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

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

"Nell Nelson" Spends a Half-Day in the Princess Knitting Company's Unwholsomene Factory

by: Nell Nelson | publication date: August 18, 1888 | Publication: Chicago Times | pages: 1-2

Princess Knitting company: pretty name, isn't it? Done in gens d'arm blue letters on a navy-blue ground it makes an exceedingly effective sign.  The very colors suggest the claims of long descent and blue blood.  But the Princess company of West Washington street has nothing to do with the blue blood or gentle women, and there is nothing pretty about it but the sweet young girls of 15 and 16 and the frail children of 5 and 10 whose lives are being wound about the great wooden bobbins and from whose cheeks the roses of health and beauty are slowly absorbed by the flying threads in shuttle, needle, and spindle.  Princess Knitting company is only another name for the women's shirt factory at 155 West Washington street.  Up one flight of stairs I pass into a tidy little office where a fine looking gentleman gives me greeting and calls the forewoman, Mrs.McWilliams.  She is young and pretty.  Her voice is sweet and she has a good face.  "Yes, I have work but it won't pay you. You can't live on the salary.  I wouldn't advise you to take it.  The table girls only get $3 a week. Their work consists in sewing on buttons and finishing the arm-holes of the shirts.  We have generally employed little girls of 12 and 13 to do it.  Better work pays by the piece, 5 cents and 10 cents a dozen for knitting a finish about the neck and arm-holes and bottom of the shirts.  But you would have to be experienced; we couldn't tae the time to teach you."  

Nell Nelson works a job usually completed by female child laborers at a Chicago factory. Part of an undercover series exposing working conditions in the city's industries for women.

public domain