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A Practical Illustration of Woman's Right to Labor by Marie E. Zakrzewska

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principles, and its correct criticism, is not dead here: but it has to
struggle against difficulties too numerous to be detailed here; and
therefore it is that the Americans don't know of its existence, and the
chief obstacle is their different languages. A Humboldt must remain
unknown here, unless he chooses to Americanize himself in every respect;
and could he do this without ceasing to be Humboldt the cosmopolitan

It would be a great benefit to the development of this country if the
German language was made a branch of education, and not an accomplishment
simply. Only then would the Americans appreciate how much has been done by
the Germans to advance higher development, and to diffuse the true
principles of freedom. It would serve both parties to learn how much the
Germans aid in developing the reason, and supporting progress in every
direction. The revolution of 1848 has been more serviceable to America
than to Germany; for it has caused the emigration of thousands of men who
would have been the pride of a free Germany. America has received the
German freemen, whilst Germany has retained the _subjects_.

The next morning, I determined to return to the ship to look after my
baggage. As Mr. and Mrs. G. were busy in their shop, there was no one to
accompany me: I therefore had either to wait until they were at leisure,
or to go alone. I chose the latter, and took my first walk in the city of
New York on my way to the North River, where the ship was lying. The noise
and bustle everywhere about me absorbed my attention to such a degree,
that, instead of turning to the right hand, I went to the left, and found
myself at the East River, in the neighborhood of Peck Slip. Here I
inquired after the German ship "Deutschland," and was directed, in my
native tongue, down to the Battery, and thence up to Pier 13, where I
found the ship discharging the rest of her passengers and their baggage.
It was eleven o'clock when I reached the ship: I had, therefore, taken a
three-hours' walk. I had now to wait until the custom-house officer had
inspected my trunks, and afterwards for the arrival of Mr. G., who came at
one o'clock with a cart to convey the baggage to his house. While standing
amidst the crowd, a man in a light suit of clothes of no positive color,
with a complexion of the same sort, came up to me, and asked, in German,
whether I had yet found a boarding-place The man's smooth face
instinctively repelled me; yet the feeling that I was not independently
established made me somewhat indefinite in my reply. On seeing this, he at
once grew talkative and friendly, and, speaking of the necessity of
finding a safe and comfortable home, said that he could recommend me to a
hotel where I would be treated honestly; or that, if I chose to be in a
private family, he knew of a very kind, motherly lady, who kept a
boarding-house for ladies alone,--not to make money, but for the sake of
her country-women. The familiarity that he mingled in his conversation
while trying to be friendly made me thoroughly indignant: I turned my back
upon him, saying that I did not need his services. It was not long before
I saw him besieging my sister Anna, who had come with Mr. G.; being
nervous lest I might not have found the ship. What he said to her, I do
not know. I only remember that she came to me, saying, "I am afraid of
that man: I wish that we could go home soon." This meeting with a man who
makes friendly offers of service may seem a small matter to the mere
looker-on; but it ceases to be so when one knows his motives: and, since
that time, I have had but too many opportunities to see for what end these
offers are made. Many an educated girl comes from the Old World to find a
position as governess or teacher, who is taken up in this manner, and is
never heard from again, or is only found in the most wretched condition.
It is shameful that the most effective arrangements should not be made for
the safety of these helpless beings, who come to these shores with the
hope of finding a Canaan.

The week was mostly spent in looking for apartments; as we had concluded
to commence housekeeping on a small scale, in order to be more independent
and to save money. On our arrival, I had borrowed from my sister the
hundred dollars which my father had given her on our departure from
Berlin, and which was to be my capital until I had established myself in
business. I succeeded in finding a suite of rooms, with windows facing the
street, in the house of a grocer; and, having put them in perfect order,
we moved into them on the 6th of June, paying eleven dollars as our rent
for two months in advance.

My sister took charge of our first day's housekeeping while I went to
deliver my letters of introduction. I went first to Dr. Reisig, in
Fourteenth Street. My mother, who had employed him when he was a young man
and we were small children, had spoken of him kindly; and, for this
reason, I had confidence in him. I found him a very friendly man, but by
no means a cordial one. He informed me that female physicians in this
country were of the lowest rank, and that they did not hold even the
position of a good nurse. He said that he wished to be of service to me if
I were willing to serve as nurse; and, as he was just then in need of a
good one, would recommend me for the position. I thanked him for his
candor and kindness, but refused his offer, as I could not condescend to
be patronized in this way. Depressed in hope, but strengthened in will, I
did not deliver any more of my letters, since they were all to physicians,
and I could not hope to be more successful in other quarters. I went home,
therefore, determined to commence practice as a stranger.

The result of my experiment discouraged my sister greatly. After
meditating for some time, she suddenly said, "Marie, I read in the paper
this morning of a dressmaker who wanted some one to sew for her. I know
how to sew well: I shall go there, and you can attend to our little
household. No one here knows me, and I do not think there is any thing
wrong in my trying to earn some money."

She was determined, and went. I put up my sign, and spent my time in
attending to the household duties, and in reading in order to gain
information of the country and the people. Occasionally I took walks
through different parts of the city, to learn, from the houses and their
surroundings the character of life in New York. I am sure that though,
perhaps, I appeared idle, I was not so in reality; for during this time I
learned the philosophy of American life.

But our stock of money was becoming less and less. To furnish the rooms
had cost us comparatively little, as we had brought a complete set of
household furniture with us; but paying the rent and completing the
arrangements had not left us more than enough to live upon, in the most
economical manner, until the 1st of August. My sister obtained the place
at the dressmaker's; and after working a week from seven in the morning
until twelve (when she came home to dinner), then from one in the
afternoon until seven in the evening, she received two dollars and
seventy-five cents as the best sewer of six. She brought home the hardly
earned money with tears in her eyes; for she had expected at least three
dollars for the week's work. She had made each day a whole muslin dress,
with the trimmings. And this was not all: the dressmaker often did not pay
on Saturday nights, because, as she said, people did not pay her
punctually; and the poor girls received their wages by six or eight
shillings at a time. For the last two weeks of my sister's work, she
received her payment seven weeks after she had left.

We lived in this manner until the middle of July, when I lost patience;
for practice did not come as readily as I wished, nor was I in a position
for making money in any other way. My sister, usually so cheerful and
happy, grew grave from the unusual work and close confinement. One of
these nights, on lying down to sleep, she burst into tears, and told me of
her doubts and fears for the future. I soothed her as well as I could, and
she fell asleep. For myself, I could not sleep, but lay awake all night
meditating what I could possibly do. Should I write home, requesting help
from my father? He certainly would have given it; for we had received a
letter two weeks before, offering us all desirable aid. No: all my pride
rebelled against it. "I must help myself," I thought, "and that

The next morning, my sister left me as usual. I went out, and walked
through the city to Broadway turning into Canal Street, where I had formed
an acquaintance with a very friendly German woman by purchasing little
articles at various times at her store. I entered without any particular
design, and exchanged a few commonplaces with her about the weather. Her
husband stood talking with a man about worsted goods, and their
conversation caught my ear. The merchant was complaining because the
manufacturer did not supply him fast enough: upon which the man answered,
that it was very difficult to get good hands to work; and that, besides,
he had more orders than it was possible to fill; naming several merchants
whose names I had seen in Broadway, who were also complaining because he
did not supply them. After he had left, I asked carelessly what kind of
articles were in demand, and was shown a great variety of worsted
fancy-goods. A thought entered my brain. I left the store, and, walking
down Broadway, asked at one of the stores that had been mentioned for a
certain article of worsted goods, in order to learn the price. Finding
this enormous, I did not buy it; and returned home, calculating on my way
how much it would cost to manufacture these articles, and how much profit
could be made in making them on a large scale. I found that two hundred
per cent profit might be made by going to work in the right way. My sister
came home, as usual, to dinner. I sat down with her, but could not eat.
She looked at me anxiously, and said, "I hope you are not sick again. Oh,
dear! what shall we do if you get sick?" I had been ill for a week, and
she feared a relapse. I said nothing of my plan, but consoled her in
respect to my health.

