and have got a little boy eighteen months old, and am not able to do much work. I work with another woman, and get 7d. and 6d. a pair for doing trousers. I'm often out of work, and the last fortnight or three weeks I've had nothing to do. I've got no husband, but am compelled to live with a man to support me, for the sake of my child. The father of the child is a labouring man in the docks. He helps to support the child when he can, but he is sometimes employed only two or three days in the week, and at other times not that. He hasn't left me. He gets 2s. 4d. a day when he has work. He has work today, and last Friday was the first he had for a fortnight. He applies daily at the docks, and can't get it; but when they're busy he gets his turn. I can state solemnly, in the presence of my Maker, that I live with him only to get a living and save myself from doing worse. But if I could get a living otherwise, I can't say I would leave him. At my own work I sometimes make 2s., and at others only 1s. 6d. a week. He's willing to marry me the first day that he can afford; but he hasn't the money to pay the fees. Sometimes he is a fortnight or three weeks, and even a month, without any work at all; and last week we were forced to go to the Refuge for the Destitute."
    The next was a good-looking girl. Her father had driven her from home, and she could not live by shoe-binding. She said: -
    "Five years ago my father turned me out of doors. The shoe-binding is so low that I wasn't able to pay 1s. a week for my lodging, and that caused me to turn out into the street. Then it was three weeks before I ever was in a bed. I sat on London-bridge a fortnight before Christmas, five years ago. My father took me home again three years ago, but he turned me out again, and I was forced to go back to the street. He says he can't keep us at home. He is a soap-boiler. My mother died about twelve years ago. There were nine of us when she died, and we're all living still. My father said he could not keep us any longer. I work, whenever I can get it, at trousers work; but can't get it always. I used to get it first-hand till lately; but latterly I've worked for a woman who takes it in. I do a pair a day, and sometimes more. I sometimes used to make ls. 6d., and at others 2s. a week; and when I have the best employment I can generally earn about half-a-crown."
    After this another young girl rose up. She, like the last, had been turned into the streets by her parent. All she wished (she told us) was to gain admittance into some asylum for penitent females: - 
    "I've been out in the streets three years. I work at the boot- binding, but can't get a living at it. I went with Mr. - and another gentleman, who took me home to my father, but my father couldn't help me. If I get bread, sir, by my work, I can't get clothes. For the sake of clothes or food I'm obliged to go into the streets, and I'm out regularly now, and I've no other dependence at all but the streets. If I could only get an honest living, I would gladly leave the streets. But I can't earn enough at my work to get a living, and therefore I know it's useless returning to it. I've been out a whole fortnight together, and not got a meal but what I got in the streets; and I've been forced several times to go into St. George's workhouse. When there, I'm only five minutes' walk from my father's house, but he won't receive me. I don't know why. [A gentleman present at the meeting here said that he had gone to see the girl's father, to induce him to receive his daughter. He had to go half a dozen times before he could see him, and then he did not find him at home, but in a beer-shop, half drunk. He refused to take his daughter back, and on being told that if he persisted she must go into the streets, he replied, "I don't care: let her do as she pleases!"] The girl continued: "If I could get work that would keep me, I would give up the streets entirely."
    The next speaker made the following statement: - 
    "I am a shirt-maker, and make about three shirts a day, at 2d. apiece, every one of them having seven button-holes. I have to get up at six in the morning, and work till twelve at night, to do that. I buy thread out of the price; and I cannot always get work. I sometimes make trousers; but I have not constant work with both put together. I sometimes make 2s. 6d. a week; 3s. is the most I ever made, and I have to buy thread out of that. Three shirts a day takes d. for thread; that will be 18 farthings a week, or 4d.; say 6d. altogether; so that my regular wages are not more than 2s. 6d. or 2s., sometimes not more than 1s. 6d. I am now living with a young man. I am compelled to do so, because I could not support myself. I know he would marry me if he could. He is a looking-glass frame maker. He works for himself, and hawks them about. Sometimes he has not money enough to buy wood. He used to make more when I first lived with him than he does now. Sometimes he earns nothing. He has earned nothing for the last three weeks. If he had money I know he would marry me. Sometimes he is out all day, and does not get a farthing - not a bit to eat. Sometimes we have been for two days with a bit of dry bread and cold water. We both strive hard for work - that we do. I don't believe anybody can try harder to get work than we do."
