Only a few days left to go, and my holidays will be over. It’s wonderful having all this time to myself, to do as I please. But I have so little money left. No work, and no pay. God, how I hate those machines. The noise keeps ringing in my head, and when they break down, I can’t earn any money, because I’m not working! I wish with all my heart I could afford to stay home forever. But things are so expensive, prices go up all the time. It’s all right if you own the grubby factory, but if you’re like me, you can end up working yourself to death just to make ends meet. It’s not fair. Those greedy fat men in their luxurious offices with their ugly wives and spoilt brats! The girls on the machines are the ones who are making all the money for them, while they just sit on their big backsides. We should have a pay rise, by rights. Now that would make history!
Back to work today. My stomach kept rumbling because I couldn’t afford much breakfast. Money’s tight. The other girls were saying how it’s the same for most of them. Most of us hadn’t eaten since the day before so we were all slow to begin with. We were glad to be back for the money. I asked Mr Birling if I could have my money early. He let me, and wasn’t that surprised, probably because most of the girls asked for the same thing. When I got home, I bought some food, paid my bills, and all the usual things. I only had eight bob left out of twenty-two and six.
This has been one of the worst days of my life. Things have been getting worse. Everyone at work thinks so. We work long hours, and get so little for it. None of us can manage on such low wages. Birlings make a good profit, they can afford to pay us more. We all got together and agreed to ask for a pay rise – nothing less than twenty five shillings a week. So we did. I ended up doing most of the talking. Mr. Birling wasn’t having it, and told us to go and work somewhere else if we didn’t like it.
That man must have never opened his eyes when he walks on the streets, how can he not understand why we need the money, he can’t honestly say he can’t afford it and we don’t deserve it. So we carried on for a while, but people were angry. We decided that the only thing for it was to go on strike. What else could we do? By the end of the day, everyone agreed. All for one and one for all! We were all in the same boat but as the days went by with no wages coming in at all it just got harder, especially for the girls with kiddies at home. After two weeks Birling locked us out and said he’d replace us with new workers, or we could go back straightaway on the old wages.
Well, you could understand why some of the girls wanted to go back. Their children needed food. It was humiliating. I went up to the door but Birling stood there and said “Not you, Miss Smith, you must have heard me say that I would not permit the ringleaders back on the premises.” I saw red, and told him exactly what I thought of him and his premises. Men like him treat people like slaves, what choice does a woman with a sick baby have but to meekly obey a tyrant like him? He threatened to have me arrested, if I didn’t leave his property “forthwith” I left.
When I got home I gathered my things, settled up, and moved out. For the time being I am living in digs until I can find another job, which won’t be easy now I’ve been sacked. I’ve lost a lot of friends through this business, too. I haven’t got much money left from my job at Birlings, but hopefully it will just about see me through till I can find work again. I’m so tired now. What was it all for? Good news at last! I’ve managed to get a position at Milwards, the most exclusive shop in town. Now I’m a Milwards Assistant.
This has come just in time. I am nearly out of money, but today could be the start of a new life for me. I been working now for two days, and I am getting on well. The people seem very nice. The pay is better than the workshop; at least operators and filthy machinery do not surround me. It’s so much nicer to be working in an elegant shop with all those beautiful clothes I can only dream of wearing. The customers are so grand, some of them, the aristocracy. Others are just mutton dressed up as lamb – (like the Birlings!)
I’ve lost my job at Milwards. A spoilt, ugly girl, related to the Birlings! She was trying on some clothes that only made her look even less attractive than she already was, my friend, who was helping her choose something suitable knew this, even her own mother knew it. But the young miss was just being stubborn and really sulky about it. When she tried on this dress that made her look absolutely ridiculous, my friend turned around and silently snorted her nose as if she was being a pig. The Birling girl must have seen me smile behind her from the mirror or something. She was so furious. Then I got fired.