A Typical Old-Style Steerage: An Investigator's Report (1911)
“ The statements in this report, unless otherwise indicated, are based on actual experiences and observations made during a twelve days’ voyage in the steerage of the ______ [ in 1908]
“ I arrived in ____ as a ‘ single woman ’ in the disguise of a Bohemian peasant, under an assumed name, and with passage engaged in the steerage on the _____. I called out the name of the agent from whom my ticket was purchased, ______, as directed in the circular sent me, and was approached by a porter, who carried my baggage and led me to ______ office.
From here, we were directed to a lodging house at which Bohemians and Moravians are usually lodged. Here I remained until my vessel sailed. The charges were 3 kronen a day for a fair bed and three meals—-a breakfast of coffee and rolls; a dinner of soup, boiled beef, potatoes, and another vegetable; and a supper of coffee, rye bread, and butter.
Later, on the steamer, other passengers told me of the places at which they had stopped. Some said the board had been much better than was being served on the ____ . Others complained that the landlords had tried to overcharge them, and when they rebelled, that half of the original bill was gladly accepted. No one could tell very definitely where he had lodged. Each spoke of it as the agent’s, probably because he had been sent there by some clerk in the agent’s office.
“ During the day it was necessary to present myself at the agent’s office, pay the balance of my passage money, and give certain information about myself. This consisted of my name, age, occupation, name and address of people to whom I was going, name and address of nearest relative left behind, amount of money in my possession, nationality, last residence, whether married or single, and whether ever before in America.
“ Beyond this no inquiries or investigation were made as to my literacy , my past, the source of my passage money, my morals, or mental condition. My ‘work book ’ (Note a) which was to serve as my passport out of Austria, a counterfeit with a false and completely blurred seal, was closely examined, but no unfavorable criticism was offered.
“ On the day just prior to sailing all the steerage passengers who were not American citizens were vaccinated by the physician from the _____ and one other. The women bared their arms in one room, the men in another. No excuse was sufficient to escape this requirement. However, the skin was not even pierced in any one of the three spots on my arm, and I later found this to be true in the case of many of the other passengers. The eyes were casually examined by the same physicians. Each ‘inspection card’ was stamped by the United States consulate and also marked ‘vaccinated.’
“July 30 we went by train from ______to ______ , where in the waiting room we were classed as ‘families,’ ‘single women ’—that is women traveling alone-—and ‘ single men,’ or men traveling alone. Thus subdivided we went on board, each class into a compartment especially assigned to it.
“ The compartment provided for single women was in some respects superior to the quarters occupied by the other steerage passengers. It was likewise in the stern of the vessel, but was located on the main deck and had formerly been the second cabin. The others were on the first deck below the main deck.
“All the steerage berths were of iron, the framework forming two tiers and having but a low partition between the individual berths. Each bunk contained a mattress filled with straw and covered with a slip made of coarse white canvas, apparently cleaned for the voyage.
There were no pillows. Instead, a life preserver was placed under the mattress at the head in each berth. A short and lightweight white blanket was the only covering provided. This each passenger might take with him on leaving. It was practically impossible to undress properly for retiring because of insufficient covering and lack of privacy. Many women had pillows from home and use shawls and other clothing for coverings."
“ Other conditions in our compartment were unusually good, owing to the small number of passengers, 36 instead of 194 in this particular section. We were not crowded and there was better air and fewer odors. The vacant berths could be used as clothes racks and storage space for hand baggage.
“Our compartment was subdivided into three sections—one for the German women, which was completely boarded off from the rest; one for Hebrews; and one for all other creeds and nationalities together.
The partition between these last two was merely a fence, consisting of four horizontal 6-inch boards. This neither kept out odors nor cut off the view.
“The single men had their sleeping quarters directly below ours, and adjoining was the compartment for families and partial families—that is, women and children. In this last section, every one of the 60 beds was occupied and each passenger had only the 100 cubic feet of space required by law.
