Factory Girl by Barbara Greenwood
Imagine living in a tiny two room apartment – you, your mom, baby sister, and little brother. It’s cramped and dirty, with no running water or electricity. Dinner is potatoes and water soup. If you’re lucky, there may be hard, stale bread to eat.
Emily Watson was only twelve years old. She had to drop out of school and find a job. Her family depended on her for survival. Acme Garment Factory did not care that Emily was only twelve. Underage children were good workers – cheap labor. Emily began working a backbreaking, boring job –snipping loose threads from garments. She earned four dollars a week for working ten hours a day.
If she accidentally pierced the garment with her scissors, Emily lost an entire week’s wages. If she spent too long in the bathroom, her pay was docked. She couldn’t talk to the other girls. She couldn’t smile, stretch, or even take a brief break. The factory was dirty, hot, and smoky. Her bones ached, eyes blurred, and fingers cramped.
Life in the early 1900s was miserable for the working poor. Though Factory Girl is fiction, the setting and events are very real. Before child labor laws, children like Emily worked long hours in deplorable workplaces, with little pay, and often experienced abuse under the hands of their ruthless employers. They never had a real childhood.The jobs were often dangerous, and many lost their lives as a result. The photographs in this book depict the hopelessness of their situation, the extreme poverty of the times, and the unforgettable young faces will haunt you long after you stop reading.
If you found Factory Girl as unforgettable as I did, try Margaret Haddix’s Uprising or Getzinger's The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.