As soon as she had left, I counted my money. But five dollars remained. If
I had been dependent upon money for cheerfulness, I should certainly have
been discouraged. I went to John Street, and, entering a large worsted
store, inquired of a cheerful-looking girl the wholesale price of the best
Berlin wool; how many colors could be had in a pound; &c. The pleasant and
ready answers that I received in my native tongue induced me to tell her
frankly that I wanted but a small quantity at that time, but that I
intended to make an experiment in manufacturing worsted articles; and, if
successful, would like to open a small credit, which she said they
generally would do when security was given.

I purchased four and a half dollars' worth of worsted; so that fifty cents
were left in my pocket when I quitted the store. I then went to the office
of a German newspaper, where I paid twenty-five cents for advertising for
girls who understood all kinds of knitting. When my sister came home at
night, the worsted was all sorted on the table in parcels for the girls
who would come the next morning, while I was busily engaged in the
experiment of making little worsted tassels. I had never been skilful in
knitting; but in this I succeeded so well, that I could have made a
hundred yards of tassels in one day. My sister turned pale on seeing all
this; and hurriedly asked, "How much money have you spent?"--"All, my
dear Anna," answered I; "all, except twenty-five cents, which will be
sufficient to buy a pound of beefsteak and potatoes for to-morrow's
dinner. Bread, tea, and sugar we have still in the house; and to-morrow
night you will bring home your twenty-two shillings." "May you succeed,
Marie! that is all I have to say," was her reply. She learned of me that
evening how to make the tassels; and we worked till midnight, finishing a
large number.

The next day was Saturday, and some women really came to get work. I gave
them just enough for one day, keeping one day's work in reserve. The day
was spent busily in arranging matters, so that, on Monday morning, I might
be able to carry a sample of the manufactured articles to those stores
that I had heard mentioned as not being sufficiently supplied.

In the evening, my sister came home without her money: the dressmaker had
gone into the country in the afternoon, without paying the girls. She was
more than sad, and I felt a little uncomfortable; for what was I to do,
without money to provide for the next two days, or to pay those girls on
Monday with whose work I might not be satisfied? What was to be done? To
go down to our landlord, the grocer, and ask him to advance us a few
dollars? No: he was a stranger, and had no means of knowing that we would
return the money. Besides, I did not wish the people in the house to know
our condition.

My resolution was taken. I proposed to my sister to go to the market with
me to buy meat and fruit for the morrow. She looked at me with blank
astonishment; but, without heeding it, I said calmly, taking from the
bureau-drawer the chain of my watch, "Anna, opposite the market, there is
a pawnbroker. No one knows us; and, by giving a fictitious name, we can
get money, without thanking any one for it." She was satisfied; and,
taking a little basket, we went on our errand. I asked of the pawnbroker
six dollars, under the name of Mueller and received the money; after which
we made our purchases, and went home in quite good spirits.

On Monday morning, the knitters brought home their work. I paid them, and
gave them enough for another day; after which I set about finishing each
piece, completing the task about two in the afternoon. This done, I
carried the articles to Broadway; and, leaving a sample in a number of
stores, received orders from them for several dozens.[3] I then went to
the worsted store in John Street, where I also obtained orders for the
manufactured articles, together with ten dollars' worth of worsted on
credit; having first given my name and residence to the book-keeper, with
the names of the stores from which I had received orders. In the evening,
when my sister came home, I was, therefore, safely launched into a
manufacturing business. The news cheered her greatly; but she could not be
induced to quit her sewing. The new business had sprung up so rapidly and
pleasantly that she could not trust in the reality of its existence.

I must tell you here something of the social life that we led. We had
brought a number of friendly letters with us from our acquaintances in
Berlin to their friends and relatives in America; all of which, upon our
arrival, we sent by post, with the exception of two,--the one sent by a
neighbor to his son, Albert C.; the other to a young artist; both of whom
called for their letters. About four weeks after we were settled in New
York, we received a call from some young men whose sisters had been
schoolmates of my sisters in Berlin, who came to inquire of us where to
find Mr. C. We could give them no information, as we had not seen him
since he called for his letter; neither did we now see any thing of the
G.'s: but the acquaintance thus formed with these young men was continued,
and our solitude was now and then enlivened by an hour's call from them.
Soon after I had commenced my new business, they came one day in company
with Mr. C., whom they had met accidently in the street, and, on his
expressing a wish to see us, had taken the liberty to bring to our house.

My business continued to prosper; and, by constantly offering none but the
best quality of goods for sale, in a very short time I had so much to do,
that my whole time in the day was occupied with out-door business, and I
was forced to sit up at night with my sister to prepare work for the
knitters. At one time, we had constantly thirty girls in our employ; and
in this way I became acquainted with many of those unfortunates who had
been misled and ruined on their arrival by persons pretending friendship.
Two of these in particular interested me greatly. One, the grand-daughter
of Krummacher, and bearing his name, was the daughter of a physician, who
had come to this country, hoping to find a place as governess. Poor girl!
she was a mere wreck when I found her, and all my efforts to raise her up
were in vain. She was sick, and in a terrible mental condition. We took
her into our house, nursed her and cared for her, and, when she had
recovered, supplied her with work; for which we paid her so well, that she
always had three dollars a week, which paid for her board and washing. It
was twice as much as she could earn, yet not enough to make her feel
reconciled with life. At one time, she did not come to us for a whole
week. I went to see her, and her landlady told me that she was melancholy.
I persuaded her to come and stay with us for a few days; but, in spite of
all my friendly encouragement I could not succeed in restoring her to
cheerfulness. She owned that she could not work merely to live: she did
not feel the pangs of hunger; but she felt the want of comforts to which
she had been accustomed, and which, in our days, are regarded as
necessities. She attempted to find a situation as governess; but her
proficiency in music, French, and drawing, counted as nothing. She had no
city references; and, having been two years in New York, dared not name
the place to which she had been conducted on her arrival. She left us at
last in despair, after having been a week with us. She never called again,
and I could not learn from her landlady where she had gone. Three months
afterwards, I heard from one of the girls in our employ that she had
married a poor shoemaker in order to have a home; but I never learned
whether this was true. About a year later, I met her in the Bowery, poorly
but cleanly dressed. She hastily turned away her face on seeing me; and I
only caught a glimpse of the crimson flush that overspread her

The other girl that I referred to was a Miss Mary ----, who came with her
mother to this country, expecting to live with a brother. They found the
brother married, and unwilling to support his sister; while his wife was
by no means friendly in her reception of his mother. The good girl
determined to earn a support for her mother, and a pretended friend
offered to take care of their things until she could find work and rent
lodgings. After four weeks' search, she found a little room and bedroom in
a rear-building in Elizabeth Street, at five dollars a month; and was
preparing to move, when her _friend_ presented a bill of forty dollars for
his services. She could only satisfy his rapacity by selling every thing
that she could possibly spare: after which she commenced to work; and as
she embroidered a great deal, besides working for me (for which I paid her
six dollars a week), for a time she lived tolerably well. After some time,
her mother fell ill; and she had to nurse her and attend to the household,
as well as labor for their support. It was a trying time for the poor
girl. She sought her brother; but he had moved to the West. I did all that
I could for her; but this was not half enough: and, after I had quitted
the manufacturing business and left the city, my sister heard that she had
drowned herself in the Hudson, because her mother's corpse was lying in
the house, while she had not a cent to give it burial, or to buy a piece
of bread, without selling herself to vice.

Are not these two terrible romances of New-York life? And many besides did
I learn among these poor women; so many, indeed, that I forget the details
of all. Stories of this kind are said to be without foundation: I say that
there are more of them in our midst than it is possible to imagine. Women
of good education, but without money, are forced to earn their living.
They determine to leave their home, either because false pride
preprevents their seeking work where they have been brought up as
_ladies_, or because this work is so scarce that they cannot earn by it
even a life of semi-starvation; while they are encouraged to believe that
in this country they will readily find proper employment. They are too
well educated to become domestics; better educated, indeed, than are half
the teachers here: but modesty, and the habit of thinking that they must
pass through the same legal ordeal as in Europe, prevent them from seeking
places in this capacity. They all know how to embroider in the most
beautiful manner; and, knowing that this is well paid for in Europe, seek
to find employment of this kind in the stores. Not being able to speak
English, they believe the stories of the clerks and proprietors and are
made to work at low wages, and are often swindled out of their money. They
feel homesick forlorn and forsaken in the world. Their health at length
fails them, and they cannot earn bread enough to keep themselves from
starvation. They are too proud to beg; and the consequence is, that they
walk the streets, or throw themselves into the river.