The Hebrews were here likewise separated from the others by the same ineffectual fence, consisting of four horizontal boards and the intervening spaces. During the first six days, the entire 60 berths were separated from the rest of the room by a similar fence. Outside the fence was the so-called dining room, getting all the bedroom smells from these 60 crowded berths. Later the spaces in, above, and below the fence were entirely boarded up."
“The floors in all these compartments were of wood. They were swept every morning and the aisles sprinkled lightly with sand. None of them was washed during the twelve days voyage nor was there any indication that a disinfectant was being use on them. The beds received only such attention as each occupant gave to his own.
When the steerage is full, each passenger’s space is limited to his berth, which then serves as bed, clothes and towel rack, cupboard, and baggage space. There are no accommodations to encourage the steerage passenger to be clean and orderly. There was no hook on which to hang a garment, no receptacle for refuse, no cuspidor, no cans for use in case of seasickness."
“Two wash rooms were provided for the use of the steerage. The first morning out, I took special care to inquire for the women’s washroom. One of the crew directed me to a door bearing the sign ‘Wash room for men'. Within were both men and women. Thinking I had been misdirected, I proceeded to the other washroom.
This bore no label and was likewise being used by both sexes. Repeating my inquiry, another of the crew directed me just as the first had done. Evidently, there was no distinction between the men’s and the women’s wash rooms. These were on the main deck and not convenient to any of the sleeping quarters. To use them one had to cross the open deck, subject to the public gaze. In the case of the families and men, it was necessary to come upstairs and cross the deck to get to both washrooms and toilets."
“The one wash room, about 7 by 9 feet, contained 10 faucets of cold salt water, 5 along either of its two walls, and as many basins. These resembled in size and shape the usual stationary laundry tub. Ten persons could scarcely have used this room at one time. The basins were seldom used on account of their great inconvenience and because of the various other services to which they must be put.
To wash out of a laundry tub with only a little water on the bottom is quite difficult, and where so many persons must use so few basins, one cannot take the time to draw so large a basin full of water. This same basin served as at dishpan for greasy tins, as a laundry tub for soiled handkerchiefs and clothing, and as a basin for shampoos, and without receiving any special cleaning. It was the only receptacle to be found for use in the case of seasickness."
“The space indicated to me as the ‘women’s wash room’ contained 6 faucets of cold salt water and basins like those already described. The hot-water faucet did not act. The sole arrangement for washing dishes in all the steerage was located in the women's washroom. It was a trough about 4 feet long, with a faucet of warm salt water.
This was never hot, and seldom more than lukewarm. Coming up in single file to wash dishes at the trough would have meant very long waiting for those at the end of the line, and to avoid this many preferred cold water and the washbasins. The steerage stewards also brought dishes here to wash. If there was no privacy in our sleeping quarters, there certainly was none in the washrooms. "
“Steerage passengers may be filthy, as is often alleged, but considering the total absence of conveniences for keeping clean, this uncleanliness seems but a natural consequence. Some may really be filthy in their habits, but many make heroic efforts to keep clean. No woman with the smallest degree of modesty, and with no other conveniences than a washroom, used jointly with men, and a faucet of cold salt water can keep clean amidst such surroundings for a period of twelve days and more.
It was forbidden to bring water or washing purposes into the sleeping compartments, nor was there anything in which to bring it. On different occasions, some of the women rose early, brought drinking water in their soup pails, and thus tried to wash themselves effectively, but were driven out when detected by the steward. Others, resorting to extreme measures, used night chambers, which they carry with them for the children, as washbasins. This was done a great deal when preparation was being made for landing. Even hair was washed with these vessels. No soap and no towels were supplied. "
“Seeing the sign ‘Baths’ over a door, I inquired if these were for the steerage. The chief steerage steward informed me that this sign no longer meant anything; that when that section had been used by the second cabin the baths had been there. ‘Are there then no baths for the steerage?” I asked. ‘Oh, yes; in the hospital,’ he assured me. “Where all the steerage may bathe?' I continued. “They are really only for those in the hospital, but if you can persuade the stewardess to prepare you a bath, I will permit you to have one, he replied.
