Dorta teaches Mary the finer points of keeping boarders in her home, most important of which is to set firm rules and make the boarders obey those rules. “You're running a business now, remember that,” Dorta states, “give them what they pay for and no more.” Mike adds that if running the business becomes too much for Mary to take, he will dismiss the boarders.
Bell points out that many Slovak women are both laborers and business owners. Unlike Mike, however, Mary does not earn a wage for her housework, nor does she get much social recognition for the amount of work she performs as a proprietor in her own right.
Mike grows to appreciate, if not love, the boarders, as their presence adds $30 extra per month, which the Dobrejcaks use to clear themselves of debts by spring and even purchase new clothes, curtains, and a new stove for the kitchen. They are also able to attend the occasional entertainment ball held by one of the many Slovak societies, where they are able to feel “like being young and in love again.” At Christmastime, the company raises unskilled wages and the boarders share in the Dobrejcaks’ holiday dinner. Mike receives a gift he has long desired: a new bookcase. Johnny gets a tricycle and Mary receives a set of furs. Over dinner, Mike gives thanks and prays for good fortune in the coming year.
Mary’s boarders initially bring an extra level of comfort to the household, demonstrating the importance women have not only as keepers of the home, but as providers of income as well. When coupled with the company’s raising of wages at Christmas, Mary’s income briefly puts the prospect of achieving the American Dream within reach for the Dobrejcaks.