Margaret Sanger, "Impressions of Glasgow," Dec 1913.
Source: " Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress Microfilm 129:0668."
Exact month of article not known.
Perhaps your readers of this page would be interested in some of the impressions of a mother traveling in Europe with three children.
What glorious visions I had of Glasgow, the City where Municipal Ownership has been in operation for some twenty years.
I have tried since to remember where it was that I had heard it called the Model City, but cannot recollect.
Yet model it is considered as far as administration, is concerned for the men who went into office when the Corporation of Glasgow was formed in 1880, are mostly in office to day holding down comfortable jobs.
The atmosphere is cold and damp, it has always just rained, and when the sun does come out and show himself it is seldom long enough to dry up the walks.
In spite of this the streets are fairly clean and tho always damp and wet, it is seldom one sees either men or women wearing rubbers. The people seem cold and rigid, as dismal as the climate and lacking in human understanding.
The policemen on the other hand are well acquainted with all sources of information, they display no clubs, and seem to be the only persons who have a sense of humor.
The Corporation of Glasgow has under its jurisdiction the Art Galleries and museums, the libraries, parks, tramways, or trolley, the electricity, gas, water, meat, fish and vegetable and fruit markets, public bath houses public wash houses, street cleaning, the cheese market, bird and dog market, old clothes market cattle market, slaughter houses, dead meat market, model lodging houses, the family home, and model tenements, and hospitals for small pox and other contagious diseases.
Certainly all this sounds illuminating, and yet everywhere one looked were you confronted with this most appalling sights of poverty and misery.
Thousands of women walking about with shawls over their heads, or shoulders, which serves two purposes that of keeping the woman warm and also helps her to carry the child she most invariably carries in her arms. On closer inspection you can easily see that her wearing apparel consists of a petticoat, wrapper and shoes, with the addition of the shawl already mentioned. Few of this class women wear stockings or underwear all the year around. ↑anyway at night↓
The expression on their pinched and weary faces is that of slow starvation and nothing else.
These women do not live in the model tenements, nor buy in the meat, fruit or vegetable markets, their families are usually too large for the tenements (the laws of Glasgow will not allow overcrowding in the houses) and the markets are mostly wholesale products only or are so far away that tho the cost of passage is small it's too much and they content themselves with their bread and tea, and are thankful for that.
The bath and wash houses are very popular and tho the cost of the use of a stall is four cents (2d) an hour, which includes plenty of hot and cold water, boiling, wringing and drying by machine process, They open at 7AM and close at 6PM and until the last hours of the day there are women waiting about for empty stalls. It takes about two hours for a woman to wash for an average family, which is less than she can buy the amount of coal it would require for the washing if done at home.
The history of the public wash house dates back to 1878, and were deemed a public necessity for the comfort of the male citizens whose comforts were being deprived them by washing hanging about in their dismal homes, and on account of the weather and seemingly never ceasing rain, that the washing was never dry.
The men were being driven from their homes says an early report, on this subject, and there are today about twenty all told and one of the best paying propositions in the City.
The women carry their clothes to and from their homes, are not allowed on the tramways with their baskets so of course it deprives those from its use who can not walking distance. Up stairs is the bath house facilities, including, hot baths, swimming Ponds (General public), Turkish baths, Gymnasium. For children under 16 years the cost of a bath is one penny the use of the gymnasium is an extra penny. Cost for men is 6d, 4d, 3d. Cost for women 3d. Turkish baths is 1s, Ladies have only one day a week for the use of these baths.
Of Model Lodging houses there are about ten, these are mainly for men only one being used for women. They give accommodation for about 2500 persons nightly, and they are mostly occupied to their full capacity. Each house is provided with a common dining room a kitchen, with utensils and large fire available at all hours of the day, for cooking, which of course the individual buys and cooks himself. There are many lockers where food can be kept each one having access to his own. There is also in each house a large recreation room with benches and tables where the men lounge about. There is also lavatory and bathing conveniences, and each person has a separate bunk, with spring mattress pillow sheets and blanket, this for the sum of from 3 and a half d, to 6d per night or from seven to twelve cents a night.