“The toilets for women were six in number—for men about five. They baffle description as much as they did use. Each room or space was exceedingly narrow and short, and instead of a seat there was an open trough, in front of which was an iron step and back of it a sheet of iron slanting forward. On either side wall was an iron handle.
The toilets were filthy and difficult of use and were apparently not cleaned at all during the first few days. Later in the voyage they were evidently cleaned every night, but not during the day. The day of landing, when inspection was made by the customs official who came on board, the toilets were clean, the floors in both toilets and wash rooms were dry, and the odor of a disinfectant was noticeable. All these were conditions that did not obtain during the voyage or at any one time. "
“Each steerage passenger is to be furnished all the eating utensils necessary. These he finds in his berth, and like the blanket they his possession and his care. They consist of a fork, a large spoon, and a combination workingman's tin lunch pail. The bottom or pail art is used for soup and frequently as a washbasin; a small tin dish that fits into the top of the pail is used for meat and potatoes; a cylindrical projection on the lid is a dish for vegetables or stewed fruits; a tin cup that fits onto this projection is for drinks.
These must serve the passenger throughout the voyage and so are generally hidden away in his berth for safekeeping, there being no other place provided. Each washed his own dishes, and if he wished to use soap and a towel, he must provide his own."
“Dish washing is not easy, as there is only one faucet of warm water, and when there is no chance to use this, he has no other choice than to try to get the grease off of his tins with cold salt water. As the ordinary man doesn’t carry soap and dish towels with him, he has not these aids to proper dish washing.
He uses his hand towel, if he happens to have one, or his handkerchief, or must let the dishes dry in the sun. The quality of the tin and this method of washing is responsible for the fact that the dishes are soon rusty, and not fit to eat from. Here, as in the toilet and washrooms, it would require persons of very superior intelligence, skill, and ingenuity to maintain order with the given accommodations."
“The steamship company clearly complies with the requirement that tables for eating be supplied in the steerage, and in spite of efforts cannot make the steerage passengers use these tables. Apparently, it is true that the immigrants did not make use of the conveniences provided. But where are these tables, and how convenient is it to eat at them?
The main steerage dining room was a part of a compartment on the first deck below the main deck. It contained seven long tables, each with two benches, and seating at most 12 persons. The remainder of the compartment contained 60 berths closely crowded together, the sleeping quarters for families.
During the first few days, the partition between these crowded sleeping quarters and the dining room was but a fence made of four 6-inch boards running horizontally. Only later was this partition made a solid wall. Most people preferred the open deck to this dining room and its disagreeable odors."
“A table without appointment and service means nothing. The food was brought into the dining room in large galvanized tin cans. The meat and vegetables were placed on the tables in tins resembling smaller sized dishpans. There were no serving plates, knives, or spoons.
Each passenger had only his combination dinner pail, which is more convenient away from a table than at it. This he had to bring himself and wash when he had finished. Liquid food could not be easily served at the tables, so each must line up for his soup and coffee.
No places at table were assigned and no arrangement made for two sittings, and as all could not be seated at once, the result was disorder, to escape which many left the dining room. Beside these seven tables, there were two on the main deck, in the sleeping compartments of the single women.
In the other two sleeping compartments, there were shelves along the wall and benches by the side of these. Including these, there was barely seating capacity for the small number in the steerage on this trip. On inquiring where the passengers were seated when the steerage was crowded, I was told by the Hebrew cook and several others of the crew that then there was no pretense made to seat them. The attempt at serving-us at tables was soon given up. "
“If the steerage passengers act like cattle at meals, it is undoubtedly because they are treated as such. The stewards complain that they crowd like swine, but unless each passenger seizes his pail when the bell rings announcing the meal and hurries for his share, he is very likely to be left without food. No time is wasted in the serving.
