The Hired Girl Part 1 Summary

Joan Skraggs has informed her teacher that she can no longer attend school. Her father feels that he needs her at home to attend to the housekeeping more than she needs to be educated. It is June 1911 and Joan's life, which has already been turned upside down by the death of her mother four years earlier, is turned upside down again. Her teacher, Miss Chandler, presents Joan with a diary. Joan cries because she does not want to leave Miss Chandler and the school. Miss Chandler gives Joan her handkerchief to dry her eyes.

Joan decides to go to the Presbyterian Church to return the handkerchief to Miss Chandler. She felt attending the church service would be the only way to see Miss Chandler, who was a member of the church. Unfortunately, Miss Chandler is not in attendance that Sunday. Joan keeps the handkerchief knowing she will probably never see Miss Chandler again.

On the farm Joan's duties include cooking, cleaning, taking care of the chickens, cleaning the privy, growing and picking the berries, and other jobs. Her father is not a loving man, in fact he is quite hateful. He hits Joan's brothers when they do not please him, but her mother forbade him to hit Joan. Joan's only source of joy are her books; she has four books, three were given to her by Miss Chandler and the fourth the Holy Bible was given to her by her mother. She also loves to write in her diary, which is the basis for this book. She keeps the diary hidden from her father and her three brothers.

One afternoon, Joan looks out the window and sees a cow wandering towards the strawberry patch. She remembers the last time a cow stepped on the strawberry patch, her father threw a fit because they sell the strawberries. She runs outside wearing only her slippers to stop the cow. The cow steps on Joan's foot and will not move, it feels as if the bones in her foot are breaking. Joan leans down to move the cow's hoof off her foot; the cow becomes startled and kicks its foot out hitting Joan in the head just above her eye. Joan screams out in pain. She puts her hand to her eye and finds her hand is covered with blood, in fact the blood is running down her face.

Her brother, Mark, is the first to reach her and to offer her aid. He tells her brother, Luke, to go get the doctor. The doctor decides Joan needs some stiches right above her eye to close the cut. Joan has to be held down for this, because she is afraid of the stiches being so close to her eye. Joan's father becomes irritated with Mark because he sent for the doctor; he feels that it was an unwarranted expense.

Joan that night in her room reaches for the doll her mother had made her for her sixth birthday. The rag doll was very special to Joan, not just because her mother had made it for her, but because of what was sewn into the doll's apron. Her mother had sewn money into the apron, she wanted Joan to have some money in case she needed it for something important.

On Tuesday, June 19, 1911, Miss Chandler came to visit Joan. It was a totally unexpected visit and a wonderful surprise, Joan was ecstatic to see her former teacher. The two of them sat under the tree in the front yard eating strawberries and cream. Miss Chandler had come because she had heard about Joan's accident and wanted to cheer her up. Unfortunately, Joan's father saw the two of them having their visit and did not approve. He thought the teacher was there to try and talk him into allowing Joan to return to school. He let her know in no uncertain terms that was not going to happen. The teacher had also brought Joan some books to read while she recovered from her accident. Miss Chandler thought that Joan was bedridden from the accident, when in fact Joan was doing her daily chores as usual. Mr. Skraggs would not allow Joan to accept the books. He told the teacher that Joan had wasted enough time reading already.

Miss Chandler tried to stand up for Joan, she told Mr. Skraggs that a well-educated woman made a better wife and mother. Joan's father simply stated, "Who's going to marry her? No one's going to take her off my hands." After this exchange Miss Chandler left, never to return again. Joan was mortified by her father's assessment of her.

As she was shelling peas, a few days later, Joan notices in the newspaper she has laid out on the table, an article about railroad workers who are striking for better wages. She decides that she should strike for the egg money. Her mother used to receive the money the eggs brought in, and since this was now Joan's job, she felt she was entitled to this money. So she did her own version of a strike after her father refused to give her the egg money. His retaliation was to burn all her books except the Holy Bible. Joan was furious and decided that maybe she should try for a job as a hired girl, this is a girl who works in a household doing cooking and cleaning. Those girls made six dollars a day, this seemed like a fortune to Joan.

Joan's life is a misery with her father. He is a hard man who has no compassion for Joan or her brothers. The only thing he seems to care about is the farm and how much money is made and spent. She decides that maybe she should try to make her life better.

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