March 23, 1895: The plight of women and girls who work in New York City’s dry goods stores was the subject of compelling testimony at a hearing today.
Members of the New York State Assembly heard detailed accounts of oppressive working conditions, but also learned of measures being implemented by women determined to improve them.
Alice Woodbridge was an early witness. She testified: “It is nothing unusual for the girls to work from ten to sixteen hours a day.”
When asked if she could name specific stores in which this was the practice, she said it was customary in all stores except for three: Arnold and Constable, B. Altman and Company, and Lord and Taylor.
Woodbridge said the pay is as deplorable as the hours: “The average wages of women in dry goods stores of this city is $4.50 a week.” For “cash girls”—who carry…