One morning, wishing to see if it were possible for a woman to rise and dress without the presence of men onlookers, I watched and waited my chance. There was none until the breakfast bell rang, when all rushed off to the meal. I arose, dressed quickly, and hurried to the washroom. When I went for my breakfast, it was no longer being served.
The steward asked why I hadn’t come sooner saying, “The bell rang at 5 minutes to 7, and now it is 20 after. I suggested that twenty-five minutes wasn’t a long time for serving 160 people, and also explained the real reason of my tardiness. He then said that under the circumstances I could still have some bread.
However, he warned me not to use that excuse again. As long as no systematic order is observed in serving food in the steerage, the passengers will resort to the only effective method they know. Each will rush to get his share. "
“Breakfast always consists of a cereal, coffee, white bread, and either butter or prune jam. In the afternoon, coffee and dried bread were served. The two Sundays we were out, this was changed to chocolate and coffee cake, which were quite good and greatly appreciated.
“The dinners and suppers were as follows:
Thursday, July 30 .—Dinner: Macaroni soup, boiled beef, potatoes, white bread. Supper: Stew of meat and potatoes, tea, black bread, and butter.
Friday, July 31 .—Dinner: Lentil soup, boiled fish, potatoes, gravy, white # Supper: Hash (mostly potatoes), dill pickle, tea, black bread, and butter.
Saturday August 1 .—Dinner: Stewed liver, gravy, potatoes, stewed rice with dried apples and raisins, white bread. Supper: Boiled fish, potatoes, gravy, tea, black bread, and butter.
Sunday, August 2 .—Dinner: Salt pork, potatoes, string beans, white bread. Supper: Sausage, potatoes, tea, black bread, butter.
Monday, August 3 .—Dinner: Soup meat (evidently stewed leftovers of roasts), potatoes, white bread. Supper: Sauerkraut with liver (left over from Saturday), potatoes, tea, black bread, and butter.
Tuesday, August 4 .—Dinner: Sausage, potatoes, a vegetable mixture, white bread. Supper: Pickled herring, potatoes, tea, black bread.
Wednesday, August 5 .—Dinner: Soup, corned beef, potatoes, white bread. Supper: Mutton stew, cabbage, potatoes, tea, black bread, butter.
Thursday, August 6 .—Dinner: Macaroni soup, meat with gravy, potatoes, lentils, raisin bread. Supper: Potatoes, with meat gravy, tea, black bread, butter.
Friday, August 7 .—Dinner: Pea soup, either herring or meat with gravy, potatoes, cabbage, bread. Supper: Canned fish, potatoes, tea, black bread, butter.
Saturday. August 8 .—Dinner: Vegetable soup, left-overs of roast, potatoes, white bread. Supper: Hash (mostly potatoes), pickle, tea, black bread.
Sunday, August 9 .—Dinner: Soup, salt pork, potatoes, cabbage, bread. Supper: Sausage, potatoes, tea, black bread, butter.
Monday, August 10 .—Dinner: Soup, beef, potatoes, string beans, white bread. Supper: Boiled eggs, fried potatoes, bread.
“These menus sound well and the allowances for each person were generous, but the quality and the preparation of much of the food were inferior. It is no doubt a difficult matter to satisfy so many persons of such varied tastes, but the passengers of the nationality of the line were as [vocal in] their complaints of this cooking as any of the others. So simple a thing as coffee was not properly prepared. I carefully watched the process by which it was made. The coffee grounds, sugar, and milk were put in a large galvanized tin can. Hot water, not always boiling, was poured over these ingredients. This was served as coffee.
“The white bread, potatoes, and soup, when hot, were the only foods that were good, and these received the same favorable criticism from passengers of all nationalities. The meats were generally old, tough, and bad smelling. The same was true of the fish, excepting pickled herring. The vegetables were often a queer, unanalyzable mixture, and therefore avoided. The butter was rarely edible.
The stewed dried prunes and apples were merely the refuse that is left behind when all the edible fruit is graded out. The prune jam served at breakfast, judging by taste and looks, was made from the lowest possible grade of fruit. Breakfast cereals, a food foreign to most Europeans, were merely boiled and served in an abundance of water. The black bread was soggy and not at all like the good, wholesome, coarse black bread served in the cabin."
