In a House Divided, 1850-1890


August 16, 1894, Jennie Curtis, being first duly sworn, testified as follows:

1 (Commissioner Wright). State your name, residence, and occupation.--ANS. Jennie Curtis; reside at Pullman; have been a seamstress for the Pullman company in the repair shops sewing room; worked for them five years.

2 (Commissioner Wright). Are you a member of any labor organization? --ANS. Yes, sir; I am a member of the American Railway Union.

3 (Commissioner Wright). How long have you been a member of that union? --ANS. Since about the 8th day of last May.

4 (Commissioner Wright). Do you hold any position in the union? --ANS. I am president of the girls' union, local, No. 269, at Pullman.

8 (Commissioner Wright). State briefly what you did as a member serving upon those committees. --ANS. I was on a committee that went from Pullman to speak for the girls in May before the strike, to ask for more wages.

10 (Commissioner Wright). State what took place at the first interview. --ANS. We went there and asked, as the men did, for more wages; we were cut lower than any of the men's departments throughout the works; in 1893 we were able to make 22 cents per hour, or $2.25 per day, in my department, and on the day of the strike we could only earn, on an average, working as hard as we possibly could, from 70 to 80 cents a day.

11 (Commissioner Wright). Can you give us how the wages changed from month to month? --ANS. Whenever the men were cut in their wages the girls also received a cut. We were cut twice inside of a week in November, 1893, and in January our wages were cut again; that was the last cut we received, and we worked as hard as we possibly could and doing all we could, too. The most experienced of us could only make 80 cents per day, and a great many of the girls could only average 40 to 50 cents per day.

14 (COMMISSIONER WRIGHT). Do you pay rent in Pullman? --ANS. No sir: not now.

15 (Commissioner Wright). You pay board? --ANS. Yes, sir. My father worked for the Pullman company for thirteen years. He died last September, and I paid the rent to the Pullman company up to the time he died; I was boarding at the time of my father's death. He being laid off and sick for three months, owed the Pullman company $60 at the time of his death for back rent, and the company made me, out of my small earnings, pay rent due from my father.

16(COMMISSIONER WRIGHT). How did they make you do it? --ANS. The contract was that I should pay $3 on the back rent every pay day; out of my small earnings I could not give them $3 every pay day, and when I did not do so I was insulted and almost put out of the bank by the clerk for not being able to pay it to them. My wages were cut so low that I could not pay my board and give them $3 on the back rent, but if I had $2 or so over my board, I would leave it at the bank on the rent. On the day of the strike I still owed them $15, which I am afraid they never will give me a chance to pay back.

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