What Factory Girls Read

— One girl who worked in a factory, and in whom I was greatly interested, told me that she belonged to a circle of twelve girls who subscribed for periodicals and passed them around. She liked best to read short stories and poetry. She did not recall the names of any of the persons who wrote the poems in magazines, but she remembered the name of Longfellow. She thought what he wrote was “ lovely.” Turning over the leaves of a periodical which chanced to be lying on the table, she came across the name of Shakespeare. I asked her if she knew who he was. She looked at me with charming, childlike hesitancy in her eyes, then timidly ventured her suggestion :

“ Was he a poet ? ” I once asked a company of about fifty girls of the class who work in factories how many knew of Shakespeare, Six felt confident enough to raise their hands. Probably at least a dozen more knew as much as they, but did not dare raise their hands. Among the six was found the knowledge that Shakespeare was an Englishman who wrote plays.

At one time, in a mill where a girl that I knew worked, one of them read love-stories aloud to the others during the brief period of leisure at noon. One taste of this girl’s rather surprised me, and it might well surprise publishers who wish to suit the popular fancy, She said she did not care for the illustrations in magazines. She liked to read all those departments in journals which consist of talks with the readers, hints about behavior, about embroidery, about dabbling in so-called “ art ” matters, about house-furnishing and such things. “ I never tire of reading them,” she said, and turning over the leaves of a magazine, she exclaimed, “ Oh, I love dearly to read about battles ! I do ! An’ the history of the United States. I read all the school history I could get, — just questions and answers, — I thought it was so interesting.” She had never read the history of any other country for the simple reason that she had never seen a volume which treated of any history but our own.