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    Adelheid Popp's "The Autobiography of a Working Woman"

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    Please assist with an analysis of the below excerpt from the autobiography of Adelheid Popp, a German socialist who lived at the turn of the twentieth century.

    Adelheid Popp (1869-1939), The Autobiography of a Working Woman

    I found work again; I took everything that was offered me in order to show my willingness to work, and I passed through much. But at last things became better. [At age fifteen] I was recommended to a great factory which stood in the best repute. Three hundred girls and about fifty men were employed. I was put in a big room where sixty women and girls were at work.

    Against the windows stood twelve tables, and at each sat four girls. We had to sort the goods which had been manufactured, others had to count them, and a third set had to brand on them the mark of the form. We worked from 7 am to 7 pm. We had an hour's rest at noon, half-an-hour in the afternoon. . . . I had never yet been paid so much.. . .

    I seemed to myself to be almost rich . . . . [Yet] from the women of this factory one can judge how sad and full of deprivation is the lot of a factory worker. In none of the neighboring factories were the wages so high; we were envied everywhere. Parents considered themselves fortunate if they could get their daughters of fourteen in there on leaving school. . . . And even here, in this paradise, all were badly nourished. Those who stayed at the factory for the dinner hour would buy themselves for a few pennies a sausage or the leavings of a cheese shop. . . . The employer often passed through the courtyard when we were taking our dinner. Many a time he stopped to ask what good things we had. If he were in a particularly good humor or if the girl whom he addressed were pretty, and understood how to complain, he would give her money that she might buy something better. That always made me angry; it seemed to be humiliating, and provoked me. . . . Moreover, only those girls could be better nourished who were helped by their families. But there were very few of these. Much oftener the girls had to support their parents or pay for the board of their children. . . . . Many women often had to earn for their husbands, who were out of work, and to undergo a double deprivation because they had to struggle alone to earn the money for their household expenses.

    I also learnt to know the much-slandered levity of factory girls. Certainly some girls went to dances, some had love affairs; others took their places at three o'clock in the afternoon at a theatre, in order to be present at an evening performance for 7 ½ pennies. They took excursions in the summer and walker an hour in order to save a halfpenny fare. They had, in consequence, to pay for the breath of country air by having tired feet for the whole day. All that may be called frivolity, even a thirst for pleasure or dissipation, but who has the courage to call it so?

    I saw amongst my colleagues, the despised factory workers, instances of extraordinary self-sacrifice. If any special poverty was found in a family, they put their farthings together to help. When they had worked twelve hours in a factory, and when many had walked for an hour to get home, they would mend their clothes. . . . The unpicked their dresses to make new ones from the old pieces, at which they sewed at night and on Sunday.

    Even the intervals for meals were not devoted to rest. The eating of the scanty meal was quickly accomplished, and then stockings were knitted, crochet, or embroidered. And in spite of all the diligence and economy, everyone was poor and trembled at the thought of losing her work. All humbled themselves and suffered the worst injustice from the foremen, not to risk losing this good work, not to be without food. . . .

    I was barely fifteen when a state of martial law was proclaimed at Vienna. One of the proclamations . . . was nailed up in the street in which I worked. As far as I remember, it forbade the assembling of several persons. I read this proclamation with the greatest interest and came to my companions much excited. I cannot now say what kind of mood overcame me, but I know well that I mounted on our worktable and made a speech to my "brothers and sisters" in which I made known the proclamation of martial law. . . . I became full of enthusiasm. Every single Social Democrat whom I learnt to know in the papers seem to be a hero. I never occurred to me that I might join in their fight. Everything that I read of them seemed to high and lofty that it would have appeared absurd to me to think that I, an ignorant, unknown, and poor creature might also one day take part in their struggles. . . .

    Later on we lived with one of my brothers who had married. Friends came to him, among them some intelligent workmen. They read the union paper of their branch, and I was also interested in it. One of these workmen was particularly intelligent, and I liked talking with him best of all. He had taken several journeys and could talk on many subjects. He was the first Social Democrat whom I learnt to know. He brought me many books and explained to me the difference between Anarchism and Socialism. I heard from him, also, for the first time was a republic was, and in spite of my former enthusiasm for royal dynasties, I also declared myself in favor of a republican form of government. I saw everything so near and o clearly, that I actually counted the weeks which must still elapse before the revolution of state and society could take place.

    From this workman I received the first Social Democratic newspaper. He did not buy it regularly, but only when he came upon it accidentally, as, alas! so many do. But I begged him to bring me the paper every week, and became myself a constant subscriber. The theoretical parts I could not at first understand, but I understood, and took hold of, all that was written of the sufferings of the working classes, and I first learnt from it to understand and judge my own lot. I learned to see that all that I had suffered as the result not of a divine ordinance, but of an unjust organization of society. . . .

    My Social Democratic convictions became stronger, and I had to suffer a good deal in the factory. The foreman, who had exercised his tyrannical power of the whole of our room, was always brutal and ill-tempered. He seemed to me just like a devil. He was the first man whom I really hated, and although many years have passed since I withdrew from the sphere of his power, I feel even today hatred and resentment when I think of him. When in the course of years many things change in the factory became worse, the changes were mainly attributed to him. He could make life in the factory a hell for any man who had incurred his anger, even if he had only tried to defend himself from an unjust accusation. I had hitherto never given him cause to trouble himself particularly about me. Now that was all changed, as he noticed my influence on my colleagues. It did not please him, and he began to observe me. He began to supervise my work more particularly; where he had formerly contented himself with looking after me once a day or had often given that up, now he came ten times a day. I was not safe for a minute as to whether he would not come and look at my work in order to find fault with it. . . . He followed up every stop I took, every movement I made. One day my employer spoke to me to tell me that the foreman was displeased with me. "Consider," said he, at the end, "that you have to look after and old mother." I was so disconcerted and taken aback that I could not answer immediately. But when I had collected myself, I looked for him and begged him to say why the foreman was dissatisfied with me. I told him that in spite of the constant inspection my work was always in order. The manufacturer - I no longer looked on his as my benefactor - looked at me for a minute and then went away saying, "Very well, work on as you have done hitherto."

    Source: Adelheid Popp, The Autobiography of a Working Woman, translated by E. C. Harvey (Chicago, 1913)
    See full text at https://archive.org/details/autobiographyofw00poppiala

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    Welcome back to BM! Please rate 5/5 for my 800 words of ideas. Please ask for me soon as a Special Request in the future since you know my style. I deeply appreciate your business and am honored to assist you!

    Many unequitable work and subjugating social and personal experiences compelled Adelheid Popp to reject the liberal philosophy represented by Samuel Smiles' Self Help as Popp recalls specific experiences that her to embrace Marxist socialism. In sum, the intersections of vocational challenges, gender, socioeconomic status, politics, and other forces seem to serve as driving factors in her accepting of socialist ideologies overall.

    First, she summarizes how employment struggles influenced her assimilation of socialist doctrines as she traces her blue collar jobs from "[At age fifteen] I was recommended to a great factory which stood in the best repute. Three hundred girls and about fifty men were employed. I was put in a big room where sixty women and girls were at work." The inhumane treatment of these workplaces and the blatant sense of marginalization seemed to have definitely contributed to her adaption of socialism.

    The physical and mental degradation of working such jobs were also contributing factors as the ...

    Solution Summary

    Adelheid Popp's "The Autobiography of a Working Woman" is informally outlined in 800 words of notes and textual evidence.