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The day book. (Chicago, Ill.) 1911-1917, September 03, 1914, LAST EDITION, Image 14

Image and text provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library, Urbana, IL

Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045487/1914-09-03/ed-1/seq-14/

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caL We had an outside cabin con
taining six berths, two on each side.
There was a tiny porthole which
could not be opened. There was one
tiny bench built in by which the three
holders of "uppers!!, could ascend.
That was alL "
At five o'clock the vessel sailed.
From our steerage deck out in the
stern we had watched the first and
second-class passengers come on
board, and had seen the crowds of
Americans who could not get on
board waving "good-bye" and "good
luck" to those who had gotten on.
It was one of the finest things I had
seen. Some of these who were left
had been in line with us all morning,
begging for any kind of bunk on that
boat or any other.
Now they stood on the deck wav
ing American flags or handkerchiefs,
or if they had neither, just xheir
hands, and looking glad. There were
many of them there who hadn't
enough money to keep them another
night in Liverpool, but I think they
somehow helped each other.
We stayed in the harbor a long
time, waiting, I was told, for final
permission to fly the American flag
until we passed Queenstown.
I had never known anything about
steerage conditions before. The
word steerage, like the words emi
grants and immigrants, had meant
just the foreign peoples themselves,
the colors of their strange customs,
the bewilderment of their faces when
they reached Ellis Island, the odd,
silent stories which thay carried with
them to the innermost parts of Amer
ica. But I knew that every alien was
supposed to be in perfect health when
he landed in America, and I supposed
that some provision was made on the
steamers which brought them to at
least keep them well until they land
ed. But that was a .mistake, for nd
such precaution was taken. For an
ideal place in 'which to contract dis
ease of any nature whatsoever, or to
get into a condition to make one Ha-1
ble to attack by disease, the steerage
may be highly recommended.
I was in the steerage only from '
Thursday noon until Saturday after
noon, but I heard something of its
methods and manners. When I paid
the purser on Saturday for the
change I was making to second-class '
accommodations, I said to him: -
"I really don't think very much of
your steerage."
He threw me a scornful glance and
said: "Well, it wasn't intended for1
decent people. Those people don't'
want or expect any more. They are
used to barns, most of them."
All of which was perfectly true, but
really not quite to the point.
We had a guilty feeling that to
even notice conditions was a flagrant
case of looking straight into the gift
horse's mouth. But the gift-horse
kept his mouth wide open all the time
and fascinated, we could not look
away.
Our room was one of the very best,
being an outside one. The beds were
as hard as the boards on which they
were made. The mattresses, if that
was their name, were filled, or par
tially filled, with straw or cornhusks,
and covered with some coarse ma
terial. There were no sheets, and the
covering consisted of a black blanket.
The many doctors on board, on
their way home from the London
conference, were agreed, from their
knowledge of hospital fittings, that
these blankets had not been washed
recently.
We were thus sleeping directly un
der rough, black, unaired things,
which immigrant, with no chance
for bathing, had slept under on the
last trip. Even when we got on the
boat, the toilets and washbasins, of
which there were about twelve in all,
in two rows of six, for all the women'
steerage passengers, were dirty as
with the dirt of ages. The great
question was to wash or not to wash.
The food was the least of the evils,
so we believed. Breakfast was at
seven, which was too early, and tea2
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