Chicago Peril to Immigrant Girls, March 24, 1911

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Miss Jane Addams Tells Dangers of City and How to Combat Them.

THERE is no subject nearer the hearts of the women of Chicago than that which concerns the protection of girlhood from exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous adventurers. Miss Jane Addams of Hull House, who knows more about the temptations and perils that confront the girl stranger at the gate, perhaps, than any other Chicagoan, has written this article for the Chicago Evening American:

[image] White Slaver Taking Immigrant Girl From Train.

[image] Jane Addams.

[image] Expressman Overcharging Foreign Girls.

[image] Cabmen Holding Up Girls for More Than Legal Fare.


No subject merits closer attention than that which deals with the protection of inexperienced girls and women entering the large cities of the United States against moral and financial exploitations at the hands of those who make a business of preying on the ignorance and innocence of the unprotected.

One of the greatest danger points in the country is Chicago, with its tremendous annual influx of foreign born women and girls, and it may be considered that such measures as are remedial against existing evils in Chicago will be found available for use in other inland cities, where the problems that confront the immigrant girl are approximately the same.

Much [cooperation] as is essential for the proper protection of girls [may] soon be realized in a consolidation of work being done in Chicago by the Immigrants' Protective League with that of the North American Civic League for Immigrants. The importance of a national organization is fully recognized and details of a plan that may bring this about are now in the hands of the executive board. It may be said, too, that many unsophisticated girls coming to the large cities from country towns are as greatly in need of protection as their foreign sisters.

Federal Plan Likely.

Every year there is the long list of young women referred to in the report of the Immigrants' Protective League as "not located." The annual report of that organization for 1909-10 shows that 2,000 girls destined for Chicago, whose names were submitted in the regular way, together with their supposed destinations in Chicago, by officials of the ports of entry, have not been located. The later report just issued shows that for 1910-11 a total of 1,240 young women have left the ports of entry who could not be located by the officials of the league. There is, of course, no doubt that many of these girls are with friends and relatives, but facts well established give us sufficient cause to shudder at the probable fate of many who are missing.

The League for the Protection of Immigrants, which was organized in the Summer of 1908, and which is now established in headquarters opposite the Dearborn Street Station, is fast proving itself to be one of the most effective of instruments for social amelioration in Chicago. New [needs] and possibilities are constantly being discovered through the work of the league, which has an opportunity to treat as a whole the Chicago emigrant situation.

An arrangement entered into by the league, the police, the railway officials and the vehicle drivers, at the suggestion of the superintendent of police, prohibited the soliciting of immigrants by drivers, and required the league to patronize these drivers in turn. For two or three days after the agreement was made it was respected by the men. Then violations occurred. No one was punished and the men grew bolder. As a result complaints of extortion continue to be received.

Here are some examples of the duplicity of drivers where girl immigrants are concerned, and these with the other instances will appear in the annual report of Miss Grace Abbott, director of the league:

1 -- Two young Polish women were left at the corner of Forty-sixth Avenue and Huron Street, instead of [4202] Honore Street, where they should have been taken. A Slovak man found them and took them to his boarding house, where the landlady refused to receive them. The man then took them to a saloon a few blocks away and the saloonkeeper took them to their friends, who lived in another part of the city.

2 -- Two young girls arrived, having the address of their sister on Ada Street. An expressman left them [at] the first stop on Fay Street. People in that neighborhood took the girls in and sent them to the address of their sister on the following day.

3 -- An Austrian-Polish girl who arrived at the Grand Central station, had the address of a relative at 1002 Wood Street. She was taken to South Wood Street, and not finding her relatives was left on Twentieth Street and remained in that neighborhood two weeks before being able to locate her brother.

To accommodate those whose relatives or friends cannot be located at once, for those who arrive on late trains with doubtful addresses, or who are going farther west or north, but are compelled to remain in Chicago [overnight], the league has a few beds which were used [317] times in six months. The beds have proved to be of great value, as these figures indicate. The Municipal Lodging House, with its complicated conditions for admission, can be little used in the day time, and is quite out of the question at night. The Home for the Friendless offered to receive girls and women at any hour of the day or night, but it is too far from the loop district.

Lack of Privacy.

Many Russian-Jewish girls who come to relatives are in debt for their passage, so that we frequently find girls of sixteen or seventeen years old beginning life in Chicago with a debt of $60 or $70. The pressure under which girls work in such cases often affects their industrial efficiency as well as their health.

Under the conditions confronting many of the young girls when they reach Chicago there are [serious] dangers to both health and morals. Approximately 50 percent of the Polish, Lithuanian, Slovak and Russian-Jewish girls who come even to relatives, find themselves added to groups of boarders. Sometimes all the other boarders are men and the girl innocently does not see that because of the congestion and the consequent lack of privacy and the restraints which privacy exercises, she is quite unprotected against herself and the people with whom she lives.

A group of Jewish women have started a boarding club, called the Josephine Club, on the West Side near the Russian-Jewish Colony, which answers this need admirably. The Hungarian women are preparing to provide a similar place for Hungarian girls. Such clubs are very much needed in the neighborhood of the stock yards and on the Northwest Side for Polish and Lithuanian girls. The cases which afterward trouble the league are generally found to be the result of the lack of proper boarding places and no effort is being made at present to supply them.

Seek Aid to Find Girls.

People constantly ask for assistance in locating girls who were expected and never arrived. Shortly before Christmas a Swedish man who is employed as a night watchman for the Chicago City Railway Company, came in and offered to give us a few hours of his time in helping us when an immigrant train arrived. Not because he had been robbed and cheated himself, he was willing to forget that, he said, but he had sent for his sister in 1900 and had never heard from her since she left Ellis Island, and he would like to "have a chance to get it back at a few of these fellows," as he expressed it.

At the request of relatives we have made every effort to find a young Bohemian girl who was supposed to have reached Chicago on December 20, a Norwegian girl who came about the same time and a German girl who came in January. Sometimes these girls are discovered after a few weeks or months. Those we find are, of course, the ones to whom, in spite of every dangerous situation in which they were placed, nothing did happen.

The Italian Chamber of Commerce, the Austro-Hungarian Benevolent Association, the Polish National Alliance and the Woman's [Auxiliary] to that alliance, the Russian Orthodox Church and twenty-four Bohemian societies, Protestant, Free Thinkers, and Catholic, interested especially by Mrs. Pavlik, the Council of Jewish Women and three other Jewish clubs are, as organizations, members and contributors to the work of the league.

The Swedish National Alliance, the Norwegian National League, the German Society of Chicago and the foreign [conduits], especially the Austro-Hungarian and the Italian, have helped us in the successful disposition of many cases.