The Theme of Troubled Childhood in "Hard Times Cotton Mill Girls" by Victoria Byerly example

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The Theme of Troubled Childhood in "Hard Times Cotton Mill Girls" by Victoria Byerly

In American history there are several topics that are not researched well enough, but the importance of which is really immense. History of southern textile workers, especially history of women’s work lives, is definitely one of them. For a very long time this topic remained in the periphery of scientific research, even though there were thousands of women belonging to different races and ages who spent all their lives in almost unbearable conditions of immensely difficult work. Unfortunately, their stories remain to be unknown and this is a great injustice. In her book Hard Times Cotton Mill Girls, Victoria Byerly makes an attempt to correct the injustice and to demonstrate to her readers a very specific form of personal heroism. This heroism was unheralded but nevertheless it was vitally important for the state. Byerly interviewed hundreds of women and their sincere answers serve as immensely valuable material which helps to understand their numerous problems, miseries and shortcomings. In these interviews they bring to light such important questions as the nature of family life, their resistance to poor conditions of life, their understanding of womanhood and many others. Still, there is one more question that unites almost all women whose life stories can be traced in the book. They all had a troubled childhood and the main task of this paper is to answer in what way their troubled childhood influenced their lives.

In her book, Victoria Byerly managed to record the experiences of women mill workers who belonged to her own community. In these sincere interviews women tell about many manifestations of discrimination and about their strivings to resist their poor conditions, but the most striking issue in this book is the representation of the concept of troubled childhood which can be called an attributive feature of all working women. This concept reflects not only unbearable conditions of work for young women and even small girls; it reflects the lack of carefree period of childhood which had a huge impact on lives of women and which subsequently caused a lot of psychological, social and health problems. Besides, it is a mistake to think that only women belonging to racial or ethnical minorities had a difficult childhood associated with many problems and even personal tragedies. Both black and white women indicate that their early years were marked by difficult work, poverty, lack of proper education and broken homes. The part of the book dealing with the concept of troubled childhood contains the interviews with such women as Bertha Miller, Margaret Cauthen, Mary Lee Bost and Bertha Awford Black. However, while reading other interviews, it is possible to argue that almost all women whose stories constitute the plot of the book had a difficult childhood.

The first problem these women had to face was the need to start working at a very early age. Their working careers started too early …

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