Friday, December 2, 2011

100 Years ago today: "I could not work any harder than I had been doing."

One hundred years ago Mrs. Anna Godfrey collapsed on a bench in a "fashionable" part of Chicago. Her hair was cut short and she was wearing men's clothes and so was charged with "masquerading in male attire." Mrs. Godfrey explained to the judge that she had dressed as a man and set out on a ten mile walk in order to get a job as a farm laborer. Her husband was bed ridden and she and her oldest boy each were able to bring home only a few dollars a week to support the family of six. Mrs. Godfrey dreamed of giving her four children a better place to live than than their home on a alley. As reported in The Tacoma Times (December 2, page 8)
Judge J. R. Caverly....discharged her. "You are a brave woman," he said, "and deserve praise rather than punishment for your act."
but the only relief he could offer was
to take her children away from her and place them in a home
an offer Mrs. Godfrey turned down.
"No," she replied, "I will go back to the factory, where I worked the last four years, or I will get work as a scrub-woman, but I want to keep my babies in our own home....I told my husband that something would have to be done. I decided to get a job on a truck farm, thinking that if I did well I could bring the family out and that would be better for the children than to stay on the alley. I didn't have a cent of money, so I started out to walk. For ten miles I went along, resting when my feet got sore and tired, and then starting out again.
   "My husband thought that farm work would be too hard for me but I told him that 1 could not work any harder than I had been doing."
I hope Mrs Godfey was able to keep her babies. I hope she was able to make life better for her children. I hope that life got easier for her and not harder as the years passed. Take a look at this picture of Mrs. Anna Godfey in The day book (Chicago, Illinois. December 2, page 9) and remember her face every time a politician tells you that anyone can get ahead in America if only they are willing to work hard because many Americans, like Mrs. Godfrey, couldn't work any harder than they have been doing.


  1. Sadly, I'm sure there are many mothers today who could state the exact same thing truthfully, even if they don't have to dress as men to find work.

  2. @willbikeforchange: That was exactly what I thought.

    Just this week Newt Gingrich was bloviating about children living in poor districts not having any idea of what work looked like--that they needed role models because everyone around them was lazy or would only do work if it was illegal.

    What an insult to the many women out there who are holding down two or three jobs in addition to the job of being a mother.

    One of the frightening things about the current campaign is that the "dream world" that so many of these people want to move up back to is the world of 1911. And it was a nasty time and place to live.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.