My historical fiction novel, The Matchgirl’s Dilemma, was published on Kindle yesterday. I plan to bring out the paperback edition within the next month or so. I am so excited about this book. I undertook a lot of research for it, which was quite harrowing in parts, to say the least. Those matchgirls were treated badly by their bosses at Bryant and May, and some even met their deaths by having encountered the dangerous white phosphorous employed at the factory that the government of the time refused to ban. When they were of no further use to the company, they were tossed away like spent matches, but those fierce flames forged ahead with the help of social activist, Annie Besant, to address their concerns about conditions at the factory. They brought about a revolution for the workers of this land, helping to form the trades unions we know of today.
A shiver coursed Lottie’s spine. She was just about to tell Oliver this was the woman she had met outside the factory, then thought better of it.
Annie Besant stood firm on the wooden podium, the red ribbon in her hair that was her trademark, fluttering in the summer breeze, her knuckles white, as she began, “The people have been silenced. I will be the advocate of this silence. I will speak for those who aren’t able to speak. I will be the Word of the People…”
There was a tremendous ripple of applause, and for the first time, Lottie noted there were a lot of women in the crowd and one or two she recognised from the factory.
“Go on, give it to them, Annie!” a man shouted from the back of the crowd.
“There is one factory in this area where the young girls and women are battered into silence. They aren’t allowed a voice, but I am. This is the same factory where they work long hours for little pay. They work with a chemical called phosphorous that is so dangerous it can eat away at your bone and believe me, there have been deaths!”
There was a huge collective gasp from the crowd and Lottie turned to look at Oliver who was staring intently ahead, his eyes fixated on Annie Besant, but his glare was hard and unflinching. It was obvious he was no fan of the woman or her politics.
“That’s terrible!” a woman shouted.
“These poor girls if they even drop a box of matches on the floor they’re forced to pay for it from their own money!” Annie Besant continued. “Those young girls and women can’t speak for themselves, so I propose that there is safety in numbers and that soon there will be a walk out at the Bryant and May factory!” she shouted as people cheered, some threw their hats in the air.
Oliver remained stone-faced. “I think it’s time we left before unrest breaks out,” he said firmly, and although Lottie yearned to stay, she guessed there might be truth in his words. In any case, her mother would be worried about her. He took her by the arm and guided her through the jostling crowd, who were listening with avid interest, but how she longed to stay behind and hear more of what Mrs Besant had to say on the matter.
“That woman is a trouble maker,” he said, once they were well away from the throng. “She was involved in that demonstration at Trafalgar Square last November when all that unrest broke out. Two thousand police and four hundred troops were brought in to halt the demonstration…”
If you’ve enjoyed this excerpt, you can read the full book here on Kindle!