The Lower East Side of New York
Jewish Life in America

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Minor Operations on Children Spread Rumors of Murder.

From The New-York Tribune, June 28, 1906.

Rioting women and children by the thousand, swept into a senseless panic by an absurd story that children's throats were being cut by physicians in various East Side schools, swarmed down on those buildings all over the Lower East Side in great mobs yesterday, intent on rescuing their children and companions. Excitable, ignorant Jews, fearing Russian massacres here, knowing nothing of American sanitary ideas and the supervision exercised over school children by the Health Board, outdid all previous resistance to vaccination. They stoned the schoolhouses, smashing windows and door panes, and, except for the timely intervention of the police reserves from several precincts, would without doubt have done serious injury to the frightened women teachers.

As it was, the affair was a tempest in a teapot. One or two minor arrests were made, and the police had their hands full for a couple of hours. The serious rioting, which would have become dangerous if the men had had time to join in it, occurred just before noon. Teachers, learning what the trouble was, dismissed their pupils, and the sight of the multitudes of uninjured children stilled the mothers' wrath.

The excitement lasted all afternoon, however. Three or four patrolmen were kept on duty at each schoolhouse in the East Side, and the doors and windows of each building were closed. These guards adopted summary methods for quelling what excitement was left. Almost every one armed himself with a long supple slat from one of the numerous new buildings all through that section, and when voluble Yiddish women of luxuriant flesh or chattering young Hebrews formed a group before the schoolhouses, they were persuaded to depart by vigorous application of the slats to the most convenient section of the nearest "Yiddisher."

"There's goin' to be no spoilin' of these children," explained a patrolman who was engaged in this unusual occupation to a passer-by. "We're not sparin' the rod any. They want riot over here all the time bread riots, meat riots, coal riots - and now the wimmin and childer is havin' one for themselves. "They'll git it," he declared grimly, as he set about hastening the departure of some half-grown boys who had become obstreperous. They got it, soundly.

The panic grew out of minor operations by Health Board physicians on several of the children and a great deal of vaccination among the children in preparation for the usual summer disease epidemic. Such vaccination is always accomplished only by force in the Lower East Side.

Last week Miss A. E. Simpson, principal of Public School 100 at Broome and Cannon Streets, found that many of the children were suffering from adenoids, a fungus growth at the back of the mouth and nasal passages which can be removed by a simple operation. The consent of parents is necessary before physicians may perform such an operation. Miss Simpson weeded out the cases and explained the situation, telling the parents that, if possible, their children should go to private physicians or hospitals, but, if not, the Board of Health physicians would do the work. Most of the parents probably misunderstood, but last Thursday public physicians operated on many of the children.

The trouble came to a head in half an hour yesterday. The mobs of women descended on the schools crying out that their children were being murdered and buried in the school yards. The riot belt extended from Rivington Street to Grand and from the Bowery to the East River. In the more easterly section the violence was greatest. In almost every case the windows of the schoolhouses were riddled with stones.

Some of the schools attacked were Public school 4, No. 203 Rivington street, of which Miss Lizzie E. Rector is principal; 10, at No. 12 Columbia street, M. E. Kennedy, principal; 20, at Rivington and Forsyth streets, W. William Smith principal; 42, Hester and Ludlow streets, Harriet V. R. Reid principal; 88, No. 300 Rivington street, Susan A. Griffin principal; 92, No. 154 Broome street, Annie E.  Boyne principal; 120, No. 187 Broome street, Ella Conway principal; 137, Grand and Ludlow streets, Kate M. Stephens principal; 140, No. 116 Norfolk street, Anna M. Atkinson principal; 160, Rivington and Suffolk streets, Charles F. Hartman principal; 161, No. 105 Ludlow street, Lizzie F. Stefford principal; 174, Attorney and Rivington streets, Elizabeth J. Hoffer principal. Several of them are among the largest in the city, having over two thousand pupils each.

Captain Cooney, of the Union Market station, who single handed tried to disperse the angry crowd in front of Public School 188, at Houston and Manhattan streets, received a bad beating from a couple of irate mothers. The captain at last managed to telephone for the reserves of the Union Market station to come and help him. All the reserves and detectives, however, were out at other schools. Doorman John Falway went to the captain's aid, and the two managed to keep the crowd in fair order until more assistance could reach them.

Much excitement was caused at the school at Attorney and Stanton streets when Leon King, brushing aside women, children and policemen, made a dive for the iron doors, shouting in Yiddish that his children were being murdered and he must save them. He had battered himself half insensible before the patrolmen could check him. He was arrested for disorderly conduct. Women in the various mobs got to fighting among themselves to get nearest to the doors. they tore out handfuls of hair, and their dresses after the fray were a little more open than is customary even in East Side social circles.

And then, as suddenly as it had risen, the trouble lost its serious aspect. The teachers had learned its reason, and line after line of children began marching out of the buildings. The screaming, fighting mothers caught their own progeny and hurried home, helped along by indignant police reserves whose sleep had been spoiled. Commencement exercises in many schools were postponed. No fatalities were reported, but the East Side lost all interest in the discussion of kosher "wurst" to gossip over this "near massacre."







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