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by Sue Reid
The diary of Eliza Helsted, Manchester, 1842-1843. Eliza Helsted is a bright working-class girl living in Manchester in the middle of the 19th century. Her father's a weaver at the local mill. Eliza is soon to learn that she'll have to go to work in the mill as an assistant.
Saturday 21st May 1842 Something terrible has happened. I can scarcely bring myself to write the words. I AM TO START AT THE MILL ON MONDAY. "You said never," I cried to Mother. Her face was white. "Oh Eliza," she said. "I'm so sorry. If there was anything I could have done..." "Where am I to work?" I demanded. The room was so quiet that I could hear myself breathe. "In the carding room. Sickness. They need more hands." I wasn't Eliza any more, just a pair of hands. Factory hands.
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