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Brooklyn, October 1888

The garment factory foreman's words kept echoing through Josephine's head as she stared at the yards of cheap, rough cloth piled on her sewing table. The drab gray material was destined to be turned into shirts and blouses that would be snapped up by the working classes Brooklyn Ready-Mades catered to, but Josephine and her fellow seamstresses wouldn't be piecing the garments together anymore.

This is your last week, girls. You're all done on Friday. Automatons are the only way Brooklyn Ready-Mades can stay competitive in New York anymore.

Sacked. That word left a foul taste in Josephine's mouth. Sacked after twelve years of faithful service, which had left her with callused fingers and a permanent squint at the age of twenty-three. She should have known that the garment factory would eventually toss all their seamstresses out on the street. The foreman, Mr. Boyle, had been muttering about how cheaper labor was out there and who wouldn't giggle and gossip during working hours or get sick. "Men?" Josephine and the other seamstresses had whispered behind their hands. "Are they gonna teach men how to sew if they don't want to listen to us talk?" Then they would snicker at the thought and return to piecing together shirtwaists.

And who cared if the girls enjoyed a giggle every now and then? Josephine swatted at a pile of fabric, watching it deflate on the table. As long as they made their quotas, what did an occasional joke matter? And no one took time off sick anyway; they'd be sacked for that, too.

She had no family to rely on since her mother died last year, nor a husband. All she knew how to do was sew, and with Brooklyn Ready-Mades making the switch to automatons like every other garment factory in New York, she was well and truly stuck. The rent she paid for her cheap tenement room would eat up what little savings she had in a matter of weeks, and then her landlady would unceremoniously evict her and sell her things to make up for arrears. Josephine had seen it happen to other unfortunately young ladies at her boarding house during her months there.

Bastards, she thought. All of them: Brooklyn Ready-Mades, Mr. Boyle, and her landlady, Mrs. Flitt. And whoever invented those blasted automatons, she added. She grabbed two pieces of cut and pinned material and arranged it under her sewing machine needle. Working the treadle under her foot, she kept on silently fuming at the injustice of it all. Mr. Boyle had made it clear that whoever didn't work until Friday wouldn't be paid at all for the week. She looked up from her work just long enough to gaze on a sea of worried faces, the cavernous sewing room unusually silent save for the whirrs of machines.

Everything's already automated, Josephine thought bitterly. It's just the machines are operated by people. What'll happen to their precious cheap shirts when the automaton machine gets jammed up and the factory can't deliver their quota, huh?

She finished off the shirt's seam and snipped off the dangling threads.


It was well after ten o'clock when Josephine's shift ended, and she scarcely noticed the autumn chill in the air as she angrily stalked through Brooklyn's streets. Money was now too dear to waste on an El train trip home, and that was just one more thing to anger her. Walking to her tenement boarding house meant she would only get a few hours' sleep before she had to be back at the factory at six tomorrow morning.

A private steam-powered cab whizzed past her, belching dirty fumes in its wake. She coughed and resisted the urge to scream an epithet after the driver, and added him to her mental list of bastards she hated.

She walked down an alley that would shave a few minutes off her walk home, keeping her eyes peeled for anyone suspicious. Maybe I'll get lucky and someone will clobber me over the head, she thought. I won't have to worry about work or money anymore. Problems solved!

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