When school is taken away from Joan, it seems like the worst thing ever. How can she convince her father that school is what her mom wanted for her? How can she convince him that her learning is important – as important as her work on the farm for him and her three older brothers? It isn’t until a visit from her former teacher that Joan gets an idea. If she can only earn enough money from selling eggs, she might be able to get back to school and her dream of leaving the farm and all the hard drudgery that it represents. Yet, quickly it becomes apparent, no matter what Joan says or how hard she works, her father expects her to live out her life in servitude to the farm and to him. After one horrible night of screaming and yelling, Joan makes a brave decision. She will run away and get a job in a larger city. After all, they pay girls in the city to do the work she’s doing for free on the farm. And they pay well! But she knows no one will hire a girl of only 14. So a plan forms. She will need to change her age and her name, just in case her father comes looking for her.
And so Joan, now Janet, embarks on the greatest adventure of her life, and also the scariest. Through the best of luck, she is able to find herself in a wealthy household working as their hired girl. Yet, this family isn’t the typical family, as Joan/Janet quickly realizes and she has her own beliefs stretched as a result.
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz gives readers a detailed look at life in America on the farm and in the cities in 1911 and just how hard it was in both locations to get ahead if you start with little to nothing. Looking at a woman’s life, it also portrays the struggles for creating something meaningful in a world that often ignored or simply didn’t care about that entire gender. This was an incredible read and highly recommended.
Recommended for grades 8 and up.