Ruth’s Story

Ruth Barrow illustration


Back in Virginia, your mother taught you needlework from an early age. You were always very good at it. “You take to just about everything — like a duck to water!” you remember Mother saying.

The memory makes your throat feel full. You couldn’t help Mother. You’re determined to help the Grands.

You work beside a girl named Molly. She’s a little forward for your comfort, but she’s also not from around here: her family came from Ireland. You can’t help noticing, though, that Mary gets more customers than you. And if you’re being completely honest, your needlework is better than hers.

“It’s the way it is,” Mrs. Grand sighs. “People don’t understand.”

“But it shouldn’t be that way,” you mutter.

As time passes, the situation doesn’t improve. You’re not making money. However, there are some neighbourhood girls — some from the United States, some born to former slaves — who’d like to learn from you. They see you as an older sister: a mentor.

Should you keep teaching them, to give them the hope they’ll need for the future? Or should you take on extra work to make more money for yourself and the Grands?