When I had charge of the Chinatown Mission a party of three came down to see the sights and do a little slumming in the district, and they asked me to show them around. Now there wasn’t a hole or joint in Chinatown or on the Bowery that I didn’t know, but I didn’t as a rule take women to such places. I don’t like the idea of their looking at other people’s misery, and there’s nothing but woe and want to be seen when you go slumming. Lots of it is brought on by the people themselves, but still they are human and do not like to be looked at.
However, this night was an exception, and away we went to see the sights. I took them to the Joss House—the temple where the Chinese pray to Confucius—and other places down on Cherry Hill. But they wanted to see something hard, so I took them to a place that I thought was hard enough. If you were a stranger and went into this place and displayed a roll of “the green” you would be done up.
We went into one of the worst places on the Bowery, the women being as anxious to go as the rest. The waiter piloted us to a small round table, and we sat down and called for some soda. I’d been there before to bring out a man or a woman or a girl as the case might be, and was pretty well known as “Sky-Pilot Dan.”
The party with me were astonished and wondered how such things as they saw could exist in a city like New York. There were all classes in the place, sailors, men, women, and girls, who had lost all self-respect and thought of nothing but the drink and the dance.
While sitting there the lady’s attention was drawn to a girl at the next table who sat there looking at the lady, with the tears streaming down her cheeks. The lady said, “Mr. Ranney, what is the matter with that girl? Ask her to join us.” I got another chair and asked the girl to come over and sit beside the lady, who asked her how she came to be there, and why she was crying.
At that the girl began to cry harder and sobbed as though her heart would break. After she became a little more quiet she said, “You look like my mother, and I’ll never see her again! Oh, I wish I was dead!” We asked her why she didn’t go home to her mother. She cried out, “I can’t! They won’t let me! And if I could get away how could I get to Cincinnati, Ohio, where my mother lives?”
We got her story from the girl, and this is how it ran: She got into conversation with a well-dressed woman in Cincinnati one day who said that she could get her a position as stenographer and typewriter at a fine salary. After telling her mother about it, she and the woman started for New York, the woman paying the fare. The woman gave her an address of a party, but when the poor girl got there, there was no job for a typewriter; it was a very different position. The young girl had been lured from home on false promises, and here she was a “white slave” through no fault of her own.