I met scores of these friendless women. Some I took into my house; for
others I found work, and made myself a sort of guardian; while to others
I gave friendship to keep them morally alive. It is a curious fact, that
these women are chiefly Germans. The Irish resort at once to beggary or
are inveigled into brothels, as soon as they arrive; while the French are
always intriguing enough either to put on a white cap and find a place as
_bonne_, or to secure a _private_ lover.

I am often in despair about the helplessness of women, and the readiness
of men to let them earn money in abundance by shame, while they grind them
down to the merest pittance for honorable work. Shame on society, that
women are forced to surrender themselves to an abandoned life and death,
when so many are enjoying wealth and luxury in extravagance! I do not wish
them to divide their estates with the poor; I am no friend to communism in
any form: I only wish institutions that shall give to women an education
from childhood that will enable them, like young men, to earn their
livelihood. These weak women are the last to come forth to aid in their
emancipation from inefficient education. We cannot calculate upon these:
we must educate the children for better positions and leave the adults to
their destiny.

How many women marry only for a shelter or a home! How often have I been
the confidante of girls, who the day before, arrayed in satin, had given
their hands to rich men before the altar, while their hearts were breaking
with suppressed agony! and this, too, among Americans, this great, free
nation, who, notwithstanding, let their women starve. It is but lately
that a young woman said to me, "I thank Heaven, my dear doctor, that you
are a woman; for now I can tell you the truth about my health. It is not
my body that is sick, but my heart. These flounces and velvets cover a
body that is sold,--sold legally to a man who could pay my father's
debts." Oh! I scorn men, sometimes from the bottom of my heart. Still this
is wrong: for it is the women's, the mothers' fault, in educating their
daughters to be merely beautiful machines, fit to ornament a fine
establishment; while, if they do not succeed in gaining this, there is
nothing left but wretchedness of mind and body. Women, there is a
connection between the Fifth Avenue and the Five Points! Both the rich and
the wretched are types of womanhood; both are linked together, forming one
great body; and both have the same part in good and evil. I can hardly
leave this subject, though it may seem to have little to do with my
American experience; but a word spoken from a full heart not only gives
relief, but may fall on _one_ listening ear, and take root there.

I must now return to my new enterprise. The business paid well: and,
although I was often forced to work with my sister till the dawn of
morning, we were happy; for we had all that we needed, and I could write
home that the offered assistance was superfluous. Here I must say, that I
had resolved, on leaving Berlin, never to ask for aid, in order that I
might be able with perfect freedom to carry out my plans independently of
my family. How this was ever to be done, I did not yet see; though I had a
good opportunity to learn, from life and from the papers, what I had to
expect here. But this mode of instruction, though useful to one seeking to
become a philosopher, was very unsatisfactory to me. The chief thing that
I learned was, that I must acquire English before I could undertake any
thing. And this was the most difficult point to overcome. I am not a
linguist by nature: all that I learn of languages must be obtained by the
greatest perseverance and industry; and, for this, my business would not
allow me time.

Shortly after I had fairly established myself in the manufacturing
business, I received news from Berlin, that Sister Catherine had left the
Hospital Charite, and was intending to join me in America, in order to aid
me in carrying out my plan for the establishment of a hospital for women
in the New World. The parties interested in her had finally succeeded in
placing her in the wished-for position, thus disconnecting her from the
sisterhood. But, after my departure, the position became greatly modified
in rank, and inferior in character. Private reasons besides made it
disagreeable for her to remain there any longer; and in this moment she
remembered my friendship towards her, and in the unfortunate belief that
she shared with many others, that all that I designed to do I could do at
once, resolved to come to me, and offer her assistance. She joined us on
the 22d of August, and was not a little disappointed to find me in the
tassel instead of the medical line. The astonishment with which her
acquaintances in Berlin heard her announce her intention of going to seek
help from a person to whom she had been less than a friend, could not be
expressed in words; and she told me that the annoyance that they
manifested was really the chief stimulus that decided her to come at last.
She arrived without a cent. Having always found friends enough ready to
supply her with money, whenever she wished to establish a temporary
hospital, it had never occurred to her that she should need any for
private use, beyond just enough to furnish the simple blue merino dress of
the sisterhood, which had often been provided for her by the Kaiserswerth
Institute. But here she was; and she very soon learned to understand the
difficulties which must be overcome before I could enter again into my
profession. She became satisfied, and lived with us, sharing equally in
whatever we had ourselves. There is a peculiar satisfaction in showing
kindness to a person who has injured us, though unconsciously under
different circumstances: and, in her case, she was not entirely
unconscious of the harm she had done me; for she confessed to me while in
America, that her acquaintance was courted by all those who had been
thwarted in their opposition by my appointment, and that she knew well
that they sought every opportunity to annoy me.

On the 18th of September, a sister, one year younger than myself, joined
us; having been tempted by our favorable accounts to try a life of
adventure. We were now four in the family. But Catherine gradually grew
discontented. Having been accustomed to the comforts afforded in large
institutions, and to receiving attentions from the most aristocratic
families of Prussia, the monotonous life that we led was only endurable to
her so long as the novelty lasted. This soon wore off, and she became
anxious for a change. She had heard her fellow-passengers speak of a
Pastor S., who had been sent to America as a missionary; and she begged me
to seek him out, and take her to him, that she might consult him as to
what she had best do. I did so, and she soon became acquainted with his
family. Mr. S. exerted himself in her behalf, and secured her a place as
nurse in the Home for the Friendless, where she had the charge of some
thirty children. This was a heavy task; for, though none were under a year
old, she was constantly disturbed through the night, and could get but a
few hours' consecutive sleep. Besides, she could not become reconciled to
washing under the hydrant in the morning, and to being forced to mingle
with the commonest Irish girls. She was in every respect a lady, and had
been accustomed to have a servant at her command, even in the midst of the
typhus-fever in the desolate districts of Silesia; while here she was not
even treated with humanity. This soon grew unbearable; and she returned to
us on the 16th of October, after having been only ten days in the
institution. So eager was she to make her escape, that she did not even
ask for the two dollars that were due her for wages. But we could not
receive her; for we had taken another woman in her place, as friendless
and as penniless as she. Besides, a misfortune had just fallen upon us.
During the night before, our doors had been unlocked, our bureau-drawers
inspected, and all our money, amounting to fifty-two dollars, carried off;
and, when Catherine arrived, we were so poor that we had to borrow the
bread and milk for our breakfast. Fortunately, the day before, I had
refused the payment due me for a large bill of goods; and this came now in
a very good time. I did not feel justified, however, in increasing the
family to five after our loss; nor did she claim our assistance, but went
again to Pastor S., who had invited her to visit his family. With his
assistance, she obtained some private nursing, which maintained her until
the congregation had collected money enough to enable her to return to
Berlin; which she did on the 2d of December. Having many friends in the
best circles of that city, she immediately found a good practice again;
and is now, as she says, enjoying life in a civilized manner.

We moved at once from the scene of the robbery and took a part of a house
in Monroe Street, for which we paid two hundred dollars a year. Our
business continued good, and I had some prospects of getting into
practice. But, with spring, the demand for worsted goods ceased; and as my
practice brought me work, but no money, I was forced to look out for
something else to do. By accident, I saw in a store a coiffure made of
silk, in imitation of hair, which I bought; but I found, on examination,
that I could not manufacture it, as it was machine-work. I went,
therefore, to Mr. G., and proposed to establish a business with him, in
which he should manufacture these coiffures, while I would sell them by
wholesale to the merchants with whom I was acquainted. Mr. G. had
completely ruined himself during the winter by neglecting his business and
meddling with Tammany-Hall politics, which had wasted his money and his
time. He had not a single workman in his shop when I called, and was too
much discouraged to think of any new enterprise; but, on my telling him
that I would be responsible for the first outlay, he engaged hands, and,
in less than a month, had forty-eight persons busily employed. In this way
I earned money during the spring, and freed myself from the obligations
which his kindness in receiving us the spring before had laid upon us.

