Steerage and Aliens

Glance at the ship manifests and you will see that our parents and grandparents came across the Atlantic in steerage, marked as “Aliens.”  We can’t possibly know the deprivation they incurred, but I found this description of steerage conditions:

"steerage passengers . . .  are positively packed like cattle, making a walk on deck when the weather is good, absolutely impossible, while to breathe clean air below in rough weather, when the hatches are down is an equal impossibility. The stenches become unbearable, and many of the emigrants have to be driven down; for they prefer the bitterness and danger of the storm to the pestilential air below. The division between the sexes is not carefully looked after, and the young women who are quartered among the married passengers have neither the privacy to which they are entitled nor are they much more protected than if they were living promiscuously.

"The food, which is miserable, is dealt out of huge kettles into the dinner pails provided by the steamship company. When it is distributed, the stronger push and crowd, so that meals are anything but orderly procedures. On the whole, the steerage of the modern ship ought to be condemned as unfit for the transportation of human beings . . . in the steerage from 200 to 400 sleep in one compartment on bunks, one above the other, with little light and no comforts. . . . in the steerage the unsavory rations are not served, but doled out, with less courtesy than one would find in a charity soup kitchen."

Wikipedia

© Robert Rose 2014