By Dorothy Day
New York Call Friday, December 15, 1916, page 3
“You are too extravagant,” said the Organized Charities to the Call diet squad, when it reported at the 22d street offices after a two-week’s experiment. “You should not eat so much fruit; you should not eat so many potatoes and you should eat butterine instead of butter. I also see by your menu that you have been gormandizing as much as four rolls at a time. That’s bad. You are only allowed two at the most. Buy the stale bread after this, less potatoes and what about prunes? Can it be possible that you have neglected prunes?”
I left the office feeling chastened. Yes, such reckless extravagance must cease. It is awful to contemplate that I am spending enough money to feed a family of five. My first grocery bill amounted to $2.40 and my second rose a little above that. It is foolishness, they say, to spend more than $1.82 for one individual.
Delicacies of Next Week
For next week the following delicacies shall deck the board. Anybody is invited to lunch: Carrots 5c; onions, 5c; dates, 10c; peanuts, 10c; graham crackers and bread, 38c; beans for soup, 5c; eggs 14c; butterine ½ pound, 15c; sugar, 8c; milk, 70c; fruit, 10c; and all added together the total is $1.90. There are enough supplies there to last slightly over the week. There are also left in my room a few potatoes, some rice, and cocoa.
Having weighed myself at the correct Charities scale, I find that I have gained three ounces in weight. Well – how could I help it when I was putting enough away in my ignorance to feed a family of five. My strength has not as yet diminished. Sunday I took the eight-mile Board of Health hike with no ill effects aside from a slight stiffness. Yesterday I washed clothes with great gusto. I finished with the skin missing on my knuckles, and two blisters, but I cannot say that I lost weight.
After all, one cannot judge much by two weeks. It is hard enough to arrive at conclusions in a month.
As to Social Value The previous articles tell of the loneliness, the depression attendant upon eating alone and skimping and the thought demanded by this experiment. They do not emphasize, however, the social value to be obtained by it.
If I should be able to show any girls living, or trying to live, on $5 and $6 a week, just how they could best build up their strength by proper foods so that they could fight, and have gumptions to fight employers for better wages, I shall feel as though I had accomplished something. Of course, it is contemptible that they should be asked to live on such an amount.
But why not spite the “400” and build up their strength and courage that is [illegible] in them on the money that they have, so that they may fight for a top place and be fit to hold a top place when they get it?
The Wash Question To pass the question of food and touch on some of the other problems that bother the average worker, the majority of the poor East Side women are more than ready to help out the girls in the way of washing. In eight out of the ten of the furnished rooms, averaging $6.50 a week, the landladies said that the girls could use the tub and line and clothespins. For a small consideration – 10 cents usually – they are willing to permit the girls to iron, also. Thus, the difficulty of clean clothes is solved for those that can afford $1.50 room rent.
In the story, “The Rise and Fall” or is it the “Fall and Rise,” of somebody or other, which is running in one of the popular sensational magazines, there is much emphasis laid on the fact that poor working girls have no place to wash.
Plenty of Bathing Facilities This, also, is a fallacy. It seems to be one of the pleasures of the capitalist authors who pretend to write of the masses to lay great stress on problems that do not exist, and glaze over those that do.
Every one knows that a working-girl in the City of New York is offered every facility for bathing. Wherever she is in the poorer districts, there are baths within a half a mile and, usually, nearer. Soap is provided with a towel for 2 cents and the water in the shower is always hot. The baths are open from 8 in the morning till 10 at night, so both the housewives and the workers have a chance.