My chief business now was to sell the goods manufactured by Mr. G. Our
worsted business was very small; and the prospect was that it would cease
entirely, and that the coiffure that we made would not long continue in
fashion. Some other business, therefore, had to be found, especially as it
was impossible for us to lay up money. Our family now consisted of myself
and two sisters, the friend that was staying with us, and a brother,
nineteen years of age, who had joined us during the winter, and who,
though an engineer and in good business, was, like most young men,
thoughtless and more likely to increase than to lighten our burdens. Our
friend Mr. C., who had become our constant visitor, planned at this time a
journey to Europe; so that our social life seemed also about to come to an

On the 13th of May, 1854, as I was riding down to the stores on my usual
business, reveries of the past took possession of my mind. Almost a year
in America, and not one step advanced towards my purpose in coming hither!
It was true that I had a comfortable home, with enough to live upon, and
had repaid my sister the money that I had borrowed from her on our
arrival; yet what kind of a life was it that I was leading, in a business
foreign to my nature and inclinations, and without even the prospect of
enlarging this? These reflections made me so sad, that, when I reached the
store, the book-keeper noticed my dejection, and told me, by way of
cheering me, that he had another order for a hundred dollars' worth of
goods, &c.; but this did not relieve me. I entered the omnibus again,
speculating constantly on what I should do next; when a thought suddenly
dawned upon me. Might not the people in the Home for the Friendless be
able to give me advice? I had hardly conceived the idea, when I determined
to ride directly up there, instead of stopping at the street in which I
lived. I thought, besides, that some employment might be found for my
sister Anna, in which she could learn the English language, for which she
had evinced some talent, while I had decided that I could never become
master of it. I had seen the matron, Miss Goodrich, once when I called
there on Catherine S. She had a humane face, and I was persuaded that I
should find a friend in her. I was not mistaken. I told her of my plans in
coming here, and of our present mode of life and prospects; and confided
to her my disappointment and dejection, as well as my determination to
persevere courageously. She seemed to understand and to enter into my
feelings, and promised to see Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, whom she advised me
to call upon at once.

I went home full of the hope and inspiration of a new life. Dear Mary, you
can hardly comprehend the happiness of that morning. I was not suffering,
it is true, for the necessaries of life; but, what was far worse, I
suffered from the feeling that I lived for no purpose but to eat and to
drink. I had no friends who were interested in the pursuits towards which
my nature inclined; and I saw crowds of arrogant people about me, to whom
I could not prove that I was their equal in spite of their money. My
sisters had not seen me so cheerful since our arrival in America, and
thought that I had surely discovered the philosopher's stone. I told them
of what I had done, and received their approbation.

On the morning of the 15th of May,--the anniversary of the death of Dr.
Schmidt and of my greatest joy and my greatest misery,--we received a call
from Miss Goodrich, who told us that she had seen Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell,
and thought that she had also procured a suitable place for my sister. She
gave us the addresses of Dr. Blackwell and of Miss Catherine Sedgwick. We
called first upon the latter, who was extremely kind; and although she
had quite misunderstood our wishes,--having exerted herself to procure a
place for my sister in a way that manifested the belief that we had
neither a home nor the means to live,--yet her friendliness and readiness
to assist us made us for ever grateful to her. At that time we did not
know her standing in society, and looked upon her merely as a benevolent
and wealthy woman. We soon learned more of her, however: for, though
unsuccessful in her first efforts, she shortly after sent for my sister,
having secured her a place in Mr. Theodore Sedgwick's family; which was
acceptable, inasmuch as it placed her above the level of the servants. She
remained there seven weeks, and then returned home.

On the same morning, I saw Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell; and from this call of
the 15th of May I date my new life in America. She spoke a little German,
and understood me perfectly when I talked. I gave her all my certificates
for inspection but said nothing to her of my plans in coming to America.
It would have seemed too ludicrous for me in my position to tell her that
I entertained the idea of interesting the people in the establishment of a
hospital for women. I hardly know what I told her, indeed; for I had no
other plan of which to speak, and therefore talked confusedly, like an
adventurer. I only know that I said that I would take the position of
nurse, if I could enter one of the large hospitals, in order to learn the
manner in which they were managed in this country.

I cannot comprehend how Dr. Blackwell could ever have taken so deep an
interest in me as she manifested that morning; for I never in my life was
so little myself. Yet she did take this interest; for she gave me a sketch
of her own experience in acquiring a medical education, and explained the
requirements for such in this country, and the obstacles that are thrown
in the way of women who seek to become physicians. She told me of her plan
of founding a hospital,--the long-cherished idea of my life; and said that
she had opened a little dispensary--the charter for which was procured
during the preceding winter, under the name of "The New-York Infirmary for
Indigent Women and Children"--on the 1st of May, two weeks before, and
which was designed to be the nucleus for this hospital, where she invited
me to come and assist her. She insisted that, first of all, I should learn
English; and offered to give me lessons twice a week, and also to make
efforts to enable me to enter a college to acquire the title of M.D.,
which I had not the right to attach to my name. I left her after several
hours' conversation, and we parted friends.

I continued my work at home; going regularly to Dr. Blackwell to receive
lessons in English, and to assist her in the dispensary. As we grew better
acquainted, I disclosed more to her of the fact, that I had a fixed plan
in coming to this country; which increased her interest in me. She wrote
in my behalf to the different colleges, and at length succeeded in
obtaining admission for me to the Cleveland Medical College (Western
Reserve) on the most favorable terms; credit being given me on the
lecture-fees for an indefinite time.

Here I must stop to tell you why this credit was necessary. The articles
that I had manufactured had gone out of fashion in May: and I could not
invent any thing new, partly because I no longer felt the same interest as
before, knowing that I should soon go to a medical college; and partly
because the articles then in fashion were cheaper when imported. We had to
live for a little while on the money that we had laid up, until I procured
a commission for embroidering caps. It is perfectly wonderful into
what kinds of business I was forced, all foreign to my taste.

And here let me tell you some secrets of this kind of business, in which
hundreds of women starve, and hundreds more go down to a life of infamy.
Cap-making (the great business of Water Street of New York) gives
employment to thousands of unfortunates. For embroidering caps, the
wholesale dealer pays seven cents each; and for making up, three cents. To
make a dozen a day, one must work for sixteen hours. The embroidering is
done in this wise: I received the cut cloth from the wholesale dealer;
drew the pattern upon each cap; gave them, with three cents' worth of
silk, to the embroiderer, who received three cents for her work; then
pressed and returned them; thus making one cent on each for myself. By
working steadily for sixteen hours, a girl could embroider fifteen in a
day. I gave out about six dozen daily; earning, like the rest, fifty cents
a day: unless I chose to do the stamping and pressing at night, and to
embroider a dozen during the day; in which case, I earned a dollar.

One can live in this way for a little while, until health fails, or the
merchant says that the work has come to an end. You will think this
terrible again. Oh, no! this is not terrible. The good men provide in
another way. They tell every woman of a prepossessing appearance, that it
is wrong in her to work so hard; that many a man would be glad to care for
her; and that many women live quite comfortably with the help of _a
friend_. They say, further, that it is lonely to live without ever going
to church, to the concert and theatre; and that if these women would only
permit the speakers to visit them, and to attend them to any of these
places, they would soon find that they would no longer be obliged to work
so hard. This is the polished talk of gentlemen who enjoy the reputation
of piety and respectability, and who think it a bad speculation to pay
women liberally for their work. So it would be, in truth; for these poor
creatures would not be so willing to abandon themselves to a disreputable
life, if they could procure bread in any other way.

