Under our modern factory system, where hundreds of young girls are housed together, and where sexual themes are constantly uppermost, such attachments would seem peculiarly apt to be formed. Indeed, Niceforo relates that, in Rome, where a great number of these girls were at work in one room, frequently without drawers, and even unbuttoning their waists during the heat of summer for purposes of comfort as they sat cross-legged at work, their privates fully exposed to inspection, and with the sexual idea constantly in their minds, it is scarcely a wonder that when the forewoman went to sleep, during the noon hour, as he innocently remarks, that "all the girls without a single exception masturbated themselves."
But he makes the more remarkable addition to the assertion that these girls who couple together for mutual masturbation are not lesbian lovers. Tribadism, he says, is not a vice of factories and workrooms. He even does not believe it to exist among working-girls; although I am, with all due respect, compelled to dissent from the view. Among the type of factory operatives to which he refers, it may be rare, or even entirely absent; but among working-girls, as a class, it is well known to exist, and quite largely, at least in America.
He further speaks of the girls in another room retiring to the fitting-room, and, fastening their chemises around their legs to imitate trousers, playing at being men, and pretending to have intercourse with the others.'
The same, or kindred experiences, may be recorded in this, and every country, by forewomen of factories where large numbers of girls are employed; and while such amusements among them may be looked upon as mere manifestations of animal spirits, both innocent and indeed wholesome, it must also be evident that habits and ideas thus formed, and continued into adult life, may assume a far less trivial character.