    Then an orphan told us her sufferings: - 
    "I come from Edinburgh, in Scotland. I am the daughter of a publican. I was left an orphan at twelve years old, under the care of an uncle, my father's brother. Through my aunt and uncle's cruelty I left them, at the age of fifteen or sixteen, with a young man. I lived with him for ten years, and had six children. I have one boy living now, at the age of eleven. Two years ago he deserted me. I did all I could to obtain a living in Edinburgh, and through persuasion I came to London about a twelvemonth ago. I was destitute of a home. I knew no one; but as long as I had anything to pledge or sell I paid for my lodging and maintenance. I then wandered about for days together, seeking food, till some girls I fell in with near the glasshouse down here told me of a gentleman of the name of -, and said if I would call upon him in the morning he would give me coffee and bread. I went to him for two or three mornings, and he gave me coffee and bread, and treated me very kindly. One day I saw a bill in a window, in Rosemary-lane, wanting a girl to work at the needle. I went there, and got 2s. a week for three months; and I had to pay for my lodgings and find my food out of it. At last these people broke up their house, because they were not married, and they quarrelled. Then I had not a home to go to, being without work. I went back to the gentleman again; he wondered to see me, and asked me why I came back, and I told him. He was very kind to me, took me into his house, and gave me lodgings, with bread and coffee every morning. I was there for a week, till he found me work at the same place where I am now. This was five months ago, and I am there now. If it had not been for that gentleman's kindness I don't know what would have become of me, for I was without home or friends. I have not been on the town for these five months since I had work, but I was forced to do so before that. I state that solemnly, and I say it not for my own sake, but for the sake of others. I am not earning enough at the slop-work to keep me, but the person with whom I stop is very kind to me. I have paid her nothing for my lodgings, and she has given me many a meal of meat when I had not any. Could I obtain a living by my needle I would never resort to prostitution. I have got a situation today as a servant of all work. My boy is still living, I believe; but I have heard nothing of him this twelvemonth. He is in Scotland with his father. When his father deserted me he took the child - not at first, but I was not able to keep him, and so I sent him to his father. I do not wish to keep the child, because his father is able to keep him. I could not keep him in a proper manner. I should like to see my child sent to school, and brought up in the fear of God; and that is more than I am able to do, so that I would rather he stayed where he is. I think his father will be good to the child."
    Then came another orphan girl. She had lately left the cholera hospital, and was ghastly pale: - 
    "I was left an orphan, and got work as a trouser maker, and I have been going on at that work for the last four years. I work for a warehouse. I have not got good health, nor have I been well for the last six years, by means that I am scarcely able to maintain myself in food and clothing by my needle. I lived with a young man for about eighteen months, but I am scarcely a fortnight out of the cholera hospital now, and I am so weak and feeble that I am not able to work for my living. My young man wishes us to get settled, but it is out of his power, by means of sickness, to make up the fees for our marriage. I did live with him. I don't live with him now. I parted with him only on account that he has no work, but we still meet and keep up our acquaintance, and are good friends. He cannot keep himself more than me. I still live by the trousers making as far as I can, but I have not resorted to prostitution any further than with my young man. I still keep company with him, and we wish to get married. Candidly and truthfully speaking, I do not see any other person. I was brought up by my mother; my father has been dead these six years. I pay for my lodging 1s. a week. Sometimes, when I was in health, I earned 4s. a week, but I have not earned more than 3s. 6d. altogether during the fortnight I have been out of the cholera hospital. My clothing and all is pledged, and I have not a thing to come out with."
    This one had scarcely sat down before a woman with an infant in her arms stood up, and spoke as follows: - 
    "I was left a widow with two children, and I could get no work to keep me. I picked up with this child's father, and thought, with the little help that he could give me, I might be able to keep my children; but after all I was forced by want and distress, and the trouble of child-bed, to sell all I had to get a bit of victuals. I was forced to go into the house at Wapping to be delivered of this child. This woman (pointing to a neighbour) took care of my other children. He (the father) came to me, gave me 5s., and told me that if I could take a room he would do all he could for me. I took a room at 1s. 6d. a week, and bought half a truss of straw; and he told me he would marry me if ever it was in his power. I could not go out into the world again; but this woman will tell you that all I have got under me and over me you may buy for 6d. I live with that man still, and sometimes I have not a bit to eat. I thought more of my little boy having a bit to eat than myself. He had been stealing some coals, and he is now imprisoned. I was forced to let him go to try to get a bit of victuals, for I had nothing more to make away with. My boy was taken up for stealing 3 lbs. of coals. He did not bring the coals to me; he was taken before he could get home. I believe he stole them for my sake - not to spend in any other way, but to get a bit of bread and a bit of fire for his mother."