“During the twelve days only about six meals were fair and gave satisfaction. More than half of the food was always thrown into the sea. Hot water could be had in the galley, and many of the passengers made tea and lived on this and bread. The last day out we were told on every hand to look pleasant, else, we would not be admitted in Baltimore.
To help bring about this happy appearance the last meal on board consisted of boiled eggs, bread, and fried potatoes. Those who commented on this meal said it was ‘the best yet.’ None of this food was thrown into the sea, but all was eagerly eaten. If this simple meal of ordinary food, well prepared, gave such general satisfaction, then it is really not so difficult after all to satisfy the tastes" of the various nationalities.
A few simple standard dishes of fair quality and properly prepared, even though less generously served, would, I am positive, give satisfaction. The expense certainly would not be greater than that now caused by the waste of so much inferior food. The interpreter, the chief steerage steward, and one other officer were always in attendance during the meals to prevent any crowding. When all had been served, these three walked about among the passengers asking: ‘Does the food taste good’? ’ The almost invariable answer was: ‘it has to; we must eat something.’"
“There was a bar at which drinks, fruits, candies, and other such things were sold. This was well patronized. Those who had any money to spare soon spent it at the bar—-the men for drinks, the women for fruit. Several of them told me they simply had to supplement the poor food, and in doing so had spent all they dared for apples and oranges at 3 cents apiece. Different stewards told me that 1,000 marks and more were taken in at the bar when travel was heavier.
“There was a separate galley and another cook for the preparation of kosher food for the Hebrews. They used the same tables with others if they used any, and were served in the same manner. Their food also seemed of the same quality.
“The two clean, light, airy hospital rooms on the port side of the main deck, one for women, the other for men, made a good first impression. Each contained 12 berths in two tiers. The iron framework was the same as that of all the steerage berths, but the beds had white sheets and pillows with white slips. By the side of each berth was a frame, holding a glass and a bottle of water, also a sick can. A toilet and bath adjoined each hospital.
The steerage stewardess, whose chief duties were distributing milk for little children, and giving out bread at meals, acted as nurse. According to her own statement, she had never had any training in the care of the sick. She spoke German and some English. The interpreter, I was told, interprets for her and the doctor when it is necessary. However, when the doctor learned that I could speak both Slavic languages and German, he called on me to interpret for him in the case of each of his four Slavic patients."
“On one occasion a 6-year-old girl was seized with violent cramps. The doctor ordered a hot bath, but the hot-water faucet gave forth nothing. The stewardess had to bring hot water from the galley across one deck, up the stairs, across another deck, and down other stairs. Later he ordered a cold bath, which could be given only after another delay. The water ran so thick and filthy that it was not fit to use. There were no towels, and a sheet was used instead. Aside from the berths and a washstand, there were no hospital conveniences or apparatus in the room. The most trivial articles had to be sent for to the ‘drug store’ at some distance.
“At another time I had proof of the difficulty of getting the doctor to respond to a call. A Polish girl was suffering with severe pains in her chest and side. This was reported to a passing officer with the request that the doctor be sent. Later the same request was made of the chief steward, and then of another officer. Finally, someone secured the stewardess and she went for the doctor. In all more than two and one-half hours had elapsed between the time when the case was first reported and the doctor’s appearance. The doctor never was sympathetic, and when not indifferent was quite rough.
“I remarked to this physician that I and many others were not going to have any vaccination mark to present, and I showed some fear of not being admitted at Baltimore. He assured me, with a smile of self-satisfaction, that the mark on the inspection card was the important matter.
“The daily medical inspection of the steerage was carried on as follows: The second day out we all passed in single file before the doctor as he leisurely conversed with another officer, casting an occasional lance at the passing line. The chief steerage steward punched six ho es in each passenger’s inspection card, indicating that the inspection for six days was complete.
