How the Other Half Lives

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4 March 2013

Progressivism on How The Other Half Lives, by Jacob Riis

How the Other Half Lives, “Studies Among the Tenements of New York”, written by Jacob Riis, a Danish immigrant, depicts the disturbingly low quality of living that immigrants and minorities had to endure in 19th century, particularly around the 1890’s, in New York. Riis tells the stories of the poverty-ridden that consisted mainly of minorities, or “the Other Half”, which included blacks, Italians, Jews, Bohemians, Chinese, Slavs, and "low Irish" men, women and children by taking pictures and describing their poor living situations. He did this to in order to show the native-born upper and middle class Americans exactly what kind of treatment was being emitted to the poverty-stricken in hope that progressivism would take over in helping shape a better life in America for all who encompassed it.

Riis bared the fundamental misery of these impoverished people by writing and taking photographs of the tenements of which they lived. Riis loathed the small, enclosed spaces of which he believed to be in direct correlation to disease among these people, crime, and the continuation of poverty spreading throughout. “In the tenements all the influences make for evil; because they are the hot-beds of the epidemics that carry death to rich and poor alike; the nurseries of pauperism and crime that fill our jails and police courts; that through off a scum of forty thousand human wrecks to the island asylums and workhouses year by year; that turned out in the last Sara Beth Childers 2

eight years a round half a million beggars to prey upon our charities; that maintain a standing army of ten thousand tramps with all that implies; because, above all, they touch the family with deadly amoral contagion” (Intro page 3). Violence bore from those living in the horrific tenements, “A Raid on the Stable-Beer Dives” being only one example of a very serious problem among paupers. Those found guiltily in...
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