    Another orphan then got up: - 
    "I was left an orphan ten years ago, said she, "and took to needlework. I took to slop-shirts, but could not get a living by that, and so I took to the seaming of trousers. Still I could not get a living, and by that means I lost what bit of furniture I had left. I could not pay my rent, and was in arrears three weeks. My land-lady turned me out, and I had nowhere to go, till I was taken to a brothel by a person that I met; but I don't know who it was. I remained in that condition till such time as I fell in the family way, and the young man I fell in that state by went away and left me destitute. I was 14 days and 14 nights and never saw a bed. It froze hard and snowed very fast, and I was left exposed till it pleased God Almighty to send the person I live with now to help me. I am advanced in the family way at present. I am living with a man now, but not in a married state. It's not in his power to marry me; his work won't allow it; and he's not able to support me in the manner he wishes, and keep himself. He has never but two meals a day - breakfast and supper. I think he would marry me if he had the marriage fees, willingly. It's not in my power to afford better clothing than I've got on. I hadn't a dinner today. I don't consider that I've tasted a Sunday's dinner for six months. I can't earn myself 4d. a day, and my partner's work don't amount to 1s. a day, taking one day with another. I've 1s. 6d. a week rent to pay out of that, and firing and food to find. Unless I was to go to other means, it wouldn't be in my power to do anything to support myself. I don't do it from inclination. I would leave it as soon as I could. I've been forced occasionally to resort to prostitution; but now I'm trying, by living on the small pittance I can get, to avoid it. I detest it. I was never reared to it. I was brought up in the church, and to attend to my God. I was always shown a different pattern; but misfortune overtook me. If I could get a living with out it, I would leave it."
    The next speaker was the most eloquent of all. I never before listened to such a gush of words and emotion, and perhaps never shall again. She spoke without the least effort, in one continued strain, for upwards of half an hour, crying half hysterically herself, while those around her sobbed in sympathy: - 
    "Between ten and eleven years ago I was left a widow with two young children, and far advanced in pregnancy with another. I had no means of getting a living, and therefore I thought I would take up slop-work. I got work at slop-shirts - what they call secondhand. I had no security, and therefore could not get the work myself from the warehouse. Two months before I was confined, I seemed to do middling well. I could manage three or four shirts - what they call 'rowers' - at 3d. each, by sitting closely at work from five or six in the morning till about nine or ten at night; but, of course, when I was confined I was unable to do anything. As soon as I was able to sit up I undertook slop shirts again; but my child being sickly, I was not able to earn so much as before. Perhaps I could earn 9d. a day by hard work, when I get 3d. each shirt; but sometimes I only get 2d., and I have been obliged to do them at ld. each, and, with my child sickly, could only earn 4d., or at most 6d. a day. At other times I hadn't work. On the average I calculate that I have earnt 9d. a day when the prices were better; 1s. 9d. a week went for rent; and as to living, I don't call it that; I was so reduced with it, and my child being so bad, it couldn't be considered a living. I was obliged to live on potatoes and salt; and for nine weeks together I lived on potatoes, and never knew what it was to have a half-quartern loaf, for the loaf was 9d. then. By that means my health was declining, and I wasn't able to do hard work. My child's health, too, was declining, and I was obliged to pawn the sheets off my bed and my blankets to procure a shilling. At last I found it impossible to pay my rent. I owed 7s. arrears, and my landlady plagued me much to pay her. She advised me to raffle away a large chest that I had. I did so, and gained 12s., and then paid her the 7s. I owed her; but I became so reduced again, that I was obliged to get an order to get into the 'house.' I didn't wish to go in, but I wanted relief, and knew I couldn't get it without doing so. I felt it a hard trial to have my children taken from my bosom: we had never been parted before, and I can't help remembering what were my feelings then as a mother who always loved her children. I thought rather than we should be parted that I would make-away with myself. But still I applied to the parish, and never shall I forget the day that I did so. I was told to go, and I would get a loaf by applying. I went in, and my heart was full at the thought of taking home a quartern loaf to my starving children. But I was disappointed; and seeing a loaf given out to other parties, I can say that I should have felt glad even of the crumbs to take home to my poor children, if I could have got near enough. Christmas came round, and I thought, poor things, they will be without a Christmas dinner; and so I got an order to go into the Wapping workhouse. Yet my feelings were such that it was impossible I could enter, and I remained out five weeks after I had got the order, and pledged, as far as I could, anything that would fetch 2d., obtaining also a little assistance from slop-work. But I got so little