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SilverStormm

The Victorian Slum

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21 hours ago, Snarklepuss said:

I was almost half seriously wondering when the single mother would go door to door asking if anyone wanted sex, like the men that went looking for day work, as that would probably be most realistic under her circumstances.  I know the show would probably not prefer to go that route even though they did mention that  many women resorted to prostitution under those circumstances.  But it was probably another realistic alternative for people to flee altogether as she did.

Speaking of the single mom, I think part of the reason she was checked out on immersing herself in the show might have been her children.  I got the feeling that behind the scenes they were constantly complaining, like the kid we heard in the beginning of the show saying that the conditions were "unlivable".  I can see that having kids she may have been averse to being depicted on TV as a prostitute so she may have been conflicted about the whole thing and just opted for leaving instead.

I haven't read up on the background of this show but the set where they are filming this kind of reminds me of the Tenement Museum in NY's Lower East Side, in which a genuine tenement from the late 1800s/early 1900s was restored to look much like it would have back in those times.  I took the tour several years ago and have read that it is very popular and has been expanded.  I would love to see a similar show done there about tenement life in old NYC.

I too have been to the Tenement museum--considering the current rent and size of NYC apartments, those Tenement flats didn't look half bad, LOL!

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2 hours ago, Nire said:

I'm not sure if at this point a NY version is exactly like this one is necessary.  However I think a factory one would be incredibly interesting.  Perhaps call it "Boarding House" and have it be a boarding house for young women who all work at a shirtwaist or similar factory.  Honestly I'll watch any of these House programs since I find them intriguing.  Manor House being my absolute favorite and Regency House and Texas Ranch House being my least favorites.  

Turn of the century NYC and Victorian London were very different, and being a native New Yorker with family that lived in the Lower East Side at that time, I'd be very interested in a NY version.  As bad as it was in NY I am sure it was better than this London version.  I now know for sure that Dickens wasn't exaggerating at all!  That rope sleeping was positively sadistic!

A factory one would be fascinating, though.  I went up to the Textile Mills museum up in Lowell, MA some years ago - It's a perfectly restored textile factory and mill from the Industrial Revolution.  It would be a perfect location for it!

48 minutes ago, LiveenLetLive said:

I too have been to the Tenement museum--considering the current rent and size of NYC apartments, those Tenement flats didn't look half bad, LOL!

Haha, you're right!  Considering some of the teeny tiny apartments in NYC these days, they were huge by comparison!

Edited by Snarklepuss

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7 hours ago, QuinnM said:

I wonder if this is the origin of the phrase 'dead on your feet'.

Speaking of the origin of phrases, when they showed us that cheap recycled fabric called "shoddy" I wondered if that could be how the word came to mean second rate or inferior quality goods.

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2 hours ago, Nire said:

I feel like this show hasn't been as gritty as some other house programs.  I remember in most of the other ones the grossness of a chamber pot being discussed and on this show there is an outhouse that probably is offering up all sorts of smells for the courtyard and I don't feel like it's been discussed.

This is the first "house" series I have watched but I have also wondered why they haven't shown the gritty reality of some of this stuff.  Like the lack of bathing and using the outhouse.  The way the show is being presented, I'm not really convinced that the participants are actually living there and needing to use that outhouse!

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Do any of you visit http://www.shorpy.com/ ?
A complete time sink, with all types of photos, and a lot of factories, and Lewis Hine child labor photos.
You can click to enlarge the photos, and pick up so much detail.  Do take a look.

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I was almost half seriously wondering when the single mother would go door to door asking if anyone wanted sex, like the men that went looking for day work, as that would probably be most realistic under her circumstances.

It would be more realistic if she just found an alley to work out of.  They don't call them streetwalkers for nothing. 

I was surprised that she didn't exhibit a little more anxiety over getting her kids fed, if not the get-up-and-go of the other participants.  That's what seemed so "off" to me about her.  I also think her children are younger than the tailor's children, and not as prepared for "real" make-believe.

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I'm surprised nobody has mentioned going to the slum loo. Maybe they have to use Porta-potties for health code reasons.

