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Margaret
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Margaret starts a new job
A horse drawn tram.
View full size imageHorse drawn tram

Today is Margaret's first day at work at the factory of Siemens Brothers & Co. Ltd. She leaves home early, and takes the tram along the Trafalgar Road and the Woolwich Road. She gets off the tram at Harden’s Manorway and follows the crowd of workers through the factory gates. The Siemens factory is very big. 2,200 people work there. Parts of the factory are nearly 40 years old.

Nursery nurse and children.
View full size imageNurse/housemaid

At the factory they make everything needed for making and using electricity. They make machines and cables for sending and receiving telegrams. They make more up-to-date inventions too: street lighting, cables and switches for trams, and electric lights and telephones for offices and homes.

Violet shows Margaret where she will work. The building is new, with big windows. There is plenty of daylight.

Margaret works standing at a table. Violet shows her what to do. She shows Margaret the copper wires at the end of a short cable and how to twist the ends into a loop. She fits one end of the cable to the earpiece of a telephone. The earpiece looks like a small trumpet. Violet then fits the other end of the cable to the handset of the telephone. The handset looks like a candlestick.

A diary
View full size imageA diary

Next door is a room full of machines. The machines make a lot of noise. A lot of people work at the machines. Margaret asks Violet what they are doing.

‘They are making a very long cable,’ says Violet. The factory has an order for a cable 2,000 miles long.’

‘What is the cable for?’ asks Margaret.

‘The cable will carry telegram messages,’ says Violet.

‘Why is the cable so long?’ asks Margaret.

‘The cable will be laid under the sea, from the Azores to Nova Scotia in Canada,’ explains Violet. ‘It will link up with the cable that was laid last year from Ireland to the Azores. There are already telegram cables between Ireland and Canada, but they are busy all the time. They are nearly full. So many people want to send telegrams these days, that they need more cables.’

Telegraph cable
View full size imageTelegraph cable

Margaret would like to know where the Azores are. The name makes her think of beautiful faraway lands. But the foreman does not like women talking while they work, and the room is full of noisy machines. Margaret and Violet do not talk again until the dinner hour.

At the dinner hour, Violet shows Margaret the way outside. A crowd of women and children stand outside the factory gates. They have brought meals for their husbands, brothers, or fathers.

Margaret has brought her own jam sandwich and a bottle of cold tea. Violet has brought a metal can with soup in it. She heats up her soup on one of the braziers set up in the field behind the factory. It is a cold day and the hot soup smells very good.

‘Where did you work before?’ asks Violet.

‘I used to work at an arms factory,’ says Margaret
‘but there was an accident. My friend hurt her hand.
After that, I didn't want to work there any more.’

‘Where did you work before that?’ asks Violet.

‘When I was eleven, I started work. I helped Mrs Duggan with the charring. She lives in our street. She was over sixty then. I carried her buckets and brushes to people's offices. She polished the desks and the floors. I cleaned the windows and polished the door knockers. She gave me sixpence a day.

‘When I was 13, I got a place as a housemaid. I went to live with a family in a big old house in Royal Hill. I had to get up early every morning. As soon as I was up, I started work.

I lit the fires and carried jugs of water for the family to wash. I cleaned the rooms, and helped the cook in the kitchen. I tidied up the children's toys and clothes.
I washed and ironed clothes. I cleaned the kitchen.
I often went to bed very late. I was always so tired.
I had no time to myself, except on Sunday.

On Sunday afternoons, I was allowed to go home and see my mother for a few hours. I earned £10 a year.

‘Soon after I started working there, water pipes were put in. The smallest bedroom was made into a bathroom, with hot and cold taps, and a bath. I did not have to carry water upstairs any more.

‘The cook, Mrs Coleby, was good to me. She came from Suffolk. She showed me how to write neatly, and how to write down recipes. In the evenings, when all the work was done, we used to read the Windsor Magazine together.

‘But when I was 17, I did not want to be a maid any more. I did not want to live in someone else's house. I wanted a life of my own. That’s when I got the job filling cartridges at the arms factory. My sister Amy went to the family in Royal Hill in my place. She is still there now.’

 

 
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Glossary

Glossary

Grammar Glossary

Grammar glossary: what words do


 
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