Penny Cernak

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Penny Cernak

What we know

1870 - 1930
Ida May Jenkins’ partner in the millinery that Matthew Cole owned. Grew up in Ipswich Falls, Massachusetts. Started to work in the textile mills when she was eight. When Ida’s father died, he left enough money for them to come out West.

Silk Colors

On those dark mornings,
it was impossible to tell
ducks from stones in
Sawyer’s old mill pond.

Penny hurried to keep up,
beating her hands
for a little warmth.

And she tried not to think
about who would cry today̶
docked time for a misstep,
a lost finger, an arm.

Silly, Ida called her,
those first few days they spoke.
Silly to smile1
at colored bobbins
or lengths of coiled cotton.

After they saved enough money
to leave the mills for the West,
Penny still rose early.

But now she spread fresh
lengths of sun-soaked
pine branches
for her Ida to smile2 at.





The Last Generation: Work and Life in the Textile Mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, 1910-1960. Edited by Mary H. Blewett, Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990.

Portal caption and links

Image of two human heads surrounded by scroll work wings, evoking image of angels. When clicked, there was a visual effect scroll left slow, the flute played at tempo 200 d g b d d b and the link went to Ida May Jenkins.

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Portal for secret connections
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