that I found it impossible to live. The time came to get another order, and I went with my clothes patched from top to bottom, yet I trust they were clean. And never shall I forget that Saturday afternoon, as I travelled along Gravel-lane to the 'house,' with feelings that it was impossible for me to enter, for I thought 'How can I bear to have my dear children taken away from me - they have never been taken away from me before!' I reflected, 'What can I do but go there?' So I mustered courage at all events to get to the gate; and, oh, it is impossible to describe what my feelings were as I passed through! I was admitted to a room where they were toasting the bread for the mistress's tea. A little girl was there, and she said, 'Look at these dear little children. I will give them a bit of the toast.' The children took it, and thought it very nice, but they little thought that we were so soon to be parted. The first was seven years old, the second, three, and the infant was in my arms. A mother's feelings are better felt than described. The children were taken and separated, and then, oh, my God! what I felt no tongue can tell." [Here the woman's emotions overcame her, and she could not proceed with her narrative for weeping. At length, recovering herself, she continued]: - "I was in hopes of getting my children back within a week or two, but my business could not be settled so soon. My babe took the measles; they went inwardly, and it took a deep decline. I knew it was very bad, and asked leave to go and see him. The mistress was very kind, and gave me leave. I found my child very bad, and the infant in my arms seemed declining every day. My feelings then were such as I can't tell you. I thought, 'Oh, if I could only get out and have my children with myself, how much better it would be!' I hurried them to settle my business for me; it originated in a dispute between St. George's and Wapping about our parish, my husband being at the sugar-house at work. At last the dispute was settled, but the one child died, whilst the other - the youngest - was dying. I was so anxious to get out that I could not wait till my child was buried. I asked relief to be settled on me out of doors, and it was granted. I was allowed 1s. a week and two loaves. The acting master asked me if I had any place to go to. I said I would take a room. 'Have you any bed,' he asked. I said 'Yes, but no bedding.' I was obliged to pledge it before I entered the house. He was a kind man, and said no doubt the overseers would get my blankets and bedding for me. 'My dear woman,' he said (for he saw I was an affectionate mother, and that I had nothing to begin with), 'here is a shilling for you.' He took it out of his own pocket, and I thought it very kind. The children were brought from Limehouse, and one of them was dead at the time. I went with an anxious heart to see its corpse, but I felt 'I cannot stay with you till you are buried, because I have another nearly dead; but I will come again on Wednesday to see you buried.' Well, I found my poor boy but a shadow - a mere skeleton of what he had been. I was overcome with my feelings, and I thought, 'Here is one dead, and another near death!' But I got up, and before ever I went to my room in Whitechapel I went to a doctor; but he said the boy was too far gone - that he wanted no medicine, but nourishing, for he was in a decline. I took him home, and said, 'One shilling a week and two loaves will not support us; there are three of us, and we can't be supported by that, with this sickness. Well, I must take to slop-shirts again.' I did so. But I was not able to earn so much as I used to do. I sometimes did three a day at 2d., sometimes three at ld., having needles and thread to find out of that. Half an ounce of coffee went us three times, and it had to be boiled up again, which made but a scanty meal, with a few potatoes. However, I was very glad to put up with it. And then at last I found it impossible to get on; when a man lodging in the house was anxious to get a partner, and made offers to me. I thought it better to accept them than to do worse; and by his promising to be good to me, I did comply. Soon after, it pleased God to take my other boy from me; till at last I was in trouble again, and the result was that I was in the family way, and thought, 'Now, what shall I do! My character is gone; it was good before, but now it is blemished.' The man did his part as well as he could, but the work he got was so little that he was not able to support us in a proper manner. We took a room together, and I am sorry to say some days he brought home nothing - other days, perhaps, no more than 2d. or 3d., or a few halfpence that he might pick up in carrying a letter to the Post-office, or the like, for a gentleman. Some days, perhaps, he would earn 1s., and for the next three days again often not a farthing. And I earned so little myself, that, sometimes going on so bad, I did not know what to do. I told the man that he and I must part; for I had seen nothing but starvation with him. My time was up, and it pleased the Lord that I was delivered of twins [here the poor creatures seemed visibly affected with the multiplied distresses of the speaker], and then my hands were full again. I looked at my babies, and, there being two of them, felt that I could never support them, and I became delirious for hours. The doctor, a kind-hearted man, said many a lady would be glad to have two such children as these. I said, 'God bless them! I