“She reads such deep books—all about facts and figures: she’ll be quite a blue-stocking by and by.”
— Elizabeth Gaskell, Wives and Daughters, 1864-1866
This story is now published as part of the anthology ‘Loyal and True’.
Bluestocking is such an old-fashioned term, but it described Mabel to a tee.
When she was a little girl, everyone thought she was ‘so serious’, which wasn’t true.
She liked to have fun, the same way everybody else did, the difference with her was she was also curious.
All little girls are curious, but Mabel was curious about big things. Big ideas — the way things worked and didn’t work. She was hungry for the truth, whatever that might be.
Her parents were not well off, but somehow they managed to scrape together enough for Mabel to go to university.
Now, that is not entirely correct, and Mabel would like me to be precise; her parents had put aside enough money for her to attend university for two years of her four-year course. It was up to Mabel to raise the rest of the money. She did all the things that students tend to do in such circumstances, but by far her favourite job was working in an office.
It was a small company with only a handful of employees so everyone who worked there needed to be versatile, and that was something that Mabel could lay claim to — versatility.
She had an excellent telephone voice, knew what a filing cabinet was and was a whizz with numbers.
Everyone enjoyed having her around, and she enjoyed the job the way that anyone who knows that they are not going to be there forever enjoys a position, with grace and calm good humour.
Studying full-time meant that she could not always be in the office during regular business hours, so she made up the time by working late and working on Saturdays. In those days, everyone worked on Saturdays but only until 12 O’Clock. Mabel went through till 5 pm.
Personally, I would be forced to hurt someone if I had to work in an office but Mabel loved it.
Every situation has it’s own personal aroma, and the smell of office supplies was like an aphrodisiac to Mabel. Even dust had its appeal. It was a time before air-conditioning so each season added it’s own aroma though the often opened windows. In Winter, the smell of wet overcoats and damp shoes continued the melody of aromas.
Mabel completed her degree with distinction but when it came to pursuing her chosen career she was in a quandary.
In the short-term money was not a draw as her starting salary was slightly less than what she had been earning at the office. Using her newly won credentials would mean starting at the bottom. No respect and few friends. She knew that these things would sort themselves out with time but her time was now, and the prospect of waiting years for what she already had, was not to her liking.
Her cosy little office job offered her everything she had ever wanted, respect, a reasonable income, security, and a sense of being needed.
When she told her boss, she was going to stay he offered her a raise even though she hadn’t asked for one.
She lived in a nice little flat in a nice little block of flats on a nice little street with heaps of other blocks of flats.
She travelled to work by tram and ate her lunch in the park.
The young men in her building paid her a lot of attention and one day she would choose one of them as a mate, but not just yet.
Her life was good, and she was not in a hurry to see it change. She missed the study but enjoyed the extra money that working full-time brought.
She knew that it would not be long before she was managing the office and who knew what would come next.
She didn’t wear blue stockings every day but when she did she wore them with pride.
She was an independent woman, making her way in the world.
She had a degree which she didn’t use and a job that she enjoyed.
No matter what stockings she was wearing she knew that she had made a success of her life.
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