Victorian London - Professions and Trades - Factory Manufacture / Making of - Artificial Flowers

    This is the flashy, flaunting “infant,” barely fourteen, and with scarce four feet of stature, but self-possessed and bold-eyed enough to be a “daughter of the regiment”— of a militia regiment even. She consorts with birds of her own feather. Very little experience enables one to tell at a glance almost how these girls are employed, and it is quite evident that the terrible infant in question and her companions are engaged in the manufacture of artificial flowers. Their teeth are discoloured, and there is a chafed and chilblainish appearance about their nostrils, as though suffer­ing under a malady that were best consoled with a pocket-hand­kerchief. The symptoms in question, however, are caused by the poison used in their work—arsenite of copper, probably, that deadly mineral being of a “lovely green,” and much in favour amongst artificial florists and their customers. Here they come, unabashed by the throng, as though the highway were their home, and all mankind their brothers; she, the heroine with a bold story to tell, and plenty of laughter and free gesticulation as sauce with it. She is of the sort, and, God help them! they may be counted by hundreds in London alone, in whom keen wit would appear to be developed simultaneously with ability to walk and talk. Properly trained, these are the girls that grow to be clever, capable women— women of spirit and courage and shrewd discernment. The worst of it is that the seed implanted will germinate. Hunger cannot starve it to death, or penurious frosts destroy it. Untrained, it grows apace, overturning and strangling all opposition and assert­ing its paramount importance.

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James Greenwood, The Seven Curses of London, 1869