A provision shop is attached to nearly all these houses where food is purchased at the regular out side price (not at cost prices) These houses are also considered a financial success.
Then there is a Family home which was constructed for the accommodation of "deserving and respectable widows and widowers belonging to the working class" having one or more children with no one to care for them while the parents were at work.
This Home has also been turned over for the exclusive use of widowers and their families, and as there is only one such establishment in the City the widows and their children must struggle and shift for themselves.
However the idea is a splendid one and to all appearances looks good. The house contains 160 bedrooms, each capable of accommodating one adult and three children.
There is a common dining room and kitchen where meals are cooked and served to the inmated. Board for children at an average of 1s 7d per week or about forty cents an average. The rent of a bedroom is 5s 6d per week or about $1.50. There is a nursery for the little ones where nurses care for them during the day, the older children are sent to school.
The whole place is lighted by electricity and heated by hot water, it is managed by a superintendent and matron with a staff of nurses and other helpers.
It is stated that this has resulted in a loss but as it has steadily grown in favor and reduces the loss as it increases its residents.
Besides all this there are owned by the Corporation over 1990 one two and three apartment houses.
The lowest rent charged for the one apartment house is about $30 per year. That for the two apartment house about $40 per year. That of the three apartment house about $68 per year while the maximum rents are $40, $60, $100, respectively.
These are all provided with stoves and bunks built in for beds which of course take up much less room than the average clumsy movable bed.
Now all this sounds encouraging does it not yet why is it that there is such bald faced misery and poverty in Glasgow?
Because these things which a municipal ownership administration aims to control are at the best only alleviations of their poverty, they have made no attempt to touch at the root of all poverty the economic situation, and unless this is done all the alleviation in the world will not change the position of the working people. Strange too that where the administration aimed at procuring food at a lower cost for the workers, it has today gradually lent itself to buying for the small dealer or Capitalist who in turn sells the product for the same prices as the larger Capitalist. The wages of the workers are in no way affected by the administration for what they are able to obtain from the boss is obtained on the job through organization and bitter controversy. The Lords of Capital point with pride at the wages of the workers of the shipping industry who they claim receive as high as five dollars a day. On investigation I found this to be true when the men work all day, but the work is so strenuous that only a few hours a days work can be done at a time which brings the average down to fifteen dollars a week.
The wages of women is very small as is that of men. Every where can be seen little girls down on their knees scrubbing the doorsteps and sidewalks in front of the houses, or again they are seem carrying huge bundles or baskets of groceries which they deliver at the homes of the buyers.
There is a messengers service where young boys are trained in service and are taught to do all kinds of work, imagine my surprise when I phoned to send one of the boys to help look after the children for the afternoon, when who should appear for the service but a small boy not as large as my own, he was dressed in the English uniform with his tiny hat on the side of his head and stood so straight and machine made that it was tempting to laugh.
He remains a half day for fifty cents or by the hour for twelve cents. He takes them out for a walk entertainment them and returns them safely at any hour designated beforehand.
I questioned one of the executive officers concerning the poverty of the women, and asked why it was that the women looked so much more poverty stricken than the men,. He answered that the women of Glasgow were (the lower classes) all most all of drunken habits, and were hopeless, dirty, and low. Asked as to the cause of it, he said it was their own fault.
Glasgow certainly leaves a most lasting impression of misery and poverty.
The tramways have been under the administration since 1894, and today it is stated that in two years the money which was borrowed which amounted to ↑$13,500,000↓ will be entirely liquidated and with the City's treasury already with a surplus of [one word missing] There promises to be lively times discussing what shall be done with the tramway service, if it will be entirely free, or not. At present the fare are one cent a mile for the first mile or 1 half pence but on longer rides it averages a little less than a cent a mile.
The Socialists of Glasgow have led or encouraged the Administration from time to time in improving the conditions for the working class, and they are now trying to get the City to use its surplus for the building of workmens' homes.
All together it is impossible to visit the City and not at once recognize that the Administration is serving all its efforts in bolstering up the small middleman. Europe seem to recognize that the psychology of the middle class is fundamentally its salvation, and makes every effort to keep it alive.
↑Working class get no service for tramways huddled about their shipping industry↓
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project