Pauline Newman on working at the Triangle
DESCRIPTION: A passage from Pauline Newman's personal papers in which she describes the experience of working at the infamous Triangle Waist Company. TEXT: … The job I found next was to sew buttons on shirtwaists. The shop was located in an old walk-up building on Jackson Street, near the East River and facing what was then called Jackson Street park… At the end of my first day’s work I was handed a slip of paper showing that I had earned thirty-five cents! I considered myself rich! The day’s work was supposed to end at six in the afternoon. But, during most of the year we youngsters worked overtime until 9 p.m. every night except Fridays and Saturdays. No, we did not get additional pay for overtime. At this point it is worth recording the generocity [sic] of the Triangle Waist Co. by giving us a piece of apple pie for supper instead of additional pay! Working men and women of today who receive time and one half and at times double time for overtime will find it difficult to understand and to believe that the workers of those days were evidently willing to accept such conditions of labor without protest. However, the answer is quite simple – we were not organized and we knew that individual protest amounted to the loss of one’s job. No one in those days could afford the luxury of changing jobs – there was no unemployment insurance, there was nothing better than to look for another job which will not be better than the one we had. Therefore, we were, due to our ignorance and poverty, helpless against the power of the exploiters. As you will note, the days were long and the wages were low – my starting wage was just one dollar and a half a week – a long week – consisting more often than not, of seven days. Especially this was true during the season, which in those days were longer than they are now. I will never forget the sign which on Saturday afternoons was posted on the wall near the elevator stating – “If you don’t come in on Sunday you need not come in on Monday!” What choice did we have except to look for another job on Monday morning. We did not relish the thought of walking the factory district in search of another job. And would we find a better one? We did not think so. So we came in to work on Sundays, tho we did not like it. As a matter of fact we looked forward to the one day on which we could sleep a little longer, go to the park and get to see one’s friends and relatives. It was a bitter disappointment. RIGHTS: Pauline Newman, Pauline Newman Papers, Box 1, folder 3, pages 14-16, Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University

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Time Period: Modern (Spinoza through post-WWII)