A Shipload of Immigrant Girls Seek Husbands in America - 1907
Some of the Baltic's Boatload of 1,000 Marriageable Girls Looking Down from the Railing on the White Star Liner. 1907 George Grantham Bain Collection. Library of Congress # 2001704440. GGA Image ID # 148815fc2e
This story is about the remarkable group of over a thousand women who arrived in September 1907. Many of them were looking for husbands. Reporters from The New York Times covered the story as it happened.
Thousands of Girls on Four Big Ships
They are Servants Returning from Holidays Abroad, White Star Line Officials Say.
Some Bring Sisters Along, and Some are Sweethearts of Farmers in Canada on their Way to Marry Men who have Established Themselves.
Toward the United States and Canada ports, marriageable maidens by the hundred are sailing as last as steam can carry them. On the Baltic, which left Liverpool yesterday, are 1,000, and nearly as many are making the voyage on three other ships which left England this week.
So great has been the emigration of young women that it has attracted the attention of sociologists; they are shaking their heads and wondering what is going to happen to the old land.
The White Star officials declare that this feminine contingent is only what is to be expected at this time of the year. It is the return of Bridget, the general, to the land of high wages and small families.
"We have got steerage and second-class tourist traffic and a first-class trade," said one of the officials. "Perhaps it's a bit heavier this year. The Dublin Exhibition drew a vast number of servants back for vacation.
Last June, one of our ships took home 500 girls, and although we've not yet received the figures of the Baltic, I should not be a bit surprised if there were 1,000 of them on board.
"The round trip only costs in the third class $65 and in the second class $90, and we could carry many more second-class passengers if we only had room for them.
The girls earn in New York $20 and $25 a month. I know several who receive $40, and they like to run home for a trip when their employers have gone to Europe themselves or are In the country.
"I don't think they take over many presents to the old folks. They send them money, and they like to have lots of clothes. They come here first without much more than they have on, and after a few years, go back with big trunks and a dozen dresses.
They have an excellent time telling about America and its wonders, and it doesn't cost them anything to speak of while they're home.
"We always have a good Summer business of this sort. Ninety percent of them come back again, bringing their younger sisters with them to earn as good wages as themselves."
Another reason assigned for the outflow of women from Great Britain was the growth of Canada. It is about five years since the development of the great Canadian Northwest took a significant step forward, and British emigration took a pronounced turn toward the Dominion.
Portion of the 1,000 Marriageable Women from the RMS Baltic originating from Liverpool and Queenstown (Cobh), 27 September 1907. George Grantham Bain Collection. Library of Congress # 2001704439. GGA Image ID # 1487eb048e
The men went first to do the rough pioneer work. There are no women in the prairies for them to marry, and now that they- have begun to get their farms into shape, they are going back for the girls they left behind or sending for them.
At the Irish Immigration Home, 7 State Street, it was suggested yesterday that the much better chance a single man or woman has in a strange country might have something to do with the rush.
Cases were even known In which a husband ànd wife separated for a time and entered as single individuals to obtain work more quickly. As soon as they became established, they reunited.
A shipload of Girls Seek Husbands Here
But All Who Came on the Baltic Are Not Going to Say "Yes" to the First Proposal. MICHIGAN MAKES A BID, Committee of Young Farmers Here to Greet Arrivals When They Leave Ellis Island — Some Are Ambitious.
When the White Star liner Baltic tied up at the foot of West Eleventh Street yesterday morning, 1,002 young women tripped down the gangplank and looked about them for husbands.
Some of the young women found those for whom they looked awaiting .them on the pier. Still, there were many leftovers, and be it said to the shame of Manhattan bachelors that these announced it as their intention to look for inland for their affinities.
One of the 1,000 Marriageable Girls on the RMS Baltic Destined for Ellis Island. 1907 George Grantham Bain Collection. Library of Congress # 2001704430. GGA Image ID # 14883902df
Little Gena Jensen from Christiania, pretty and golden-haired, said she hoped none of the men on the pier would try to take possession of her. "Because," she announced, "someone is waiting for me in Connecticut."
The arrival of the young women had been heralded from abroad when the Baltic sailed. The girls were booked from every country in the north of Europe. The majority came from England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.
The State Board of Immigration of Michigan, which has been trying to increase the population around Kalamazoo, immediately wired to the towns in that district, advising that delegates be appointed at once to meet the Baltic.
The result was the appointment of a general committee of the young farmers of Northern Michigan. They arrived in the city early yesterday, prepared to do their best to persuade the maids that Michigan was the best place in the country to live.
The result of the young Michiganders' endeavors will not be Renown until today, for only a few of the girls were taken off Ellis Island yesterday after their trip there from the liner's pier.
Two More of the "Baltic's" 1,000 Girls at Ellis Island. 1907 George Grantham Bain Collection. Library of Congress # 2001704436. GGA Image ID # 1489ae592b
Most of those who did land were Irish girls who went back this year to attend the Dublin Exposition and did not have to go through all the red tape that their fellow passengers in the steerage would experience.
Some exciting and embarrassing incidents participated at the arrival of these returning voyagers at the Battery. A large delegation in Battery Park awaited them. When the ardent ones greeted them with Sunday-go-to-meeting smiles, a chorus of "Go long wild yes (??)" filled the air.
The immigration officers finally had to explain to the prospective bridegrooms that there were many young women on the boat who were not looking for husbands and whose wishes would have to be respected.
WHEN ASKED ABOUT HIS CARGO, Purser H. B. Palmer of the Baltic said: "They're here all right. We took on many of them at Liverpool and gathered in over 700 more when we reached Queenstown. You ought to have seen them come up the side of the ship. They did it as if they expected to find husbands awaiting them on the steerage deck."
The deckhands of the Baltic said that they had the most considerable difficulty across in keeping the passageways from the first and second cabins to the decks overlooking the steerage cleared.
It was plain that the value and beauty of the cargo were appreciated to the full by those who traveled on the decks above.
The White Star officials could not explain the sudden influx of maids on the Baltic. However, it is believed that It is because the report has been circulated in Europe that wives are scarce here and that those that are to be had to demand too much of their would-be mates.
It is also undoubtedly true that a certain percentage of the passengers of the Baltic have come with no higher ambitions than to work as servants.
Not so with Clara McGee from Roscommon. She admitted that she had never been inside a theatre but said she had decided to be a great actress.
Others want to be the wives of railroad engineers, and some decided, after they arrived in the lower bay, that the only men that could win their hands were the ones who built the skyscrapers,
One little blue-eyed girl from Liverpool showed that she was strictly up to date by declaring that " it's a Pittsburg millionaire for me."
"Thousands of Girls on Four Big Ships," in The New York Times, 20 September 1907, P. 9.
"Shipload of Girls Seek Husbands Here," in The New York Times, 28 September 1907, P. 7.