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34 minutes ago, Snarklepuss said:

Speaking of the origin of phrases, when they showed us that cheap recycled fabric called "shoddy" I wondered if that could be how the word came to mean second rate or inferior quality goods.

It is. The public radio program "A Way With Words" (highly recommend) had a question about the word.

When the episode dealt with workhouses, I was reminded of "A Christmas Carol" when Scrooge asked the guys collecting for charity "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" One of the gentlemen replied that many would rather die than enter a workhouse. I can see why.

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1 minute ago, LittleIggy said:

It is. The public radio program "A Way With Words" (highly recommend) had a question about the word.

When the episode dealt with workhouses, I was reminded of "A Christmas Carol" when Scrooge asked the guys collecting for charity "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" One of the gentlemen replied that many would rather die than enter a workhouse. I can see why.

Wow, thanks for that (about the word Shoddy)!

"Scrooge" is my absolute favorite movie (The 1952 version with Alistair Sim) and I have watched it more times than I can count - The voice of Marley's ghost chanting "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" has definitely gone through my mind while watching this show, plus my father's voice as he attempted to imitate it when I was a kid.....That movie is where I learned about such things as the "poor law" and the "treadmill", and "debtor's prison", plus child labor, among other inhumane things at a young age.

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Did her children do any of the flower making?

They did for at least a day, but then on one of the mornings Shazeda showed up late, and casually replied that her children were in their rooms. Later, her daughter was recruited to help the Howarths with their tailoring. 

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It was sad to hear how unvalued a single mother was. Forced to wear yellow! WTF? Like some badge of shame. Unless he died, the father should be the one shamed for leaving his family to fend for themselves.

They didn't clarify this very well, but I think the distinction was that she would have been considered an unmarried mother rather than a widow, thus Victorian society would have shunned and shamed her. It didn't really occur to me right away, but while being a single mom today is not that big a deal, in 1870 she would have been a pariah.

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And I think Shazeda is gone because that was her role, and if she seemed not invested, that was how she was supposed to play it.

I wondered if maybe it was planned all along too - that she was the designated "failure" or runaway from the start. It's certainly possible. Of course, it's also possible she was just kind of a flake and her behavior mirrored what she's like in her normal 21st century life. I hate to cast aspersions, but she's a single mom who works as an "admin assistant" and home schools her kids, so she might get some kind of government financial assistance and just take it for granted that things will  get paid for somehow. She just kept excepting the Birds to give her food and never seemed to care much about anything.

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16 minutes ago, iMonrey said:

She just kept excepting the Birds to give her food and never seemed to care much about anything.

I don't think she quite understood that her taking their food and not paying them back meant they were going to have to work that much harder, make that much money or they could end up facing the doss house.

I don't think she was playing a roll, not the lazy, selfish part of it anyway. I think she really did just let her kids sleep in and not pull her weight because she just didn't take it all seriously. Now, that could be because she knew she was contracted to leave early but I don't buy that she would choose to let people see her as lazy if she's not. Though, people who want to be on TV above all else are pretty stupid, so maybe she just wanted to be on tv and this was the only show she could get. Who knows. Glad she's gone. I want to see people who are making the most of this experience, not just ones trying to be on tv.

It's too bad, because I would have liked to see more of the single mother with children story play out but not with her.

Edited by Mabinogia
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The 'forced to wear yellow' thing was a sign that a woman didn't have a 'good character'.  It was like a scarlet letter.  Sometime during late 19th century, venereal diseases were an epidemic.  'Respectable' women were dying of syphilis because they caught it from their husbands.  The armed forces were being decimated by men out with the 'clap'.  So the natural thing to do was to blame women, especially poor women.  The Contagious Diseases Act was passed and it was dreadful.  Prostitutes were forcibly picked up off the street and tested for vd.  They were kept in hospitals for a certain time to prove that they weren't positive for anything.  When they were released, they were given a yellow card which was proof that they were 'fallen' women.  But it wasn't just prostitutes.  Poor women were caught up in the raids to pick up prostitutes and held against their will, whether they were prostitutes or not.  They also got a yellow card and were unable to get work or a place to live because they were considered immoral women.  They had 'lost their character'.  Many poor women were forced into prostitution because without their character, there was no other way for them to support themselves or their families. 

