Kipling's Cat (mintogrubb) wrote in antifembookclub,
Kipling's Cat

Hobson's Choice

This was a very interesting story.
A stage play at first, then made into a film starring John Mills.

In it, we meet Will Mossop, a young bootmaker who works for an old and tyrannical boss called Hobson in Manchester, England. Mr. Hobson has 3 daughters, the eldest being Maggie.

The story opens with Will being called from his workroom in the Manchester shop because a customer wants to know who made her boots. Hobson is at first thinking the woman wants to complain, but it turns out that she is simply delighted with the boots she has just bought, and wants to tell Mr. Hobson that she has never had a better pair of boots before - not even in London. The wealthy lady insists that she will henceforth only buy boots here, so long as it is Will himself who makes them.

Of course, Hobson is pleased to hear this, but gives Will no kind words, but simply sends him back to work. The old man is in fact a drunken and lazy bully who will not allow any of his daughters to marry, but wants them to run his shop for him instead.

But Maggie has other ideas. She declares to her sisters that she will marry - in spite of what her father says. She goes to Will in the workroom and praises the shy, hardworking and put-upon young lad. She wants to marry him, she tells him. Together, they could set up a business of their own. He would make the boots and shoes, while Maggie ran the business accounts, as she does for her father at present.

And so it is, that in a short time, Hobson finds that he has not only lost the services of his best boothand, but also Maggie's shrewd business sense as well. After a small and simple wedding service, Maggie and Will go into business with a little borrowed money, and are soon running a thriving business that begins to attract wealthy customers.

Hobson, on the other hand, starts to experience financial troubles, and is soon heavily in debt. When Maggie appears back at her fathers shop, it's not to beg to return, but to make him an offer. She will buy him out - but only on her own terms.

He is to allow her sisters to marry, and will become a sleeping partner in the business run by her and Will. Maggie's sisters will help run the shop, she herself will run the business and Will Mossop will make the boots and shoes while training up new apprentices.

Hobson's daughters are affronted at the idea of working for Will. Who does he think he is, they ask him - but he soon puts them in their place. "Will Mossop" he tells them. "Best bootmaker in England. And you are my wife's younger sisters - so if you want to work for me, you had best be more respectful in future".

But Hobson himself remains defiant. How can he lower himself to selling out to his own daughter and his ex boothand?

As Maggie points out - he has no choice. "We've already taken up all the best trade round here" she reminds him. "We'll be taking on more staff, and competing with you on the cheaper shoes trade next. And there isn't as high a mark up on them. You'll be forced to get by on selling clogs - if you can find anyone to make 'em for you."

And so, Hobson realises that he has no other choice but to concede.

Although it is Will's skill and craftsmanship that makes it possible, the real driving force in the story is Maggie, who sees Will's potential and gets behind it for everyone's benefit. Although written as a comedy, the story has a serious message that potential should not be squandered, or taken for granted but rather encouraged.

Yes, it's Maggie that turns Will Mossop by degrees from being a timid and bullied boothand into a confident and respected businessman. And in doing so, she not only gets herself a husband, but also helps her sisters as well. Whether we would call Maggie a feminist or not, she is certainly an intelligent and able woman who shows tremendous foresight and good sense. A very positive role model, I would say.

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