shall have matches to all with them to get them a bit of bread.' Before I was able I was obliged to turn out. It was winter time, and I tried slop-shirts again to get a living, and was unable to earn 6d. a day. I got 10s. behind in my rent; my landlord threatened to take my sticks if I did not pay; and at last I went into the streets with matches. It was on a Saturday night, and I went to Shoreditch, thinking I would not be known, and fixed my position opposite the church, before a large china warehouse, kept by a man who, it was said, would not allow anyone to stand before his door. I was determined to persevere till turned away, as nothing could be done without it, and my children must have bread. I was not turned away, because I think the man sympathised with me; and I stood that night till my own and my child's pockets were full with the pence we received. At eleven o'clock my child said her pocket string had broke, and she would lose her money if she did not go away. We therefore went home, and, on counting our money, we had got no less than 4s. 3d., which we considered a good day's work. I said we would stop the lion's mouth with 3s., and so I paid 3s. of my rent that night. We had a meat dinner on Sunday. It was ox's neck, with a few potatoes, and that we considered a glorious dinner. Next Saturday night I went out again to Shoreditch, expecting as good success as before, but holding my head down like a bulrush, for fear that somebody would pass that knew me. I had not stood long before a female companion of my early days came up and observed me; she looked at me and said,' Susan, in the name of goodness, is that you? - and what has brought you here?' I said, 'Oh, Mary Ann, don't ask me, for I can't answer you: shame has bought me here!' She offered me 1s., which I at first refused to take, as she was a poor woman herself; but she made me comply, saying she wished she could afford more. Well, I did not succeed so well as I had done before, because I only got 4s. altogether, including my friend's 1s.; but I felt very well satisfied, as it was much better than slop-work. Well, one of my twins soon after died, and was buried by the parish. I had no parish relief then, for what I had done would make me be treated like a common prostitute, and I could not bear that. At last, one cold snowy Saturday night, I only obtained 9d., and after that resolved to go out no more. At last I consented, as the man wished me, to live with him again. But he earned very little, and I only got 2d. for what I had got 2d. for before at slop-work, and five farthings for what used to be 1d. Utterly distressed, I thought again of making away with my children. I locked the door, with the intention of taking their lives first and then my own, but God touched my conscience, and I could not do it. I kneeled down at the bed-side and prayed God to hold my hand. I got up with a grateful heart, determined to trust in Providence. But I owed my landlord 12s., and he threatened to take my things. He owed £12 of rent himself, however; and when the broker took my landlord's things, he took mine. I was turned into the street on New Year's eve - that was five years ago - in a state of pregnancy, with my little twin and my little girl along with me. I stood there till eleven, and I thought of an old lady I knew who kept a kitchen at King- street, and sent the man I was living with to ask her to give me a night's shelter. She said, 'Yes, as long as I have a roof above my head I will give you refuge.' I was very thankful; but could not expect them to turn out of their bed to give it to us; so we lay upon the floor without taking off our clothes. At last the man and I got a garret for ourselves, and, through the kindness of my friends and one of the gentlemen now present, I got a little furniture for it. I determined to separate from the man, being deeply impressed of the sin in which I was living. I was 5s. in debt at that time. I took to the trousers again. My girl learned, and we got a warehouse. I was not very quick myself, and we could not earn enough to support us. I am confident we did not earn 3s. 6d. each on the average. We earnt 8s. 6d. between us, and if we earnt 7s. by sitting up two nights a week, we felt that we had done a good week's work. A niece of mine came to me from Sheffield, about this time, and set to work with us. The three of us could earn 10s. or 11s. a week between us, by sitting up three nights a week. Coal, candle, and twist had to be found out of our earnings. My niece left us, being dissatisfied with her lot. I continued in that way, away from the man, for two years, and at last found it would not do. I got married two years ago, and have given up slop-work, and go out charing and washing. My daughter still continues at slop-work, however; but I am sure she could not live by it if she had nothing done for her, and depended on that alone. My firm belief, before God and man, is that three out of every four of the young women of London who do slop-work are obliged to resort to private or public prostitution to enable them to live. But I hope better things are coming at last; and God bless the gentlemen, I say, who have set this inquiry a-going to help the poor slop-workers; and I hope that, public attention being now called to these matters, the oppressed will be oppressed no longer, and that the Parliament House even will interpose to protect them. But I am sorry to say the good are not alwayi the powerful, nor the powerful always the good."