I'm really hoping that the show does explore prostitution in Victorian London and how poor women (and children) were viciously exploited.  Some of the most honoured men of that time had sex lives that would shock 21st century sensibilities, much less 19th century ones.

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Thank you for that information mightsparrow. How sad, but how very typical to shift blame to those who really had no way to defend themselves.

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15 hours ago, Snarklepuss said:

A factory one would be fascinating, though.  I went up to the Textile Mills museum up in Lowell, MA some years ago - It's a perfectly restored textile factory and mill from the Industrial Revolution.  It would be a perfect location for it!

You took the thought right out of my head, Snarklepuss!  I've always been fascinated by the Lowell Mill fire.  What I would really love would be a fictional series, sort of like Mr. Selfridge, but all about the girls working in the mill.

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I'm interested in the subject, but I'd rather read non-fiction.  Just dug out a book I have, The Belles of New England:  The Women of the Textile Mils and the Families Whose Wealth They Wove, by William Moran.
There are also good books on the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.
I guess I'd like it better if Ken Burns did a series on the slums.

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4 minutes ago, auntjess said:

I guess I'd like it better if Ken Burns did a series on the slums.

With Peter Coyote narrating!

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I just picked up "The Victorian City" - Everyday live in Dicken's London by Judith Flanders at the local library. Can't wait to get started reading it.

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I have a freelance job wherein I do research for writers and game designers, and this morning's task was wonderfully on topic: "absolutely horrible Victorian recipes". So I got to spend some of my afternoon reading up on things that are just sound unpleasant and things that could well be fatal due to adulteration. I am so glad that for most of my life, the US had a government agency dedicated to keeping most of our food safe.

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6 hours ago, JudyObscure said:

With Peter Coyote narrating!

I had to look him up.  I've heard him, but didn't know his name.
I'm more familiar with the names of true crime show narrators, like Bill Kurtis, Dion Graham, and the late Peter Thomas.

35 minutes ago, SayMyName said:

I just picked up "The Victorian City" - Everyday live in Dicken's London by Judith Flanders at the local library.

I didn't know her, but I see she got a lot of interesting books.  Must check her out.

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 Just saying hello, as I just discovered the show and really enjoyed reading all of your comments! I, too, have enjoyed all the other Historical shows like manor house, etc.  and would love to see one in the NYC tenements. I'm currently reading a book about food traditions in the tenements in the late 19th century so this is fascinating.  Thanks for all the other book recommendations! 

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8 hours ago, JudyObscure said:

You took the thought right out of my head, Snarklepuss!  I've always been fascinated by the Lowell Mill fire.  What I would really love would be a fictional series, sort of like Mr. Selfridge, but all about the girls working in the mill.

Have you seen the British series "North and South"? It is set in the context of a mill town and stars the drop dead gorgeous Richard Armitage.

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Yes!  I watched "North and South," on YouTube after someone on PreviouslyTV recommended it and absolutely loved it.  And I agree, the hero was one of the handsomest men ever.

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For the tenements, Caleb Carr's The Alienist is set largely in and around the Lower East Side. He describes it in great detail. Also a really good novel but very bloody murders if that's not your thing.

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11 hours ago, Vermicious Knid said:

For the tenements, Caleb Carr's The Alienist is set largely in and around the Lower East Side. He describes it in great detail. Also a really good novel but very bloody murders if that's not your thing.

I would second this as a really good read.

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On 5/11/2017 at 9:37 PM, SayMyName said:

I just picked up "The Victorian City" - Everyday live in Dicken's London by Judith Flanders at the local library. Can't wait to get started reading it.

I'm reading it now! I also recommend "How to be a Victorian" by Ruth Goodman. 

I think that a show about the Lowell mill girls would be excellent. 

