"The Woman Who Toils" - Bessie and Marie van Vorst - Everybody's



The sisters-in-law van Vorst made the circuit as ostensible factory girls from the pickle factories of Pittsburgh to the shoe factories of Lynn, Massachuetts and on to the cotton mills of North Carolina. Originally published in a series in Everybody's Magazine in 1902, it became a book, published by Doubleday, the following year. Their starting point was an unapologetic sense of superiority over the wage earners they spent months impersonating, living and working among. Reviewers were quick to point to this approach as both a plus and a minus. As for revelations, they reported on the surprising number of young women whose only reason for working in the factories was near folly -- to earn pocket money for clothes and leisure -- and how that had depressed wages and opportunity for women who needed the jobs to support themselves or their families.

Media History

The reporting was intended for these media types: Magazine, Book

Effects and Outcomes

Of the toiling women ruses, the work of the sisters-in-law van Vorsts was among the most successful. A book that followed their series in Everybody's Magazine became a bestseller of 1903 in the "Miscellaneous" category, holding its own for half a year against such formidable competitors as Helen Keller's "The Story of My Life" and Booker T. Washington's "Up from Slavery." The book contained their reports on additional exploits.

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