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Good sturdy Christian women wanted--serious minded--willing to relocate to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Need a knowledge of cooking, cleaning, child rearing--room and board, plus handsome compensations provided. Only first 20 applicants considered. Reply to: Ira, c/o May's Boardinghouse, Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Maggie Ryan read the ad in The New York Times, her mind still on the article she had just finished. It told of the many opportunities for women in the West, and of the shortage of women. Teaching, tutoring, boardinghouse, and hotel work was available. It even spoke of how many women were venturing into dental and doctor work, some becoming lawyers, journalists, and office workers.
Would she be considered a complete idiot if she answered an ad like that? Maggie wanted a job with some substance to it. The old judge would never give her a job referral if she quit.
Having been raised in an orphanage, she had nothing: no family and only one close friend. All her life she'd known poverty, hard work, and drudgery. She had been fussed at and treated like nobody.
Maggie paced back and forth across the small room in Judge Benjamin Upshaw's mansion with vast lawns in the better neighborhood of Baltimore. She lived in a big, fine house on the hill, took care of the judge's invalid wife, cleaned, and tried to outmaneuver judge's lecherous advances. Tired of it, she felt that now was time something good happened in her life. It was up to Maggie to make it happen.
She flung the newspaper, then paced across the room and grabbed it, glaring at the ad again. She would never have a life of her own here. Not having a propereducation, or the looks to catch a husband, Maggie was tired of being poor.
"I've got to do this," she told herself. Grabbing her shawl and bonnet, Maggie donned them and went through the kitchen on her way outside.
"Rosemary, I'm going to visit my friend, Elizabeth Cromwell. I'll be back before supper."
Rosemary looked up from the pan of dishes she was washing and smiled, her fat cheeks dimpled. "I'll tell the old battle axe should anyone ask. You deserve to do as you please on your day off."
"Thank you." Maggie pulled her shawl tighter against the cold February air. Slushy gray snow covered the backyard, and Maggie picked her way through the mess. She chose the back way instead of the front door to avoid having to answer questions from her employers. Maggie knew she shouldn't complain--at least she had a roof over her head and plenty to eat. Many people were out of work now because the factories had cut back.
She crossed over two streets, walking by the pharmacy, the small mercantile, and the coffee house. As she walked through the small park, she stopped to watch a group of children ice-skating. Their cheeks were red from the cold; colorful scarves flew and excited screams filled the air. Maggie reveled in the happy situation. She never had a childhood, no skating in the park or a doll to call her own, no pretty dresses or bonnets. Maggie liked children and wondered if she would ever have one of her own.
Continuing on, she covered the six blocks at a brisk pace. Maggie knocked on the service door of the Rockford Estate. Her friend was lucky indeed to live in such a beautiful place as this, even if she was a maid. Elizabeth was the only girl she'd been close to at the orphanage. They had been like sisters for nearly twenty years, with never a harsh word between them.
Elizabeth answered the door wearing her gray cotton uniform and a frilly white apron, a small starched white cap perched on her blond hair.
"Maggie, how nice." She grinned. "Come in. Your nose is nearly as red as your hair. Must be getting colder."
"I won't stay long, Beth. I just have to get out of that house once in a while, and I want to show you something."
Beth closed the door and started toward the kitchen, talking over her shoulder. "Let me tell Louise I'm taking a half hour, then we'll go to my room and talk. Something serious?"
"Maybe," Maggie replied, her voice soft and low. "I'll wait by the hall door for you."
Returning, Beth smiled at Maggie again. "If I had your looks I'd be out with some nice man this afternoon," said Beth as she guided Maggie to her room. "Why are you so afraid to do anything on your own?"
Maggie shook her head sadly. "I know you've tried to help me overcome my timidity and shyness, but I fall apart around strangers. I've got to do something. I'm getting desperate, Beth. Read this and tell me I'm not crazy." She shoved the paper at Beth, removed her shawl and bonnet, and flung them over the back of a chair.
Her friend read, her eyes growing bigger and rounder by the minute. "Oh, my word! Is this real? They want women ... this is crazy."
Posted August 5, 2011
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