Callie and her little sister Maggie both work 14 hours a day at the cotton mills in Lowell, Massachusetts. They have no family but each other, and Callie feels the weight of her responsibility to take care of Maggie. She works hard at the mill, and also learns to read, hoping this new ability will help her find another job. She attends meetings of the Female Labor Reform Association and bravely signs a petition for the 10-hour workday. But just when the workers are planning to strike Maggie becomes deathly ill, and Callie must decide between joining the strike or continuing to work in order to pay the doctor bills and keep a roof over their heads.
When the leaders of the strike are suddenly fired, the strike is postponed. But Callie learns that all the workers involved in planning the strike will be docked their day’s pay. So she makes her decision, stopping her loom and calling others to do the same. En masse the workers join her in the strike, successfully bringing the huge mill to a standstill.
In an Epilogue we see Callie and Maggie, fifteen years later. Callie reads with a small child in front of a bookstore that she now owns, as Maggie enters excitedly with a newspaper. The cover story announces that the 10-hour workday is now law. The whole company joins in a reprise of the worker’s anthem.
Callie…….a young Mill Girl, 11 years old
Maggie…….Callie’s little sister, 8 years old
Mrs. Calendar……runs the boarding house
Lady Hallenbrook……a wealthy woman
Jake………an elderly book peddler Older
Callie……..28 years old
Ted…….a 13-year-old schoolboy
Older Maggie……..25 years old
Ella……..a sickly Mill Girl
Alicia & Nan……….older Mill Girls, organizers of the 10- hour day movement
Child Worker Chorus
Adult Worker Chorus
Piano, violin I, violin II, cello, bass, flute, clarinet, piano, synthesize and percussion. The piece may also be performed with just piano and percussion.
Cots that convert into looms