The Plight of the Working Woman
In the collar-and-cuff factory Maggie takes a stool and a sewing machine in a room with twenty young women “of various shades of yellow discontent.” Placing her within a large room among much machinery and many women who scarcely differ from one another, Stephen Crane made Maggie’s situation that of all young female factory workers in the late nineteenth century who struggled to maintain their health, dignity, and self-respect amidst oppressive working conditions. Unlike other contemporary authors, however, Crane does not dwell on working conditions in the factory. While the reformers often described the number of hours women worked, the vast number of shirts they made, and the scant pay they received, Crane provides few particulars. The numerous magazine and newspaper articles treating the plight of the working woman that partially inspired Crane to write his book also obviated the need for him to write similarly. Instead, he could take a more aesthetic approach and use, for example, color imagery to depict female factory workers.
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