    For a few minutes no one spoke. All were evidently pondering upon the tale they had just heard. At length a woman, with a half- clad, well-formed infant at her breast, arose. She said: - 
    "I lived with the father of this child. He left me within two months of my confinement. I had no home to go to, till an old lady stuck me down beside her, and gave me victuals and drink till I was taken to bed. I left her to go to the workhouse. I was confined in the street on my way there. When I was delivered in the street, it was a very stormy day-thunder and lightning, with snow and hail. The old lady would not let me be confined in her house for fear of bringing trouble upon the parish. I was confined in the street; an old woman brought out a blanket, and threw it over me and the baby."
    the next speaker had an infant in her arms and a little girl by her side. She was evidently suffering acutely, both bodily and mentally: - 
    "I have this infant at the breast and another child. I lived with a young man eight or nine years. It is not in his power to make me his wife, because he has not the means to do so. I left him at different times, through sickness and distress, to go into the house. The last time I went in they were going to take the elder child from me and send it to Tooting, and another one that was suckling at my breast then, but I have buried it since. The thought of having my children taken from me was more than I could bear, and I thought I would rather starve. I went before the board. One gentleman wished to assist me, but the others were all against me. He said what I had stated about having my children taken from me was quite right, and commended me for going out. I went out and lived with the father of the child again, and got a little work as well as we could, him and me too. I fell in the family way again, and I lost my second child. We were so poor that we were forced to sell or part with anything that would fetch a penny to get food. Several times I went to the house, but they would not give me a loaf of bread for the children. I thought I would not go in - I would sooner do anything first. So we have gone on to the present time, and now I am working at the slops. I make coats, for which I get 6d. apiece, and it will take two-and-a-half days to make one coat. Trousers 3d. a pair, which has to be sewn with double thread, and lined; some I have made as low as a penny a pair. I have parted with everything: I have not scarcely a bed to lie on, or a thing to cover us. Through lying in that state I have the rheumatism so bad that I scarcely know what to do with myself. I have been obliged to pledge my work to get food for us to eat. We have been two-and-a-half days without tasting a bite; the whole family, children and all, crying for food. I know it is a crime to live as I do, but I have been drove, compelled to do it. I did not expect to be able to come here. I expected a woman to take me up, and I think she will give me in charge tomorrow for pledging my work." [Here she burst into tears and continued]: "I don't know what to do; my poor dear children will be taken away from me, and I am almost crazy. I have not a thing that will fetch a penny to get anything, and I have now no means of getting work. I have tasted nothing all day till I had a cup of tea down stairs." [Here the poor woman sat down, with a fresh burst of tears.]
    After this the following pathetic statement was made: - 
    "I am a tailoress, and I was brought to ruin by the foreman of the work, by whom I had a child. Whilst I could make an appearance I had work, but as soon as I was unable to do so I lost it. I had an afflicted mother to support, who was entirely dependent upon me. She had the tic doloureux for three months, and was unable to do anything for herself. I went on so for some months, and we were half starved, by means of my having so little work. I could only earn from 5s. to 6s. a week to support three of us, and out of that I had 1s. 6d. to pay for rent, and the trimmings to buy, which cost me 1s. a week full. I went on till I could go on no longer, and we were turned out into the street because we could not pay the rent - me and my child; but a friend took my mother. Every one turned their back upon me - not a friend stretched out a hand to save me. For six weeks I never lay down in a bed; my child and me passed all that time in the streets. At last of all I met a young man, a tailor, and he offered to get me work for his own base purposes. I worked for him - worked for him till I was in the family way again. I worked till I was within two months of my confinement. I had 1s. a day, and I took a wretched kitchen at 1s. a week; and 2s. I had to pay to have my child minded when I went to work. My mother left her friend's and went into the house, but I took her out again, she was so wretched, and she thought she could mind the child. In this condition we were all starving together. No one would come near us who knew my disgrace, and so I resolved I would not be my mother's death, and I left her. She went to her friend's, but she was so excited at going that it caused her death, and she died an hour after she got into her friend's house. An inquest was held upon her, and the jury returned a verdict that she died through a horror of going into the workhouse. I was without a home. I worked till I was within two months of my confinement, and then I walked the streets for six weeks, with my child in my arms. At last I went into Wapping Union: my child was taken from me, and there (bursting into tears) he was murdered. I mean he was torn from me; and when I next saw him he was a mere shadow. I took my discharge, and took him out, dying as he was. I took one in my arms, and my boy, dying as he was, and we wandered the streets for two or three days and nights. I then went back to the house. The matron said she would not take my child from me. She said he was dying, and he should die beside me. He died eleven days after we went in. I took my discharge again. I tried again to get a living, but I found it impossible, for I had no home, no friends, no means to get work. I then went in again, and the Lord took away my second child. I came out again and went into a situation. I remained in that situation fourteen months, when I was offered some work by a friend, and I have been at that work ever since. I have a hard living, and I earn from 4s. 6d. to 5s. a week. My children and mother are both dead. The tailor never did anything for me. I worked for him, and had 1s. a day. I never had one to stretch out a hand to save me, or I never should have had a second fall. From seven in the morning till one or two o'clock I work at making waistcoats and coats. I have 5d. apiece for double-breasted waistcoats, and 10d. and 11d. apiece for slop coats. I can assure you I can't get clothes or things to keep me in health. I never resorted to the streets since I had the second child."
