London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Street Jewesses and Street Jew-Girls.
I HAVE mentioned that the Jewesses and the young Jew girls, compared with the adult Jews and Jew boys, are not street-traders in anything like the proportion which the females were found to bear to the males among the Irish street-folk and the English costermongers. There are, however, a few Jewish females who are itinerant street-sellers as well as stall keepers, in the proportion, perhaps, of female to or males. The majority of the street Jew-girls whom I saw on a round were accompanied by boys who were represented to be their brothers, and I have little doubt such was the facts, for these young Jewesses, although often pert and ignorant, are not unchaste. Of this I was assured by a medical gentleman who could speak with sufficient positiveness on the subject.
Fruit is generally sold by these boys and girls together, the lad driving the barrow, and the girl inviting custom and handing the purchases to the buyers. In tending a little stall or a basket at a regular pitch, with such things as cherries or strawberries, the little Jewess differs only from her street-selling sisters in being a brisker trader. The stalls, with a few old knives or scissors, or odds and ends of laces, that are tended by the Jew girls in the streets in the Jewish quarters (I am told there are not above a dozen of them) are generally near the shops and within sight of their parents or friends. little Jewess, with whom I had some conversation, had not even heard the name of the Chief Rabbi, the Rev. Dr. Adler, and knew nothing of any distinction between German and Portuguese Jews; she had, I am inclined to believe, never heard of either. I am told that the whole, or nearly the whole, of these young female traders reside with parents or friends, and that there is among them far less than the average number of runaways. Jew told me he thought that the young female members of his tribe did
|not tramp with the juveniles of the other sex— no, not in the proportion of to a in comparison, he said with a laugh, with "young women of the Christian persuasion." My informant had means of knowing this fact, as although still a young man, he had traversed the greater part of England hawking perfumery, which he had abandoned as a bad trade. A wire-worker, long familiar with tramping and going into the country—a man upon whose word I have every reason to rely—told me that he could not remember a single instance of his having seen a young Jewess "travelling" with a boy.
There are a few adult Jewesses who are itinerant traders, but very few. I met with who carried on her arm a not very large basket, filled with glass wares; chiefly salt-cellars, cigar-ash plates, blue glass dessert plates, vinegar-cruets, and such like. The greater part of her wares appeared to be blue, and she carried nothing but glass. She was a good-looking and neatly-dressed woman. She peeped in at each shop-door, and up at the windows of every private house, in the street in which I met her, crying, "Clo', old clo'!" She bartered her glass for old clothes, or bought the garments, dealing principally in female attire, and almost entirely with women. She declined to say anything about her family or her circumstances, except that she had nothing that way to complain about, but—when I had used some names I had authority to make mention of—she said she would, with pleasure, tell me all about her trade, which she carried on rather than do nothing. "When I hawk," she said with an English accent, her face being unmistakeably Jewish, "I hawk only good glass, and it can hardly be called hawking, as I swop it for more than I sell it. I always ask for the mistress, and if she wants any of my glass we come to a bargain if we can. O, it's ridiculous to see what things some ladies—I suppose they must be called ladies—offer for my glass. Children's green or blue gauze veils, torn or faded, and not worth picking up, because no use whatever; old ribbons, not worth dyeing, and old frocks, not worth washing. People say, 'as keen as a Jew,' but ladies can't think we're very keen when they offer us such rubbish. I do most at the middle kind of houses, both shops and private. I sometimes give a little money for such a thing as a shawl, or a fur tippet, as well as my glass—but only when I can't help it—to secure a bargain. Sometimes, but not often, I get the old thing and a trifle for my glass. Occasionally I buy outright. I don't do much, there's so many in the line, and I don't go out regularly. I can't say how many women are in my way—very few; O, I do middling. I told you I had no complaints to make. I don't calculate my profits or what I sell. My family do that and I don't trouble myself."