Monday, November 17, 2014

Student of the Week: Genevieve Palisi

For all of today's images, you can click to enlarge

As I mentioned last week, I'm planning to feature one Manhattan Trade School student per week here on the site. Last week we looked at Katherine Gausser, whose student file included a rather snippy letter from her mother. This time around we're looking at Genevieve Palisi, whose student record includes some unusually pointed commentary about her demeanor.

As you can see above, Genevieve was born on Nov. 21, 1905 (so in the unlikely event that she's still alive, she'll be turning 109 years old this Friday). Her family lived in Brooklyn (first in Borough Park and then in Bay Ridge), and her father, Joseph, worked as a stevedore. The "Operating" notation at the top-right corner means that she Genevieve's chosen trade was sewing machine operation.

Genevieve was apparently a solid if unspectacular student, consistently receiving grades of "G" (good) or "F" (fair) for her school work:

3 2

Genevieve, like all Manhattan Trade students, had a job arranged for her by the school. The first of these, which you can see listed as the first entry on this next card, was a position at the H.E. Verran Co., where Genevieve worked from Nov. 5 through Dec. 24, 1920 — a period of seven weeks:


Why did Genevieve leave this job? The answer can be found on the following card. The first entry, in black, is from the school's job placement secretary; the next section, in red, is from the employer:


Here's a transcription of the black handwriting (I've spelled out some abbreviations and filled in some missing words for the sake of clarity):

[Girl is] in office. Very insolent. Evidently a bad influence for M. Cline and N. Bonica [apparently two other students who were working at the same company — PL], who were with her. After five weeks on weekly work at $14 [per week], she was put on piece work. Earned $4.23 on aprons in one week. "It was an awful place, so we left today." KE [the placement secretary — PL] asked why no report had been made before. Called Miss Mather.

Miss Mather was apparently Genevieve's work supervisor at the job site. The red notations that follow are what Miss Mather told the job placement secretary:

Girl is a ringleader. Can do good work when she wishes but seldom wishes to. She is a born leader, and this morning she had the whole workroom upset when she left. She is insolent and impudent, and trades on the fact that she does not need to work.

Wow. It's worth keeping in mind that Genevieve had just turned 15 years old when this discussion took place.

Now we're back to black ink, so this is the placement secretary talking:

Miss Marhsall [Manhattan Trade's principal] and KE [the placement secretary] spoke to girl about this report, and it was decided ot give her one more chance. Warned about making prompt reports.

As you can see from the next entry, Genevieve's next job also ended on a bad note. The entry is in red, meaning it's from the employer:

Girl left without notice. The girls in the workroom say she told them she was going to work with her sister. If it was a question of money, I think she should have spoken to me before leaving.

Interestingly, despite these difficulties, Genevieve stayed in touch with the school's job placement office for several more years.

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You may have noticed something new about today entry: It has a headline. All previous entries on this site have been headline-free. I no longer remember exactly why I chose not to use headlines when I started the blog in 2011, but for some reason they seemed superfluous and I thought the site looked cleaner without them. Unfortunately, this has also made the site a bit harder to navigate, and has also made the site fare a bit worse in search engines. So I've decided to use a headline today.

I don't plan to go back and add headlines to all of the previous entries, and it's possible that I may end up going back to the headline-free format — we'll see. For now, let's consider it an experiment. Your feedback is welcome.


  1. Thanks, Paul. The headline is also helpful in RSS feed readers.

  2. Can do good work when she wishes but seldom [illegible]. The missing words are "...wishes to. (sic)" I think.

    1. Ah, good call -- I'll update the text accordingly.