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I watched a British series on Amazon Prime about the dangers in Victorian homes, including adulterated food, poisonous dyes in fabric and wallpaper, "health care" items, etc. Even if you escaped poverty, there were dangers everywhere it seems.

Edited by LittleIggy
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On 5/9/2017 at 10:06 PM, auntjess said:

I enjoyed Frontier House at the time, but quit on Colonial House.  Wasn't that the one where the woman refused to to go to church? 
Of course she has that right now, but had the time, she'd probably have gone to the stocks.
If you agree to do a period show, then you should follow the rules at the time, or ask to die of something and be written out.

I enjoyed both Frontier House and Colonial House, but I'm with you about the woman who wouldn't go to church.  Did she have any clue whatsoever what she was getting into?  The goal of these shows is to live the life that they lived back whenever and the cornerstone of a Puritan settlement was going to church.  I'm all for religious freedom, but I think if you sign your name to the dotted line for something like this, you'd darn well better be willing to actually do what you need to do.  She knew what she was getting into...

But, the one thing that stays with me from Colonial House was when everyone left the Colony.  Their first stop was to get beer and their second was to go to a hotel and take their first shower in, what?, 5 months (I think the time span for that series was exceptionally long).  Then, there was a shot of a shower and you could see a river of dirt come from whoever was behind the curtain.  Yikes!

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I didn't last that long.
In Frontier House, I remember that one family sneaked what, a mattress, or box springs?

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11 minutes ago, auntjess said:

I didn't last that long.
In Frontier House, I remember that one family sneaked what, a mattress, or box springs?
 

Oh yeah..and that was the same family where the daughters would sneak off to some house just off the set to watch MTV.

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The  parents and children were so smug about the mattress and watching TV that you wanted to reach in and smother them.

Too bad a more deserving family who would have been more true to the experience wasn't chosen, the family just wanted to be on TV...ugh.

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Last summer I visited London (5th time) and for people interested in historical perspectives of daily English lives, I highly recommend the Museum of London, the London Transport Museum, the Imperial War Museum, and the Foundling Museum. When I was an undergraduate student in the late 80s at a Midwestern state college, spending a semester abroad wasn't promoted/commonplace as it is today, so to all the young 'uns out there: get off my lawn and go abroad!!!

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Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home is one of my favorite shows. I haven't seen the follow-up of More Hidden Killers in the Victorian Home, but the other ones are also really interesting.

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Haven't seen those, but in the old Sears or Wards catalogues, you'd see all the unguents and pills for the complexion, which contained arsenic, and also paris green dyes in paints and wallpapers.

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Fame whores have no place in historical recreation shows that depend on the integrity and the commitment to authenticity of those cast.

Producers can't predict how people will react when they don't want to do the work or get bad attitudes and check out.

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I think this is why I'm liking this better than the longer series.  It's a lot harder to go off-message in one or two episodes. 
 

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On 5/13/2017 at 0:46 AM, Vermicious Knid said:

For the tenements, Caleb Carr's The Alienist is set largely in and around the Lower East Side. He describes it in great detail. Also a really good novel but very bloody murders if that's not your thing.

You beat me to it re: The Alienist! Its excellent descriptions of turn-of-the-century New York are still vivid in my memory, as well as seeing famous figures like Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan in context of NYC history. It's a cracker of a mystery, too.

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I'm enjoying the series, as I did several ones prior (except for the shit show that was Colonial House). Re: prostitution as an "option" for Shaz, I believe that was ever-so-fleetingly touched upon by the historian and alluded to by the rent collector, in the 1860s. They're not going to have her working the streets, obvs., and it would certainly make it awkward for people who watch the show with their kids. However,  I would have welcomed it being handled, as it was such a huge part of what women were up against for centuries, never mind decades. I think producers of future shows should seriously consider covering this territory by allowing participants to talk about it and even "disappear" for blocks of time, the understanding being that that's what they're doing. There could be mature subject matter warnings before those episodes so that parents could decide how/if to handle it.

Moving on, I'd like to offer a different perspective of Shaz's situation. I'm another one who didn't find her personality or apparent lack of enthusiasm very engaging, however, knowing how reality TV likes to present "characters", I'm circumspect when it comes to judging her. This is especially true because my own RL situation is very similar to hers.

