It was then considered better that she should go to live with an aunt, to whom she paid the nominal board of $1.15 a week. As her home was in West Hoboken, she spent two and a half hours every day on the journey in the cars and on the ferry. During the weeks of overtime Alice could not reach home until nearly half past eleven o’clock; and she would be obliged to rise while it was still dark, at six o’clock, after five hours and a half of sleep, in order to be at her counter punctually at eight. By walking from the store to the ferry she saved 30 cents a week. Still, fares cost her $1.26 a week. This $1.26 a week carfare (which was still not enough to convey her the whole distance from her aunt’s to the store) and the $1.15 a week for board (which still did not really pay the aunt for her niece’s food and lodging) consumed all her earnings except 20 cents a week.
Alice was eager to become more genuinely self-dependent. She left the establishment of her first employment and entered another store on Fourteenth Street, as cash girl, at $4 a week. The hours in the second store were very long, from eight to twelve in the morning and from a quarter to one till a quarter past six in the afternoon on all days except Saturday, when the closing hour was half past nine.
After she had $4 a week instead of $2.62-1/2, Alice abandoned her daily trip to West Hoboken and came to live in New York.
Here she paid 6 cents a night in a dormitory of a charitably supported home for girls. She ate no breakfast. Her luncheon consisted of coffee and rolls for 10 cents. Her dinner at night was a repetition of coffee and rolls for 10 cents. As she had no convenient place for doing her own laundry, she paid 21 cents a week to have it done. Her regular weekly expenditure was as follows: lodging, 42 cents; board, $1.40; washing, 21 cents; clothing and all other expenses, $1.97; total, $4.
Of course, living in this manner was quite beyond her strength. She was pale, ill, and making the severest inroads upon her present and future health. Her experience illustrates the narrow prospect of promotion in some of the department stores.
It is significant in this point to compare the annals of this growing girl with those of a saleswoman of thirty-five, Grace Carr, who had been at work for twelve years. In her first employment in a knitting mill she had remained for five years, and had been promoted rapidly to a weekly wage of $12. The hours, however, were very long, from ten to thirteen hours a day. The lint in the air she breathed so filled her lungs that she was unable, in her short daily leisure, to counteract its effect. At the end of five years, as she was coughing and raising particles of lint, she was obliged to rest for a year.