Book Club Discussion Questions

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BEYOND THE SILK MILLS: DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

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  1. Many readers see Emma as a controversial figure.
  2. How did you feel about her at the beginning of the story, and did you feel the same at the end? If not, why not, and what influenced your change of opinion?
  3. What motivated her response to Sophie’s life choices? Why was Emma having a hard time giving Sophie the freedom that she had taken for herself?
  4. What part did her admiration for her successful brothers play in shaping Emma’s life?
  5. Consider that the 1920s era was a first step in freeing women from societal constraints.
  6. To what extent was Emma’s entrepreneurial behavior affected by the constraints of the early twentieth century?
  7. Activism in the 1960s expanded women’s rights. What has happened since the 1960s, and what might yet come for women?
  8. How might Emma have approached her entrepreneurial efforts differently had she been a contemporary of ours?
  9. Sophie’s parents had polar views about money.
  10. How was she affected by her parents’ opposing views, and what choices did she make based on them?
  11. How did Emma view Meyer’s personality, and how did it influence her decisions and their marriage?
  12. What view did you take of Meyer’s character with respect to his own values and also with respect to his marriage?
  13. What attracted Sophie to Izzy? Why did this relationship grow, and do you think it would have flourished had Isador lived? Why or why not?
  14. Meyer’s advocacy for the workingman was fed by the earlier industrial revolution. What comparisons can you draw between the labor movement in the early twentieth century and current labor issues?
  15. What form would Meyer’s zeal for workers’ equity take in today’s labor environment?
  16. For Aaron, Meyer was a counterforce against his mother’s demands. How did Meyer’s death affect him?
  17. How were Sophie and Emma each affected by Meyer’s death?
  18. What predictions would you make for Aaron’s adulthood?
  19. What drew Sophie to Daniel? What would you predict for their marriage? Why?
  20. How can you imagine the relationship between Emma and her children changing in future years, if at all?

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