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Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive

By Stephanie Land
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Maid by Stephanie Land

Maid (2019) is a memoir that tells a powerful story about a low-income single mother’s experience raising her daughter, working as a maid and struggling to get by in the United States today. A deeply personal account, it also has broader implications, providing insight into the social, cultural and psychological dimensions of poverty.

Key idea 1 of 10

Stephanie Land had big dreams before she became a single mother and a maid.

At the beginning of this story, Stephanie was in her late 20s and had recently moved to Port Townsend, Washington – a small seaside city on the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Despite having deep roots in the surrounding northwestern region of the state, she felt disconnected from them. Both sides of her family had lived in nearby Skagit County, where she was born, for multiple generations. But when she was seven, her family moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where she grew up and spent her young adulthood.

By returning to northwest Washington, Stephanie intended to return to her roots – but not for long. Port Townsend was only supposed to be a pitstop on her journey away from Alaska. Her ultimate destination was another far-flung city: Missoula, Montana.

Stephanie had always loved books and dreamed of becoming a writer. And ever since she read John Steinbeck’s evocative descriptions of Montana in his travelogue, Travels with Charley, she had dreamed of living in “Big Sky Country” – a common nickname for the state. In Missoula, she envisioned her dreams coming together. The city is home to the University of Montana, which has a creative writing program she had always wanted to attend. But first, she needed to save up enough money to afford the move to Missoula, which was an expensive place to live. Unfortunately, employment opportunities were scarce in Port Townsend, and most of them were low-wage jobs in the service industry. Stephanie cobbled together an income by working at a cafe, a dog daycare and a farmer’s market.

Then she met Jamie. He was a young man in a similar situation as her – lacking a college education, working odd jobs and planning to move somewhere else as soon as he could. For him it was Portland, Oregon. He lived in a tiny camper trailer filled with books by writers like Charles Bukowski and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Stephanie was attracted to Jamie’s literary tastes. They started a relationship, and she moved into his trailer – but this was just supposed to be a temporary arrangement. By splitting the trailer’s $300 rent, they would save up enough money to pursue their dreams. As soon as they could afford it, they planned on parting ways – he to Portland, she to Missoula.

But then, right after her 28th birthday, life threw Stephanie a curveball – she discovered she was pregnant.

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