“Very often I stood at the Salvation Army meetings and heard the music, and after the music someone gets up and says: ‘I used to was a bum two years ago, and I joined the Salvation Army and look at me now.’ And so I feel like saying: ‘I used to was only a poor ignorant working girl, and then I went to the classes, and look at me now.’ (Laughter)
Comrade Maurer last night said something that I was going to say today, and since a great man said it, I think I have the privilege to repeat it. He said, ‘I did not go to school like many of you. I was sorry, I thought it was an unfortunate thing, but now I have changed my mind. I did not have so much to undo.’
I did not go to school like many of you. I went to work when I was fourteen and I thought it was a terrible thing then, and my teacher asked me if I did not prefer to continue to go to school, and I was going to be a regular girl, the stereotyped girl. Although it hurt me I said I would rather go to work and help support my family.
But as we grow older we do want a social education. We want to know the things the ordinary school does not tell us about. When I read ancient history and was told that Nebuchadnezzer (or whatever that fellow’s name was), built the hanging gardens for the mistress he liked, I thought he was a wonderful man, such a chivalrous man, but now when I think of the number of slaves that built those gardens, I want to know what was the price those slaves paid for the caprice of one man and for the caprice of one woman.
When we listen to soap box orators and to ordinary trade union organizers we become inspired. Our emotions are aroused and we say, ‘Down with the boss and up with the workers.’ But it does not get us anywhere. After a while when all our enthusiasm is gone, when the curtain of illusion is torn from our eyes, we must have real knowledge in order to be able to keep up the bitter fight.
We want education, the real kind, not the taffy, not the sugar-coated stuff. We want the education in regard to the struggle of the worker and how to meet it in an intelligent and practical way. (Applause.)”
“The Working Girl and Labor Education,” pp. 95-96, Report of Proceedings, First National Conference on Workers Education in the United States, April 2-3, 1921. Workers Education Bureau, 1921.