“Run, Delia, run.” The girls called out from the top of the steps.
“Presto, presto!” Lucy urged her on.
“Schnell! Schnell!” Rachel, Lilly, Bertha and Naomi chanted.
Delia galloped down the street and hurdled up the stairs to the factory gate two at a time, remembering at the last moment to tuck her copy of the Forward inside her coat where the boss couldn’t see it. “You riding Der Leydikgeyer? The slowpoke express today?” she heard him mutter as she scooted around him, right before big door clanked shut behind her. Once more, she had escaped being locked out for the morning.
She had only been working for a month and already she was coming later and later. She knew it was because she spent too much time talking to Jake when she bought the Forward, but he always seemed to know what was going to happen on the Lower East Side even before the editors did--what shops were closing or cutting wages and where the workers were going to walk out or maybe call a strike.
She hung up her coat and slipped her lunch out of her pocket. All around her the workroom was roiling with girls’ voices laughing, singing, teasing, and arguing.
“Delia! Come and sit by me.” Lilly Hershfeld patted a vacant crate. “We’ll be sisters today.” Lilly was the same age as Delia and they sat together now nearly every day. Lilly also had an older sister, Rachel, who also worked with them too, but Lilly wanted a “sister equal” who didn’t boss so much, she told Delia. So she called Delia her sister at work.
Delia, of course, had no sister anymore. Or brother or papa either. She was alone with her mama. Sometimes their three-room flat seemed so empty and silent with just the two of them to fill it, she couldn’t sleep at night.
“We are work sisters, then.” She smiled gratefully at Lilly. Before sitting down, she hid her lunch in a corner underneath the bench that held her machine. She had only one roll today, with a thin schmear of butter instead of cheese. By lunchtime the bread would taste of the machine oil and soot that always seeped through the paper no matter how tightly she wrapped it. At least the thief wouldn’t find it, though...
Like many Americans I am the descendant of immigrants. I have always been fascinated by their stories. I hope you enjoy reading about Delia and her adventures growing up on the Lower East Side. If you want to learn more about the historical background, please take a look at the About and Resources sections. If you want to learn more about my other books for children and young adults visit my website.
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