VII-"City Slave Girls" - Nell Nelson - Chicago Daily Times

VII-"City Slave Girls" - Nell Nelson - Chicago Daily Times

Nell Nelson Puts in a Whole Day with Pardridge & Co. on State Street

by: Nell Nelson | publication date: August 5, 1888 | Publication: Chicago Times | pages: 17

Wednesday morning I began my career as a dry-goods clerk.  It took all my wits to get an opening.  At Field's Mandel's, Walker's, and Schlesinger's no help was needed and none would be taken without experience.  By all the managers I was treated politely. Lloyd didn't want any more help and told me so with vehemence. The big blonde who manages the Bee Hive was "very sorry he could not offer anything before the fall trade opened."  I told him I was quick at figures and knew I could sell goods if only I had a chance.  No, it was too late in the season and I had better come in again.  I asked how much he thought I would be worth. "Oh, $3.50 or $4 till you are experienced."  
"Couldn't you give me $5?" 
"Hardly." 
"Not if I prove to you that I can make and keep custom?" 
"You can't expect $5 any place in town.  You see, you are green: you don't know anything about the business." 
"The goods are all marked, aren't they? Well I know enough about mathematics to master the intracacies of your check and order stub in ten minutes, and I must have work right off with salary enough to live on."  
He put his foot up on a chair and with a show of genuine interest wanted to know what it cost me to live.  As I gave him the figures borrowed from a single girl in Julius Stein's employ, he took them down on a stub: 
 
 
Lodgings: -------------------------------$1.70
Car fare:--------------------------------- 60
Lunches:---------------------------------- 30
 
That makes $2.40, and if you pay me $4 I will have $1.60 a week to live on.  Perhaps you can tell me where a girl can get food and clothes for that amount? 
"No I can't.  But why don't you go to the factory and sew?" 
"Make shirts for 80 cents a dozen and cloth jackets at 25 cents each? One trial is enough.  Now I am going to see what I can make clerking" and thanking him for his attention I withdrew.  In the City of Paris the manager told me I would have to begin on a small pay, $3 or so, till the season opened, and that I might come in the next morning and he would try me.  
 

Nell Nelson works as a dry-goods clerk as part of her undercover look into the conditions for female laborers in Chicago's factory industry.

public domain