Migration, Memory & Memorial


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Monday January 13, 1896


We, the undersigned Members of the Senate, are of the opinion that the time has arrived for re-opening the question of admitting women to Degrees in the University of Cambridge. We therefore respectfully beg that the Council of the Senate will nominate a Syndicate to consider on what conditions and with what restrictions, if any, women should be admitted to degrees in the University.

Nearly 400 members of the Senate have, we understand, nearly affixed their signatures.



A meeting was held on Tuesday night at the Great Assembly Hall, Mile End, to protest against the proposed legislation to exclude pauper aliens from this country.—Mr. B. Cooper, L.C.C., presided, and said that the foreign workmen who came into this country were generally driven her by religious intolerance or national oppression. He contended that it was a very dangerous power to place in the hands of any Government—the power to exclude any class of persons from this country. (Cheers.)—Mr. C. Steadman, L.C.C. moved the following resolution: “That this meeting protests against legislation which professes to alleviate the poverty of the workers by restricting alien immigration as misleading, in that it ignores the real cause of the evil, and dangerous because it may be used against the right of political asylum; and expresses its strong opinion that among the immediate measures to be called for are the abolition of home work, the efficient registration and inspection of all workshops, together with the stringent enforcement of the Factory Laws; and it presses on all working men and women the importance and necessity of thorough trade union organisations, as a step to their industrial emancipation.”—Mr. Steadman said if by the movement home work was abolished, employers would he desirous to have their work done in factories under the Factory Act, and under better conditions. (Cheers.) In the years 1891-2-3 the immigration of foreign workmen into this country amounted to 24,688 In the same three years the annual emigration from this country averaged 164,000. He contended that the emigration therefore far outweighed the immigration. (Cheers.)—A second resolution was owned by acclamation directing that copies of the resolution just passed be sent to Lord Salisbury and Mr. Balfour, Lord Roseberry and Sir William Harcourt, and to Sir Charles Dilke, who had threatened to determinedly oppose the bill.

Abraham’s Diary, London

Written in Russian

22nd March 1896

Today I had my picture taken with Haika in Dight’s studio. I wonder if having her picture taken with me served any design of hers. I don’t know. I’m very surprised that she wasn’t afraid to be photographed with me lest we should be discovered; she could suffer for it. We bought only two copies, one for her and one for me, which cost 5 shillings. I had my picture taken with her just for fun. If Dora finds out, I’ll catch it!

5th April 1896

Today I had my picture taken with Dora in Dight’s studio. We bought half a dozen cabinet pictures for 10 shillings. Today I’ve also started to ‘thee and thou’ her. Gradually I’m getting more and more involved with her.

12th April 1896

Last night Dora stayed with me. What a pleasant and at the same time restless night we spent! We didn’t sleep a wink, only frolicked and enjoyed ourselves. It was a pleasure for me indeed. She is the first girl I’ve spent the night with in the same bed, under a blanket. I held back the animal passion which was seizing me, and made do with holding her tight. She jokingly teased me later, saying that I didn’t know how to take advantage of an opportunity and that I was no good. She may be right, I’ve never yet tried it.

15th April 1896

I had a row with a foreman today. He came to check my work and found an area where my sandpapering wasn’t good enough. He asked me whether I’d been too drunk to notice the defect. I answered that I had noticed it but didn’t want to put it right because the job was very badly paid, whereas if I’d have been given a better job I would have done it better. He screamed at the top of his voice that he wouldn’t stand me telling him what jobs to give me and that he wouldn’t give me better jobs anyway. I didn’t let him shout for long, but told him to “keep his bleeding noise”. He got terribly offended and shut up. Then he hastily passed my job and left. Will this incident lead to my being sacked? Tomorrow I have to finish off the second part of the job and get another order.

16th April 1896

Today at 10 o’clock I finished the job. The junior foreman passed it and then told me to pack my tools and go. I decided not to leave as a fool, thinking that I might be able to give him a thrashing before I went, or at least give him an earful. I went downstairs to the office, but the junior foreman ran ahead of me, stood in the doorway and wouldn’t let me in. The foreman asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted an order. “I won’t give you an order”, he said. “Why?” “For no reason.” I wanted to enter the office but the junior foreman locked the door. “I shall find you”, I yelled. At this moment he jumped out and screamed: “Do you want to kill me?” I argued with him, pointing out the loathsome way in which he treated his workers. In the end I packed my tools and left.

When I came downstairs I was detained and told to wait for the ‘gov’ner and a policeman, who’d already been sent for. When both had arrived, the latter took down my particulars. The gov’ner tore me off a strip and gave me a sermon as to my future behaviour. “It’s no good” he said, “to rebel in this manner. I’m not obliged to employ you, any more than you’re obliged to work for me. If you’d left quietly, I might have employed you again, had you come asking for work after a while”. I replied that I had no intention of asking him for work again, that I wasn’t sorry to go, that I was sorry for one thing only: that a brute such as he was able to keep me, or throw me out like a useless rag, as he pleased. With this I left. Once again I have neither job nor money. All the money I’ve got amounts to 30 shillings 1. One week without work and I’ll be left penniless as they say. This is the result of two years’ work!

