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  • Vacancies exist in London's East End for match girls – the heroines of unskilled labour. Working 12-hour shifts without anywhere to sit, you'll stand by your bench and process matches. From cutting the sticks to dipping the ends, the mind-numbing boredom of such a job is only fit for those with the liveliest of imaginations, needed just to stay sane. A couple of shillings a week will be all you'll earn, but you may also get a slap from the foreman if you don't behave.

    Eating is permitted on the production line, but poisoning from white phosphorus is highly likely. There is enough of this deadly chemical in one pack of matches to kill a person, and exposure to phosphorus vapour can lead to phossy-jaw, in which the jawbones actually rot away. The only answer is disfiguring surgery or an early death.

    July 8, 2008