During the summer of 1854, I took work on commission from men of this
sort. While in Berlin I had learned from the prostitutes in the hospital
in what manner educated women often became what they then were. The
average story was always the same. The purest love made them weak; their
lover deceived and deserted them; their family cast them off by way of
punishment. In their disgrace, they went to bury themselves in large
cities, where the work that they could find scarcely gave them their daily
bread. Their employers attracted by their personal appearance and the
refinement of their speech and manners, offered them assistance in another
way, in which they could earn money without work. In despair, they
accepted the proposals; and sunk gradually, step by step, to the depths of
degradation, as depicted by Hogarth in the "Harlot's Progress." In New
York, I was thrown continually among men who were of the stamp that I
described before; and can say, even from my own experience, that no man is
ever more polite, more friendly, or more kind, than one who has impure
wishes in his heart. It is really so dangerous for a woman of refined
nature to go to such stores, that I never suffered my sister to visit
them; not because I feared that she would listen to these men, but because
I could not endure the thought that so innocent and beautiful a girl
should come in contact with them, or even breathe the same atmosphere.
When fathers are unwilling that their daughters shall enter life as
physicians, lawyers, merchants, or in any other public capacity, it is
simply because they belong to the class that so contaminates the air,
that none can breathe it but themselves; or because, from being thrown
constantly in contact with such men, they arrive at the same point at
which I then stood, and say to themselves "_I_ can afford to meet such
men. I am steeled by my knowledge of mankind, and supported by the
philosophy that I have learned during years of trial. It cannot hurt _me_;
but, by all means, spare the young and beautiful the same experience!"

I dealt somewhat haughtily with the merchants whom I have described, in a
manner that at once convinced them of my position. But the consequence
was, that the embroidery commission, which had commenced so favorably,
suddenly ceased, "_because the Southern trade had failed_:" in truth,
because I would not allow any of these men to say any more to me than was
absolutely necessary in our business. My income became less and less, and
we were forced to live upon the money that we had laid up during the year.
I did not look for any new sources of employment, for I was intending to
go to Cleveland in October; while my next sister had business of her own,
and Anna was engaged to be married to our friend Mr. C. My brother was
also with them; and my mother's brother, whom she had adopted as a child,
was on his way to America.

After having settled our affairs, fifty dollars remained as my share; and,
with this sum, I set out for Cleveland on the 16th of October, 1854. Dr.
Elizabeth Blackwell had supplied me with the necessary medical text-books;
so that I had no other expenses than my journey and the matriculation
fees, which together amounted to twenty dollars, leaving thirty dollars in
my possession.

I do not believe that many begin the study of medicine with so light a
purse and so heavy a heart as did I. My heart was heavy for the reason
that I did not know a single sentence of English. All of my study with Dr.
Blackwell had been like raindrops falling upon stone: I had profited
nothing. The lectures I did not care for, since there was more need of my
studying English than medicine: but the subjects were well known to me;
and I therefore reasoned, that, by hearing familiar things treated of in
English, I must learn the language; and the logic held good.

I have already told you that the Faculty had agreed to give me credit for
my lecture-fees. Dr. Blackwell had written also to a lady there, who had
called upon her some time before in the capacity of President of a
Physiological Society, which, among other good things, had established a
small fund for the assistance of women desirous of studying medicine. This
lady (Mrs. Caroline M. Severance) replied in the most friendly manner,
saying that I might come directly to her house, and that she would see
that my board for the winter was secured by the Physiological Society over
which she presided.

The journey to Cleveland was a silent but a pleasant one. Through a
mishap, I arrived on Saturday night, instead of in the morning; and, being
unwilling to disturb Mrs. Severance at so late an hour, went first to a
hotel. But what trials I had there! No one could understand me; until at
last I wrote on a slate my own name and Mrs. Severance's, with the words,
"A carriage," and "To-morrow." From this the people inferred that I wished
to stay at the hotel all night, and to have a carriage to take me to Mrs.
Severance's the next day; as was the case. A waiter took my carpet-bag and
conducted me to a room. I could not understand his directions to the
supper-room, neither could I make him understand that I wanted some supper
in my own room; and the consequence was, that I went to bed hungry, having
eaten nothing all day but a little bread, and an apple for luncheon.

As soon as I was dressed the next morning, I rang the bell furiously; and,
on the appearance of the waiter, exclaimed, "Beefsteak!" This time he
comprehended me, and went laughingly away to bring me a good breakfast. I
often saw the same waiter afterwards at the hotel; and he never saw me
without laughing, and exclaiming, "Beefsteak!"

In the course of the forenoon, I was taken in a carriage to the house of
Mrs. Severance; but the family were not at home. I returned to the hotel,
somewhat disheartened and disappointed. Although I should have supposed
that death was not far off if no disappointment had happened to me when I
least expected it, yet this persistent going wrong of every thing in
Cleveland was really rather dispiriting. But a bright star soon broke
through the clouds, in the shape of Mr. Severance, who came into the
parlor directly after dinner, calling for me in so easy and so cordial a
manner, that I forgot every thing, and was perfectly happy. This feeling,
however, lasted only until I reached the house. I found four fine
children, all full of childish curiosity to hear me talk; who, as soon as
they found that I could not make myself understood by them, looked on me
with that sort of contempt peculiar to children when they discover that a
person cannot do as much as they can themselves. Mr. Severance, too, was
expecting to find me accomplished in music, "like all Germans;" and had to
learn that I had neither voice nor ear for the art. Mrs. Severance
understood a little German, yet not half enough to gain any idea of how
much or how little I was capable of doing; and therefore looked upon me
with a sort of uncertainty as to what was my real capacity. This position
was more provoking than painful; there was even something ludicrous in it:
and, when not annoyed, I often went into my room to indulge in a hearty
laugh by myself.

I met with a most cordial reception in the college The dean (Dr. John J.
Delamater) received me like a father; and, on the first day, I felt
perfectly at home. All was going on well. I had a home at Mrs.
Severance's; while, despite my mutilated English, I found many friends in
the college, when circumstances changed every thing. Some changes occurred
in Mr. Severance's business; and he was forced, in consequence, to give up
house-keeping At that time, I did not know that the Physiological Society
was ready to lend me money; and was therefore in great distress. I never
experienced so bitter a day as that on which Mrs. Severance told me that I
could stay with her no longer. It was but five weeks after my arrival, and
I was not able to make myself understood in the English language, which
was like chaos to me. On the same day, I well remember, that, for the
first time in my life, I made an unsuccessful attempt to borrow money;
and, because it was the first and the last time, it was the more painful
to me to be refused. I envied the dog that lived, and was happy without
troubling his brain; I envied the kitchen-maid that did her work
mechanically, and enjoyed life far more than those fitted by nature for
something higher, while the world would go on just as well without them as
with them.

Mrs. Severance secured a boarding-place for me for the rest of the winter;
and paid my board, amounting to thirty-three dollars, from the funds of
the society. I lived quietly by myself; studied six hours daily at home,
with four dictionaries by me; attending six lectures a day, and going in
the evening for three hours to the dissecting-rooms. I never conversed
with any one in the boarding-house nor even asked for any thing at the
table; but was supplied like a mute. This silence was fruitful to me.
About New Year, I ventured to make my English audible; when, lo! every one
understood me perfectly. From this time forward, I sought to make
acquaintances, to the especial delight of good old Dr. Delamater, who had
firmly believed that I was committing gradual suicide. Through Mrs.
Severance, I became acquainted with Dr. Harriot K. Hunt, who was then on a
visit to Cleveland; and, through her, with the Rev. A.D. Mayo, who was
pastor of a small society there, known as that of the Liberal Christians.

I found many dear and valued friends during my residence in Cleveland, but
none to whom I am bound in lasting gratitude as to Mr. Mayo, who offered
me his assistance when he learned that I was in need; my extra expenses
having swallowed up the little money that I had brought with me, so that I
had not even enough to return to my sisters in New York. As the minister
of a small congregation advocating Liberal ideas, he had a hard position
in Cleveland, both socially and pecuniarily; yet he offered to share his
little with me. I was forced to accept it; and I am now, and have always
been, glad that I did so. No one, that has not had the experience, can
appreciate the happiness that comes with the feeling, that a rich man has
not cast a fragment of his superfluity towards you (and here let me
remark, that it is next to impossible to find wealth and generosity go
together in friendship), but that the help comes from one who must work for
it as well as the recipient. It proves the existence of the mutual
appreciation that is known by the name of "friendship." The apple given by
a friend is worth ten times more than a whole orchard bestowed in such a
way as to make you feel that the gift is but the superfluity of the donor.

