“The living-in system prevails in the hospitals, and wages are paid partly in board and lodging. The laundry workers share the dormitories and dining rooms of the other hospital employees. The dormitories were in every case furnished with comfortable beds, and chiffonniers or bureaus and adequate closet space were provided. Miss Hopkins and I did not sleep in, but had our beds assigned us, and used our dormitory rights merely for a cloak room. Here we lingered after hours to gossip, and here we often retired at noon to stretch out for a few minutes’ relaxation of our aching muscles. The dormitories varied in size. Each hospital had several large and several small ones. In most cases these dormitories were on upper floors. In one they occupied the basement. Here, however, a wide sunken alley skirted the house wall and gave the windows a fairly good access to the air.
“In all but two hospitals the food was excellent and the meals decently served. There were eggs and milk in abundance. The soups were delicious, the meats of fair quality and well cooked. There were plenty of vegetables, and the desserts were appetizing. We sat, as a rule, at long tables accommodating from ten to twenty. Sometimes we had table-cloths and napkins; sometimes a white oil-cloth sufficed. We were waited on by maids.
“In most of the hospitals there is a fifteen or twenty-minute rest in the morning and in the afternoon, when milk, tea, and bread and butter are served. These oases of rest and nourishment were of extraordinary value to us in resisting fatigue. Their efficiency in keeping workers in condition is a humane and practical feature of the laundries which should be sharply emphasized.
“There was little variation in wages between the different grades of workers. As a rule, only two prices obtained—one for all the manglers and plain ironers, another for the starchers and shirt and fancy ironers. In one laundry the wage fell as low as $10 a month. In the others it was $14 and $15 for the lower grade of work, and $16 and $20 for the higher. One of the laundries gave board, but no room, and here the universal price was $20 a month.
“As to hours, three of the hospitals had an eight-hour day; four had a nine-and-a-half-hour day. In one of these there was no work on Saturday afternoon, so that the weekly hours were forty-four. Another hospital worked seventy-two hours a week, with no recompense in the form of overtime pay. Generally the catchers at the mangles sat at their work. In one hospital the feeders also sat, using high stools. We wondered why this was not more often the custom. The difference in vigor in our own cases when we worked sitting was marked. Sitting, we escaped unwearied; standing all day left us numb with fatigue. In only one hospital was artificial light necessary in the work-room. The rooms, as a rule, were well ventilated and the air fresh when one came into them.