Studies in the History of Overseas Migrations
Stan Nadel: European Immigrant Poverty in America
European Immigrant Poverty in America Stan Nadel (University of Portland, Salzburg Austria Center) In the Fall of 1855 Celia and Wanda S. gave up. Three years earlier the two young unmarried German sisters had migrated to America along with Wanda’s illegit- imate son Edward. The only skills they had involved sewing so they made their living as embroiderers in New York City. But despite putting in long hours at their craft they found that they could hardly get by on the miniscule wages paid to women for such work in America. Sometimes they had to borrow money from friends to survive and after two years of increasing desperation they told a friend that “if things grew much worse” they would send the boy to his father in Germany and take poison. In the fall of 1855 things did grow worse. Their em- ployer went out of business and the two sisters were unable to find work. Soon the rent was due and the larder was empty. They had already borrowed all that they could, their money was gone, and they were unwilling to turn to prostitu- tion. By September 4th they had reached the end of their rope. They got their landlady to give them another day to pay the rent and they used their last few pennies to buy some flowers. Setting out the flowers to cheer up the bare room, they got into their one bed with six year old Edward. Settled in bed with the flowers in...
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