I remained for ten months a member of Mr. Mayo's family; when he received
a call to Albany, and changes had to be made in his household. During this
time, I earned a little money by giving lessons in German, that served to
cover my most necessary expenses. For the last five months that I spent in
Cleveland, I carried in my purse one solitary cent as a sort of talisman;
firmly believing that some day it would turn into gold: but this did not
happen; and on the day that I was expecting the receipt of the last
eighteen dollars for my lessons, which were designed to bear my expenses
to New York, I gave it to a poor woman in the street who begged me for a
cent; and it doubtless, ere long, found its way into a gin-shop.

The twenty months that I spent in Cleveland were chiefly devoted to the
study of medicine in the English language; and in this I was assisted by
most noble-hearted men. Dr. Delamater's office became a pleasant spot, and
its occupants a necessity to me; and, on the days that I did not meet
them, my spirits fell below zero. In spite of the pecuniary distress from
which I constantly suffered, I was happier in Cleveland than ever before
or since. I lived in my element; having a fixed purpose in view, and
enjoying the warmest tokens of real friendship. I was liked in the
college; and, though the students often found it impossible to repress a
hearty laugh at my ridiculous blunders in English, they always showed me
respect and fellowship in the highest sense of the terms. In the beginning
of the first winter, I was the only woman; after the first month, another
was admitted; and, during the second winter, there were three besides
myself that attended the lectures and graduated in the spring. I should
certainly look upon this season as the spring-time of my life, had not a
sad event thrown a gloom over the whole.

In the autumn of 1854, after deciding to go to Cleveland to resume my
medical studies, I wrote to my parents to tell them of my hopes and aims.
These letters were not received with the same pleasure with which they
had been written. My father, who had encouraged me before my entrance upon
a public career, was not only grieved by my return to my old mode of life,
but greatly opposed to it, and manifested this in the strongest words in
the next letter that I received from him. My mother on the contrary, who
had not been at all enthusiastic in the beginning, was rather glad to
receive the news. As I had left many good friends among the physicians of
Berlin, my letters were always circulated, after their arrival, by one of
their number who stood high in the profession; and, though I did not
receive my father's approbation, he sent me several letters from strangers
who approved my conduct, and who, after hearing my letters, had sent him
congratulations upon my doings in America. How he received the respect
thus manifested to him, you can judge from a passage in one of his
letters, which I will quote to you:--

"I am proud of you, my daughter; yet you give me more grief than any other
of my children. If you were a young man, I could not find words in which
to express my satisfaction and pride in respect to your acts; for I know
that all you accomplish you owe to yourself: but you are a woman, a weak
woman; and all that I can do for you now is to grieve and to weep. O my
daughter! return from this unhappy path. Believe me, the temptation of
living for humanity _en masse,_ magnificent as it may appear in its aim,
will lead you only to learn that all is vanity; while the ingratitude of
the mass for whom you choose to work will be your compensation."

Letters of this sort poured upon me; and, when my father learned that
neither his reasoning nor his prayers could turn me from a work which I
had begun with such enthusiasm, he began to threaten; telling me that I
must not expect any pecuniary assistance from him; that I would contract
debts in Cleveland which I should never be able to pay, and which would
certainly undermine my prospects; with more of this sort. My good father
did not know that I had vowed to myself, on my arrival in America, that I
would never ask his aid; and besides, he never imagined that I could go
for five months with a single cent in my pocket. Oh, how small all these
difficulties appeared to me, especially at a time when I began to speak
English! I felt so rich, that I never thought money could not be had,
whenever I wanted it in good earnest.

After having been nine months in Cleveland, I received news that my
mother had left Berlin with my two youngest sisters to pay us a visit, and
to see what the prospects would be for my father in case she chose to
remain. Dear Mary, shall I attempt to describe to you the feeling that
over-powered me on the receipt of these tidings? If I did, you never could
feel it with me: for I could not picture in words the joy that I felt at
the prospect of beholding again the mother whom I loved beyond all
expression, and who was my friend besides; for we really never thought of
each other in our relation of mother and child, but as two who were bound
together as friends in thought and in feeling. No: I cannot give you a
description of this, especially as it was mingled with the fear that I
might not have the means to go to greet her in New York before another ten
months were over. Day and night, night and day, she was in my mind; and,
from the time that I had a right to expect her arrival, I counted the
hours from morning until noon, and from noon until night, when the
telegraph office would be closed. At length, on the 18th of September, the
despatch came,--not to me, but to my friend Mr. Mayo,--bearing the words,
"Tell Marie that she must calmly and quietly receive the news that our
good mother sleeps at the bottom of the ocean, which serves as her
monument and her grave." Mary, this is the most trying passage that I have
to write in this sketch of my life; and you must not think me weak that
tears blot the words as I write. My mother fell a victim to sea-sickness
which brought on a violent hemorrhage, that exhausted the sources of life.
She died three weeks before the vessel reached the port; and my two
sisters (the one seventeen and the other nine years of age) chose rather
to have her lowered on the Banks of Newfoundland, than bring to us a
corpse instead of the living. They were right; and the great ocean seems
to me her fitting monument.

Of course, upon the receipt of these tidings, I could remain no longer in
Cleveland, but took my last money, and went to New York to stay for a
while with my afflicted brother and sisters. The journey was very
beneficial to me; for, without it, I should not have been able to go
through my winter's study. During my stay in New York, I often visited Dr.
Elizabeth Blackwell, and learned that the little dispensary was closed
because her practice prevented her from attending it regularly; but that,
during my absence, she had been trying to interest some wealthy friends
in the collection of money, to enable us, after my return in the spring,
to commence again upon a little larger scale. To effect this, she proposed
to hold a fair during the winter after my return; and we concluded that
the first meeting for this purpose should be held during my visit in New
York. She succeeded in calling together a few friends at her house, who
determined to form a nucleus for a Fair Association for the purpose of
raising money for the New-York Infirmary.

I made a visit of a few days to Boston, and then returned again to
Cleveland. The winter passed in very much the same manner as the first,
with the difference that I spoke better English, and visited many friends
whom I had made during the preceding year. In the spring of 1856, I
graduated. Shortly after commencement, the Dean of the College (Dr.
Delamater) called upon me at the house of a friend with whom I was staying
on a visit. A call from this venerable gentleman was a thing so unusual,
that numberless conjectures as to what this visit might mean flitted
through my brain on my way to the parlor. He received me, as usual,
paternally; wished me a thousand blessings; and handed back to me the note
for one hundred and twenty dollars, payable in two years, which I had
given for the lecture-fees; telling me, that, in the meeting of the
Faculty after graduating-day it was proposed by one of the professors to
return the note to me as a gift; to which those present cheerfully gave a
unanimous vote, adding their wishes for my success, and appointing Dr.
Delamater as their delegate to inform me of the proceedings. This was a
glorious beginning, for which I am more than thankful, and for which I was
especially so at that time, when I had barely money enough to return to
New York, with very small prospects of getting means wherewith to commence
practice. The mention of this fact might be thought indiscreet by the
Faculty in Cleveland, were they still so organized as to admit women;
which, I am sorry to say, is no longer the case; though they give as their
reason, that women at present have their own medical colleges, and,
consequently, have no longer need of theirs.

Before I quit the subject of the Cleveland College I must mention a fact,
which may serve as an argument against the belief that the sexes cannot
study together without exerting an injurious effect upon each other.
During the last winter of my study, there was such emulation in respect to
the graduating honors among the candidates for graduation comprising
thirty-eight male and four female students, that all studied more closely
than they had ever done before--the men not wishing to be excelled by the
women, nor the women by the men; and one of the professors afterwards told
me, that whereas it was usually a difficult thing to decide upon the three
best theses to be read publicly at the commencement, since all were more
or less indifferently written, this year the theses were all so good, that
it was necessary, to avoid doing absolute injustice, to select thirteen
from which parts should be read. Does not this prove that the stimulus of
the one sex upon the other would act rather favorably than otherwise upon
the profession? and would not the very best tonic that could be given to
the individual be to pique his _amour propre_ by the danger of being
excelled by one of the opposite sex? Is not this natural? and would not
this be the best and the surest reformation of humanity and its social
condition, if left free to work out its own development?

