September 21, 1909
A condition never before heard of at police headquarters in all of its history, existed there last night. Four women, keepers of public rooming houses, all had comfortable quarters in the matron's room. Down in the steel cell section of the women's department of the holdover, locked behind bars, were two worn women, each with a babe at her breast.
Both of the babies were ill and crying, but there was no room in the matron's comfortable room for women with babies in arms. Those who had the beds and slept beneath the sheets are women who today will be accused of harboring young girls in disorderly resorts.
Mrs. Nellie Ripetre, with a baby of 6 months old, was sent in about 9 o'clock p. m. for investigation. It has always been the custom in the past never to lock up a woman with a baby. If there was no room in the matron's room for the mother and the babe, room had to be made by putting someone down in the holdover. This negro woman lay on the concrete floor with her crying baby folded tightly to her bosom. The floor got too hard for the mother later on and she chose an iron bunk in one of the cells. There she lay all night. The windows were open and the place cold. Mother-like, however, she huddled her baby close to her, to keep it warm. Part of the time the child lay on top of its mother, covered only by her bare arms.
About 11 p. m. Mrs. Mattie Bell, with a 5-months-old child, was sent in from No. 2 station in the West Bottoms.. Her baby was puny, sickly and crying. The matron's room, however, was still filed with healthy, well-dressed rooming house keepers, so the mother and her sick child had to listen to the harsh turn of the key in a cell door.
"Please don't put me in that place," begged the mother. "It's cold down there and my baby is very sick."
"That's the best we've got," she was informed.
Mrs. Bell was booked for the Humane Society. She had been found wandering about in the streets with her baby. After she was locked up Mrs. Bell tried the concrete floor, and, like the other mother, had to creep to the steel slabbed bed in a cell. She complained to the jailer and the Emergency hospital was notified that there was a sick baby in the holdover.
In a short time a nurse and a doctor went to the cell room and relieved the distressed mother of her sickly burden. The little one was tenderly cared for during the balance of the night but the other mother -- she's colored -- her babe clasped tightly to her breast, spent a chilly night.
The four rooming housekeepers in the matron's room rested easily.