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Persephone Book No. 123: Emmeline

Judith Rossner

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Emmeline is a historical novel, written in 1980, set  in America in the 1840s. It is about thirteen-year-old Emmeline Mosher, who leaves her  home in Fayette in Maine and goes to work in the mills at Lowell in Massachusetts. This  was common practice: the girls (around eight thousand of them in Lowell alone) were housed in large boarding houses, worked in the mills all day, and the money they earned was sent back to their, mostly farming, families. Even though the work was hard, many of the girls were pleased to have the freedom to work. However, Emmeline goes to Lowell reluctantly and is disorientated and lonely. But she is also beautiful – and a double tragedy ensues.