One steward told me this was done to save the passengers from going through this formality every day. The fourth day out we were again reviewed. The doctor stood by. Another officer holding a cablegram blank in his hand compared each passenger’s card to some writing on it. There was another inspection on the seventh day, when we were required to bare our arms and show the vaccinations. Again, our cards were punched six times and this completed the medical examination. Just before landing, we were reviewed by some officer who came on board and checked us off on a counting machine operated by a ship’s officer. "
“In the women’s sleeping compartment, in an inconspicuous place, here hung a small copy of section 7, passenger act for 1882, in German and English. A similar copy hung in the so-called dining room. Few of the women could read either of these languages. From the time we boarded the steamer until we landed, no woman in the steerage had a moment’s privacy.
One steward was always on duty in our compartment, and others of the crew came and went continually. Nor was this room a passageway to another part of the vessel. The entrance was also the only exit. The men who came may or may not have been sent there on some errand.
This I could not ascertain, but I do know that, regularly, during the hour or so preceding the breakfast bell and while we were rising and dressing, several men usually passed through and returned for no ostensible reason. If it were necessary for them to pass so often, another passageway should have been provided or a more opportune time chosen."
“As not nearly all the berths were occupied, we all chose upper ones. To get anything from an upper berth, to deposit anything in it or to arrange it, it was necessary to stand on the framework of the one below. The women often had to stand thus, with their backs to the aisle. The crew in passing a woman in this position never failed to deal her a blow—even the head steward. If a woman were dressing, they always stopped to watch her, and frequently hit and handled her. Even though they were sent there, this was not their errand.
“Two of the stewards were quite strict about driving men out of our quarters. One other steward who had business in our compartment was as annoying a visitor as we had and he began his offenses even before we left port. Some of the women wished to put aside their better dresses immediately after coming on board. As soon as they began to undress, he stood about watching and touching them. They tried to walk away, but he followed them. Not one day passed but I saw him annoying some women, especially in the washrooms. At our second and last inspection, this steward was assigned the duty of holding each woman by her bare arm that the doctor might better see the vaccination. '
“A small notice stating the distance traveled was posted each day just within the entrance to our compartment. It was the only one posted in the steerage as far as I could learn, and consequently both crew and men passengers came to see it and it served as an excuse for coming at all times. The first day out the bar just within our entrance was used. This brought a large number of men into our compartment, many not entirely sober, but later the bar was transferred.
“One night, when I had retired very early with a severe cold, the chief steerage steward entered our compartment, but not noticing me approached a Polish girl who was apparently the only occupant. She spoke in Polish, saying, ‘My head aches—please go on and let me alone.’ But he merely stood on and soon was taking unwarranted liberties with her. The girl, weakened by seasickness, defended herself as best she could, but soon was struggling to get out of the man’s arms. Just then, other passengers entered and he released her. Such was the man who was our highest protector and court of appeal.
“I cannot say that any woman lost her virtue on this passage, but in making free with the women the men of the crew Went as far as possible without exposing themselves to the danger of punishment. But this limit is no doubt frequently overstepped. Several of the crew told me that many of them marry girls from the steerage. When I insinuated that they could scarcely become well enough acquainted to marry during the passage, the answer was that the acquaintance had already gone so far that marriage was imperative.
“There was n outside main deck and an upper deck on which the steerage were allowed. These were each about 40 feet wide by 50 feet long, but probably half of this space was occupied by machinery, ventilators, and other apparatus. There was no canvas to keep out the rain, sun, and continual showers of cinders from the smokestack. These fell so thick and fast that two young sailor boys were kept busy sweeping them off the decks. It is impossible to remain in one’s berth at the time, and as there were no smoking and sitting rooms, we spent most of the day on these decks. No benches nor chairs were provided, so we sat wherever we could find a place on the machinery, exposed to the sun, fog, rain, and cinders. These not only filled our hair, but also flew into our eyes, often causing considerable pain.