    Then came the last confession of all: - 
    "I have three children to support; the eldest is thirteen years of age. I have no husband. The father of the children left me when I was seven months gone with the third child. He gave me 1s. the night he went away: that was on the 17th of March, and the child was born on the 1st of April. I have never heard of nor seen him since. I had a comfortable room of goods then, and I did not owe a farthing; but I have had to part with everything that would fetch a penny-piece since. My little girl will be 14 on the 9th of next January; and last week I got her a situation at 9d. a week and her victuals, at a hatmaker's; but her shoes are so bad that I am afraid she will be sent home by the lady, and I have no money to get her a better pair. I make trousers at 3d. a pair, duck frocks at 2d., duck trousers at five farthings a pair, and find thread. They have one pocket, six button-holes, and ten buttons. The trousers at 3d. a pair are lined, with two pockets, and sewed with double thread. If I sit from five in the morning till ten at night, I can only earn 9d. a day, and I am not able to pay anyone to take care of the children. I sit up two or three nights a week, and I work on Sundays - I am ashamed to say it - as well. I never know the taste of a bit of meat from one month's end to the other. If I have a cup of tea and a halfpenny herring for the children I am thankful. I have a kitchen, for which I pay a rent of 1s. a week. I have a small bed and one patchwork counterpane to cover me and the children." [Here the poor woman burst into tears, and was unable to proceed farther.]
    After having made these statements, they were asked what were their lowest earnings last week, when it appeared that four had earned under 1s., four under 1s. 6d., four under 2s., one under 2s. 6d. One woman said 3s. 6d. had been earned between two of them; another said she had earned 3s. 6d.; while a third declared she had not earned anything. Three said they had parted with their work for food. It was the unanimous declaration of the whole present, that if the meeting had been more generally known, several hundreds would have attended, who would conscientiously have made the same declaration they had done - that they were forced into a wrong course of life by the lowness of their wages.
    In answer to a question whether any had other clothes than what they appeared in, the very idea of a change of garments appeared to excite a smile. One and all declared they had not, and most asserted that even those they wore were not their own. One said, "This bonnet belongs to another woman;" another said, "This shawl belongs to my neighbour;" another said, "I have no frock, because I had to leave it in pawn for 6d.;" another said, "I have been forced to sit up this afternoon and put many a patch on this old frock, for the purpose of making my appearance here this evening;" another said, "The gown I have got on does not belong to myself;" while still another added, "I had to take the petticoat off my child, for 6d. to get victuals last Sunday morning."
    Whilst the meeting above reported was taking place, a large number, hearing that the female slopworkers had been requested to assemble, had congregated in the room below, and we immediately descended to take the statistics of the earnings and conditions of those who had collected there. At this meeting there were 62 females present. Of these, three were under the age of 20, 13 were between 20 and 30, 19 were between 30 and 40, 13 were between 40 and 50, 10 were between 50 and 60, and three between 70 and 80. Of these, 30 were married, 23 were widows, nine were single. There were eight widows with one child, four with two children, and two with three. There were five married women with one child, four with two, six with three, one with four, three with five, and one with seven children. Twenty-two worked first-handed, and 32 second; none appeared to work at third hand. Four were living at the houses of "sweaters," having tea and lodgings found them. The earnings of last week were - 21 below 1s.; seven below 1s. 6d.; six below 2s.; five below 2s. 6d.; 10 below 3s.; one below 3s. 6d.; one below 4s.; two below 5s.; above 5s., none; and the inquiry as to whether there were any present who earned 7s. was thought so absurd, that it was received with shouts of laughter.
