This etching of a group of working women was featured on the cover of the July 1913 issue of The Masses, a Socialist magazine with an avowed commitment to the proletariat. The magazine's editorial board diligently covered social justice issues such as the American labor movement, the fight for women's suffrage and reproductive rights, foreign affairs, and the power of big business, while championing the rights of the less fortunate in the hopes of creating a more equitable and tolerant society. Sloan's illustration is radical in its ambiguity. What are these women about to do? What was the nature of their "toil?" Are they headed out for a night on the town to avail themselves of the "cheap amusements" newly available to working class women in this era? Or, are they as the title suggests, headed home from an evening of work? If so, their nighttime labor coupled with their elaborately plumed hats suggest that their industry may have been prostitution. As a cover illustration, Return from Toil is not only emblematic of Sloan's penchant for recording all aspects of life in New York, but also represents the Socialist movement's commitment to the masses.
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