Dec. 14th, 2012 06:24 am
gildedveneer: (Default)
((for the Columbia AU, assume that Maggie was born in 1878))

Margaret Brigid O'Roarke was born on April 14th, 1865 to first generation Irish immigrants, Daniel and Mary O'Roarke, both of whom arrived in New York City as children, escaping from the Potato Famine in Ireland. Margaret - or Maggie as she is more commonly known - is the third of five children born to the couple, all of whom are girls. Her parents had struggled to make a decent income as the Irish at this time basically were left with the jobs that no one else wanted, but with the rise of the Tweed political machine, Daniel got a job as a policeman and managed to support his family well, even if they were never prosperous. They were able to afford to send the oldest of Maggie's sisters, Sarah, to school; however after Daniel's death during a riot, when Maggie was seven years old, Maggie and her older sisters joined their mother in working in a textile mill, to help keep the family afloat. Maggie's job was to collect loose threads, and to change bobbins, where she potentially risked losing her fingers, and worked long, dangerous hours in a world without child labor reform. In the evenings, Sarah taught Maggie to read, and she loved it, beginning to lap up whatever stories she could find, but particularly relishing rags to riches stories like those of Horatio Alger. As she grew older, however, Maggie became more and more disillusioned with the idealistic image of America during the boom of the Gilded Age that she got both from these books and the more general idea of the time of America as a land of opportunity for a new wave of immigrants. No matter how hard she and her family worked, upward social mobility was physically impossible for them.

As well as her extensive reading (mostly of escapist dime novels), as she grew older Maggie discovered a talent for impersonating different traits and ticks of different people that she knew. She would have loved to have forged a career on the stage, but her strict Catholic mother forbade it, insisting that she carry on working in the mill as it was respectable, and she would have more chance of attracting a husband of the right level for her. Maggie balked at the idea of not only being trapped in this position for the rest of her life, but also at her mother basically condoning them being trampled on by the rest of society, and she determined that she would make something more of herself. However, for the meantime she was somewhat trapped as her beloved older sister Sarah fell ill, and she felt obligated to care for her and try and earn enough to get her medical attention. When Sarah died and the family suffered the indignity of having to have her buried in a mass pauper's grave, Maggie (now age 17) decided that enough was enough, and walked away. She felt incredibly guilty about leaving her family when they needed the limited financial support she could provide more than ever, but she knew that if she didn't leave then, she would probably end up trapped there forever.

Initially, she decided to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress, but most of the positions that she was offered ended up being either a scam or prostitution gigs. While she floundered around, she met a charming card sharp, who went by the name of William Chambers. Bill saw potential in Maggie's acting and improvising skills, taking her under his wing and teaching her the tricks of the trade - how to read people, how to play and cheat at all sorts of card games, even petty thievery and pickpocketing; while Maggie was originally hesitant to break the law, she soon accepted that working within the system had never got her anything, and it was more important to look out for herself than uphold the laws of a government that was happy for so many people to live in absolute squalor. Plus she was completely enamoured by Bill (and was very aware that he was the one housing and clothing her) and was desperate to do whatever she thought would impress him, as well as liking the thrill that their work gave her. She lived with him for about two years, adopting the aliases alternately of being his young wife or sister (going under the names of Sally or Nora Chambers, and ridding herself of her Irish accent). However, Bill was also involved in heavier duty crime, such as breaking and entering and longer cons, and while he kept Maggie out of them, it ultimately put her in danger when the police came looking for him. One morning Maggie woke to find that Bill had gone, and robbed her blind in the process, leaving only the clothes on her back and the police breaking down the door. While she was livid at Bill's betrayal, she still kept Sally Chambers as one of her main aliases, as a reminder to never be so naive again. And while Maggie presumes he's probably dead, she has a feeling that she might catch up with him one day, and while she wants that as an opportunity to have her vengeance, she's very afraid that she might just melt and forgive him on sight, as there's still a part of her that loves him.

Having tried to start over in New York a couple of times after this with no luck, Maggie decides that she needs to be in a new town for a proper fresh start. She decides to try her luck in Newport, Rhode Island - the playground of the obscenely rich, especially the new money from the industrial boom. While she's never been in domestic service in her life, she manages to blag her way into a position in the staff of one of the mansions - ironically, owned by the family who own the textile mill back in New York where her mother and remaining sisters still labour. Using the alias of Lydia Hawkins, Maggie slowly but surely climbs her way up the ranks of the household until she becomes the personal maid to the lady of the house, Adelaide Winters, an older lady who has moved to the Newport house almost full time since the death of her husband (her sons are running the mills now). While Maggie does feel boxed in by life in domestic service after her carefree life with Bill, she enjoys being surrounded by luxury (even if it doesn't belong to her) and the sense of accomplishment she feels at being able to move through the hierarchy of the household based on her own hard work. While the work doesn't excite her, she does feel like she would be able to settle down into her life in Newport, and does so for several years, sending money back to her mother when she can, although this is difficult as she doesn't want to risk blowing her cover.

One day, however, everything goes wrong. The household has been on alert after a series of burglaries across the Newport mansions, and one evening Maggie hears a shriek from Adelaide's room - she's unwittingly walked in on an attempted burglary. And as Maggie rushes to help, she finds that the would-be robber is none other than Bill. Worse than that, in his panic at being discovered, he has beaten Adelaide to death. Maggie tries to confront him, but he escapes, leaving her with the body. Knowing that she will be accused of Adelaide's murder, and knowing that if she tries to protest her innocence and Bill is caught then it can be proved that she used to be associates with him anyway so she would still get at least a prison sentence if not worse, Maggie decides not to stick around. She clears out Adelaide's purse, wardrobe, jewellery box, and silverware of everything that she can conceivably carry with her, and runs. However, the fact that she's run away compounds her guilt in the mind of Adelaide's sons, who hire the Pinkerton Detective Agency to track her down. Specifically, the agent on Maggie's trail is none other than Harold Temple, a ruthless agent notorious for his history as a strikebreaker, who will stop at nothing to apprehend the subject of his pursuit. Maggie has run into Temple a couple of times and only just managed to escape, and feels like she is constantly staying one step ahead of him. Now, on the run, she is using every trick Bill ever taught her and more that she's picking up herself as she lies, cons, and steals her way across America, with several objectives: to clear her name of murder, to avoid being caught by Temple, to catch up with Bill and have her revenge for ruining her life twice, and to find somewhere she can settle down, start over, and live a comfortable life.


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Maggie O'Roarke

December 2012

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