Chicago Tribune

Hotel Scrub Girl Writes as Poet in Letters Home
Distraught Peasant Sends Message to One Who Cannot Read.

The rain is falling; it falls beneath my slipping feet.
I do not mind; the postoffice is near.
When I write my little letter
I will flit with it there,
And then, dearest Olejniczka,
My heart will be light, from giving you a pleasure,
In no grove do the birds sing so sweetly
As my heart, dear Olejniczka, for you.

Those lines were written in a letter sent to Poland on Palmer house stationery.

"They show a cordial expansiveness and poetic elaboration in striking contrast with the fact that the writer was not a guest but a scrub girl in the hotel; that she was barely literate, as is indicated by the character of the writing and the absence of all capitalization and marks of punctuation, and the girl to who the letter was addressed could not read at all," says Prof. W. I. Thomas, head of the department of social psychology at the University of Chicago, in this month’s Chicago Literary Monthly.

Prof. Thomas cites the verse in support of a statement that men who do our heaviest work, in the mines and the steel mills, and women who scrub offices and public buildings show a refinement which is not suspected and a capacity for development which is unlimited.

Studies Many Letters

In an attempt to get at the mental and moral worth of the races with whom Americans are largely unfamiliar and against whom there are groundless prejudices, Prof. Thomas has spent much time examining several thousand personal and family letters from peasants in American to families in Europe and from peasants in Europe to members of their families in this country.

He has concluded that the often placed low estimate of the Slavic immigrant is largely a false one and that the ideals and customs of Poles and their kin are highly commendable. Five letters are given by Prof. Thomas which "are not selected with reference to showing anything in particular. They might almost as well have been any other five."

A Scrubgirl’s Spirit.

Some other striking passages in the letter of the Palmer house scrubgirl are:

"Dearest Olejnicska, I left papa, I left sister and brother and your to start out in the wide world, and today I am yearning and fading away like the world without the sun.

"If is shall ever see you again, then, like a little child, of great joy I shall cry. To your feet I shall bow low, and your hands I shall kiss. Then you shall know I love you, dearest Olejniczka.

"As many sand grains as there are in the field, as many drops of water in the sea, so many sweet years of life I, Velercis, wish you for the Easter holidays. And loveliness I wish you. I greet you through the white lilies. I think of you every night, dearest Olejniczka."

"All Polish girls of the peasant class tend to write letters like this one," Prof. Thomas says.


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