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  • Mj Pettengill

The Strength for Future Woes


American Linen Co. Spooler tender. Location: Fall River, Massachusetts / Lewis W. Hine
American Linen Co. Spooler tender. Location: Fall River, Massachusetts / Lewis W. Hine

Propelled by my own fear, I sprinted all the way home. The brittle month of February showed no mercy upon us. The urine froze in our chamber pots, the inside of the cracked and patched window in our room was encased in thick yellow ice, and sickness waited at the door. I had resorted to keepin’ my feet warm by tuckin’ them into the patched mail-bag that Mercy gave to me as a Christmas gift. I learned that without kindness, a soul will droop rapidly, especially durin’ the reign of cold. With so much sadly broken, I lacked the strength for future woes.

Mrs. Brennan warned us about the dangers of not wearin’ a warm cloak to and from work. Tragically, many had been laid in a coffin—victims of fever or consumption—from rushin’ out of the heated mills, flushed and eager to get home, with only light protection against the frigid night air or dampness from a storm.

I was careful to wear a warm cloak over my work dress and a heavy overcoat to band practice. Rehearsals were a welcome change from the daily routine of the mills, but the lack of sunlight caused my spirits to wilt. Had I not been able to play music, I would have failed the Fall River experience, for we departed in the mornin’ before sunrise and returned home after sunset. I missed the sun. By nature, winter was dreary, but it was far worse when workin’ in the mills. Sarah Hodgdon, February 15, 1873 The Angels' Lament Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series: Book Two EXCERPT