    They all agreed that they must work hard, and sit up till twelve or one at night, to make from 6d. to 9d. a day clear; and that, taking one week's earnings with another, 1s. 6d. a week might be the average earnings throughout the year.
    That they were several months in the year without work was the unanimous declaration. Opinions seemed to be equally divided whether for four or six months.
    There were present twenty-three shirt-makers, one of whom made shirts at three farthings apiece and found cotton. The other prices and number of individuals present were - at 1d., four; 1d., 10; ld., 10; 2d., 13; 2d., nine; 3d., six; 3d., six; 4d., two; 4d., two; 5d., none; 6d., answered by great laughter.
    Of trousers makers there were 11. The prices at which they worked were - two for 1d. a pair, seven at 2d., five at 3d., three at 4d., four at 5d., seven at 6d., one at 8d., and one at 10d. -all finding trimmings, at ld. per pair.
    There were a few makers of waistcoats, who said the prices averaged from 2d. to 7d., the latter price being paid for satin ones [laughter]. It was also stated that blouses were made from 2d. to 5d., finding trimmings. Jackets, of which a woman produced one as a pattern, were 2d.; two could be made in a day, and the trimmings would cost d. This woman worked first-hand.
    There were 17 coat hands. The prices and number of hands present were - three for 5d. a coat, some got 6d. and 8d. One woman said she had got as high as 1s. 9d.; but the ordinary price was from 10d. to 1s., and these lined all through. Tweeds, fustians, moleskins, and pilots were from 1s. to 1s. 3d., heavy lined work. A 1s. coat would cost from ld. to 2d. for trimmings.
    An attempt was made to ascertain from those present how many might be engaged in slop working. One shop, it was stated, employed from 500 to 600 hands, another about 150, another from 300 to 400, another 1,000, another 40 to 50, another 500, another 300, another 600, another 50, another 30, another 50, another 1,000, another 600, another 250, another 40, another 100, another 300, another 25; being altogether, on a rough estimate, from 6,000 to 7,000 persons employed in this wretched mode of subsistence.
    The question, how many had meat every day for dinner? seemed to these poor creatures an exquisite joke, and they laughed heartily on its being put. Four had meat three days a week, and 29 on Sundays, the parties stating, at the same time, that they were indebted for this to their husbands; none got it by their own labour; they could hardly get a cup of tea. 
    Another question that greatly excited their merriment was, how many had been obliged to go to the pawnshop? - as it was found that nearly every one of them was familiar with that refuge for the unfortunate. Four of them had goods pledged to the extent of £4, two to the value of £3, eleven of £2, thirteen of £1, seven of 10s., - four of 5s., and fourteen had goods in pawn under 5s. value; thirteen widows and single women had parted with their beds, and twenty-six had parted with their under-clothing. These facts were received with such signs of astonishment, that it was evident even those assembled were not aware of the destitution of the work-women.
    Of the earnings of the husbands of the married women, it appeared that one earned under 15s. last week; nineteen earned under 10s.; six earned under 5s.; three under 4s.; one under 2s.; three under 1s.; while six had earned nothing whatever. Of these last, the women told piteous tales. One had been paralyzed seven months; two were dock labourers, but had earned nothing for weeks; another, a plasterer, had been out of work for twelve weeks; while another could get no work since February last.
    There were three who paid under 1s. for their lodgings; nineteen who paid under 1s. 6d.; eighteen under 2s.; ten under 2s. 6d.; one under 3s.; three under 3s. 6d.
    Ten had been forced to go into the workhouse; nineteen had been forced to pawn their work; thirty-one had been without food for a whole day through; five had fasted for a day and a half; while no fewer than seven had been obliged to go without food for the - period of two days. Yet, with one single exception, none of these - women would admit that they had ever had recourse to prostitution. Three had been driven to beg in the streets; one said she had often been very near taking to prostitution, but never did. They were, however, unanimous in declaring that a large number in the trade - probably one-fourth of the whole, or one-half of those who had no husband or parent to support them - resorted to the streets to eke out a living. Accordingly, assuming the Government returns to be correct, and that there are upwards of eleven thousand females under twenty living by needle and slop work, the numerical amount of prostitution becomes awful to contemplate. One woman stated - that all those who appeared with good clothes might be taken to resort to that mode of life; but she added, certainly with great truth, "you see there are none of that kind here."
    This closed the meeting.