3: Illustration, Samuel Zagat's “The First Step Toward a Maiden’s Downfall,” ca. 1910s.
This illustration for the newspaper Di varhayt, in which Karpilove’s Diary of a Lonely Girl was serialized, depicts two young women chatting with men on the street. The title of the drawing, “The First Step Toward a Maiden’s Downfall” suggests that even such apparently casual interactions are dangerous for young women who could lose their respectability if they are persuaded by young men to participate in illicit relationships.
Suggested Activity: Ask your students to consider this drawing before they learn its title. After they describe their observations and interpretations of the drawing, ask students to propose their own titles for the drawing. Then, reveal Zaget’s title to them. Ask students how the illustrator’s title reframes the way they interpret the image. Who is blamed or held responsible for respectability, according to the title? What does this imply about the pressures women were subject to and the moral standards they were meant to uphold? Ask students to find a moment in Diary of a Lonely Girl that they think could be illustrated with this image.
Source: Samuel Zagat, “The First Step toward a Maiden’s Downfall,” Di varhayt (New York: n. d.), Tamiment Labor History Archives, special collections, New York University, New York, NY, as represented in Elizabeth Alice Clement, Love for Sale: Courting, Treating, and Prostitution in New York City, 1900-1945 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 42.