The year is 1912, and Emily Watson has every reason to hope that she will complete her 8th-grade education and enter one of the occupations newly opened to women-clerk, nurse, maybe even teacher. That is, until her father’s letters abruptly stop and her family is thrown into poverty. The 12-year-old is forced to seek employment in a sweatshop, snipping garment threads for four dollars a week.
At the dingy, overcrowded Acme Garment Factory, Emily Watson stands for eleven hours a day clipping threads from blouses. Every time the boss passes, he shouts at her to snip faster. But if Emily snips too fast, she could ruin the garment and be docked pay. If she works too slowly, she will be fired. She desperately needs this job. Without the four dollars a week it brings, her family will starve.
When a reporter arrives, determined to expose the terrible conditions in the factory, Emily finds herself caught between the desperate immigrant girls with whom she works and the hope of change. Emily’s fictional experiences are interwoven with non-fiction sections describing family life in a slum, the fight to improve social conditions, the plight of working children then and now, and much more. Rarely seen archival photos accompany this story of the past as only Barbara Greenwood can tell it.