September 21, 2016

Children at work

Factory Girl
by Barbara Greenwood

Twelve-year-old Emily Watson takes a job at the Acme Garment Factory, the only place that will overlook her underage status. Emily would much rather be in school, but her poverty-stricken family needs every penny of her meager wages. The work is hard and long, made worse by the terrible conditions and cruel bosses. When a young reporter arrives, determined to reveal the truth about the workers' plight, Emily finds herself wrestling with a moral dilemma. If she talks to the reporter, the factory will close and she'd be out of work. Plus she'd be betraying her friend Magda and the other immigrant girls, who desperately need to keep their jobs. On the other hand, she really wants to change her situation.

Emily's story is fictional, but it is based on real-life accounts of child labor in the early 1900s. Barbara Greenwood ends each chapter with historical information about life in a slum, the risks of working in hazardous conditions, and the fight to improve social conditions. Historical photographs by Lewis Hine round out a compelling narrative and help to illuminate the workers' stark reality.

An excellent book.

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