Digital Humanities: Fall 2014 Project Development

Research Question --- In 1888, the Chicago Daily Times published Nell Nelson's "City Slave Girls" Series with the intention to expose the corruption and inhumane conditions of Chicago Industrialization. In the same year, two books were written incorporating almost entire articles of the series; however, both of the book versions exclude important aspects used in the newspaper series to reveal the horrid truths behind Chicago's corrupt industries. The data collection used on this webpage should illustrate what kind of information was altered and excluded. Therefore, we question: 1. What was left out and/or changed? 2.How did the book publications change the clearly, disgusted image portrayed in the orignial Chicago Daily Times publication?

Project Goals/Timeline ---

Future Project Development --- This is an on-going project. First all of the original articles need to be finished with XML coding. Then all of the book chapters from both books need to be coded. Once everything is coded, continued comparisons need to be made between the books versus the newspaper publication. In the end, this webpage will hopefully illustrate the importance of Nell Nelson and the "City Slave Girls" Series in American History.

Background Information

Nell Nelson: Helen Cusack-Carvalho used the pseudonym Nell Nelson when she wrote the "City Slave Girls" series in 1888. She was employed by the Chicago Daily Times and then later, following the success of her series in Chicago, hired by New York's The World. The biographical information on Helen Cusack-Carvalho is considerably illusive and currently anything remotely to a complete biography of her is nonexistent. The primary source of information regarding her biography comes from a journal article by Eric W. Liguori in 2012. In this article, Liguori alludes that Helen was born into the middle-class and that her career as a journalist allowed for her to maintain this status. Liguori reports that Helen married above her social class to a man named Solomon Solis Carvalho in 1895. After marriage, Helen's journalism career ceased to exist and she lived the remainder of her life raising their two daughters. . According to an obituary found in a 1945 New York Times' publication Helen died in New Jersey. The obituary lacks any special recognition of her investigative series despite the popularity and influential effects it had on the labor reforms of the late nineteenth century.

“City Slave Girls” Exposé: The "City Slave Girls" series ran daily on the front-page of The Chicago Daily Times. The first article was published on July 30th, 1888 and the concluding article was published on September 3rd, 1888. Helen Cusack-Carvalho posed as Nell Nelson, a poor female working girl, and reported in-depth on the living conditions, wages, and work environment of nineteenth century industialization. The early publication of the series places 'Nelson' as a pioneer of investigative reporting. 'Nelson' provided ground-breaking work in exposing the mistreatment of the women and children that worked in Chicago’s manufacturing industries. The success of her series is a bewilderment considering the extensive inversion of social norms represented in the writing of her exposé. The “City Slave Girls” series put into question the practices of the most prestigious men of Chicago; yet, 'Nell Nelson' was a woman unable to even vote due to the gender restraints of her time. Through her satirical and witty writing, 'Nelson' beat the adversity of being a woman in the nineteenth century and the publication of the series gained attention from Chicago’s political representatives along with the owners of the very industries she scrutinized. After the intial publication of the series, two books were printed within the same year recognizing 'Nelson' and her investigative work. In addition to the two books, Nelson was hired by The World to reproduce a similar series in New York. Although the significance of the series was recognized at the time of publication and for some time after, Nelson’s role in exposing the hardships of the “City Slave Girls” lacks any proper representation in history as of today. The “City Slave Girl” series should be a monumental resource of information for women’s history, labor history, and the history of undercover journalism.

Source Information

Project Team