17th April 1896, London

I went to Hermann’s factory asking for a job and was told to bring my tools, but for some reason I can’t make myself take up my tools and go. The tool box is standing right here in front of me. Three times I got up to go, three times I stood near the box, unable to brave it and go to the factory. But, really, what will come of it? I shall continue to live in a state of perpetual fear. If I get the sack from this factory too, my situation will be the same as now, or even worse. By that time I might already be engaged to Dora, or even married to her. My mother and my sister with her children might be here by that time, then my state of affairs will be ten times worse, if I don’t get used to manual work. Shall I go back to private masters, where manual work is done? Shivers run down my spine when I remember the filth, the stench, the charcoal fumes, the lack of space—this is what you have to put up with to get work. I don’t feel strong enough to work in such conditions. Maybe if I went to another town, I’d find it easier to work. I’d very much like to go to Manchester and I think I’d benefit from it in two ways. Firstly, I wouldn’t have so many acquaintances to spend time with, therefore it would be easier to get used to the way of life. Working late, or on Sundays, wouldn’t be such a big deal, for I wouldn’t have anywhere to go anyway. Secondly, I should get out of a rather difficult situation. I’ve written to my mother that if she agrees to come without my sister, with only one child, I’ll send her the money for the journey. I don’t know where on earth I shall get this money from. I thought I’d be able to save some by Whitsun and borrow the rest. I might not be able to do it now, so if I leave I’ll be able to draw the time out a little, although I’d be very sorry to have to do it. It will hurt them a lot when they hear about it. I promised Dora a ring at Whitsun, too, and once again I haven’t got a clue how to get it. I promised only because I couldn’t bear her family and friends nagging her that I wasn’t giving her a ring and was therefore certainly deceiving her. If I leave, everything will change, for better or for worse. I feel very sorry for Dora: now she will really suffer from friendly tongues, telling her that I was deceiving her all along and have now abandoned her. I have no intention of abandoning her, and if I do go, I shall leave all my belongings with her. I feel a great love for her now.

20th April 1896, London

Today I started working for Bloomberg at 25 Charlot Street as a piece-worker. I began making two chests. There is a worker there with whom I used to work at Lebus 2. He promised to show me how to do it.

25th April 1896, London

I got 18 shillings for the whole week. The work was worth 24 shillings, but I didn’t finish it, despite being helped. It goes very slowly and rather badly. I told my boss that I wanted to work on a weekly basis and he agreed. To begin with he will pay me a pound a week.

30th April 1896, London

I am extremely tired. I start at 7 am and finish at 7 p.m. Although I work for only ten hours it is very difficult for me because I am not used to it yet. The workshop is very clean and light.

31st December 1896, 11.45 p.m., London

In half an hour’s time another year of my life will fall into oblivion. I did not get anything special out of it, so I am not going to feel sorry that it is gone. It broke all my dreams and destroyed my aspirations and wishes. At the beginning of the year I tried to keep my promise towards my mother and sister and accompany them to London, but I still can’t do it… But…

Victorian London

I can hear the bells of Spitalfields church and some other roar – a mixture of sounds of horns and whistles. I do not know where it is coming from. They are announcing a New Year. I am seeing it in a tiny room at 39 Booth St. It is so dark, dirty and boring here! I suppose it is still the life of the passing year. So go away! Go away as quickly as possible! You have been such a dark and boring year! And even if it is going to bring my death nearer, I prefer dying to being embraced by you! It was more than once that you left me hungry in June and August. It was more than once that you were torturing me by not giving me a chance to see my parents or even send them some money. You punished me so often by not letting me show my darling Dora my real self.

You might say that you are not to blame and that I simply do not know how to make the most of you. But if I had known how to make the most of it you would not have punished me so severely. Maybe you can point at some other people who did know how to use their time properly and got what they wanted! But still… tell me “Have I been so useless?” During the whole year I worked so hard! I did not miss a single day. Even when you let me stay off work I still worked as hard as I could. So that is how you have rewarded me for my efforts! You have given me nothing except three pawn tickets from a pawnshop for my two suits and my violin. You might say that I have wasted the money. But on what? On food? And how can I not eat? My food has always been so scarce and sometimes even disgusting, because I am saving as much as I can.

David and Jane, Abraham’s sister and brother-in-law with their daughter, Annie

During the whole year I was never drunk and never played cards. I did not even allow myself to spend money on Dora apart from going to the park with her from time to time or to my sister’s. But it was nothing compared to what I should have spent on buying rings or some other presents for her. But you did not allow me to do that. You might say that I spent money on books or that I sent some of it to my mother. Even if I did, it was not a lot. It was not a sufficient reward for a whole year’s work! How much did I spend on books? 15 shillings at the most—and that is for the whole year. I decided to have my Shakespeare bound. I had enough money for only one volume. The other two have been there for almost two months and I cannot get them. To say nothing about sending money to my mother. My poor mother! During the whole year I managed to send her only 20 roubles. And not all of this money was mine. You have been so cruel to me! So I am pleased that you are going away. The sooner—the better. But to whom am I talking? It has been already two hours since you dropped down into an abyss. And for two hours the New Year has been looking into my window. It is examining my room, like a new architect examines the work left after an old deceased architect. I wish the New Year did not follow the same pattern, especially now that I have told him the whole story (I think I should paint the pattern with other, brighter colours. He will be confused and might follow the lighter ones.) Last year was for me … (I honestly cannot find anything positive that I could boast about. …oh, yes, I do remember, although it did not belong to the last year, but the New Year would not know).

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