Here’s the location on Google Maps:
Life on the Lower East Side, 1850-1910
University Settlement’s New York Rising students spent last year learning how to be prepared for emergencies such as hurricanes, power outages, transportation disruptions and severe snowstorms. Now, they are looking back in time and will explore three major disasters that impacted the lives of immigrants living on the Lower East Side of New York City…our very own University Settlement neighborhood. They will learn about the great heat wave of 1896, the sinking of the USS Slocum in the East River, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.
While each of these historic events resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives, they also resulted in changes to laws that still impact our lives today at home and in the workplace. However, before we looked at each event, the students began to learn in greater detail what life was like for a newly arrived immigrant…perhaps someone like you…who arrived not knowing how to speak English, not knowing where their family was going to live, and not knowing how they were going to earn a living. Fortunately for us, reformer Jacob Riis was on the scene with his camera, documenting the conditions of those living on the Lower East Side. So today we can see exactly how difficult and challenging their lives were.
University Settlement played a major part in helping new immigrants back in the 1880s and 1900s, just as it does today. You can learn more by clicking here.
The students each chose one of the photos published by Jacob Riis and were asked to write a short essay from the view point of someone in the photo. We hope you enjoy their essays. Read one below and click here or on the link below to read more:
LIFE IS SO HARD
by Ada Huang
From the 1850’s through the early 1900’s, thousands of immigrants arrived in the United States and lived in New York City. I was the one of them.
My name is Nolan and I am 40 years old. I came from Ireland. I am very poor. I live in an old building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where rents for the crowded apartment buildings are low. There are 20 families living in my building, 4 on each floor. I live in a tiny room with 7 unmarried men. The room is dark, dirty and without windows. I only have one desk, one chair and one plank to sleep on. I have to put the plank on the desk and the chair back to make my bed at night and then put the plank away next to the wall during the day. Otherwise, there is no space.
The building is dark and airless because the buildings are packed close together. Some buildings are built in the yard between the front and the back of other buildings. We all sleep on the roof on hot summer nights even though it is dangerous. There is no electric lighting in the building. We only use gas lanterns to light the apartment at night and there is also no running water inside the apartment. We have to get water from an outside pump and everyday we have to share the one indoor toilet in the hallway. You can’t imagine how long we have to wait for the toilet every day, especially in the morning. We have to go to a public bath once a week to take a shower.
I worked for a very small coal company delivering coal. I worked 10 hours a day and 7 days a week. I needed to carry heavy containers of coal to the customers every day. Sadly, I lost my job a few days ago. Now, I only have a few pennies and a loaf of bread left. If I don’t find a new job soon, my landlord will kick me out. What a hard life!
In a recent Politico article about state adult education funding, our program’s director, Michael Hunter, is quoted:
The current state budget includes $7.3 million for the Adult Literacy Education program, which serves approximately 5,700 participants statewide, said Michael Hunter, adult literacy program director for the University Settlement Society of New York, a nonprofit providing services for immigrant and low-income families.
Statewide, more than 3.5 million individuals do not have a high school diploma, English-language proficiency or both, Hunter said. The ALE program provides funding to help increase literacy skills, particularly for immigrants and native-born New Yorkers with interrupted education.
Class 2P recently wrote about their lives before they came to the U.S. Read one below and take the quiz afterwards to test your comprehension:
Dan Dan Yang
My Life in China
I used to live in Fuzhou, China. I lived with my mother and our two dogs, Ruby and Rou Rou. They were two teddy puppies. They had curly brown hair. I used to take them to the toilet two times every day, in the morning and before bedtime.
I was a salesperson in my country. I worked at a department store in Fuzhou. This department store’s name was Fujian Dong Bai Group. I worked at the Revlon cosmetics counter. I loved and enjoyed my job. In my free time, I usually went out to eat, went to KTV to sing, went to the movies, and went shopping with my friends or coworkers. I loved my single life. I had a lot of free time when I was single. I could get up whenever I wanted and I could spend the day as I pleased. I could watch TV all night. I enjoyed the single life and I miss my single life.
After working for three years, I got married. I got married in 2012. My daughter was born in 2013. I immigrated to the U.S. with my daughter in 2014.
Meaning: To be a bad dancer or to be clumsy.
He doesn’t like to dance because he has two left feet.
I’m usually very graceful but today I guess I have two left feet.
If you want to be in Broadway musicals you definitely can’t have two left feet.
Who didn’t have two left feet?
A. Michael Jackson
B. Alvin Ailey
C. Fred Astaire
To see the correct answer, click on “Continue reading”:
This time Class 3A wrote about current or past jobs. Read one below and then take the quiz to test your understanding:
My First Job
I left high school in 1986 and I got my first job. The company’s name was Seagull Flashlight Company. It was the second biggest flashlight brand in China. It shipped to Asian countries. Although at that time China was not modern and people were not rich, we still had street lights at night. But in other Asian countries, they didn’t have street lamps, so they needed to use flashlights. So in fact other Asian countries were poorer than China. They had to use many, many flashlights. My company was very busy.
My company had seven departments: ingredients, metal pressing, sanding, polishing, assembly, packaging, and headquarters. I was a general worker first. I worked in the assembly department for two years. My duties were checking product quality and assembling flashlights. It was piece work.
After two years I became an office worker. I was an accountant. My job duty was counting how many products each worker made every day. Workers’ pay depended on how many pieces they made. So if you were hard working, you would get more money. At that time, people didn’t have computers, and the calculator was not popular. They almost always used an abacus to count, so when you came to our office, you would heard tap, tap, tap.
I also had to handle phone calls and handle money. I was multitasking. Every day I was tired, but I was happy. I had a good group of co-workers. Sometimes on weekends we went to have a picnic or sing karaoke. The job was hard and tiring, but we were young so the next day we had energy again.
Time flies. I worked at Seagull Flashlight Company for twelve years. In twelve years I made many friends and learned job skills. I did this job until I opened my own business.