I, too, am a single mother who (secularly) home schools my kids. I've always been the primary educator of my children. While my ex loved to brag that we did it, "we" was/is actually me, as I taught and still teach them all of their subjects except for math. I regularly drive a 200-mile round trip to our former home state so they can continue piano lessons with the teacher who's brought my eleven-year-old to a pretty high standard for his age, and I keep track of and pay for most of their other extracurriculars. Unfortunately, the ex lied in court, claiming to do 50 percent of the educating and parenting, and the judge believed him, resulting in my having only marginally more time with the kids than he does and helping him achieve his goal of paying a pittance in child support (even though he earns four times more--when he bothers to work--than I do. He lied about his income. Shocking). I'm still fighting him in court to get more time with my children and to offset his half-assed parenting. Meanwhile, I work three from-home jobs in order to keep a roof over our heads and food in their stomachs, and I'm extremely lucky to have generous family members who help us when they can. Even if I put the kids in school to work an onsite job with benefits, I'd earn about the same as I do now, because my particular job skills are not in demand where we live.  Right now, we, like other single-parent households in our state that earn under $50k per year, have state-funded health insurance. That's currently the only state support we get.

The point is, I work my ass off to do my share in supporting my kids, but that isn't apparent to people who don't know me well. This is because my work is done at home, in the dead of night after the kids are in bed or on weekdays or weekends they're with their father. I don't think it's a great idea to make assumptions one way or the other about whether a single mom like Shaz is "used to" doing the same, or whether she is or isn't or how much she might be on the dole. We weren't shown that she was busting her ass, and maybe she wasn't, but I'm not at all sure that that bears any relationship to how she lives her actual life.

I thought her fellow slum residents had pretty interesting reactions to her doing a runner. They went from discussing the night before how she was really between a rock and a hard place to expressing shock the morning after about how she could do something as despicable as running off and stiffing the shopkeepers and the rent collector. The only one who seemed to have any real empathy was the older guy's daughter. As was mentioned in prior comments, the whole point of sneaking off was to keep the money she had in attempt to prevent herself and her children from being separated. Faced with that situation at that time, I'd absolutely do the same, and hope to someday find myself in a position where I could pay it forward. This show has made me imagine my family in those straits, and the brutal truth is that I'd very likely be turning tricks while my kids made flowers or matchboxes alongside neighbors so that they didn't have to be alone/on the streets while I worked my shifts. I'd love to see an episode where the bottom drops out for some of the other slum dwellers. What would the tailor's wife do if he "died", for instance? What would the rent collector do if he suddenly no longer had that job and had to try to find another? It's already been shown that an amputee would have a hell of a time finding employment. There but for the grace of god go any of us, is all I'm saying.

I was wondering if anyone knows whether slum children ever got the opportunity to work as domestics? I know lower classes did, but I wasn't sure if slum dwellers were considered too low in Victorian society? If I were a single mom back then, I might hope to give them up to "positions", if only so that they could be off the streets and fed. It would be such a relief to know that one's children had food, shelter, and relative safety.

Edited by spaceghostess
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9 minutes ago, spaceghostess said:

I'd love to see an episode where the bottom drops out for some of the other slum dwellers.

It very well could have, for the big family when the grandfather hurt his back and couldn't work, but they all rallied. They stayed up late and got up early, they ate as little as possible to extend their money. Shaz, otoh, let her kids sleep in, didn't stay late working, didn't go early to work, and seemed to not care about her mounting debt with the shop keepers. I don't think this is a reflection of how she is IRL because my impression is, she just didn't take this whole thing seriously enough to put in the effort, which is a shame. I wish they had found a single mother who really embraced with this show is about.

What I am loving about the rest of them is how completely they are immersing themselves in the experience. Even the children, who can tend to get bored and want out, really seem to be involved. It makes for a much better show for me.

