April 17, 1817,
My childhood friend, Gilbert, whose father owns the textile mill, Johnson and Sons, came over to our house for dinner today. Mr. Johnson has been childhood friends with my father because their fathers were wealthy merchants and helped promote the cause for the American Revolution. It has been a year since I had last seen Gilbert, and when they came over, I was surprised to find that Gilbert had grown into a handsome young man, with light blonde hair and I found myself staring into his deep blue eyes. Oddly enough, I found that he was also staring into my brown eyes.
Gilbert smiled at me and said, "Hello, Ms. Rebecca Jennings. It's nice weather we are having."
I was so astounded by the way he had used that tone. We were friends, not strangers. And besides, he never called me Ms. Rebecca Jennings. I was always Becky to him. Why was he being so formal with me?
My mother then led him into them into the dining hall and I could not help admire how much Gilbert had changed. I found that he felt the same way and every time we looked at each other, we were both blushing. I had to tell myself to stop acting so childish; this was Gilbert, for goodness sake!
After dinner, my father, Mr. Johnson, and Gilbert usually went into the parlor to discuss business affairs, whereas we women went to sew in the sewing room until the men came out. However, I was surprised this time, when they invited us to the parlor to discuss business affairs. I never before had to deal with business matters, and I felt happy that I could at least participate in this affair.
After we sat down, and the men each took a cigar, I found Gilbert admiring me.
"Mr. and Ms. Jennings, Did you hear that Gilbert is now the co-owner of Johnson and Sons? He will take over the business when I am gone?"
I was so delighted with his news that I leaped up and hugged Gilbert and congratulated him, while my parents sent me disapproving glares. I was ashamed for I had forgotten my manners. I apologized and sat back down in my seat with my hands in my lap.
"Ms. Rebecca Jennings, would you like be one of those working girls? You would live in a boarding house under supervision. You could attend school and church lectures. Gilbert, told me you like to read so you can go to libraries. You can also be our editor for our company's magazine Johnson's News, and you will get paid three to four times a week?"
It seemed too good to be true. Yes, I have heard of women working in factories. It had become a trend for factory owners ever since the Lowell factory had opened up in 1815 with women workers. Despite all of the good things that Mr. Johnson had said, the reason that made me really want to go work for Johnson and Sons was because it was close to Gilbert and maybe I could see him more often if I worked there.
"That would be out of the question. I would not want my daughter to be humiliated and insulted by doing the work of a man. This may also affect her health too. She would not be fertile. Also, she don't need the money, she will be getting married to an aristocratic man. Like it has always been in our family," my father said.
"Now, my dear husband, your grandmother, Rachel, and your father would turn in their graves if they hear those words. You know your father was so heavily influenced by your grandmother that he even secretly promoted social equality. Would you so dare to disrespect you father and your grandmother by not letting your daughter participate in the work force that helps promote social equality?" my mother said.
My father agreed with what my mother said. He loved his mother, and he did not want to go against her. He reluctantly said, "When do you want my daughter to work?"
"I expect her to be picked up by next week," Mr. Johnson said.
"Oh, alright. She'll be ready." my father sighed, knowing that he had been defeated. While he was sad, I was happy! Soon, I will be with Gilbert!
After that Mr. Johnson and Gilbert got up to leave, but before Gilbert walked out the door, he turned to me smiled, and kissed my hand. I blushed. Oh, dear, sweet diary. This is one of the best nights in my life. I will never forget this excellent day as long as I live! It was that moment that I realized I was in love with Gilbert, and I will dream of him always until we will be together again.
April 23, 1817,
I had just arrived at the boarding house factory. The carriage had picked me up, but instead of me being alone, there were fifteen girls in the carriage. I felt insulted. I belonged to an old aristocratic family, I should at least deserve some respect. During the long ride to countryside of Massachusetts, I found a girl named Norah look at me strangely.
"I know who you are. You are Rebecca Jennings. You always have your nose stuck in the air. Well, you're no different. I may not be rich, but unlike your family, my family were not slave owners. In fact, your money came from slave labor."
I was hurt and astounded. I had never known that this what people really thought of my family. I tried hard not to cry. "That is true. My family lived in the South. However, my great-grandmother, Rachel, was against slavery because she befriended a slave named Tiva. When she married, her husband freed his slaves to please her, and they supported the idea to abolish slavery," I said.
Norah glared at me, but she said nothing. A girl beside me said, "Don't listen to her. Her family is hates everything about the South."
"Oh, I see." I glared at Norah. I was so angry with her! She barely knew me, and already she hated me because my family was from the South. We finally arrived to the factory, but I was so hurt about what Norah said that I didn't pay attention to it. Dear Diary, this is going to be a long time. My father was right. I shouldn't have come to work. How I wish I wasn't here. How am I supposed to put up with Norah every day? My heart longed to see Gilbert. If I did see him, then I would know that by coming here would not have been in vain.
