Several times she was quite beside herself and hysterical; and then Jurgis would go half-mad with fright. Elzbieta would explain to him that it could not be helped, that a woman was subject to such things when she was pregnant; but he was hardly to be persuaded, and would beg and plead to know what had happened. She had never been like this before, he would argue—it was monstrous and unthinkable. It was the life she had to live, the accursed work she had to do, that was killing her by inches. She was not fitted for it—no woman was fitted for it, no woman ought to be allowed to do such work; if the world could not keep them alive any other way it ought to kill them at once and be done with it. They ought not to marry, to have children; no workingman ought to marry—if he, Jurgis, had known what a woman was like, he would have had his eyes torn out first. So he would carry on, becoming half hysterical himself, which was an unbearable thing to see in a big man; Ona would pull herself together and fling herself into his arms, begging him to stop, to be still, that she would be better, it would be all right. So she would lie and sob out her grief upon his shoulder, while he gazed at her, as helpless as a wounded animal, the target of unseen enemies. (14.16)
Jurgis does not yet know that the reason Ona has become prone to these fits of hysteria is because she has been raped and is being intimidated into prostitution at work. All Jurgis can see is that the work she is doing is "killing her by inches." Jurgis perceives that "no woman ought to be allowed to do such work" at the factories – all of this hard labor is particularly tough for fragile Ona. Frankly, though, no man ought to be allowed to do such work, either. Jurgis works himself to the bone to keep his terrible jobs at various factories, even as they keep speeding up the pace of the work until he can hardly keep up. No one, regardless of gender, could stand the lives they are being made to lead – that's the whole point of The Jungle.