“These same two outdoor decks were used also by the crew during their leisure. “Then asked what right they had there, they answered: ‘As much as the passengers.’ No notices hung anywhere about to refute this. The manner in which the sailors, stewards, firemen, and others mingled with the Women passengers was thoroughly revolting.
Their language and the topics of their conversation were vile. Their comments about the women, and made in their presence, were coarse. What was far worse and of continual occurrence was their handling the women and girls. Some of the crew were always on deck, and took all manner of liberties with the women, in broad daylight as well as after dark."
“Not one young woman in the steerage escaped attack. The writer herself was no exception. A hard, unexpected blow in the offender’s face in the presence of a large crowd of men, an evident acquaintance with the stewardess, doctor, and other officers, general experience, and manner were all required to ward off further attacks.
Some few of the women, perhaps, did not find these attentions so disagreeable; some resisted them for a time, then weakened; some fought with all their physical strength, which naturally was powerless against a man’s. Others were continually fleeing to escape. Two more refined and very determined Polish girls fought the men with pins and teeth, but even they weakened under this continued warfare and needed some moral support about the ninth day.
The atmosphere was one of general lawlessness and total disrespect for women. It naturally demoralized the women themselves after a time. There was no one to whom they might appeal. Besides, most of them did not know the official language on the steamer, nor were they experienced enough to know they were entitled to protection. "
“The interpreter, who could and should a friend of the immigrants, passed through the steerage but twice a day. He positively discouraged every approach. I purposely tried on several occasions to get advice and information from him, but always failed. His usual answer was, ‘How in the d___ do I know? ’ The chief steerage steward by his own familiarity with the women made himself impossible as their protector.
Once when a man passenger was annoying two Lithuanian girls I undertook to rescue them. The man poured forth a volley of oaths at me in English. Just then, the chief steward appeared, and to test him I made complaint. The offender denied having sworn at all, but I insisted that he had, and that I understood. The steward then administered this reproof, ‘You let them girls alone or I fix you easy.’"
“The main deck was hosed every night at 10, when we were driven in. The upper deck was washed only about four times during the voyage. At 8 each evening, we were driven below. This was to protect the women; one of the crew informed me. What protection they gained on the equal dark and unsupervised deck below isn’t at all clear. What worse things could have befallen them there than those to which they were already exposed at the hands of both the crew and the men passengers would have been criminal offenses.
Neither of these decks was lighted, because, as one sailor explained, maritime usage does not sanction lights either in the bow or stern of a vessel, the two parts always use by the steerage. The descriptions that I might give of the mingling of the crew and passengers on these outdoor decks would be endless and all necessarily much the same. A series of snap shots would give a more accurate and impressive account of this evil than can words. I would here suggest that any agent making a similar investigation be supplied with a Kodak for this purpose. "
“To sum up, let me make some general statements that will give an idea of the awfulness of steerage conditions on the steamer in question. During these twelve days in the steerage, I lived in a disorder and in surroundings that offended every sense. Only the fresh breeze from the sea overcame the sickening odors.
The vile language of the men, the screams of the women defending themselves, the crying of children, wretched because of their surroundings, and practically every sound that reached the ear, irritated beyond endurance. There was no sight before which the eye did not prefer to close. Everything was dirty, sticky, and disagreeable to the touch. Every impression was offensive.
Worse than this was the general air of immorality. For fifteen hours each day I witnessed all around me this improper, indecent, and forced mingling of men and women who were total strangers and often did not understand one word of the same language. People cannot live in such surroundings and not be influenced."
“All that has been said of the mingling of the crew with the women of the steerage is also true of the association of the men steerage passengers with the women. Several times, when the sight of what was occurring about me was no longer endurable, I interfered and asked the men if they knew they might be deported were their actions reported on landing. Most of them had been in America before, and the answer generally given me was ‘Immorality is permitted in America if it is anywhere. Everyone can do as he chooses; no one investigates his mode of life, and no account is made or kept of his doings.’ ”
Note a: “A small record book showing past employment, common among working classes in many sections of Europe. The “work book" also serves as a local passport. (Resume from Note A)