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"I stood here, watching them as they argued. Father stubborn, telling Mother how much we needed the money; Mother saying that he'd failed us, let the family down. I hardly heard them, I felt so far away. I felt as though it wasn't really me they were talking about. As if I wasn't Eliza any more, just a pair of hands. Factory hands."
Eliza Helsted[2]

Mill Girl: The Diary of Eliza Helsted is the thirteenth fictional diary in Scholastic UK's My Story series. The book was Sue Reid's first for the series. It was published in June 2002, and reissued in May 2008 and February 2015. The book was followed by Transported by Goldie Alexander.

Thirteen-year-old Eliza Helsted has to quit school and start working at a mill in order to help her family.


"For my sister"

Book description[]

"Saturday 21st May, 1842
Something terrible has happened. I can scarcely bring myself to write the words. I AM TO START AT THE MILL ON MONDAY.
"You said never," I cried to Mother.
Her face was white.
"Oh Eliza," she said. "I'm so sorry. If there was anything I could have done..."
"Where am I to work? I demanded. The room was so quiet that I could hear myself breathe.
"In the carding room. Sickness. They need more hands."
I wasn't Eliza any more, just a pair of hands. Factory hands.

"In spring 1842 Eliza is shocked when she is sent to work in the Manchester cotton mills–the noisy, suffocating mills. The work is backbreaking and dangerous–and when she sees her friends' lives wrecked by poverty, sickness and unrest, Eliza realizes she must fight to escape the fate of a mill girl..."

""Chained to the machine we are, and always will be," I said. "We'll never escape them."
In spring 1842, Eliza is shocked when she is sent to work in the Manchester cotton mills—the noisy, suffocating mills where the work is backbreaking and dangerous. When she sees her friends' lives wrecked by poverty, sickness and unrest, Eliza must make a decision: will she be worn down by factory life or will she fight for change for those she cares about?

"Dydd Sadwrn, Mai 21, 1842
Mae rhywbeth echrydus wedi digwydd.
Rwy'n methu hyd yn oed ysgrifennu'r geiriau'n iawn.
"Ddwedest ti na," gwaeddais ar Mam.
Roedd ei hwyneb fel y galchen.
"O Eliza," meddai, "Mae'n ddrwg gen i.
Pe bai unrhyw ateb arall..."
"Ble fydda i'n gweithio?" gofynnais.
Yn y tawelwch ro'n i'n gallu clywed fy hun yn anadlu.
"Yn y stafell gribo. Salwch. Mae angen pâr arall o ddwylo yno."
Fel petwn i, Eliza, wedi diflannu.
Dim ond par o ddwylo oeddwn i bellach.
Dwylo gweithiwr.


Historical Note[]


Main article: List of Mill Girl characters


Main article: Sue Reid

Sue Reid is an English author whose work is aimed at children and young adults. She worked as an editorial assistant at a publishing house before becoming an author. Mill Girl was Reid's first book for My Story. She enjoyed the researching and writing process, especially since the Industrial Revolution had always fascinated her. Reid visited Manchester, where the book is set, and Helmshore to see a working factory.[3] For My Story, she also wrote War Nurse, Pompeii, The Fall of the Blade, Give Us the Vote!, and Lady Jane Grey.



"A number of people and organizations have helped me with my research for this book. In particular I'd like to thank the following: Cecil Black, Duncan Broady (Greater Manchester Police Museum), Frances Casey (National Army Museum), Adam Daber and staff at Quarry Bank Mill (National Trust), Styal, Kate Dickson and Steve Little (Ancoats Building Preservation Trust), Ian Gibson and the staff of Helmshore Textile Museums, Lancashire, Manchester Central Library Local Studies Unit, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool, Andy Pearce (People's History Museum, Manchester), Professor M E Rose (Manchester University), Ray Walker (Working Class Movement Library, Salford), Pauline Webb (Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester).
My thanks also go to Jill Sawyer at Scholastic and to Ali Evans for editing the book.


  • The portrait on the cover of the first edition is a detail from Alexey Venetsianov's late 1820s painting Girl in a Shawl. The background was licensed from Topham Picturepoint.[8][9]
  • The cover of the second edition was illustrated by artist Richard Jones.


See also[]

My Story

The Hunger | Voyage on the Great Titanic | The Crystal Palace | Blitz | My Tudor Queen | Twentieth-Century Girl
The Great Plague | The '45 Rising | Civil War | Trafalgar | The Trenches | Battle of Britain | Mill Girl | Transported
Armada | Crimea | Bloody Tower | Indian Mutiny | Zulu War | Mayflower | Agincourt | Suffragette | Waterloo | Slave Girl
Flying Ace | Anne Boleyn and Me | D-Day | Victorian Workhouse | Spy Smuggler | Desert Danger | War Nurse
U-Boat Hunter | The Queen's Spies

1st relaunch

Princess of Egypt | Pompeii | Road to War | Roman Invasion | Viking Blood | Highway Girl | Sophie's Secret War
The Storm to Come | The Sweep's Boy | The Fall of the Blade | Pyramid of Secrets | Factory Girl | Dodger!
No Way Back | Wartime Princess | London Stories | Berlin Olympics | Lady Jane Grey | Nowhere to Run

2nd relaunch

Codename Céline

3rd relaunch

Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan | Ignatius Sancho | Princess Sophia Duleep Singh | Mary Prince

My Royal Story

Victoria | Anastasia | Cleopatra | Marie Antoinette | Elizabeth | Mary, Queen of Scots | Henry VIII's Wives

My True Story

What If They Find Us? | Hero at Dunkirk | Standing Alone | Give Us the Vote!

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