On the day following the visit of Dr. Delamater, I received a letter from
my brother-in-law, in which he told me that his business compelled him to
go to Europe for half a year; and that he had, therefore, made
arrangements for me to procure money, in case that I should need it to
commence my practice. He said that he intended to assist me afterwards;
but that, as he thought it best for my sister (his wife) to live out of
New York during his absence, he was willing to lend me as much money as I
required until his return. I accepted his offer with infinite pleasure;
for it was another instance of real friendship. He was by no means a rich
man, but was simply in the employ of a large importing house.

With these prospects I left Cleveland. Immediately after my arrival in New
York, I began to look out for a suitable office; consulting Dr. Elizabeth
Blackwell, with whom I had maintained a constant correspondence, in regard
to location. I soon found that I could not obtain a respectable room
without paying an exorbitant price. Some were afraid to let an office to a
female physician, lest she might turn out a spiritual medium, clairvoyant
hydropathist, &c.; others, who believed me when I told them that I had a
diploma from a regular school, and should never practise contrary to its
requirements, inquired to what religious denomination I belonged, and
whether I had a private fortune, or intended to support myself by my
practice; while the third class, who asked no questions at all, demanded
three dollars a day for a back parlor alone, without the privilege of
putting a sign on the house or the door. Now, all this may be very
aggravating, when it is absolutely necessary that one should have a place
upon which to put a sign to let the world know that she is ready to try
her skill upon suffering humanity; but it has such a strongly ludicrous
side, that I could not be provoked, in spite of all the fatigue and
disappointment of wandering over the city, when, with aching limbs, I
commenced the search afresh each morning, with the same prospect of
success. I finally gave up looking for a room, and accepted Dr. Elizabeth
Blackwell's offer; to occupy her back parlor (the front one serving as her
own office); of which I took possession on the 17th of April.

Meanwhile, I had regularly attended the Thursday fair-meetings; wondering
how persons could afford to meet to so little purpose. There was scarcely
any life in these gatherings; and, when I saw ladies come week after week
to resume the knitting of a baby's stocking (which was always laid aside
again in an hour or two, without any marked progress), I began to doubt
whether the sale of these articles would ever bring ten thousand cents,
instead of the ten thousand dollars which it was proposed at the first
meeting to raise in order to buy a house. I used to say on Wednesday,
"To-morrow we have our fair-meeting. I wonder whether there will be, as
usual, two and a half persons present, or three and three-quarters."

I grew at length heartily sick of this kind of effort, and set about
speculating what better could be done. The idea occurred to me to go from
house to house, and ask for a dime at each, which, if given, would amount
to ten dollars a day; and, with the money thus collected daily for half a
year, to establish a nucleus hospital, which, as a fixed fact, should
stimulate its friends to further assistance.

I took my note-book, and wrote out the whole plan, and also calculated the
expenses of such a miniature hospital as I proposed; including furniture
beds, household utensils; every thing, in short, that was necessary in
such an institution. With this book, which I still have in my possession,
I went one evening into Dr. Blackwell's parlor, and, seating myself, told
her that _I_ could not work any longer for the fair in the way that the
ladies were doing; and then read my plan to her, which I advocated long
and earnestly. She finally agreed with me that it would be better
speedily to establish a small hospital than to wait for the large sum that
had been proposed; though she did not approve of the scheme of the dime
collection, fearing that I would not only meet with great annoyances, but
would also injure my health in the effort. At that time, after some
discussion, I agreed with her: now I think that this plan would have been
better than that which I afterwards followed. On the same evening, I
proposed, and we agreed, that, on a year from that day (the 1st of May,
1857), the New-York Infirmary should be opened.

I went to rest with a light heart, but rose sorrowfully in the morning.
"In one year from to-day, the Infirmary must be opened," said I to myself;
"and the funds towards it are two pairs of half-knit babies' stockings."
The day was passed in thinking what was the next best scheme to raise
money for its foundation. At length I remembered my visit to Boston, and
some friends there whose influence might help me _to beg_ for an
_institution for American women_. For myself I could never have begged; I
would sooner have drowned myself: now I determined to beg money from
Americans to establish an institution for their own benefit. This plan was
disclosed to Dr. Blackwell, and agreed upon, as there was nothing risked
in it; I taking the whole responsibility.

On the next day, the fair-meeting was held at Dr. Blackwell's. The new
plan was brought forward; and, although it was as yet nothing but a plan,
it acted like a warm, soft rain upon a field after a long drought. The
knitting and sewing (for which I have a private horror under all
conditions) were laid aside, to my great relief; and the project was
talked of with so much enthusiasm, that I already saw myself in
imagination making my evening visits to the patients in the New-York
Infirmary; while all the members present (and there were unusually many; I
think, six or seven) discussed the question the next day among their
circles of friends, whether Henry Ward Beecher or a physician of high
standing should make the opening speech in the institution.

This excitement increased the interest exceedingly and the succeeding
meetings were quite enthusiastic. The babies' stockings were never again
resumed (don't think that, because I detested those stockings so much, I
am cruel enough to wish the little creatures to go barefoot); but plans
were made for raising money in New York, and for getting articles for sale
on a larger scale. Dr. Blackwell wrote to her sister. Dr. Emily
Blackwell, who was at that time studying in England, requesting her to
make collections among their friends in that country; which she did with

After having thus thoroughly impressed the public mind with the idea that
the Infirmary must be opened, we began to look about for a suitable house.
In autumn, I went to Boston to see what aid could be obtained there. I
cannot tell you here in what manner I became acquainted with a circle of
noble women, who had both means and the disposition to employ them for
such a purpose: it suffices to say, that I interested them in the
undertaking and obtained a hundred dollars towards the expenses of the
fair, together with a promise of a large table of fancy-goods, and an
invitation to come again in case any further aid was needed. At the end of
three weeks, I left Boston for Philadelphia; but here I was not
successful, as all who were interested in the medical education of women
contributed largely already to the Philadelphia College. A small table of
fancy-goods was the result of my visit there. The money and promise of
goods that I received in Boston stimulated our friends in New York to such
a degree, that, in spite of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell's doubts as to whether
we should cover the expenses, the fair realized a thousand dollars. Yet
this was not half sufficient to commence the proposed hospital; and I
therefore proposed to Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell that I should go on another
begging tour through New England, while she and her sister (Dr. Emily
Blackwell, who had arrived from England a week before the fair) should
arrange matters in New York, where they had more acquaintances than I. I
went for the second time to Boston in February, and met with unexpected
success; bringing back about six hundred dollars in cash, with promises of
a like sum for the ensuing two years. I had represented our scheme as a
three-years' experiment In the mean time, the Drs. Blackwell had hired a
large, old-fashioned house, No. 64, Bleeker Street, which we had looked at
together, and which was very well suited to our purpose, devoting the rest
of their time chiefly to endeavors to interest the Legislature in our
enterprise; the result of which was, that, though nothing was granted us
that spring, the next winter, when we could show our institution in
operation, the usual dispensary grant was extended to us.

On the 3d of April, I returned from Boston, and almost immediately went to
work with some of our lady-managers to order beds and to furnish the
house and dispensary, and also to superintend the internal changes. After
five weeks of hard work, I had the pleasure, on the 15th of May, 1857, of
listening in the wards of the New-York Infirmary to the opening speeches
delivered by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Dr. Elder, and Rev. Dudley Tyng.

A few days afterwards, I admitted the first house-patient and opened the
dispensary, which I attended two days in the week; Drs. Elizabeth and
Emily Blackwell taking charge of it for the remaining four days. I had
offered two years' gratuitous services as my contribution to the
Infirmary, remaining there not only as resident physician, but also as
superintendent of the household and general manager; and attending to my
private practice during the afternoon. The institution grew rapidly, and
the number of dispensary patients increased to such an extent, that the
time from seven in the morning until one in the afternoon was wholly
occupied in the examination of cases. In the second year of the existence
of the Infirmary the state of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell's health compelled
her to go to Europe: and for nine months Dr. Emily Blackwell and I took
charge of the business, which at this time was considerable; the
attendance at the dispensary averaging sixty daily.