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29 minutes ago, Mabinogia said:

It very well could have, for the big family when the grandfather hurt his back and couldn't work, but they all rallied. They stayed up late and got up early, they ate as little as possible to extend their money. Shaz, otoh, let her kids sleep in, didn't stay late working, didn't go early to work, and seemed to not care about her mounting debt with the shop keepers. I don't think this is a reflection of how she is IRL because my impression is, she just didn't take this whole thing seriously enough to put in the effort, which is a shame. I wish they had found a single mother who really embraced with this show is about.

What I am loving about the rest of them is how completely they are immersing themselves in the experience. Even the children, who can tend to get bored and want out, really seem to be involved. It makes for a much better show for me.

She could very well have been a lazy slug; the show certainly edited her that way, and maybe it was true. I was more responding to a couple of earlier comments in which people seemed to be making assumptions about the kind of person she is. I don't really understand why the producers wouldn't have vetted her as someone who wasn't as "into" it as the others, unless, of course, they wanted a person like that so they could make an example of her. I don't feel comfortable criticizing her parenting decisions re: how early she got the kids out of bed or how much she made them work, especially as her kids appeared younger than the others. I agree that it would have been interesting to see someone who was more of a go-getter, though. I just have a feeling that wasn't part of the show's agenda. Also, it's a lot easier to be a "team" when you have other adults in your family as team members. The other family who fell on hard times had each other to lean on, both physically and emotionally Single parenting can be very lonely and is most definitely more exhausting than tag-teaming. I wondered if she was depressed, but maybe that was just her personality.

Re: the other kids, ITA that it's great to see how invested they are, especially the tailor's two. The fact that his son knew how to work the sewing machine and was excited about it was so cool! My kids are very much like that. Also, the daughter is adorable and seems really sweet to her brother, which was so nice to see. If anyone manages to move on up out of the slums, methinks they'll be the ones.

Edited by spaceghostess
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Keep working while you drink your tea! ;-)

The "slumming" reminded me of how people would go to the "lunatic asylums" to gawk at the inmates. Disgusting.

I like how Grandad said he would have picked up a paver to chuck at the West End clubs.

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I dislike the woman who ranted on about the tour group.  Plenty of those today; she may well have been on one herself in northern Thailand or western Africa.

She also yammered on about lack of government support and the government's acting with impunity. Doesn't she read the papers in her "real life"?  (Thank you to the poster above about the realities of being a single parent today.)

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I love how the  Tailor's wife is running the sweatshop as though her children's lives depended on it.  I think she was also sincerely hurt when the tourists came through.  It's so much better when the "actors," lose themselves in the story the way that whole family has.  She may actually have trouble getting back to the 21st Century when she goes home.

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The star of the show for me is the Tailor's son, he shows how children end up doing what their fathers did because they had to start working in the "biz" at an early age.

His delight over the multiple Singer sewing machines was fantastic.

Both the Tailor's kids had the right attitude for this type of series.

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I agree, the Tailor's son is adorable. I like all the kids. They all seem to be really embracing the experience.

I enjoy when the participants meet with the various historians and learn more about their ancestors' experiences. It really brings the whole thing to life. The Tailor's wife talking about how terrible it felt sweating the workers knowing that someone had very likely done that to her grandfather was really interesting. The tailor's family is all around my favorite. I think they have great spirit and are thinking about what is going on.

The tour thing was disgusting but sadly, not that surprising. Human's are terrible to one another, especially those they think can't/won't fight back.

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I agree they lucked out with the kids on this series. They are the least whiny in all the House series. 

The upper class "slumming it" was kind of hysterical, really. But there should have been some repercussions for Andy. He basically just barged into their rooms with a tour group - I think the tenants should have ganged up on him afterwards and demanded some of his earnings from the tour.

The educational portion of the show is fascinating and I'm glad to see what finally started happening in the late 1880s with the protests and the meager gains the working poor started to make. It's a good thing the show didn't try to manufacture some kind of drama against the Birds (shop keepers) for being somehow responsible for the law against peddling on the street. I'm also glad they didn't make a big deal out of the three newcomers going on "strike." We get enough manufactured animosity and conflict on the other reality shows.

I had to look up what sheep's trotters were.

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