24 August 2010

"I scrubs"

“I Scrubs” - Katie who Keeps House in West Forty-ninth Street, New York, 1892

“When Riis met nine-year-old Katie at the 52nd Street Industrial School, he asked what kind of work she did, and she answered, ‘I scrubs.’ Katie and her three older siblings took their own flat after their mother died and their father remarried. The older children worked in a hammock factory, and Katie kept house. When asked if she would pose for this picture, which appeared in Children of the Poor, Katie ‘got right up … without a question and without a smile.’”
A nine-year-old girl scrubbing floors to support herself.  As the U.S. struggles through this ever-lengthening and deepening recession, I think the above photo and attendant story are worth keeping in mind for anyone tempted to feel sorry for their own economic misfortunes. 

Photo and quotation found at (OVO), via The Fighting Temeraire, or Everything 19th Century.


  1. I'm a regular near-daily reader of TYWKIWDBI, mostly due to this image. I printed it, and I have it hanging on my cubical wall. For some reason, although it's very sad, "I scrubs" is calming.

  2. Thanks for reminding me about this post. Now that the blog has a wider central column, I've enlarged the photo.


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