A Woman’s Worth – FFftPP#10

What follows is a piece inspired by the prompt over at Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. The key elements were the photo below, the opening sentence/phrase and no more than 200 words. 

A Woman’s Worth – 197 words

“I know it’s only been three weeks, but I want to go home,” one of the new mill girls said when I found her gazing out of the window. The first month was always the hardest.

“You signed a contract for a year,” I told her, but my stomach twinged. She looked about the same age as my ten-year-old sister, Sarah, the only one of us girls still at home. The mills were hiring girls younger and younger these days.

She stared outside, the whirring of the factory behind her. “My mama needs me on the farm.”

I’d heard so many new girls say the same thing over the years. “Your family needs your pay more than you,” I told her, “otherwise they wouldn’t send you here.” It sounded cruel, but the truth helped them settle in faster.

The girl’s eyes flashed in my direction, anger then betrayal and finally resignation. Her body sagged under her surrender.

I held out my hand. It was all I had to offer. “Let’s get you back to your machine before the supervisor notices you’re missing.”

She glanced out of the window once more and then took my hand.

 

I find this little part of American history fascinating. For more on the Lowell Mill girls, The National Park Service has a great site: Lowell National Historical Park

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30 thoughts on “A Woman’s Worth – FFftPP#10

  1. Pingback: Flash Fiction – FFftPP#10 | Pointless & Prosaic

    • Thanks for stopping by! These mill girls were really interesting because while the job was hard, they also formed amazing communities where they supported one another–eventually leading to strikes and reforms. This was a fun topic to think about this week!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the stories that came from this prompt. They paint rather bleak pictures, but I suppose it’s hard to find anything cheery in the photo. Very nicely done.

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    • Bleak, yes, but there’s something really intriguing about the way these young women helped each other through the challenges of being away from home and the brutal work. They managed to even pull together and demand reforms. I like that spirit!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That look of anger then betrayal to resignation is haunting. So sad to think that there are poor children living devoid of chances to be nothing but simple kids- carefree, playful, and full of smiles. Beautiful, sad story Amy.

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    • You are very true, Jacqueline, about these things persisting. I was just reading some of the info on the International Women’s Day page, and I find myself heartbroken–and enraged.

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  4. It is such a fascinating topic, and I think you brought a slice of it to life with your story. I love how you made the little girl’s trouble to settle in universal through the narration of the older girl – great writing!

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