Working with the Working Woman

Source: Cornelia Stratton Parker, Working With the Working Woman (New York/London: Harper & Brothers, 1922), pp. 160-161

Text: Outside of the gayety during working hours, there was little going on about the Falls. Movies – of course, movies. Four times a week the same people, usually each entire family, conscientiously change into their best garments and go to the movie palace. The children and young people fill the first rows, the grown folk bring up the rear. Four times a week young and old get fed on society dramas, problem plays, bathing girl comedies. Next day it is always:

“Sadie, did ya saw the show last night? Wasn’t it swell where she recognized her lover just before he got hung?”

Just once since movies were has the town been taken by storm, and that was while I was there. It was “The Kid” that did it. Many that day at the bleachery said they weren’t going – didn’t like Charlie Chaplin – common and pie-slinging; cheap; always all of that. Sweet-faced Mamie, who longs to go through Sing Sing some day – “That’s where they got the biggest criminals ever. Wonder if they let you see the worst ones” – Mamie, who had thrilled to a trip through the insane asylum; Mamie, who could discuss for hours the details of how a father beat his child to death; Mamie, to whom a divorce was meat and a suicide drink – Mamie wasn’t going to see Charlie Chaplin. All that pie-slinging stuff made her sick.

Usually a film shows but once at the Falls. “The Kid” ran Monday matinée. Monday night the first time in history the movie palace was filled and over two hundred turned away. Tuesday night it was shown to a third full house. Everyone was converted.

Comment: Cornelia Stratton Parker wrote six pieces from Harper’s Magazine June-December 1921 which recorded how she had mixed with low-wage-earning women in America to learn about their lives. The articles were then turned into a book Working With the Working Woman. This passage comes from her chapter ‘No. 536 Tickets Pillow Cases’ on the workers in a New York bleachery (original article title ‘Labeling pillow cases in a bleachery’). Chaplin’s feature film The Kid was released in 1921.

Links: Copy on Internet Archive

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