During the course of this year, I received letters from some of the
Trustees of the New-England Female Medical College in Boston, inquiring
whether I were inclined to take charge of a hospital in connection with
that institution. A consultation on the subject with Drs. Elizabeth and
Emily Blackwell seemed to prove to us, that by doing this, and helping the
college to attain its objects, we could probably best aid the cause of the
medical education of women. After hesitating for a long time what course
to pursue, I went to Boston in the spring of 1859, in order to define in a
public address my views and position in respect to the study of medicine.
I found so great a desire prevailing for the elevation of the institution
to the standard of the male medical colleges, and such enthusiasm in
respect to the proposed hospital, that I concluded at once to leave the
Infirmary; Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell's absence having proved that it could
be sustained by two, not only without loss, but with a steady increase,
secured by the good done by its existence. Having fulfilled my promise of
two years to the institution, on the 5th of June, 1859, I left for
Boston, where I am now striving to make the hospital-department as useful
as the New-York Infirmary is to the public and the students.

Now, my dear Mary, you may think me very long in my story, especially in
the latter part, of which you know much already; but I could not refrain
from writing fully of this part of my life, which has been the object of
all my undertakings, and for which I have borne trials and overcome
difficulties which would have crushed nine out of ten in my position. I do
not expect that this will be the end of my usefulness; but I do expect
that I shall not have to write to you any more of my doings. It was simply
in order that you, my friend, should understand me fully, and because you
have so often expressed a wish to know my life before we met, that I
finished this work. Now you have me externally and internally, past and
present: and although there have been many influences besides which have
made their impressions on my peculiar development, yet they are not of a
nature to be spoken of as facts; as, for instance, your friendship for me.

On looking back upon my past life, I may say that I am like a fine ship,
that, launched upon high seas, is tossed about by the winds and waves,
and steered against contrary currents, until finally stranded upon the
shore, where, from the materials, a small boat is built, just strong
enough to reach the port into which it had expected to enter with proudly
swelling sails. But this ambition is entirely gone; and I care now very
little whether the people recognize what is in me or not, so long as the
object for which I have lived becomes a reality.

And now, my good friend, I must add one wish before I send these last few
pages to you; namely, that I may be enabled some day to go with you to
Berlin, to show you the scenes in which my childhood and youth were
passed, and to teach you on the spot the difference between Europe and
America. All other inducements to return have vanished. The death of my
father during the last year severed the last tie that bound me to my
native place. Nearly all the men who aided in promoting my wishes have
passed away; and the only stimulus that now remains to revisit the home of
my youth is the wish to wander about there with you, and perhaps two or
three other of my American friends. Until this can be accomplished, I hope
to continue my present work in the New-England Female Medical College,
which, though by no means yet what we wish it to be, is deserving of
every effort to raise it to the stand that it ought to take among the
medical institutions of America.

Yours with love,

Marie E. Zakrzewska.
Boston, September, 1859.

* * * * *

The sweet, pure song has ended. Happy she who has been permitted to set
its clear, strong notes to music. I need not murmur that my own old
hand-organ grows useless, since it has been permitted to grind out the
_key_. Yet Marie's story is told so modestly, and with so much personal
reserve, that, for the sake of the women whom we are both striving to
help, I must be forgiven for directing the public attention to a few of
its points.

In all respects, the "little blind doctor" of the story is the Marie
Zakrzewska that we know. The early anecdotes give us the poetic
impressibility and the enduring muscular fibre, that make themselves felt
through the lively, facile nature. The voice that ordered the fetters
taken off of crazy Jacob is the voice we still hear in the wards of the
hospital. But that poetic impressibility did not run wild with crazy
fancies when she was left to sleep on the floor of the dead-house: the
same strong sense controlled it that started the "tassel manufactory" in
New York, where it had been meant to open a physician's office. Only
thirteen years old when she left school, she had but little aid beside a
_steady purpose_ in preparing for her career. We hear of her slatternly
habits; but who would ever guess them, who remembers the quiet, tasteful
dress of later years?

How free from all egotism is the record! The brain-fever which followed
her attendance on her two aunts is mentioned as quietly as if it were a
sprained foot. Who of us but can see the wearing-away of nervous energy
which took place with the perpetual care of a cancer and a somnambulist
pressed also by the hard reading suggested by Dr. Arthur Luetze? Berlin
educated the second La Chapelle; but it was for America, not Germany. The
dreadful tragedy of Dr. Schmidt's death is hardly dwelt upon long enough
to show its full effects, so fearful is our friend of intruding a personal

When "Woman's Right to Labor" was printed, many persons expressed their
regret that so little was said about sin and destitution in Boston itself;
and many refused to believe that every pit-fall and snare open in the Old
World gaped as widely here. "You have only the testimony of the girls
themselves," they would reply, when I privately told them what I had not
thought it wise to print. I have never regretted yielding to the motives
which decided me to withhold much that I knew. "If they believe not Moses
and the prophets, neither would they believe though one rose from the
dead," said, of old, the divine voice; and the hearts that were not
touched by what I thought it fit to tell would never have been stirred to
energy by fuller revelations.

In these pages, authenticated by a pure and cultivated woman, who holds a
high position among us, every fact at which I hinted is made plain; and
here no careless talker may challenge the record with impunity. Here, as
in New York, smooth-faced men go on board the emigrant-ship, or the
steerage of the long-expected steamer; here, as there, they make friendly
offers and tell plausible lies, which girls who have never walked the
streets of Berlin at night, nor seen the occupants of a hospital-ward at
the Charite, can hardly be expected to estimate at their just worth. The
stories which I have told of unknown sufferers are here repeated. The
grand-daughter of Krummacher marries a poor shoemaker to save herself from
vice, and poor German Mary drowns herself in the Hudson because she feels
herself a burden on a heartless brother. Better far to sink beneath its
waves than beneath the more remorseless flood which sweeps over all great
cities. Now, when the story of the Water-street cap-makers is told, to be
matched by many another in Boston itself, it is no longer some ignorant,
half-trained stranger who tells the story, but the capable, skilled woman,
who, educated for better things, made tassels and coiffures, and accepted
commissions in embroidery, till the merchants were convinced that here,
indeed, was a woman without reproach. Water-street merchants would do well
to remember hereafter that the possibilities of a Zakrzewska lie hidden in
every oppressed girl, and govern themselves accordingly. Think of this
accomplished woman, able to earn no more than thirty-six cents a day,--a
day sixteen hours long, which finished a dozen caps at three cents each!
What, then, must become of clumsy and inferior work-women? Think of it
long and patiently, till you come to see, as she bids you, the true
relation between the idleness of women and money in the Fifth Avenue and
the hunted squalor of women without money at the Five Points. Women of
Boston, the parallel stands good for you. Listen, and you may hear the
dull murmur of your own "Black Sea," as it surges against your gateway.

Hasten to save those whom it has not yet overwhelmed Believe me that many
of them are as pure and good as the babes whom you cradle in cambric and
lace. If you will not save them, neither shall you save your own beloved
ones from the current which undermines like a "back-water" your costliest
churches, your most sacred homes.

Caroline H. Dall.
Oct. 29, 1860.


"Unbarred be all your gates, and opened wide,
Till she who honors women shall come in!"

Dante: Sonnet xx.


[1] Pronounced Zak-shef-ska.

[2] "The undersigned, Secretary of Legation of the United States of
America, certifies that Miss Marie Elizabeth Zakrzewska has exhibited to
him very strong recommendations from the highest professional authorities
of Prussia, as a scientific, practical, experienced _accoucheuse_ of
unusual talent and skill. She has been chief _accoucheuse_ in the Royal
Hospital of Berlin, and possesses a certificate of her superiority from
the Board of Directors of that institution. She has not only manifested
great talent as a practitioner, but also as a teacher; and enjoys the
advantage of a moral and irreproachable private character. She has
attained this high rank over many female competitors in the same branch;
there being more than fifty[A] in the city of Berlin who threaten, by
their acknowledged excellence, to monopolize the obstetric art."

Theo. S. Fay.

"Legation United States, Berlin, Jan. 26, 1853."


[A] "Upon inquiry, I find that, instead of fifty, there are one hundred
and ten female _accoucheuses_ in Berlin.


[3] Here I have to remark, that, not being able to speak English, I
conducted my business at the different stores either in German or French,
as I easily found some of the _employees_ who could speak one of these

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