Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life

By Jean Bethke Elshtain | Go to book overview

3
IMAGINING HULL-HOUSE

MIDNIGHT IN LONDON. A young American woman in a state of nervous depression finds herself on a train to Whitechapel, in the city's impoverished East End. It is November 1883, and a drama is about to unfold on the Mile End Road. Despite her "limited amount of energy," she records the event in the travel journey she turns to "in moments of deep depression when overwhelmed by a sense of failure." This is the Story of Pale Hands at Midnight. 1

A small party of tourists were taken to the East End by a city missionary to witness the Saturday night sale of decaying vegetables and fruit, which, owing to the Sunday laws in London, could not be sold until Monday, and, as they were beyond safe keeping were disposed of at auction as late as possible on Saturday night. On Mile End Road, from the top of an omnibus which paused at the end of a dingy street lighted by only occasional flares of gas, we saw two huge masses of ill-clad people clamoring around two hucksters' carts. They were bidding their farthings and ha'pennies for a vegetable held up by the auctioneer, which he at last scornfully flung, with a gibe for its cheapness, to the successful bidder. In the momentary pause only one man detached himself from the groups. He had bidden on a cabbage, and when it struck his hand, he instantly sat down on the curb, tore it with his teeth, and hastily devoured it, unwashed and uncooked as it was. He and his fellows were types of the "submerged tenth," as our missionary guide told us, with some little satisfaction in the then new phrase, and he further added that so many of them could scarcely be seen in one spot save at this Sat

-65-

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