Fourteen voices from the underside of the Gay '90's, running the gamut from a former slave who was tricked into a brutal form of peonage and a woman collar-starcher fighting against automation and wage cuts to several immigrants--an Italian bootblack, a sixteen-year-old sweatshop laborer, an Irish cook who have all seen hard times but seem reasonably satisfied with their prospects. There's also a farm wife determined to cram time for reading into her hectic round of ""multitudinous cares."" We haven't seen the bibliographical note (to come) but many of these first-person accounts seem to have been Englished-up by turn of the century editors so that they lack some of the flavor of tree oral history. On the other hand they're easy enough to give many students their first look at how ordinary individuals saw themselves and their time, and though the editors tend to lump all their sources together as ""downtrodden,"" the real lesson may be the split between those who found no hope and others (white, ambitious and if female, unmarried) who managed to stake out their share of the land of opportunity. With photos and a reading list to come, a likely supplement to the textbook-eye-view.