June 6 1817,
I am so sorry for not writing sooner. I have been so busy. I've been embroidering in crewels for ten hours a day. From dawn to sunset, all I've done is work. I have tried to find and look for Gilbert, but he is nowhere to be seen. I hate this work. It's so tedious and repetitive! I've been working twelve hours a day and I've been under a strict time-oriented supervision. And for all this work, I only got paid two dollars and forty cents. I regret working here. In my dreams and thoughts I remember what it's like at home. I had never been under this much supervision as I had at home, and I had a lot more freedom. Not only that, but I also saw Gilbert more at home than here.
Gilbert, Gilbert, Gilbert, Gilbert. Dear Diary sorry for writing his name so many times, but Gilbert is always in my dreams and thoughts. I can never get him out of my head even if I tried. His name brings solace throughout my hard labors. I always dream of him coming in to propose to me to get me out of my boring life. Dear, Diary, I never thought life could be so boring. Will it ever get better? Will I ever be with Gilbert? Does Gilbert think about me? So, I pray that hopefully tomorrow would be a better day even though it will be the same as always.
July 11, 1817,
Despite my misery in work, something great had happened. Yesterday morning seemed to be a typical Sunday; I went shopping for ribbons in my hair with my friend, Catherine. After we came out of the ribbon shop I saw Norah walking across the street. All of a sudden, a frightened horse and driver appeared out of nowhere and didn't seem to stop. The driver whipped the horse commanding the horse to stop, but the horse never slowed down his pace.
My friend, Catherine, and I told her to run, but Norah was so petrified that she couldn't move. I feared for her life. As much as I dislike Norah and treated me cruelly these past few months calling me a "slave labor lover" and insulting my family, I didn't want her to die. Without thinking I ran and pushed Norah out of the way, just in time for the carriage to pass. Norah was shaking in my arms. I hugged her wanting to comfort her.
Catherine came running up to us and asked, "Are you two alright?"
I stopped shaking, and she looked at me in the eyes. After what seemed to be an eternity of silence, Norah said, "I apologize for insulting you and your family. I was so jealous because you were rich, pretty, and popular. You are everything that I was not. I thought that if I insult you, then I would happy about myself. Rebecca, thank you for saving my life. I am really grateful to you."
I smiled at her. " There is no need for thanking me. I know that you are grateful for what I've done. Besides, you would have done the same thing if we switched places. Why would you be jealous of me? You are pretty, how can you ever say such a thing as that? You may never be rich, but I know that you will be happy. You will marry for love and that is better than having beautiful dresses to wear. Call me Becky; I do not like my name to be so formal."
Norah smiled at me, "You will probably marry Gilbert. You are rich, smart, pretty, and you've known him since you were children. It also seems that he likes you too."
I stared at her and asked, "How did you know?"
She laughed and said, "Don't get mad at me Becky, but while you and Catherine were out shopping, I went into your room and read your diary. You need to put your diary in a good hiding place, instead of leaving it on your desk for the world to see, but I promise that I will never do it again. Can we forget the horrid thing I have done to you and be friends?"
I was in jubilation. I never liked having enemies, and now our silly rivalry has now turned into friendship. "Yes that is what I've always wanted ever since we met."
The three of us then went window shopping and from that moment on Norah and I became friends. Dear Diary, I am going to put you in a good hiding place so that no one will find you and read what I'm writing here.
July 19, 1817,
I'm sorry I have not written in a long time.. I've been busy spending time with Norah and Catherine. We have grown into best friends, and w,e working girls at Johnson and Sonshave become a sisterhood.
Oh, Diary I'm so happy today. Already I feel like the world is dancing to my tune. While I was in the library reading, Gilbert came in and sat down next to me. My heart was racing when I saw him.
I smiled at him and asked him, "Did you come here to read a book?"
He smiled at me, and said, "No. I came here hoping to find you. I've been trying to get away from my father, but he always wanted me to tend to business affairs. I came to you just as quickly as I could."
We were silent for while, then he gently put his hand in mine. His hand feels so right in mine, and we stared at each other not wanting to look away.
"Every time I'm with you, I feel the world has stopped and it's just you and me. Becky, I've loved you ever since I first saw you. These past few months have been a torment knowing that you were so near yet I couldn't see you almost drove me insane. Becky, do you have the same feelings for me?"
"Gilbert, I've been waiting to you hear you say these words for a long time now."
Gilbert smiled a full smile, and said the most wonderful words I always dreamed to hear, "Then will you give up your work in the factory and marry me? I want you as my wife, Becky."
"Gladly, for I want you as my husband." I whispered so softly that I could barely hear my words. Did he hear my words. I looked up into Gilbert's blue eyes, and I knew that he did. Gilbert kissed me on the lips. It was passionate and I knew that his kiss sealed not only my days of not working in the factory, but my happiness.
Dear Diary, hopefully when I write in my next diary entry I will be no longer be Ms. Rebecca Jennings but Mrs. Rebecca Johnson, wife to Mr. Gilbert Johnson, owner of the company that I previously worked for, Johnson and Sons. Yet as much I am happy to be a wife, I will always remember the sisterhood of the girls who worked under Johnson and Sons, and hopefully as a wife, I would wield some influence over my husband and work for factory rights making it eight hours a day, five days a week, and higher pay. I would be just like my great-grandmother, Rachel, who was one the most influential women I had ever known.