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The Militant, 17 August 1946

Mille Fredreci

“My Day” – Experiences of a Working Mother

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 33, 17 August 1946, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


I have never tried to write a column before. I am such a busy mother and housewife who works out that I wish I could travel about from home to shop and work by atom rocket. I don’t have time to make up my face, to say nothing of making up a column, so I’m telling this while my husband types if for me. Here’s a sample of “My Day.”

After staying up all night carrying buckets of water last Tuesday because my roof was leaking, I went to court to get a summons for my landlord. Water has been pouring from the electric socket for over a month whenever it rains. I was so afraid this would cause a short in the fixtures that I called the Fire Department in advance and told them about it and I took out fire insurance which cost $9 for $2,000 worth for three years. I live on the top floor.

I telephoned my Madame I wouldn’t be able to bring the dress I had fitted for her because the roof was leaking and I was going to the OPA, the Health Department and court.

Workers in Court

I’ve never taken out a summons before but I went to 153 East 57th St. Municipal Court where I got one after declaring I was a pauper (had less than $500 in liquid assets). The court was crowded with workers who seemed too timid and awe-stricken to ask for what they came for or to defend themselves. Some of them brought lawyers they couldn’t afford.

Since March the OPA has turned over its investigation of repairs to the Tenement House Department, so I called them and they promised to send someone to investigate the next day. (I’m still waiting after a week.)

I had forgotten all about Buyers’ Strike Day until I reached Norton’s to return a pair of shoes. The pickets were calling out: “Stay out of the stores,” “Don’t Buy – Prices are too high.” I said to the picket captain: “I’m not buying, I’m taking these shoes back for a refund.” So he let me pass. If I’d kept the shoes another day, I’d have lost the price of the shoes and I worked too hard to get it.

The Poor Pay More

I have a big gas and electric bill for the last two months – $15.99. That is $5 more than my Madame’s gas and light bill. She lives on East 77th St. and her three-room apartment, with a terrace, costs $108 a month. My tiny four rooms could fit into her living room easily, but I pay a higher gas and light bill. It’s not right that the poor should pay more than the rich.

Fluorescent lighting might help me get my bill down somewhat if the landlord would put it in. If I have to install it, I'll buy the kind I can move. Fluorescent lighting gives twice as much light for the current compared with incandescent. Abraham Straus has a fluorescent floor lamp for $49.95 which I won’t get because you know why.

Electric refrigeration is nice if you can get it. Consolidated Edison advised me if I order now I might get a refrigerator in six months – about $182 up. You pay off the bill added to your regular gas and light bill and Edison gets a rake-off for the sale.

I bought a second-hand refrigerator during the depression for $10 plus hauling cost. The last three years it has cost me about $60 a year to repair it’ (the company patches it up). I had it cleaned last week for $5 and then it wouldn’t run.

The mechanic said it stopped because the float was choked with carbon and it needed another “overhauling.” So I told him nothing doing, if it wouldn’t work I’d take a hammer and bang until the carbon was loosened or smash it and sell it for junk.

Some Break Down

Out shopping, I priced a piece of oil cloth for my kitchen table. The price was $1.15 for a piece that used to sell for 59 to 79 cents. I bought two pounds of peaches instead, but when I got home I found those on the bottom of the bag were rotten.

I also bought a five-pound piece of pork. I got six to eight chops out of six inches square of meat encased in a layer of fat – cost $2.50. Butchers stopped trimming fat off soon after the war began.

When I got home they were taking my neighbor away in an ambulance accompanied by a policeman. She just broke down from the bad housing and bad food and nervous exhaustion so they were taking her to a charity ward. The usual crowd of neighbors gathered. Some of them saw, a stray cat with a broken leg in the gutter and gave it water.

The cop pulled out his revolver to kill the cat. But the bullet bounced off the pavement and wounded another of my neighbors sitting on stoop number 4. My day!

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